Linux

10 principles the Linux community should revisit

The Linux community has traditionally held certain beliefs, such as opposition to DRM and an insistence on free software. Jack Wallen suggests the time has come to reevaluate and possibly revolutionize some of the traditional thinking.

Anyone who has read my work over the last decade knows where I stand with Linux and open source. If you haven't taken read my words, know that I am a huge advocate of Linux and open source software. I use it, I promote it, I mentor new users, I do everything I can to help the cause move forward.

But no matter how much I believe in the cause, I know some of the ideals the Linux and open source community hold so tightly to need to be reevaluated. Why? The landscape of business and home computing has changed drastically since the beginnings of the GPL and the Linux operating system. Many of you might look at the following list and say, "Are you crazy?" But I would ask that it be examined merely as suggestions for where the foundations of open source software can improve and help the public at large fully embrace open source and Linux.

1: DRM

I recently wrote a blog post about how Linux should embrace DRM. There's a good reason why. Actually, there are several reasons why. But one of the biggest reasons, and one that hits home to many a Linux user, is Netflix streaming. I have had discussions with the vice president of marketing at Netflix that made it clear one of the main reasons Netflix doesn't stream to Linux is DRM. It doesn't want piracy -- just like I don't want piracy. The open source and Linux community needs to seriously rethink its stance on DRM and be open to embracing this technology so it can be included in services such as Netflix.

2: Free (zero cost)

I would love to see companies making a profit working for or selling software for the Linux operating system. But the majority of Linux users seem to think the software they use should never cost a penny. This same mindset caused Loki Games to go out of business. I get it. I relish the fact that I spend exponentially less money on software than my Microsoft-using compadres. But that doesn't mean I won't pay for software. If there is software out there for the Linux platform that I like -- and that software has a cost -- I'll pay for it. I believe wholeheartedly that if more Linux users would adopt that policy, more companies would develop more and better Linux applications.

3: Level of difficulty

There are times when I feel like the Linux community and developers prefer Linux to be more difficult than the competition. I say this half-jokingly because I like to consider myself a fairly competent Linux user on most levels. But to the average computer user, Linux can still be a challenge. Yes, I feel the desktop developers are doing a killer job in making the Linux desktop one of the easiest-to-use desktops around. But other tools that users need or want tend to be far more challenging than their Microsoft or Apple counterparts. One perfect example of this is joining a Linux machine to either an LDAP directory or to an Active Directory. Granted, we're talking about the cross-pollination of technology. But even seasoned admins have trouble with LDAP. I have yet to come across a solid, reliable GUI for it.

4: Support

For many avid and diehard Linux fans, the available support (forums, mailing lists, etc.) is enough. In fact, many of the experienced Linux users I know (including myself) enjoy the challenge of solving the problem at hand. This is not so for the average computer user or business. They want an obvious route for support. Businesses want someone to blame and/or turn to when something isn't working as expected. End users just want help to make their machines do what they're supposed to do. This is not out of the ordinary, and Linux should not be above or beyond it. The communities and companies that offer Linux distributions really should consider providing a more traditional support service to anyone who uses their software. Yes, this could be a logistical nightmare. But somehow, some way, a support method could be developed that makes sense for both end users and developers.

5: Updates

This one is really tricky. Some distributions use a rolling update method so that a distribution is seamless updated constantly; others believe in a regimented upgrade based on passage of time. Both methods have their pros and cons, but what should be thought most important is a standardized method of updates. Some users get frustrated by the constant release of new versions, which make them feel as if they are always having to reinstall their operating system. Yes, plenty of Windows users out there are way behind the curve when it comes to upgrades; but Linux is different. Users don't have to pay for the operating system every other year. That doesn't mean users want to take the time to completely reinstall their operating system every six months. I believe a standard should be set for updating. What that standard should be is beyond me. Although I like what Ubuntu does, I also constantly feel like I'm outdated. But the rolling update seems to be such a constant stream, I feel that's all I'm ever doing. Middle ground, anyone?

6: Standardization

Speaking of standards... Can't we all just agree on standardization? The lack of standardization seems to be one of the bigger roadblocks to a broader acceptance of Linux. If true standardization could be found, every one of the Linux distributions would have a much easier time with development. If GNOME and KDE had to concern themselves with only a single standard, those desktops would develop much faster and with more reliability. This would also go a long way toward helping interaction with other operating systems (such as Windows and OS X).

7: Proprietary software

I get it, I get it: Information should be free, the GPL must be law, and proprietary software has no place on the Linux operating system. Wait, scratch that last entry. Proprietary software should be just as welcome on the Linux operating system as it is on any other system. Proprietary software is closed simply because someone is trying to make a living with their product, and there isn't anything wrong with that. There are distributions out there that pride themselves on being completely open source -- and bravo to them. But that doesn't mean every distribution should follow in those footsteps. If that were the case, there would be a lot of features and hardware Linux users wouldn't get to enjoy.

8: New users

Some distributions, such as PCLinuxOS and Ubuntu, try hard to focus on the new user. They make their distributions as user friendly as possible. But then Ubuntu pulls off a change of heart (such as switching to Unity) that have new users shaking their heads. That was a decision based on a hopeful bottom line and not the user. But even with that decision out of consideration, many distributions (even those that claim to be new-user friendly) do a poor job of embracing new users. The Linux community is a huge group that does a lot of preaching to the choir and little outreach. Those distributions that claim to be the best for new users should be doing everything they can to entice new users to try their distribution. This is not happening. It has never happened. I don't see Linux distributions on Twitter or Facebook reaching out beyond the already converted. Social network has open source written all over it -- free marketing!

9: Marketing

Speaking of the "M" word -- someone in the world of Linux needs to fund a massive PR campaign to get the word out. Linux just has a few figureheads speaking into a void. I do everything I can to reach out beyond the already converted, but I am not part of a Linux distribution. I would love to see somone (like Mark Shuttleworth) pull off a marketing campaign that reaches beyond the enlightened masses. When this happens, Linux adoption will grow exponentially.

