A disgruntled Fedora user recently complained
about how the distribution's
policies "sometimes suck." It seems that this user had attempted to use an
obscure OpenOffice.org feature which is available under some distributions,
but which is not available on Fedora systems. This feature, it turns out,
is implemented with a piece of closed-source code, which Fedora is
unwilling to ship.
Your editor has a gripe as well. For a period of time, his Rawhide desktop
contained the Emacs 22 pre-test releases from the FSF. Once Rawhide picked
up those releases, however, your editor happily stopped building his own.
But the Rawhide version of Emacs lacks the Tetris game found in stock
Emacs. The end result is that your editor has to use his editor for actual
work instead of pointless block stacking.
Rather than start a lengthy flame war, though, your editor simply chose to
avoid procrastination and get something useful done.
Fedora, like any complex project, offers plenty of opportunities for
criticism; some of those have appeared in these pages in the past. But this
sort of feature removal is not one of those opportunities. Anybody
who uses the Fedora distribution should understand the constraints the
project operates under. They include:
- Fedora is committed to shipping 100% free software. Any software
which is not free doesn't belong in this distribution.
- Fedora is tightly tied to Red Hat Inc. and cannot do things which
expose Red Hat to lawsuits. So software which could attract patent or
trademark litigation must be obtained from somewhere else.
Sometimes it seems like Fedora cannot win. The distribution takes regular
grief for its omission of patented codecs, non-free office suite
components, binary drivers, etc. But those who appreciate free software
rarely credit the project for the extensive work it has done to ensure that
everything it ships is free. Fedora users benefit from Red Hat's support:
without that support, there would be far less developer time, bandwidth,
publicity, etc. available to the project. Dragging Red Hat into unneeded legal
hassles would benefit nobody but the lawyers; Fedora users have an interest
in avoiding that eventuality.
One might well wonder why certain Fedora users feel the need to repeat
these complaints so often. Perhaps the project is not doing an adequate
job of communicating what it is trying to do. One assumes that, if people
understood what Fedora is, they would not complain about it not being
something it can never be.
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