Yes, bring the bling! But please do it properly…

Inspired by Benjamin “mako” Hill’s blog entry, “Bring the bling?”, I sent an e-mail to the Ubuntu Community Council noting my objection to the inclusion of non-free code in Ubuntu. I would urge all that believe that Ubuntu should remain (and become more) free to send their suggestions and objections to the council as well.

Below is my e-mail, English is my second language, so apologies for bad grammer and other mistakes…

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Dear Ubuntu Community Council

I am sending you this message on my own behalf and out of my own
accord, although I have good reason to believe that many other
community members as well as Canonical employees have similar concerns.

The inclusion of so-called "binary-only" drivers in Ubuntu is hurtful
to Ubuntu and the free software world. It may enable Ubuntu to attract
some additional users in the short-term, but it sets a bad precedent,
sends the wrong message and it restricts my freedom to use and modify
Ubuntu. It also means that when I distribute Ubuntu, I can't tell my
new users that they have just received a completely free system. I
would be compelled to tell them that the parent company felt that they
needed to include proprietary code to make it useful. It also makes my
job more difficult when I have to explain to a teacher why Ubuntu and
GNU/Linux is a different kind of 'free' as when Microsoft gives the
school a free copy of Windows.

There has been various objections to the inclusion of any proprietary
drivers or 'firmware blobs' in Ubuntu by various high profile Ubuntu
members as well as high-profile figures in the open-source community.

I realise and understand that the issue has been discussed at the
recent Ubuntu Developers Summit in Mountain View, California, but
unfortunately due to timezone differences and high work load I was
unable to attend electronically and note my objection.

I will continue to support and use Ubuntu, but I beg of you to
reconsider the inclusion of the proprietary code. I believe that the
Ubuntu project is well resourced and energy would be better spent
working with companies such as Intel (who are already doing great work
on free software drivers) to release  their display cards as
standalone boards, and to motivate Ubuntu partners to install Intel
compatible or other hardware that supports free software drivers.
Alternative projects could also be to lobby users to write their
display chip manufacturer to release specifications for their card,
although this would be a more long term project. These are simple
suggestions and I'm sure there are a 100 better things that can be
done to fix the problem, instead of finding a quick-fix that will
break Ubuntu and its foundation principles.

I hope that you consider my request thoughtfully.

Jonathan Carter
Version: GnuPG v1.4.3 (GNU/Linux)
Comment: Using GnuPG with Mozilla -

Changelog: Changed 'president' to 'precedent' :) 

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4 Responses to “Yes, bring the bling! But please do it properly…”

  1. Roman Kennke Says:

    I fully agree. Yesterday I wrote down my own objections down and got some interesting responses:

  2. Un coro di “no” ai driver proprietari in Ubuntu « pollycoke :) Says:

    […] Jonathan Carter scrive: ok il desktop 3D ma in modo “sano”! Riferimento ai driver nvidia nouveau che potrebbero essere un modo “pulito” per affrontare parte della questione. Già, perché non si finanzia quel progetto? […]

  3. Marius Gedminas Says:

    A small clarification: Ubuntu already includes binary drivers and has always done so. The recent controversy is caused by a decision to use them by default, when there are free but less functional alternatives.

    I agree with the sentiment. If end-users prefer bling over freedom, they should make the choice themselves, instead of having it made for them.

    By the way, you may want to look up “president” and “precedent” in a dictionary and compare the definitions.

  4. Merlot Says:

    Right now developers are hungry for a Linux company that will champion the ethic and principles they believe in. Make Ubuntu the posterchild of Free Software with the latest technology and you will gain more users & contributors than you can possibly imagine.


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