Short bio: Computer Scientist, FOSS supporter (read more)
Tux Machines (TM)-specific
New users often find the first time they log in to their shiny new Linux desktop that not only are many things they need installed and ready, but a few things they really want aren't. They'll have a browser, but the Flash plug-in won't be activated. They'll have a media player, but it won't play .mp3 or .wma files. It won't play DVDs. What's up with that?
The main reason this happens is due to licensing, copyright and distribution issues. It will vary from distribution to distribution a little bit (Puppy Linux usually includes Flash with its browser, and Xandros usually peppers in a few media codecs), but for the most part, the free (as in speech) aspect of the software is kept separate from the proprietary. Legality is the major player, but there are quite a few open source folks out there who like to keep their machine free of the proprietary stuff on principle.
First things first, we log into our new desktop. As we explore, and our eyes travel around the screen, we discover a funny little icon in the task bar. The icon varies depending on distribution and desktop environment, but if we hover on it the tool tip will tell us we have system updates.