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Debian Votes for One Installer ISO with Non-Free Firmware

The results are out. Debian’s team voted for one single ISO installer with non-free firmware included.

Today, Debian provides two basic installer types – “free” and “non-free”. The “free” installer contains actual “free and open-source” packages, whereas the “non-free” contains the proprietary firmware package.

Since the majority of the average user needs an “out of the box” Debian experience, it’s easier to use the non-free firmware Debian ISO image.

But, finding the non-free firmware image is a little difficult for the average Linux user (I explained it in a prior installation guide). Because it’s kind of “hidden” under several directories. Here’s an example of the paths you need to browse to locate the non-free ISO.

"non-free" firmware image path buried under several directories

"free" download path (easy to navigate)

To solve this, on August 2022, the Debian team proposed several options for better discovery of the non-free firmware installer ISO image by the users. And launched the below options for voting.

  • Option 1 “Only one installer, including non-free firmware”
  • Option 2 “Recommend installer containing non-free firmware”
  • Option 3 “Allow presenting non-free installers alongside the free one”
  • Option 4 “Installer with non-free software is not part of Debian”
  • Option 5 “Change SC for non-free firmware in installer, one installer”
  • Option 6 “Change SC for non-free firmware in installer, keep both installers”
  • Option 7 “None of the above”

One Debian ISO with non-free packages

The voting results are out, and the winner is “Change SC for non-free firmware in installer, one installer”.

That means you would have only one Debian installer containing both free and non-free images.

We are yet to find out how exactly the change is expected in the Debian installer. However, as per my guess, the user may be prompted with an option to include the non-free firmware packages inside Debian’s own installation wizard.

It’s worth mentioning that Ubuntu does have a similar option during installation to opt for non-free packages as below.

Ubuntu installation provides option to install non-free packages
Ubuntu installation provides an option to install non-free packages

Wrapping Up

Overall, the voting results are good for the general users & community. No more roaming around inside directories for the proper Debian ISO image.

I hope we can try out these new ISO options in the upcoming Debian 12 next year.

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