[nSLUG] Proprietary Software for Linux

Scott Walsh walsh at cs.dal.ca
Sun Aug 15 12:08:25 ADT 2010

I'm really torn in this issue, part of me thinks closed software is 
evil, and part of me thinks that we need some closed software to gain 
credibility. To be clear, I only think that closed software appeals to 
the people that aren't already running something *nix. It's the "well 
Company XYZ is releasing their applications for Linux, it must be a good 
platform" mentality.

It really is a critical mass sort of thing, there are closed software 
solutions for Linux that are server specific(databases come to mind), 
but not very many that are targeting end users on the desktop(Last.fm 
actually does an excellent job, they even support FBSD, but I can't 
think of many others). Critical mass turns into a chicken and egg 
problem, users won't be there without the apps, and app developers won't 
be there without user base.

When it comes to hardware, I'm very much against having a closed stack. 
It irritates me that I'm supposed to be running software X, which is 
only released on platforms Y, to connect to device Z. Plugging in 
hardware should be like plugging in a lamp(for things that can function 
as USB storage); there are a few well defined standards for NA 
electricity, and if I plug something in, I get light. I understand that 
the business model really hinges on iTunes for Apple; the software makes 
it very easy to get into the store and start buying things.

I think that for the specific example of iTunes, you can't convince 
enough users running Linux that it's worthwhile to harass Apple. We're 
used to being ignored, and we've found ways to compensate.

This is enough rambling for one Sunday :)


On 2010-08-15 11:29 AM, Sheldon Tower wrote:
>         A few weeks ago, a developer on an IRC support channel asked me if it
> was possible to sync and update his iPod Touch in Linux. I was working on
> the same issue, so I told him the few options I was tying:
>      1. Try syncing using Rythmbox or Amarok.
>      2. Try running iTunes for Windows under Wine.
>      3. Run Windows Vista or XP using a virtual machine.
>      Most forums we consulted said it was possible to sync an iPod using
> Rythmbox or Amarok, but you couldn't update the firmware. Regardless, we
> were unable to even connect for syncing using either program. We were able
> to install and run older versions of iTunes under Wine, but we required the
> latest version, which gave us errors. Windows it's self installed nicely
> using a virtual machine under VirtualBox, but again, the latest version of
> iTunes gave us trouble. I know that jailbreaking is an option, but I've read
> that it drastically shows down the performance of the iPod Touch. Finally, I
> decided to contact Apple support.
>      I asked Apple if there were any plans to develop a version of iTunes for
> Linux. After all, MacOS X is Unix based, so I think it should be pretty easy
> to port iTunes to Linux. Of course, the Apple support representative didn't
> know if there were any plans to develop iTunes for Linux, but encouraged me
> to send an email to Apple feedback. This made me think about Linux and
> proprietary software in general. Maybe that's just what the Linux community
> needs: more proprietary developers developing Linux versions of the most
> popular proprietary software. A lot of Linux users take advantage of the
> proprietary drivers for NVIDIA and ATI graphics cards. I know that a lot of
> free software users discourage the use of any proprietary software, but if a
> iTunes for Linux, or Adobe Illustrator for Linux is what it takes to convert
> average users from Windows or MacOS X to Linux, wouldn't it be worth it? If
> DirectX for Linux would encourage developers to create and sell native games
> for Linux, wouldn't it be worth it?
>      I think it's up to us to create a demand for these programs, not for
> free software users, but for the average user. Whether we like it or not,
> proprietary software is here to stay, and the average user will continue to
> rely on it. I think it would make sense to attract the average user closer
> to some free, open source software using some proprietary software, rather
> than loose most average users all together.
> Sheldon
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Scott Walsh
Systems Administrator
Faculty of Computer Science, Dalhousie University
walsh at cs.dal.ca
GPG KeyID: 0xF6AC0227

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