Clarification on Feisty’s proprietary drivers

Wednesday, February 14th, 2007

Jonathan, I’m afraid you’ve misread the announcement that proprietary video drivers will not be switched on by default in Feisty. This was the result of a long telephone call including the entire TB and CC. During the discussion, we re-affirmed the Ubuntu policy of including proprietary drivers where these are required to enable essential hardware functionality.

We define “essential hardware” as functionality which exists widely and for which there are free software applications that are broadly useful, that we wish to include in Ubuntu’s default install, and which require full use of that hardware. The canonical example has always been wifi drivers, some of which only come in proprietary blobs, but which of course enable huge parts of the free software stack to Just Work. We have always shipped those, and intend to continue to do so.

The big discussion has been about whether or not 3D video functionality would be considered essential for Feisty. I and others do believe that 3D is an essential part of the modern desktop experience. It is difficult to buy a PC or laptop that does not include such hardware, and in terms of transistor count it’s almost as much as your CPU these days. However, when we reviewed the status of the free software applications that depend on that hardware functionality we found that they were not ready for inclusion by default in Feisty. Neither Compiz nor Beryl have the requisite stability and compatibility to be a default option in Feisty.

It was this which blocked the decision to enable proprietary video drivers by default, not an aversion to their inclusion. For better or worse, we already crossed that line right at the beginning of the Ubuntu project, and reaffirmed that policy during this debate. It is highly likely that Feisty+1 will see the inclusion of Compiz or Beryl by default, looking at their maturity and ongoing community involvement, and that will catalyse the decision to enable this hardware functionality by default too, even if that means using these proprietary drivers.

Now, the discussion did highlight a couple of key issues and result in a number of additional decisions:

  1. We have not been forceful enough about our policy on software patents and other, similar threats to software freedom. As a result, we have joined FFII and other organisations that are fighting software patents (I am personally co-funding an EFF representative in Brussels to focus on this and other work related to software and content freedom). We will also shortly announce participation in another patent-related initiative aimed at preventing a hostile take-over of the free software space by those with entrenched software IP positions.
  2. We will actively support Nouveau and other efforts to develop free software drivers that enable the requisite functionality. I am happy for folks working on these efforts to contact me directly or to follow the community channels in Ubuntu. Either way, we will provide financial and development support for those groups and will integrate their work as soon as it does the necessary hardware magic. Proprietary drivers are not the preferred solution and will be eliminated once the community delivers a free alternative.
  3. We will work closely with the hardware vendors concerned, and part of that will be to continue to make the strong case in favour of free drivers.

In addition to all of this, we have restarted the effort to produce a flavour of Ubuntu that includes no proprietary drivers or firmware at all. In fact, this flavour will take an ultra-conservative approach to all forms of content on the .iso, whether that be artistic or code. More on that initiative later.

So, I’m sorry if this is not the resounding rejection of the drivers that you were looking for, but I hope that the discussion has proven open, comprehensive and ultimately reasonable.

47 Responses to “Clarification on Feisty’s proprietary drivers”

  1. Mark Shuttleworth: Clarification on Feisty’s proprietary drivers « Tuxicity’s source Says:

    […] on Feisty’s proprietary drivers >> More…. No Comments Leave a Commenttrackback addressThere was an error with your comment, please try again. name (required)email (will not be published)(required)url […]

  2. Julian Yap Says:

    “we have restarted the effort to produce a flavour of Ubuntu that includes no proprietary drivers or firmware at all.”

    Mark, doesn’t this already exist in gNewSense?

    Defined as: A GNU/Linux distribution, that takes all the non-free blobs out of a rather popular distribution and makes it free.

    Mark Shuttleworth says:

    It will be done together with many of the folks who work on gNewSense, and it’s likely that gNewSense would use this new flavour as a better base for them than stock Ubuntu, because many of the things they want will be integrated there (from and probably by them!) and so it means they will have less of a delta to manage.

    That said, gNewSense has a great life of its own and is exploring interesting territory and R&D too, so it’s likely to continue. Also, some of the gNewSense prefer not to upload packages to a Launchpad-based repository, which is another reason for them to keep gNewSense separate. A bit of a fig-leaf, given the fact that its all been laundered through LP on the way, but understandable and reason enough to maintain gNewSense.

  3. Josef Assad Says:

    I think this whole debate revolves around your somewhat looser definition of what you consider should be bundled and what shouldn’t. You agree I think that “We define “essential hardware” as functionality which exists widely and for which there are free software applications that are broadly useful and which take advantage of that hardware” is looser than, say, “it isn’t free so it isn’t going in.”

    Is there a community process for working out what adheres to this decision apart form informal polls? I understand what you are trying to achieve and I salute you for having an opinion and sticking to it, but I think still that when a community kicks out as hard as has been the case with this issue, one would want to take a breather and figure out how to assimilate this strong dissent. The free flavor of ubuntu is a step in that direction, but it could probably become a challenge to keep that from creating ther perception that there is the “free” ubuntu and then there is the non-free one (your pick of pejoratives to substitute for “non-free”).

    Greg Kroah-Hartman has (as you surely have seen) been taking a somewhat different approach to yours to bringing improved hardware support to linux. While he is dealing at the vendor end and your decisions have more effect on the user end, I can’t help but wonder if you couldn’t be doing more long-term good helping him out.

