Another San Lorenzo Valley Sunday, charcoal burning everywhere . . .
A few items culled over an unreasonably hot week here in Felton — we’re talking the area being Miami with redwoods (but thankfully without humidity) — include:
Schrodinger’s Cat lives: After a go/no-go meeting last week which sided with the former, Fedora 19 “Schrodinger’s Cat” went gold and gets a non-radioactive green light for Tuesday, July 2. Curious about it, I downloaded the beta and put it on a Toshiba Satellite L455, ahem, “laptop” — a laptop if your lap is the size of, say, Andre the Giant’s — and the silver behemoth ran the beta flawlessly. As I’ve mentioned before, I don’t review distro alphas or betas because it’s akin to sticking your finger in a bowl of batter and writing about how good (or bad) the cake will be once it’s finished.
I can tell you this: I do like what Fedora has done with the install process, so much so that it was worth the wait when Fedora 18 was delayed (and I could take this opportunity to launch into why a six-month release cycle leaves a lot to be desired, but I won’t, even though I just did). In addition, I think this one will be a good one, but you’ll have to find out when I write about it next week. Get more information, and take the living cat out of the box on Tuesday, here.
The best distros: Last week, I said that a FOSSForce.com write-up a few weeks ago about what constitutes a community distro was an “uncharacteristically ludicrous article posted by the usually right-on-the-mark” site for FOSS news and commentary. As a blogger, I live in the glass house known as FOSS commentary and, regardless, I still reserve the right to throw stones. I can also admit without reservation or apology that the history of this blog is strewn with dozens of blogged eggs laid over the past several years; enough eggs to feed omelets to a small army during the course of a military campaign.
That said, I should clarify that I thought the message, not the messenger, was sorely lacking. But Christine Hall makes up for the article I slammed, and gains extra yardage on the play, by writing a great “top five” distro article which concludes — spoiler alert — with this: “Just keep in mind, there really isn’t a best Linux distro, or even a list of five best Linux distros. There’s only a best distro for you, the job you need it to do and the equipment on which you need it to operate.”
Amen to that, Christine, and thanks for reciting the Larry the Free Software Guy mantra.
Widespread adoption of Unity? Not exactly: Like FOSSForce.com, LXer.com is also one of my daily stops on the web for news and commentary. Also, more entertaining is visiting the LXer.com discussion forums — yes, that’s a reflection of how exciting my life is; deal with it (I have) — and finding some interesting morsels.
One item has an original poster bemoaning the fact that people continue to beat up on Unity. While I find it hard to agree with his premise — for a variety of reasons on several levels, Unity deserves its reputation as the pinata it has become in the tech press, with little in the way of argument against — it did prompt me to think about this question: If Unity is such an outstanding desktop environment, why hasn’t it been widely adopted by other distros?
Think about it. Personal preferences aside, a metric which speaks to how good, or not, a desktop environment is would be its adoption by other distros. So you could describe Unity as having widespread appeal if you define “widespread appeal” as being adopted by 10 — count ’em, 10 — distros other than Ubuntu.
If you’re keeping score at home, here’s the list of distros other than Ubuntu using Unity as a default desktop environment (with DistroWatch ranking in parentheses): DreamStudio (49), The People’s Republic of China’s Ubuntu Kylin (105), Hybride Linux (108), Vinux (110), Leeenux (165); Bio-Linux (174), Ubuntu Christian Edition (188), Oz Unity (195), iQuinixOS (261), and Baltix GNU/Linux (274).
OK, so I would argue that it’s not widespread adoption, for reasons I’ve mentioned in past blog posts — the posts you couldn’t scramble and serve with toast.
Oh, and one more thing: Lindependence rides again. We’re going to take Software Freedom Day in September and make it SFD-Lindependence Felton 2012, with all the trappings of the first one. More on this as plans develop. I would urge any group — Linux User Group, FOSS software-specific user groups, even the sectarian Ubuntu LoCos — to participate in Software Freedom Day by signing up here.
See you next Sunday, if not sooner.
This blog, and all other blogs by Larry the Free Software Guy, Larry the CrunchBang 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.
Leave it to Ubuntu/Canonical’s Self-Appointed Benevolent Dictator for Life Mark Shuttleworth to completely ruin a perfectly good release day for Ubuntu 12.10 and its arguably superior derivatives like Kubuntu, Xubuntu, Lubuntu and Edubuntu.
Don’t take my word for it. I’ll let this article from TechCrunch with the headline “Canonical’s Mark Shuttleworth Tires Of Critics, Moves Key Ubuntu Developments Out Of Public Eye” tell the tale.
Was it something I said?
Of course, there’s something both fundamentally and tragically wrong — bordering on criminally wrong — about any Free/Open Source Software project moving their “developments out of the public eye.” But let’s put that aside for a moment, because Shuttleworth writes in his blog that ” . . . we thought we would extend the invitation to people who trust us and in whom we have reason to trust, to work together on some sexy 13.04 surprises.”
