Changes in the linux-firmware package: kernel requirements, separating large files into separate packages

In Arch Linux, the linux-firmware package, which contains the firmware files, got important changes. In addition to the usual file updates and adding support for new devices, this package has a requirement for a minimum kernel version, and the package itself is divided into several packages.

Recall that device firmware are files that are necessary for the normal operation of the hardware in addition to kernel modules (drivers).

The linux-firmware package now implements kernel firmware compression and also requires Linux kernel version 5.3 or later with support for booting from compressed xz firmware. The CONFIG_FW_LOADER_COMPRESS kernel option must be enabled. All official Arch Linux kernels have supported this for a long time.

The linux-firmware package has been split into smaller packages to further reduce disk space requirements. Some large firmware files for rarely used hardware have been split into separate packages. This affects firmware for Mellanox Spectrum switches, Marvell devices, Qualcomm SoCs, Cavium LiquidIO server adapters, QLogic devices, Broadcom NetXtreme II 10Gb Ethernet adapters. Be sure to install additional firmware packages if needed.

The following packages are now in the official Arch Linux repository:

  • linux-firmware and linux-firmware-whence – the main firmware packages for a wide variety of hardware
  • linux-firmware-bnx2x – firmware for NetXtreme II 10Gb Ethernet adapters
  • linux-firmware-liquidio – Cavium LiquidIO server adapters
  • linux-firmware-marvell – firmware for Marvell devices
  • linux-firmware-mellanox – firmware for Mellanox Spectrum switches
  • linux-firmware-nfp – firmware for Netronome Flow Processors (nfp)
  • linux-firmware-qcom – firmware for Qualcomm SoCs (qcom)
  • linux-firmware-qlogic – firmware for Qlogic devices (qlogic)

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