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Canonical Explains Decision to License H.264 For Ubuntu 372

tux writes with this snippet from The Register: "Ubuntu's commercial sponsor Canonical has tried to clarify how — if not why — it has licensed a closed-source and patented codec for video on PCs running its Linux. Canonical is the first Linux shop to have agreed to license the codec in question, H.264, from MPEG LA. Even though Red Hat and Novell are also available for use on PCs, they have not licensed H.264."
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Canonical Explains Decision to License H.264 For Ubuntu

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  • Good thing (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 06, 2010 @04:52PM (#32117150)

    It's a great move for the Linux community, even if some "pure" free and open source people disagree. You cant get everything at once and expect casual people to put up with "it's proprietary so we dont support it" if they want to do something, or demand them to add some Russian repositories in the apt-get config file so they can get unlicensed, pirated versions of those and break the law. No, they will just get something that works for them. And H.264 has already clearly won this round, so anyone catering for casual people has to support it.

    Like TFA notes, Canonical has also previously licensed well done closed source software for Ubuntu. You aren't losing your soul if you take the best from the both worlds. In fact you are still promoting open source software, and probably way more efficiently when people actually like the system and can use it the way they want to. I honestly dont think every software in the world should be open source, but the underlying system should be. But even if you want software and standards to be open too, after getting the open OS out there the next step is to create competitive, better alternatives for the software and standards.

    Be focused on one thing, dont try to fight the whole world at once.


  • WHY? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by blackraven14250 ( 902843 ) on Thursday May 06, 2010 @04:54PM (#32117170)
    Since the general goal of Ubuntu is to reach out to the average computer user, rather than the power user or enterprise as most other distributions aim for, the question of "Why did they license a codec that most major companies are throwing support behind?" shouldn't really need to be asked.
  • heh (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Pojut ( 1027544 ) on Thursday May 06, 2010 @04:54PM (#32117188) Homepage

    Wine all you want, open-source fanatics. Our HTPCs are getting quite a nice boost in usability.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 06, 2010 @04:55PM (#32117198)

    The writing's on the wall here, kids. H.264 is where web video is going.

    Theora's a non-starter, and unless VP8 is stunning as fuck and Google indemnifies everyone and his kid brother against lawsuits, it's not going anywhere either.

  • Re:Good thing (Score:4, Insightful)

    by nightsweat ( 604367 ) on Thursday May 06, 2010 @04:56PM (#32117214)
    So use another distro if you object.
  • by calmofthestorm ( 1344385 ) on Thursday May 06, 2010 @04:59PM (#32117248)

    It'd be easier to fight h264 if it weren't so damn good.

  • Re:Closed Source? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by keeboo ( 724305 ) on Thursday May 06, 2010 @05:00PM (#32117256)
    Some people are confusing patent issues with closed-sourcedness.
  • Lawyers win-win (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Elektroschock ( 659467 ) on Thursday May 06, 2010 @05:00PM (#32117258)

    It would be more sustainable and cheaper to invest in patent reform than to license trivial patents of course...

  • by Concern ( 819622 ) * on Thursday May 06, 2010 @05:02PM (#32117298) Journal

    He's willing to compromise on doctrinaire software freedom issues in order to grow his marketshare. I'm impressed he can afford to buy it and give it away even to their OEM vendors. One wonders what terms this was made on, and how sustainable it is. But to be clear - this does not come free with each download of Ubuntu. It's part of a deal where money is getting made through the sale of hardware.

    You can look to Android for similar policy, I'm sure.

    It might also have the effect of embarrassing some of the folks who had aspirations of hurting Linux adoption by trying to lock the world into a proprietary video codec. It will hurt, but the effect will not be as black and white as it was in the past.

    The real endgame here is still getting an open codec in an open standard for web video. I think the commercial interests have finally woken up to how much the proprietary codec world has hurt them, and how much they have to gain by escaping. It's not just a problem for Linux and the FSF - proprietary codecs are a big problem for everyone who produces and consumes video.

    In a perfect world, where users could unbundle and pay ala carte for commercial vs. free codecs, they would not buy them (they're not worth much vs. what we can do for free), and producers would not be saddled with encoding for them, and everyone would be quite a lot happier.

  • Focus (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Enderandrew ( 866215 ) <enderandrew AT gmail DOT com> on Thursday May 06, 2010 @05:10PM (#32117392) Homepage Journal

    Canonical can focus on keeping the FSF happy, or they can focus on trying to someday turn a profit and brining sustainability to their company.

    Why do they need to justify this decision? It seems like a no-brainer to me.

