I have been using Fedora for several years and it has been my daily driver for the last month or so. It’s been a relatively good experience along the way. The newer Gnome 3.10 is a huge step up in the aesthetic department especially since I have mainly been using Unity, the ever stagnant Desktop environment. I don’t pretend to be an expert in how either the Fedora system or the Linux kernel work, but I’ve used enough distros to spot an obvious problem.
Yesterday I used Yum to update my system and in doing so, subjected myself to the biggest problem with the distribution as a whole. Anytime the kernel updates, it doesn’t include modules that were not part of the distro itself. So the module that makes my WiFi work is not included, and for some reason cannot simply be reloaded. The user needs to uninstall the WiFi module and reinstall it(which requires an internet connection), then load the module again. It’s worth noting that when troubleshooting, the first solution was “Buy an Intel WiFi Card” from the good people over on the Fedora IRC.
The Linux community as a whole is filled with millions of different kinds of people, each with their own ideals. It’s no secret that many members of our community have fairly strong feelings regarding the open nature of the software that they use. In fact, it’s these ideals that may have led them to linux in the first place. Some people believe that proprietary software is the bane of humanity, and that everything should be open source software.
The Fedora project doesn’t ship any proprietary software in their product. Being that the broadcom drivers that my laptop uses are not open source, it’s all on me to get my WiFi working. So the Fedora community has made the decision that it is more important to not include any proprietary software, than to include working WiFi with its system. That decision is one that other distros like Ubuntu don’t agree with. Not including working WiFi drivers is a huge problem for many people, and Ubuntu has recognized that.
All companies have a line they won’t cross while remaining responsible citizens. While I am entirely aligned with those who want to promote open source, I cannot understand those who believe that the world would be better without proprietary software at all. I can only assume it is of a similar philosophical disposition that Fedora doesn’t ship their product with my WiFi drivers, as some of the other distros do. This leads me to question the judgement of those making these decisions. I really don’t think the majority of people will question the moral integrity of those who would include proprietary WiFi drivers in their system.
It’s important to note that I absolutely love the Fedora project. Between Red Hat and the open source contributors that sustain it, the community does some of the best work in the linux world. But from time to time, we all need to question our own point of view, and we need to determine how we ended up subscribing to that particular model in the first place. Hardware drivers for laptops are universally required, and having to use weird workarounds to just get on the internet is enough for most users to look elsewhere.