10: The high road

Linux users telling new users to RTFM or scoffing at the idea of helping (or mentoring) them make the Linux community look bad. Here's an interesting issue. Go to any Linux mailing list and reply to a thread with a "top post." When you do that, you will feel the wrath of nearly every member of that list coming down hard upon you for not bottom posting or posting inline. This, to me, is the Linux community showing its uglier, less-than-accepting side. When new users start using Linux and need to go to a mailing list for help, the last thing they need is to be publicly humiliated and berated for not following a "rule" most new users wouldn't understand or see a purpose for in the first place. Take the high road, Linux community, and stop making everyone feel inferior -- even if for only top posting or not supplying enough detailed information at the beginning of a post in a request for help. We can all get along. Really.

Your turn...

Don't take all this the wrong way. I am a huge advocate of Linux and open source. But I think there are ways that Linux, in general, can open itself to a much larger audience simply by rethinking some of its beliefs and ideals. How do you feel about the issues I've raised here?

About

Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and Linux.com. He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website getjackd.net.

110 comments
KristinWarbington
KristinWarbington

Well, I'm not a die hard fan, I just use Linux on my dedicated web servers, but then, I avoid like the plague any windows server hosing, so.... Anyways, articles like this are a bit over my head and are a great challenge for my growth. 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memo476
memo476

Every time I try to give a shot to Linux (Mandrake, RH) I have encountered certains things (or challenge) or not say issues that has made me go back to microsoft, now after some years I found Ubuntu, very promising, a clean interface, great software management low for HW required resources, and virus-"free" though I again have encountered certain issues that makes me go and google for solutions, an sudo many commands, that's ok for specific tasks but not for basics, like yesterday night the Software management stopped connecting to the internet. I had to sudo apt-get update and stuff it took 15 minutes while instead of searching a solution I just could be doing what I needed to, the reason why I turn on the computer in the first place, and that is just to say an example. I dont hate the terminal all contrary I like learning new stuff but is just that sometimes I dont have the time for fixing updgrading, compiling, searching for the right kernel for vmware player for example, not to say that the first day I installed Ubuntu it frezzed! as a end-user I need a ready to work OS and yes if needed only if really necesary use terminal! come on no everyperson who uses Linux is a Computer-Geek! Im trying not to, but if Ubuntu is not what expect specially for basic GUI functionality I'll need to go back and try it sometime in the future when it improves.

dimonic
dimonic

@Stovies You basically admit to pirating MS software, and then you demand that Open Source let you run proprietary (possibly stolen) software on top of the free OS. Firstly - you do not need to run proprietary software at all. You do not need autocad. How can I possibly know this? Well - I cannot imagine an architect or professional design engineer in the 1st world (two of the main Autocad user categories) who cannot afford to buy Windows. If you are stealing Windows, you are not someone who needs Autocad. Secondly - none of the popular Linux distros require you to use the command line at all. You can use Ubuntu, or RedHat, or SuSE, or Mint etc., access all their power, without ever having to type a line at the command prompt. Thirdly - as to versions and upgrade, Ubuntu (for example) never "requires" you to upgrade. They /offer/ free upgrades (via download) regularly, for you to take advantage of new technologies, interface improvements etc. You don't have to upgrade if you don't want to. You can choose merely to "update" your existing distribution, and pick and choose which updates you accept (all graphically, and automatically). Lastly, as for the command line, all operating systems have a command line. Over the last few years, Microsoft has /increased/ its command line capabilities significantly. They are heading towards the ability to do every administrative function on the command line (something which Linux has always had). They do this /due to popular demand/ from their users. Their constant changing of the GUI has moved essential tools around so much that poeple have demanded some consistent way to access the features they need, whether locally or remotely. So - as an obvious card carrying member of the self important, special, and entitled "me - generation", how do you like them apples?

Stovies
Stovies

Every make of vacuum cleaner can be described as a hoover. Hoover was the first to make a readily available home cleaner. So when thinking of Open Source operating systems it seems natural to want them to work like Windows; because Windows was the first 'user friendly' operating system and it kicked off the PC as a home computer. So, you developers out there, whether UBUNTU or Red Hat or Mint or whatever title appeals to a particular user, remember that there are people who see their PC as a very handy; indeed essential tool. The mouse is a common instrument, so write your programs for mouse users and that will help lots more people to feel comfortable. Forget about the Command Line for the majority since the majority are users of specific programs like Word, Excel, Auto CAD etc. I mention Auto CAD because it is not available to, say, UBUNTU users because they believe that Open Source users do not want to pay. I am in the average as a user and I will pay for UBUNTU provided it is sold in the UK with the correct pricing for exchange rates. I have to pay the same in ?? sterling as the Americans pay in $ US Dollars for Windows 7; that's theft so Microsoft should not be surprised if Brits use pirated software from them. If I pay for UBUNTU, for example, I do not want them to tell me that my version is out of date every three years in average. More to the point, I will switch totally to Open Source when I can load, with clicks of the mouse proprietary software that I use because it is good value and works for as long as I can manage with the current version. I upgrade my proprietary software when I see that the new version is better than my present version. This is what the developer geeks have to consider; otherwise we are going to remain slaves to two money grabbing questionable value providers, namely Microsoft and Apple.

dummysender
dummysender

The OS wars were fought and settled long ago, both as commodities and as concepts. Windows dominates because one OS should be dominant in the consumer personal-computer realm. When Apple/Mac was more of a player, and OS2 still held hope, the consumer paid a high price, like we are now with smartphones. Fringe OS's have their place, and it's at the fringes: they exist for particular purposes, not for mass appeal.

