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Can you answer these GNU/Linux FAQs?

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ariadacapo's picture
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Joined: 2006-07-13

Over the last few months I thought of/came accross the following FAQs that need to be added to our Linux FAQ page.
It takes time to answer correctcly, so maybe someone wants to help out...

  • Can I use my iPod with GNU/Linux?
  • Does Linux infringe upon patents?
  • Can I control other computers with GNU/Linux?
  • Is Apple Mac OSX a Linux distribution?
  • Are 3D desktop effects available on Ubuntu, Kubuntu or Fedora?
  • Is Linux an illegal copy of Windows?
  • Is Linux safe to use?
  • Can I play my DVDs and MP3s under GNU/Linux?
  • Is GNU/Linux the only free operating sytem available?
  • Can I play popular 3D games under GNU/Linux?
  • Is Apple Mac OSX a Linux distribution?

All of these questions will be answered within the coming month. As you can see, some aren't fun to answer (whenever you know the answer might be disappointing), but I think they are necessary.
Can you help out and come up with a good answer?
* Feel free to use pictures and links
* Write nicely, honestly, and without technical terms. If you mom can't understand it, try again;-)

I will partcipate along and keep this thread updated as we progress.
Cheers!

Olivier.

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Joined: 2006-03-28
Here some

Here some suggestions:

  • Can I play my DVDs and MP3s under GNU/Linux?
  • This is an answer that should be put into a FAQ, just something which is on my mind about this topic.
    We all know that it is possible to do this, but it uses software that is considered illegal in at least some countries. Mainly I think about libdvdcss here. But basically the answer should be yes.
    As far as I remember I've read an article about this quite some time ago. I'll have to check if I can find it again.
  • Can I control other computers under GNU/Linux?
  • With Linux you have different ways of controlling other computers. It is possible to have a text-only login, but you can also use a graphical interface to control the computer. Furtheron it is also possible to have some control by just sending commands to the computer you like to control.
  • Is GNU/Linux the only free operating sytem available?
  • There are lots of other free operating systems available. BSD Unix is one alternative which offers most of the functions you can enjoy with Linux, but most other systems are not as usable as Linux or BSD are.
    You can find an interesting collection of free operating systems on FreeOS.com.
  • Is Apple Mac OSX a Linux distribution?
  • Mac OS X is not Linux. It has a Unix-like core working behind the fancy user-interface and when you open a shell it more or less feels like Linux, but it really isn't.
  • Are 3D desktop effects available on Ubuntu, Kubuntu or Fedora?
  • Yes, there are different effects you can use. An older approach, that should work with most, if not all, window managers is 3D Desktop. It allows you to zoom out of your current desktop and see a 3 dimensional representation of all your desktops.
    Beryl is a new approach, it's a complete window manager and offers lots of graphical effects.
  • Can I play popular 3D games under GNU/Linux?
  • Most companies do not seem to care about users using GNU/Linux, so there are no native versions you can install and play.
    Some games, like Unreal Tournament and Doom 3, are also available as Linux-versions, which natively run on Linux. Usually you will need to buy the Windows-version of the game and then just download a Linux-installer for it.
    Also there are free clones of popular games and of course also other great free games you can enjoy without any problems.
  • Is Linux an illegal copy of Windows?
  • No, it is not. Linux and Windows are completely different systems.
  • Is Linux safe to use?
  • By default Linux is safer to use than a default installation of Windows. But, as every other operating system, Linux also needs maintenance. Installing updates in a timely fashion is important to keep your system safe.
free-zombie's picture
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ariadacapo wrote:Can I
ariadacapo wrote:

Can I play my DVDs and MP3s under GNU/Linux?

The simple answer to this question would be "yes", however this is only half the truth. Quite a few Linux distributions do not include MP3 playback software due to the patent situation of the MP3 format. These patent issues do not affect the user directly, so most distributions make it fairly easy to install MP3 support over the internet after the installation, making it possible to legally play MP3 files.
DVDs, on the other hand, are a more difficult situation. Most, if not all, DVDs are encrypted using a system called CSS. Though there is widely supported free software, called libdvdcss capable of decrypting DVD videos, doing this is illegal in many parts of the world, including the USA and the European Union. To legally play DVDs on Linux where libdvdcss is illegal, you can purchase LinDVD, an alternative created by the makers of WinDVD. Non-encrypted DVDs, which include most, if not all, home-made DVDs, play perfectly well with only free software.

Quote:

Is GNU/Linux the only free operating sytem available?

