[conspire] Fwd: Ubuntu 6.10

Edmund J. Biow biow at sbcglobal.net
Wed Dec 27 15:25:34 PST 2006

> Message: 5 Date: Wed, 20 Dec 2006 23:06:53 -0800 From: Rick Moen 
> <rick at linuxmafia.com> Subject: Re: [conspire] Fwd: Ubuntu 6.10 To: 
> conspire at linuxmafia.com Message-ID: 
> <20061221070652.GL14528 at linuxmafia.com> Content-Type: text/plain; 
> charset=us-ascii 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 anyone.
You guys are far too kind.  Quit it. 

I didn't respond earlier, not because I was miffed at contradiction, but 
because my wife plugged in the vacuum cleaner when we were already 
running a space heater tripping an underpowered circuit breaker, taking 
down with it my almost finished response & I couldn't face 
reconstructing it, at least until I could release some frustrations by 
peppering St. Nick with a little buckshot.  When Thunderbird came back 
up I configured it to auto save every 3 minutes.

> 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.
A few distros currently support Compiz for the reverse engineered open 
source ATI driver, but until very recently if you wanted wobbly windows 
with your Radeon you needed the proprietary FGLRX driver.  And 
traditionally I understand that both ati & fglrx were kind of a mess 
(and apparently ATI's Windows drivers aren't much better) so the 
received wisdom I heard was that Nvidia was the best choice for Linux if 
you wanted 3D acceleration.  Nvidia is only 20% of the market, but I 
suspect it is a substantially greater share among desktop Linux users. 

By the way, I've heard it bruited about that Compiz doesn't require much 
pop from a video card to get all the pretty effects, but I've got to 
report that in my experience low end Intel, Geforce and Radeon chipsets 
just don't cut it (e.g. the i810, the Geforce 2 or the Radeon 7000).  
Many distro's don't support Compiz for them at all, and even if you can 
get AIGLX or XGL working performance is not good, weird artifacts occur, 
and video playback is very problematic.  Forget about compositing 
windows managers altogether if you have an Via Unichrome or an old Rage 
card.  I even tried Fedora 6 on a very recent Dell with some stripe of 
i9xx video and the results were disappointing.  And I understand that 
the high end latest and greatest display adapters are problematic, as 
well.  I guess the sweet spot is a mid level ATI or Nvidia card, maybe 
something in the $40-100 range like the Radeon X300 or the Geforce 6200. 

It is wonderful that Intel has opened up its video drivers since last 
summer, though there are those that claim that they are not providing 
documentation and the effort is mostly window dressing, so to speak:
Also, Intel is not being at all forthcoming with their wireless drivers; 
they seem very reluctant to allow even redistribution of their firmware: 

That said, because of Intel's modest efforts I am shopping for an Intel 
motherboard and CPU for the first time since my Celeron 333 circa 1998.  
The Core 2 is apparently a great CPU (after Intel was very much behind 
the price/performance curve since the introduction of the Duron/Athlon 
line IMO) but I don't need top of the line oomph and the AMD X2 uses 
less energy with the right motherboard. 
http://techreport.com/reviews/2006q3/e6300-vs-sff/index.x?pg=15  Plus, 
Fry's occasionally has the A64 X2 3800 bundled in a combo with a ECS 
motherboard with quite reasonable Nvidia 6150 on board graphics, so I 
could save a lot of money by going AMD.  But I'll pay a premium to get 
technology that I don't have to use binary blobs with, even though I can 
figure out how to use Ndiswrapper, recompile and install an Nvidia 
kernel module, etc.  Consumers like me are not a huge chunk of the 
market, but our existence is an added incentive for companies to open up 
their IP, particularly if they are not market leaders or don't have much 
unique, valuable proprietary technology to protect.  (Yes, I know Intel 
graphics are on 40% of shipped systems, but that is almost all in the 
OEM sector and most Windows gamers and enthusiasts wouldn't be caught 
dead running Intel onboard display.)

