Fun with linux firmware
From wikipedia: firmware: the combination of persistent memory and program code and data stored in it.
Fedora ships firmware as long as it meets some critera: https://fedoraproject.org/wiki/Licensing:Main#Binary_Firmware
Firmware is in a weird place. Some folks consider any use of loadable firmware to be bad and non free, but yet are fine with non loadable firmware in the devices they use. Consider two identical network cards: One with loadable firmware and one without. In both cases you can’t examine the code or make changes, but in the case of the device with loadable firmware you can at least have the option for bugfixes or improvements, or use of the device at all in some cases. Is using the one without loadable firmware “ok” while the one that simply allows you to load firmware is “wrong” ?
In any case, Fedora puts all the firmware in packages with ‘firmware’ in the name (most of them in a ‘linux-firmware’ package), so I wondered: what would happen if you removed all those. How well could a modern laptop work?
So, a quick download of all the firmware rpms (so I could easily reinstall them), ‘yum remove \*firmware\*’ and reboot and… The laptop booted up fine. As expected my intel iwl wifi wireless adapter didn’t work at all. It needs a firmware load in order to function. The second thing proved impossible to track down, but X and my touchpad in particular was very slow responding. I couldn’t figure out what firmware was causing this, but reinstalling linux-firmware and rebooting got it back to normal. It’s an intel video card, and I couldn’t find any firmware loading failures in the journal anywhere. ;(
If anyone has ideas on how to track that down or wants to try themselves and see… send me a pingback or comment. 😉
So, it is indeed possible to run Fedora without the firmware packages.