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Update: Just Push Play

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For the past two months, I have been working on a beginners-level consumer book on Ubuntu 7.04, Feisty Fawn. It's been a bit hectic, but now I am about finished and ready to send the last chapter to the publisher. (I'll tell you the title later; we're still trying to pin it down.)

The final chapter (for me, not the book) is documenting the Automatix2 installer for Ubuntu (as well as Debian 4.0, MEPIS; plus the family of *buntu flavors).

And while Automatix2 is really useful, there is one part of it I have never liked: the fact that we have to use it to get DVD playback capabilities.

I know, I know: it's not Automatix' developers fault, and I know there are plenty of other ways to pull in the right codecs to play DVDs on Ubuntu or any other Linux distribution. What I don't like is the fact that we have to sneak around to do it.

Unlicensed DVD players are forbidden to download or use if you are a resident of the United States, in case you haven't heard, because of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, passed in 1998. The DMCA forbids the sale of any unlicensed encryption technology and in order to read or rip a DVD movie, you need to decrypt its copy protection. So, no US-legal DVD software for Linux, because most of that software is not using the licensed codecs and decryption technology.

Which means if I want to tell people how to run their own DVDs in their PCs, I have to make sure they understand the legal ramifications in the US--just to play a movie they have rented or they own.

There is hope on the horizon: back in February, Linspire and Canonical (Ubuntu's commercial vendor) announced a partnership that would, among other things, make the Linspire and Freespire distributions Ubuntu-based and give Ubuntu users access to Linspire's Click n' Run (CNR) downloading services, which include legal, licensed software to play DVDs.

Update: When I first wrote this blog this afternoon, no word on when this announcement will be made; the CNR site said second quarter of 2007, after the Feisty release. But a newsletter release today from Linspire's Kevin Carmony coincidentally shed some needed light on CNR's timing:

"The CNR.com Timeline:

  • "Early May - CNR.com Testing--Very soon, the Freespire community will be asked to help start testing the new CNR.com site and CNR plug-in from within the Freespire Alpha and Beta builds. (If you'd like to participate in this testing, please visit the Freespire.org website to learn how to get involved.)

  • "Early June--CNR.com Goes Live for Freespire and Linspire Users--Linspire Users 5.0 or higher, and Freespire users 1.0 or higher, will be able to download the new CNR plug-in and start using the new CNR.com.

  • "Mid June--CNR Plug-in for Ubuntu Users--Ubuntu 7.04 (Feisty Fawn) users will be able to download a CNR plug-in and start using CNR.com.

  • "CNR Plug-in for Debian, OpenSUSE and Fedora users--In the months that follow, plug-ins will be made available for these three other popular Linux distributions..."

So, now it's for sure there will not be a CNR chapter for this book. Maybe the next edition.

The good news is that finally Linux users will have a cheap, legal means to do something they should have been able to do years ago, no thanks to the lobbyists at the Motion Picture Association of America.

Soon, Linux users will be able to insert their favorite DVD and just push play.

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