dproske
dproske

My friend says he does netflix with Pin Guy Linux. I have not tried it YMMV.

mikifin
mikifin

I get DRM, but the state of DRM is like this...I buy a Walmart shirt, but I can only wear it in Walmart or I will get arrested. Most users view this as CRAP and resort to piracy. If the DRM people can work out a reasonably priced use model, I think most people would sign on. As far as the rest of issues you address? To me it sounds like a band where each section is playing a different tune mainly to impress other band sections and not the audience. I learned one thing about software for profit working in the industry, it is about the bottom line and without that pressure you get this "band effect." People being what they are it even happens in companies, which often fail because of it. Seven of the ten issues you mention revolve around this survival of the most fit pressure in the for profit world. For profit software has to stream line updates, difficulty, uniformity etc. to make the product and make money, without this pressure I can see why Linux is so disorganized. The last issue, the user, is simple. With for profit software you have to, HAVE TO, treat users on all levels like kings. Why? They won't buy your product if you don't! With Linux, all the insiders can sit around in the dark behind their monitors and stroke each other about how smart they are. They don't have to produce the bottom line. They can sit around and preen for each other and don't have to give a hoot about new users. I started in the age of punch cards, then they was no one to give you a helping hand, even in the early days of DOS the same held true. Now there is no excuse for treating new users badly. I will give you a simple example to prove my point. Microsoft Office/Word was once an also ran product. Word Perfect ruled the roost until one day some bone head penny pincher said, "Wow, we can save a ton of money by cutting out our 24/7 tech support for Word perfect" and they did. That gave Microsoft the crack that they needed. They inundated users with help online, on the phone, guides for Word; they even put in a cross over help in Word. Today Wordperfect is little known and Windows Office products rule the roost. To me this shows the power of the lowly user. If the Linux community could get its act together, they too could become the "it" desktop solution and Microsoft Windblows systems would be resigned to also ran pile like BeOS.

sysop-dr
sysop-dr

FOSS software in itself can be used for many things but the principles it is based upon preclude some items for a reason and in doing so is self limiting by design. We don't do DRM because it is fundamentally opposed to the ideals that started the foss movement. So if you feel you have to have netflixs get an iPad. That is really the problem with a lot of things, like people thinking that Linux desktop will ever be a general use desktop. Our ideals do not allow it because most people do not fit the ideals of the foss movement nor do we want them to. (We are not out to change the world, just give them an alternative.) At the heart of everyone's idea that at some point Linux desktop will rule the world is the fallacy that the Linux and foss communities in general should change to make themselves appeal to the mass market OR that the masses will change their ideals and become aligned with the foss ideals. And neither of those will ever happen. But that doesn't mean that foss and Linux are doomed or that we shouldn't try to improve and get people to use it. These are tools. Tools have their place. But some tools are not meant for every job and not every job requires the same set of tools. So some distributions like RedHat are able to sell their distribution. Others include non-free software. And Linux is the best and most used server OS around and for a lot of people it's the best Desktop OS out there. But it's not everything for all people and it has to fulfill the needs of the people who make it first, after all most foss software started as something the original author needed and then he decided to share it with whoever else might also find it useful. It's this sharing that is the heart of our movement and sharing means sharing equally. SO if you have something you make but don't want to share, and so have DRM on it then don't share it with us, but you are free to share our foss products it you want to, we won't hold your not sharing against you. If we want it we will pay for it. As studies have shown when it comes to donations for opensource projects other opensource developers donate more than anyone. We use many different OS and distributions. Each has their strengths and each has their weaknesses. The ideals behind each dictate their efficacy and effectiveness. Maybe once you have learned that lesson and taken the time to fully understand it then you can come back and be able to discuss how we should realign our ideals, but feel free to use our free software while you mull it over, it really is free. I think i will repost and expand on this on my blog. Feel free to look me up if you want to. (I am sure google can find me.)

blossto
blossto

I especially liked number 10. In the tech world generally you find many that think they are better, smarter than everyone else. I just get tired of that. We were all newbies once and I need to remember that!

gak
gak

Linux community is subdivided into interest groups gathered around distributions and each group is happy with what they have (if they are not, they fix it). Linux is a cooperative effort based on the idea that working together for free people can achieve more than working for profit. There is no space for "should". My best guess is that "should" is promoted by people who want a free ride on the Linux tales.

Allen.
Allen.

The hierarchy of Linux experts is defined partly by how much someone knows and contributes. The vast majority of participants on the forums know very little and can contribute even less. Being able to flame someone for a trivial item such as posting etiquette or not reading a man page makes them feel like valuable participants.

dimonic
dimonic

@atch666 Hard to believe you are anything onther than a MS shill or a fanboi. You have selectively listed specific pieces of software "that you use everyday". Autocad? Really? So you are an engineer or architect. And you use this to generalize your argument into a price/quality argument? Get real. The number of users who use autcad everyday are far less than 1% of the user base. Similarly, the number of people who use photoshop for anything that gimp cannot do easily are less than 1% of the user base. And as for Visual Studio - WTF? Are you an architect, a graphics artist or a code warrior? Dude - if you were a coder you would know that there would be no reason to use Studio on a Linux box. It does not compile code for Linux. If you are writing code for Windows - it stands to reason you would want to use a Windows box (or a virtual machine hosted on Linux ;)). As for Open Office (or Libre Office) - I don't know what features in MS Office you use, but personally I find the whole ribbon thing adds not a jot to my occasional writing experience. I might just have to use OO at my workplace because they are replacing MSO 2003 with the new version, and I can't be bothered to adjust to it only to write one or two memos a weak WHILE I DO MY ACTUAL JOB which DOES NOT require me to be an expert user of autocad, photoship, visual studio and ms office. (Only Visual Studio).

