[conspire] Fwd: Ubuntu 6.10
rick at linuxmafia.com
Wed Dec 20 23:06:53 PST 2006
Quoting Edmund J. Biow (biow at sbcglobal.net):
Hi, Edmund. I like your style, and appreciate your posts. I'll skip
stretches where you laid the subject to rest, requiring no response from
> Some reasons so many Linux graybeards are able to get away with
> shunning binary proprietary blobs is because:
> 3) They are seasoned CLI users who aren't interested in games or eye
> candy like Compiz, which requires use of proprietary drivers.
The Compiz window manager _initially_ did indeed, but now also works on
recent X.org software releases (7.1 and later) when the AIGLX
(Accelerated Indirect GLX) libraries are present, e.g., with very good
3D performance on recent Intel graphics chipsets. Thus, Mandriva 2007,
Fedora Core 6, Ubuntu 6.10 (Edgy Eft), and Gentoo do fully open-source
Compiz out of the box. So does the Sabayon Linux 3.0 live CD. People
with Intel i810 through i965 graphics cards, and ATI Radeon cards up to
the X800 series, are thus in luck.
Same story for Beryl and other OpenGL compositing window managers.
I got to see Compiz back when Novell still had SUSE10 in closed beta.
I was duly impressed -- which I really didn't expect. However, even at
that time, I didn't see anything all that actually compelling about it.
On the other hand, I did _like_ it -- for a one-hour demo, at least. I
have no idea if it's liveable -- but it does have coolness factor going
> 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 don't buy that the learning curve is very steep, in any meaningful
sense of that term -- i.e., beyond them having equally daunting problems
coping with (almost) any operating system on any general-purpose
E.g., "Ordinary users can't cope with installing Linux." OK, but
those same users provably have a _much worse_ time doing real,
non-rigged installations of Microsoft OSes. (Non-rigged = a blank hard
drive and a generic retail OS package not tailored for the specific
E.g., "Users can't cope with inconsistent user interfaces." So, install
Ubuntu or Kubuntu on their machines and don't tell them about the
universe and multiverse collections.
E.g., "Users can't deal with having to learn new software." And yet,
they obviously dealt with it at least once. What you really mean is,
they don't _want_ to learn new software. And I want a Lotus Super 7
Series II with licence KAR 120C for my birthday.
> 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.
I _suspect_ this is conflating cause with effect. That is, I cannot
recall ever hearing anyone say "Ooh, I'm going to install Ubuntu because
that will then get me able to run EasyUbuntu and Automatix."
Inevitably, it's people installing Ubuntu/Kubuntu for other reasons and
then either discovering or vaguely recalling something about those apps.
> 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.
I'm intending to have a closer look at both that and Sabayon. One of
the operational problems of including _some_ proprietary software
directly into the image is that you can easily make it unlawful to
further redistribute, sometimes unintentionally.
For example, Linux Mint 2.1 "Bea" includes Macromedia's Flash
interpreter for i386 Linux. Flash is licensed for free-of-charge
download from Macromedia's site (they authorised themselves!), but not
for subsequent distribution except by specifically authorised agents of
the company. It's possible that the Linux Mint developers signed up
with Macromedia to be authorised distributors -- though I doubt it --
but that leaves the rest of us: If I download the 2.1 "Bea" ISO and
burn a copy, so far so good. But, if I then my CD for you at a CABAL
meeting to take home, I'm committing an act in technical violation of
Macromedia's copyright. Macromedia's not likely to object, let alone to
sue me -- but they could. And other proprietary software publishers are
more zealous, e.g., Adobe. You won't ever see redistributable Linux
ISOs that incorporate Adobe Acrobat Reader on random public ftp/http sites --
even though Acrobat Reader itself is free of charge to download from
Adobe and authorised agents. Ever wonder why? Because it's _both_
illegal _and_ something the infringed copyright's owner goes after
> 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.
As it is, they actually tend to make it pretty damned easy, within
limits set by their desire to keep their ISOs lawful for the public to
redistribute -- which Linux Mint appears not to be.
You may be thunderstruck to hear this, but so does Debian GNU/Linux.
For a number of proprietary "desktop" (and other) packages people might
want to install onto a Debian machine, there are "[foo]-install" (or
some name of that sort) packages within Debian proper. The Debian
package is an open-source wrapper that fetches the desired proprietary
software from an authorised distribution point on the Net, and does a
Debianised installation such that the package database is aware of its
presence and its dependencies.
The now-defunct Libranet desktop distribution (Debian-based) took this
to its logical extreme: You had one or two graphical widgets on your
X11 desktop where you checked off which such things to fetch, and it did
the rest. And Libranet ISOs _were_ lawful to redistribute.
> 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.
Personal quibble / hobbyhorse: Please don't use the term "GPL" as a
synonym for "open source". Open source includes dozens of diverse
licences: E.g., your graphics (X11) software isn't GPLed, your Web
browser probably isn't, your SSH software almost certainly isn't,
etc. They're probably under the MIT X11 licence, the Mozilla Public
Licence, and the BSD licence, respectively.
Also, Mplayer as packaged by Mint isn't entirely open source under any
qualifying licence: In order to handle a sufficient range of popular
streaming formats, they reportedly ship a number of proprietary,
binary-only codecs. I'm not saying that's a bad thing; it's just that
(if my information is correct) some of those codecs have highly dubious
patent legality or copyright status or both -- and also technically
clash with the supposedly GPL licence status of mplayer itself, whose
terms prohibit distributing works with components under restrictive
> 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.
I don't know whether that's true or not. Some companies never change,
and sometimes that's because they're quite happy with what markets they
have -- and "demand for GPL [or open source] alternatives" doesn't
actually, in my experience, make a damned bit of real-world difference
except in rare cases where someone with money is willing to pay to hire
coders to write it.
However, what _is_ true is that it's a damned rare situation that
actually requires Flash, and most of those situations are ones I've
never wanted to be in. (It's likely I'd hate an open-source equivalent
with equal passion.)
> 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.
I realise it's unfair to be hard on grand rhetorical handwaves, but
nobody's stopping such distros -- unless and until Macromedia, Adobe,
Real Networks, and a bunch of other proprietary software houses start
sending out court summonses. At that point, don't blame me! ;->
But I also don't buy your assertion that "rapid Linux adoption" would
motivate the likes of Macromedia, Adobe, Real Networks, et al. to switch
to open source. Why the hell would they? I can't fathom what their
motivation would be.
 I'm going to give Macintosh OS X a pass on many operational and
installation aspects, for reasons discussed to death elsewhere that
ultimately owe to the sponsoring company's iron, rigid control over
software and hardware. That benefit has its matching detriments, which
I will likewise not get into, here.
 No, Deirdre. Besides, that'd be no good unless "I built it with my
Cheers, "This is Unix. Stop acting so helpless."
Rick Moen -- D.J. Bernstein
rick at linuxmafia.com
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