So, not only is Shuttleworth throwing out the FOSS baby with the bath water, he also wants to provide a caste system that either patterns itself after the Inner Party/Outer Party in George Orwell’s “1984,” or takes a page from Orwell’s “Animal Farm” where, to paraphrase, “All developers are equal, but some are more equal than others.”
If you’re an Ubuntu contributor, how can you be sure you’ll be one of “the chosen ones,” and if you’re not, then why not?
To take a step back, the more fundamental question is this: Is this really how a Free/Open Source Software project should conduct itself?
I would say the answer to this question is an unequivocal “no,” and I would also add that, at this point, the direction that Mark Shuttleworth has taken Ubuntu is light-years off course from its original mission.
This goes beyond burying “Linux” on a second- or third-tier page on the Ubuntu site. This clearly goes beyond Shuttleworth’s treating current Ubuntu users as second class citizens while he chases the elusive Holy Grail of converting “the new users.”
This is betrayal.
So while the Ubuntu Apocalypse lines up to march, zombie-like, to take their shots below in the comments, I’d like to ask them to first look in a mirror and ask themselves if this is truly what they bought into when getting involved with FOSS. And while admiring what you see in the mirror, I’d like to offer a solution to right this ship that’s listing under the weight of gross misdirection.
To right this ship, the principled and noble thing to do would be for Mark Shuttleworth to turn over the keys to Ubuntu to Jono Bacon, the Community Manager for Ubuntu, and make Jono the Ubuntu Project Leader. Mark should resign from all Ubuntu community-related posts and concentrate on the corporate side of things, where he excels.
I don’t always agree with Jono, but his commitment to FOSS is nothing short of impeccable, and his commitment to these principles is completely unimpeachable. He has the wisdom and experience to bring Ubuntu back to where it should be.
Though this wouldn’t happen in either Mark’s, Jono’s or my lifetime, it would be a step that would go a long way in restoring my faith in Ubuntu’s commitment to FOSS.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to install Xubuntu 12.10 and put it through its paces.
Well, I didn’t write this, but it bears repeating. In an InfoWorld blog item, Paul Venezia pretty much explains why the Amazon thing is not Ubuntu’s biggest problem. Rather than paraphrase, I’ll let you read it on your own:
Best quote: “But the biggest problem I have with the Amazon debacle is another comment by Shuttleworth: “Don’t trust us? Erm, we have root. You do trust us with your data already.” That level of hubris from the founder of Ubuntu, in the face of what is clearly a bad idea badly implemented, should leave everyone with a bad taste in their mouth. If this idea can make it to the next Ubuntu release, then what other bad ideas are floating around? What’s next? Why should we maintain that trust?”
Further, and quoted in the blog above, Etienne Perot outlines what a mess this is — and how to get out of it — in a post from a few weeks ago here:
One of the solutions: See “Step 3: Make it opt-in, rather than opt-out”.
Canonical, white courtesy phone . . .
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.”
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).
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.
Those who have the great fortune, or have made the great sacrifice, of befriending me on Facebook and/or Google+ have already been alerted to this, um, development.
So let the word go forth that I am using Precise Pangolin — Ubuntu 12.04 LTS, for those of you keeping score at home (though I don’t know why you would) — complete with Unity until Saturday. The reason I am giving it a few days, rather than just one as I did in an earlier blog post extends from a conversation I had with Scott Dowdle on #ubuntu-montana, where he made the poignant observation that it would take more than one day for me to make a fair assessment.
Good point, Scott (and this point, it should be noted, comes from a Fedora guy, for all intents and purposes. Hope that doesn’t blow your cover, Scott!). After a considerable amount of pixels spilled on the miraculous game-changing improvements to Unity and Head-Up (something?) Display that a flock of bloggers and some in the tech press are parroting after being spoon-fed from Canonisoft’s PR department, I am giving it another look to see if I had missed something somewhere along the line.
To be frank — and Frank doesn’t mind — after about eight hours of use yesterday, I’m not seeing anything I didn’t see last time I took Unity for a spin, except for one thing: The welcome relief afterward to get back to another laptop running CrunchBang was beyond description.
Earth-shattering, game-changing improvements — they’re here somewhere, right? I don’t see any, at least not yet. In fact, what I do see is what I saw when I used it originally: the one-size-fits-all desktop environment which arguably doesn’t fit quite right on any of them, coupled with a lack of improved utility that I didn’t already have using other desktop environments or FOSS programs. To say nothing of a desktop environment that insults my intelligence by bending over backwards to do things for me that I have been doing easily on my own since — oh, I don’t know — birth.
What am I missing, Ubunteros?
See you again Saturday.