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Who needs GNU anymore? 27 September, 2008

Posted by aronzak in Linux.
Tags: , , ,
Stephen Fry

Stephen Fry

It’s the GNU project’s 25th birthday and famuos comedian Stephen Fry has created a video to honour the occasion. The only problem is, it’s in .ogv, meaning ogg theora video. My default KDE video program does not seem to handle the video. Of cource, vlc will just fine, but by default it seems that even Linux is not able to play ogg theora out of the box. That’s why so few people use it, and those that do provide video in other formats. Except GNU.

The creators of the video could have provided the video in .avi (using the xvid codec) and .mp4 and .mov.  Instead they chose to rigidly follow the aspirations of only using free software over having people being able to see the actual video. While this seems like a simple oversight, it shows a broader problem.

It’s not just video codecs; GNU and the Free Software Foundation (FSF) do not like using any non-free software. Unfortunately the fact is that this is what most people use from day to day. So how do you be interoperable with these people? By making them change first.

Naming Controversy

The free software group, with Richard Stallman and the FSF like to use the name GNU/Linux, while most people say ‘Linux’, (or just ‘linux’).

But with Linux being bundled on netbooks and consumer laptops (eg. Dell) then you can see that Linux has gone fat beyond what BSD or anything else could have achieved. If someone wants a GNU operating system, they get Linux. If Linux is GNU, then there is no need to make the naming difference.

Debian is the only distribution that I have ever heard of using the name “GNU/Linux”. Looking at a customised version for the Asus EeePC, This is their advice for getting wifi to work:

# Do without wireless entirely
# Use a wireless USB dongle supported by DFSG free drivers
# Replace the internal wireless card with one that is supported by DFSG free drivers

Another way of putting this is:

– Don’t expect anything to work
– Unless you change your own hardware/software first

Realistically, if you want to do anything, you’ll need to compromise. This is reflected in broader ‘free’ software choices. If you want to see Youtube videos, you’ll need the nonfree flash plugin, not the free gnash plugin. Why? Because gnash sucks. If you want to have VoIP conversations, you’ll want to get rid of Ekiga and Kphone and get Skype. Why? Because nobody uses Ekiga or Kphone, and more and more people now use Skype.

I’m just going to publish this now, and add more later.



1. Roberto Gigli - 27 September, 2008

And how do you connect to your IPBX using Skype ?

2. aronzak - 27 September, 2008

How many people have one? The end user would have something like that set up for them. What the user wants on the go is something that works with their friends.

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