No Ubuntu Default Extras Install

The Ubuntu Technical Board has voted not to install the non-free extras package by default during a standard Ubuntu Install. This an option that, if selected, installs proprietary software including hardware drivers, media codecs and the Flash player. It has been opt-in rather than opt out since its first appearance.

When considering the issue, bear in mind that the fact that many proprietary technologies “just work” is often cited as a superiority of distributions such as Mint. Also bear in mind that Ubuntu targets the “typical desktop user” who needs things like DVD and YouTube playback. However, it's arguable that a user who is sufficiently clued up to carry out an operating system install would be able to decide if he or she needed to tick the box.

The arguments against ticking the box by default can be divided into moral, technical and legal aspects.

Moral, because some of the add-ons are either closed source or open source software (such as gstreamer0.10-plugins-bad) that raises legal questions. For one thing, as Ubuntu is so popular, including non-free software by default could arguably remove some of the incentive for developing solutions that supplant proprietary technology. For many, part of the Ubuntu mission is to encourage the adoption of not just Linux but also free software in general.

In some jurisdictions the proprietary software in the extras cannot be legally distributed or installed. As things stand, it is up to the user to research the issues and decide whether they can legally add things such as DVD and MP3 playback to their system. I suspect the legal aspect is real killer of the idea.

Some people would also complain that what the restricted extras package offers amounts to bloat that is not needed. For example, YouTube playback could be achieved without resorting to the official Flash player. A solution involving Gnash, HTML 5 or FlashVideoReplacer (which now no longer needs Flash at all) could be made to work to some extent. However, none of these solutions support the range of web sites that the official Adobe Flash player does.

In the case of web browsing, it's worth noting that, even if the the extras package has not been installed, it should be possible to install Flash by following prompts from Firefox's plugin finder. In the same vain, some media players can automatically fetch the required codecs.

In closing, it's difficult to see what the “right” decision would have been, and it's an issue that would probably have been devisive within the Linux comminity as a whole, had it been given a wider audience and greater publicity.

The IRC discussion in which the vote was taken.

The original enhancement request on the Launchpad entitled "Installer – The option to 'install third-party software' when installing Ubuntu should be selected by default (aka "make Youtube work") "


UK based freelance writer Michael Reed writes about technology, retro computing, geek culture and gender politics.


Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.

I believe...

Anonymous's picture

I am a big fan of free open source software. In fact I use Fedora, which doesn't have any closed source software by default.
However since I use Linux on my main Laptop, I do use some freeware closed source software on it. Like I do have flash installed so I can watch flash videos, and I have DVD reading software so I can watch my DVDs.
I believe you should have the freedom to chose weather or not you want to use freeware/property programs. And I also believe people should have the right to write software and share/sell only the compiled program with the world. If you want to keep the source to yourself, so be it. After all, I've never seen a restaurant that would give you not only the food but also the recipe. If that happened, then every restaurant could serve you the same exact food.

But with the recipe being

mikesd's picture

But with the recipe being released it allows the freedom of someone to make an improvement and then release that new recipe. And in the end it benefits everyone, cooks and customers alike.

That which does not kill me only postpones the inevitable.

That's true, I guess that's

Anonymous's picture

That's true, I guess that's why Linux is so great. But however what if this recipe of yours was an old family secret? I don't think you would be as quick to give it away. I think people should be able to keep their source code to themselves if they really want to. Besides, selling programs can make the programer money for use in the physical world, so if everyone gave away all their source code, they would not be able to make any money off of their software. When I grow up I think I might want to program for a living (yes, I'm 15).

So until the days of star trek come when we no longer use money, and share everything, some people might just need to keep their software code to themselves.

They used credits in Star

mikesd's picture

They used credits in Star Trek instead of cash. But none the less, people are entitled to keep their software code to themselves.

But open source and free software are not the same. Opensource is free as in speech. There are different licenses that allow you to sell and make a profit off your software. Selling Free Software is an article from FSF on selling free software. The article also points out it's free as in speech not beer. Or given your age, soda :)

That which does not kill me only postpones the inevitable.

Yes, I know the basic

Anonymous's picture

Yes, I know the basic differences between Open Source and free software.
LOL, I'll always be soda for me, as I will never drink beer because my family doesn't believe in drinking any kind of alcohol/beer.

