Freeness (Re: Idea for expanded support of some non-free software)

thully at thully at
Wed Dec 15 18:20:25 CST 2004

I understand that these are two separate issues, and maybe I should have
clarified that - but in some ways they are connected, as both effect the
legality of distribution and/or official support for software in Ubuntu.

On the whole topic of "freeness" - while free software works great in most
instances, there are still a few cases where free software either is
nonexistant or doesn't work sufficently well to perform a task.

In the case of drivers, Ubuntu takes care of this by distributing some non-free
wi-fi and video drivers.  However, there are other categories of software that
have a similar situation that it seems like Ubuntu should support - namely Java
and Flash.  These are utilized on many websites, and while the web is usable
without them (just as video cards can be used without the proprietary drivers)
users do lose the ability to use certain websites and online games (just as
users lose 3D capability by not using the proprietary video drivers).

I realize that Java and Flash may have more restrictive of license terms than
the ATI and NVidia drivers - however, software like this can be distributed by
using a "dummy package" that downloads the software from the official website
and then configures it to work in Ubuntu.  While these are currently available
in multiverse, they are unsupported and breakage-prone (currently in Hoary, I
get no sound in Flash at all - rendering some Flash-based sites useless). 
While some may dispute whether Flash and Java are really necessities, I don't
think they are any less necessary than ATI and NVidia's 3D graphic drivers - if
anything, they are more necessary.  Though money must be spent on graphics
cards, people also pay for an Internet connection, and they expect to be able
to utilize

IMHO, since this seems very similar to the case of ATI/NVidia, Ubuntu wouldn't
break their principles any more by including a supported method to configure
and use Flash and Sun's Java implementation (but not necessarily distributing
them) than they do when they include ATI/NVidia drivers.    However, I seem to
be in the minority on this list, and I realize that.  Can someone clarify why
the case of Flash/Java is different than the case of ATI/NVidia for me?

I realize this thread has gotten large and longwinded, but this is an important
issue - and it should be discussed.  If there is a better forum for this
discussion, please tell me and I will move this thread.

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