Multimedia Test: Ubuntu versus Freespire
I did it: I installed Freespire. Not on a real machine, but in VMware. Unlike certain OSes by Microsoft unless you pay a small fortune for it, Linux-type OSes don’t care if you install them in a virtual machine. I also did the same thing with the latest released Ubuntu release (7.04, a.k.a. Feisty Fawn) as well.
The first thing I tested was Adobe Flash. What better way to test this than to head over to YouTube to watch the DDR Remix of Chocolate Rain. In Freespire, it played right away. In Ubuntu, it would not play until I installed Adobe Flash. Fortunately, I was able to click on the “additional plugins” bar in Firefox, Flash was presented, and I was able to install it. At least getting it there was easy.
I pretty much had the same results with Ubuntu and Freespire with a number of different files I tested with: mp4, m4v (both video), m4a (AAC), and mp3. In the case of Ubuntu, it recognized it couldn’t play the file, but offered to do a codec search. In each case, it found the codec it needed, presented a warning that I might need a license to use said software, and installed the software without a hitch. In Freespire, it just played.
Given that Ubuntu tries to distribute only open-source software, with the exception of “binary blobs” for hardware drivers, Ubuntu has significantly improved the end user experience for actually getting the proprietary bits of software–namely the multimedia codecs–needed to function in the real world. Freespire would prefer to distribute only open-source software, but is a bit more pragmatic in it’s approach, including enough proprietary bits to function on the Internet.
Which distro wins? Freespire, if only because of Click and Run (CNR). CNR includes a number of applications, both free and paid. It makes it much easier to locate software you might want and install it. Either distribution would be a worthy addition to any home desktop, though.