    Mark Shuttleworth says:

    Yes, we have a community process. The proposal to include the drivers was in a spec discussed at the Developer Summit in Mountain View in November 2006, in the wiki and on email and IRC. As a final review, because of the sensitivity of the decision, the full TB and CC discussed it at length. Our exceptions are clean and clear – hardware enablement only, everything else in separate repositories not turned on by default. Other distros have taken a variety of views. Debian has a non-free component, and has included non-free firmware in all recent releases. I think Fedora includes non-free firmware but not drivers (I would be happy to be corrected either way). I suspect gNewSense includes neither firmware nor drivers.

    I’m aware of and supportive of Greg K-H’s approach, and we take a similar line of driving vendors to be on track to deliver stuff to the mainline kernel rather than just Ubuntu or any other distro kernel. All the major distros have some provision for additional free and non-free drivers, because that’s the nature of the hardware landscape, particularly when you get up into the high end enterprise space. Slowly, those folks are realising that a lot of their needs can BEST be addressed by participating and getting shared infrastructure into the core kernel rather than reinventing the wheel in the driver the way they have to do in Windows. Greg K-Hs work in that regard is phenomenal.

  4. Paul Broadbent Says:

    Great news! And I’m not just happy that you have dropped default proprietary video drivers, but more importantly because of your reasons to do so.
    You definition of “essential hardware” is spot on, and I’m very glad that you are avoiding proprietary drivers when possible and only include them very reluctantly. Also its great to hear that you are fighting patents and supporting efforts to produce free software drivers.
    You’ve restored my faith Ubuntu’s direction, keep up the good work 🙂

  5. Darren Mansell Says:

    Mark, I think at the moment you and the rest of the Ubuntu team are having to walk a very narrow tightrope. Bug #1 is the most important and obviously some sacrifices have to be made to work around this as desktop Linux doesn’t yet have the clout to be able to call the shots. I think you have been right to ignore all the squabbling thats been going on and keep everything in perspective. Eye candy DOES attract new users and is neccessary. Not at the expense of system stability but Beryl is a huge weapon the free software community currently has and needs to be used.

    I think the way Ubuntu is currently heading is the most balanced and fair way to satisfy the most amount of people and I applaud your methods. Until we have the power to force the big companies to provide better support or open support to the community we have to play by their rules to gain that power.

  6. Definita la politica di Ubuntu per i drivers proprietari Says:

    […] 1. Inserito mercoledì 14 febbraio 2007 alle 12:17:19 da gio Non è assolutamente vero! […]

  7. » Ubuntu 7.04 (Feisty Fawn) not to include Beryl/Compiz Says:

    […] Mark Shuttleworth just wrote on his blog that the next release of Ubuntu, code named Feisty Fawn, will not include Beryl or Compiz by default. […]

  8. Jonathan Carter Says:

    Hi Mark. No need to apologise! I realised that the proprietary wifi firmware would still be installed by default, I made the mistake when I said that all proprietary driver code would be excluded, and I apologise to anyone I may have mislead. I still affirm that I believe that TB and CC made the correct choice, and I still stand by everything else that I said, so my “thank you” still stands!

  9. Greg M. Johnson Says:

    Keep the drivers. Too many blokes arrogantly assume everyone has a puter hard-wired up to the internet with an ethernet cable. I once heard on a guy in remote Australia on some linux podcast complain that he needed modem drivers and couldn’t “download” them because he got his internet over the phone.

  10. Love Calculator Says:

    It’s a tough call… on one hand shipping OS that doesn’t make use of some hardware functionality (paid for by the user, btw) is just a plain case of lowering the “quality” of the product, which is not good, especially from the “let’s-gain-the-market-share” point of view.

    On the other hand, there are several “what if’s”. If Ubuntu agrees to the terms proposed by ATI/Nvidia, doesn’t it discourage them from creating FOSS drivers in the future? Doesn’t it encourage other distros to include proprietary drivers? After all, they alraedy have a lower user base, especially among less-geeky people. If the situation changes in terms of FOSS-world compliance with proprietary world’s terms (“we ship your dirty stuff”) and not in the other area (“we still don’t want to make free drivers”), is there a way back?

    I really wouldn’t like to be a person who makes a decision on this one.

  11. Stoffe Says:

    No matter how stable Compiz and Beryl is, you can hardly call them “essential” in any real sense – with very few exceptions, like zoom for a11y, it’s just a bunch of “cool” effects that actually lowers usability and cause more confusion. Add in the insane prefs especially in Beryl and you have a nightmare.

    If you want to offer a useful, modern, accelerated 3D desktop, you should sponsor/fund/whatever an effort for Compiz to go the Metisse route – Metisse isn’t all the way there yet, but boy do they have some neat ideas for actually being useful while beig impressive. A bunch of plugins like that and more (especially a11y stuff, together with Orca?), and you suddenly have a case for needing this stuff on a modern desktop. Today it’s just for teenagers doing yet another YouTube video with a spinning cube, hardly worthy of the goal of a free operating system for everyone…

    I’d love a useful accelerated desktop, but I’m not keen on Ubuntu selling out to please a bunch of bling-blinded kids.

  12. bigg Says:

    > We will work closely with the hardware vendors concerned, and part of that will be to continue to make the strong case in favour of free drivers.

