To have a completely DFSG-free install of Debian on the Eee PC, we need support for the various wifi chipsets in different Asus Eee PC models. Although we have not yet reached this goal in any Debian release, recent kernel versions ensure we'll be closer to that goal for Squeeze. In the meantime, if you have installed Lenny, upgrading to a Lenny kernel backport is your best option.
A more recent issue is that ../Model/1101HA uses the Intel GMA 500 "Poulsbo" graphics chipset for which there is no free driver providing 2D or 3D acceleration. Users of this model must settle with using the VESA driver instead.
To obtain DFSG-free drivers for Lenny, follow ../HowTo/Upgrade to upgrade to version 2.6.30 or greater of the kernel. Please note that the rt2860 driver, though licensed under the GPL, still requires firmware-ralink from non-free.
Squeeze will greatly improve matters:
- The 2.6.30 and later kernels targeted at Squeeze replace madwifi with the free ath5k driver for Atheros b/g models which now works with all Eee models with this chipset.
- These kernels also include Realtek b/g rtl8187se so it will work out of the box for model 701SD, and ath9k to support the latest models containing an Atheros b/g/n chipset.
- The rt2860 driver is mainlined in the kernel, so it will be dropped from non-free. However, its continued reliance on the non-free firmware-ralink package means that the "completely DFSG free" goal for the Squeeze release can't be realized until this dependency is resolved.
Because of the Ralink problem, for those looking for a completely DFSG-free Atom-based model today, you'll want one of the newer models that use Atheros b/g/n instead (e.g. 1000HE, 1005HA or 1008HA -- however, take care to check the chipset with your seller if you can when you make the purchase, as some 1000HE systems have been reported to ship with rt2860 instead).
[BenArmstrong] 2009-08-10 While there is also a free rt2x00 driver in the kernel and there is work in progress to support rt2860 in it, there are not yet any usable results. Felix Fietkau from the rt2x00 project confirmed to me on irc yesterday that the driver currently does depend on the firmware to work, just like the vendor rt2860 driver, however "the hardware that I'm playing with rt2800pci on apparently doesn't even have the microcontroller unit that normally uses the firmware, so the driver needs to be able to work without firmware anyway (it's a soc, not a card)" except "no firmware -> no powersave in sta mode". Thus, rt2x00 developers will need to make the driver no longer depend on the firmware, and when that is ready for release, rt2860 owners will be able to enjoy a completely DFSG-free system, albeit without the full range of capabilities of the hardware. The timeline for this work is as yet unknown, but we hope it will be able to make it into the Squeeze release and will be keeping an eye on it.