OpenSUSE vs Ubuntu

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I’ve been pondering whether I should say something about Mark’s reachout to the OpenSUSE community or not, but decided that it couldn’t do much harm to add my 2c.

I think Mark had the best intentions with that mail, I also think it was done in a bit of a rush. I don’t think the problem is much with what he did, but how he did it. I think that reaching out to other projects and building bridges are great, but the tone of the mail was a bit divisive, and dismissive of the OpenSUSE distribution, which is in my opinion a fantastic distribution (even though it’s been a while since I’ve used it). While I agree with Corey’s apology, and Matthew’s backing of it, I don’t feel a specific need from my side to apologise, but I will say that not everyone in the Ubuntu project feels the same way about OpenSUSE like Mark does. In fact, you will find that a large percentage of Ubuntu contributors are good at working in teams, and enjoys collaboration and working together with different projects.

Something good is coming out of this though. There seems to be a ever greater awareness of the proprietary drivers included in Ubuntu, and a greater awareness of Ubuntu’s reliance of proprietary tools such as Launchpad, and new proprietary software coming from Canonical, like the mysterious Landscape. Some are saying that now is a good time to put more pressure on Canonical to release more of their code under a free software license. I doubt they will budge though. I hope that Canonical will learn that “freeware != free software”. Just because Ubuntu is free of charge doesn’t mean that it’s free software.

At least there’s projects like Gnewsense that are working on cleaning up Ubuntu. Hopefully they will release a meta-package at some point that I can just install that will remove all the proprietary software from a standard Ubuntu installation, which I can use on my desktop systems that doesn’t need wi-fi drivers, proprietary display drivers, etc.

Some are suggesting that they’ll switch to Debian Etch. I haven’t used Debian since just before Warty was released, so I’m not sure how it stacks up to Ubuntu, but it certainly seems worth the try.

I think this post started off more diplomatic, and I do admit that I’ve edited it down a bit afterwards. I really feel that Canonical should review their free software policies, or follow the current philosophy and policies more closely. I don’t mean to be mean, I applaud the work and funding that Canonical has put into Ubuntu, but at the same time there’s a growing level of frustration among community members, and it’s early enough to fix this.

These are just my thoughts on this, it’s not authoritative and it’s open to correction.

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6 Responses to “OpenSUSE vs Ubuntu”

  1. Simon80 Says:

    Agreed – whenever a company chooses to include non-free software when they could have made the effort to use or release free software instead, it just sends me a negative message about their attitude towards free software. I’ve always thought of Ubuntu as the _free_ distribution that exists for its users rather than as a beta for an enterprise “shadow” distribution like RHEL is to FC, and I’m hoping that things stay like that.

    Arguments for usage/shipping of free drivers:
    -better features/performance
    -performance using the free drivers is usually adequate for AIGLX where direct rendering support exists
    -gamers will probably be using Windows to play, or else they can grab the closed drivers after install if they really want to (I can’t wait till the free drivers are good enough for something more advanced than quake 3)
    -Guess who is going to get blamed when a user fires up Ubuntu on their machine and it locks up because of an unstable closed source driver?

    And let’s not forget that closed kernel code is a clear instance of copyright infringement.

  2. Kris Marsh Says:

    IMHO, it wouldn’t make sense for gNewSense to create a meta package for Ubuntu and push it back upstream.

    What *would* make sense, however, is for Ubuntu to have a meta package (e.g. ubuntu-libre), conflicting all of the proprietary/binary blob packages installed. The Ubuntu installer could then offer a simple choice “Do you wish to enable proprietary packages?”. Surely this would keep all parties happy?

  3. pikkio Says:

    Jonathan, I think you’ve hit the target.
    Even though currently I have not the intention of switching to Debian or to another distro (for I still believe in the *great* community Ubuntu has got), I feel quite upset that Ubuntu developers, working on _free_software_, have to be subjected by closed platforms like Launchpad, Rosetta, Malone and so on.
    They’re all great products, but I really don’t see the reason for them to be closed.
    Ubuntu developers should be able to work on a completely free (as in libre) platform. Or I’ve misunderstood the Ubuntu philosophy?
    I hope that will be a reality in the closest future. :)

  4. THK Says:

    This problem is best handled at time of installation. It would be so easy to add a few simple questions to the installation dialogs which would allow the user to specify their preference regarding proprietary code. I see a lot of opportunities lost in the effort to pare installation questions to a minimum largely owing to the fact that reviewers always harp on the number of installation steps. They should be asking if those installation steps are useful and transparent. I’d also like to be able to set the Ubuntu color scheme at installation.

  5. Nathan DBB Says:

    While Canonical is not perfect, they are not trying to destroy the Linux movement by aiding the wrong side in the software patent fight. Novell is not just adding some proprietary drivers (that can be freely distributed), they are helping change the legal landscape in their favour.
    If you don’t approve of Canonical’s action, you can use Gnewsense (or such). You can’t remove Novell’s treacherous actions.
    If you don’t approve of Novell’s attempt to FUD/FUK the Linux community with Microsoft’s help, you should drop SUSE/OpenSUSE now.

  6. Emmanuel Says:

    Free Free Free. You know. The next time you go for lunch, ask the cook to give it to you for free, or the doctor to provide his service for free. Why is it that the tech world “hate” with passion companies that want to make a bit of money. Not for greed, but to be able to use to to “hire” other people who can dedicate their whole day for development for a tool you can use. When I here the word free, it makes me ….. I will fight for cheap. Yes, OS and software’s needs to be cheap like food(don’t mean the same prices but i mean affordable). We don’t complain when we go out to eat and shell out $20 on a plate but if i sold a software for $20, my inbox will be full of “make if free”. Developers work, and they also need to make a living. That’s my take.

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