  • Re:Good thing (Score:2, Insightful)

    by mugurel ( 1424497 ) on Thursday May 06, 2010 @05:23PM (#32117520)
    heh, and now you get modded up... but anyway, i disagree with you on fighting the whole world at once. This is about settling a standard video format for the web for the time to come. It's not something you do today and undo tomorrow. If you desire open and license free standards this is not the right time to make a compromise!
  • Closed source? No. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by nielsm ( 1616577 ) on Thursday May 06, 2010 @05:29PM (#32117594) Homepage


    H.264 is not "closed source", it's an open standard with open source encoders (famous x264, everything points to it being the best quality encoder available anywhere) and decoders (libavcodec), it's just that a bazillion companies have patents that cover every corner of video coding. It might be "unfree", but it's certainly not "closed source" or "closed standard" or "proprietary".

  • Re:Good thing (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Ethanol-fueled ( 1125189 ) * on Thursday May 06, 2010 @05:35PM (#32117658) Homepage Journal

    If you desire open and license free standards this is not the right time to make a compromise!

    Maybe, but stuff like this needs to happen for widespread adoption of Linux, to make it legit in the eyes of the masses. The purists can always use other distros and/or hack together other working solutions. Remember, the beauty of Linux is that you always have a choice.

    As an aside, I'm amused that sopssa has bad karma(excellent FP in this case). If you wanna get constant +5 first posts, you gotta play rough with the big boys, dude.

  • Re:Good thing (Score:5, Insightful)

    by jedidiah ( 1196 ) on Thursday May 06, 2010 @05:36PM (#32117672) Homepage

    It's not like an iPad where the alternative is to give up everything useful about the platform in the process.

    Turning your back on Ubuntu won't turn you into some sort of Linux-Amisher.

    You are free to come and go as you like (no vendorlock).

  • Re:Good thing (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Lehk228 ( 705449 ) on Thursday May 06, 2010 @05:36PM (#32117676) Journal
    code doesn't have to be GPL compatible to be run on linux, otherwise the GPL would be so dead nobody would have heard of it by now
  • Re:Good thing (Score:5, Insightful)

    by CowboyBob500 ( 580695 ) on Thursday May 06, 2010 @05:36PM (#32117682) Homepage
    They're signing up now when this thing isn't even GPL compatible. Do you have any diea what that means?

    It means an Ubuntu PC will work with the majority of sites on the Internet while yours won't. Now you can moan about that as much as you like, but 99% of people just don't care - they just want their PC to work.
  • Re:Good thing (Score:5, Insightful)

    by jedidiah ( 1196 ) on Thursday May 06, 2010 @05:38PM (#32117704) Homepage

    > Yes it means that I can play h.264 video on a Linux distro without jumping through hoops.

    Except that is already the case.

    You don't have to "jump through hoops" to play h264 on Ubuntu. Just try to play the file and click next a few times.

    The kind of mindless FUD you are trying to spread right this very moment is why Canonical is doing this.

    If you feel like jumping through hoops, try playing a generic MPEG2 file on a Mac.

  • Re:Good thing (Score:4, Insightful)

    by fbjon ( 692006 ) on Thursday May 06, 2010 @05:39PM (#32117730) Homepage Journal
    It's never the right time to compromise, but you have to do it anyway.
  • Re:Good thing (Score:3, Insightful)

    by jedidiah ( 1196 ) on Thursday May 06, 2010 @05:40PM (#32117742) Homepage

    ...except there is enough variation in h264 that this still doesn't constitute a standard.

    "Standardizing" on h264 just gets you in the general neighborhood. It still doesn't gaurantee that your video will play on any device.

    Although if you do manage to find that "lowest common denominator", you will likely find it unsuitable for more robust clients.

    This isn't quite like settling on mp3 or jpg.

  • Re:Good thing (Score:2, Insightful)

    by DurendalMac ( 736637 ) on Thursday May 06, 2010 @05:41PM (#32117746)
    People like you are the reason that desktop Linux will never really take off. You want mass market? You have to include the things that people want, and with more video going to H.264 online, what are you supposed to tell the consumers? "Sorry, this doesn't jibe with the worldview that we hold and you don't understand or care about. You just want to watch videos online, but we don't want that, so tough luck."
  • Re:Good thing (Score:4, Insightful)

    by DurendalMac ( 736637 ) on Thursday May 06, 2010 @05:43PM (#32117780)
    Mod this guy up. A lot of hardcore FOSS advocates want everything to go open source, but they refuse to see things as they are. Right now, there are closed-source codecs, programs, operating systems, etc out there that have the bulk of many different markets. You want Linux to get more desktop market share? You will NOT be able to do it without biting the bullet and supporting some closed standards. End of story.
  • Re:Closed Source? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by jedidiah ( 1196 ) on Thursday May 06, 2010 @05:43PM (#32117782) Homepage

    Open source represents a freedom to use and create derivative works.

    If there is a patent legal landmine, then clearly the freedom to use and create derivatives has gone straight out the Window.

    If Ubuntu has to worry about being SUED for including something then it really isn't Free Software. It's not the fault of the coders. However, the problem still remains.

  • The pragmatist (Score:5, Insightful)

    by westlake ( 615356 ) on Thursday May 06, 2010 @05:47PM (#32117844)

    H.264 licensors include fifteen of the biggest names in global manufacturing and tech.

