What’s Left in the Desktop Linux FOSS puzzle?

With Java now under the GPL, I was just thinking, what other software needs to get good strong non-patent-encumbered FOSS versions to have a fully bundled, fully free OS?

Before you even get to play with Desktop Linux you need your hardware to run. So drivers that currently sit in Ubuntu’s restricted repository definitely need FOSS analogues; then most importantly for a Desktop OS where the hardware is working but the video cards aren’t at peak performance, the ATI and nVidia drivers need to get opened up like the Intel ones did. That should help with modern gaming on Linux as well as those fun wobbly windows you get from Beryl :)

Speaking of games, it would be very nice indeed to see some of the ‘classic’ games released under a free license (as a couple of the ScummVM ones are). Maybe go to the copyright holders of various abandonware titles and pay a small ransom to free them? (e.g. we want the rights to your old games to make them freely available online; will you give them to us or at least sell them for cheap? :) A project to do that would be nice… Imagine ‘Magic Carpet’ in Ubuntu’s universe repository :-)

Then you have issues of codecs. MP3 is the most important, for legacy reasons; unfortunately I don’t see this really working out in terms of patent issues until they expire in 2010. Maybe something will happen before that. As far as other formats go, it would be nice to see audio and video online shift to the OGG formats. That would take a push at the content provider’s side though.  An interesting thought occurs to me after having initially published this post: Real might be encouraged to free-up its format at some point.  Besides Real, the only major players in terms of streaming media are Microsoft and Apple.  If they feel they’re getting squeezed out of the market, open-sourcing is a way to insulate them from that by making them universally popular.  Someone will have to make the same case to Real as to Adobe (as mentioned below)…

Next, there’s proprietary Flash. The Gnash project really has the same follow-the-leader problems Mono has (though fortunately not the patent ones!), so what needs to happen is Adobe itself needs to be convinced of the importance of using the GPL. Good luck with that ;)

Fonts have been mentioned, though there are already quite a few good ones available in Linux. A push in this regard would definitely add additional eye candy though.

That’s about all I can think of at the moment; there’s really not much left that needs a FOSS equivalent :)


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