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bug#35915: Please provide an installer with non-free drivers

From: Timothy Sample
Subject: bug#35915: Please provide an installer with non-free drivers
Date: Sun, 26 May 2019 13:23:44 -0400
User-agent: Gnus/5.13 (Gnus v5.13) Emacs/26.2 (gnu/linux)

Hi juh,

I’m closing this bug, because I’m certain it’s not something the *GNU*
Guix project is willing to consider.  As long as Guix is a GNU project,
any capitulation to the world of non-free software or locked-down
hardware is not an option.

That being said, I can appreciate the time you took to write this, so
I’ve provided some comments below.

juh <address@hidden> writes:

> Dear developers of Guix,
> I am very much in favour of Open Hardware and Free Software, and I
> appreciate every effort to foster free software. That in advance.
> Guix is not just another Linux distribution, but something new that
> supports transactional upgrades and roll-backs, unprivileged package
> management and declarative system configuration. This is really
> exciting. If Guix were just another distro focusing on free software,
> there would be no need for a nonfree installer iso. But in case of Guix
> I think it is missing.

I agree that Guix has a lot to offer!  :)

> Please consider that using hardware that is supported by free drivers is
> a privilege. Many people cannot afford a computer with supported
> hardware, others are not able to look for the right components, and
> compare long lists of supported hardware with the specs from computer
> shops, and last but not least many people just got a computer from
> others – as a gift maybe. They all have to stick with their hardware and
> they should not be excluded from the exciting Guix approach.

You make some good points here, but remember that it is not you or me or
the Guix project that is manufacturing incompatible hardware.  Why
should it be our job to accommodate it?  All of these problems would
disappear quickly if the current culture of secrecy and protectionism
among hardware manufacturers relaxed a little bit.  Distributing a
non-free version of Guix would amount to deciding that the
wrong-headedness of the computer hardware industry is more important
than the freedom of users, which is a rather uncomfortable choice to
make.  :/

> I think that many of them would give Guix a try if it was installable in
> a way like debian is installable with their firmware driver iso:
> https://cdimage.debian.org/cdimage/unofficial/non-free/cd-including-firmware/
> I see that it is possible to make a custom kernel for Guix:
> For eg. https://gist.github.com/TeMPOraL/306bbb7c627ab0d32fa84af831963563
> It would be really nice to have at least an unofficial installer with
> nonfree drivers. If there is a nonfree installer iso please make a note
> on the webpage.

It may be convenient for someone to distribute a non-free version of
Guix, but that someone isn’t going to be the GNU Guix project.  It is
our job to be the hardliners, ensuring that the whole distribution gives
users the four freedoms.  I read something (but can’t seem to find it
now) from Chris Webber saying that it is much easier to remove freedom
from a free system than it is to make a non-free system free.

Essentially, anyone who wants to make such a non-free installer is free
to do so, and would probably find such a task pretty easy (in my
experience Guix is rather well designed and quite flexible).  The GNU
Guix project, however, would not support it or recommend using it.

For a recent take on a similar issue from the GNU website, see

-- Tim

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