No. There are many more available, including the UNIX derivatives FreeBSD, NetBSD, OpenBSD and OpenSolaris, the BeOS clone Haiku OS, the Windows® NT clone ReactOS, the DOS clone FreeDOS and Plan 9 from Bell Labs, just to name a few.

Quote:

Can I play popular 3D games under GNU/Linux?

Yes and No: Some games, for example some ID software games like Quake III, Quake IV and Doom III, Unreal Tournament, Cold War, and many more have Linux versions. Most popular games, alas, only work on Windows® and occasionally on Mac OS. Some Windows® games, such as Battlefield 2 or GTA Vice City, can be run on GNU/Linux with Wine or its variant Cedega, which involves some unpleasant effort for the user. For a list of games known to work on Cedega, see their Games database.

edit reptiler what kind of formatting is that ?!?!?! I thought your answer were more questions.

libervisco's picture
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Looks like reptiler and

Looks like reptiler and free-zombie are nailing it quite nicely. The toughest question seems to be the this one, so I'll have my try on it:

Olivier wrote:

Can I play my DVDs and MP3s under GNU/Linux?

Yes, but it may require installing additional software which may or may not be completely legal depending on where you live and which codecs are required. It is, however, usually quite easy to install what you need to play your MP3's and DVDs.

I know it hides the details, but I'm guessing they wont need many details at this point, and they can be pointed to "more information" somewhere else (on or off GGL).

Also, looks like the iPod question hasn't been answered yet. I don't own an iPod, but from what I've heard the answer is....

Quote:

Can I play my DVDs and MP3s under GNU/Linux?

Yes, GNU/Linux will usually recognize when you plug your iPod (and similar portable devices) to your computer.

Right? Smiling

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Joined: 2006-03-28
I also don't have an iPod

I also don't have an iPod an also don't have access to one, otherwise I could try.
That's why I skipped that question. ;-)

a thing's picture
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id

s/ID/id/

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Formatting
free-zombie wrote:

edit reptiler what kind of formatting is that ?!?!?! I thought your answer were more questions.

Yes, I know, I could have chosen a better way for that. Also seen that after submitting the post, but then was actually a little too lazy to change it.

Well, at least I had some spacing between the seperate questions. ;-)

tbuitenh's picture
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control?
reptiler wrote:
  • Can I control other computers under GNU/Linux?
  • With Linux you have different ways of controlling other computers. It is possible to have a text-only login, but you can also use a graphical interface to control the computer. Furtheron it is also possible to have some control by just sending commands to the computer you like to control.

It is also possible to control computers that run MS Windows through VNC. (FIXME: and other ways too?).

Of course you need a valid password for the computer you would like to control. (Mentioning this is important, otherwise some people are going to think GNU/Linux is a hacker tool that can give you access to anything)

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Remote control
tbuitenh wrote:

It is also possible to control computers that run MS Windows through VNC. (FIXME: and other ways too?).

Besides VNC there are also rdesktop, which implements RDP which is used by Microsofts Remote Desktop, then of course SSH is a possibility, maybe telnet, although this is really outdated (but possible to connect to Windows without extra software), and SMB, which can also be used to have a little control about a Windows-computer, like rebooting it for example.

free-zombie's picture
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libervisco, I answered the

libervisco, I answered the first one ;-) I don't think we should hide the "detail" that 99% of instructions on DVD playing in GNU/Linux encourage "crimes" (sic) in some parts of the world

ariadacapo's picture
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Thanks so much for the

Thanks so much for the answers! I will publish the complete ones right away.

I think the iPod one is one of the trickiest. Support for hardware is only one part of the answer, at best we should provide links to iTunes-like applications (I only refer to the application, not the online service here).

ariadacapo's picture
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Done. Not really "right

Done. Not really "right away", because new questions required a re-organisation of the FAQ, and I took the opportunity to solve our mysterious intermittent display bug by re-writing a good part of the code.
So:

When the new page about Misunderstanding Free Software is done, I will re-write (shorten a lot) the bottom FAQ questions about understanding free software.

Thanks so much! Any more contributions?

a thing's picture
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MP3s
new FAQ wrote:

These patent issues do not affect the user directly, so most distributions make it fairly easy to install MP3 support over the internet after the installation, making it possible to legally play MP3 files.

Huh? Since when do patents not apply to users?

ariadacapo's picture
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a thing wrote: Huh? Since
a thing wrote:

Huh? Since when do patents not apply to users?

If I understand correctly there is no requirement for users. Only the provider of the decoder should pay the royalty. Did I get this wrong as well as free-zombie?

