Debian Bug report logs - #684968
debian-installer: requests non-free firmware for a device that works just as well without it

Package: debian-installer; Maintainer for debian-installer is Debian Install System Team <debian-boot@lists.debian.org>; Source for debian-installer is src:debian-installer.

Reported by: Stefan Nagy <public@stefan-nagy.at>

Date: Wed, 15 Aug 2012 08:33:01 UTC

Severity: wishlist

Tags: d-i

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Report forwarded to debian-bugs-dist@lists.debian.org, Debian Install System Team <debian-boot@lists.debian.org>:
Bug#684968; Package debian-installer. (Wed, 15 Aug 2012 08:33:04 GMT) Full text and rfc822 format available.

Acknowledgement sent to Stefan Nagy <public@stefan-nagy.at>:
New Bug report received and forwarded. Copy sent to Debian Install System Team <debian-boot@lists.debian.org>. (Wed, 15 Aug 2012 08:33:04 GMT) Full text and rfc822 format available.

Message #5 received at submit@bugs.debian.org (full text, mbox):

From: Stefan Nagy <public@stefan-nagy.at>
To: Debian Bug Tracking System <submit@bugs.debian.org>
Subject: debian-installer: requests non-free firmware for a device that works just as well without it
Date: Wed, 15 Aug 2012 10:30:06 +0200
Package: debian-installer
Severity: wishlist
Tags: d-i

Dear Maintainer,

I have a notebook with a realtek nic which doesn't need any non-free firmware
files to operate. However, debian installer requests me to install non-free
firmware. It doesn't make any difference if I install it or reject the request
– the network adapter just works.

Debian installer shouldn't ask me to install non-free firmware for a device
that works just as well without it.

My hardware: Realtek Semiconductor Co., Ltd. RTL8111/8168B PCI Express Gigabit
Ethernet controller [10ec:8168] (rev 06)
Firmware file which debian installer requests: rtl_nic/rtl8168e-3.fw



-- System Information:
Debian Release: wheezy/sid
  APT prefers testing
  APT policy: (500, 'testing')
Architecture: amd64 (x86_64)

Kernel: Linux 3.2.0-3-amd64 (SMP w/4 CPU cores)
Locale: LANG=de_AT.UTF-8, LC_CTYPE=de_AT.UTF-8 (charmap=UTF-8)
Shell: /bin/sh linked to /bin/dash



Information forwarded to debian-bugs-dist@lists.debian.org, Debian Install System Team <debian-boot@lists.debian.org>:
Bug#684968; Package debian-installer. (Wed, 15 Aug 2012 11:15:03 GMT) Full text and rfc822 format available.

Acknowledgement sent to Brian Potkin <claremont102@gmail.com>:
Extra info received and forwarded to list. Copy sent to Debian Install System Team <debian-boot@lists.debian.org>. (Wed, 15 Aug 2012 11:15:03 GMT) Full text and rfc822 format available.

Message #10 received at 684968@bugs.debian.org (full text, mbox):

From: Brian Potkin <claremont102@gmail.com>
To: Stefan Nagy <public@stefan-nagy.at>, 684968@bugs.debian.org
Subject: Re: Bug#684968: debian-installer: requests non-free firmware for a device that works just as well without it
Date: Wed, 15 Aug 2012 11:53:49 +0100
On Wed 15 Aug 2012 at 10:30:06 +0200, Stefan Nagy wrote:

[I sent to debian-boot and forgot to Cc: the bug]

> Package: debian-installer
> Severity: wishlist
> Tags: d-i
> 
> Dear Maintainer,
> 
> I have a notebook with a realtek nic which doesn't need any non-free firmware
> files to operate. However, debian installer requests me to install non-free
> firmware. It doesn't make any difference if I install it or reject the request
> – the network adapter just works.
> 
> Debian installer shouldn't ask me to install non-free firmware for a device
> that works just as well without it.

What else can the installer do other than pass on the request from the
kernel? Please don't shoot the messenger.



Information forwarded to debian-bugs-dist@lists.debian.org, Debian Install System Team <debian-boot@lists.debian.org>:
Bug#684968; Package debian-installer. (Wed, 15 Aug 2012 11:39:03 GMT) Full text and rfc822 format available.

Acknowledgement sent to Stefan Nagy <public@stefan-nagy.at>:
Extra info received and forwarded to list. Copy sent to Debian Install System Team <debian-boot@lists.debian.org>. (Wed, 15 Aug 2012 11:39:03 GMT) Full text and rfc822 format available.

