Features vs. Freedom

December 18th, 2006 by lucas

Jono Bacon wrote a long blog entry on Planet Ubuntu about his vision of freedom, and how it applies to the proprietary drivers. This is a good opportunity to write sthing I wanted to write for a long time.

Ubuntu’s bug #1 is “Microsoft has a majority market share“. Well, I think that this should be of severity minor or wishlist, not critical. A better bug #1 would be “our priority is our users” (does it ring a bell ?). I find it far more important to improve the satisfaction of people already using a Linux distribution, than to try to convince others to use it.

Most users of Windows have very good reasons for using Windows, like proprietary applications that have no equivalent in the Free Software world. I don’t think that “Linux doesn’t have a 3D desktop” is the major blocker for people not using Linux. Windows doesn’t have a 3D desktop. Many Mac OS X users don’t use the 3D features. I haven’t felt the slightest need to try a 3D desktop, and I’m using GNOME/metacity, so the jump wouldn’t so hard to make to compiz.

I’m not saying that a 3D desktop is not a good idea. Of course, it would be nice to have LiveCDs that just work and start a 3D desktop, so we could show off at conferences. But I haven’t even bothered to google for such LiveCDs.

Sometimes, proprietary drivers are more needed on Linux, for example for people who bought a Wifi card without checking first if it was supported. But I don’t think that 3D graphic drivers are that important. I still hope that Ubuntu will not ship proprietary software by default, and that Ubuntu will try to help the free drivers instead.

Update: I forgot to close the comments when publishing this entry. They are closed now, but trackbacks are open if you want to write your own blog about this (I don’t think it’s necessary, all arguments have been reharsed many times already. Ah, and for the records, the free ati driver works perfectly fine and fast (using MergedFB) in my dual-screen setup (2560*1024), with xv on both monitors.

3 Responses to “Features vs. Freedom”

  1. Keffin wrote on 12/18/06 at 8:16 pm :

    “Most users of Windows have very good reasons for using Windows, like proprietary applications that have no equivalent in the Free Software world.”

    I absolutely 100% couldn’t disagree more. Most windows users are “using the internet” on their “big hard drive thing”, which also might fit with your point. Maybe most people don’t care that windows can wobble and burn, they just sit there with an open IE and outlook, then after a while they log off.

    However, even a niche group of windows users outnumbers the total amount of linux users. There is plenty up for grabs with every small improvement linux distros can offer.

  2. Stemp wrote on 12/18/06 at 8:46 pm :

    «I find it far more important to improve the satisfaction of people already using a Linux distribution, than to try to convince others to use it.»

    Most of the users wants 3D accelerated graphics.
    Dont’t do it and then tell them it’s a question of freedom. Did you read sometimes the Ubuntu, Fedora or Suse forums ? The questions are mp3, divx, flash, w32codecs and wine/cedega for games.
    So what do you tell them ?
    (1) it’s not free so it’s impossible
    (2) it’s not free, so it must be a pain in the ass
    (3) Don’t forget it’s not free and we must try to improve the free drivers.

  3. Stefan wrote on 12/18/06 at 9:30 pm :

    Another problem with the free (in my case ati/radeon) drivers, is that they’re simply so slow that its unbearable to work with in 2D (thats on a PCIe FireGL5200, 1600×1200).

    So should just live with slow 2D because that it’s not “right” ?

    I’ve been using Fedora for years, but recently jumped to Ubuntu because that the stuff just works. I like everything open source and the whole *nix environment (which I work in every day), but I couldn’t care less about the graphics driver being proprietary, the quality of those drivers are so excellent now, that I can’t remember the last time I had a lockup because of that.

    It’s just naive to think that such stuff will ever get opensourced. Leave it be, it’s not a perfect world.

    “Sometimes, proprietary drivers are more needed on Linux, for example for people who bought a Wifi card without checking first if it was supported.”

    Eh.. last time I checked it was pretty impossible to even buy a decent laptop without an Intel Wireless (ipw3945), and either ATI/Nvidia incorporated into it.

    So unless you plan to run everything in 1996 resolutions (800×600 or 1024×768), the open drivers just won’t cut it.

    I say “keep those basic proprietary blobs in there”.