[SOLVED] Proposal for "use non-free software" choice

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[SOLVED] Proposal for "use non-free software" choice

Postby robert3242 » 2013-05-21 02:47

This, I hope, a modest proposal for Debian developers, assuming that some check in here from time to time. The Debian installer, as shipped with Wheezy (amd64) netinst image only allows the user to opt to use non-free software if the installation is performed in expert mode. Whether it's always been that way or not I can't recall, but that's one choice, I think, which users should be able to make while using the non-expert installation mode. Newbies, in particular, who are probably most likely to install in that mode, and who then require a proprietary graphics driver, for example, will be at a loss as to how to find it, or how to manually edit their /etc/apt/sources,list to make finding the package(s) they need available.
Last edited by robert3242 on 2013-05-23 13:51, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Proposal for "use non-free software" choice

Postby golinux » 2013-05-21 02:49

Beating a dead horse . . .
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Re: Proposal for "use non-free software" choice

Postby vbrummond » 2013-05-21 03:02

I would ask the devs here: http://lists.debian.org/debian-boot/
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Re: Proposal for "use non-free software" choice

Postby llivv » 2013-05-21 04:46

It might make all the devs who work really hard at finding and removing all the proprietary blobs from the upsteam source slap happy.
But you could ask, for sure.
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Re: Proposal for "use non-free software" choice

Postby dasein » 2013-05-21 05:32

Maybe I'm misunderstanding, but it looks to me like robert3242 isn't asking for distribution of proprietary blobs, but rather simply a prompt allowing users the option to load non-free firmware from USB stick during a standard netinstall (as opposed to an expert netinstall).

Unless Debian is determined to completely remove the prompt for non-free firmware from the installer, his suggestion seems perfectly reasonable and entirely appropriate. I'd suggest filing a bug against the installer.
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Re: Proposal for "use non-free software" choice

Postby Bulkley » 2013-05-21 05:39

. . . the option to load non-free firmware in a standard netinstall . . .


Agreed but it should come with an explanation. Even if it won't load non-free blobs there still should be an explanation. This forum is testament to that. How many users install Debian and immediately post that they don't have Wifi? Etc.
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Re: Proposal for "use non-free software" choice

Postby dasein » 2013-05-21 05:42

Bulkley wrote:... it should come with an explanation.

Now you're just being demanding ;)

Pondering: (a netinstall that doesn't offer the user an option to access a network... talk about a Catch 22.)
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Re: Proposal for "use non-free software" choice

Postby kedaha » 2013-05-21 11:54

Regarding proprietary software, it's interesting to quote from www.gnu.org/distros/common-distros.html.
Debian GNU/Linux

Debian's Social Contract states the goal of making Debian entirely free software, and Debian conscientiously keeps nonfree software out of the official Debian system. However, Debian also provides a repository of nonfree software. According to the project, this software is “not part of the Debian system,” but the repository is hosted on many of the project's main servers, and people can readily learn about these nonfree packages by browsing Debian's online package database.

There is also a “contrib” repository; its packages are free, but some of them exist to load separately distributed proprietary programs. This too is not thoroughly separated from the main Debian distribution.

Previous releases of Debian included nonfree blobs with Linux, the kernel. With the release of Debian 6.0 (“squeeze”) in February 2011, these blobs have been moved out of the main distribution to separate packages in the nonfree repository. However, the problem partly remains: the installer in some cases recommends these nonfree firmware files for the peripherals on the machine.