tarose.trevor
tarose.trevor

I agree wholeheartedly with everything said... I love Linux and I love the idea of free software, especially because it gives access to the underprivileged in the world, and i definitely dont think that should stop... however, as the article says and I agree, if you literally CANT make a dollar out of selling software on the Linux platform then it will always be that step behind, because without the $ coming in, how do you pay for the things that need to happen? ...this is similar to my opinion of how charities & non-profits operate... its great that they are doing something the commercial world doesnt want to do that benefits people &/or the environment, but those two types of business structure do not preclude making money, it just means its not their sole focus, and they really should have a proper business plan which enables them to pay their staff rather than relying on volunteers, because people deserve to be paid for their contribution to the world If you are fortunate enough to make a lot of money doing whatever you do in life, dont begrudge others their chance to do so, because without income, there is suffering

yankeyj
yankeyj

Excellent article, I hope it gets more reads by people!!

birchyboy
birchyboy

As a Linux user for many years (early SuSE, Red Hat etc.) I couldn't agree more with all 10 points (even though I have to use the smooth Win 7 Enterprise at work). The problem is that although the Linux communitiy is more adaptable than MS, it's still like getting a supertanker to change direction. What suggestions do you have, Jack, for actually getting the measures implemented, aside from missionary zeal?

gillcar
gillcar

... while waiting for Linux to be ready. I tried a lot of Linux versions, prefer the Debian based ones, and was a Ubuntu fan, until they made bad decisions. I wanted to get away from MS and finally decided to go the Apple way. Nothing's perfect, but anything is better than Windows. Unix was good, and in the end, my Mac OS-X gives ne a bit of all these systems that I like:Unix, Linux, a bit of Windows, and even DOS... As I said, I was tired of waiting for Linux to be a complete operation system.

cwarner7_11
cwarner7_11

I have ancient MS Excel files that MS Excel cannot read. It's rather comical that Libre Office can read them. I can save all of my spread sheet/word processor files in MS office formats from Libre Office (or Open Office), but I can not access other formats from MSOffice. I can also run MS Excel in Wine on Linux with no problem, if I want to (although I see nothing in any version of Excel beyond 2000 that is worth paying for). The compatibility is a non-issue. Send me your MS documents, and I can access them from my Linux installation. I do not believe you can access my native documents from LibreOffice in MS, but I can convert them to a format you CAN access very, very easily.

laivy
laivy

I have been looking into moving from Windows to Linux on my home computer for various reasons. However, at this point it doesn't look like I can. The reason being - compatibility. I have MS Office files from the past 11 years and I most definitely do not want to lose all that work, but as much as is advertised to the contrary I have not found the alternatives in Linux to be compatible with the MS format and therefore am stuck continuing with MS for better or for worse. Additionally, convincing developers who charge for their software to develop for Linux would help. In the office that I work Linux is not an option as the main software we need is not available in Linux. I have tried out the newest Ubuntu - it is very nice but until the above issues are resolved it doesn't make sense for me to move to Ubuntu or even install it together with MS.

wordwytch
wordwytch

Interesting button you chose to push here. I'm not your typical Linux user. I'm a 51 yr old grandma, who loves her computer. Here's my take on your points. 1. DRM.... So I can't watch streaming video. Yes, it may be important to people who don't leave their house on a daily basis or don't receive mail. However, this is a toss away issue as far as I'm concerned. 2. Free. As Alpha Dog said, it's about choice. Do I want to help fund some executives next million dollar toy or do I want to use something that works? Hmm... That's a no brainer. Looking back over the nearly 20 years I've used computers, the software I've paid for has never stood the test of time. 3. Level of difficulty... Okay, there have been times that I've had to ask for assistance. I've bugged my local tech guy and probably made his head spin a time or two. However, the level of satisfaction with Linux and Ubuntu means that I'll never go back to MS. My Dell laptop came with Windows 7. I played with it for 24 hours. Then I scrubbed it and put Ubuntu on it. My tech teased me and asked if I was sure I liked how it ran on the Dell, and if I wanted to switch back. My answer was No, h*ll NO. 4.Support. This is another one that looks like an easy win for Microsoft. At first. Then think on all the times you've called MS help desk and either got a recording, Bangladesh Bob or after thirty or forty minutes of trying everything the tech says, his reply is "oh,... your computer is out of warranty" Grrrrr..... I've had friends literally cry over MS's 'wonderful' support. They can have it. Yes, I might have to wade though pages on the web, or deal with 19 yr olds who think they know it all. So what. If I get really frustrated, I have a tech I can call. A local guy, which keeps the money in our local economy. As far as I'm concerned, that's a win-win. 5.Updates. Huh? What were you smoking? I set my computer to automatically update, and to be honest, I've actually checked it to see if it really worked, because I never see the updates. It's all done behind the scene. I helped a friend do her Windows updates. I left after three hours as they were still going. sigh.... Sorry, Linux updates and the seamless behind the scenes operation is one of the things that sold me on changing my OS. 6.Standardization. Okay it can be confusing. It can make your head spin. If you pay attention, it isn't that bad. Just look at the way things got hashed between XP, Vista and Seven. I'll take the lack of standardization anytime. One size/standard fits all isn't all it's cracked up to be. 7, Proprietary Software... No, sorry. I like my choices. Don't tell me I can only do something one way. Don't insinuate that just because something is secret and locked, that it's better. Don't suggest that paying for extra special super choice configurations are going to make my life better. Nope. Not going to fly. Our state went to MS Sliverlight for taxes... I went to the library and used a Windows box for all of 5 minutes. Most of that was spent giving my opinion of their choice of software. 8. New Users. Hmm... how best to explain this... If you have someone who wants to learn, they'll do so in spite of all the obstacles. 7 years ago I was a new user. Yes, there was a learning curve, and I wished I'd had a bit more help, but to be honest, I learned by playing around and digging up the info. I found many people in the same place as I was and we worked it out. Another example,... I got tired of my 24yr old son complaining about Windows 7. I told him that he needed to look into Linux and Ubuntu. He blew me off for a day. I asked him if he'd installed Ubuntu. "No Mum, it just isn't gonna fix the issue...." I told him to give it a chance. Burn a live CD. To shut me up, he finally did. Thirty minutes after he had it installed, he called to tell me how wonderful it was and why didn't I kick him upside the head earlier?. After I reminded him it was 2am, I said glad you're happy. Now a month later, he's better at it that I was in a month. 9. Marketing. Yes, it could be improved. However, as a business woman, I know that the best advertisement is word of mouth. I tell everyone I can about it. About time others stepped out from behind the computer screen and did the same thing. 10.The High Road. You know, Linux users aren't the only ones who get peeved about top posters. The real matter is education of what is expected and consideration for others. Did anyone tell newbies that top posting wasn't allowed? Or is this just an excuse for bad behavior? Sorry, as far as I'm concerned, while this may be a bad habit of some people, I don't believe it is a principle that is germane only to Linux users or should it be used to bash them. Overall, about half of these are just daft. Serving up a whine like this makes me want to ask you where the cheese is. If you want to sell your soul to Microsoft or Apple, go ahead. I'll be playing in the sunny room with all the Linux users.

