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How to install closed drivers, media codecs, and other forbidden stuff on Linux PCs

Chris Hoffman | July 20, 2015
A typical Linux system is largely comprised of unrestricted, open-source software. But some of the most popular software around is either closed-source or open-source, but restricted by patents. Depending on your Linux distribution, this forbidden software may be easy to install--or require jumping through some hoops.

Debian

The Debian project hosts restricted software in its own "contrib" and "non-free" repositories. These aren't enabled by default because they don't fit with the Debian project's free software guidelines. However, the Debian project hosts these packages so users can make their own decisions.

On Debian, you'll either have to edit your /etc/apt/sources.list file by hand or use a tool like the Repositories window in the Synaptic package manager. Add the "contrib non-free" repositories after the "main" line and this extra software will appear in Debian's package manager.

OpenSUSE

Like Fedora, the openSUSE project depends on community-provided repositories to fill this need. To install them, open the YaST tool and navigate toSoftware > Software Repositories > Add > Community Repositories. You'll see a list of community-provided repositories. The Packman repository contains a lot of multimedia-focused packages, and there are also repositories for the AMD/ATI graphics drivers and Nvidia drivers.

The rest

Other Linux distributions work similarly. For example, Arch Linux offers these packages in the Arch User Repository. Mageia offers non-free repositories that aren't enabled by default--you'll have to activate them first.

You can generally find instructions for your Linux distribution of choice by searching for its name and "install codecs", "install nvidia drivers", or whatever else you want to do.

 

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