    Mitsubishi. NTT. Philips. Samsung. Toshiba....

    The 817 licensees include hundreds of other names the geek should recognize.

    H.264 support is in the cell phones they make.

    Web cams. Camcorders. Video game consoles. Mobile Internet devices and PCs of every description. Industrial and security video. Broadcast, cable and satellite technologies.

    Theatrical production and home video. The set-top box. The Internet enabled HDTV.

    Mozilla's Firefox can ignore H.264 in the browser.

    But Mozilla can't keep from stocking 3,500 flavors of the H.264 HD camcorder, priced from $125-$5,000.

    It can't get shelf space for the non-existent Theora or VP8 product in WalMart.

    There are some things a commercially viable OEM Linux PC must deliver at retail. H.264 support is one of them. It needs to be in hardware. it needs to competitive - and it needs to be there today.

  • Re:Good thing (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Concern ( 819622 ) * on Thursday May 06, 2010 @05:48PM (#32117866) Journal

    Nice pre-written bit of astroturf.

    The only thing that's "clear" is that h.264 has hardly won anything yet. The round has not yet begun. Google controls youtube, and if they like VP8, and it happens to be free, look out world.

    Just because Shuttleworth is buying some licenses for its OEM hardware partners does not mean you get proprietary codecs for free with your ubuntu download, unless you steal them. But this is like stealing a plastic bag. Why steal what someone else will give you for free?

  • by Requiem18th ( 742389 ) on Thursday May 06, 2010 @05:57PM (#32117992)

    ...and found nothing superior about H.264 over Theora.

    This "H.264 is superior" is a myth, astroturfing at it best.

    I have no doubt the main drive for H.264 is political, specially since they are insisting on codec exclusivity. Codec always used to be pluggable but now Apple and Microsoft have decided that they are only going to allow their codec. How am I not to guess this is yet another underhanded stab at open source?

  • Re:Good thing (Score:1, Insightful)

    by c0d3g33k ( 102699 ) on Thursday May 06, 2010 @06:11PM (#32118204)
    People like you are the reason corporations continue to gain control over our lives. People 'want' without being willing to accept the consequences. Or worse, they accept the consequences willingly (if they even understand the consequences of their actions, which is rare), condemning those few left with free will to either give up their freedom or participation in the Faustian bargain that is the mass market. If mass market acceptance is the measuring stick for the success of the "linux desktop", I hope it never succeeds.
  • by node 3 ( 115640 ) on Thursday May 06, 2010 @06:15PM (#32118262)

    I don't know about you but I was in direct contact with MPEG-LA lawyers recently about their licensing terms (confusion over what constituted commercial use,) and given the terms of their licensing as stated and clarified directly to me, I'll not be surprised to see many, many sites ditching H.264 in favor of something free.

    H.264 is not going away. Those that make money from it can afford the license. For those that don't, it is free. There's no way at all that any major commercial site is going to ditch H.264 for Theora. None. At. All.

    You may think theora's a non-starter but you know what, you're all focused on technical limitations and other bullshit

    Not technical limitations. Quality. Theora just doesn't have it.

    when you should worry about "DOES IT FUCKING WORK OR NOT?" That answer is yes, and since it does work, it's viable enough.

    But it doesn't "fucking work". Well over 99% of computers in use today cannot play Theora over the web. If you ditch H.264 in favor of Theora, congratulations, you just ensured that the overwhelming majority of users can not use your site. That would have to be the single most idiotic business move imaginable. While you're at it, you might as well only offer your content in Klingon.

  • by kidjan ( 844535 ) on Thursday May 06, 2010 @06:17PM (#32118274) Journal
    Are you serious? [] In particular, [] No contest, Theora gets whooped. So do most h264 implementations, compared to x264 for that matter, which is probably why most companies these days are moving towards that encoder implementation.
  • by Big Boss ( 7354 ) on Thursday May 06, 2010 @06:17PM (#32118278)

    Not the mentioned hardware accelerated on EVERYTHING. My cell phone has hardware acceleration for h264. OGG? no. VP8? no. Can the CPU do it? no. Well, h264 it is then. It's fine to say we should push for open codecs, but when I can't play the videos encoded with them on my equipment...... Google and VP8 are probably our best chance here, if Google can push for hardware supported VP8 in Android equipment, they might be able to stem the tide. If they care. They already have h264 licenses.

  • Re:Good thing (Score:5, Insightful)

    by dfghjk ( 711126 ) on Thursday May 06, 2010 @06:18PM (#32118288)

    If you are not the customer they are trying to reach then your voice doesn't matter and money doesn't always determine who they are trying to reach. What makes you think you have anything to say?

