Firmware, the nightmare continues


A few months ago before writing here, I had debuted as a writer on Frannoe's blog. One of the first articles I did was called "Firmware, a debutante's nightmare". Now is the time to write the second chapter.

I recently read the news of the plans Stefano zacchiroli (Debian project leader) so that finally universal distribution among the list of distributions recommended by the Free Software Foundation (along with distributions that mark the north such as Trisquel, Blax, gNewSense, Venenux, Musix and Dynebolic). In fact, a mailing list has been opened where you can start talking about any related idea. Needless to say, the friction has already started: that the FSFists want to end non-free repositories, that the Debianites say that this violates the Debian contract, etc.

I do not mean to go against those who consider that Debian deserves to be included in the list of distributions recommended by the FSF (even if only using the main repository), but I want to emphasize something. What the FSF is concerned about Debian is not only the maintenance of the contrib and non-free repositories, but also the ease with which these can be accessed (As easy as doing sudo nano /etc/apt/sources.list and adding contrib and non free at the end of each line.) ESA is the reason why they do not include Debian. With Squeeze and its free kernel they came a little closer, but not as close as the FSF would like.

The most critical of all this is going to be when it comes to dealing with non-free firmware, that annoying thing that gets in the way of having the computer "100% free" (free according to RMS). That for not being free, forces you to decide between being a slave to a need such as connecting to the Internet via wireless or having graphics acceleration OR EVEN START LINUX, or be deprived of these needs ………… but be free. Stallman does not need graphics acceleration because it only uses the desktops to run graphics applications (see a pdf or an image) but most of the time he uses the console. Nor does it need a Wi-Fi connection since most of the time it does not have access to the Internet and only connects to read and send emails. (and from Emacs)Therefore with an Ethernet cable you can spare. And with the BIOS, the Lemote he had left him with a clear conscience. Without a doubt, removing needs will make you climb faster in the Maslow's pyramid.

But of course, we do not all have the same needs. I fortunately do not need graphic acceleration (I don't like to have effects on the screen, beyond the conky), but I do need to connect to the internet via wireless since there are 3 computers in my house (a PC and 2 notebooks) and a wifi router that is only directly connected to the PC. Besides in my faculty there are Wi-Fi zones to be able to connect in "emergency cases". But more than anything, the shameful experience I had with mobile broadband made me have the need for my internet connection to be optimal and not to cut off every few minutes. And as for the BIOS, the only thing I consider necessary is that it can load the operating system of my choice.

That leads me to ask a question that many of us ignore: For what reasons do hardware companies make drivers for GNU / Linux? but more important How much significance can users of 100% free distros have? Users demanding in terms of freedom they advise only buying hardware that works with 100% free software, regardless of performance. They are quite convinced that if linuxers stopped using cards NVIDIA, the company will have no choice but to release its drivers. However, there is a risk that NVIDIA (just like Adobe did with Flash) occurs to him  stop making versions of your drivers for GNU / Linux and only be dedicated to Windows and Mac users (90% or more). Which scenario is most likely, which NVIDIA free your drivers to GNU / Linux or to remove them in the face of low demand? And as I tell you NVIDIA, I tell you any other company that manufactures non-free drivers.

I don't know what can get out of Debian's attempt to reconcile with the FSF, but there is a fear that the rapprochement between these two will cause many users to move away from Debian. just for the firmware issue (assuming they won't need any other proprietary programs). Here in Uruguay the hardware is not cheap, the options are not so many and the sellers assume that you are not prissy in terms of software. A bad decision in the purchase of hardware will make the experience in a 100% free distro a unbearable and when you ask for help they tell you fuck you. Result: such a waste of money and a feeling of sadness and incapacity so great ……………………… if your computer was stolen.

Finally I leave these links:

Mailing List for discussion between FSF and Debian:
A vote that ruined relations:
The use of Stallman's Lemote:
Site to avoid disappointment:

PS: I've been using Sabayon Linux 9 since Friday and I can't help but be surprised that my broadcom 432b was recognized ON THE LIVE DVD. This did not happen to me with Ubuntu. I still know how to install firmware from sources for when I use another distribution.

