[conspire] Fwd: Ubuntu 6.10

Edmund J. Biow biow at sbcglobal.net
Wed Dec 20 15:45:29 PST 2006

> Message: 1
> Date: Mon, 18 Dec 2006 12:20:59 -0800
> From: Rick Moen <rick at linuxmafia.com>
> Subject: Re: [conspire] Fwd:  Ubuntu 6.10 [was Re: ... distro news]
> To: conspire at linuxmafia.com
> Message-ID: <20061218202058.GI14528 at linuxmafia.com>
> Content-Type: text/plain; charset=us-ascii
> Quoting Tony Godshall (togo at of.net):
>> I think for a lot of us, we'd much prefer a proper Free distribution
>> that gives us long term security.  Call us bigots or enthusiasts, but
>> the truth is elsewhere, really.
> Even from the beginning, Ubuntu's installer has auto-enabled via
> /etc/apt/sources.list a package collection called "restricted" 
> comprising available software under proprietary but redistributable
> licences.  (This is in distinction to the Official Debian installer, 
> which _asks_ you if you wish to enable access to "non-free" and
> "contrib" = packages that themselves are open source but depend on
> others that are proprietary, but with your answer defaulting to "no".)  
> However, to my knowledge, it has never installed proprietary software 
> by default before[1], which starting with Feisty+1, it will (NVidia and ATI
> accelerated video drivers, sundry winmodem drivers, Atheros madwifi, and 
> an Intel 3945 wireless driver): https://wiki.ubuntu.com/AcceleratedX
> Personally, I do think that "never installed by default, but available
> (only) by a specific act of will" is a pretty good general policy.
Some reasons so many Linux graybeards are able to get away with shunning 
binary proprietary blobs is because:
1) They've been using 'nix for long enough to know what hardware works 
best with GPL drivers and have a pretty good cache of that hardware.
2) They can compile their own kernel modules in their sleep so don't 
really need to rely on some opaque binary quite as much.
3) They are seasoned CLI users who aren't interested in games or eye 
candy like Compiz, which requires use of proprietary drivers.  If I'm 
using mutt or pine it doesn't really matter much whether I load nvidia, 
nv or vesa.

However these seasoned users are only one chunk of the growing Linux 
community.  A lot of folks are trying desperately to migrate from 
Windows for whatever reason and the learning curve is very steep.  I've 
been using Linux as my primary OS for a couple of years now and am still 
pretty green, not exactly a Newbie, but I don't dream of electric sheep 
either.  Most of these new users want a distro that they can get working 
for most of the things that they do in a reasonable amount of time.  
Hence the popularity of the "easier" user-friendly distros.  On 
distrowatch Ubuntu is No. 1, followed by openSUSE, Fedora, MEPIS, 
Mandriva & PCLinuxOS, all relatively easy to use Linux operating 
systems.  One of the factors driving adoption of Ubuntu is the 
availability of EasyUbuntu and Automatix, tools to ease installation of 
proprietary bits, and a damn site easier than following all the steps in 
something like fedorafaq or some such.

The demand for an "evil inside" distro that doesn't even require 
EasyUbuntu is so much that in the last 30 days the No. 10 download on 
distrowatch is the very new Mint, a modified stripe of Ubuntu with all 
the evil proprietary code incorporated in the distribution image.  Here 
is their latest realease announcement on DW:

"A new stable version of Linux Mint has been released: "Linux Mint 2.1, 
code name "Bea", is out and available for download." Here is a brief 
list of some of the changes since version 2.0: "OpenOffice 2.1; 
mintDesktop, which adds a lot of desktop improvements; quick access to 
the computer, home places and terminal; ability to delete files directly 
without sending them to the trash; mintDesktop home folders; Beagle 
search; Tomboy notes; network manager; mintWifi, the purpose of which is 
to configure a wireless card without an Internet connection; tutorials 
to install and configure WiFi cards; a collection of WiFi drivers to 
support about 40 different wireless card models; RealPlayer was replaced 
with MPlayer plugins with support for Quicktime, AVI, MPG and a lot of 
other web content; Flash plugin was upgraded to version 9 Beta 2...." 
Read the detailed release announcement for further information. "

If big distros like Ubuntu & openSUSE make it harder for people to do 
what they want to do with their machines, they'll simply switch to other 
flavors that they think are more accommodating like Mint. 

You'll note that even with Mint when GPL programs have been able to 
handle a niche reasonably well, the packagers are more than willing to 
switch, witness the substitution of MPlayer for RealPlayer to support 
Quicktime, AVI and MPG. 

I've been exposed to the notion that if we all hang tough and refuse to 
install binary proprietary blobs like Flash that will create more demand 
for GPL alternatives and maybe more incentive for companies like 
Macromedia to open up their programs.  But I think reserving a role for 
distros that rapidly increase Linux adoption also gives companies some 
incentive to open up their hardware, programs and standards.



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