Monday, November 10, 2008

Free (as in speech) vs. Free (as in beer)

Ubuntu Logo (source:
  1. Ubuntu
  2. openSUSE
  3. Mint
Those three Linux Distributions are currently the most popular distros according to Mint Linux, a relative newcomer to the scene, is actually based off of Ubuntu 8.04 Hardy Heron. So why would a new distribution based on a now outdated version of Ubuntu be popular at all? I believe the answer to this lies in how each organization views free (as in speech) software. For example, a fresh install of Ubuntu is incapable of playing an MP3 file without the users permission to download the codec. Mint on the other hand, includes the MP3 (among other) codecs in the installation. Ubuntu reasons that since the codec is not open source, it should not be included with the installation. The question is, does anyone care? It seems to me that even the most avid free software enthusiast wouldn't mind occasionally using closed source (but still free in cost) software. If Ubuntu wants to keep its current position as #1, they need to start including software like the MP3 codec with their installation. This would not only be more convenient for the experienced user, but also less scary for those new to Linux.

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