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  1.   Shiba87 said

    A few days ago I heard about the Debian "reconciliation" attempt and I also got a little scared that they would do something crazy with the "non-free" repositories.
    In that sense, I think Debian's policy is more than successful to please the side. For those who want a 100% free distribution, they have it there and whoever wants / needs non-free software to make a graphics card work, a wifi card or whatever, also has it there, they do not force you to use proprietary software nor do they exclude it It is a rather "neutral" position, therefore everyone is free to use those repositories or not.

    Removing the contrib and non-free repositories just to get the "FSF Approved" tag seems like a mistake to me and I trust that they will do what they have always done with Debian and continue in the same vein. Either that or that the FSF will come to their senses and they will reach an agreement (although I am not sure that hell has frozen over or frogs have started dancing flamenco).

  2.   Digital_CHE said

    I was at the conference that Richard Stallman gave in my town, (Viedma, Rio Negro, Argentina)
    And I noticed that the guy is an extremist .. And extremes are always bad .. On a home PC, free and proprietary software can coexist peacefully.

    1.    Marco said

      exact. I agree 100% with you on this matter. in an ideal world, there would be no proprietary firmware, but in the real world, the one Stallman seems to refuse to see, it doesn't. I personally do not intend to sacrifice the comfort that Chakra gives me, recognizing everything immediately, just for such a radical idea.

      1.    dwarf said

        It bothers me that people have no vision. Gentlemen, those radical ideas, thanks to their existence is that today we have so many interesting and open developments. I don't know if you have realized that, for example, these radical ideas keep many programming languages ​​open and free, such as the HTML5 standard. That these radical ideas are the basis for everything, ALL free software and that, although they may be quite complex and unfeasible for normal users, they are the seed to work on better ideas.

        More respect in that sense, do not brand stallman and his ideas as simple radicals or extremists because there is a lot of reason in what he says, but check what stallman talks about education and free software and tell me if he is radical and he is not right and weight in their arguments.

        Do not take me as someone angry, I just want to clarify that they are not only radical ideas but they have their point.

        1.    truko22 said

          nano there is the point +100

        2.    TDE said

          nano +1000
          Radicality is the principle under which great things are done. If we lived saying "well, we adopted this from there and this from here" we would not go anywhere. It is like thinking of Gandhi allowing himself from time to time to break his principles and continue to champion the principles of Peace. Hopefully, in the great GNU / Linux community we allow ourselves to think about the great role that Stallman has played (with successes and errors), in pursuit of a technologically freer world.
          It makes me very angry to see how Stallman is criticized from personal experience (I use such a distro that is not free, and it works well for me). His objective goes on the other hand, and if there have been achievements in terms of freedom and openness to information technology, that has been precisely because of the establishment of clear and radical rules that allow promoting and regulating the use of free technologies. Stallman's goal is the other side of where he is criticized.

          1.    rockandroleo said

            Well said, Nano.
            Well said, TDE.

        3.    kik1n said

          Very clear nano "It bothers me that people have no vision."
          I don't think it's extremist or insane lol. What Richard has in mind is "There are no limits."

    2.    frame said

      @Digital_CHE «... I was at the conference that Richard Stallman gave in my town, (Viedma, Rio Negro, Argentina) ...» che Viedma is the capital of the province, it was almost the capital of the nation. If you say the town that Maquinchao chelforo has left, the mencos cervantes, etc. Viedma is a city (I'm not from Viedma). sorry for the oftopic.

      On the subject of art.
      the folks at fsf are wrong on the fundamentals against debian.
      Deny the existence of proprietary software, or prevent its use. It is authoritarian. It is to be equal to or worse than the companies that own proprietary software when they spare no effort to prevent or put bats in the wheel for the use of free software.

      I would tell the FSF Banned Ban

      Free software has to reach people for reasons of conviction not of imposition.

      Debian is a distro that truly lives up to the spirit of free software, offering a truly free proprietary software operating system. but it does not prevent or restrict the user from accessing proprietary software. because that decision only corresponds to the user.