  • by c0d3g33k ( 102699 ) on Thursday May 06, 2010 @06:18PM (#32118290)
    You're forgetting ACTA which is the attempt to transform 'misinformed garbage' into reality without anyone realizing it until it is too late. Do not underestimate those who wish to control you. Sticking your fingers in your ears and chanting "la la la la" will not be enough to ward them off. Take this seriously and make sure this does not spread to where you live. The first step is not to smugly point out that it doesn't apply to you where you live, but to help those trying to fight it before it spreads to you.
  • Re:Good thing (Score:4, Insightful)

    by interval1066 ( 668936 ) on Thursday May 06, 2010 @06:22PM (#32118340) Homepage Journal

    "Except that is already the case."

    Right. The technical aspects of h.264 were never an issue, its always been about the licensing. I don't think this is necessarily any kind of an issue for end users so much. If you to keep your linux rig purely oss, then opt of of installing that driver. This is really an issue if you want to distribute ubuntu in your nifty new thingamabob product, puts in an extra layer of paperwork and licensing for that.
    Now on the other hand, creeping non-oss is a little scary, I don't blame those who feel like a near-total freak out is in order. Canonical ultimately can do what it wants, but if it wants to keep serving the oss community (at least better than red hat did), its need to check this kind of activity to a minimum.

  • Since when had technological advantages had anything to do with business decisions?

    Both Apple and Microsoft, two of the more influential forces in the decision, are stakeholders in MPEG LA []. Add the fact that they both probably feels slightly anxious over the seemingly immortal Open Source guys, that just refuses to keel over, but invades market after market. Considered they had the chance to throw a monkey-wrench right into their common enemy, Open Source Software, and I think the decision was made completely without regard to technology.

  • Re:Good thing (Score:2, Insightful)

    by timmarhy ( 659436 ) on Thursday May 06, 2010 @06:37PM (#32118598)
    there's no consequences to having h.264 in unbuntu other then shit working like it should. you OSS hardliners just live in some weird parallel reality.
  • Re:Good thing (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Concern ( 819622 ) * on Thursday May 06, 2010 @06:41PM (#32118662) Journal

    OK. easily 100x as many devices support earlier MPEG as h264. Is MPEG the double-super-special-winner?

    Bluray and broadcast are not the issue here.

    We are talking about the internet. The web. And marketshare. Sorenson Spark and On2 VP6 are the winners, and h264 is tiny, almost vanishing by comparison.

    Apple, Microsoft and Adobe have their work cut out for them trying to force people off of free alternatives to h264. The folks behind this proprietary codec are kind of their own worst enemy - it would be very expensive and cumbersome for the world to switch to it. This is why a free codec is likely to win in the end, if any significant percentage of the users with a stake in it (such as youtube, and its viewers) get to choose.

  • Re:Good thing (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 06, 2010 @06:57PM (#32118896)
    Then I want it to stay a niche -- with principles.
  • Re:Closed Source? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by arose ( 644256 ) on Thursday May 06, 2010 @07:01PM (#32118976)
    The OSI disagrees with you, not that it will stop you from trying to bend the definition to where you want it to be...
  • sigh (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 06, 2010 @07:31PM (#32119428)

    Both Apple and Microsoft, two of the more influential forces in the decision, are stakeholders in MPEG LA [].

    And it is unlikely that either of them makes any money from MPEG-LA - Microsoft's IE manager says that "Microsoft pays into MPEG-LA about twice as much as it receives back for rights to H.264" []. I'd expect that Apple, which owns just one patent in the H.264 pool, is in a similar position.

    Add the fact that they both probably feels slightly anxious over the seemingly immortal Open Source guys, that just refuses to keel over, but invades market after market.

    A good theory, but not quite so well borne out by facts, at least for Apple. They've managed to do quite well getting iPhone marketshare, despite competition from Android, and look to continue being wildly profitable in that area. And, also, they support a lot of open source projects - they own and maintain CUPS, they're major backers of llvm-clang (which, god willing, will eventually supplant gcc entirely), and you can download the source code for the BSD-derived components of OS X (including the patches they've made, despite not having to do so) as well as their kernel.

    Open source and patent-free aren't the same thing. Theora is untested in terms of patent infringement, and the assertions of its developers aren't adequate guarantee that people implementing it won't be hit with lawsuits related to it. That and the fact that has no major corporate backers or IP holders willing to litigate on its behalf, makes it a unnecessary risk for businesses. Note, too, that there is are several open source H.264 implementations, including the excellent, GPL x264 encoding library.

    I think the decision was made completely without regard to technology

    And this is where you're only partially right. Yes, I believe non-technical factors were important in the apparent success of H.264 over theora, but that's not the only reason - there's extensive existing support on mobile devices for H.264 decoding, it's frankly much better quality at lower bitrates than theora, and the default container format isn't the horrible shitty mess that is OGG.

  • Re:Good thing (Score:3, Insightful)

    by jvillain ( 546827 ) on Thursday May 06, 2010 @07:43PM (#32119578)

    Any distro that wants to licence h.264 is no longer available for free. They will have to charge for it. I know that is what the propriatary companies want. But more importantly it's h.264 today. What do we give up tomorrow? ODF? Do we start licensing MONO? What standards do we start doing away with? HTML?