Alpha_Dog
Alpha_Dog

Choice. Choice plain and simple. Did I mention choice? Good. What I tell you three times is true. (Extra geek points if you get the reference.) Let's look at each point with regard to the concept of true freedom. 1. DRM. I would rather set fire to my computer than load up DRM to cover someone's rights that I have not violated just in case I am a criminal... but it should be an option for those who want it. 2. Free. I love the fact that I can solve nearly any issue for free with information I can find readily on the Internet. I have no intention of changing this, but I do generously reward folks that are part of the solution. I do this out of choice, though it should also be the publisher's choice to charge or not. 3. Level of difficulty. We have migrated some folks from XP to Ubuntu rather than Vista or Seven because the learning curve is less steep. Not so sure about Ubuntu 11.04, but then again nobody really is. For a product labelled Unity is sure has folks split up. 4. Support. Most companies have support offerings, but we as support pros need to step up to the plate and give the customer the choice. We need to proudly say we support Linux as much as we crow about our Microsoft and Apple support. Let them know we are out there! 5. Updates. Are you kidding? Linux updates for major distros are about as easy as they get. Mine take care of themselves for the most part behind the scenes for the client only asking for the occasional reboot. Windows? Please don't turn this computer off... Updating number 2 of 60... 6. Standards? We don't need no stinkin' standards! Just kidding, but we need choices which tend to run contrary to the creation of any standards. You want to run Slackware with Enlightenment? No problem. Suse with Gnome? Here you go. XFCE with RedHat. Done. Ubuntu without Unity? Working on that. 7. Proprietary software. If you want to, you should be able to do it. We have used NolaPRO for accounting, and yes it's not open source. Using Nvidia drivers? that should be your choice, as well as the choice of the company on how to liscense the code. 8. New Users. We're better about that than we used to be. We should support anyone choosing freedom. 9. Marketing. Oh, you had to bring that up. Why is it that we have adopted a software platform that came from the bottom up, a license model that empowers the user, but we expect marketing to come from the top down? Marketing should come from the small businesses that support it, though IBM and Mr. Shuttleworth's efforts are appreciated. 10. Again, we have improved. You are much more likely to find help than a troll who fancies themselves the BOFH these days, but there is a vocal minority and the occasional frazzled techie who should just let a thread pass by... I have been guilty of this, even within these hallowed halls. Bottom line: Jack, most of what you sought with this article can be answered with a single word. Choice... the freedom to choose.

stuttgartt
stuttgartt

It's a shame that so many people take the time to write an interesting and informative comment but include so many unexplained acronyms that many users, reading these articles and comments to better understand their computer, can't grasp the full meaning. If people can't understand what you're saying without having to do a search for the acronym meaning they lose interest and scroll down. It used to be common practice for a writer to put the full meaning of an acronym in brackets after the first use but now, when we need that more than ever, it happens less and less. I'm a pretty smart guy with a good memory and language skills but I struggle to keep up with all these acronyms, what hope does the average user have? I know it's a pain to have to type the extra words but if your writing is important to you then why not take the time to ensure ALL readers can comprehend the whole thing. ac??ro??nym ac??ro??nym [??kr?? n??m] (plural ac??ro??nyms) n word formed from initials: a word formed from the initials or other parts of several words, e.g. "NATO," from the initial letters of "North Atlantic Treaty Organization" [Mid-20th century < acro- + -nym < Greek onuma "name," after synonym etc] -ac??ro??nym??ic [??kr?? n??mmik], , adj -a??cron??y??mous [?? kr??nn??m??ss], , adj

antilope
antilope

Generally speaking, I agree with the whole article except for point #1: DRM Why should we accept restriction on how to use the products we buy? Piracy is just an excuse to give corporations even more power over the individual (though I'm not denying the fact that piracy can be a problem). Why should WE embrace DRM? I rather see Netflix embracing freedom and drop DRM all together. Should million of Linux user conform to the whims of one single company? I don't think so.

cwarner7_11
cwarner7_11

"I just wish the penguins would take these positive intentions and energy and apply it to something more important than an operating system." Have a look at the CAELinux (http://www.caelinux.com/CMS/) distribution (built on Ubuntu)...

cwarner7_11
cwarner7_11

Ubuntu 10.04. I use it to for engineering work- FEA, CFD, some CAD (OK, Windows is FAR better at CAD), data analysis (DFT, etc.), on a daily basis. I actually go months without ever looking at the command line (although some of my more obscure applications are "command line only"). I do not have anywhere near the security problems or instability that I had when I used to use Windows. When something does break, Linux tells me what the problem is- back in the Windows day, when the system crashed, all I got was a Blue Screen with absolutely no clue as to what the problem might be...