  3.   Santiago Caamano Hermida said

    Without the intention of offending anyone and respecting the opinion of «Mr. Ricardo ", you are free to install whatever you want on your computers, whether it is free code or not.
    Personally, I have nothing against proprietary drivers, and I believe that companies like Broadcom, Nvidia, etc., are in their perfect right to distribute them as they come out of their noses, that is why they are theirs.
    If Debian dispenses with them, by hanging the FSF medal, it is as easy as going to another distro that if they use them and the only thing that will report them besides the medal will be a loss of user quota.

  4.   dwarf said

    The point is that everyone sees Stallman as an extremist and, although he is also, thanks to him we have many things in free software such as the GPL.

    The problem here is that although you are free to choose which system and which software to use, sometimes that freedom is tarnished because you end up choosing to lock yourself in a cage because of your "free will" which ends up being counterproductive ... Linus Torvalds himself said so (and that he is much drier and more realistic than stallman) the future of the world is opensource, and he is right; more and more people realize that they want to know what their things (software) are made of and every day people are getting more involved with technology; We are not in that era in which software was only for engineers or in the one that came later in which it was only to be used, now there are many more people who study computer science or who are already born with that talent and want to know about that it is all about, all not to mention that it is also profitable ...

    That Nvidia Broadcom and blah blah are in their right? Yes. That your free choice is always good? Well tell that to Nvidia when for not wanting to release their drivers they lost an initial contract for 10 million chips for China, who ended up making deals with the competition; there it is, their freedom to stay closed took away a huge contract.

    Nor do I support that Debian wants to call itself 100% free software, first of all they should think about the many users they already have, who use that non-free firmware to revive old MAC's, remember that it is a widely used distro on servers and that In the long run, they are 100% free throughout the definition of the concept since they do not include anything proprietary by default and this makes the user have the choice of whether or not. I don't see the need for the FSF to approve that.

    1.    diazepan said

      That makes me wonder what if the open source software movement had been born before the free software movement?

      1.    dwarf said

        Maybe we had an even more marked advance or who knows ... it is something difficult to envision xD

  5.   ErunamoJAZZ said

    I agree with @Santiago, although I do believe that the fight for free distros should continue.
    The fact that we end users does not affect us much does not mean that it will be like that in the future. Having everything freely (in the sense of the 4 freedoms) It will not cease to be important, that is, I do not think that "resting on our laurels" because something is offered privately is correct. The one who tries to make sure that everything is Free, although yes, one thing is to demand it, and another is to flagellate oneself because something is not offered freely 😛

    1.    KZKG ^ Gaara said

      I think more simply ... all extremes are bad.
      And also, the user is the one who MUST have the possibility to choose.

      Debian should continue to provide the option to use free packages only, or use non-free ones as well.

      That's how simple I see it.
      If this stops being like this, it will be one of my biggest disappointments 🙁

      1.    Daniel Rojas said

        Idem to Marcos, you got my thoughts right.

        The truth, I would also be very disappointed if Debian does that, I tried many distros and it is the only one in which I feel totally comfortable 🙁

      2.    Marco said

        I think you got what I wanted to say right.

      3.    jamin-samuel said

        Well if so, the mass migration to the grounds of Fedora, Sabayon, Arch, Cjakra will be masterful 🙂

  6.   ergean said

    »Here in Uruguay the hardware is not cheap, the options are not so many and the vendors assume that you are not a fussy one in terms of software. A bad decision in the purchase of hardware will make the experience in a 100% free distro unbearable and that when you ask for help they will tell you to fuck yourself »

    The truth is that it is very difficult to find a PC with 100% free hardware, if not almost impossible, finding a PC like this will cost you a lot of time (and probably) more money than a normal one.

    In the end, what is recommended for a normal user (who has a social life, who connects to the internet through wi-fi, or has a smartphone) is a GNU / Linux distro with closed components, if you want a minimally satisfactory experience with your PC. And that's not why you're going to be in jail, or you're not going to be able to modify anything, on the contrary, all that can be done in any distro, free or not, because they all follow the same philosophy and let you take control of the system. operational, if you want and if you know how.

