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Racing to insignificance

August 20, 2012 25 comments

Bruce Byfield wrote a long and detailed piece recently about his take on the state of GNOME, and while long it does go into great detail what direction GNOME is taking — not an entirely healthy one, in his opinion — and what they might want to look at to right what Bruce thinks is a listing, if not a sinking, ship.

Stop me if you’ve heard this one: When Bruce and I disagree, fur usually flies and a knock-down-drag-out ensues, usually for the entire 15 rounds before it’s normally called a draw. But this is not one of those times, because on the whole Bruce’s assessment seems to be pretty much right on the mark.

Until a couple of days ago, I would have thought that folks at GNOME — especially those in the marketing group — would have read this piece and said, “Hmmm, let’s take a look at this to see what’s right and what’s wrong about it.”

But apparently that’s not the case. Instead, we have borderline hysteria in the marketing group’s exchanges on the mailing list about how to address “trolls” like Bruce Byfield writing for online publications like Datamation which, according to contributors on the list, exist — like Phoronix — only for the sole purpose of bringing down GNOME.

Until yesterday I was a member of that mailing list — it was a holdover to the days when, as a Fedora Ambassador Mentor and keeper of the Fedora event box, I also kept the GNOME event box for an extended period of time and sent it along with the Fedora box to various events. When I was unable to keep using GNOME with the introduction of GNOME 3, I stopped using GNOME but never left the mailing list for a variety of reasons.

For having the unmitigated gall of offering some observations about Bruce’s article on the marketing mailing list, along with some of my own opinions about how GNOME is fostering a separate-but-(un)equal culture with its “Fallback Mode” — and note to GNOME marketing: Seriously, “Fallback Mode?” This is the best name you could come up with? — apparently I’ve been ushered out the door.

I’m OK with that, actually, because the last thing I need is more to read, especially when it’s whiny hand-wringing by some on a mailing list who wouldn’t know objective and rational thinking if it were dropped on them, let alone understanding historical comparisons when presented to them.

But I’ll bring up what I raised in that discussion, and it’s nothing you haven’t read on this blog before. It is this:

POINT: GNOME needs to have a better strategy in addressing people in the tech press who criticize it than calling them trolls, let alone being under the childishly misguided impression that on-line publications are out to get them. To be fair, I think some of the more thoughtful members of the GNOME marketing group understand this, though apparently some don’t. I would like to think some of the smarter, more rational people here will prevail in forming some sort of

POINT: I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again: Having GNOME 3 and a “Fallback Mode” for those whose hardware cannot run GNOME 3 invites and forms a caste system, digitally speaking — providing benefits to a higher class of computer user and not offering the same to others. It is the digital equivalent of making some users sit in the back of the bus. Rational people understand this comparison: GNOME did not outwardly intend to make a desktop environment with the sole purpose of digital inequality, but arguably that’s how it ended up. It is a case of the best intentions backfiring; while it’s nice that GNOME is offering users of older hardware at least something, it’s still far too little in comparison to what others have. Some people find this comparison to a caste system or to “separate but equal” offensive, and if it offends your sensibilities, my apologies. However, the truth is still the truth.

I offered what I thought were some helpful observations to the GNOME marketing list, and I was shown the door. Again, I’m OK with that because as much as I’d like to see GNOME succeed, I can just as easily watch from trackside as they race toward the checkered flag of insignificance. Bear in mind that while once GNOME was all there was for the Linux desktop, today there are a healthy variety of desktop alternatives — many of which have surpassed GNOME in usability across a wide range of hardware.

This my-way-or-highway mentality encountered on this mailing list is the kind of behavior I expect from others, like the Ubuntu Apocalypse for example; where any remote deviation from the Ubuntu/Canonical party line is met with a kick to the curb by zombies marching, hands in front of them, toward a future dictated to them by corporate masters.

I expect better from GNOME, but that may be asking too much. Rather than making any further comparisons, let me just leave you with the final paragraph of Bruce’s article, which I hope thoughtful GNOME advocates will keep from being prophetic:

“Probably, at some point, something called GNOME 4 will be released. But if the early indications are accurate, by the time it appears, nobody will be left to care.”

This blog, and all other blogs by Larry the Free Software Guy and Larry Cafiero, are licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs CC BY-NC-ND license. In short, this license allows others to download this work and share it with others as long as they credit me as the author, but others can’t change it in any way or use it commercially.

