Then we have Ubuntu. With this distro, we simply see them available for free download and not installed by default. So even though Canonical sells restricted codecs from their store legally, good luck knowing anything about it from the Ubuntu website I am not finding any clearly labeled links to this information.
Like so many others, I celebrate many aspects of diversity in the Linux realm. But codecs is one area that leaves me quite frustrated. Not due to perceived difficulty, mind you, rather the fact that many end users are left playing armchair attorneys in hopes of "doing the right thing" in the eyes of U.S. law.
VoIP is not always universal across platforms
Today's desktop Linux distros have no shortage of great VoIP clients to choose from. The most polished of them using SIP technology would have to be Ekiga.
Sadly, using SIP-compatible clients on OS X and Windows is hardly universal...especially if you want webcam support.
This leaves us with proprietary Skype as the only real viable cross platform solution meeting both audio and video needs for most people. And until recently, Skype on Linux was awful to use due to it not playing well with PulseAudio.
Thankfully the latest beta has resolved this. Even better, the Skype GUI is going to go open source in the near future. At least this is one area of Linux challenges where we are seeing some real progress taking place.
Just provide us with some consistency
Desktop Linux, at its core, is totally ready for the mainstream world. Properly managed, today's distros are in a stronger position than any of us could have possibly managed even just a few years ago. The combination of software choices and hardware detection is just jaw-dropping considering how much voluntarism goes into making Linux what it is today.
Yet despite this great news, there remains a dark side to be overcome. This smudge on the desktop Linux record is not something out of our hands. No, it's a simple matter of finding a stronger balance with consistency while remaining diverse for the end users.
My call to action is for the community to work with the strengths that already exist with the various distros out there. I'd love to see users step up and provide more up-to-date documentation for the distros they use each day.
I want to witness Canonical making a real effort to realize that here in the U.S., we would like visible access to restricted codecs from their store without having to dig for it. And of course, for Ubuntu users looking to purchase new notebooks to stop purchasing from big name vendors that offer only Broadcom chipsets and instead, spend a little more with smaller vendors that support Intel wireless options.
That's it, nothing Earth shattering. Just taking baby steps toward showing the world that we as Linux enthusiasts are not all cheapskate tightwads that will bend over backwards to avoid spending a dime to support extended functionality.
Want to listen to MP3s on your Linux box, then vote for it with your wallet. Fair as it might not seem, if you want the world to start taking us as desktop Linux users more seriously, then we need to lose the cheapskate image that has been holding us back. Even if it is cheaper because Microsoft and Apple pay for some of this for their users, we as Linux enthusiasts must take a stand.