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Ubuntu board rejects slippery Flash installs

YouTube sensations no justification

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Ubuntu won't be updated to quietly slip third-party apps like Flash Player onto your PC, regardless of the app's popularity.

The Linux distro's technical board has unanimously ruled against a change that could have allowed third party software to install by default if users weren't paying attention and that seemed aimed at greasing the skids to putting Adobe Software's Flash on more Ubuntu PCs.

The technical board voted Thursday afternoon five to nothing to defeat the idea.

It had been proposed that a check box in Ubuntu's Ubiquity installer that gives you the choice to install third-party software should be selected by default. This would have required users downloading the latest version of Ubuntu to proactively de-select the box should they not want the non-Ubuntu options installed with their fave Linux distro.

The justification for the proposal was YouTube: people would be deterred from using Ubuntu if they fired up their machine, hit the Tube, and found it didn't work, according to the thinking.

The problem is that most video on YouTube is streamed using Flash, a proprietary media player that uses the royalty-encumbered H.264 video codec.

YouTube owner Google has its own problems with Flash and H.264. Last May, Google released the source of its own video codec as WebM, which it now wants people to use when playing the video tag in HTML5. In January, Google said it planned to drop H.264 from its Chrome browser, although the web giant has yet to follow through on this promise.

When it came to Ubuntu, technical board member Martin Pitt said that ticking the box by default "is by and large equivalent to always installing the software by default, as it would now require an informed decision to get only free software installed."

Pitt noted that while Ubutu's made some concessions on hardware drivers, Flash doesn't meet the same requirement. Flash is not required for most of the work done on a computer. Free alternatives to Flash are widely available, and Ubuntu already makes it easy to install non-free codecs and Flash plug-in via totem's codec and Firefox's plug-in installer.

Further, Pitt noted the board felt they should support the emerging trend way from Flash towards free codecs and HTML5. ®

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