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

Jerry Haltom wasabi at
Wed Dec 15 18:47:58 CST 2004

Let me reiterate the same stuff 10 others have already done, again:

> 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).

NVidia and ATI specifically allow distribution as part of their license
agreements. This is an instance where Ubuntu has broken it's "free only"
stance to suit the users: because they can, and because a distribution
that doesn't boot on any video card is pretty useless.

> 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

This is an assumption. How do you know this software can be created?
Have you read the agreements?

Ubuntu and Debian provide a "dummy" package for Java, called
java-package. You acquire the Sun provided .bin file from Sun, after
agreeing to their use terms, and then run this package on it. Boom, you
have a .deb to install. The package does not download the file from Sun
automatically, as doing so we would have to present you Sun's license
agreement. It is not Ubuntu's job to present you Sun's license
agreement. Sun may change it. It is probably even illegal to copy their
license under copyright law.

> 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

Same situation with Macromedia. Have you read Macromedia's license
agreement? It even prohibits distribution within a corporate environment
unless you fax in and sign an additional document: FOR WINDOWS!

Perhaps a "flash-package" in the spirit of Java package IS in order. If
so, I suggest you please create such a package such as somebody did for
java-package in Debian. The Ubuntu developers have their hands full with
a ton of other things which are more than likely much more important
than this. Be sure to read the license to know if any modification of
the binary as distributed by Macromedia is allowed! If it is not
allowed, Ubuntu would be placing their users in a position to
unknowingly violate their agreement with Macromedia.

> 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?

Just did. In fact I have a few times. A few other people have done so as
well. Please read the previous messages from numerous parties.

> 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.

No kidding. This thread should die.

Jerry Haltom <wasabi at>

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