    To me Ubuntu has never been a part of the open source world. They have always shown that they are willing to throw the rest of the open source world under the bus if it will get them market share or help them generate more revenue. I have absolutely no doubt that Ubuntu will soon be wrapping it's self in all the DRM they need to be just like Microsoft and Apple. Even if that means locking you out of parts of the system to make it happen.

  • Re:Closed Source? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by lennier ( 44736 ) on Thursday May 06, 2010 @07:47PM (#32119642) Homepage

    Some people are confusing patent issues with closed-sourcedness.

    This is why software freedom is a more useful term, because it doesn't just require the source to be available, but that it not contain any legal encumbrances - copyright, patent, trademark or any others - which prevent end-user modification and redistribution with the same rights as they received.

  • Re:Good thing (Score:5, Insightful)

    by aj50 ( 789101 ) on Thursday May 06, 2010 @07:49PM (#32119654)

    This isn't about open source, there exist completely open source decoders and encoders for h264.

    This is about patents and the costs and consequences of licensing them.

  • Re:Good thing (Score:5, Insightful)

    by natehoy ( 1608657 ) on Thursday May 06, 2010 @08:35PM (#32120206) Journal

    This is a serious question. Not buying a product and advising anyone who will listen to do the same is one thing, but how exactly does one provide negative feedback to an Free Software project?

    First, an apology: I've really worked hard to keep this post from sounding confrontational, and it's honestly intended not to be. However, some of my wording might not express this as clearly as I'd like. None of this is meant to offend you, or to criticize your opinions or preferences in any way.

    The ideal answer is to find a distro that fits your needs, then donate effort or money toward forwarding the project you agree with. I mean this without intending offense when I say that there are plenty of other excellent penguins in the sea, and you will find one that is right for you.

    Canonical apparently is not, based on your own comments. They accept feedback, they react to it, but they also need to make decisions, and not all of those decisions are going to agree with what everyone who uses their product wants. Their stated goal is to be easy to use and support as much hardware and software (including codecs) as they possibly can. This is what they do.

    Canonical is not made up of GPL purists, nor are they made up of OSS purists. They've never, ever claimed to be, and I don't think they should be. They are made up of a group that is trying to make Linux a viable, useful alternative for people who would have a stroke if they had to pull up a command line, and what everything they want to do supported out of the box. Their target market wants MP3. They want ATI/nVidia binary support. They want H.264. And they want it all legal and legit. Which means it's a perfectly logical decision for Canonical to license these technologies where they need to.

    There are many hundreds people with varying levels of comfort with (pick your topic: GPL/binaries/FOSS/IP-protected stuff) who have their own distros, and they've refused to install all the stuff they don't like. Many of those folks also work hard on reproducing or even reverse-engineering open source drivers and codecs of their own to avoid closed source and patent-protected stuff. Much of that goes to clean up other distros, even Ubuntu, which to a Linux purist is a poxy whore from the wrong side of the tracks, but to the average Linux newbie is a safe haven from CLI hell. Neither is wrong.

    Canonical is forwarding the Linux movement in their own way, which is to get a copy of something that non-techies can live with on their desktops. And that includes support for things that people want to use. Things like MP3, H.264, FAT, NTFS, Adobe Acrobat, Flash, and the list goes on. That means a dumbed-down desktop, lots of GUI tools, a "user privilege escalation" (SUDO) model, and a lot of things that give Linux or GPL or OSS purists the screaming heebie jeebies. And that is exactly as it should be - Linux is FREEDOM, and not everyone should be forced into the same exact model.

    What stick does one wield if monetary punishment is not a viable option?

    You don't. Unless you've somehow contributed, you don't have any leverage with someone who's given you something for free with no conditions attached.

    Canonical is making what they think people want. They have a reporting system, and people use it a lot. Just look at the angst and gnashing of teeth surrounding the "moved window controls to left" issue. They do accept feedback on their decisions. But not everyone agrees on everything all the time. Sometimes, a lead developer just says "you know what? I'm the head asshole in charge, I'm doing the work here, and I'm going to wade in and shut down this long discussion because it's my project, and I occasionally get to call the shots, and this is the way it's gonna be."

    This is more about how communities communicate to the 'executive' team to produce a product that folks can be happy with.

    Most of their target market is not going t

  • Re:Lawyers win-win (Score:4, Insightful)

    by ClosedSource ( 238333 ) on Thursday May 06, 2010 @09:02PM (#32120508)

    A lot of people around here talk about "free as in freedom" but what they really care about is the "free as in beer" that usually results. A lot more Slashdotters consume music illegally than they do create and distribute derivative works of FOSS.

  • H.264 in jail (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Skapare ( 16644 ) on Thursday May 06, 2010 @09:19PM (#32120678) Homepage

    If the H.264 code binary can be run in user space, non-root, in a chroot jail, then my issues with it are just philosophical and not enough to prevent me from running it. I prefer open source. But I'm not opposed to running binary code. I'm also not opposed to paying for it.

