[conspire] Ubuntu

Rick Moen rick at linuxmafia.com
Mon Oct 18 13:24:41 PDT 2004

Out of interest, I pulled down the complete set of mailing list posts to
the ubuntu-users public list.[1]  The list has been in operation for 34
days, and has had 7025 posts -- a staggering amount of traffic.

That community's attention has been temporarily diverted by a bizarre 
controversy:  The Warty Warthog release candidate ISOs put up for
download last week introduced a GNOME "theme" (created by Australian 
Jeff Waugh) called Human, with some pleasant-looking photos of three
smiling, good-looking young people of various races holding hands and
otherwise illustrating the theme of worldwide cooperation that the
distribution is aiming at.  Here's the GDM login screen:


Here's the splash screen, shown for a moment immediately after login:

Here's a (_non-default_) desktop background with the same trio:

Anyhow, you would not believe the magnitude of the resulting
controversy!  It's been resolved, now:  A developer discussion over the
weekend settled that "Human" will be included on the final release, but
not as the default.

Now (as you can see), the splash screen shows a bit of skin for about a
second, but no naughty bits.  Which mostly leaves the GDM login screen, 
which in general terms could pass for your garden-variety Benneton ad.  
But people were saying things like "Using that in a corporate
environment will get me fired!" and "Those images constitute a hostile 
work environment" and "Pictures of naked bodies are unacceptable to most
of the world's cultures".

It's reassuring that so many have become passionate about this
distribution, because it means they care that its initial release make a
good impression, but some of the objections were a little over the top
-- and, mind you, I'm speaking primarily of objections posted by people
in the USA, Canada, and Western Europe.  The issue seemed to have struck
a raw nerve.

The allegation that annoyed me a bit, posted by several Americans, was:
"Islam doesn't permit representational art showing humans or animals, so
you'll be writing off the entire Middle-East and Malaysia."  I realise
this is mildly off-topic, but I get tired of us Yanks looking like
idiots in public on that subject.  I wrote privately to a couple of
these people and politely explained that the prohibition is against
depiction of such artwork in any arguably _religious_ context, probably
because of the history of animism and ancestor-worship in that region.
I.e., if you're serious about monotheism, you don't have graven images
around your houses of worship.  In fact, the reason we know what some of
the early caliphs, sultans, and viziers looked like is that there _is_ a
well-developed and ancient tradition of Islamic representational art,
especially "Islamic miniatures" -- a display of which is in fact
visiting US museums at this moment.


But I guess what really surprised me was how fervent the objections were
from even the non-Bible Belt parts of the USA.  Just when you think you
have your country finally figured out, it surprises you again.

And I did indeed install Ubutu onto the iBook -- but haven't had much
time to play with it, yet.  I tend to regard Debian-compatible
installers as just paths towards a Debian testing/unstable system and
ignore their individual characteristics as I override most of the
defaults and transform it into the sort of system I like.  This time,
I'll try to pay some attention to the initial system before I do that.
(Actually, I already did "update-alternatives --config x-window-manager"
to change from metacity to Window Maker, but I can put it back.)

In my brief experimentation, I can see why it's appealing to new users: 
Everything, indeed, has an utterly consistent look and feel to
absolutely everything.  Problem is, I personally not only find that
limiting but also sleep-inducing.

Chacun a son gout, though.

[1] http://lists.ubuntu.com/archives/ubuntu-users.mbox/ubuntu-users.mbox
Beware:  Size of file is currently 21MB, and growing rapidly.

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