Of course, it can be objected, for instance, that if you are a person on a limited income, perhaps a student struggling to make ends meet or - as is so often the case today - unemployed, you can hardly go out and purchase a new laptop, printer, wireless network card or a new motherboard with a graphics card which works OOTB with FOSS drivers. Even if you really care about the goals of the free software movement, you may have to put up with a system tainted by binary blobs until such time as you can get rid of them completely. But for now, you just need to use the computer and all its firmware-driven peripherals. So I fully understand the proposal but have my reservations; If Debian had gone the popularising way of other distributions like Ubuntu, it might have attracted - to coin an oxymoron - an uncritical critical mass of non-technical desktop users who would demand the easy and automatic installation of their favourite proprietary software and dubious binary blobs. The DebianInstaller:
robert3242 wrote:...as shipped with Wheezy (amd64) netinst image only allows the user to opt to use non-free software if the installation is performed in expert mode. Whether it's always been that way or not I can't recall, but that's one choice, I think, which users should be able to make while using the non-expert installation mode. Newbies, in particular, who are probably most likely to install in that mode, and who then require a proprietary graphics driver, for example, will be at a loss as to how to find it, or how to manually edit their /etc/apt/sources,list to make finding the package(s) they need available.

Perhaps this little obstacle to OOTB loading of firmware/software is not such a bad thing; new users who aim to learn the ins-and-outs of the system are thereby prompted to consult the documentation and use, at least, a simple editor like gedit or nano and possibly understand better the distinction between main, contrib and non-free repositories. But installing a fully-fledged system can be rather more complicated than just enabling a few drivers; I agree with emariz in viewtopic.php?f=20&t=80974&start=15#p440074:
emariz wrote:A system installer must not be easy but comprehensive. It is a one-time task that must be carefully and diligently exercised by a person with experience in system administration. 99% of the Windows and Mac user did not install their systems and there are countless satisfied, proficient users among them. Why should these same users be capable of installing an entirely different operating system like GNU/Linux? The expectation is not high but naïvely impossible.

But potential Debian desktop users who have no wish to consult, at least the Instalation Guide, forum topics, specially the advice in Please Read.. What we expect you have already Done., would be better-advised to either hire a consultant or Buy a computer with Debian pre-installed. Again, I refer to emariz (as cited above]:
There is a huge difference between using and administrating a computer, and these task are mostly unrelated. A competent user may never have to perform an administrative task, and a capable administrator may never be a competent user of everyday applications.
That being said, the installation of an operating system is clearly an administrative task. It involves complex concepts like file systems, disk partitioning and usage, device drivers and firmware, microprocessor architectures, package management, etc. Why a computer user should be be familiar with these concepts is beyond my comprehension. No matter how competent he is.

To conclude, everyone can use a Debian Desktop system - once this has been set up and configured - but not everyone is familiar with the installation of an operating system. Those wishing to undertake this task should consult the documentation regarding the manual installation of non-free drivers.
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Re: Proposal for "use non-free software" choice

Postby robert3242 » 2013-05-22 02:59

Some good and, to my mind, valid points have been made here. I'm a firm believer in RTFM and any other relevant documentation. Guess I was just thinking that many newbies, whether coming from cookie-cutter distros or from the Dark Side, haven't really been faced with the need to do that before, and it might not even occur to them. In such cases, if they have a bad experience with Debian due to some issue as this, they're likely to simply go elsewhere. Which, in the great scheme of things, may be fine with most people on this board. After all, although Debian claims to be "The Universal Operating System," that isn't exactly the same thing as saying it's for everyone.
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Re: Proposal for "use non-free software" choice

Postby emariz » 2013-05-22 05:05

robert3242 wrote:After all, although Debian claims to be "The Universal Operating System," that isn't exactly the same thing as saying it's for everyone.

Why can people under a certain age not vote? Why can you not speak German? Why can I not pilot a plane? Either this discussion is about semantics or the answer is obvious.
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Re: Proposal for "use non-free software" choice

Postby Randicus » 2013-05-22 05:06

robert3242 wrote:I'm a firm believer in RTFM and any other relevant documentation. Guess I was just thinking that many newbies, whether coming from cookie-cutter distros or from the Dark Side, haven't really been faced with the need to do that before, and it might not even occur to them.

Perhaps that could be alleviated with a slight alteration to the Getting Debian page from this
The Installation Manual contains detailed installation instructions.

to
The Installation Manual contains detailed installation instructions. Please read it before installing.

And put the entire thing in bold face.


After all, although Debian claims to be "The Universal Operating System," that isn't exactly the same thing as saying it's for everyone.