    Perhaps you can elaborate on how you make a case for free drivers if you install them by default in Ubuntu. Hardware manufacturers make a very simple decision: what is our profit when having open drivers vs. proprietary drivers. If you include closed drivers, you will have no influence.

    At the very least, you could list recommended hardware on your website. You could go through the offerings of major hardware vendors and provide links to systems that can run without any proprietary blobs. HP, for instance, offers notebooks that can be run with almost only open drivers. If you want to fix bug #1, that’s a good place to start. Nothing works better than a computer with all open drivers. Plug something in and it works. Most of all, it would give hardware manufacturers an incentive to pay attention to the issue. The Ubuntu site is one of the few that has the reach to matter in this area, yet is completely silent about hardware recommendations.

    I use Debian now because Ubuntu became a little too proprietary for my taste. Having a free version of Ubuntu sounds like a good idea. It would also be nice to have a promise that such a version will always be available as long as Ubuntu exists.

    And how about providing gnewsense on the Ubuntu download page? The beauty of the GPL is that anyone can distribute gnewsense even though many members of the FSF probably have a passionate hatred for what you are doing. Microsoft could distribute gnewsense if they wanted. It can’t be a matter of bandwidth, because Ubuntu minus the proprietary is less than Ubuntu.

    You say a lot of things, but ultimately it seems you care only about bug #1, and if that requires taking Linux proprietary you don’t care. It would be nice to have your resources in the free software community, but it is not clear what are your priorities, and you are not afraid to abandon the free software community if it suits your purposes.

  13. Nick Says:

    I have two comments that are related:

    1) I’m not seeing the issue of including WinModem drivers being addressed. In my experience this is a hinderance to the spread of Ubuntu. I have multiple friends that would like to try Ubuntu but I won’t install it for them because I do not have the time to hunt around for and install WinModen drivers. What is the difference between WinModem drivers and the WiFi drivers? The result is the same… no connectivity.

    2) I’m not sure I understand the logic in not using the nVidia and ATI binary drivers as planned. Going ahead with the plan would work a lot of bugs/issues out so that when Compiz or Beryl are ready the support for them is in a better state. IMO, the open source nVidia and ATI drivers will not be ready for Feisty +1 and may not be ready for years if ever. Are there other reasons that aren’t being discussed? Or is the holiness of open source more important than Bug #1?

    Mark Shuttleworth says:

    I would like to see the winmodem issue addressed, and agree that it would be important to do properly. I think the blocker there has been a lack of anyone in our community with real insight into the drivers and configuration issues, and the ability to produce packages that will Just Work. If you can offer to take the lead on that, bravissimo! Hope on #ubuntu-devel and make yourself heard.

  14. Robert Devi Says:


    While I agree that open source should always be chosen as default, even if it means stuff like Beryl/Compiz is made optional (although easy to install), keep in mind that Beryl/Compiz is not all bling and no substance. There are three areas when it helps usability:

    1) Accessibility: Being able to zoom the interface is crucial for people who have visual impairments. It’s also important for graphics artists to polish up fine touches. Beryl/Compiz also has plugins that help increase or reduce contrast or invert the colour and this can help people with other visual impairments.

    2) The cube/plane: Yeah, I don’t like it either (virtual desktops are a lot faster), but for many newbies it *is* more intuitive (though I don’t know why). My father is a very spatial person. He’s smart, but he doesn’t get minimizing application and simply moves them out off to the side. Finding things is not always easy (since more is cluttering up the screen), but it’s the way that’s more intuitive for him. I believe the cube/plane would make a whole lot of sense to him since it’s inherently spatial and he would be able to work more efficiently, especially if you add on the recent extension that allows you to see all “rooms” at once and easily move windows between them.

    3) Expose: Even for spatial people who don’t get the cube/plane, Expose (aka Scale) comes to the rescue. Instead of hunting though a half dozen windows that have been moved to the side, you can quickly see them all and return things to normal quickly.

  15. HispaGeek » Archivo del weblog » Ubuntu 7.04 no integrará drivers propietarios Says:

    […] ACTUALIZACIÓN: Mark Shuttleworth anuncia en su blog que la razón por la que han retirado los drivers propietarios de las tarjetas gráficas ha sido por la que especulábamos: no es necesaria la aceleración gráfica si no se va a utilizar, como resulta obvio. […]

  16. Laurent GUERBY Says:

    Good decision IMHO.

    On the short run, rather than funding development of drivers for uncooperative graphic card vendors (like nvidia), I’d suggest polishing drivers and setup for cooperative graphic card vendor, in this case Intel newer offerings. See canonical case 00001158 for details of one point needing polishing.

    And it would be better to get the good old microphone working out of the box on many more hardware, than having flashy 3D desktop :).

  17. Weeber Says:

    mmm, so Feisty+1 will ship Beryl/Compiz by default eh? This is new for me. But i think i missed the point. You will install it by default in Feisty+1 or include in the CD/DVD. Remember that Beryl/Compiz doesn’t work “out of the box” properly without a tick and the majority of the PCs out there aren’t ready for this… I will look forward to it.

