Fedora's way forward

chasd at silveroaks.com chasd at silveroaks.com
Wed Mar 29 22:37:42 UTC 2006

I know I'm late jumping into this thread.
I also realize I am a lurker for the most part, but I felt I should 

On 3/28/06, Eric S. Raymond <esr at thyrsus.com> wrote:
> Good thing the fourth: A combination of increased polish in various
> distro components and significant upstream developments (one biggie
> being OpenOffice 2.0) has, to my observation, inched FC across an
> important functional threshold.  My wife can use it with as little
> pain as Windows now, rather than merely tolerating the crap because
> she believes in what the Linux community is trying to do.

For some users this happened in the FC3/FC4 timeframe.

> 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.

Constructive criticism would do more.
What kind of imagery would be better, considering the same goals and 
parameters the designers were given ? Without _constructive_ criticism, 
the comments seem like something from Simon Cowell.

> 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?

The Fedora project does need to come out from the shadow of Red Hat. 
Establishing a new visual identity is an important part of that. 
Whether the new identity is hitting its goals is a different question, 
but the change needed to happen.

> And
> original BlueCurve wasn't much to cheer about compared to the
> decorative art on a Windows or (especially) a Mac -- acceptable, but
> not a competitive plus,

Personally I have a negative reaction to the Windows XP interface 
graphics, I think the FC5 interface at least as appealing. With the 
different themes available. our users are happy they have a choice to 
configure the interface, which a stock Windows install has less 
latitude and is harder to find for our users.

> That means high-quality art, art that makes people actually *want* to
> look at the screen because it's a significant aesthetic experience.

Graphics are not art. Graphics are the prostitution of art concepts and 
techniques to get a specific desired reaction for the benefit of the 
party paying for the graphics.

Successful graphics need to have goals established and the success of 
the graphics is measured against those goals. Many times looking 
"pretty" is a low priority goal for graphics. "Pretty" graphics can be 
a pleasant side benefit of successful graphics.  When considering the 
goals for graphics, it is possible for _one_ of those goals to be 
visual appeal.

> 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.

> AVI.  Quicktime.  ASF.  MPEG.  DVD playback.  Flash.  Java. These are
> *not optional* in 2006

Flash is available for x86 Linux with the same licensing terms for the 
other OS's Adobe supports. That says Adobe treats Linux on equal 
footing to other OS's, or what I could call a level playing field. Why 
should Linux get special treatment ? A stock install of Windows does 
not include Flash, although it may be bundled by an OEM hardware 

Sun's JRE is available for x86 with the same licensing as other OS's. 
Again Linux is treated the same as other OS's, not as a special 
stepchild. A stock install of Windows does not include a JRE, or if one 
is included it is Microsoft's crusty old thing that is much worse than 
the free stack provided with Fedora.

A stock install of Windows does not include DVD,  MPEG2, or MPEG4 
playback. These are provided by bundles of third party software the 
hardware manufacturer includes on top of the OS. Remember, a WMV file 
that uses a MPEG4 codec is not a standard MPEG4 file. A file that 
adheres to the MPEG4 standard is not playable with WMP as shipped by 

Even on commercial operating systems, video playback is a crapshoot. As 
a graphics professional, determining the best digital video format to 
use is a project-by-project set of trade-offs. I really don't expect it 
to be any easier with Linux. Several of our clients now lean to Flash 
video because a player exists for Linux in addition to the other big 
two commercial OS's.

If I was Michael Dell, I wouldn't be complaining about how many 
different Linux distributions there are, I would be putting money into 
developing applications that provide this "last mile" media 
functionality to Linux, and providing an OS bundle that matches the 
functionality provided by the Windows bundles they offer. It is needed, 
and there is a business opportunity to provide an out-of-the-box 
experience for Linux similar to Windows. It is my opinion that it is 
the hardware manufacturer that is to provide the solution to that gap 
<emphasis> as it does with other operating systems </emphasis> not the 
OS vendor.

To look at the media playback "deficiency" from _my_ perspective, I 
consider the absence of media players to be an advantage.

Yes, an advantage.

For the same reasons I remove the games installed by default on 
Windows, I do not want media players on company systems. I do not want 
employee time wasted viewing streaming video or audio. I don't want 
employees to watch the telly at work, and I don't want them consuming 
other media via the computer in front of them at work either. It is an 
unnecessary distraction. I also don't want the liability of digital 
media files of unknown source residing on company systems. Those 
problems are solved by removing or not providing media players.

In the home environment, that is different, however I don't care what 
someone does in their own home. It is possible that Fedora is not 
suitable for some home users who require media playback without their 
hardware OEM providing it for them in a bundle, like what happens with 
commercial OS's. It _is_ suitable in a business environment in its 
present form _because_ this media functionality is not present.

Charles Dostale
System Admin - Silver Oaks Communications

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