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Thread: openSUSE without kernel binary blobs?

  1. #1

    Question openSUSE without kernel binary blobs?

    Hi,

    I have just read that openSUSE has binary blobs in its kernel.

    Some questions which arise in my mind:

    1. Is deblobbing the linux kernel a freetardism and how bad is it actually to have blobs?

    2. In case it comes down to hardware support (which may depend on particular blobs) - how can one check if there is such hardware which needs those blobs?

    3. Is this a valid/recommended procedure for switching to a "Linux-libre" kernel or is there a better way?

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    Cool Re: openSUSE without kernel binary blobs?

    Given that, the binary blobs that matter for most of us, contain CPU, APU and GPU firmware, it depends on whether one wishes to use modern CPUs with firmware or, CPUs constructed using hardware modules with TTL gates and/or transistor arrays …

    Please be aware that, AFAIK, CPUs with firmware began to appear around 1975 – at least in the Mini-Computer scene …

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    Default Re: openSUSE without kernel binary blobs?

    Quote Originally Posted by heyjoe View Post
    I have just read that openSUSE has binary blobs in its kernel.
    I don't actually know if that is true. However:
    1. There is a vanilla kernel ("kernel-vanilla" in the repos). If you are worried about this, you can install that. It is the kernel compiled directly from sources.
    2. There is a separate kernels repo at
      Code:
      http://download.opensuse.org/repositories/Kernel:/stable/standard/
      which you can add as an extra repo, and install kernels from there. And, again, there is a vanilla kernel in that repo.
    3. If there are binary blobs, they are probably in the "drm" module. You could just uninstall that.
    4. You can download kernel sources and build your own.


    Personally, I am just using the standard "kernel-default" with Leap 15.0. But I do have the kernels repo configured, though I normally leave it disabled. I did just enable as a quick check. The "kernel-vanilla" from there is 5.0.0, so it is newer than even the current Tumbleweed kernel.
    openSUSE Leap 15.1; KDE Plasma 5;
    testing Leap 15.2Alpha

  4. #4

    Default Re: openSUSE without kernel binary blobs?

    Quote Originally Posted by dcurtisfra View Post
    Given that, the binary blobs that matter for most of us, contain CPU, APU and GPU firmware, it depends on whether one wishes to use modern CPUs with firmware or, CPUs constructed using hardware modules with TTL gates and/or transistor arrays …

    Please be aware that, AFAIK, CPUs with firmware began to appear around 1975 – at least in the Mini-Computer scene …
    For CPU I have read only about microcode updates (and I wonder why on openSUSE dmesg shows:
    Code:
    [    0.000000] microcode: microcode updated early to revision 0x20, date = 2018-04-10
    while on intel.com there is a version 20180807.

    It is the first time that I read about firmware in CPU. Could you please elaborate?

    Also - why would one rely on the OS to update firmware?

    APU - the only info I found is this and since I am not using AMD (and not planning to) I guess it is not an issue.

    GPU - are you saying that the distro maintains my discrete video card's GPU and without it it won't be able to work? I have never heard of anything like that so far.


    Quote Originally Posted by nrickert View Post
    1. There is a vanilla kernel ("kernel-vanilla" in the repos). If you are worried about this, you can install that. It is the kernel compiled directly from sources.
    From what I read on the web the vanilla kernel also contains binary blobs.

    3. If there are binary blobs, they are probably in the "drm" module. You could just uninstall that.
    Unfortunately "probably" doesn't really help here. BTW with a little more searching I found some sources explaining that a package called linux-firmware is the one which contains blobs on other distros. On openSUSE I see a package kernel-firmware which shows a link to a repository with the same name. However that doesn't really say what is the situation with the rest of the kernel.

    4. You can download kernel sources and build your own.
    Please correct me if I am wrong but AFAIU that's vanilla too. (= your 1.)

    Another source suggests a check on licenses of modules like this:
    Code:
    modinfo $(lsmod | cut -d' ' -f 1) | awk '/filename/{fn=$2;} /license/{print $2, fn;}'
    which in my case shows:
    Code:
    Dual /lib/modules/4.12.14-lp150.12.48-default/kernel/drivers/gpu/drm/drm_panel_orientation_quirks.ko
    Dual /lib/modules/4.12.14-lp150.12.48-default/kernel/fs/nls/nls_cp437.ko
    Dual /lib/modules/4.12.14-lp150.12.48-default/kernel/fs/nls/nls_iso8859-1.ko
    ...
    GPL - for all others
    I wonder what "Dual" means and what these 3 are needed for.