  18. Rob P. Says:

    Dear Mr. Shuttleworth,
    I wanted to begin by saying thanks for having created Ubuntu. When RedHat decided that I ought to be obliged to pay them for support rather than rely on my own initiative to support my machines I had to look around for a relationship which was less abusive. I began using Debian and as Ubuntu came on line I started using that.
    My impression, reading your reason for rescinding the inclusion of proprietary video drivers in the next version of Ubuntu, is that it is largely only for logistical reasons that you are not including them. As you say your position is that the Ubuntu policy is to “include proprietary drivers were these are required to enable essential hardware functionality”. Obviously this is a slippery slope and it essentially removes the decision of inclusion from the Ubuntu community. Any hardware manufacturer can produce a piece of hardware, make it largely impossible to reverse engineer, and your policy would suggest that you are obliged to extend their abuse to the Ubuntu community by including their proprietary drivers in order to make their hardware usable within Ubuntu. Among other things this allows the hardware manufacturer to make their hardware obsolete within Ubuntu by ceasing to produce hardware drivers compatible with Linux. The environmental cost to our planet by such profit driven short-sightedness can be seen in any local landfill. That we are willing to consider binary blobs just to have 3D effects on a desktop shows that essentially there is no case that could be reasonably be denied on the basis of principle to restrict closed drivers. Oddly it is at a time where one can readily obtain hardware from Intel or Via that would actually support these effects and the principles of free software simultaneously where Ubuntu is showing the least resolve. In the near future AMD will be making the decision whether to open source drivers for its onchip ATI-inspired GPU’s. Do we really want to undermine there decision to do the right thing? Do we really want whole interesting parts of our CPUs to be not only untinkerable but to require disposal at the whim of AMD? If AMD decides to have open source drivers for its GPU’s how long does anyone think nVidia could seriously hang on without them. We’re at a tipping point and this issue is therefore important.
    This is an issue about priniciple not technical expedience. RedHat’s decision to become coercive about their support burned them in the long run and gave an opportunity for Ubuntu to exist. Ubuntu can likewise easily burn its bridges. The problem is simply that free software is all about principle. Some past American president quipped that if a person has a choice between voting for a Republican and a Republican sounding Democrat, they will always choose the Republican. Similarly if communities like ours stop supporting our principles out of expedience we’ll always lose to those who are only about expedience. (I should say I’m neither a Democrat or a Republican – not even an American, this is only for illustration.) The point is that even if some people in the Ubuntu community think that expedience should trump principle, they have to play the hand they are dealt. Giving in to abuse by hardware manufacturers may be a non-issue to the average Microsoft user, but it is hardly irrelevant to the average Ubuntu user. My brother has already said that he’ll switch back to Debian if these policies go ahead. He’s more ethical than I am but in the end I’d likely have to go to. And then the people who are just marginally less ethical than I am who I tirelessly encourage to use Ubuntu would have to go to … You see my point. I’ve already had to do this once.
    In the end I guess it is my hope that your response that I took to be based largely on expedience was not the case in reality. I actually suspect that you are mulling this over quite a bit but that to respond saying the delay was based on ethics wasn’t really an option in case you choose the inclusion of these video drivers in the future. I encourage you to continue with the winning option that has served you and me and the Ubuntu community well so far.
    Thanks for the space to write. I don’t really expect you to post this (or even to read it!) It was cathartic for me to write it though.

  19. Stoffe Says:


    I did say “with very few exceptions”, and I stand by that – it’s not all, but mostly bling and no substance. Even though you list a few useful things, like the zoom I also mention, those seem more like accidents than actually trying to do something useful. All the effort in those projects seem to go into making blended movies play on the corner of a cube, making windows wobble and lately making windows burn when minimized.

    Don’t get me wrong, the techniques and the work put into it as such is awesome, just too bad it’s 99% about making the desktop more, not less, confusing to use.

    What I think is sad is that if especially Beryl had put the same amount of energy into:
    a) making thoughtful, useful changes for a11y or other usability, maybe Metisse-like features, maybe others I can’t imagine,
    b) improving stability and
    c) sanitizing preferences,
    we could have had a desktop years ahead of anything else out there by now.

    The skill and the technology is there, but there just isn’t any interest in anything but burning windows. That’s why I think those features you mentioned are largely accidents on the way as well; zoom is natural as it’s a basic OpenGL operation, the cube wasn’t meant to help anyone (but great that it does) and expose is just a “look Linux has this too”, although useful. There just isn’t any work being put into taking it further in that direction. I find that sad, but not as sad as people trying to say that the Compiz/Beryl of today is either essential or even better than plain metacity *as a whole*.

    It could be so much, and currently is so very little. But somehow these projects have gotten their own Steve Jobs-like reailty distortion fields and even normally balanced people seem to think that this is somehow essential because the other OS’s already do acceleration without thought to what this great technology should actually do for the *user*. That’s really weird – I mean, Ubuntu was created to give a free, usable OS to everyone in the world, and now it seems the goal is give rich western kids with fresh hardware more to brag about in front of their Vista using friends. Say it ain’t so. 🙂

    Just to make it perfectly clear: not opposed to Compiz. Not opposed to Beryl. Not opposed to *interim* binary drivers for a good cause. Not opposed to being pragmatic. Just wishing someone with the power to do so would help shape these projects into something *users* would have, well *use* for. And keep the bling for the kids to activate, by all means, just don’t pretend it’s essential.

  20. Damian Says:

    Personally, where 3d drivers are concerned, I don’t care *where* they come from in regard to the right here, right now. I do care that they are available, and work. I use nvidia video cards, and beryl with kde (with great success I should add). My servers don’t need these fancy things, so there is no concern for me there.

