The good folks at Dell have added DVD playback capability to the image that they preinstall for folks who buy Dell computers with Ubuntu.

Multimedia and DVD are often cited as the biggest things missing from the typical consumer’s expectations of a “fully working system”. Ideally, we could deliver a great multimedia experience in a free software stack but the US patent landscape makes that impossible, so for the moment this requires proprietary software.  My hope is that the content industry will realise that DRM and playback restrictions are harmful to their own interests, and that EMI’s decision to sell MP3’s leads to a broader movement away from restrictive technologies.

So, thanks and congrats to Dell for taking care of this for their customers, there’s one more reason to give someone close to you a virus-resistant, spyware-resistant Ubuntu-based Dell for 2008 :-)

36 Responses to “DVD playback now standard for Dell Ubuntu customers”

  1. Michael Anckaert Says:

    That’s just great news! Congratulations to both Dell and Canonical for achieving this point in the acceptance of the Linux Desktop!

    And it’s great to finally read another post on this blog, almost thought you had given up and were living the good life ;-)

  2. Dell’s Ubuntu computers now have DVD playback - Says:

    […] has a nice write up on the subject and Mark Shuttleworth has finally updated his blog again, telling us this great […]

  3. Dominique LEGER Says:

    Very nice news!!

    Fist sorry for my english…

    I work in an french administration (Mayor)
    We own many Dell computers with windows installed on.
    Is it possible to download and install this image on my Dell windows computers?

    It would be very very nice !!!


  4. Vincent Says:

    And Flash too, totally awesome :)

    And indeed, great that you have picked up blogging again ;)

  5. be4truth Says:

    That sounds good but when will Dell sell Ubuntu laptops in India? I am waiting ….

  6. Quentin Says:

    Thanks for pointing that out, the Ubuntu system Dell proposed was inferior to the Windows one, but it’s now updated, and with 7.10.
    I can finally order!

  7. Azrael Nightwalker Says:

    Excellent news!
    Next step is audio and video codecs – mainly mp3, wmv and others.

  8. DVD Playback shipping on Dell Ubuntu Machines « A Conservative Techie Says:

    […] Playback shipping on Dell Ubuntu Machines Jump to Comments Just saw a post from Mark that DVD Playback is now shipping on Dell Ubuntu machines.  That is very exciting […]

  9. Jonas Says:

    What solution are they using? What player? Something that support menus and subtitles?

  10. wjl (Wolfgang Lonien) Says:

    You don’t fight DRM with just giving customers what they want – they have to understand it and then to fight against it. The way Dell does it only carves DRM more into stone…


  11. Asai Says:

    Ubuntu really is a bright hope for worldwide adoption of Linux. Kudos, Mark, for all your efforts.

    Also, it’s nice to see a post from you after 3 months. Here in the US, I always look forward to hearing what’s going on in the outside world in technology, and your blog is always most informative.

  12. Brad Johnson Says:

    How about a codec pack from Canonical. I want to enable/install something that would give me full legal access to these content types and have them work flawlessly in Ubuntu’s default applications. I’d buy it and I believe others would also. I’m getting sick of the sad state of support for doing something almost every computer user just expects to work. I understand why Ubuntu is the way it is and I support its stance on the matter but that doesn’t mean Canonical can’t offer codecs as a separate add-on product.

  13. Slyons Ubuntu Infos » Kurznews: Dell Says:

    […] Der Hardware-Riese Dell bietet in den USA (und bald auch in Deutschland) seine Computer und Notebooks mit Ubuntu Gutsy Gibbon 7.10 an. Außerdem geht Dell noch einen Schritt weiter: Dell liefert ab sofort standartmäßig ein komerzielles Programm (LinDVD), dass es ermöglicht legal, also ohne den CSS-Schutz der orginalen DVDs auf illegale weiße zu umgehen zu müssen, DVDs zu schauen. Dies ist ein weiterer Fortschritt für Linux, den auch Ubuntu-Chefentwickler Mark Shuttleworth sehr lobt. […]

  14. Bill Says:

    Nice, but why is Dell still shipping the old 7.04 Ubuntu?

  15. JGJones Says:

    Jonas – subtitles – I hope so, I’m deaf myself! No matter for me though since I already play DVD’s via other means.

    Brad Johnson – I believe the latest Fedora provide something like this (I think it’s called Codec Buddy?) where you could buy the necessary codecs to play them legally. However in the meantime, I have already bought my codecs from Fluendo – – which does support Windows media, MPEG2 etc via GStreamer – you can chalk me up as one potential “customer” that is willing to pay for legal codecs even if I could get the w32codecs package.

