To binary or not to binary, that is the question

A new look at an issue I've covered before. From the article:
The Ubuntu developers are in the process of deciding whether to enable binary-only drivers by default in their installation process, under certain limited circumstances. This decision process has prompted the latest wave in a conversation that's nearly as old as Linux itself. Some see this step as a compromise on the principles of freedom, and point out the numerous practical problems with binary drivers: lack of portability, dependence on the vendor to fix security flaws, dependence on the vendor to continue supporting your hardware, etc. Others take a pragmatic perspective, draw the line that Ubuntu will not cross, or point out that Ubuntu developers also care about the principles of freedom and intend to educate their users on the reasons for choosing open source drivers and hardware vendors that offer open source drivers.
Ultimately the question boils down to “What action is most likely to get us what we want?” Both the pro-binarists and the anti-binarists want more open source drivers, and both want more Linux users.

The conclusion Allison comes up with is one I agree with: One thing that does catch the attention of pretty much any company is money. Money and market share. I've mentioned before that I don't think we've reached the stage in the Linux community yet where we can demand Open Source drivers for everything. That doesn't mean we shouldn't do everything in our power to educate companies until they see the light. Having some distros take the hard line and others allow binary drivers is probably realistically the best path. It's one that hits on a core Open Source tenant; Choice is Good.

One Response to To binary or not to binary, that is the question

  1. Anonymous says:

    This is an excellent point, Jeremy. I am a living example of a case in which this decision became important. I my brother just gifted me with an ATI Radeon 9500 Pro, which is by far the best card that I've owned (as far as modern technical merits of the hardware). He included the driver disk for Microsoft Windows, which was nice. However, the machine that I've installed the hardware on does not have that operating system on it. I am running three distros of Linux on this machine. I am no rich guy, so this kind of free jump into the present is great. My only choice is to make the card function under Linux properly. 2D is great, but this card doesn't seem to behave well when you want to get more out of it. I've experienced hard lockups with X by trying to use a 3D program. So, do I try the proprietary binary drivers? Or, do I fudge around with the open source ones? Others who have gone before me haven't written down their experiences enough to lend me a hand with my current dilemma. I may have to finally ask my first question on LQ after being a member all these years!
    To kill the suspense, I have also tried the binary drivers, as my decision was to make the hardware work. If I had purchased the card, my decision would have been more geared towards what hardware has open support.

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