Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Of GNU/Linux, Hardliners and a clear case of double standards!

In an ideal world, we'd all be updating our statuses on Identi.ca via the terminal on Arch Linux, have text based web pages without Flash or any form of animation, hang anyone using Microsoft Windows, impose a fine on anyone who uses Twitter and make it a law for all students to take a full course in computer programming.


But in the real world, there is something called choice. Take a look at this thread over on Identi.ca that ensued because my very good @acurrie included Ubuntu as a hastag in an update to a post on his blog. All hell broke lose! I have followed with keen interest the recent brouhaha surrounding Canonical's contribution to the upstream GNOME project. 


First of all, I was not impressed with Shuttleworth's response to the whole upstream commits issue. He sounded more poetic than a technical guy to me on that post. Jono Bacon did a little better. That notwithstanding, the fact remains that there are millions of Linux (sorry GNU/Linux!) users out there that got exposed to the entire FOSS world via Ubuntu. That in itself is no small feat.


I also agree that Ubuntu is not synonymous with Linux, I am not aware if Canonical is seeking to achieve that goal anyway. However, what I seriously have a problem with is the needless and mostly very inflammatory comments that some hardliners make at the mere mention of the word Ubuntu. Is it not ironic and hypocritical to have people that claim they are saving others by giving them choices other than Windows get all worked up at the mention of one of the options available as part of the choice subset they offer?


Is it not hypocritical to be seen damning one distro (on purely philosphical basis) and actually getting worked up over people's choice to use that distro? Where is the choice? Where is the freedom we so loudly proclaim in the FOSS world? There is Microsoft Windows, and there is Linux. Unless the entire FOSS world clearly defines its strategic goal of making Linux a viable choice for AVERAGE JOE and not Tom Geek, the 1-5% will eternally remain our lot.


How many of you will put your monies in investments for over 20 years that will yield returns of less than 10% and keep holding your monies there? Not everyone will be a geek, writing emails via the terminal, not all of us are interested. I for one am more interested in the financial/business aspect of FOSS than the technical/philosophical aspects.


And if you are like me and live in the real world with friends that only do Facebook, Twitter and Solitaire, you'd want something that works easily for you that you can convince THEM to give a try. Ubuntu does that for me, so I use it. Plain and simple. Sure my very good friend and co-author has a different take on Ubuntu, but he has never called me names or flamed me, not even in a jovial way for making my choice. He has given his reasons for his dislike of that distro, and most  of the time, I've had to agree with him based on FACTS he advances!


Linux is a great OS (yes it's just the kernel I know) that has great potential, but I don't see that happening anytime in the foreseeable future because there are just too many hardliners that divide their time between writing code and putting people off from using that code! There is absolutely no need to proclaim FOSS out loud if what we indulge in is mostly bickering at each other over philosophical differences and syntax that only makes Steve Ballmer's day very worthwhile.


To advance GNU/Linux and FOSS in general, do away with the hardline, fundamentalist intolerance and understand that we are from different parts of the world, with different skillsets, interests and understandings trying to put in our small quota to make FOSS a viable alternative. If you have enough time after wrting code to damn something, spend it on trying to close the gap the Penguin will have to travel to catch up with the Windows!

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By Seraaj Muneer with 8 comments

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