    What I am opposed to is borging my computer by running un-inspectable code as a kernel module, root process, or even an unjailed user process. I do not trust corporations to do things right. I'm not going to give permissions to untrusted code. And if I can't read the source, it's untrusted ... by definition.

  • by Petersko ( 564140 ) on Thursday May 06, 2010 @09:20PM (#32120688)
    "And they accomplish this by starting with one of the purest open-source distros around -- Debian -- and then pissing all over it."

    And why, exactly, does that bother you? It shouldn't, but apparently it does. Did they send someone over to specifically piss on your copy of Debain?

    Or are you just assuming you've been wronged somehow in the process? Because I'll bet your life is not one iota different than it would have been had they not started with Debian. Except, of course, for the fact that you can now complain about them.
  • Re:Good thing (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Patch86 ( 1465427 ) on Thursday May 06, 2010 @09:32PM (#32120802)

    How have they "pissed all over it"? Debian still exists, and is still thriving.

    The very definition of open source is "you can take this code and do what you like with it (within legal limits)". You can't very well whine that they've done something you don't approve of with the code. If you want control over your source, keep it closed.

  • Re:Lawyers win-win (Score:3, Insightful)

    by jmcvetta ( 153563 ) on Thursday May 06, 2010 @10:14PM (#32121100)

    consume music illegally

    Gosh that's a wonderful statement. So much better than all the 'property' sophism and 'compensation' demands that one usually sees. It captures, with uncommonly bare honesty, everything that's wrong with anti-sharing ideology.

    "Sir, it is illegal for you to listen to that song!"

  • Re:Good thing (Score:3, Insightful)

    by infinitelink ( 963279 ) on Thursday May 06, 2010 @10:33PM (#32121254) Homepage Journal
    Wanted to add to your comment's other replies. Ubuntu has taken the lead and shown "Debian, how it should be"--not in the sense of "you shouldn't be purist", but rather "you're design-by-committee stance has been too slow, ineffective, etc.", not by saying it aloud, they've surely cooperated heavily, but by demonstrating it. Ubuntu has been a refreshing influence for Debian, and after having gone so far ahead that they lost binary compatibilities, they're even willing to work together with it to bring things back together.

    I'd personally like to see more reverse of that influence: more tidiness, speed, etc., in Ubuntu: not less features, necessarily, (though those can cause the loss of speed), but rather higher code quality. I believe that Ubuntu's work, besides being from the "unstable" category branch of Debian, does indeed contribute back to Unstable, however, so maybe that's less of a problem--and that also depends on how much Debian accepts: I hope they'll increasingly accept more and improve upon the quality, implementations, etc., to round-out and enrich their base distro: Debian is, after all, a huge storehouse, and little more, for a bunch of software that's not really all that usable, tightly integrated, etc., but "available" for others to take and modify, improve upon, etc., as-needed: that's its strength. Usability is Ubuntu's, and I believe that strength is a benefit to Debian.

    Here's to hoping for a stronger cooperative, collaborative, ecosystem of code, with many ideas and implementations, and where the smartest (for the environment) wins out among the Democratic in terms of user-numbers, while the right tool for the right jobs wins-out in case-by-case situations. : )

    p.s. I realize I used "etc." a lot. : (
  • Re:Good thing (Score:4, Insightful)

    by infinitelink ( 963279 ) on Thursday May 06, 2010 @10:39PM (#32121300) Homepage Journal
    Gee, they provide the most usable end-user distro despite the flailing, ineffectiveness, and vitriol of the community they work within; they sponsor other FOSS projects heavily; they hire people from various other parts of the FOSS community knowing that by making sure those people have jobs they not only get improvement in their own distro, but those people can keep working in their respective FOSS projects' code-bases.

    The Kernel is not all there is nor all that matters, and relatively speaking the kernel is of the most interest and benefit to the huge private corporations, while the stuff Canonical touches is of the most interested to the regular users--and even not-so-regular, however--alike.
  • Re:Good thing (Score:3, Insightful)

    by WeatherGod ( 1726770 ) on Thursday May 06, 2010 @10:48PM (#32121374)
    Canonical does not do many kernel patches. However, they are a major contributer to the desktop environment. In addition, the "patches submitted" metric might be misleading. The focus with the Ubuntu community has been diagnosis of problems (if possible), and upstreaming bug reports with as much detail and information as possible. That is a perfectly valid contribution to the Linux community in my book, especially given the variety of hardware configuration that Ubuntu encounters.
  • by victorhooi ( 830021 ) on Thursday May 06, 2010 @10:57PM (#32121456)

    You realise it's these "kooks" that gave us the OSS legacy we're using now, right?

    And now little punks like you are using that legacy, and telling them to bugger off...

    I would have thought your parents would have taught you better.

    Look, I think Stallman and co are seriously wacky as much as the next person, but it's actually thanks to people like him that the FSF and OSS even got off the ground. So I think we should at least give them credit for that. And it's a real shame when grassroots people like him, or say, all those civil liberties groups, whom us mainstream people love to write off as crazy hippies - we reap all the benefits of all their campaigning and what not, then act like ungrateful brats to them.