Message #15 received at 684968@bugs.debian.org (full text, mbox):

From: Stefan Nagy <public@stefan-nagy.at>
To: Brian Potkin <claremont102@gmail.com>, 684968@bugs.debian.org
Subject: Re: Bug#684968: debian-installer: requests non-free firmware for a device that works just as well without it
Date: Wed, 15 Aug 2012 13:35:53 +0200
[Message part 1 (text/plain, inline)]
Am Mittwoch, den 15.08.2012, 11:53 +0100 schrieb Brian Potkin:
> What else can the installer do other than pass on the request from the
> kernel? Please don't shoot the messenger.

Sorry – I wasn't sure to which package this bug belongs… Could you
reassign it please?

Thanks,
Stefan.
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Information forwarded to debian-bugs-dist@lists.debian.org, Debian Install System Team <debian-boot@lists.debian.org>:
Bug#684968; Package debian-installer. (Wed, 15 Aug 2012 18:42:03 GMT) Full text and rfc822 format available.

Acknowledgement sent to Bjørn Mork <bjorn@mork.no>:
Extra info received and forwarded to list. Copy sent to Debian Install System Team <debian-boot@lists.debian.org>. (Wed, 15 Aug 2012 18:42:03 GMT) Full text and rfc822 format available.

Message #20 received at 684968@bugs.debian.org (full text, mbox):

From: Bjørn Mork <bjorn@mork.no>
To: Stefan Nagy <public@stefan-nagy.at>
Cc: 684968@bugs.debian.org
Subject: Re: Bug#684968: debian-installer: requests non-free firmware for a device that works just as well without it
Date: Wed, 15 Aug 2012 20:21:30 +0200
Stefan Nagy <public@stefan-nagy.at> writes:

> I have a notebook with a realtek nic which doesn't need any non-free firmware
> files to operate. However, debian installer requests me to install non-free
> firmware. It doesn't make any difference if I install it or reject the request
> – the network adapter just works.
>
> Debian installer shouldn't ask me to install non-free firmware for a device
> that works just as well without it.

You cannot know that it works "just as well".  The firmware may enable
additional features you don't use, or which does not matter to your
usage pattern.  Or the firmware fixes known bugs which you just haven't
hit or which you didn't know you were hitting.

Both of these are quite common for network adapter firmware.

> My hardware: Realtek Semiconductor Co., Ltd. RTL8111/8168B PCI Express Gigabit
> Ethernet controller [10ec:8168] (rev 06)
> Firmware file which debian installer requests: rtl_nic/rtl8168e-3.fw

I believe this works exactly as intended.  The adapter does function
without the firmware and the driver allows you to continue using it even
if the firmware load fails, thereby enabling you to complete the
installation and download the firmware if acceptable.

The driver firmware request is required to enable those who want to load
the optional firmware. Just ignore it if you don't want to.


Bjørn



Information forwarded to debian-bugs-dist@lists.debian.org, Debian Install System Team <debian-boot@lists.debian.org>:
Bug#684968; Package debian-installer. (Wed, 15 Aug 2012 22:09:03 GMT) Full text and rfc822 format available.

Acknowledgement sent to Stefan Nagy <public@stefan-nagy.at>:
Extra info received and forwarded to list. Copy sent to Debian Install System Team <debian-boot@lists.debian.org>. (Wed, 15 Aug 2012 22:09:03 GMT) Full text and rfc822 format available.

Message #25 received at 684968@bugs.debian.org (full text, mbox):

From: Stefan Nagy <public@stefan-nagy.at>
To: Bjørn Mork <bjorn@mork.no>
Cc: 684968@bugs.debian.org
Subject: Re: Bug#684968: debian-installer: requests non-free firmware for a device that works just as well without it
Date: Thu, 16 Aug 2012 00:05:27 +0200
[Message part 1 (text/plain, inline)]
Am Mittwoch, den 15.08.2012, 20:21 +0200 schrieb Bjørn Mork:
> The driver firmware request is required to enable those who want to load
> the optional firmware. Just ignore it if you don't want to.

I'm not saying debian installer shouldn't recommend / ask for non-free
firmware at all [1] but I do care about my freedom as software user.

My notebook has an Intel WLAN adapter and a Realtek NIC – debian
installer tells me in both cases that my hardware needs proprietary
software to operate even if the consequences of not installing the
non-free firmware are completely different. My WLAN adapter doesn't work
at all when I decide not to install the firmware.

I don't think that it's a good solution to seperate non-free firmware
just to tell users to provide it while installation process. In my
opinion debian (installer) should provide more information about the
concrete consequences of not installing a specific firmware file: Will
the device work at all? What are the probable limitations?

Debian (installer) should enable users to make a decision here. Instead
right now it seems like the safe way in each and every case is to
install proprietary firmware – and everyone who decides not to install
it is on his/her own.