    PS: Diazepan, I also have Sabayon 9 installed, in its KDE version, and I do not change it for another 😉

    1.    diazepan said

      1) Mine is with Xfce

      2) In h-node they list the notebooks that work with 100% free software.

      1.    ergean said

        Thank you very much for the web, I supposed there had to be something like that, but until now I had not found it, it will come in handy if one day I want to buy a 100% free PC and I want it from a brand.

        Although I have noticed that the fully compatible models are either very old and are no longer sold, or the new models are not fully compatible (generally, the wi-fi card does not work, it will be because most are from broadcom) or they have a very poor hardware.

  7.   truko22 said

    I believe that measuring the impact of linux and GNU tools from only the point of view of distro for end users is extreme 😀 I share the philosophy of 100% open source, that's how it was born and that is how it should continue to exist.
    Now the proprietary drivers in some devices is a complex issue 😀 but sooner or later they will have to give way, Linux / Gnu is present in many devices every day.
    Now about closed software, it is another very delicate topic 😀

  8.   Tavo said

    Something positive and that I respect a lot in Mr. Stallman lives the same way he professes, which gives him the moral right to encourage the use of completely free systems.
    Something that I do not share at all is that people's ability to choose is limited. I do not want proprietary software to disappear, I want free software to spread and predominate over proprietary because of its quality and efficiency without limiting anyone.
    In many of the comments the phrase "all extremes are bad" is recalled, if we look a little at human history we will see how it makes even more sense.

    1.    Oberost said

      @ Tavo "Mr. Stallman lives the way he professes"

      First I clarify that for me a Stallman is necessary but for example some notes

      - He does not use cell phones but when he needs it, he asks whoever is nearby to be able to call
      - He receives subsidies from the state, curiously the same state from which he continually deprotes himself that he wants to monitor and control us (something that I partly share with him)

      And what is most important to me, the lack of perspective.
      What he and some purist gnu / linux users want is for you to be free to use ONLY free software, but unfortunately free software has many shortcomings and requires a fairly high knowledge of computer science and yet they see it well.

      I get bored of reading linux users criticizing other linux users because they just want to use a system and not learn anything about how it works inside and blah blah blah.

      Following this absurd argument I ask myself for example: those same Taliban know enough about car mechanics to fix it themselves, because imagine that you take it to the mechanic and he puts a screw patented by company X and it is a non-free patented screw.
      Now extrapolate the mechanics to everything you use / consume in life and you will see the absurdity of the argument.

      1.    Tavo said

        @Oberost I was unaware of what you mention about Stallman, I completely agree with your comment anyway.
        There is no doubt that Stallman is necessary and no one denies everything he did and continues to do for free software, but I consider tolerance a great virtue, which Stallman, many developers and GNU / Linux users lack

  9.   proper said

    If Debian listens to the FSF by lowering its non-free repos, it would be taking a big step backwards instead of moving forward. I think there is a lack of freedom that is also essential: "The freedom to install whatever you want."

    Putting it in another way, if someone tells you, Do not install that because that deprives your freedom. Isn't that someone depriving me of my freedom to choose?

    Anyway Debian: you're fine like this, I think you give more freedom for the simple fact that if you want a free system there it is, but if you need to use proprietary tools, they are also available.

  10.   Pavloco said

    Many good things can be learned from Stallman, but you must learn to choose them.

    1.    alunado said

      Look, according to my experience (and since I am not an exception I suppose that of many other guys and people too) it is very positive that they should definitely step aside the non-free repos. I speculate (it seems to me) that maintaining non-free consumes resources and work from people who can dedicate their knowledge to improving the free part of the distro. I also suppose that companies that help debian for their own purposes and maintain their software on non-free repos indirectly help free software. Here must be the real mess. Money and infrastructure.