    My non-business clients also don’t care where the video drivers come from, and also care very much that they work. These are home users I’ve converted to Ubuntu/Kubuntu. There is a big difference running a NON-beryl/comp desktop using the X nv driver, versus the nvidia native driver. Big.. very very big. It is THE final thing that has convinced many of my clients. This is specific to Ubuntu (and to be correct, for folks like me Debian as well), because it’s super easy. If the user has to think about it, they are very likely to reject it.. so thank you Ubuntu for helping me keep my very smart users, relatively “dumb” and most importantly happy. 🙂

    In the long term, I care very much where my video drivers come from. For groups/communities/and especially companies to help out with a bit or five of lean on the video device manufacturers is/will be/has been a good thing.

    I hope you can find a way to fight the good fight, and walk the golden path.. and still support our need (yes, really, NEED at this point) to keep up with the Jones’s. (I do realize that while Ubuntu may not provide the packages in Feisty, there will still be packages available *somewhere*, for which I have someone I will need to thank).

    *smile*.. I’m hardly worried.

    Mark, keep up the great work.. thanks man!

    ~sleepy damian

  21. Feisty Fawn não virá com drivers proprietários de vídeo instalados por deafult « asf@web Says:

    […] Clarification on Feisty’s proprietary drivers – Blog do Mark Shuttleworth […]

  22. Alexandre Oliva Says:

    Good news on removing non-Free drivers, great use of the fifth freedom!

    I wish you success in your efforts on a 100% Free Software distribution, on getting hardware vendor support, on supporting the development of Free drivers, and on helping defeat software patents. These are all critical issues for freedom.

    Mark Shuttleworth says:

    Alexandre, I’m afraid we haven’t removed the drivers, simply decided that we won’t add Compiz or Beryl by default in Feisty and therefor have no need to turn them on by default. This is likely, but not certain, to change in Feisty+1.

  23. Treviño Says:

    We always talk about nvidia and nouveau… But what about radeon free ATi Driver?!
    I’m using it with AiGLX since edgy release with Beryl and it rocks, btw it has just many problems (most with Xv videos + effects and others 3d apps) and it doesn’t support newer cards (for 3d I mean) nor some shader effects yet.

    So, considering that nvidia users have great closed drivers and that the nouveau project now has all the things he needed to grow greatly (first of all money), why not concentrating a little on Radeon Open driver!? There are just few developers improving it (i always read the git related rss), but it whould need much.

    Remember, the Nvidia problem is that there aren’t good Open drivers, the ATi problem is that we haven’t neither a good closed driver neither a good open one (also if the free one works greatly with composite managers).

    Let’s move on it!

  24. tecosystems » links for 2007-02-15 Says:

    […] Mark Shuttleworth » Blog Archive » Clarification on Feisty’s proprietary drivers “We have not been forceful enough about our policy on software patents and other, similar threats to software freedom. As a result, we have joined FFII and other organisations that are fighting software patents…” – Luis should be pleased (tags: Ubuntu patents FFII EFF MarkShuttleworth freedom) […]

  25. Ped Says:

    I think the default Ubuntu should never include proprietary graphics drivers.
    Easy to install afterwards? Yes, why not, it will save me some effort too.
    But the default install should send clear message to hardware vendors. And the message should be “Closed source does not work good for our/your customers and we (Ubuntu) decide.” No exceptions.
    I think this is much more important than 3D desktop.

    The recommended hardware page on is IMHO great idea. When I will want to buy new HW, I will simply check what peripherals will work with fully open source drivers, and there we go. HW vendors (those with OSS drivers that is) will be very happy about it too, I’m sure.

  26. Las Noyas de Taran Says:

    […] Todo esto mejor explicado, y mucho más, en la fuente. Sin embargo desde ese artículo se ha sabido que se ha desechado la idea de meter beryl o compiz por defecto, ya que por lo visto no ven ninguna de las dos opciones suficientemente maduras, así que tampoco se preinstalarán los drivers propietarios de las tarjetas gráficas. Podéis leer más en el blog de Mark Shuttleworth. Otro punto importante es el acuerdo entre Ubuntu y Linspire, que a los usuarios de esta distribución de Linux nos afectará dándonos la posibilidad de usar CNR (Click and Run), para instalar codecs y programas con un solo click. […]

  27. Luis Villa’s Blog » Canonical: putting money where mouth is, credit where credit is due, all that. Says:

    […] I intended to blog about this when I saw the FFII news last week, but school got in the way. Anyway, Mark having expanded on it a bit gives me another chance. I’m pleased that Ubuntu/Canonical are getting more active on the patent front, announcing that they’ll actively support Nouveau, and helping create a Free Ubuntu. These are good steps, and I’m glad Ubuntu is taking them. In particular, the idea of directly funding European lobbying on the patent issue is a good one (as distasteful as lobbying is), and I think it would be a great way for other participants in the game to make it clear that they’re on the right page. Similarly, the decision to put off proprietary drivers for six months, while not as permanent/strong as I would hope, gives Nouveau and other such driver projects some more breathing room, and puts a slight bit of additional pressure on Nvidia and ATI to think about following Intel’s lead and free all their drivers. I’m still uncomfortable with a lot of what Canonical/Ubuntu does in this space (apparent sense that gratis is more important than libre, bragging when moving people from libre tools to gratis ones) but we should all give them huge thanks and due credit for taking this particular important step in the right direction. […]

  28. theOlster Says:

    Well, the general consensus in the comments seems to be that proprietary graphics drivers should not be included in Feisty.

