“It was reported this week that Novell has banned all proprietary software from their Linux offerings.Kevin Carmony discusses this issue.”
Novell only banned proprietary kernel drivers, such as ATi and NVIDIA’s graphics drivers, because the GPL doesn’t allow proprietary code to be linked to GPLed code, not proprietary software in general.
Also, in the case of the proprietary graphics drivers, they have a new third party driver process that makes it easy for the user to install those if he wishes to do so.
Personally, I think there are two big advantages of this.
1. Novell won’t get in trouble with kernel hackers accusing them of violating their copyrights.
2. This new way of packaging drivers that Novell has created, is a lot more efficient, and also a lot more user friendly, as it provides the user an easy way to install third party drivers that may be released after Novell releases a version of SUSE Linux. They used to have a kernel-*-nongpl package that contained a bunch of DSL and modem drivers, but if an updated version was needed for a newer hardware revision, the user was forced to install it the old manual way, which is not every easy if you are not familiar with Linux and the commandline in general, same was the case with the NVIDIA driver, if you wanted to use the latest version, you had to use NVIDIA’s commandline installation procedure, which is not that hard, but wasn’t very intuitive from a Windows user’s point of view. Today, if you wanna install either ATi’s or NVDIA’s graphics driver on SUSE Linux 10.1 or newer, you just add the corresponding repository to the package manager you’re using (http://www2.ati.com or http://download.nvidia.com/novell) install a few packages and you’re done! 🙂
Appearantly, Mr. Carmony, fails to realize this, Novell has NOT banned proprietary software in general, only proprietary kernel drivers, as distribution of those along with the distribution would be a GPL violation, which he may want to consider for his own Linspire and Freespire distributions, as non-Free kernel modules, increasingly, are something a lot of kernel hackers feels are violating their copyright.
Novell does distribute proprietary software with their latest enterprise desktop product, SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop 10, such as Flash, RealPlayer (Needed to provide the user with legal MP3 playback), Acrobat Reader, Sun Java, and a few other things.
I know a lot of people will whine about this, but why is it so bad to download third party drivers for Linux, when it’s perfectly fine for Windows?
Also, I’d argue that once you know how to install ATi’s or NVIDIA’s driver on SUSE Linux, you’ll find it substatially easier than on Windows, as it will automatically get updated as new versions are released through the standard update process.
One last thing I wanna mention, this is old news, Novell dropped distribution of proprietary drivers when they began the development of SUSE Linux 10.1, the reason it’s “news” is because that change in policy has on now affected their enterprise products, as SUSE Linux 10.1 is the base of SUSE Linux Enterprise Server/Desktop 10.