While announcing the name of Ubuntu's next release for October, 2007, Ubuntu founder Mark Shuttleworth spoke of a new version of the Ubuntu distribution to be released alongside Gutsy Gibbon. This release, he says, will not include any firmware, drivers, applications, and even sounds and imagery which are not completely open-source and include full rights of modification and redistribution. This ultra-orthodox version of open-source sounds very attractive to open-source supporters, but is it practical?

In any Linux distribution, a large majority of the source meets the requirements mentioned. However, there are components to many distributions which are proprietary and thus not usable in a so-called ultra-free distribution. If a component is of enough importance, it could bring the usability of such a distribution into question.

For many proprietary components to a Linux distro, there are alternatives which are completely open-source and meet this ultra-free definition. However, this is not always the case. For example, the binary ATI display drivers for Linux do not include source and would thus be disqualified from inclusion in an ultra-free Ubuntu release. Since ATI has yet to make any suggestion of the release of the source to their display drivers, alternatives would have to be considered.

Unfortunately, the alternatives are sometimes simply not adequate—or do not exist at all. Especially for new hardware, alternatives may have not been developed enough for full release. Features found in their proprietary counterparts may be basic, unstable, or nonexistent in the open-source alternatives. New hardware which is immediately supported in the manufacturer's closed-source software may take many months to be supported by open-source equivalents. For some applications, these limitations may not matter; not all machines need wifi support or 3D-acceleration. However, for other applications, it might make the entire system unusable.

While it is admirable for the Ubuntu team to work to free Linux from proprietary code, it might simply be an impossible task without much more support from manufacturers and developers of closed-source software. As long as users have to rely on proprietary software to easily and reliably use new, unusual, or otherwise unsupported hardware, running such a distribution in a practical environment may have to wait.

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Last Post by bryhawks

It seems to me like the distro is being created for morality's sake when it's completely not practical. I mean ... no 3D acceleration? That's very progressive and forward thinking of them to put energy into a new distro which purposefully has no driver support by design. It seems as if the only reason for it is to say "look folks! I'm using a completely license free OS ... I can't do anything with it, but I'm the only one who has it!"


Haha, I agree with the author and Dani...

The only purpose for such a distro is for some stupid people who want all the rights to modify or whatever. I can't think of a single useful purpose for such a distro.


I think you slightly misunderstood the press release.

Gutsy Gibbon will come with some binary firmware, drivers etc.

A new official 'varient' of ubuntu will be introduced that will contain none of the above. Something similar already exists; afaik the Gnewsense developers will assist with the new Ubuntu varient.


According to thar Wikipedia article:

< It was designed for users who wish to only use free software ...

I am used to things being designed for users who want or need some type of functionality. Not designed just so that users can just say they use it.


Some people want their software to be completely free in every meaning of the word. Others just want a functional computer.

If it weren't for people who fall into the former camp we the OSS landscape would not look how it does today.


But are they mutually exclusive? In other words, is it POSSIBLE to have a completely free computer that is also functional for regular use?


Doing this might get some people to switch, but I doubt it will have much effect. There are already other distros that do this (Debian, anyone?), and most of the *buntu users don't really care about OSS if it means a loss of features. Maybe this is a move to try and get the hardware manufacturers to write some open drivers, but it seems like an ineffective way to me.


It is very feasable to have a completely free PC and for it to be fully functional... It seems a kind of silly thing to state that the lack of 3D acceleration means a lack of stability... Personally my notebook is comprised of all free software. I use it to work, IE; write emails, draft documents, surf the net, create projects, etc. and thats really all it needs. Of course it's stable and it works fine. Also, it isn't just a morality check for someone to create a completely free OS... There truly is a demand for it and if folks start to take notice that can only help the cause of getting 3D acceleration into the FOSS realm.:)

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