    Generally my initial questions pretty much remain.

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    Default Re: openSUSE without kernel binary blobs?

    Quote Originally Posted by heyjoe View Post
    It is the first time that I read about firmware in CPU. Could you please elaborate?
    CPUs have come a long way from the concept of “only some logic gates” things such as discrete ALUs (Arithmetic Logic Units).
    Modern CPUs are complex beasts with various buses and channels performing pipe-lining of instructions and the instructions in parallel …
    Therefore, Firmware – to allow modification of the CPUs behaviour at the customer's site – both yours and, mine …

    Quote Originally Posted by heyjoe View Post
    Also - why would one rely on the OS to update firmware?
    You have to rely on someone with good contact to the CPU manufacturers …

    Quote Originally Posted by heyjoe View Post
    APU - the only info I found is this and since I am not using AMD (and not planning to) I guess it is not an issue.

    GPU - are you saying that the distro maintains my discrete video card's GPU and without it it won't be able to work? I have never heard of anything like that so far.
    Take a look in ‘/usr/share/licenses/kernel-firmware/’ and ‘/lib/firmware/’ …

    If the firmware can not be loaded at boot time, the device will not behave as expected …

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    Default Re: openSUSE without kernel binary blobs?

    Quote Originally Posted by heyjoe View Post
    BTW with a little more searching I found some sources explaining that a package called linux-firmware is the one which contains blobs on other distros.
    That's likely true for openSUSE also.
    openSUSE Leap 15.1; KDE Plasma 5;
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  7. #7

    Default Re: openSUSE without kernel binary blobs?

    Quote Originally Posted by dcurtisfra View Post
    You have to rely on someone with good contact to the CPU manufacturers …
    But why? If I want to update my BIOS - I download the update and do it myself. Same for SCSI controller or whatever. Why should the CPU be any different? IOW: why should the distro be a mid-man? I mean - I not that I do or don't mind, just want to know why this is made to be like that.

    Take a look in ‘/usr/share/licenses/kernel-firmware/’ and ‘/lib/firmware/’ …
    How to the so called "Libre" distros run without all that? Are they any worse?

    If the firmware can not be loaded at boot time, the device will not behave as expected …
    Again - how come "Libre" distros work without that?

    Also - I certainly don't flash my BIOS on each boot. And I would be definitely concerned to find out that a firmware-level updated can come through the OS update. I have never thought that the OS would touch anything below Ring 0. Is that something new?

    Sorry if these questions sound dumb. I have just stopped following closely how CPUs evolve after Pentium 4

  8. #8

    Default Re: openSUSE without kernel binary blobs?

    Quote Originally Posted by nrickert View Post
    That's likely true for openSUSE also.
    There is no such package in openSUSE Leap. Or do you mean 'kernel-firmware'?

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    Default Re: openSUSE without kernel binary blobs?

    Quote Originally Posted by heyjoe View Post
    Or do you mean 'kernel-firmware'?
    Yes. (please ignore this extra padding to keep the forum software happy).
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    Default Re: openSUSE without kernel binary blobs?

    Quote Originally Posted by heyjoe View Post
    But why? If I want to update my BIOS - I download the update and do it myself. Same for SCSI controller or whatever. Why should the CPU be any different? IOW: why should the distro be a mid-man? I mean - I not that I do or don't mind, just want to know why this is made to be like that.
    In your post #4 you provided this link: https://downloadcenter.intel.com/dow...le?product=873

    Did you read the "Detailed Description" part?

    It actually provides an answer to your question:

    "CPU microcode is a mechanism to correct certain errata in existing systems. The normal preferred method to apply microcode updates is using the system BIOS, but for a subset of Intel's processors this can be done at runtime using the operating system. ... Microcode states are reset on a power reset, hence its required to be updated everytime during boot process ..."

    Quote Originally Posted by heyjoe View Post
    How to the so called "Libre" distros run without all that? Are they any worse?
    I never used a "Libre" distro and all i know about them is what one can read in Wikipedia :

    "... The downside of removing proprietary firmware from the kernel is that it will cause loss of functionality of certain hardware that does not have a free software replacement available ..."

    As far as my Bluetooth-adapter is concerned i can confirm this statement. The adapter will not provide certain BT profiles without its firmware being loaded. Yet i didn't dare to test how my Intel CPU does without its microcode.

    Regards

    susejunky

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