Proprietary drivers in Feisty: not by default but easy to activate

The use of proprietary drivers is quite controversial in the Linux community. Some argue that they have to be included to make Linux competetive, others warn that they compromise what Linux as free software stands for in the first place.

Some popular distributions, for example Fedora and openSUSE decided to boycott proprietary drivers by not shipping them at all.

Starting with Feisty, Ubuntu trys to strive a middle way between the merits to the user and free software ethics by excluding propietary drivers by default but providing an easy way to enable them.

As of today, the Ubuntu development branch includes a tool called “Proprietary Drivers manager” that trys to accomplish this task.

Once started, the software presents a list of available proprietary drivers:

Drivers can then easily be enabled by checking the box or selecting the desired hardware and clicking ‘Enable’ and is then presented by this dialog:

After the confirmation the particular driver is enabled and as in my case I can enjoy the Desktop Effects without any command line voodoo.

Please note that this is by no means final software and it will probably look different when feisty is released.

Join the Conversation


  1. Hey, I’m using Feisty current and just did a dist-upgrade. I can’t seem to find this new manager anywhere! Where is it? Thanks

  2. This is great, but the interface is really terrible.

    Why does each driver have a checkbox for “Enabled” and “In Use”? I have no clue what the difference is.

    I thought “Enabled” might mean “let my computer use this” and “In Use” might mean “my computer is actually using this”, but the selected driver is in use while not enabled. How can something be in use if it isn’t even enabled?

    Why is there a button labeled “Enable” when every option has an “Enabled” checkbox? If I want to enable something, can’t I just check the checkbox? That would be more convenient than having to select a driver, move my cursor to the button, then click the button.

  3. Not perfect, but it’s a start. Even having any distinction between restricted and non-restricted drivers will confuse normal users. Ideally Ubuntu will detect your hardware and automatically install the most functional driver for that hardware, regardless of freeness. Only the crazy zealots complain, and those people use Debian anyway.

  4. I mus be a crazy zealot. Crazy zealots think that users should be informed when they are using proprietary software. Crazy non-zealots just don’t care. But then, shouldn’t they be using Windows?… 😉

  5. I think this is a good compromise. Is it different from Windows and Mac – of course but in a perfectly appropriate way. My question is whether a new installation should inform a user that there are both drivers available and offer a choice of which to use. I’m just thinking of a first time user, unaware of the issue – they should be informed.

  6. This is the right thing for Ubuntu to be doing and I’m pleased to see it happen.

    I strongly believe that free software is better for the user. We do, however, have an IT industry where some software is not available freely.

    New users of Ubuntu should be able to easily install the proprietary drivers, as long as they receive some education that this software is fundamentally different from the majority of what makes Ubuntu and the other Linux flavours such a great desktop operating system.

  7. So, why is it not installed by default?

    Whats all this “requiring no command line” if the program itself is not pre-installed? It requires to install a program to install a driver?

    As to enabled/un-use .. I think it means “installed” and “configured”. That is, do you have the graphics-module installed? and is it setup in your xorg.conf

  8. It currently only lists one restricted driver, and I installed that one myself.

    Why doesn’t it list the drivers available for installation? Or do I need to thave the hardware and then it will show me the driver..?

  9. i still can’t activate nvidia driver using Proprietary Drivers manager on ubuntu 7.04. it’s always turn back disabled. 🙁
    same problem as comment #7 (HeroreV)

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *