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I was trying to install Adobe flash plugin for Firefox 24.0 on Ubuntu 12.04 for which I executed sudo apt-get install ubuntu-restricted-extras and I got the following messages:

surprise

What suprises me is the packages it is downloading: .exe Is this normal?

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just a side note: the executables are self-extracting cabinet files (containing the font files); Ubuntu doesn't need to run them to use them, any decent archiver can pull them apart. –  Michael Edenfield Sep 28 '13 at 23:35
    
@MichaelEdenfield: How is a .exe self-extracting? I didn't get the point. –  i08in Sep 29 '13 at 4:17
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the executable is a small cab-file extractor program that has the cabinet itself attached as a resource; when you run the program on a Windows system, it finds the cabinet data embedded in the executable and extracts it. But any archive program can do the same as long as it's smart enough to skip the executable part (e.g. I usually open then with 7-zip on Windows) –  Michael Edenfield Sep 29 '13 at 4:31

2 Answers 2

up vote 30 down vote accepted

These fonts were originally released by Microsoft as executable installers, and their license only allows "complete copies" to be distributed:

Reproduction and Distribution. You may reproduce and distribute an unlimited number of copies of the SOFTWARE PRODUCT; provided that each copy shall be a true and complete copy, including all copyright and trademark notices, and shall be accompanied by a copy of this EULA. Copies of the SOFTWARE PRODUCT may not be distributed for profit either on a standalone basis or included as part of your own product.

Ubuntu's package doesn't actually contain a copy of the fonts, but rather a script that downloads the original Windows executables from a third-party archive. The script then extracts and installs the fonts without actually running the executables.

It's a convoluted arrangement, but that's what happens when software is released with restrictive licensing.

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Whoa! But why isn't there a debian package for this? –  i08in Sep 29 '13 at 4:20
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There is a debian package for this. It does exactly the same thing. The problem is legal, not technical. –  jhominal Sep 29 '13 at 8:52
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The answer can be summed up as: "Because, Microsoft." –  Greg Oct 16 '13 at 13:46

Installing the ubuntu-restricted-extras package installs several non-free pieces of software you might be likely to use. One of these is ttf-mscorefonts-installer, which is what's actually downloading these .exe files. These are commonly used for Wine applications.

To install just Flash, use apt-get install libflashplugin-installer. To see which other packages would be installed if you did go with all the restricted extras, you can do a dry-run without actually installing them - apt-get -s install ubuntu-restricted-extras.

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Thanks Mactrent, but why isn't there a debian package for this? –  i08in Sep 29 '13 at 4:24
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ændrük's answer covers it - the Microsoft license only allows you to use the fonts at all if you download the entire package - which means running the install exes. The Debian package we do have simply installs the installers, so to speak. TL;DR: To use a Microsoft product - even a 'free' one - you have to do it on their terms. –  Mactrent Sep 29 '13 at 4:53

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