Canonical Offers Sale of Proprietary Codecs for Ubuntu

Canonical, the company behind Ubuntu, has decided to offer it’s users the option of purchasing proprietary media codecs. It doesn’t matter if the users purchase their copy of Ubuntu, download it or bought a computer pre-installed with Ubuntu.

There is an animated dicussion going on about this news at slashdot and other places.

Canonical has definitely opened a can of worms with this move and we will have to wait and see how the open source community in general reacts to this decision. This decision to sure get a lot of attention by the opensource community.

Canonical, it should be made clear, is not going to develop proprietary codecs. Canonical is only streamlining the process of installing those codecs and charging a small amount for it. Most of the actual codecs are developed by a company called Fluendo and the DVD playback is being offered through a version of Cyberlink’s PowerDVD software.

I should clarify that Fluendo and Cyberlink have both been making the said software since a long time and Linux users have always had the option of purchasing PowerDVD or Fluendo’s media codecs.

Software codecs and DRM are a touchy issue. It is sad that a user with legally purchased media cannot play it on a computer, unless he/she also purchases software to play it. Sad but true.

Ubuntu has also always offered a way for users to easily install most media codecs, for free, using a relatively smooth process, but depending on your country of residence, that could have been illegal. Now, all Ubuntu is giving to its users is an option to, instead, purchase those codecs legally and be able to enjoy whatever media they own or come across on the Internet.

Ubuntu is not stopping the users from downloading illegal codecs and using them on their machines. The open nature of the operating system is still there. The option of purchasing this software just makes it easier for the non-geeks and paranoids among us to be able to enjoy the benefits of Linux without getting bogged down by the technicalities.

Legal codecs on Linux also make it simpler for system integrators to offer a decent out-of-the-box multimedia experience. The geeks among us who are used to the free and open nature of Linux can still download and install whichever codecs they want, legal or not.

I think this is a win-win situation, and not a compromise, for all the parties involved – Canonical, Ubuntu and the users.

I know there will be always be purists who will rally against Canonical for this decision and I’m sure the company is ready for some flak, but if Linux has to compete with Mac OS X and Windows, they had to make a start somewhere and this looks to be the right way to go.

Has Ubuntu lost it's relevance – Why does it suck so much !

Ubuntu has long been the darling of the media, or at least the small number of people who actually cover Linux and related technologies. And I haven’t read anything but good things about it … until recently. Has Ubuntu lost it’s charm as the “Linux for human beings” ? Are there other contenders for the human linux title now ?

A small but growing number of users are being vocal about the fact that even after more than 5 years in the market, Ubuntu has still not been able to fulfill their promise of a Linux system which normal human beings can use.

Ubuntu has long been the darling of the media, or at least the small number of people who actually cover Linux and related technologies. And I haven’t read anything but good things about it … until recently. Has Ubuntu lost it’s charm as the “Linux for human beings” ? Are there other contenders for the human linux title now ?

A small but growing number of users are being vocal about the fact that even after more than 5 years in the market, Ubuntu has still not been able to fulfill their promise of a Linux system which normal human beings can use.

I’ve been an Ubuntu user since the last 3 years and have actually been quite happy with it. Except for small annoyances, Ubuntu had been serving me well … until recently. Because of all the problems I’d been having with it, I removed Ubuntu 8.04 from my notebook last week and have now moved back to Debian, which I used to use before I got into Ubuntu. I have to say this. The latest version of Ubuntu just plain sucks ! I’ll repeat it again. Ubuntu 8.04 sucks. And no I’m not going to upgrade to Ubuntu 8.10, 9.04, 9.10 LTS or whatever it is that they decide to name it next.

I’m not off Linux and I’m certainly not getting on to Windows. I’m off any distribution which makes me relearn everything that I’ve learnt in the last 9 years. I’m against Ubuntu because it doesn’t help me configure my graphics cards any better, and instead makes me search for well known configuration files by wandering around obscure directories because the file locations have been changed in the name of evolution.

I’m off Ubuntu because I don’t want to configure the wifi card (which was anyway a pain to configure in the first place … but that crib’s for another day) again just because I decided to update my operating system. Which is what happens to me each and everytime a major upgrade comes through … which, for Ubuntu, is almost every week.

The updates, btw, include kernel upgrades, which force me to reboot. In the two months that I had Ubuntu 8.04 for, I already had about 5 kernel upgrades in my grub.conf. I mean, seriously, if 8.04 wasn’t ready, why did they have to release it !

I don’t even understand who are they trying to compete with. Microsoft, updates their flagship operating system once in like 5 years. Apple does it once in a maximum of two years. And Ubuntu … every 6 months.

Now, to be fair, I’ve been a Linux user for the last 9 years and have been hand editing configuration files all along and have no problems with it. But, my mom can’t edit configuration files. And when a distribution claims what Ubuntu claims, I expect it to be good. And that makes me crib.

Infact, the next time a friend comes along asking me about Ubuntu, I’ll tell him to install Debian instead. Sure, it’ll take a while to configure but atleast it won’t be a hassle to maintain after that. A Debian server that I installed 6 years ago is still running along with the latest updates. Sure, it has been rebooted a couple of times but atleast I haven’t had a hardware fail on me because the latest update decided to not include the particular driver.

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Update: Iam Murdock wrote two blog posts on similar lines and those pretty much summarise my reasons for leaving Ubuntu. I welcome your comments on my thoughts but please understand that this is a personal decision. If you guys are happy with what Canonical and Ubuntu are doing, all power to you. If not, switch. You have the freedom to make your choice.