The consequences of following freedom versus convenience.

Fedora Core 5 GNU/Linux does not come with the latest version of the X11 GUI display software, software virtually everyone using this system runs and depends on for drawing a graphical display. Ante Karamatić doesn’t agree with the decision and asks

Fedora, remeber RMS and the GNU movment? Do you recall what OpenSource is?

The FSF is quite clear that the free software movement and the younger open source movement are not the same. For years they’ve published an essay about this and its consequences. Read or get a copy of the essay in “Free Software, Free Society: Selected Essays of Richard M. Stallman”.

As for how much should one accomodate proprietary software, Canonical has made their choice very clear.

Not only does Ubuntu ship proprietary software, Ubuntu recently showcased a relationship with Opera in a statement in which Ubuntu and Opera profoundly misunderstand or misrepresent software freedom by discussing price instead. Ubuntu also recently encouraged users to install non-free codecs. Hence, if we’re to look at this in terms of paying a price for adhering to freedom, as this thread suggests, Ubuntu has not put themselves in a position where they can speak on this issue. It’s not wrong to refuse to distribute non-free software; non-free software prohibits things both movements are against (be it treating one’s neighbor well or performing maintenance). People distribute and use non-free software because they value convenience above freedom (assuming they know of software freedom; it’s safe they know about convenience because they’re taught that all the time).

At the same time, I can understand this from the perspective Jeff Waugh discussed on Karamatić’s blog—it is unwise to change to a new major release of a significant program in the middle of a distribution cycle. There are a lot of maintenance details to take care of between major revisions; this is too much work to do inside of one release cycle. I think that it is reasonable to choose not to upgrade something as complicated as X11 inside a distribution cycle. However Karamatić maintains that Fedora Core isn’t shipping Xorg 7.1 [be]cause proprietary drivers don’t support Xorg 7.1. In other words, the argument isn’t maintenance related. Ironically, Ubuntu’s choice to distribute (and thus encourage the use of) non-free software makes it harder to diagnose problems where that software is installed.