Restricted software in Ubuntu, continued

thully at thully at
Sat Dec 4 17:56:01 CST 2004

I started the previous monster thread about non-free software and Ubuntu.
This thread got a little out of control, and spawned numerous replies.
I just wanted to clarify my questions and views on these issues

As many know, some distributions (like MEPIS, Mandrake, Debian, and many others)
include  MP3 playback that others don't.  Are they  breaking laws? Why can they
include MP3 playback support and Ubuntu can't? I realize that mp3 can be added
from universe, but as mp3 is a wildly popular format it seems as playback 
support should be included in main if possible. Also, I see that many
distributions (some free of charge) include Flash. Are they violating license
agreements to do this?

I realize that Ubuntu wishes to support totally free formats, but Ogg Vorbis at
this point has few portable players which support it - and that is a problem. 
It also may be a good idea to include some way to purchase a licensed mp3
encoder and/or licensed DVD player.  People don't want to, for example, ditch
their iPods or MP3-CD players (I've never seen an OGG-CD player).

Also, people want to be able to access their favorite websites on Linux - even
if they use Flash.  I tried the free software Flash player, and it worked for
none of the few sites I tried.

I know this stuff can be downloaded from multiverse/universe/third party repos,
but this is unsupported and sometimes things in there have major breakage that
never gets fixed - and can't be reported in bugzilla.  Note that I don't want
Ubuntu to start including large amounts of non-free software - I just think it
would be good to include non-free software when reasonably possible (or make it
easy to install if not reasonably possible) and when free software doesn't
satisfy the need sufficently.  I also wonder if in the case of MP3 recording
and DVD if in the future (not for Hoary, of course) an easy interface could be
for Wine to use Windows DVD players and MP3 encoders.

I think that many Windows users who want to use Linux and try Ubuntu will be
dismayed when their MP3s don't play, their favorite websites don't work, and
give up.  Thus, not including some non-free multimedia programs (or at least
making them easy to install and supported) will hurt the growth of the Ubuntu
and the growth of free software.  I believe that while free software is a very
good thing, the "free software or no software" mentality inhibits the adoption
of Linux on the desktop.

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