> 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
> for it.
The wobbly stuff seems pretty annoying, I'll grant, but I like the 
zooming in to parts of the screen with the mouse wheel, peeling back 
applications to see what's underneath, and making a frame translucent so 
I can read what is under it, as well (very handy if you don't have much 
monitor real estate).  And don't underrate that coolness factor.  Go to 
YouTube and search for 'AIGLX' and you'll see about 200 video 
demonstrations of neat tricks (and another 634 for XGL), many of them 
set to syncopated music with race cars and wallpapers of scantily clad 
models in the background.  Plug 'Aero Vista' in to YouTube instead and 
you'll only see 45 videos, much less well crafted (and the Microsoft 3D 
effects are much less impressive).  Scads of kids messing around with 
translucent rotating cubes and menus that burn away in flames are 
creating quite a bit of buzz for Linux in certain circles.
>> > 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[1]) any operating system on any general-purpose
> computer. 
> 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
> hardware.)
> 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.[2]
The real battle to displace Windows as the dominant 64 bit OS will 
require Linux to be pre-installed, as Eric Raymond maintains in his 
interesting article entitled World Domination 201:
And that won't happen unless Linux can handle whatever content people 
throw at it reasonably well, which means, unfortunately, that the 
pre-installers will have to come to some sort of accommodation with the 
owners of a lot of proprietary technology (codecs, firmware, drivers, 
etc).  I wonder if the more flexible attitude towards licensing of 
OpenBSD and FreeBSD won't give them a bit of a boost in this sector at 
some point.  Much of the Linux community is very committed to only 
distributing software that is free as in speech, but most Americans will 
take free beer every time.  Homer: Mmmm... free beer.

In some respects Linux is easier to use than Windows.  You don't need to 
worry about virii or Trojans, you don't risk having your system p0wned 
if you don't run Windows Update and keep forking over ducats to McAfee 
or Norton.  You don't have to buy and install vast rafts of software and 
type in long license codes.  Most of what typical computer users need 
comes with the distro.

 But we are kidding ourselves if we think that Linux doesn't have a 
steeper learning curve than Windows, even if you only compare properly 
set-up systems.  To take a trivial example, in all sorts of Linux 
installs I've had the sound cut out on me for no apparent reason.  I 
have had to learn CLI commands like the Fedora 
'*system-configure*-*sound' and more universal 'alsaconf' by heart just 
to keep listening to my tunes without rebooting. 

One of the things I find bizarre about Linux is that most distros don't 
even have a shortcut to the terminal on the panel by default.  I can't 
imagine using Linux on a daily basis without a console open somewhere.  
A Windows user might never know that his OS even has a command line 
interface.  Of course, the flip side of that is that I have a lot more 
power over my OS than a Windows user. If something goes wrong with 
Windows often all you can do is reinstall. I needn't belabor that point. 

>> > 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.
I've installed Ubuntu specifically because of those tools because I 
thought they'd make my life easier. 

In an irrelevant aside, I don't really like Ubuntu, though I'm very fond 
of Debian.  The customizations, package selection, installer, buzz, even 
the color scheme grate on me. I've decided that even with EasyUbuntu it 
isn't worth the pain, give me Mepis for an Ubuntu-oid system, I can 
tweak it the way I like it and install everything I need much more 
quickly.  Mandriva 2007 and PcLinuxOS are also faster routes to a 
multimedia system with which I'm comfortable.  I even prefer Fedora & 
OpenSuse though the package updater seems to be pretty flaky lately for 
the later.  I've installed every release of Ubuntu since 4.10 & I just 
don't see what everyone else apparently does in the distribution.  
Particularly Edgy has been much buggier & more annoying than the 
competition in my opinion.  Experiments with Warty almost put me off 
Linux altogether, though luckily I found a copy of SuSE 9.2 in short 
order.  I think Ubuntu is beginning to lose its luster.  In 2005 Ubuntu 
had 53% more page hits on Distrowatch than its nearest rival (Mandriva); 
in the last three months OpenSuse has drawn almost even to Ubuntu (and 
actually displaced Ubuntu in the last month at the top of the heap). 
>> > 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.
Jeez, in the last week Mint has moved to #3, right behind Ubuntu and 
above Fedora and Mepis.
>> 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
>> people for.
Zealous attention by open source advocates to the license status of all 
software in a release has caused some distros to stop redistributing 
what the packagers considered derived code which some commentators think 
is more of a gray area than a flagrant violation of GPL.  The example of 
Kororaa comes to mind.  http://kororaa.org/static.php?page=gpl 