    It's not to say you can't make fun of them, or say they're a bit loopy, but saying we should "jettison" them? Are you willing to jettison all the work they've done as well, and go back to a Windows and Apple only world? Heck, even Slashdot runs on OSS...willing to give that up?

    Cheers, Victor

  • Re:Good thing (Score:5, Insightful)

    by natehoy ( 1608657 ) on Thursday May 06, 2010 @11:07PM (#32121552) Journal

    Ah, but fortunately "pissing all over it" in the Linux world means the original is still there, safe, secure, and quite unaffected.

    Well, except where Ubuntu has submitted significant bug fixes back the Debian. If that's "pissing all over" something, then I need to start getting pissed on.

    This is how Linux works. Everyone gets to play with copies of the same code. Some people play with it one way, some people play with it another. Everyone who pays attention sees opportunities to adapt what others are doing, or do the same thing a different way they feel is better.

    It's like kids in a sandbox. As long as everyone gets to play with all the sand, various kids watch and learn from each other. One child adds a little water and says "look! I can model this!" Other children either emulate it and optimize sand/water ratios for various types of modeling, decide that modeling sand isn't their thing and go about their business, or (in the case of comments like the one I am replying to) scream "THAT'S NOT WHAT YOU DO WITH SAND!!!! STOP THAT!! YOU'RE WRONG!!! WET SAND IS WRONG!!! SAND SHOULD BE PURE!!!"

    You can't do anything bad to a Linux distro unless you somehow corrupt its master source management tool. You can make your own copy, and you can do something with it that the original author might not like, but since the "original author" is using a codebase that is the result of the work of many thousands of people over decades, no one person gets to dictate what constitutes proper use, and what constitutes pissing all over it. As long as all of the users comply with the appropriate licensing requirements behind the code they are using (GPL, LGPL, trademarks on specific distro names, artwork copyright, etc), the original author has no say over how his or her code is eventually adapted and applied.

    That's what "Open Source" means. Anyone can do anything they want with the source, and as long as they share their work when asked, no one can tell them not to. Not Linus Torvalds, and certainly not user "dunng808" at Slashdot.

  • by macshit ( 157376 ) <.snogglethorpe. .at.> on Thursday May 06, 2010 @11:33PM (#32121848) Homepage

    "And they accomplish this by starting with one of the purest open-source distros around -- Debian -- and then pissing all over it."

    And why, exactly, does that bother you? It shouldn't, but apparently it does. Did they send someone over to specifically piss on your copy of Debian?

    Or are you just assuming you've been wronged somehow in the process? Because I'll bet your life is not one iota different than it would have been had they not started with Debian.

    Actually I'll bet it is.

    Canonical's use of Debian as a base has had both good (some good press for debian as a side-effect of canonical's aggressive hype machine, and more people that are familiar with debian tools and infrastructure) and bad (many people who might otherwise help with debian help canonical instead, and the flow of fixes etc back to debian is at best spotty) effects on Debian, but it's surely had an effect.

    I think what bothers many Debian users though, is simply the issue of "credit" -- though Canonical has done some good (and bad) work itself, through its aggressive self-promotion and targetting of new users, it inevitably ends up getting credit for stuff that's actually due to its Debian base, and I think some people feel that Canonical does not make enough effort to give Debian its due share of that credit.

  • by glennpratt ( 1230636 ) on Friday May 07, 2010 @01:08AM (#32122500) Homepage

    Fixes: []

    Credit: []

    I really don't know much about the history here, but this all seems pretty lame. Ubuntu doesn't hide it's Debian roots at all (it doesn't take much poking around to run into a Debian logo, .deb, etc). Also, Debian itself is based on a bunch of other works, it's how the community works.

    For me, Ubuntu has been the up-to-date but still useable Debian; if I hadn't gotten used to the Debian world via Ubuntu, I would still use CentOS/RedHat on servers.

  • Re:Good thing (Score:4, Insightful)

    by walshy007 ( 906710 ) on Friday May 07, 2010 @02:49AM (#32123134)

    What I don't understand is how Ubuntu (or OEMs) could take a GNU/Linux base, add non-free and patented components, and sell the result as a unit. Doesn't the GPL prevent this?

    Not at all, so long as they provide source for all the gpl licensed things, people are free to write commercial software for linux just fine.

    Using linux syscalls does not make a program gpl, linking to a gpl library does, but that's what the lgpl is for and why most libraries are under the lgpl.

  • Re:Good thing (Score:4, Insightful)

    by timbo234 ( 833667 ) on Friday May 07, 2010 @04:55AM (#32123748) Journal

    or demand them to add some Russian repositories in the apt-get config file so they can get unlicensed, pirated versions of those and break the law.