cwarner7_11
cwarner7_11

Yes, the jargon gets a little confusing at times- people like to use jargon to demonstrate they are part of the "in" group, not to communicate useful information. Your two specific questions- "grub" is the boot loader- something you most likely will never have to deal with directly in day to day use of Ubuntu. It does become important if you are setting up a "dual boot" system with Windows or other operating system, but the installer will take care of all the details for you (follow the on screen instructions EXACTLY and you will have no problems). Most users do not need to use the command line "apt-get" to load new programs. If you know the name of the program you want to install, there is an application at the bottom of the "Applications" menu called, "Ubuntu Software Center" that helps you find the package you are looking for and automatically installs the correct version, resolving all "dependencies" (i.e., installs all the necessary libraries and resolves any conflicts with other libraries). Very straight-forward and intuitively easy. No command line, no "make" to build the package, etc. The only time you may need to use the command line is if you are wanting some obscure, specialized package that has not yet been incorporated into the package repositories. Even if you really, really need to use an old Windows application, you may be able to do this with a program called "Wine", which will use the *.exe installer- doesn't always work, but worth a try sometimes. I would not recommend starting with 11.04- there is a major change in the GUI that is still pretty unstable- you may be happier with 10.04.

dhorushin
dhorushin

You are right if you want to create a commercial product that can compete Windows and Mac OS X. Apple shows the way and result. Is it the same as do you want? The second point, we're wathcing a shift of a pardigm when an operation system/client device is less important than accessed services. Linux is a good platform for a such client device. It's time to wait and protect the Open Source ideology.

seanferd
seanferd

Linux and the desktops, etc., have open APIs. You're suggesting someone write a DRM framework and tweak it every time the failure known as DRM requires further intrusiveness? Foe everyone's type of DRM? I don't get it. Netflix can write their own friggin' DRM for LInux. If Netflix opens their DRM API (or whatever), I'm sure someone will write DRM code for them. Not sure what this "embracing" crap is all about. Would a thousand Linux users saying , "DRM, w00t!", cover it? Heck, while I'm here: 2. Let's actually have some data on this, or the assertion is meaningless. Anecdata doesn't count. 3. Always room for improvement, sure. 4. Buy support, then. Buy a distro that comes with support. Whatever. But the number of idiots who won't look at a simple help file in any OS or application is not likely to get any lower. No, someone who really needs help shouldn't be flamed, unless, you know, they can't even manage to post a question that follows clearly displayed guidelines, or without bothering to read anything at all first, or can't even post the Question in the forum labeled "Questions" or "Q&A". There is a difference between someone learning the ropes, as it were, and someone who absolutely insists on his right to be a complete moron, and that you deal with it. Not Linux-specific at all. 5. Waaah. Pick a different distro. Don't complain you don't have that thing fixed, or that feature you wanted, if you don't update. You feel that updating takes up half your time? You gotta be kidding. 6. You don't even mention an idea on what you want standards for. How will the developers know? But I have one: Be POSIX compliant, and not Linux-centric when changing your driver models and such. There are other Unixes out there, you know. Don't tie up libraries in a ball like MS does. Get with the Unix Philosopy. Be modular. (I.e., follow the damn existing standards.) 7. Did you have a point here? 8. So what? Ubuntu sucks. Gee, if anyone else changed a UI like that, users would run away in droves, right? Outreach: Get on it, then. 9. It may be slow, as there is always resistance of entrenched users of other OSes, but the Unixes have the best marketing available: grass roots word of mouth and experience. Marketing in the OS world is Steve Jobs' game. 10. If you got on a mailing list instead of a forum, you are already expected to be fairly old-school and clued-in. And if something was easily found in the manual, or previous posts, don't be surprised when others call you on your laziness. Although I must admit I don't usually see this behavior unless dealing with someone particularly dense, who does not appear to read replies to his question, and doesn't address any questions asked of him. Which frequently earns the, "Apparently, you don't want help", comment. Again, hardly Linux-specific. Trouncing new users who asked a well-formed question in an appropriate forum? Shame on the trolls, then.

rogelio.guzman.alvarez
rogelio.guzman.alvarez

I love linux, but the some in the community are the one who is holding the forward dev. speed of linux (not all); THANKS to this community is that Linux was a success without them it was an operating system so poor, full of bugs, almost no support and too harsh for the common user to be taken seriously it just would not prevail, but that time has passed and now Linux is a relative success, we must see to the horizon and realize that we already have the basis for an OS to compete with MacOsX and Windows, but. .. as I said, the reality is that Linux is widely used to hide low self-esteem or a banner of "superiority" like the popular saying "people with small penis always use giant guns" here is the same, "linux must be hard to use because is for the elite "say they hate ubuntu to approach the user with ease of use and deny every successfully function of windows and get really angry with the ones who like it arguing that there???s a better function for that on linux. Lets be sober and accept that linux has deficiency???s and great achievements Lets evolutionate, targeting another kind of audience than the IT and Dev Pro???s and for that linux need the support of third party of software providers, closed source or opensource commercial. Lets give the users the real FREEDOM??? freedom of choose any I want for my distro. Greetings. P.s. Sorry for my bad redaction, English is not my native tong.

steve
steve

I've never understood the objection to top posting. If you have been following the conversation then only the last post is of relevence to you. If you have not, then delve back through the history. This is the way I work with business emails and it is also the way that the major mailing list that I use tends to work. If that is not your style, fine, get over it and worry about content not format, or worst case, ignore the post.