Other distros have been pulling programs that might be in conflict with 
patent protection laws like the DMCA even though the software in 
question is open source (e.g. libdvdcss, pulled from Mepis and 
PCLinuxOS).  I can see both sides and think there is a role for distros 
that push up against those barriers.  "Let 100 flowers bloom," as they 
say over at Red-Flag Linux.  Let's have a diverse ecology and see what 
survives the travails of the marketplace and legal system best.
>> > 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.
I'm not at all thunderstruck,  one of the many great things about Debian 
is the incredible wealth of software available, not only from Debian 
itself, but 3rd party repositories as well:
There are even Automatix clones for Etch.  I think when Etch goes gold 
I'll probably stop experimenting with other distros altogether (this is 
typed on a fairly vanilla Sarge box with only 5 entries in my sources.list).
> 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.
That doesn't seem like such a bad idea to me.  I wonder why no one has 
continued doing so, first forcing users to endure a few screens 
educating them about the evils of proprietary software and warning of 
potential breakage and legal liability.  I guess distros don't want to 
be seen as propping up unfree technology and also they don't want to be 
asked for support when a random binary blob causes someone's floppy 
drive to emit clouds of winged monkeys.
>> > 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.
Forgiveness, please, even when I typed the line I realized in the back 
of my mind that I was using the term GPL as an inaccurate short hand for 
open source, just to save a few key strokes.  My mediocre.
>> > 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.
Maybe Sun's decision to convert swaths of Java to first a Mozilla-y CDDL 
license and now honest-to-goodness GPL has something to do with a 
perceived threat that if it didn't open source Java it might be soon 
displaced on Linux by projects like kaffe, gcj, Mono etc.  Already 
Microsoft showed it that it could develop its own Java analogue (.Net, 
C#) after its licensing disputes with Sun.  One, two, many JVMs...
> 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.)
That's why Dog invented the Firefox flashblock extension, so you can 
just selectively enable Flash for those few times when you actually want 
to see Flash content.  I just hope Flashblock will quickly be adapted to 
Gnash, GPLFlash, swfdec, Flirt and other open source Flash stand-ins.

>> > 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.
'[O]pen up' doesn't necessarily imply open source.  There is a powerful 
network effect.  The incentive is stronger for hardware makers; if 
suddenly 20% of desktop users were using an open source operating system 
companies like Broadcom might be more forthcoming providing 
documentation and being less insistent upon non disclosure agreements so 
they don't find themselves excluded from purchasing decisions.  While I 
can't see Adobe releasing Photoshop under the GPL simply because more 
people are using GIMP, they might tweak it so it can run more easily on 
Linux or even release a Linux version if they see enough growth in that 
sector.  Real has already extended support to the Helix project.  For 
years Real has been under pressure from Microsoft in the streaming media 
area that they used to dominate.  If Linux became more of a player on 
the desktop that cooperation with Linux would increase even if Real 
doesn't go Sun's route with Java.  I can see even Microsoft 
accommodating the push for open standards coming out of Europe & 
elsewhere, which would be a 'good thing'©®. 

Three years ago if you wanted to do online banking you'd better have 
Internet Explorer in many places.  With the explosive growth of Firefox 
it has been a while since I've seen a site that Mozilla couldn't handle 
(at least outside of microsoft.com if you are trying use Windows Update 
or download certain software).  Web designers felt that could ignore 
other browsers when they were only 5% of the market, but not when they 
are 15%.  At least for that area it seemed like ~10% was some sort of a 



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