This is just my opinion (and that's why I reported this bug with
severity: wishlist).



[1] http://tinyurl.com/bp6pz9b
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Information forwarded to debian-bugs-dist@lists.debian.org, Debian Install System Team <debian-boot@lists.debian.org>:
Bug#684968; Package debian-installer. (Thu, 16 Aug 2012 00:45:05 GMT) Full text and rfc822 format available.

Acknowledgement sent to Michael Gilbert <mgilbert@debian.org>:
Extra info received and forwarded to list. Copy sent to Debian Install System Team <debian-boot@lists.debian.org>. (Thu, 16 Aug 2012 00:45:05 GMT) Full text and rfc822 format available.

Message #30 received at 684968@bugs.debian.org (full text, mbox):

From: Michael Gilbert <mgilbert@debian.org>
To: 684968@bugs.debian.org, 684968-submitter@bugs.debian.org
Subject: Re: Bug#684968: debian-installer: requests non-free firmware for a device that works just as well without it
Date: Wed, 15 Aug 2012 20:41:36 -0400
On Wed, Aug 15, 2012 at 6:05 PM, Stefan Nagy wrote:
> Debian (installer) should enable users to make a decision here. Instead
> right now it seems like the safe way in each and every case is to
> install proprietary firmware – and everyone who decides not to install
> it is on his/her own.
>
> This is just my opinion (and that's why I reported this bug with
> severity: wishlist).

This recently came up on the fsf-collab list.  Here are my thoughts on
appropriate wording:
http://lists.alioth.debian.org/pipermail/fsf-collab-discuss/2012-August/000200.html

Obviously that's rather long given character constraints in the
installer's debconf messages.  But it could be a starting point for
discussion.

Best wishes,
Mike



Message sent on to Stefan Nagy <public@stefan-nagy.at>:
Bug#684968. (Thu, 16 Aug 2012 00:45:07 GMT) Full text and rfc822 format available.

Information forwarded to debian-bugs-dist@lists.debian.org, Debian Install System Team <debian-boot@lists.debian.org>:
Bug#684968; Package debian-installer. (Thu, 16 Aug 2012 04:06:03 GMT) Full text and rfc822 format available.

Acknowledgement sent to Christian PERRIER <bubulle@debian.org>:
Extra info received and forwarded to list. Copy sent to Debian Install System Team <debian-boot@lists.debian.org>. (Thu, 16 Aug 2012 04:06:03 GMT) Full text and rfc822 format available.

Message #38 received at 684968@bugs.debian.org (full text, mbox):

From: Christian PERRIER <bubulle@debian.org>
To: 684968@bugs.debian.org, 684968-submitter@bugs.debian.org
Subject: Re: Bug#684968: debian-installer: requests non-free firmware for a device that works just as well without it
Date: Thu, 16 Aug 2012 06:03:48 +0200
[Message part 1 (text/plain, inline)]
Quoting Michael Gilbert (mgilbert@debian.org):
> On Wed, Aug 15, 2012 at 6:05 PM, Stefan Nagy wrote:
> > Debian (installer) should enable users to make a decision here. Instead
> > right now it seems like the safe way in each and every case is to
> > install proprietary firmware – and everyone who decides not to install
> > it is on his/her own.
> >
> > This is just my opinion (and that's why I reported this bug with
> > severity: wishlist).
> 
> This recently came up on the fsf-collab list.  Here are my thoughts on
> appropriate wording:
> http://lists.alioth.debian.org/pipermail/fsf-collab-discuss/2012-August/000200.html
> 
> Obviously that's rather long given character constraints in the
> installer's debconf messages.  But it could be a starting point for
> discussion.


Post-wheezy, of course..:-)

And by shortening the text quite strongly (I think the first two
paragraphs are enough: the rest belongs to freeness zealotism -no
offense intended, I happen to be a zealot, too).


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Message sent on to Stefan Nagy <public@stefan-nagy.at>:
Bug#684968. (Thu, 16 Aug 2012 04:06:05 GMT) Full text and rfc822 format available.

Information forwarded to debian-bugs-dist@lists.debian.org, Debian Install System Team <debian-boot@lists.debian.org>:
Bug#684968; Package debian-installer. (Thu, 16 Aug 2012 08:51:06 GMT) Full text and rfc822 format available.

Acknowledgement sent to Bjørn Mork <bjorn@mork.no>:
Extra info received and forwarded to list. Copy sent to Debian Install System Team <debian-boot@lists.debian.org>. (Thu, 16 Aug 2012 08:51:06 GMT) Full text and rfc822 format available.

