Fedora's way forward

n0dalus n0dalus+redhat at gmail.com
Tue Mar 28 10:27:28 UTC 2006

On 3/28/06, Eric S. Raymond <esr at thyrsus.com> wrote:
> First, a relatively minor issue that is nevertheless quite annoying.
> It's the Fedora distribution art, the images in Anaconda and the
> Fedora-customized graphics in the admin tools and elsewhere.  It has
> never been much better than mediocre, and in FC5 it hits a new low
> with backgrounds that look like a Teletubby hocked loogies into a
> dish full of soap scum.  And whose bright idea, I have to wonder, was
> it to abandon the attractive and recognizable Fedora icon for
> something that's...not a fedora?

I know there are others that agree with this and while I don't mind a
new look for this release, I would like to see some more
"professional" artwork for FC6.

> But the art problem pales compared to the issue that everyone has been
> ducking, which is Fedora's support for DVDs and proprietary audio and
> video and web-streaming formats and Java applets. That is to say, its
> crummy-to-nonexistent-to-actually-toxic support.  The tools in FC5
> weren't better than they were in FC3/FC4; after installing the
> critical bits from livna, they were *worse*. Totem tossed its cookies
> with a cryptic pop-up error; xine white-screened under one card and
> actually crashed my X under another!

Most of livna's packages and packages in extras, to my knowledge, have
just been recompiled for FC5, but a lot of functionality broken in the
transition hasn't been fixed. Once the maintainers for these packages
can spend some time ironing out any new bugs, everything will run at
least as well as it did on FC4.

Maybe I'm missing the Fedora Project's goals, but I felt the goal was
to provide a system of completely free* software -- not to make an
operating system that suits everyone and makes everyone want to use
Fedora instead.

* Free in the senses of price, license, source and non-trademark-issue
redistribution rights

I personally hope that MPEG (2,3,4,etc) and other proprietary formats
will remain out of Fedora until there are no patent/IP issues with it.
I am still concerned that Fedora decided, without any justification to
the community that I've seen, to include wine and mono.

> Those expectations include, without any doubt, multimedia playback,
> web streaming, and never seeing the broken-puzzle-piece icon in
> Firefox more than once per media type (if that often). When those
> expectations are violated, it's not the content provider who gets
> blamed for shipping a proprietary format.  The customer interprets
> that kind of failure as a bug in the client, *and the customer is
> right*.  All the idealism in the world about Ogg and Theora and
> whatnot will not change this.

Fedora needs to explain to people better why they don't include these
things. When a page with an unsupported media type is loaded in
FireFox, it should say something about the goals of the Fedora project
and why we think that these things are not right ethically/morally. If
people still want these things they can get them at livna or one of
the other repositories.

> Let's start with the basics.  For a consumer OS to be unable to play
> MP3s and handle podcasts is just plain not acceptable, not in the
> world after iTunes.  Red Hat/Fedora's duck-and-cover on this would be
> understandable if the Fraunhofer patents blocked decoders, but
> Fraunhofer itself has only dunned for royalties on *encoders* -- thus
> Red Hat/Fedora has ceded to Fraunhofer rights it has never claimed.

Fedora is doing the right thing. If Red Hat wants to pay royalties in
order to include support for these things in RHEL, then they should do
that. However, currently, until these things are a legal non-issue, I
think the Fedora Foundation should be bound not to include it.

> So. For each format, we have one of three choices:
> 1. We can end-run the patent restrictions on the technology (say,
> by developing outside the U.S. and distributing through overseas sites
> that are wink-wink-nudge-nudge unconnected with Fedora/Red hat).

Against the goals of Fedora. If you don't like it, change distros.

> 2. We can put real resources into developing a decoder implementation
> the blocking patents don't cover, and accept the risk that the
> patent-holders will launch harassment lawsuits anyway as a cost of
> doing business.

This is really the only option, and even then is legally questionable.
However I don't personally have a problem with this approach.

> 3. We can buy the rights to the technologies we want as a straight
> commercial transaction from the patent-holder.

If you can find a patent-holder that will allow us to distribute a
freely redistributable decoder, then tell me where I can send my
money. Unfortunately, patent holders don't do this because it means
they essentially just handed over the patent.

> The community is already pursuing (1) for some formats.  If Red Hat,
> which likes to see itself as the market leader and senior commercial
> distributor, isn't willing to take a swing at (2) or (3) for the
> others, then I have to wonder what the hell having commercial Linux
> distributors is actually good for.

Red Hat sells RHEL. Fedora is controlled or will be controlled by the
Fedora Foundation which doesn't have the same commercial market leader

Some things in Fedora need to be fixed. Others are already fixed and
you are trying to break them. Keep Fedora free in all senses of the


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