Debian Squeeze Kernel to be Completely Free
Non-free software has long left a bad taste in Debian's collective mouth and developers have now taken steps to reduce the cruft for their next release. The project announced this morning that Debian 6.0, codenamed Squeeze, would ship with a completely free kernel.
Debian developers have been working overtime to remove any of the proprietary drivers from their kernel that shipped with 4.0 and 5.0. Many users appreciate this firmware to convert bricks to useful hardware, but the Debian project strives to remain committed to their guidelines. One states that any code used must allow redistribution of it and its source code. Another says that any code must allow modification. Most closed-source code restricts or prohibits both of these. The press release said, "We hereby reaffirm Free Software as one of our priorities, as documented in the Debian Social Contract." The clause of the Social Contract referred to states that "Debian will remain 100% free." Including proprietary bits also present a real security and privacy danger for users. If these blobs are closed, no one other than the proprietary owner really knows what's in them. So it's both an ideological and safety issue.
For those that have hardware which may depend on these non-free drivers, Debian will provide and maintain a non-free archive on alternative installation images and repositories. Their position is that these drivers are not part of Debian and users should have to seek them out explicitly. So, be sure to check the software needed for your Ethernet card before installing Debian - you might need one of the alternative images. There is nothing more inconvenient than an inoperative Ethernet card - unless it's a backdoor!