Why I think Codeina is an Epic Failure

I got lucky and got 3 hour reprieve today, since one of my professors is sick, so I felt I would weigh in a bit on the Codeina debate. Before I begin, I want to be clear that I'm not belittling anyone's work on the project; I just think we erred on the side of caution and failed.

If anyone has used Ubuntu in its early years, they might remember using one of many tools like Automatix. The rest of us hardcore Debian users knew simply to just add a third party repository, and install a bunch of packages. But for the uninitiated, these tools would basically install support for every third party repo one might want, every media format, and even break your system for you. It was a known fact that the tools didn't work perfectly and weren't supported, but nevertheless links to them got passed like wildfire from forum to forum. People wanted to believe a warm brown Linux Distribution with bundled nudie pics would change the world, much in the same way many people believe an upstart senator is going to change the world in the next four years. I think Fedora is missing that edge.

When Fedora first came out, my impression of it was to stay away. It was this bundle of bits locked up by Red Hat missing all the little bits I needed to make my computer do what I could do in other OSes. I'm not suggesting that this is the impression one gets from Fedora today, quite the contrary, but I still don't see people trading lots of hints around amateur Linux user forums and such. In fact, if I need technical support on something trivial, the number one source has been the Ubuntu Forums.

Even so, it strikes me as odd, that when we gave the users the tools to actually patch in the bits they needed to play media in proprietary formats, they used it less than the tools Ubuntu's community had to offer. Overall, we were lacking a clear idea how far we wanted to take the concept of 'auto-downloading', and we tripped over it big time.

One of the biggest criticisms I heard (read actually) is that Codeina didn't take into account the international community, nor even the american community. I can't officially comment, but I understand that there is a question that if Fedora moves to distribute something that might have patent or other questions on them, Red Hat might be able to be sued. This doesn't make it outright illegal for Americans to posses those same bits that Fedora can't distribute. In fact, with a strong enough community, there would be a million guides on the web about how one can install Fedora, go to Livna's website, click on the RPM they need, type in their root password, and then go to some menu to a graphical utility to pick certain packages, or even a helping utility that Livna provides. Then no one would care that Fedora doesn't distribute anything. But the community has yet to come out with this.

Now I feel like we are floundering about with very little legal guidance from either the Board or Red Hat, other than an outright no. I also feel that people expect us to be the authority, and tell everyone the correct way to get the bits we need to play our music collections.

I'm afraid I can't think of any solution outright better than anyone else can. If I were good at marketing, I probably would have a nice cushy job for some marketing agency, instead of doing Fedora work. But I do think the solution has to come from the outside, and it has to take the world by storm. Ubuntu-seeking missiles might be useful too.

6 flames:

davidnielsen zei

The thing that Codina definitely did right, within the legal confines we have, is presenting for pay solutions along with education. It showed users in very real terms that giving up freedom isn't free. In that way Codina is more a success than Ubuntu' "Please let me violate the law" click through thing, nobody who uses Ubuntu stops to read that text I asked.. not a single person could tell me what that dialog said without going back to check.. It's after all keeping them from all that wonderful porn.

The downside with Codina is without a doubt that we don't have a legal means to consider international users, but most users who complain in my expeience is in countries with software patents but they don't know or don't care. They just want Linux gratis, all of it, this is not what freedom is about. The rest of us can suffer in solidarity or avail ourselves of the excellent guides to using livna (this is sadly a bit harder than it could be, but the progress needed is legal not technical so it's not a problem we can solve with Codina outside adding education which we surprisingly already do)- it's the only option we can offer outside going back to flashing an error message which just makes it look like Fedora plain doesn't work.

The other problem with Codina is that nobody currently offers an mp3 or aac encoder legally, so the common task of putting music on an iPod doesn't work in transcoding cases. This in complete coverage is sad but nothing we can legally do anything about till 2015 or whenever the mp3 patents expire.

Codina is a success in that it turned an ugly incomprehensable failure message into a proper explaination, education and a pointer to a legal solution.

Crippling it is sadly an epic failure done by a fraction of extremists who seemingly care more about forcing their ideals of being freer than Stallman on everyone than actually providing a solution that does not encumber the out of the box freedom of Fedora when no alternative is present. I have yet to hear a convincing argument for how it encumbered Fedoras freedom, the codecs do but that is not something we really have a right to moralize over. Free Software cannot judge what you use it for, even if that is running non free porn enabling codecs.

quaid zei

> Codina is a success in that it turned
> an ugly incomprehensable failure
> message into a proper explaination,
> education and a pointer to a legal
> solution.

Ironically, if Codeina weren't orphaned, it would still do what you suggest.

> Crippling it is sadly an epic failure
> done by a fraction of extremists who
> seemingly care more about forcing
> their ideals of being freer than
> Stallman on everyone than actually
> providing a solution that does not
> encumber the out of the box freedom of
> Fedora when no alternative is present.

Fact -- the difference between codeina in F8 and codeina-as-was-decided-to-patch-it in F9 is that the user has to do one additional click to obtain access to the codecs.

With a codec installable directly inside a GTK dialog, it appears very much that Fedora is shipping software that lets you buy non-free software from inside of it. OMG! That sounds like ... Firefox and stuff. Still, there was a very close association with the way codeina appeared, even tough the codecs are pulled down over the Internet for final install.

Removing the codecs from the codeina XML file, even better removing the button that points right to the codec installer portion, leaves one action -- click through to the CodecBuddy page, which has a link right to the Fluendo webshop. After further education opportunities. With caveats. As a pure non-Fedora experience.

A solution like that just happens to be exactly what was asked for originally - a dialog that pops up with a link to fedoraproject.org/.../CodecBuddy for further education and potential links out to solutions.

Yankee zei

I fully laud the board's decision to keep us in the realm of freedom. Unfortunately there is little we can do legally in the end other than push for legislative reform or something similar.

I also think that in being too particular about legal details hurts us in popularity because you always build an audience when you give them things at no immediate financial cost to them (AKA free in the costless sense).

Alroger Filho zei

I've used Redhat from 7.3 on, only skipping FC1, till F8.
F8 was the greatest jump in performance and reliability that I've seen, but also the greatest MISTERY!
I booted and installed F8 as soon as it came out. Its desktop does not show ANY of the improvements we were expecting, nor how to use them! Not that they werent there, but I had no clue on where they were.
Same for Codeina, codina or whatever... not only did I not find it when I needed to watch videos but when I found clues of it in the comunity, it always directed me to paying sites, lists and options that didnt not only work, but did not support Brasil.
I still use Fedora for my servers, but for a Desktop, it's not viable anymore, not even using Livna.
I hope Fedora turns this around. And if I can help, let me know.

nicu zei

Why have millions of guides about using livna when we have this: http://www.fedorafaq.org/#mp3 ?

It is even linked from http://fedoraproject.org/wiki/ForbiddenItems

Yankee zei

It's a website, not a tool that script kiddies can use to break fresh installs of Fedora in spectacular ways.

It seems that in trying to do things "right", we lost, simply because we don't quite have the same ecosystem that other distro has.