AnsuGisalas
AnsuGisalas

It's not very reassuring that you recap it in the original form, without even saying why you don't take the objection into account: That it is MS who refuses to let Moonlight have Silverlight DRM handling.

chevelam123
chevelam123

have to disagree with you about the fall of WP(ie. wordperfect). MS did it by withholding the API info while moving from DOS to Win3.0/3.1. As a result, non-DOS version of WP was playing catch up all the time against Word and thus losing the 'performance' edge etc. Losing 24/7 support was not the main reason - as I recall, the 'help' function of WP was very good.

apotheon
apotheon

I was not aware of linucity.com -- I'm glad you mentioned it here. Another option for preconfigured Linux-based laptops is EmperorLinux ( http://emperorlinux.com ). If you prefer FreeBSD, there's also the iXsystems Invincibook, for either FreeBSD or its "user friendly derivative PC-BSD. I tend to buy ThinkPads directly from Lenovo and install my own OS on them, however -- usually FreeBSD.

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

Nice product list you've got so far. I particularily like the low cost Qimo installed machines. Now, Debian on one of those tablets would be very compelling. Equally, something running Ubuntu or a similar child fork that could easily be re-installed with Debian.

Alpha_Dog
Alpha_Dog

I am currently going for a degree ar a college that "only supports MS Word under Windows and Mac" I have been submitting documents to them for years that were created under Open Office. The only person at the school to know was my IT professor, because I told him what I was running. I used StarOffice back in the day in an office where I should have been using Office 97, and the only issues I had were with Macros, fonts, and Powerpoint effects. The compatibility has improved since then. As others have pointed out, Open Office / Libre Office can open old files where Word will just give you a dumb look. MS Office 4.3, Pocket Word and MS Works files are an issue for office, but open with no problem in the open source solutions. The only advice I can give is that you may need to check your settings.

Slayer_
Slayer_

OS = Operating System CLI = Command Line Interface CMD = Command MS = Microsoft GUI = Graphical User Interface LOL = Laugh Out Loud Others can add to this list.

jslozier
jslozier

I have found using the Software Center much easier than hunting all over the Internet to find a program. Synaptic is a little trickier for new users but I find now I prefer it over the Software Center. I know how to use apt-etc commands but only have need to use them rarely, as noted for something very usual. Most haters of MS-DOS CLI are because it is royal pain to work with, no cut and paste is available. Most Linux terminals actually allow cut and paste, so I find some instructions on Ubuntu or Debian and copy then paste the instruction, editting if necessary. I have to use MS-DOS CLI daily on a server and despise it.

apotheon
apotheon

> I've never understood the objection to top posting. Are you serious? Okay, let's pretend you're serious. Here's a demonstration: Because it messes up the order in which people normally read text. > Why is top-posting such a bad thing? > > Top-posting. > > > What is the most annoying thing in e-mail? > If you have been following the conversation then only the last post is of relevence to you. The actually appropriate way to handle it is to snip anything that isn't relevant. What you advocate is called TOFU posting (that is: Text Over, Fullquote Under). If you snip the previous response until you include only the necessary context for your response, then respond directly to that context, I don't have to have a perfect memory going back three days to keep what I sent to you memorized until I see your response -- and I don't have to re-read the entire damned thread of discussion to find the context for some off-hand comment of yours. Your statement that only the last message is of relevance actually undermines the argument for TOFU posting and supports the argument for contextual posting beneath quoted text. Notice how right here, in this discussion forum, my comment comes after yours. That's because mine is a response to yours, and displaying it this way gives us the thread of discussion in its natural reading order. Notice as well that I'm quoting a little bit of context from you and responding to it. That's how you (should) do it. > ignore the post. Yeah. I do that sometimes.

Justin James
Justin James

... you are cranking out 5,000+ words of content a week. Seriously... if you look not only here at TechRepublic, Jack is writing at LEAST 5 articles a week, while working that super-tough job with Erik Eckel's consulting firm, while also writing novels AND having a wife and kids. Personally, as an author, I consider reading and responding to comments as part of the job... if I don't take the time to do it, I am not doing my job properly. In fact, a while back I deliberately cut my output with TechRepublic partially because properly handling the feedback was taking so much time. Hopefully, the issue is that Jack does not hold the same opinion as I do. The alternatives are much less attractive. J.Ja

dimonic
dimonic

Why would you do this when millions of dollars have been spent optimizing a another Linux distro (android) for tablets?

Who Am I Really
Who Am I Really

is no different than cut and paste in a winders window only difference is how it's done [b]Alt + Space[/b] > opens the control menu [b]Edit Mark[/b] > make the selection with mouse or Shift + arrow keys [b]Enter[/b] > puts the selection onto the winders clipboard __ to paste get selection from CMD window or another text based winders app, including text from browser put it on the clipboard in the CMD window [b]Alt + Space[/b] > opens the control menu [b]Paste[/b] > pastes the contents of clipboard to the current position on the command line or inside the text based DOS app I do this all the time, have since win3.1x _ then there is the context menu method: for copying: right-click on the CMD window from the context menu select [b]Mark[/b] make the selection [b]Enter[/b] for pasting: right-click on the CMD window from the context menu select [b]Paste[/b] ____ or if you can stand the irritation open the properties for the CMD window shortcut and select quick edit mode ___________________ here's the results from a [b]chkdsk /v[/b] copied from the CMD window _ Microsoft Windows [Version 5.2.3790] (C) Copyright 1985-2003 Microsoft Corp. C:\>chkdsk /v The type of the file system is NTFS. The volume is in use by another process. Chkdsk might report errors when no corruption is present. Volume label is OS XP-64. WARNING! F parameter not specified. Running CHKDSK in read-only mode. CHKDSK is verifying files (stage 1 of 3)... 53424 file records processed. File verification completed. 81 large file records processed. 0 bad file records processed. 0 EA records processed. 6 reparse records processed. CHKDSK is verifying indexes (stage 2 of 3)... 65 percent complete. (128306 of 193810 index entries processed) Deleting index entry CHKDSK.EXE-2CC4C59D.pf in index $I30 of file 12472. Deleting index entry CHKDSK~1.PF in index $I30 of file 12472. 193810 index entries processed. Index verification completed. Detected minor inconsistencies on the drive. This is not a corruption. Errors found. CHKDSK cannot continue in read-only mode. C:\> etu

scottwsx96
scottwsx96

I prefer top-posting. Both writing and reading.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

I recall it was over in the 'Linux Desktop Circus' discussion. Of course, it could have just been a fork off his distribution ...

Slayer_
Slayer_

If his articles are presenting incorrect information, then they are useless anyways.

AnsuGisalas
AnsuGisalas

sure is fast on the trigger. I at least agree with you on the importance of follow-up. In this instance, Jack did drop by the responses, but only to drop a payload, not pick anything up. True dialogue can make the difference between appearing to be a hack, and appearing to be genuine.

apotheon
apotheon

Maybe because Android is crippled, and will not by default run much of the software that can be run on a more general-purpose Linux-based system. Android doesn't even give you a full-featured command line. On the other hand, if you're buying a pure tablet system, you probably aren't looking for that sort of capability anyway. Just as Android is crippled compared to more general purpose Linux distributions, so too is a pure tablet system crippled compared to a more traditional laptop.

apotheon
apotheon

No, I'm just offering some explanation for how it could be a matter of opinion or preference. For instance . . . I guess driving on one side of the road as opposed to the other is just a matter of preference, then. I suppose the choice between HTML and LaTeX as the format for pages you send to a Website visitor's browser is just a matter of preference, then. Perhaps which end of the sword you hold in your hand, and which you point at your enemy, is just a matter of preference, then. It's true -- you could say that each of these things is just a matter of preference. That depends on your goals. If you prefer to get into car accidents, prevent every browser of which I'm aware from being able to render your Webpages, and cut up your hand without doing much damage to your enemy in a duel, I guess your preference in each case should be different from mine. If you prefer reversing the natural order of discussion in English, reversing the presentation of statements that respond to each other, your preference should be for top-posting. I don't disagree with you. I said in my previous comment that "I guess it's a matter of opinion," as did you before that. In this case, I said it's a matter of "preference", as did you before me. I just pointed out that calling it "opinion" or "preference" depends on your goals -- as are all matters of opinion and preference. There may be benefits to top-posting that make you choose that approach, but so far, you have offered no such benefits as explanation. I have endeavored to present some detriments for top-posting, according to my goals, though for all I know they may be benefits according to your goals. Such is life. > So you are saying mine and others' PREFERENCE is "wrong". That is incorrect. I am not being elitist. I am simply pointing out that there are consequences -- some may be good consequences, and others bad, depending on your goals -- to choices about how we communicate with each other. > You, my friend, are clueless and this is exactly the sort of elitism the author of the article was talking about. Generally, however, one should take into account the fact that if there are other users for the same system, those other users will also be impacted by system-wide changes you make to system configuration. Yes, you can alter the system's configuration to suit your preferences, but you should pay attention to whether these alterations may also impact others with different preferences. > Think about it this way. A commonly cited reason for using a GNU/Linux distribution is the capability to tailor practically every last bit of it to your liking. This allows people to set it up and interact with it in their PREFERRED way. Because you know what? There is no "right way" that everyone will agree on. I believe you are approaching this with one of two attitudes that you should acknowledge, whether you will choose to change them or not: 1. You may be failing to grasp the simple fact that some people will not remember all the context of previous communications without refreshing their memory by reading what came before it. In such cases, it is easier to get back up to speed on specific statements you make in response if they are presented in the same order in which people communicate, which in English writing means quote first, response second. Cutting out wholly irrelevant text in your quotes is also helpful for keeping things easy for the other people with whom you communicate. Presumably, you have copies of older emails in the discussion, so you can always refer back to them if you want to find something that was previously cut out, but with proper trimming that should never really be necessary unless someone is being dishonest in how he or she recasts previous statements. 2. You may be intentionally ignoring the impact on others, sacrificing their convenience for your own. Keep in mind that some people may be involved in more than one email exchange at a time. Some of us do much of our business via email, and having quick and easy cues to the context of a given discussion, readily available, grouped with specific replies, can help everyone get things done more quickly. If you are already cognizant of this fact, though, and simply don't care about how difficult you might make things for others when you only ever talk to one person at a time, I suppose your goals are clear and your preferences make sense for those circumstances; carry on. > If I've been following the conversation, I don't need to read the quoted sections because I already intrinsically know what the response is addressing. Before I start, I should mention that the following (that is, above) comment formatting is using your preferred style of response, where responses start before quotes. I have decided to try to accommodate your preferences, to forestall any potential confusion if we were each to apply different standards for quoting and replying to the same text.

scottwsx96
scottwsx96

So you are saying mine and others' PREFERENCE is "wrong". You, my friend, are clueless and this is exactly the sort of elitism the author of the article was talking about. Think about it this way. A commonly cited reason for using a GNU/Linux distribution is the capability to tailor practically every last bit of it to your liking. This allows people to set it up and interact with it in their PREFERRED way. Because you know what? There is no "right way" that everyone will agree on. I don't read a thread all the way from top to bottom in a top-posted format. If I've been following the conversation, I don't need to read the quoted sections because I already intrinsically know what the response is addressing. I just skip the quoted parts and move on to the next post. If I haven't been following the discussion, then the quote is right there if I happen to need it. It's not a big deal and I'm sorry you have such a myopic view on this and that your brain is incapable of compensating for someone else's way of doing things. If you don't like it, get over it.

apotheon
apotheon

If your opinion is that English should be read bottom-to-top, then sure, I guess it's a matter of opinion.

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

I apreciate his general intention behind these opinion pieces but the content of his howto articles tends to be a lot more solid.