      When I got into debian, out of respect for perhaps the knowledge of other guys and "bloggers"; and due to his own ignorance, he chose to load contrib and non-free in the source.list.
      It was after a little while and due to an internal, thorough conviction that I did not mind trying the system without the non-free ones. I cared more about the idealogy of free software than ruining an installation on my pc. So I realized that my pc worked the most well without those repos (which should emphasize using them almost frightening in their installation by asking a question). Well, then more knowledge and reading followed, but that was the case about three years ago. I find it curious that many users here think that it is not good and it is a setback ... It can never be a setback to free yourself from the weight of the proprietary. It is never a setback just to look at freedom, even if it costs. Hopefully they are not as lukewarm in their ideas as they are written here; Because there lies the mediocrity that prevents the world from changing! Hopefully soon I can do a little more than write to help this beloved distro that seems to me, an example of community and humanism. Greetings people. from the south; alunado.

  11.   Lex.RC1 said

    A simple reality, "You have to eat" is that as long as they do not offer operational alternatives to proprietary software they cannot be eliminated, I who live on computers, I do not do anything with one that I cannot use.

    Are we free and special? I think it was on this blog that I commented a long time ago ... I feel much more free with Windows that I install it on any computer, that I install any program legally or anarchically, that gives me all the tools to work comfortably.

    Stallman's fanatical-extremist stances are detrimental to only one person, the end user. And the carefree lightness of the word of Torvalds (fuck you Nvidia .i.) Can have as consequences in the end that one only gets that half… Yes, the same end user. That freedom of speech is allowed because they have nothing to lose and no one is accountable to them.

    What surprises me the most is the ease with which GNU / Linux users admit those words and tolerate them, because Stallman and Torvalds are visionary programmers, but real freedom goes further, it has to do with social, philosophy, psychology, anthropology, the class struggle ... Because we live in a society that controls us from the moment we are born and using a wi-fi does not make a difference.

    From a social point of view… When a drug addict enters a rehabilitation center, treatment begins by giving him controlled doses of the drug, and over time they are replaced with "supplements" until he is no longer dependent on it. More words are unnecessary.

    1.    v3on said

      "I who live off computers, I don't do anything with one that I can't use."
      you won a kiss :*

      I totally agree, we are all different, we all have different needs, Stallman's requirements do not go beyond the console, use it as an example that "if he can use 100% free software, we can all", he is totally wrong, precisely because we are all different

      Another thing I read above for @nano, free will is anything but a cage, except interpersonal relationships, they are from those vicious circles that even please xD

    2.    alunado said

      I like your practical opinion, which almost all of us share ... but in my practice it also happened that Linux gave me "a knowledge of computing" that Windows did not (and even without being able to understand a source code). And knowledge is what makes us free, allows us to choose. For that reason and issues that already fall alone when mature I think we cannot install windows. Before doing it (legally or anaraquically) I cannot first stop looking for a free solution on the web or on this site itself. We can no longer back down, and none of this has to do with feeling "free or special" (those are questions of egos geeks or generally repressed). It is doing the right thing so as not to continue shitting the world with private stupidities and parasitic licenses that only serve those with the most power. The change is in each one of us skinny. It's a fucking grain of sand, and it's individual; but it also makes you happier.

      1.    Lex.RC1 said

        It is doing the right thing and that is what it is all about, it is having the freedom of knowledge, of change, of decision and of choice… This becomes more important when it is linked to problems such as illiteracy, malnutrition, culture, science, etc. Free software can really make a better world.

        "You cannot go backwards" because it is evolution and if you learned more about computers there are other people who because of their work or work do not have enough time to learn code but they learn something very important, philosophy.

        I fully understand Stallman's position by not giving his arm to twist, the burden that this man has is of utmost importance for the free future, but form is what does not convince me because his philosophy can be confused with fanatic idealism.

        I learned a long time ago, the -What? - is more important than the -How? - to put it another way ... Tomorrow, we wake up and see the news that all distros without exception have switched to free software and do not support free software. private. What would happen to GNU / Linux?

  12.   g2-cea11aea8bd496bbb2ed7d6acd478e62 said

    OUYA has just shown the way, if someone made an OUYA phone or tablet, or a project of an ARM computer with firmware and PUBLIC drivers as well as other FREE ones that are not just the same, but in ARM most of them are not even public for that you cannot install a Linaro or a Replicant.