    I’ve been using Linux on and off for four years (FC3, FC4, Ubuntu 5.10, FC5, and now I’m trying Edgy) and I am a NORMAL user. I want to use the internet, office, google earth, mail, msn, skype, etc – ie. USE my computer – rather than program it. I really look forward to the time when I can install it on a machine thats four years old now, and NOT have to spend 6 hours messing around with drivers, hotpluging, vi /etc/this, vi /etc/that to get it to work. Thats so Windows 95.

    About six months ago I bought an Apple MacBook as my weapon of choice because I refuse to breath in the same room as a machine running Vista (I spit on DRM), but cannot see a decent (ie one that works out of the box for non-sysadmins) Linux distro being released in the next 3 years or so.

    If you Linux guys seriously want to see me and other normal users upgrading from XP to Ubuntu you need to start considering releasing a version of your distro where everything just works. The irony is Open Source has done most of the hard work and are nearly there, but by definition commercial everyday hardware IS proprietary and your distro should include proprietary drivers where no accurate open source alternatives exist. At the moment you seem to be “cutting off your nose to spite your face…”.

    I’ve heard the argument that by including closed source drivers in a distro will inhibit the opportunity for open source drivers to be developed. Well maybe, maybe not, but using that argument will mean that many normal users will never switch. Lets look to the future, in three years time we have all the open source drivers available for todays hardware, but if I decide to nip down to PC World and buy a new wireless driver I might as will pick up a version of Vista too because it’ll never work in Linux. I bought my Nvidia FX5600 card about four years ago, and there still aren’t any open source 3d drivers for Linux that are stable and being shipped with a Ubuntu…?

    My comments may seem harsh, but I really want to start encouraging other normal users to switch and can’t – given the Vista release is this a prime time conversion opportunity down the drain? Or will the Apple/Microsoft OS win over all…?

  29. Belze’s » Archivio Blog » Alberto Milone aggiorna i pacchetti Says:

    […] Ultimamente si è scaldato il dibattito che prende in esame l’utilizzo di driver proprietari sulla prossima release di Ubuntu, la Feisty Fawn. Io non intendo addentrarmi in discussioni sulle quali persone ben più competenti di me hanno espresso il loro parere, con orientamenti differenti. Io posso solo dire che sono un utente Nvidia che guarda con grande attenzione al progetto Nouveau, per la creazione di driver open per le schede Nvidia. Al momento però anche io, come gran parte degli utenti del pinguino, utilizzo driver proprietari per l’accelerazione grafica anche se non uso orpelli come Compiz o Beryl. Effettivamente l’accelerazione grafica è più di optional, per diversi motivi, e il lavoro che Alberto Milone svolge è di basilare importanza per l’installazione dei driver che rendono possibile l’accelerazione grafica, specie su Nvidia. […]

  30. ziadoz Says:

    I don’t understand why Ubuntu needs Compiz or Beryl, they add absolutely nothing. For all the stick people are giving Windows Vista for being nothing but ‘bling’ at least the majority of it is aimed at improving usability (successfully I might add). I see very little of this in Beryl or Compiz. Beryl is overloaded with useless options which will confuse the average user. And who needs desktop cubes and wobbling windows? Motion sickness is best experienced on a boat I say!

    Ubuntu needs to focus on improving the out-of-the-box experience right now. Personally I have no problem with so called ‘dirty’ formats or drivers. Removing them completely is a noble goal for sure, but just like world peace, try as you may its a utopia, its never going to be a reality (sadly). People will want to play their mp3s, watch their DVDs, browse Flash based websites, watch Quicktime trailers, listen to Real Player steams and so on. Trying to change peoples hard-wired habits with an operating system that can’t even do most of what they expect with a few simple clicks is never going to happen.

    So I say keep improving the out-of-the-box experience until it can compete on a level with Windows and Mac OS X. Once Ubuntu has some market share it can influence the market from there. Making short term comprimises to achieve long term goals do not make you a hypocrite, it makes you a realist.

  31. Lemi4 aka. fERDI:) Says:

    If we are seeking “free software applications that depend on 3D functionality”, and 3D games are killer applications, I can think of one good reason to include proprietary 3D drivers with Ubuntu right now: Freespace.

    Freespace was hailed best Space Sim of the Year 1998 by Gamespot and other gaming sites (and its sequel followed suit in 1999). I share the opinion of many in saying that it was the last great fantasy space sim; and it is still alive in the form of the Freespace Source Code Project. Its not free software, but communities like the Freespace SCP can definitely lead to Free Software games which can be considered by the hard-core twitch-gaming community to be “cool”.

    And not just Freespace either; think of the GPL-ed Quake III engine, which I’m sure . And I’m sure others more experienced than I can name several potential 3D games currently in development. If these indie-game hackers can use default-install Ubuntu as a platform to release game distributions upon, I’m sure the cool kids would wholeheartedly recommend Ubuntu as the default gaming platform for their gaming buddies.

    And maybe commercial publishing houses would follow soon after. Maybe the more unconventional ones first, like Rockstar games?