(Larry Cafiero is one of the founders of the Lindependence Project and develops business software at Redwood Digital Research, a consultancy that provides FOSS solutions in the small business and home office environment.)

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Eliminate DRM!

Categories: GNOME, Ubuntu, Unity Tags: , ,

Playing catch-up

August 13, 2012 2 comments

Until the apology earlier about not keeping up with Todd Robinson and his somewhat busy August, I realized there were a few other things that caught the old radar here in the hotter-than-average afternoon in the San Lorenzo Valley among the redwoods. So without further adeiu, here we are with a couple of items that may or may not require their own item:

GNOMEbuntu? Well, that’s what some are calling it. On a GNOME mailing list, discussions are being held and options are being bandied about regarding a GNOME-based version of Ubuntu, which I assume would be a version like Xubuntu (which uses Xfce) or Kubuntu (which uses KDE), and the gist of the discussion is what to call it. This comes from discussions at UDS in Oakland back in May, and apparently for several reasons Gubuntu won’t fly (too phonetically close to Goobuntu, which is Google’s version of Ubuntu). While some over in the GNOME camp are perusing the respin books at Ubuntu, another possibility is GNObuntu, or insert your favorite here.

Speaking of GNOME . . .

GNOME OS? Brian Proffitt writes an insightful article about where GNOME is heading — a direction that arguably is taking it on a different tack. Brian quotes GNOME’s Allan Day saying that it’s not going to be a separate distro. But it’s something like that, isn’t it? Well, yes and no. The article brings GNOME’s zeitgeist to the fore, for those who are wondering what’s going on there; that is, when they’re not discussing their Ubuntu spin.

And speaking of GNOME again . . .

Ubuntu’s top desktop environment is . . .: Unity? Nope. KDE? No. Xfce? Unfortunately, no. It’s GNOME Classic — whatever that is (and I’m assuming that it’s GNOME 2.x) — which is used by a total of nearly 60 percent of Ubuntu users, according to an article on an Ubuntu Apocalypse fansite called Ubuntu Vibes. In what is either an enormous failed attempt at humor or complete incompetence in reading their own chart (or, as a third possibility, getting the data wrong in the chart and having their own self-fulfilling prophesy try unsuccessfully to match what they posted), they put up a chart of desktop environment use based on an opt-in program called Popcon. “In all total,” the article states, “2,381,625 machines are submitting installed packages details to Popcon,” and they came up with a chart that shows that most people are using GNOME Classic to the tune of close to six out of ten, although less than 30 percent have installed it in the past 30 days (because, maybe, they’re not installing Gutsy Gibbon?).

My guess is that whomever made this chart read the Popcon data wrong and made the chart accordingly with the faulty data. One might shrug, but to those who have seen this before, it appears that this Canonical/Ubuntu-based site can’t get its facts straight. It will be interesting to see whether someone with some level of responsibility at Canonical/Ubuntu — whether in corporate or on a community level — takes this person aside and say, “Um, this is more than likely wrong, so can you fix this?” But I’m not holding my breath.

Yeah, I said that. So? Rikki Endsley wrote a pretty good piece that, she says, was scooped by someone else, so she posted it on her own blog here. She does a great job, of course, and in the I say something that is not quite . . . what’s the word I’m looking for? . . . evangelical. That’s it: It’s not evangelical. But nonetheless it’s true. Here’s the entire paragraph lifted from the blog item:

“Let me say that you only get one chance to make a first impression,” says Larry Cafiero, a software developer and Fedora fan. “I’d stay away from distros either based on Unity or GNOME 3 because they’re going to be foreign to what the Windows user is used to. That pretty much leaves Linux Mint with their GNOME 2.x-like desktops.” Still, Cafiero thinks that anyone who isn’t willing to put in the small amount of effort required to learn a new system might as well stick with Windows.

Fedora fan? Yes. Though I don’t use Fedora as my primary distro — that honor now goes to CrunchBang Linux, a Debian derivative — I still appreciate highly Fedora’s contributions to FOSS and, having a history with that distro, I like most of the people who are involved in that particular community. I said this and mean it: Anyone who doesn’t want to put the effort into learning Linux or FOSS might as well stick with Windows. It’s the old “leading a horse to water” paradigm — we can tell people how great Linux and FOSS are, but they have to want to try it and use it. The learning curve is now so easily negotiable that anyone with with more than two IQ points to rub together can do it, so frankly I don’t have time for the ones who don’t want, or are too lazy, to use it. For those who have been slamming me because of this quote, that’s what I meant and I stand by it.

