Debian Kernel Has No Proprietary Firmware

Apr 23, 2009

Debian developer Robert Millan is offering an alternative kernel for Debian's Lenny free Linux distro. Unlike the standard Lenny kernel, it contains no proprietary firmware.

In a message on the Debian developer mailing list, Robert Millan referred to the outcome of votes at the end of 2008: Debian developers decided back then that with the release of Debian 5.0 (Lenny), binary firmware would be allowed in the kernel where it wasn't clear if it truly lived up to the Debian Free Software Guidelines (DFSG).

For those developers and users that are used to putting a high value on a Linux distro totally under free licensing, Millan is now making a Debian package archive available with an alternative kernel. It can go into /etc/apt/sources.list as follows:

deb lenny main

The archive key is signed in Millan's mail or can be extracted from the Web.

The free Lenny kernel is part of the Linux-libre initiative that advocates for 100% free licensed software for Linux distros. One of its supporters is the Free Software Foundation Latin America (FSFLA).

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  • how list non-free firmware at Debian

    You can find a list of non-free firmware at
    They are included into the non-free section of the repository, disabled by default at sources.list.
    Sometimes, during the installation, one could need the deb files found inside the compressed files at
    that should be placed into a secondary removable media during the installation (usb, floppy, network, etc).
    As general rule, software placed at the non-free section, and sometimes at contrib section, should be installed with conscious decision after analisys.
    Andre Felipe Machado
  • Question. .

    I agree. I think it's awesome. While I'm all for 100% open-source... Can someone be a little more specific about the proprietary firmware that is currently in the Debian 5.0 kernel? Or where can I look on the Debian site to see what binary firmware was included? Thanks!
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