  32. Lemi4 aka. fERDI:) Says:

    “And I’m sure others more experienced than I can name several [more] potential 3D games…”

    In fact, Jonathan Carter has mentioned several.

  33. freelabs @ » Blog Archive » Dal Techical Board di Ubuntu… Says:

    […] Shuttleworth clarifies Ubuntu’s stance on proprietary driversTechnical Board decisions (Matt Zimmerman)Clarification on Feisty’s proprietary drivers […]

  34. Rob P. Says:

    Mr. Shuttleworth,
    While much of the discussion (including my own early comment) may seem negative, it would be worth pointing out that positive avenues are available to Ubuntu which can give its users solid open source hardware support and at the same time place pressure on hardware manufacturers to do the right thing and create open source drivers. The bottleneck in taking over the desktop market is the fact that consumers just want things on the machines they buy to work. This is where the pressure from the market is driving what many of us consider a poor decision, the inclusion of closed binary drivers. The objective that Ubuntu needs to take here is not to capitulate but rather to address the market concern. It could do so by getting complete hardware systems sold with Ubuntu installed which only require open-source drivers. This already happens at a small-scale level and Ubuntu has made overtures to companies like SUN to provide such systems. The problem is that the large scale players in the market (such as Dell) can’t properly provide linux solutions for the commodity desktop market because of pressure from Microsoft. On the other hand, established Unix distributors such as IBM, Sun, and HP either have similar pressure from Microsoft or, as in the case of SUN, have rival software (Solaris) or even hardware which they ultimately don’t want to be commoditized. What is required then is for Ubuntu to work with some large player who doesn’t already have a vested interest in the Microsoft desktop and doesn’t have some alterior motive, such as the retention of non-commodity hardware or software-base, to provide fully-supported commodity hardware with Ubuntu. Wal-Mart has tried to sell linux boxes, but it doesn’t have the internal structure to support such a program, especially from business. The obvious choice would be for Google to start selling commodity hardware with Ubuntu. They have the expertise and the stature to pull it off. Furthermore their vested interest is taking a bite out of Microsoft’s marketshare and can run this enterprise at a loss, much like Sun’s release of the OpenOffice code. Google’s real agenda would be to break Microsoft’s control over Dell (and other desktop/laptop sellers) so that the latter would start selling certified commodity hardware with Linux. (We already saw Dell start to feel the effect of market forces when they had to start selling AMD chips despite their contracts with Intel.) In any event the upshot would be that if Google (or some other partner company) started doing this and only sold hardware supported by open source drivers the consumer market could easily be provided for. I could buy an inexpensive machine that just worked without paying the Microsoft tax from a reliable dealer. On the other hand hardware manufacturers would feel real pressure to abandon the pressure from Microsoft and start providing providing open source drivers. There are ethical alternatives that can forward our goals in a meaningful way. If we reject the unethical ones out of hand it may give us some space to think of them.
    Thanks again,

  35. Ubuntu-blogi » Arkisto » Uutisia ja lainauksia, viikko 7/2007 Says:

    […] Tiedote Herd4:n julkaisusta Kuvia Herd4:stä Tiedote päätöksistä Mark Shuttleworth päätöksistä […]

  36. Mfonobong Nsehe Says:

    Congratulations, Mark. Turner Magazine Online has just ranked you among the world’s 40 most influential people under 40. Bravo… and keep up with the free software thing. I wish Larry Ellison was like you. You can contact me via mail on


  37. lyceum Says:

    I was a bit worried when I heard that CNR would be in Ubuntu that the disro I call home was just becoming too Microsoft-like just to fix bug #1. I was also sad to see that the 3D affects would not be included. However, your reasons are sound, and seeing that there will be Ubuntu (or Canonical) control over the CNR going into the ‘butnu’s standard makes sense. I am also glad to see a GnUbutnu coming out. This really is the distro for the masses. I just hope Ubuntu doesn’t become the next Buskin Robins, 31 flavors of ‘buntu. 🙂 But, if that is what is NEEDED, then by all means…

    Keeping the reason for doing things is key, not just doining something to see it happen. Mark, you have proven once again why Ubuntu is number 1. It is not about what you do, but why you do it, and the reasons, thus far, are dead on!

  38. Michael Dolan Dot Com » Ubuntu free vs proprietary drivers debate (seems to have) reached conclusion Says:

    […] There was a spur of “confusion” after I thought the original discussion was “over”… but apparently the debate raged on. I see now that there has been clarification by Mark and a matching Tech Board decision. […]

  39. Michael Grove Says:

    Beyond drivers, Ubuntu faces the challenge of manageability – keeping systems running properly. This is particularly true in the developing world where the knowledge of Linux, Debian, and systems is limited. There is a golden opportunity for Ubuntu to capture the high ground as no OS vendor offers easy to use remote systems management that works across a broad array of Linux and Windows distributions. If you believe Henry Chesbough, and I do, the competitive game is shifting from technology and services to business architectures and models – see his new book, Open Business Models. He points out Ryan Air as a profitable newbe in the airline world where passengers can fly for a Euro plus fees. (That caught my eye and behold it is true. My family of 4 is flying from Marseilles to Rome and back in June for about $200 in total. How do they make money? Change in business model where remote airports like Marseilles pays Ryan for passengers.) So, why should this matter for Ubuntu? Because if Ubuntu can solve end user customer problems by distributing the knowhow and solution repository of experts, bingo, there is a powerful revenue model that follows Metcalfe Economics – the more that play, the better it pays for those who play.

