A Fedora user recently
: might it be
possible for the project to put together a package which would
automatically download and install the (proprietary) Google Earth
application? Debian has googleearth-package
which makes an installable package from the downloaded application, but
there is no such convenience for Fedora users. The quick answer appeared
to be "no" - Fedora is for free software only, and packaging tools for
proprietary programs do not fit the bill.
It did not take long for others to point out the "autodownloader" facility
shipped with the Fedora games spin now. This tool is needed to make
certain games work where the game is free software, but it needs
proprietary data to provide the full experience. Games like Quake3 and
Rise of the Triad fit this description. With autodownloader, these games
can be shipped with Fedora and the proprietary data will be fetched
automatically on the destination machine. This scenario does not seem all
that different than downloading a proprietary application like Google Earth
and installing it.
The difference, as seen by the Fedora camp, is that autodownloader can only
obtain data, not code. The fact that much of that data may, in
fact, be code which is fed to a virtual machine within the game is sort of
glossed over. In the discussion, it was also suggested that games
requiring autodownloader should come with enough free data to be minimally
usable, though that does not seem to have been enforced with great vigor.
Alan Cox's suggestion that the real test
should be "is it possible to create free data for this game?" makes some
sense, but that is not the operative rule now.
Such a discussion cannot go on long, though, before somebody brings up the
real sore point: CodecBuddy. This time, it was Hans de Goede who raised the issue:
Not only does it automatically download some gratis closed source
code, it even offers the user to buy closed source code,
effectively free advertising for commercial closed source!
According to Hans, there is no point in discussing autodownloader as long
as CodecBuddy remains in the repository.
Outgoing Fedora leader Max Spevack is trying to organize a discussion aimed
at reaching some sort of clarity on these issues. Christopher Blizzard had
an interesting idea: hand more of the
decisions about (and responsibility for) the shipping of problematic code
to the upstream projects. The Miro
project was held up as an example. Christopher's proposal has some echoes
of the disintermediation of
distributions discussion which was covered here last week. When it
comes to patent-encumbered codecs, distributions like Fedora would happily
In the absence of a real solution to the patent problem, some sort of
disintermediation may be the only workable answer for distributions like
Fedora. They may not be willing to ship the code, but others are. So it's
mostly just a matter of making the connection between those repositories
and the users as straightforward and painless as possible. Spending time
with search engines to find useful programs or data may build character,
but it does not help create a useful or pleasurable Linux user experience.
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