The only difference between Ubuntu and some other 100% Free Linux distros is the different types of software that you are allowed to use.
Some hardcore Linux enthusiasts may argue the need for proprietary software in the Linux community but for an everyday user who just want to get the job done. Proprietary or restricted software can sometimes be a blessing.
So in this article let’s have a look at the different types of software that are available in Ubuntu based on the description and laws protecting them.
Main - Officially Supported By Canonical.
Main is the official software repository supported by Canonical, Software packages under Main are completely free to use and they receive critical bug fixes and updates directly from Canonical. These are the essential softwares that are needed to run the system and the most necessary tools that Canonical feels every user may require are included in Main. Most of these Softwares are already installed on a default installation.
Softwares from the Main repository are completely free to use and re-distribute.
They have the Open-Source License and all these software will be supported until the End of Life your version of Ubuntu.
So When they Ubuntu talks about supporting a release for the next ‘X Period’, They are talking about how long the main repository will be maintained for that release.
Universe - Supported by the Ubuntu Community.
The Softwares from Universe are supported by The Linux Community. More than half the Software in Ubuntu is from Universe. These include most of the everyday software that we use like Firefox Web Browser, VLC Media Player, and the Gimp Editor.
Since Canonical doesn’t maintain these software they are marked as Open-Source but it is also mentioned that Canonical does not provide updates. Some updates may be provided by the Ubuntu community.
The Community comprises people like you and me. Who work for Open-Source as a hobby. Since it is not a Fulltime job for them, You can’t be sure about the arrival of fixes or updates for such software.
These Softwares are free to use and come under ‘Open Source License’. You are free to modify or re-distribute these software
The above-mentioned software fully comply with the ideologies of Linux, However, there are 2 more types that are not appreciated by the FOSS community.
Restricted - Proprietary Drivers for some hardware.
So here comes the one which raises the eyebrows of all Hardcore FOSS promoters. So Linux usually includes support for most devices right out of the box. But some of these devices may require additional drivers that are not included in Linux.
The restricted repository houses proprietary drivers that are needed for the working or acceleration of some hardware devices like Wi-Fi, Graphic Cards or some usb devices.
Since the company that makes the hardware, does not release the source for these devices it is impossible even for the community to support these drivers.
These drivers are provided by the company that makes the hardware. And they are usually in binary format so you cannot see the code.
Such Software follow the ‘Free as in Beer’ motto which restricts you from interfering with the creation of these software.
Multiverse - Copyrighted or External Agreement.
The Multiverse has always been controversy’s favorite child. Software Packages from Multiverse include Software that may or may not be free but they are not Open-Source. Examples of softwares from the multiverse include the flash player, plugins for google hangouts or Skype.
The Softwares are usually supported by a group of people or Organization that may or may not want the monetary benefit. However, the softwares are closed source and since their source isn’t published you cannot make any modifications to it, So your only source of update and security fixes is to wait for the makers to do it.
Software packages from Main and Universe are cool and follow all guidelines laid down by the FOSS community, However the software from Multiverse and Restricted are of great help to an everyday user.
Some may often argue that Closed source shouldn’t be used at all in Linux, however currently that’s the only choice. We all want to use Skype, play games on Steam, Edit our videos. And if this calls for using a few closed source software a vast majority of users do not bother where they come from.
Maybe one of the reasons Ubuntu is the best Linux Distro goes to the fact it has allowed its users to choose from whatever they want to choose. What do you think about it? Do let us know in the comments section.