What about the following case: I pay for a version of Windows, then download VLC (which comes with its own MP3 codec). Is it legal because Microsoft paid royalties for one user (me) already? If I get rid of Windows and keep VLC, is it still legal? Or should I pay again for the same codec?
I thought because the royalty payment is "for one unit" playing my mp3s was ok.

Part about MP3 is removed until we get this right... Better nothing at all than horribly wrong information.

free-zombie's picture
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a thing wrote: new FAQ
a thing wrote:
new FAQ wrote:

These patent issues do not affect the user directly, so most distributions make it fairly easy to install MP3 support over the internet after the installation, making it possible to legally play MP3 files.

Huh? Since when do patents not apply to users?

This is only the one Frauenhofer patent. I believe that they only impose restrictions of commercial distribution. I don't know the exact requirements, but I know that distributing and using decoding software for MP3 is not forbidden by that patent.

Gustavo's picture
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this patent won't affect common users
a thing wrote:
new FAQ wrote:

These patent issues do not affect the user directly, so most distributions make it fairly easy to install MP3 support over the internet after the installation, making it possible to legally play MP3 files.

Huh? Since when do patents not apply to users?

Excerpted from mp3licensing.com (bolds are mine):

mp3licesing wrote:
  • 1) Do you license mp3, mp3PRO and mp3surround software to end users?

    No. We license mp3/mp3PRO software and patents to developers and manufacturers of software applications and hardware devices.

  • 4) Do I need a license to stream mp3, mp3PRO or mp3surround encoded content over the Internet?

    Yes. A license is needed for commercial (i.e., revenue-generating) use of mp3/mp3PRO in broadcast systems (terrestrial, satellite, cable and/or other distribution channels), streaming applications (via Internet, intranets and/or other networks), other content distribution systems (pay-audio or audio-on-demand applications and the like) or for use of mp3/mp3PRO on physical media (compact discs, digital versatile discs, semiconductor chips, hard drives, memory cards and the like).

    However, no license is needed for private, non-commercial activities (e.g., home-entertainment, receiving broadcasts and creating a personal music library), not generating revenue or other consideration of any kind or for entities with associated annual gross revenue less than US$ 100 000.00.

  • 5) Do I need a license to distribute mp3, mp3PRO or mp3surround encoded content?

    Yes. A license is needed for commercial (i.e., revenue-generating) use of mp3/mp3PRO in broadcast systems (terrestrial, satellite, cable and/or other distribution channels), streaming applications (via Internet, intranets and/or other networks), other content distribution systems (pay-audio or audio-on-demand applications and the like) or for use of mp3/mp3PRO on physical media (compact discs, digital versatile discs, semiconductor chips, hard drives, memory cards and the like).

    However, no license is needed for private, non-commercial activities (e.g., home-entertainment, receiving broadcasts and creating a personal music library), not generating revenue or other consideration of any kind or for entities with associated annual gross revenue less than US$ 100 000.00.

This patent won't affect common users.

Cheers.

a thing's picture
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mention it

Okay, then put back the old version with a little bit saying that the patent forbids commercial use.

ariadacapo's picture
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back online, Quote: Quite

back online,

Quote:

Quite a few Linux distributions do not include MP3 playback software due to the patent situation of the MP3 format. These patent issues do not affect the user directly, so most distributions make it fairly easy to install MP3 support over the internet after the installation, making it possible to legally play MP3 files, for non-commercial use.

Thanks for that... learned interesting things. ;-)

ariadacapo's picture
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Gustavo also suggested the

Gustavo also suggested the following:

Gustavo wrote:

You refer to this kind of software as "Free Software" or "Open Source Software"... Are they synonyms?
Technically, no. Free Software usually refers to four kind of freedom, while Open Source only refers to the availability of the source code to anyone; however, there is no consensus on the use of these terms. It's worth noting that they have nothing to do with price.

I think with a bit of improvement this should definitely be added.

ariadacapo's picture
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"open source" faq added

I added an FAQ about the term "Open Source", trying to stay neutral and avoid flaming, as well as an FAQ about MacOSX. Criticisms welcome...

Other FAQs have been cleaned up / simplified, thanks to the new page "How to Misunderstand Free Software".

I believe these FAQs are very relevant to GGL, as soon as any answer is finished, it'll be posted to the site.

Thanks
Olivier.

ariadacapo's picture
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also

I also wanted to point out that I renamed the FAQ "Why does Linux not come pre-installed on computers?" into a more optimistic "Does Linux come pre-installed on computers?". The answer links to two US vendors (System76 and Safetech) which appear to be reliable and attractive.

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