Message #46 received at 684968@bugs.debian.org (full text, mbox):

From: Bjørn Mork <bjorn@mork.no>
To: Stefan Nagy <public@stefan-nagy.at>
Cc: 684968@bugs.debian.org
Subject: Re: Bug#684968: debian-installer: requests non-free firmware for a device that works just as well without it
Date: Thu, 16 Aug 2012 10:46:14 +0200
Stefan Nagy <public@stefan-nagy.at> writes:

> Am Mittwoch, den 15.08.2012, 20:21 +0200 schrieb Bjørn Mork:
>> The driver firmware request is required to enable those who want to load
>> the optional firmware. Just ignore it if you don't want to.
>
> I'm not saying debian installer shouldn't recommend / ask for non-free
> firmware at all [1] but I do care about my freedom as software user.
>
> My notebook has an Intel WLAN adapter and a Realtek NIC – debian
> installer tells me in both cases that my hardware needs proprietary
> software to operate even if the consequences of not installing the
> non-free firmware are completely different. My WLAN adapter doesn't work
> at all when I decide not to install the firmware.
>
> I don't think that it's a good solution to seperate non-free firmware
> just to tell users to provide it while installation process. In my
> opinion debian (installer) should provide more information about the
> concrete consequences of not installing a specific firmware file: Will
> the device work at all? What are the probable limitations?
>
> Debian (installer) should enable users to make a decision here. Instead
> right now it seems like the safe way in each and every case is to
> install proprietary firmware – and everyone who decides not to install
> it is on his/her own.
>
> This is just my opinion (and that's why I reported this bug with
> severity: wishlist).

This makes a lot of sense and I do agree with your view.

But unless I miss something, I don't think it is currently possible for
the installer to implement anything like this.  The kernel firmware
interface allow the drivers to request firmware, but there is no way for
the firmware loader to know what the driver will do if the request
fails.  In some cases the driver will just continue, possibly with
reduced functionality or known firmware bugs unpatched, in other cases
the driver will attempt to load alternate firmware.  And in quite a few
cases, the driver cannot continue because the device requires the
loadable firmware to function at all. Like your WLAN card.

The driver will know these differences, but the firmware loader (and
therefore the installer) will not.

So your wishlist should go to the upstream kernel developers.  Maybe the
request_firmware API should be extended to indicate the drivers failure
mode to the loader, allowing the loader to present this information to
the end user?


Bjørn



Information forwarded to debian-bugs-dist@lists.debian.org, Debian Install System Team <debian-boot@lists.debian.org>:
Bug#684968; Package debian-installer. (Fri, 17 Aug 2012 21:36:03 GMT) Full text and rfc822 format available.

Acknowledgement sent to Michael Gilbert <mgilbert@debian.org>:
Extra info received and forwarded to list. Copy sent to Debian Install System Team <debian-boot@lists.debian.org>. (Fri, 17 Aug 2012 21:36:03 GMT) Full text and rfc822 format available.

Message #51 received at 684968@bugs.debian.org (full text, mbox):

From: Michael Gilbert <mgilbert@debian.org>
To: 684968@bugs.debian.org
Cc: 684968-submitter@bugs.debian.org
Subject: Re: Bug#684968: debian-installer: requests non-free firmware for a device that works just as well without it
Date: Fri, 17 Aug 2012 17:33:13 -0400
On Thu, Aug 16, 2012 at 12:03 AM, Christian PERRIER wrote:
>> This recently came up on the fsf-collab list.  Here are my thoughts on
>> appropriate wording:
>> http://lists.alioth.debian.org/pipermail/fsf-collab-discuss/2012-August/000200.html
>>
>> Obviously that's rather long given character constraints in the
>> installer's debconf messages.  But it could be a starting point for
>> discussion.
>
> Post-wheezy, of course..:-)

Certainly :)  All of the potential FSF-freeness stuff will need to
wait until after wheezy's release.

> And by shortening the text quite strongly (I think the first two
> paragraphs are enough: the rest belongs to freeness zealotism -no
> offense intended, I happen to be a zealot, too).

Well, the goal with that wording was to concurrently try to meet the
FSF's requirements to be on their free distributions list (the
requirement that non-free dialog's need to contain information on why
it should be avoided if possible) while being intellectually honest
with the user about their real options (i.e giving them enough
information to be able to reach their own freeness conclusions).

I think providing a well-rounded perspective is good in that includes
the zealot perspective as well as the pragmatists, and leaves it up to
the user to reach their own well-informed decision.

Best wishes,
Mike



Message sent on to Stefan Nagy <public@stefan-nagy.at>:
Bug#684968. (Fri, 17 Aug 2012 21:36:05 GMT) Full text and rfc822 format available.

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