Debian is one of the most loved Linux distributions for its approach to stability and a balance between new features.

Also, it does not come with any non-free firmware.

However, that is becoming an issue for users who want to use Debian on newer hardware.

Most of the latest devices and configurations need non-free firmware to make things work, which includes Wi-Fi, graphics, and more.

And to address that, Steve McIntyre, a Debian developer and a former Debian project leader, has been actively discussing the issue for a while.

At the DebConf 22 conference, Steve recently talked about fixing the firmware mess to highlight this better to users and developers, as spotted by Geeker’s Digest.

Including Non-Free Firmware in Official Releases

As for the current situation, you can find an unofficial Debian image with non-free firmware.

However, not every user is aware of it, and even if it is promoted on Debian’s download page, “unofficial” is not something a user will prefer over the recommended image.

Also, it is counter-intuitive to expect users to install non-free firmware when they can choose any Ubuntu-based distribution or Ubuntu as an alternative.

Not just limited to these issues, Steve mentions a few other problems with it in his blog that include:

  • Maintaining separate non-free images is time-consuming.
  • The official images are not preferred by many users because of the lack of non-free firmware.

Steve proposes that this mess be fixed sooner than later if we want more users to use Debian on common hardware.

Potentially through a prompt in the installer for users to install non-free firmware, similar to what Ubuntu does.

Furthermore, in his talk at DebConf 22, it seems that most of the developers voted to add non-free firmware in official Debian images.

And with the recent highlight, Steve has gotten more attention from users/developers to find a solution to this problem as a community.

The easy/convenient way out: adding non-free firmware in official release images.

So, will Debian finally add support for non-free firmware in its newer releases? Will Debian 12 make this a reality?

Share your thoughts in the comments down below.

Ankush Das

A passionate technophile who also happens to be a Computer Science graduate. You will usually see cats dancing to the beautiful tunes sung by him.