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Ubuntu says no to non-free video drivers for Feisty

For the release, proprietary video drivers are out of the default install, and the PowerPC port of Ubuntu is being downgraded to an unofficial release. UPDATE: Mark Shuttleworth clarifies on his blog.
Starting with the update and clarification from Mark Shuttleworth


Jonathan, I’m afraid you’ve misread the announcement that proprietary video drivers will not be switched on by default in Feisty. This was the result of a long telephone call including the entire TB and CC. During the discussion, we re-affirmed the Ubuntu policy of including proprietary drivers were these are required to enable essential hardware functionality.

According to the release, Feisty will "preserve the status quo with respect to proprietary video drivers." This doesn't mean that Ubuntu will be completely clean of proprietary software.

Additionally, a team has been formed to work on the PowerPC, and if community support for the port is strong enough, there's no reason Ubuntu won't continue to be perfectly usable for PowerPC owners, even in its "unofficial" status.

A comment here at EnterpriseLinux


The Ubuntu Technical Board has made two technical decisions of which we
would like to inform the Ubuntu community. Both of these decisions concern
the upcoming 7.04 release of Ubuntu, scheduled for mid-April.

Proprietary Drivers


Ubuntu 7.04 will preserve the status quo with respect to proprietary video
drivers. As in previous releases, these drivers will be provided for the
convenience of users who choose to use them, but they will not be
activated by default.

Full decision:

There has been a great deal of discussion within the Ubuntu community
regarding a technical proposal (the enabling of Composite support by
default) which would necessitate the use of certain closed-source video
drivers in a default installation of Ubuntu. In response to this
controversy, a meeting was convened among representatives of the Technical
Board and Community Council to evaluate the issues. The following
conclusions were reached by this group:

* The desktop effects technology involved in this proposal is important in
enabling a richer, more immersive desktop experience, and as such, is
relevant to the mission of the Ubuntu project.

* There is a clear need for wider testing of open source software under
development in this area, including both desktop tools and video drivers.

* The exception granted to the Ubuntu Licence Policy at the project's
inception, which allows the use of closed-source components where
necessary to provide sufficient hardware support, remains valid and
pragmatic. For example, this exception has been applied in the past with
regard to wireless network drivers. We consider making full use of video
hardware to be an important component of that hardware support.

* However, some of the relevant software necessary to implement this
proposal is not yet considered mature enough to deploy in the default
Ubuntu configuration.


* The proposal will be modified such that the default configuration of
Ubuntu remains the same with regard to the selection of video drivers.

* However, new infrastructure will be implemented which allows the user to
trivially enable both enhanced desktop effects and the necessary driver

* The Ubuntu project reaffirms that it will not include closed-source
components in its default configuration except where allowed by the
existing exception for the provision of sufficient hardware support.

* Decisions on what hardware support is sufficient for these purposes will
be made on a case-by-case basis by the Technical Board and the Community

* Ubuntu will monitor and support the progress of the free Nouveau driver,
which offers the prospect of supporting enhanced desktop effects for
users of NVIDIA hardware without the need for closed-source drivers.

* When the factors involved in this decision change, further consideration
will be given to the possibility of changing the default configuration.

The PowerPC Architecture


Beginning with Ubuntu 7.04, the PowerPC edition of Ubuntu will be
reclassified as unofficial. The PowerPC software itself and supporting
infrastructure will continue to be available, and supported by a community

Full decision:

The Ubuntu Technical Board has decided to reclassify PowerPC as an
unofficial architecture, rather than a fully supported architecture, for
Ubuntu 7.04 and subsequent releases. This means that packages and ISO
images will continue to be produced, but releases will not be delayed due
to problems which are specific to PowerPC, and the quality of the PowerPC
release itself will depend very much on the extent to which members of the
Ubuntu community drive PowerPC testing and bug fixes.

The rationale for this decision has been recorded in the PowerPC Review
document at, which was derived from
a discussion at our developer summit in November. The conversation has
continued, and for some time we have pursued a number of sources for
funding to continue the official testing and support for the architecture.
Unfortunately those resources have not been obtained, and we can not make
the necessary commitments to continue official support for this

A team of PowerPC users and developers has been formed at and will be the focus of efforts to
keep Ubuntu's PowerPC support at high quality. We welcome wider
participation in that team, and if developers devote some additional time
to the work then there is no reason that Ubuntu on PowerPC should not
continue to deliver high quality releases.

It is possible that PowerPC will once again become a fully supported
architecture in the future, if the resources needed to guarantee its
quality are found. The architecture is certainly gaining large numbers of
users in embedded and console devices, and there are many reasons to
continue to work with the platform. These uses are outside of the core
Ubuntu mandate, however, so resources cannot be diverted from our server
and desktop efforts just to address their needs.

Existing Ubuntu PowerPC releases will continue to be maintained for the
duration of their supported life cycles, including Ubuntu 6.06 LTS which
will be supported on PowerPC servers until 2011.

— Matt Zimmerman Chairman, Ubuntu Technical Board
— ubuntu-announce mailing list Modify settings or unsubscribe at:

I'm sure there'll be a million comments to this, but a couple of the first ones are here and here

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