Practical Technology

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Should Ubuntu include proprietary software?


Canonical, the company behind Ubuntu, arguably the most popular of all Linux distributions, is asking its users what new, proprietary programs they’d like to see as optional software in Ubuntu.

Note, I said “new.” Ubuntu has actually included proprietary software in the form of hardware drivers since April 2007. Then, Ubuntu developers decided to place binary ATI and NVIDA graphic card drivers in the distribution because, “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.”

Never-the-less, when it came to end-user software, Ubuntu has, generally speaking, held the line against including proprietary software in their distribution. You won’t find, for example, Adobe Flash 10.x in Ubuntu, even though it’s commonly included in other popular Linux distributions such as openSUSE.

Indeed, there are several other distributions, such as Mint, which are perhaps best known for including proprietary programs that Ubuntu has refused to incorporate into the distribution. Until now.

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