Debian, Ubuntu, and Free Software?

As you can tell (from my Profile [in “About”]), I’m (or was) an avid Debian fan as it encompasses most ideals for easy user maintenance and usability. This includes a extremely low degree of breakage during upgrades and that –in terms of stability– out performs the major commercial OSes I’ve tried. Apt-get goes beyond my expectations and in my personal experience and those of my colleagues, out performs YUM in terms of speed and dependency conflicts. Of course, apt-get front-ends take this a step forward for the GUI dependent user. Of course, there were times when aspects of Debian were not user friendly such as when I first installed Debian it was about a 40? step process. I remember staying up to 3 or 4 a.m. doing these installs. A BSD user might laugh, but I think of Debian as being somewhat comparable to NetBSD and FreeBSD mixed. I mean it supports many platforms, weeding out bugs in the process, only moving forward only when every platform “just works”, and allows easy maintenance and use such as FBSD offers (except firewall configuration).

Apparently, Ted Teah, FSF’s free software directory maintainer calls the Debian/Ubuntu based gNewSense distro ” … the most advanced Gnu-linux OS … that has a commitment to be 100% free.”. Presumably, this is due to Debian’s software (see [1]).

I don’t know why I turned to Ubuntu, essentially Debian testing. Perhaps it was the possibility of greater technological advancement from combining Free Software with big dollars (Mark Shuttleworth’s backing) to fund continued research. In the end, I did not find Ubuntu any better than Debian, in fact, I did not find it as stable as Debian and the ppc support lacking as ppc developers –in my opinion– lacked enough hardware (namely the iMac series) for proper ppc support. I also recall a problem associated with a Gnome package in upgrading (something virtually unheard of afaik) that has never occurred for me on Debian (here’s [2] another Ubuntu upgrade problem). Still, Ubuntu had better scanner support than Debian that suffered from not allowing user level accounts to operate scanners, only root could (now that’s why I tried Ubuntu). Still Ubuntu used to freeze my iMac, which was isolated as a X windows issue, not a Debian/Ubuntu specific issue. This was a problem that I had experienced in Debian and thus applied the same specially compiled X windowing system to solve the problem.

Well before this turns into an pro-Debian apology, I must say that I am disappointed in Ubuntu and Debian because although Debian is known for supporting Free Software, it is somewhat lax due to holding/allowing non-Free software repositories. This, I could live with. And I thought Ubuntu, believing Ubuntu to hold the same Debian ideals steadfast, to be the same. Well, I now then read about the Ubunu/Linspire deal to facilitate the inclusion of proprietary software within Ubuntu. Furthermore, I find out that Ubuntu and now Debian ship tainted kernels for wireless support (and have for some time).

Thus, my consideration to try gNewSense [3] as soon as my MacBook is supported. Due to the ease of use of “Debianness”, I will think twice before trying a non-Debian based distro, such as others Stallman mentions (Ututo [Gentoo based], BLAG Linux [Fedora based], Dynebolic [it’s own category], GNUstep [not an OS but a development environment] and Musix [o.k. os this is Debian based because it is based on Knoppix but it’s a live CD not a hd OS] [“Stallman”; wikipedia]). I might run Freebsd or even Desktop BSD or PC-BSD before trying another non-Debian based Gnu-linux distro. Heck, if I can install NetBSD onto an iMac, install OpenBSD and configure its firewall with its ultra unfriendly “interface”, I can run FreeBSD or even easier yet PC-BSD with it’s binary security updates which preclude recompiling kernels (which is much easier in BSD than in Gnu-linux anyway [something that will be banal in Gnu-Hurd]).

Of course, BSDs have their issues with non-Free bits. Even so, (Open)BSD takes a more proactive approach to non-Free software. Why couldn’t Ubuntu have taken a hard stance and rallied hardware manufacturers to open up like a previous OpenBSD move I recall? They’re certainly larger and certainly would draw more attention than poor little OpenBSD. I think I understand why, $$.

This is licensed under the Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported Creative Commons License [4]. All brands mentioned are properties of their respective owners. By reading this article, the reader forgoes any accountability of the writer. The reading of this article implies acceptance of the above stipulations. The author requires attribution –by full name and URL– and notification of republications.


One thought on “Debian, Ubuntu, and Free Software?

  1. Ubuntu isn’t anti-non-free software, Mark Shuttleworth has repeatedly said he’s pro-binary only components, because it gives his users extra functionality. It’s because of Mark plain and simple, because some former Debian developers that now work on Ubuntu are anti-binary.

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