    I mostly agree with the rest of your post but this part is just FUD. Firstly, the x264 project is not pirated software, it's an open source implementation of H264. Secondly, and most important, software patents are only really valid in one country with particularly skewed laws, the USA. Even there you'd need to spend minimum US$1 million on a patent lawsuit to see if the patent is even valid, let alone whether it applies to someone using it privately on a home computer.

    I don't know about Ubuntu but for Opensuse the patented media codecs are hosted by the Packman project, a perfectly legitimate packaging project based in Germany that provides around 5000 extra packages that aren't in the main Opensuse repo.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 07, 2010 @07:25AM (#32124434)

    That sounds more like a serious flaw in Debian's workflow processes than anything wrong with Ubuntu.

    But it's open source; you can always download and compile from source! Cause it's full of freedom!

  • Re:Good thing (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 07, 2010 @07:38AM (#32124496)

    Which is why you use windows.

  • by tomhudson ( 43916 ) <barbara.hudson@b ... u d s o n . c om> on Friday May 07, 2010 @10:34AM (#32126480) Journal

    What ever happened to "Don't feed the patent trolls?"

    Ubuntu LIES []

    Ubuntu core applications are all free and open source. We want you to use free and open source software, improve it and pass it on.

    Is an h264-enabled web browser a core application? An h264-enabled video player? Etc., etc.

    So much for their "philosophy" []

    Our Philosophy

    Our work is driven by a philosophy on software freedom that aims to spread and bring the benefits of software to all parts of the world. At the core of the Ubuntu Philosophy are these core philosophical ideals:

    1. Every computer user should have the freedom to download, run, copy, distribute, study, share, change and improve their software for any purpose, without paying licensing fees.
    2. Every computer user should be able to use their software in the language of their choice.
    3. Every computer user should be given every opportunity to use software, even if they work under a disability.

    Our philosophy is reflected in the software we produce and included in our distribution. As a result, the licensing terms of the software we distribute are measured against our philosophy, using the Ubuntu License Policy.

    we are working to ensure that every single piece of software you need is available under a license that gives you those freedoms.

    Currently, we make a specific exception for some "drivers" which are only available in binary form, without which many computers will not complete the Ubuntu installation. We place these in a restricted section of your system which makes them easy to remove if you do not need them.

    More about components>
    Free software

    For Ubuntu, the 'free' in 'free software' is used primarily in reference to freedom, and not to price - although we are committed to not charging for Ubuntu. The most important thing about Ubuntu is that it confers rights of software freedom on the people who install and use it. It is these freedoms that enable the Ubuntu community to grow, continue to share its collective experience and expertise to improve Ubuntu and make it suitable for use in new countries and new industries.

    Quoting the Free Software Foundation's 'What is Free Software', the freedoms at the core of free software are defined as:

    1. The freedom to run the programme, for any purpose.
    2. The freedom to study how the programme works and adapt it to your needs.
    3. The freedom to redistribute copies so you can help others.
    4. The freedom to improve the programme and release your improvements to the public, so that everyone benefits.

    Open source

    Open source is a term coined in 1998 to remove the ambiguity in the English word 'free'. The Open Source Initiative described open source software in the Open Source Definition. Open source continues to enjoy growing success and wide recognition.

    Ubuntu is happy to call itself open source.

    I'm sure Ubuntu is happy to call itself "open source". I'm going to call it "Quisling".

    Oh, and it's STILL fugly. Can't you get someone who isn't chromatically challenged to at least make this pig look a bit less like a sows' ear?

  • Re:Good thing (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 07, 2010 @02:24PM (#32130646)

    You can't do anything bad to a Linux distro unless you somehow corrupt its master source management tool.

    Not quite accurate... the trick with open source is that you can't do anything bad *to the source or binaries*. You can, however, create easy to update, flashy sub-projects that pull active developers off of one distro on to another, where they end up developing code that can't, for one reason or another, be patched back into the original project.

    In this case, that'd be along the lines of Canonical hiring a bunch of the major Debian contributors to work on the Ubuntu branch, to the detriment of Debian. "That's not bad at all," you might think, "they're still modifying the same source, and it'll find its way back." However, if enough of this happens, there will no longer be enough people managing the Debian base to make development worthwhile for more of the developers (too much work for result) -- resulting in MORE people switching to developing for Ubuntu and "making available" to the now non-existent Debian group, should they want to merge the changes back in. At this point, Ubuntu decides that Debian isn't accepting enough of its changes back in and is moving too slowly, so they fork instead of branching, taking the developers with them. Now it's no longer a trivial matter to contribute changes back from Ubuntu to Debian, so people stop doing it altogether.

    End result? Debian goes from being an amazing base for a bunch of linux distros to being a has-been distro with a small team of hard-core purists still working on it, but unable to keep up with the rate of development in more popular distributions.

    Kind of like if a bunch of kids decide that ALL the sand should be wet so they can do their modeling, leaving the kids who just want to play in the sand out of luck as they no longer have any dry sand to play with.

The human mind ordinarily operates at only ten percent of its capacity -- the rest is overhead for the operating system.