Linux Vendor Firmware Service: We Need Your Help

I spend a lot of my day working on framework software for other programs to use. I enjoy this plumbing, and Red Hat gives me all the time I need to properly design and build these tricky infrastructure-type projects. Sometimes, just one person isn’t enough.

For the LVFS project, I need vendors making hardware to submit firmware files with carefully written metadata so that they can be downloaded by hundreds of thousands of Linux users securely and automatically. I also need those vendors to either use a standardized flashing protocol (e.g. DFU or UEFI) or to open the device specifications enough to allow flashing firmware without signing an NDA.

Over the last couple of months I’ve been emailing various tech companies trying to get hold of the right people to implement this. So far the reaction from companies has been enthusiastic and apathetic in equal measures. I’ve had a few vendors testing the process, but I can’t share those names just yet as most companies have been testing with unreleased hardware.

This is where you come in. On your Linux computer right now, think about what hardware you own that works in Linux that you know has user-flashable firmware? What about your BIOS, your mouse, or your USB3 hub? Your network card, your RAID card, or your video card?

Things I want you to do:

  • Find the vendor on the internet, and either raise a support case or send an email. Try and find a technical contact, not just some sales or marketing person
  • Tell the vendor that you would like firmware updates when using Linux, and that you’re not able to update the firmware booting to Windows or OS-X
  • Tell the vendor that you’re more likely to buy from them again if firmware updates work on Linux
  • Inform the vendor about the LVFS project : http://www.fwupd.org/

At all times I need you to be polite and courteous, after all we’re asking the vendor to spend time (money) on doing something extra for a small fraction of their userbase. Ignoring one email from me is easy, but getting tens or hundreds of support tickets about the same issue is a great way to get an issue escalated up to the people that can actually make changes.

So please, spend 15 minutes opening a support ticket or sending an email to a vendor now.

Published by

hughsie

Richard has over 10 years of experience developing open source software. He is the maintainer of GNOME Software, PackageKit, GNOME Packagekit, GNOME Power Manager, GNOME Color Manager, colord, and UPower and also contributes to many other projects and opensource standards. Richard has three main areas of interest on the free desktop, color management, package management, and power management. Richard graduated a few years ago from the University of Surrey with a Masters in Electronics Engineering. He now works for Red Hat in the desktop group, and also manages a company selling open source calibration equipment. Richard's outside interests include taking photos and eating good food.

7 thoughts on “Linux Vendor Firmware Service: We Need Your Help”

    1. Unfortunately no. I’ve been going through my hardware and checking with the upstream vendor for a flashing tool. Some devices need a magic packet to go into DFU mode, so it’s not like you can detect the upload capability during normal rumtime.

      1. The tool doesn’t have to be that advanced. It could just enumerate all the hardware and prune the devices with already existing firmware in the repo.

        If I search for ‘about’ on my Gnome F22 laptop The ‘Details’ app pops up. It has categories on the left for: Overview, Default Applications, Removable Media. How about adding ‘Devices’?

        When I boot a new laptop with Fedora I’d like to know: what hardware is installed, is it supported, if not why not (unknown device vs. known but patent encumbered drivers), what can I do about it (eg. swap a Broadcom WiFi card for Intel).

        Windows gives your laptop a score based on performance. Linux could give your laptop a score based also on hardware support.

        The next step could be: write a polite letter to a manufacturer as you’ve described here. I think a lot of people would like to play their small part in the process, but unless they’ve read your blog on this day in history they’re unlikely to know about it.

        Btw. When this is fully launched, the LVFS front page should have a list of the manufacturers with firmware in the repo. Maybe some stats on number of laptops and individual devices supported. The list should function as the kind of social proof you’ve probably seen on websites launched by startups. We want an engineer at Asus or Acer to be able to show their manager that Dell and Lenovo already do this – this is obviously something that their peers just do.

        Thanks for working on this.

  1. ATM the link is throwing 503s at me. That’s not really nice …

    It might help to have a template that people can copy/paste to make sure it is polite, complete and helpful.

    A draft, feel free to correct and optimise:

    Dear ,

    I am using your product . This product uses firmware that sometimes needs to be updated. Which is a problem as I am using Linux.

    I would like to inform you of the LVFS project : https://beta-lvfs.rhcloud.com/ that aims to solve this problem in a very comfortable way for you and for me. It aims to automate the distribution process of firmware updates, allowing you to save a lot of time and ressources.

    Would you kindly consider using this solution for your products? For more information feel free to contact Richard Hughes, the project manager of the LVFS system under .

    Should you support the LVFS system for your products, I would definitely promote your products for doing the right thing and I will continue to buy more.

    Sincerely.

  2. 1. since people are busy (lazy), a web-form/generator would be even better than a template. A nice dropdown with vendors (products?), an editable database with support e-mail addresses that grows over time, everything that enables a user to get a text and a mailto link with few clicks. (much like those forms for mailing politicians, it could have quite an impact)

    2. I don’t completly agree to the “small fraction of their userbase” argument (of course, i’d still be polite). Normally, small userbase means small demand means higher price. Excluding a userbase completly is bad business practice (and doesn’t really work as we see). Consider how many linux users are decision makers for a number of other users. The average linux user has more influence than the average win/mac user concerning hardware purchases. At least that’s my feeling, i’m lacking figures to proof that claim.
    But in any way, hardware should be/is built for a platform, not for an operating system. OS specific drivers were a bad decision in the first place. And except maybe graphics cards, I don’t really get the concept of all drivers being closed source. I just don’t… :)

  3. Hello Richard! It is a nice idea, an idea that was coming many times in my mind. It will be easier / quicker for each company to submit their updates to a unified platform and then this platform to distribute these updates. Some efforts exist.

    About your aim, why you dont publish directly the email that are you senting in order to make it easier for us to help you? Please publish it, and then send me an email to find my vendors!

    Thanks! Good luck!

    [WORDPRESS HASHCASH] The poster sent us ‘0 which is not a hashcash value.

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