  16. Ali Says:

    I thought that Mark Shuttleworth had lost interest in the ubuntu project.

  17. Andrew Fenn Says:

    Isn’t Canonical based in England? What patent problems could there possibly be in a country that doesn’t allow software patents?

  18. sapphire Says:

    The problem is that it’s illegal in some places to get the libs to play dvds (libdvdcss something or other) so Dell doing this is great cause now users will have DVD playback out of the box – not that it’s too hard to enable it these days with the latest version of Ubuntu, but it’s a nice step forward! Congratulations!

  19. Dell: one step forward, two steps back « Limulus Says:

    […] note that Mr. Shuttleworth has blogged about the proprietary DVD playback as a good thing: “the US patent landscape makes that impossible, so for the moment this requires proprietary […]

  20. Limulus Says:

    Mr. Shuttleworth, while I understand that you’re happy that Dell’s Ubuntu derivative will appeal to a wider audience than free software advocates, I must direct your attention to

    “Several people have been asking about the reinstallation DVD ISO’s mentioned in the post. We have made these available for download on the wiki. These ISO’s duplicate a factory-installed Ubuntu 7.10 image from Dell for those systems listed. They have not been tested on any systems other than those listed, so they may or may not work well on other systems. Note that these ISO images DO NOT CONTAIN LinDVD, as LinDVD is a non-free application that is included in the cost of a system purchased with our Ubuntu 7.10 factory-installation. We’ll make information available on how this application can be purchased after the holidays.”

    Are they really saying that LinDVD is going to be bundled into the cost of the hardware? With no way to decline that? When you go through their purchase system on that appears to be the case. It is the same sneaky technique used to mask the cost of Windows on a PC. I can’t imagine that you approve of that; please use your influence with Dell to make LinDVD an OPTIONAL purchase; I don’t want to be *forced* to buy proprietary software to get an Ubuntu PC from Dell!

  21. Dell vendera Computadores con Ubuntu 7.10 pre-instalado Says:

    […] el día de hoy y en su blog, Mark Shttleworth, creador de Ubuntu, felicita a Dell por la […]

  22. Lesley Clayton Says:

    Hey Buddie!

    Thought you had dumped us! It’s good news and looking forward to a great Ubuntu 2008 :-)

  23. Dell ou HP? | Andre Noel Says:

    […] o Mark Shuttleworth (em seu blog), a Dell incorporou o suporte a DVD em sua imagem do Ubuntu que vem pré-instalado. Reproduzindo o […]

  24. Conor Says:

    This is indeed awesome. I’m pleased to see that DVD playback is now available, but what’s the status on MP3 codecs? Will users still be informed that MP3 playback isn’t possible until codecs are downloaded, with the usual “are you sure you want to do this because it’s probably illegal” warning?

  25. Ori Avtalion Says:

    Does the bundling include the also-problematic DeCSS algorithm?

  26. Martin Owens Says:

    [QUOTE]Isn’t Canonical based in England? What patent problems could there possibly be in a country that doesn’t allow software patents?[/QUOTE]

    The dvd situation has nothing to do with software patents, and I wish this issue was sorted out by the Freedom Law Centre when I brought it up last month. It’s very annoying to be told to go away because the problem just isn’t important or interesting enough for the people who are supposed to be clarifying free software legal positions.

    The problem is the DMCA in the USA and the EUCD in the EU; Both prohibit the use of decryption software which breaks the encryption schemes used in commercial DVD video discs. Ubuntu can and will right out of the box play DVDs, just not encrypted ones. The library that most of us use to play our legally owned DVDs is called libdvdcss and is completely Free Software.

    Now we have three options as I see it:

    1) We get some clarification from some kind Lawyer who will look at the problem and come back and say that there isn’t a problem after all since the DMCA has clauses for compatibility.
    2) We take libdvdcss to the DVD forum and get it approved with it’s own keys, this is the least likely to happen since the DVD forum may require per seat licenses, this wouldn’t be possible at the moment unless the key which decrypts the data was held separately and added on afterwards. This would be a neat way of getting around the problem by working with the DVD forum who control the formats.
    3) We push the pay-for model by making the commercial products which are licensed for use available to all ubuntu users in an easy and safe to use manner. This has to disadvantage of killing the software’s ability to be Free Software and allows all sorts of security problems.