  40. ][ stefano maffulli » links for 2007-02-21 Says:

    […] Clarification on Feisty’s proprietary drivers Shuttleworth chiarisce la posizione di Ubuntu e driver proprietari (tags: ubuntu drivers hardware gnu/linux freedom Shuttleworth patents) […]

  41. Mark Carey Says:

    Appears Fiesty does not enable CONFIG_DEBUG_FS in kernel, can this be enabled so every fiesty system can be used for mimo tracing to help nouveau?

    See this bug on launchpad for more info

    Mark Shuttleworth days:

    I discussed this with Ben Collins, who leads the kernel team in Ubuntu, who says:

    Yeah, I'll have it enabled for post-beta (which should mean it will be
    available in RC).

    So, you’re in luck!

  42. Balaji Ramasubramanian Says:

    I am an Edgy Eft user and would like to get the following things cleared up before I make a decision on Fiesty Fawn. Actually, I do not plan to install Fiesty till it is deemed stable.

    1. First is it a stable way to upgrade to Fiesty than to do a fresh install. I hate doing the latter since I have a lot of my own softwares and preferences setup on the shell that I would not want to be changed. I have also installed some softwares that don’t come along with the Ubuntu repos. Some are sources compiled (Berkeley SPICE and Magic) on my laptop and the others are installed using the Autopackage feature. (
    2. I wanted to know what all hardware support that was available in Edgy Eft are known to break in Fiesty. This is critical because I am using nVIDIA drivers for my X, and am having to use the ndiswrapper utility to rip the Windows compatible Broadcomm 43xx driver. I don’t want support for these to break.
    3. Printer and scanner support is next. I would like to make sure my Office suite does not get handicapped.
    4. Support for Cameras, USB disks, Media cards etc. Of these I find that Edgy has support for only the first two and the Media cards are simply unusable till now. I would like to have support for this feature since I would want to share photos and videos between my devices and laptop in an easier manner. I was traveling once and found that I could not transfer the photos on my camera to my laptop, because I forgot the get the mounting station. If support/drivers for the Media card reader (my laptop has all SD, xD and MD card readers) is included it will be a great step towards better usability.
    5. People love sound – it feels like the computer is talking to you – and hate to find it not working well on their machines. I have personally installed Ubuntu on many neighbors’ machines convincing them of how much better than Windows it is, but my credibility goes for a toss if sound does not come up immediately. Also, I can’t switch between my laptop speakers and headphones easily. The support for this in Windows is just a killer. Finally, I have not been able to use my laptop’s microphone ever since I migrated to Ubuntu. I would like to have support for this in the next version.
    6. Bluetooth and IR are a set of peripherals that must be supported right out of the box. I had to practically work my way out to fix the Bluetooth. I find my IR non-responsive, but it worked like a piece of cake in Windows.

    In general, I like Ubuntu, for various reasons, and most important of all, my research work is supported majorly by Linux. I donated some money for Ubuntu, but wanted to mention what all features I would want in next releases. Being an engineer myself, I write simple Perl scripts to do certain simple tasks, but avoid writing long pieces of C code. I would like to contribute too, but would be able to do so much better if a good deal of support for making packages is found.

    If all these bugs are resolved, we would have lesser trouble tackling Bug #1. On the whole, Ubuntu is great, but it needs to work on hardware compatibility a lot.

  43. » Blog Archive » Le prochain Ubuntu sera un « Gibbon Glouton» Says:

    […] En d’autres termes, tout comme il existe déjà Kubuntu, Xubuntu ou encore Edubuntu, Gutsy Gibbon devrait être décliné en une version qui sera à même de satisfaire les tenants d’une « interprétation super-stricte du terme “libre” dans “logiciel libre” ». Cette mouture d’Ubuntu devrait voir le jour en collaboration avec GNewSense, une distribution entièrement libre elle-même dérivée… d’Ubuntu 6.06 LTS et de Debian ! Les efforts, que Mark Shuttleworth annonçait au mois de février dernier (à la fin de la note), pour produire une version d’Ubuntu plus dans l’esprit de la FSF semblent donc avoir aboutis, et on ne peut que s’en réjouir. […]

  44. Ubuntu Daily » Blog Archive » Proprietary video drivers not default in Feisty Says:

    […] Read more in the initial announcement and a clarifying blog entry from Mark Shuttleworth. […]

  45. Luis Villa’s Blog / notes on my adventures in fedora-land Says:

    […] I’ve been irritated for a while by some of Mark’s positions on ‘freedom’ (slamming Red Hat for non-freeness while seriously considering binary drivers and encouraging free software projects to rely on proprietary software for development), and obviously if I’m working for Red Hat, I should eat my own dogfood. So yesterday I spent a few hours installing Fedora for the first time… well, since roughly around when I ate my shorts. (NB: I can’t find a link or picture of that; if someone still has them, I’d like a copy.) […]

  46. Mark Shuttleworth gets quote mined « Limulus Says:

    […] “we have joined FFII and other organisations that are fighting software patents“ […]

  47. LINUX SYSADMIN - Skype Technologies OÜ Says:

    […] Mark Shuttleworth » Blog Archive » Clarification on Feisty’s … […]