[PLUG] Ubuntu 7.07 Fiesty Fawn adds proprietry drivers in the base distro

sughosh ganu urwithsughosh at gmail.com
Mon Nov 20 18:07:10 IST 2006

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Suresh Ramasubramanian <linux at frodo.hserus.net>
Date: Nov 19, 2006 6:56 PM
Subject: [Ilugc] Ubuntu 7.04 (Feisty Fawn) adds proprietary drivers in
the base distro
To: ILUG-C <ilugc at ae.iitm.ac.in>

I've added the relevant links from the story as footnotes


Ubuntu to add proprietary drivers
Nov. 17, 2006

Analysis -- Reluctantly, the Ubuntu developer community has decided that
with the next version of Ubuntu, Feisty Fawn, it will be including some
proprietary drivers. Feisty Fawn's emphasis on "multimedia enablement"
appears to be the culprit.

Feisty Fawn, aka Ubuntu 7.04, is scheduled for release on Apr. 19, 2007.
According to Mark Shuttleworth, Ubuntu's founder, "The main themes for
feature development in this release will be improvements to hardware
support in the laptop, desktop and high-end server market, and
aggressive adoption of emerging desktop technologies. Ubuntu's Feisty
release will put the spotlight on multimedia enablement and desktop

To accomplish, the Ubuntu developer community has decided that it must
use, for now at least, proprietary drivers.

It's not that Ubuntu's developers like proprietary drivers. The
developers felt [1] that given that, "A large proportion of people using
Ubuntu -- including 70%-80% of people with new computers -- need a
non-Free driver for reasonable performance from their graphics card,
wireless card, or modem, because there is no Free driver available, they
had little choice in the matter.

In particular, the Ubuntu developers are working on adding binary ATI
and NVIDA graphic card drivers to the distribution. This is because,
"Currently, Ubuntu does little to enable 3D acceleration [2] on cards
that support these features. Composite support is enabled by default on
X.Org since Ubuntu Edgy, but various video boards need specific options
to support either Composite or 3D acceleration correctly, or have them
explicitly disabled, in case these technologies are not supported."

So it is that Ubuntu has "chosen to install non-Free drivers by
default." Specifically, it has been decided that "Both NVIDIA and ATI
proprietary drivers will be installed by default, on Ubuntu Feisty."
That does not mean, however, that they will be enabled for all video
boards. For example, since ATI proprietary drivers do not support
Composite graphics, this "driver will only be enabled by default for
users whose video boards are not supported by the open source 'ati'
video driver."

In addition, work has started on bringing proprietary drivers into
Ubuntu for the so-called Win-modems (fritz isdn/dsl modules, lt-modem)
and the Atheros (ath_hal aka madwifi) and Intel 3945 Intel wireless

The developers are well aware of the problems with using these drivers.
For example, there are the simple technical problems that support for
the drivers is completely dependent on the hardware vendor. And, then,
when the vendor does make a bug fix, that "improvement" will require
careful testing, since the developers won't know what was changed in the
update. Of course, on top of that, there are the philosophical
objections to using binary drivers in Linux.

Many public comments about this decision object to Ubuntu's decision.
One writer [3] said, "We should not give up our freedom for a short term

A public poll [4], on the Ubuntu forums, however, reveals far less
outrage and far more desktop pragmatism. As of the evening of Nov. 17,
on the question, "Should binary NVidia/ATI drivers be automatically
installed & activated in Ubuntu?," the answers were:

   * 32.62 percent -- "Yes, while informing the user of the relevant
issues, etc."
   * 54.63 percent -- "Users should be given a choice about this during
   * and only 12.75 percent voted for "No, such drivers can stay in a
non-free repo, just like now"

In any case, Ubuntu is moving forward with incorporating proprietary
drivers. At the same time, though, Ubuntu will be trying to educate
users about the issues around non-free drivers. The plan, now, is for
this to be done by "using a notification bubble on login, an extra
section in the Device Manager, and a CGI script on Ubuntu.com for
providing up-to-date information about alternative hardware."

Thus the goal is that while Ubuntu will be shipping "proprietary drivers
in the short term, we should take steps to improve the situation in the
long term. We believe the best way to do this is to convey the problem
to people using Ubuntu - explaining why we distribute non-Free drivers
at all, what the risks are, and what people can do to avoid such
hardware in future."

-- Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols

[1] https://wiki.ubuntu.com/BinaryDriverEducation
[2] https://wiki.ubuntu.com/AcceleratedX
[3] https://wiki.ubuntu.com/AcceleratedX/Comments
[4] https://wiki.ubuntu.com/AcceleratedX/Comments

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