It seems particularly relevant that I read today about (yet another) flamewar between sections of the open source community – this time around its the turn of Ubuntu and Fedora users.
The Ubuntu philosophy of “lets load the kernel with closed source binary blobs that are impossible to debug” has never sat easy with me for stability and political reasons. Sure, I have to run madwifi drivers for the atheros chipset which controls my wifi card. But that is it and this is far from perfect, failing to resume from suspend until the module is reloaded. I prefer the route of choosing what you wish to load from third party repositories and thereby starting from a free base to adding non-free software to ease the adoption of Linux. A reviewer (I refuse to link to the blog) trashed Fedora on the basis it was hard to configure and didn’t support flash and accelerated graphics out of the box. Dave Jones, a Red Hat kernel hacker, was quick to post a rather weary response.
Ubuntu is charging forward with this approach, proposing to include nvidia and ati drivers in Feisty Fawn, the next version due in April 2007. What is more worrying is that some of the lugradio guys, usually the voice of reasoned debate, seem willing to follow the path and roll over and accept that Linux will never succeed unless people have wobbly windows and can play mp3’s straight away.
Both the nvidia and ati drivers are buggy and do not play well with accelerated X in any circumstance I have put them through. Last night I had the pleasure of attempting to get AIGLX working on a colleague’s computer running Fedora Core 6 from a fresh install and had to give up in the end, returning to regular X, despite the fact that the new 9 series drivers support GLX_EXT_texture_from_pixmap. Of course, the open source ati drivers work perfectly on my laptop.
I think the community is getting to a point of separation, where distributions such as Ubuntu (no, it is not the only one!) follow the path of least resistance and others stay true to the ideal that all software should be open, accessible and free to all in every sense of the word. Perhaps it is the fact that Vista is on the horizon and now is the last chance to show the world the alternative before it gets caught up – I dont believe this is the case. I believe Vista will be riddled with bugs, lack any definitive and convincing argument for upgrade and I hope that the public wont swallow it. Of course, since it comes installed on computers by default, perhaps this is too much to ask. I’m just looking forward to Fedora Core 7.