There’s a new sheriff in town . . . :” Speaking of CrunchBang, I’ve been involved in that growing and friendly community for about a year now. Since I’m such a forum denizen over that time, they’ve given me a badge and I’m now one of the forum moderators. I’m honored and humbled at being asked, and I know with great power comes great responsibility (I seem to remember that popping up on Debian installs). I’m working my hardest to be Captain America and not Barney Fife (though out of the proverbial starting gate, I seem to be the latter).

This blog, and all other blogs by Larry the Free Software Guy and Larry Cafiero, are licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs CC BY-NC-ND license. In short, this license allows others to download this work and share it with others as long as they credit me as the author, but others can’t change it in any way or use it commercially.

(Larry Cafiero is one of the founders of the Lindependence Project and develops business software at Redwood Digital Research, a consultancy that provides FOSS solutions in the small business and home office environment.)

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Eliminate DRM!

Veni. Vidi. Odio Unitate

May 28, 2012 6 comments

My apologies for not writing this sooner. I know some of you were waiting with bated breath on Saturday for me to finish my run with Unity, and I had planned to wrap it up on Saturday. But I didn’t. I gave the new desktop environment from Canonical, featured only on Ubuntu so far, an extra day just to see if ultimately there was anything — anything — I am missing.

If you can read Latin, the blog’s title says it all. If you can’t, I’ll get back to that in a minute.

But first things first, I have a hard and fast rule — well two, actually — about using Free/Open Source Software. It’s simple: Find what you like and/or what works best for you and use it; it may not be what I use or it may not be something we agree on, and that’s fine. The second rule is a no-brainer: Contribute back to the distro/FOSS program that you use, whether its with bug reports, coding, documentation or financially; and make sure your digital contributions go upstream where they belong. As you’ve heard me say before, some entities — cough Red Hat and Novell cough and their surrounding communities — do this better than others — cough Canonical cough — though admittedly the latter is getting better at it.

Which brings us to the Latin: After vanquishing one of a plethora of lands he overran while he was doing his thing, Julius Caesar said “Veni. Vidi. Vici.” This, of course translates to, “I came. I saw. I conquered,” a 47 B.C. corollary to Dr. Peter Venkman’s “We came, we saw, we kicked its ass!” in the 1980s movie “Ghostbusters.”

I’ll take it a step beyond: Veni. Vidi. Odio Unitate.

I came. I saw. I hate Unity.

As far as I am concerned and for my own computing purposes, there is truly nothing in Unity to like, and there is nothing here that is new. Let’s put aside the one-size-fits-all-but-not-really-any interface for a moment. It’s bad enough that desktop/laptop Ubuntu users are forced into a rigid interface better suited for a netbook or a tablet, but how is something like Head Up Display an innovation? I could have missed the memo, but how is typing out the program name easier than clicking on an icon? And what does HUD do that something like Konqueror — or even the command line — doesn’t do?

In fact, arguably Unity and HUD are a license to fall into bad habits, which is a hallmark for ease-of-use shortcuts built in to recent Linux user interfaces in order to draw users from other operating systems who, as the indescribably flawed reasoning goes, are drooling Neanderthals because they’re Windows users or lazy hipsters because they use Macs.

So the workaround here is simple. If you absolutely, positively have to use Ubuntu for some compelling reason — your family is being held hostage by a radical offshoot of the Ubuntu Apocalypse, for example — there is a workaround. It’s called Xubuntu. Other workarounds include Kubuntu and Lubuntu as well. For that matter, you could even go to a Ubuntu-based distro like Linux Mint, which gives you the GNOME-as-it-should-be experience in a solid distro.

Of course, if Unity works for you, then use it.

This blog, and all other blogs by Larry the Free Software Guy and Larry Cafiero, are licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs CC BY-NC-ND license. In short, this license allows others to download this work and share it with others as long as they credit me as the author, but others can’t change it in any way or use it commercially.

(Larry Cafiero is one of the founders of the Lindependence Project and develops business software at Redwood Digital Research, a consultancy that provides FOSS solutions in the small business and home office environment.)

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Eliminate DRM!

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