Well the tone of your comment

mikesd's picture

Well the tone of your comment made it sound like you were putting open source and free($) in the same category. The reality of life is even with free($) software, food still has to go on the table. It would be laughable to make a license where you can't profit off written software.

That which does not kill me only postpones the inevitable.

Newbies, Google "Things to do

Anonymous's picture

Newbies, Google "Things to do after installing Linux (or Ubuntu)". End of story.

is the legal aspect real?

glowndark's picture

is the legal aspect real or relevant? particularly when enough description has been given before you click to check the box. What's the difference from installing flash inside your browser? you will be given the same description so and so anyway. Besides, the legal aspect only applies to "some" jurisdictions, not all the majority.

Who installs your distro?

Anonymouser's picture

Look, Ive went from supporting my familys Windows computers (about 12 machines beloinging to aunts and uncles and inlaw) to Linux ones.

Just like before, they can use the computer but dont ask my father in law how to install an .exe file or similar.

I have two nephews who I got into Linux and they know as much as 15yr can: theyre on their own.

But for all the rest, I am the one who does all the installing and such.

If I know how to install Kubuntu, I know that I need the extras or ill be reminded when I go to youtube the first time.
It is not a problem.

My mother, aunt, sister in law?
They dont know enough to be able to do much on their own, the extras question does NOT APPLY to those people.

My two nephews: yes.

Reasonable, but a default alternative is needed.

daemox's picture

This decision definitely makes sense. However, as others have already mentioned, I do hope they implement a free and open source solution so that Ubuntu has (at least) flash support (in some form) right out of the box (be it Gnash, LightSpark, or whatever).

This is one of the reasons I'm currently using and recommending Linux Mint over Ubuntu. It's just simpler for novices to get into, they don't instantly have to install a bunch of stuff to have the system fully functional (though, a bare install of Windows has much less than even Ubuntu ;)).

Linux Mint however, is essentially good to go from the instant it's installed.

spelling error...

Henry Yen's picture

"In the same vain," -- I think you mean "vein", not "vain"...

Why is it so difficult?

dnua's picture

Anyway all install additional packages.

Installing Extras

Anonymous's picture

The problem to the non-geek is that don't know they have to take the extra step and install the extras. They have no idea that the extras are just a couple of clicks away. They expect their system to work when it boots. And when it doesn't, they run right back to Windows.

Agreed! in the early years I

Anonymous's picture

Agreed! in the early years I did that same thing. You want Windows "converts" you have to make it work out of the box, because who wants to install an OS, just to google things to make them work. Not I!

Windows converts?

Viktor's picture

For Windows OS you pay. As a customer, you expect the software to work out of the box.
In Linux and FOSS, you get software for free. You get a whole, brilliant Operating System for free, rich with useful and fun apps.
And then: "who wants to install an OS, just to google things to make them work. Not I!"
In windows, most of the apps that you get for "free" have some sting attached (usually Firefox's search engine suffers a lot), or your email address is collected and sold, or viruses....
In Linux, none of that applies. You get a working, stable, elegant, fast, modern OS without any stings of that sort. All you need is to click a few buttons if you decide to indulge in watching flash movies. And yes, read through the (Google) manual.

When you get a present for free (a phone, or some interesting gadget), are you not going to read the manual to see how it works, what works and what not... Are you not going to try a few things out - especially if you never played with a similar toy?
Or are you going to quickly return your gift just because you couldn't figure where the USB port is?

But - make it easier to understand...

spiralx's picture

I've never understood why "free so get on with it because it will never be as good as paid-for" was ever a good excuse.

If Ubuntu can't build in equivalent software that does what Windows does, out-of-the-box, then the least they should do for newbies is provide easy-access solutions that newbies can grasp and use.

I would never recommend Ubuntu to anyone who wasn't computer-literate. Mint would be about the only Linux choice I know of that gets close to ease-of-use for the average user.


mikesd's picture

you have to click on a check box to install non-oss stuff? Big deal. openSUSE also has it this way. I'm sure Redhat does too. It's just another Ubuntu article on Linux Journal. Imagine that.

That which does not kill me only postpones the inevitable.