FSF and Debian join forces to help free software users find the hardware they need

September 8th, 2014

The Free Software Foundation (FSF) and the Debian project today announced cooperation to expand and enhance h-node, a database to help users learn and share information about computers that work with free software operating systems.

While other databases list hardware that is technically compatible with GNU/Linux, h-node lists hardware as compatible only if it does not require any proprietary software or firmware. Information about hardware that flunks this test is also included, so users know what to avoid. The database lists individual components, like wifi and video cards, as well as complete notebook systems.

The compatibility information comes from users testing hardware on systems running only free software. Previously, h-node site guidelines required they be running one of the FSF's endorsed distributions. While the FSF does not include Debian on this list because the Debian project provides a repository of nonfree software, the FSF does acknowledge that Debian's main repository, which by default is the only place packages come from, is completely free.

Unlike other common GNU/Linux distributions, installing official Debian by default means installing only free software. As long as Debian users do not add additional package repositories, their systems are a reliable source of fully free compatibility information. We're looking forward to working with Debian to help free software users get the hardware they need, and encourage the companies who provide it, said FSF's executive director John Sullivan.

By collaborating with h-node, Debian for the first time has the opportunity to join efforts with other free software communities on the assembly of a database of hardware that doesn't require anything outside the Debian main archive to work properly, said Lucas Nussbaum, Debian Project Leader. Debian is confident that the fruits of this collaboration will result in the largest, curated database of Debian-compatible hardware, and invites all Debian community members to contribute hardware compatibility information to h-node.

H-node was started by Antonio Gallo, who continues to be the project's lead developer. The FSF now provides infrastructure and support. The software powering the site is also distributed as free software under version 3 of the GNU General Public License.

Users can contribute either by running one of the FSF's endorsed distributions, or Debian with only packages from the default main archive installed. Developers and translators can contribute by working on the site's code. Information for getting involved is at http://h-node.org/help/page/en/Help.

About Debian

The Debian Project was founded in 1993 by Ian Murdock to be a truly free community project. Since then the project has grown to be one of the largest and most influential free software projects. Thousands of volunteers from all over the world work together to create and maintain Debian software. Available in 70 languages, and supporting a huge range of computer types, Debian calls itself the "universal operating system".

More information about the Free Software Foundation can be found at the FSF website.