    I have had an idea that I am sharing, a phone or tablet with 4 internal USBs to place mini USB flash drives, and to be able to boot from them with GNU / linux, android, tizen, meego or FF OS distros to taste, in addition to being able to be cheap, and expand their capacity.

    PS: SABAYON for me is the best distro currently, but it has less predicament than ARCH, its 1000 Hz kernel you will enjoy it a lot, its developers are wise, really, and almost always if something is missing that is in a PPA it will You ask, at the time it is and that - I don't know why - many packages do not coincide in name with those of debian when you start to compile «strange things» you have «little work» with the dependencies. Your XFCE flies.

  13.   Aaron Mendo said

    It seems to me an excellent idea since there would be a much more famous distro in the FSF list and on the page this implies a growth in the development of free software, and in terms of Hardware Have you tried computers Dell ?.


  14.   kondur05 said

    Hmm, I wonder who is chasing stallman? That must be the problem of being a womanizer (just kidding).

    As for the article I think that stallman's thoughts are correct what is extreme is the way some (fsf) want to put them into practice, and the reason is that you cannot make a change that way in one fell swoop if you do not have the be able to do it, look at an example, I write from a vit computer, at home there are two plus one from my brother, another from my wife and this one that I buy for my use and to work, they have it with win (my brother for his games and my wife because she has not had patience for linux: b), and I have it with win 7 and ubuntu (soon to change it lol), and I like it and if I had all its parts completely free, I would still like it and my family would not put buts in using it. But what happens all its parts are intel and the bios is private. So how can we be one hundred percent free if we can't buy free equipment?

    Look, I wanted to find out how to buy a laptop like stallman's but I will have to go swimming to China, so I have to be content with what there is, pure proprietary. In conclusion, it is good that we all go down that path that stallman predicts and the FSF watches that it is traveled, but we cannot do it in one fell swoop, it is impossible, gentlemen, this is a homigas job, of course the faster the better, but doing it abruptly would only lead to failure.

    and should they? Well, they should take things easy and continue being debian and not wanting to kick things off, but look at it in Ubuntu. (Yes, I know it is from a private party, but everyone knows how their happy news ends, I mean to the kicks), do you want to be 100% free? Well that they are but gradually and in the process give alternatives to us users that in the end we are the ones who give birth with our teams and in many cases we do not know how to program (even when those from Linux save us many times :)) .

    Thank you

  15.   nonanona said

    Reading gives the feeling that to have acceleration you have to have proprietary drivers, because it is not like that

    I use the free nouveau driver and I have acceleration, I can play nexuiz without problems, I have my debian 100% free

    And that list of the FSF, because it is just a list, I would rather call it politicking, what more would it be than not being there, if you want to use free debian, use it and if not, then no

    Does it influence us Debianists whether or not to be on a list?

    what a way to waste time

    1.    jefer94 said

      XD true

  16.   Lex.RC1 said

    v3on you are very kind but ... I don't want it


  17.   Alf said

    Well, on one occasion due to lack of Wi-Fi I did not obtain a contract, a very good contract, in my personal experience, the FSF people are extremists, if I had had a distro with the right drivers for my Wi-Fi to work ... not crying is good anymore.

    The thing should be step by step, it is natural, first crawls, then walks and then runs.


  18.   jefer94 said

    But because a 64 bit firmware is not developed, graphic, that the drivers are loaded to it, that the partitioning tasks and the boot loader are tasks of the

  19.   juancuyo said

    I would like to ask you if it is possible to place proprietary software in a GNU distribution. I am interested in Dyne: bolic ... but, can I add flash, adobe as a pdf reader, etc?

    1.    diazepan said


      Power can be done but it has to be done manually ……… ..and it is not recommended if you don't want to be crucified.

      1.    juancuyo said

        Well, I want to leave the windows xp and switch to linux, if Dyne: bolic is so extreme I can install OpenSuse or Chakra and I will install all the software that I liked about Dyne: bolic, it will take me time because I do not know linux, but it will be a way out elegant without offending anyone.

        1.    diazepan said

          That's better.