Fedora's "freedom" and rpmfusion's hard path for a new user: complications, clarifications

Hi!
First of all congratulations with Fedora Linux 36 getting available, great job.

I would like to discuss about few things that have been puzzling my mind.

–The Fedora’s first foundation is “freedom” (cf Fedora’s Mission and Foundations :: Fedora Docs).
I wonder how genuine the will to redistribute “free alternatives to proprietary code and content and limit the effects of proprietary or patent encumbered code on the Project” a philosophical standpoint, or more a will of Red Hat not to get bothered with shipping proprietary software that could legally put them in trouble.
If the second reason is the main one, isn’t insisting on “free code” as a “value” a bit hypocritical?

Most desktop user’s first need after installing Fedora Linux is rushing to the rpmfusion website to load at least all the necessary codecs for a daily use of audio and video.

If the fedora’s “free software” stance is not hypocritical, why to help under the carpet users to quickly enable rpmfusion?
Also since F35 clicking enabling third party repos in Gnome Software is adding flatpak flitered apps, as well as google chrome’s repo.
I think this change is welcome for desktop users. But obviously it includes apps such as Zoom and Skype and Chrome, not free.

Overall i dont really understand where Fedora stands. The word is freedom, but obviously most users will go to flathub and rpmfusion to enable at the very least codecs in firefox .
Is the only real reason for not shipping proprietary codecs a wish from Red Hat not to have any legal issues? If yes could we maybe write it more honestly?

–Here comes my second point: If most users need to enable proprietary rpmfusion’s codecs, why not to make the process way more easy?
Now one click in 'enabling third party software" creates a repo for “nvidia within rpmfuion” and “steam within rpmfusion”… why not just enabling the whole rpmfusion with that click?
And why not making it somewhat more easy for users to get codecs working (with a second click)?

A new user arriving on fedora and wishing to watch any website with videos with the default firefox browser (netflix, tv websites…), will have instant issues, and a long twisted path to enable all those codecs from rpmfusion’s website (how did the new user knew about that website anyhow)… Isnt that whole walk quite unacceptable?

Fedora is a great and powerfull project. I wish it could be maybe more transparent about reasons behind “freedom” and also more straight forward for that casual new user clicking on netflix’s website after his/her Fedora Linux’s install and being puzzled by the lack of support.

Greetings and thanks for this great project anyhow!
Y.

We are dedicated to free software and content.

Advancing software and content freedom is a central community goal, which we accomplish through the software and content we promote. We choose free alternatives to proprietary code and content and limit the effects of proprietary or patent encumbered code on the Project.

Sometimes this goal prevents us from taking the easy way out by including proprietary or patent encumbered software in Fedora. But by concentrating on the free software and content we provide and promote, the end result is that we are able to provide:

    releases that are predictable and 100% legally redistributable for everyone;

    innovation in free and open source software that can equal or exceed closed source or proprietary solutions;

    and, a completely free project that anyone can emulate or copy in whole or in part for their own purposes.

Hi Yusss. Firstly, I’m not associated with the leadership of Fedora, I’m just a user like you. That said, maybe I can help clarify some of the questions you raise.

Regarding whether or not it’s hypocritical to push for the use of unencumbered-by-software-patents/proprietary/non-free code while also providing access to RPMFusion (which contains free and non-free) repos. I would say “Not at all”. The reason is that the system shipped by Fedora developers at release is unencumbered as best one can while also maintaining functionality across different hardware configurations. What a user chooses to do after they’ve installed the system is up to them, supplying them the ultimate freedom: The freedom of choice. Without that, we (users) have much bigger problems.

Regarding codecs: Yes, there are several that are missing due to all sorts of reasons which are explained very succinctly in the Fedora Mission and Foundations link you provided. The team provides a distro free from encumbrance. Users who install Fedora do not have to worry about the legality of the installed Fedora system by default. They often choose to go to RPMFusion after installation in order to load potentially non-free (as in Freedom) codecs and drivers because they are making the conscious decision to sacrifice something in order to achieve a level of convenience. That is their choice and any liabilities lay with them, not the Fedora developers who did their best to, again, provide an unencumbered systems as a baseline.

Regarding Red Hat and Legal issues: Red Hat is a sponsor of Fedora, but does not dictate what Fedora can and cannot do. Fedora has a well-known council that has done a great job of steering the project and adding value to Fedora users (As well as users of other distributions thanks to their example).

Regarding your second point: Perhaps it can be made easier, but now you run into a few issues which need to be thought about:

  1. Do you only make it “one click” for RPMFusion Free in order to mitigate running counter to the “unencumbered” portion of the Freedom principle?
  2. Do you make it “one click” for both RPMFusion Free and Non-Free and then explicitly run counter to the Freedom Principle?
  3. Do you modularize the “One click” for only a subset of RPMFusion packages which may be deemed common enough for inclusion? (Continue the pattern of Steam and NVidia repos today)
  4. For which use-cases do you design for? Which users would you be alienating with this decision?
  5. By what criteria would you decide upon continued support of those chosen packages?
  6. Are there liabilities to the project and therefore, the users, inherent in these package decisions?

