With the recent blunder *er* partnership of Novell and Microsoft the Linux community quickly flew up in arms about what was to happen. Many conspiracy theories were tossed up into the wind and few of them fell back down to earth.
But one thing did come to light in this tiny war of code and words. When Novell accepted MSs hand of “good faith” the SuSE community started looking to jump ship and find another platform to land on. When that happened Mark Shuttleworth (of Ubuntu fame) reached out saying:
We are hosting a series of introductory sessions for people who want to
join the Ubuntu community – in any capacity, including developers and
package maintainers. If you want to find out how Ubuntu works, how to
contribute or participate, or how to get specific items addressed, there
will be something for you.
That in and of itself was a very kind, and highly strategic move. Ubuntu is rising quickly and gaining some of SuSEs best devs would be a cous for Ubuntu. However, Shuttleworth followed it with this:
If you have an interest in being part of a vibrant community that cares about keeping free software widely available and protecting the rights of people to get it free of charge, free to modify, free of murky encumbrances and “undisclosed balance sheet liabilities”, then please do join us.
To that a good amount of the open source community fired back bringing up the issue of Ubuntu releasing proprietary software (primarily drivers) in their distribution. It seemed as if there was a bit of hypocracy in the open source community. Or is there?
Imagine if Ubuntu stripped it’s distribution clean of any and all proprietary software. If that happened then there would be a good amount of hardware that would no longer work under Linux. Some high end graphics cards would either be tossed into a pile of waste or, even worse, wind up being employed on Windows-only machines. My ibook would have no wireless.
So it begs the question: is it wrong of a linux distribution to be released with proprietary software? I say no. I say if it advances the operating system, and it’s legal, release away. If this continues, and more and more Linux is adopted, those proprietary drivers might very well become open source.
But even if they don’t – isn’t it a small price to pay to continue to push forward the ideal of the Linux OS?
I was very happy that Shuttleworth spoke out to the SuSE community. He took a bold chance and I hope it pays off. And I think the Linux community stands to learn a lot from this development.
So what do you think? Should proprietary software be distributed with the Linux OS or not?