I believe universal refers to all computer architectures and uses (home, buisness, server), not to users.
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Re: Proposal for "use non-free software" choice

Postby robert3242 » 2013-05-23 13:51

I give up. I thought this was a fairly simple idea and one that made sense. I also (perhaps stupidly) thought that making a minor change to the installer which might make newbies' lives easier would be desirable. Apparently the consensus is that I was wrong on both counts. I saw one or two thoughtful posts in response, and quite a bit of snark. I mean, "Why can I not speak German?" Please.

Consider the suggestion withdrawn. It just is what it is.
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Re: Proposal for "use non-free software" choice

Postby llivv » 2013-05-24 00:10

robert3242 wrote:I mean, "Why can I not speak German?" Please.

dasein wrote:Now you're just being demanding ;)

Don't the devs already make it too easy to install?
added to wishlist - reluctantly.
please close if ever enlightened.
or download the unofficial install CD with the blobs.
edit: and removed from wishlist. thanks for using the debian forum. :lol:

snarky snark snark out. :wink:
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Re: [SOLVED] Proposal for "use non-free software" choice

Postby Struth » 2013-05-24 00:39

This forum is just a forum. Like pointed out above you should rather discuss that in an official mailing list.
The dev's know the according info in and out, and i wouldn't hold my breath to get a result you want:
http://lists.debian.org/debian-boot/201 ... 00275.html
The old Debian Project Leader also planned to discuss the subject (of contrib and non-free in general and the FSF):
http://lists.debian.org/debian-project/ ... 00016.html

As far it is me there are more non-free Linux versions out there than i can bare. I sure don't think another one is needed. Another fully free one, otoh, is a big change.

In short this is simply the wrong place to hope for a positive result.
To offer it in expert mode but omit it in the default installation looks contradictory to me too, btw. Neither fish nor meat, is what we say.
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Re: [SOLVED] Proposal for "use non-free software" choice

Postby debianized » 2014-01-07 00:38

robert3242 wrote:This, I hope, a modest proposal for Debian developers, assuming that some check in here from time to time. The Debian installer, as shipped with Wheezy (amd64) netinst image only allows the user to opt to use non-free software if the installation is performed in expert mode. Whether it's always been that way or not I can't recall, but that's one choice, I think, which users should be able to make while using the non-expert installation mode. Newbies, in particular, who are probably most likely to install in that mode, and who then require a proprietary graphics driver, for example, will be at a loss as to how to find it, or how to manually edit their /etc/apt/sources,list to make finding the package(s) they need available.


I personally think this is a terrible idea. A newbie can't be fully informed of the risk of non-free graphics drivers (or any non-free driver) if such drivers are 'easy' to install. I don't know if you are referencing the proprietary nVidia graphics driver or not, but let's use that as example:

"While I'm personally one of the guys who wouldn't like to see a binary
blob in nouveau, no matter the terms, I've read the firmware blobs
decompilation and I'm quite concerned about possible security implications.

The PGRAPH context switch microcode allows user to read/write arbitrary
MMIO registers by submitting the firmware methods. The GF100+ video
decoding etc. falcon microcodes allow you to just ask for physical
instead of virtual addressing, and that includes physical system memory.
Why did nVidia include such obviously security-breaking functionality in
the firmware images? As I understand it, a user having access to just
the FIFO submission interface should only have access to his own VM
area, and not have enough power to take over the machine. Is there any
security model for nVidia hardware/firmware/kernel driver system?

Marcin Kościelnicki" Source

As you can see, this developer, who I assume actually knows what he is talking about, has concerns about the 'possible security implications' in the Nvidia blob, even going so far in the second paragraph to imply the Nvidia blob has 'security-breaking functionality,' while finally asking if the nVidia hardware/firmware/kernel driver system has any security model at all.

That's why I think making it trivially easy to install non-free drivers isn't a smart thing to do, most particularly in the case of newbies who have no idea of the consequences of proprietary blobs and drivers on the security of the system.
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