Regarding your last point about transparency: The Fedora project publishes publicly their governance meetings and decisions (there are many posts on this forum published weekly which point these out) and does a really good job of soliciting feedback from the community. My recommendation would be to definitely provide your feedback and suggestions via these mediums so that you can see this process for yourself and potentially get your suggested improvements added to the project in a way that respects the stated mission of the project.

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I just want to note that the addition of third party repositories etc. is a decision that the Fedora workstation WG made to try to strike a balance between our FOSS philosophy and making it slightly easier for users to get work done while using the OS.

https://docs.fedoraproject.org/en-US/workstation-working-group/third-party-repos/

The idea (as I understand it) is that it’ll help get more people to move to using Fedora, and then we expose them to a lot more FOSS that way. If they’re not using Fedora at all, they don’t get exposed to anything else we do as a community—so it’s sort of a compromise.

Not everyone agrees with this decision, of course, (I didn’t/don’t completely agree with it even now) but it is one for the Workstation WG to make. Other spins/labs/variants do not all follow this model, and users must install repositories manually as we’ve done in the past.

As for our philosophy—it’s hard to generalise, but most of the folks in the community that I interact with are pretty clear that we’re here to promote FOSS and how we do it is by making an OS.

I think one constant issue here is that people have a rather myopic view of FOSS which tends to be limited to “this thing running on my laptop”, but FOSS is much bigger than that. For example, the whole Open Science movement is heavily reliant on FOSS. No FOSS, no Open Science.

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I don’t know if this is new or not, but I’ve never connected to the RPMFusion repos on my install of Fedora and when I checked for third party repos after upgrading to Fedora 36 I see that it seems like they are already enabled for me?

I guess those may just be for Nvidia and Steam. I don’t know if this would include other codecs or the other things I normally hear discussed as important from RPMFusion. I don’t remember these settings in F35, however, even though I did select to use third-party repos so maybe that’s what it boils down to.

For my two cents, I haven’t had to really touch RPMFusion as a new Linux user, but I’m using a Surface Pro 4, so I don’t know if there’s something different about my machine where I’m not coming across the same problems.

GNU provides a nice overview of software freedom on various distributions.

When I install Fedora, I know that there are some non-free parts of Linux and some non-free firmware that they include to make it available on more systems. When I build my next system, I will be careful to select hardware that runs on free software but in the meantime it’s nice to know that Fedora will install anywhere I would want it, including newer architectures like 64-bit ARM.

Unlike Ubuntu, if I want to opt in to patent-encumbered and/or non-free packages, I have that option through RPM Fusion. I haven’t used it recently, but I think you can opt out of nonfree packages, rather than opting in. Canocical has a position on patenting that sounds like it was written by Microsoft. I’m more comfortable with the Fedora Council than a company because they communicate in public channels.

Mint and Manjaro (both based on Ubuntu [edit: my mistake, Manjaro is based on Arch]) obfuscate the presence of non-free software and don’t include the option to opt out.

Unlike Arch, where anyone can throw anything on the repository and you just blindly trust strangers with each download, Fedora forces me to opt in to individual user repositories (i.e. copr), which reduces the attack surface area.

Debian and openSUSE seem fine to me.

I use Fedora over Debian and openSUSE because it drives the adoption of new features that you won’t find on those distributions until much later. You’ll find the latest version of Gnome, cool stuff like btrfs and probably other things that I’ve stopped noticing, never noticed or are too low-level for me to understand. Fedora is focused on new technology and while it’s good to be a test driver for the betterment on *nix-based computing in general, they also do a very good job of vetting these new features and incorporating them at the exact moment they become suitable for a general audience.

The container-focused nature of Silverblue is especially nice because programs like Firefox can wrap up all of their non-free codecs without my base system having to touch them. It’s still in its awkward adolescent phase, but the immutable operating system with containerized apps is clearly the future. The biggest hurdle seems to be app developers, not the operating system itself.

It’s a nifty distribution. I expect some bugs on the newest version but it’s a simple fact that you can’t fix all the bugs until you have enough users to find them. I have bones to pick with all the others but for Fedora, I have no notes.

Manjaro is based on Arch, not Ubuntu. Of course your point on Arch covers Manjaro as well.

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These were in F35 also. If you’d enabled third party repos in F35, they’d remain enabled in F36.

They do not include the codecs. One needs to install them manually later:

https://docs.fedoraproject.org/en-US/quick-docs/assembly_installing-plugins-for-playing-movies-and-music/

Maybe you’re using bits from FlatHub, where proprietary bits are already included?

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I did manually connect to the Flathub repo, so maybe that’s it. And yeah, I must have forgot that I enabled those connections thinking I was getting all the things I needed to setup.

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