Tuesday, October 09, 2007

The Next Leap for Linux - New York Times

The New York Times published a halfway-decent look at Linux from a consumer standpoint several days ago. First, the article is noteworthy in that it mentions software freedom, something very rare in mainstream media considerations of Linux:

But why would anyone want to use Linux, an open-source operating system, to run a PC? “For a lot of people,” said Jim Zemlin, executive director of the Linux Foundation, “Linux is a political idea — an idea of freedom. They don’t want to be tied to Microsoft or Apple. They want choice. To them it’s a greater cause.”

They go on to mention Dell's entry into the consumer PC and laptop market with Ubuntu, then this:

One challenge for Linux users is finding media players that work with encrypted music and DVDs. Ubuntu comes with a movie player, but it is not automatically configured to play copy-protected commercial DVDs. To watch a movie, the Linux user must install necessary codecs, or decoders.

This is wrong on two counts - one, that finding codecs is hard. Yes, it used to be, but isn't any longer. Feisty Fawn, the version of Ubuntu shipping on Dell systems, will automatically download needed codecs for most multimedia formats after some click-through warnings. Second, Windows itself doesn't come with all needed codecs, either - they are downloaded for you in a similar fashion. As for encrypted DVD's, last I checked, Windows will not play encrypted DVD's out-of-the-box either, you need to by commercial DVD viewing software for this (I'm not including the usual spate of cripple-ware on most new Windows PC's, since they are time- and/or feature-limited). At least on Ubuntu, there are clear instructions for dealing with restricted multimedia formats, none of which involve the consumer spending money (similar pages exist for Debian and Fedora, too). Decent iTunes support is perhaps the only thing lacking from Linux these days. Banshee, mentioned in the article, apparently comes close.

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