    More attention needs to be paid to this problem if it is to go away; we might not be able to throw win-codecs32 out until ffmpeg has finished their reverse engineering of the windows media format, but at least we’d be able to support normal DVD decryption. All we then have to worry about is Blu-Ray and HD-DVD video discs which have an even more hideous encryption method.

  27. Michael Scherer Says:

    Well, I think that dell only did what others distributors did, I think Mandriva already bundled Lindvd with their 2007.0 powerpack version, and Turbolinux shipped PowerDvd. So this is hardly something new.
    More ever, the dvd decryption problem is not related to patent, but more on DMCA, which is a different kind of problem.

  28. Eduardo Tavares Says:

    I am going to give this to my mother a computer with Dell Ubuntu pre-installed in 2008!

  29. Dell com Ubuntu e DVD player por menos de R$ 1.000,00 « Marceloramalho’s Weblog for Linux Says:

    […] R$ 1.000,00 – Qui, 20/12/2007 – 10:24 “A capacidade de exibir DVDs agora vem pré-instalada em micros com Linux da Dell. Claro, nos Estados Unidos. O preço inclui monitor de 17”, gravador de CD/DVD, 1GB de RAM e […]

  30. Ruben Says:

    Finally, another foot out of the marsh! … and now with Microsoft being forced to reveal their inner networking workings things might be looking up.
    Thanks for all your work Mark.

  31. Chris Ward Says:

    Yes, Canonical is based in England (actually, Isle of Man, but pretty much the same thing).

    Including … or not … some DVD playing software really isn’t an engineering problem; it’s a commercial legal problem. Someone is bound to object; maybe a judge will agree with the objection; and it’s really not worth Mark Shuttleworth’s time and money to get tangled up in it. It might, for example, happen over the proposition that someone is going to import a Ubuntu into the USA.

    It’s a mess, and it’s holding ‘the industry’ back. How do you learn to be an engineer, if every time you want to try something fairly basic (like make a DVD player or an ‘MP3′ player) you get the Economic Crimes police on your back ?

  32. knolleary » Blog Archive » Links for December 17th through December 27th Says:

    […] DVD playback now standard for Dell Ubuntu customers – Mark shares the news that the pre-installed Ubuntu image comes with DVD playback as standard. No word on the app used, but it is a good start. […]

  33. John Suit (aka: cipher_nemo) Says:

    Awesome! Now I have no reservations on recommending a Dell PC with Ubuntu pre-installed. Nice job!

    This is one of the few areas where I was perplexed when I first tried Ubuntu (6.06 Dapper Drake). I have since enjoyed Xine and all of the restricted codecs that can be easily installed with automatic installers of restricted or proprietary codecs such as the Automatix installer. My first struggles with Ubuntu was getting it to play *all* of my DVDs and MP3 files.

    Thank you for starting Canonical, releasing the Ubuntu project, and working with Dell to release it pre-installed on their PCs. Without you, fighting Microsoft would be a much more difficult challenge, especially when I evangelize to Windows users who couldn’t punch their way out of a technological paper bag. :-)

  34. Bruce Wagner Says:

    Could someone please explain to me HOW Dell can get away with selling a pre-installed image of Ubuntu complete with the DVD playback code, within the USA, and Ubuntu (Canonical) can not provide it in the standard Ubuntu download (even if the have to have a separate splash-screen “agreement”/”acknowledgment”)…?

    How can Dell do it legally, if Ubuntu itself cannot do it legally — within the US?

    Mark Shuttleworth says: Dell installs a non-free application, from a vendor who has paid patent licenses for some of the technology required to decrypt DVD’s. It is not legal in the USA to bypass that system using free software. This is as silly as the old regulations that prevented companies in the US from putting strong cryptography in their products, but it’s the law there nonetheless.

  35. Licenses explained Says:

    Just for the folks who are interested:

    1.) AC3 patent royalty needs to be paid to Dolby as all your DVDs are encoded in AC3 (with some titles in LPCM)
    2.) MPEG LA requires patent royalty as well for any MPEG2 playback, again, commercial DVD’s video streams are MPEG2

    Optional license based on what OEM’s choose:
    1.) DTS audio license
    2.) Dolby 6ch, Dolby Prologic, etc etc.

    The list can go on.

  36. Road2Mayotte Archives » Dell, Ubuntu, Debian et les autres… Says:

    […] vendues avec une version GNU/Linux Ubuntu adaptée par le constructeur. Non qu’il ne faille se féliciter, avec Mark Shuttleworth, de ce que the good folks at Dell aient pris la décision de diversifier leur offre. Voire même de […]