[conspire] No more GNU HP Minis

Carl Myers cmyers at cmyers.org
Thu Nov 5 15:32:54 PST 2009

I think the disconnect here is there are two separate usecases.

1. People who use a computer as a "dumb tool" for web browsing, email,
productivity, and the occasional fancy thing like "burn CDs" or
"download/listen to music".

2. People who USE a computer to accomplish anything they want.  People who read
man pages, write scripts and/or code, search out programs to accomplish tasks,
possibly programs they've never used before, and if they can't find one, they
write or modify an existing one.

What Rick is saying (I think, correct me if I am wrong - and I think I agree) is
that it is not his goal to have every person with usecase #1 running GNU/Linux.
His goal (again, I am interpreting, so apologies if I misunderstand) is to help
people with usecase #2 discover that GNU/Linux is a great way to solve their
problem and share their work with others.  Stand on the shoulders of giants and
benefit everyone.  People in usecase #2 care about where software comes from and
they care about the control they can exercise over it - "will I be able to
modify this program in the future?" is a question they might ask.

People in usecase #1 will never ask that question.  People in usecase #1 want it
to "just work".  Now it sounds to me like Rubin is a user in usecase #2, but for
this particular machine, he has decided he wants usecase #1 simplicity.

Additionally, he feels like socially everyone in usecase #1 should also be using
GNU/Linux for some reason.  Probably because later, when he wishes his purchase
was actually for usecase 2, he will be able to have his cake and eat it too.

I agree in that I too wish GNU/Linux solved usecase #1 better than proprietary
alternatives, and frankly, it is closer today than it ever was (in terms of
solving the use case, not in terms of availability, which is what started this
whole discussion).  I hope that some day GNU/Linux can and does solve usecase
#1.  I hope that companies like microsoft will stop expending precious resources
trying to make a non-free operating system when a perfectly good free one
exists, and maybe they can get a clue and a better business model and solve new
problems instead of finding new and terrible ways to fail to solve old ones
which GNU/Linux has already solved better.

But I don't think it is my job to make that happen.  I am a minority.  I am one
of you.  I won't use a preinstalled OS because nobody will preinstall an OS the
way I want it (plus the very good reasons Rick already listed).  All I can do is
ensure I don't pay any money in support of operating systems I won't use.  I can
educate users in usecase 1 and try to turn them into users in usecase 2, but
some people will never be usecase 2 material.  Trying to force users in usecase
1 to use GNU/Linux before there is a GNU/Linux distro ready that really solves
that usecase is only going to make them think badly of it.  I would guess that
is why no company has *really* tried to compete in that market.  Dell computers
with preinstalled linux - system76 machines, and any other machine with
pre-installed linux (except some andriod phones and the occasional netbook
running some crazy simplified linux-based GUI) are all geared towards usecase 2.

I guess what I am saying is, I understand where you are coming from now Rubin,
but I'm not sure how constructive it is for "the cause".  You guys have been at
this way longer than me though, so please feel free to enlighten me =)


On Thu, Nov 05, 2009 at 05:01:59PM -0500, Ruben Safir wrote:
> Date: Thu, 05 Nov 2009 17:01:59 -0500
> From: Ruben Safir <ruben at mrbrklyn.com>
> To: Rick Moen <rick at linuxmafia.com>
> Cc: conspire at linuxmafia.com
> Subject: Re: [conspire] No more GNU HP Minis
> Rick Moen wrote:
> >Quoting Ruben Safir (ruben at mrbrklyn.com):
> >
> >>I want computers with GNU/Linux preloaded everywhere....
> >
> >Which effectively means you want Broadcom and Nvidia crap
> >chipsets, and people obliged to throw away their computers and
> >replace them,
> >because they cannot reinstall the OS.  Sorry, I've seen your preferred
> >future, and it sucks.
> >
> Pardon me, Rick, but you have never seen what I would expect, at
> least not since the mid-1980's.  I want to see working computers
> sold with GNU/Linux, full blown, not the stupid SLED, sold on every
> computer and I don't care about the chip sets, and outside of a
> handful of Unix engineers, neither does anyone else.
> >>You don't REALLY believe that  people will purchase computers without
> >>operating systems?
> >
> >Why _without_ operating systems?  I see no reason the manufacturer or
> >retailer might not throw a couple into the box with the computer.
> >
> That is without an operating system and people are NEVER going to
> purchase computers that require anything more than for them to be
> turned on and putting in their time zone and user name.  You can
> wish for that all you want, and that will never ever happen, and it
> would not be a good thing even for experienced geeks.  And I can
> point to people who are huge system engineers who were big GNU users
> who stopped using Linux based systems because because getting
> Hardware to work is a PIA.
> Billy Donahue, from Bloomberg comes to mind.
> >Actually, what would be really cool would be if a pervasive standard for
> >ordinary people plugging in storage media from the outside of the box
> >were to catch on.  That would make modular
> >no-installation-required Linux more feasible, as with Clay
> >Claiborne's old "Linux in a box"
> >product he used to sell (a Linux distro on a hard drive), except easier.
> >
> No, the opposite would be better.   What I want to see is  a
> revolution in Hardware, such as custom made touch screen, and voice
> activated system, wireless systems that integrate with appliances
> all over the house and office , and which can control thousands of
> devices with GNU systems preinstalled  and GPLed hardware drivers
> that can be easily ported into a choice of OS distros incase you
> wish to change things, through the nearly universal Linux and Mach
> Kernel with on click as root and to leave all that engineering
> headache for those better able to work on such problems.
> >Anyway, one more-reasonable setup would involve the customer just
> >wheeling his/her new purchase over to a kiosk, plug in the machine and
> >its network cable, boot it up, and select which OS to network-load.
> >(This could certainly include proprietary OSes.)
> >
> >
> Which is what?  The same as a preloaded system accept with an extra step?
> >>Rick - Nothing is more important than having an OS on the
> >>computer you  buy from Walmart...
> >
> >Repetition doesn't do much for your assertion -- though I've seen you
> >wear some folks down with it.  ;->
> >
> >
> There is nothing to wear out with this.  Factually people will not
> buy computers without an operating system on them.  I don't want to
> buy a computer without an operating system on it.  And until I had
> to wipe this HP Mini clean, I hadn't done so in a very long time.  I
> want to buy an computer with an operating system of my CHOICE on it.
> I want to buy from a company that stands behind the OS.  And I'll
> give Dell credit on this.  When I purchased a Red Hat Server years
> and years ago, we had a card for tech support from LinuxCare (Andrew
> Tides? company) and they ssh'ed into the box and loaded up fresh
> drivers in 20 minutes - and poof, I was able to get to work.  It was
> the single best feat of tech support I ever saw, and I was
> appreciative of being able to make my development deadlines that
> week.
> >>But that has nothing to do with  what it will take to get the majority
> >>of the public to switch to GNU.   And that is my goal.
> >
> >Well, for whatever it's worth, I actually don't _share_ your goal.  Not
> >a bit of it.
> >
> Correct, and that is where the rubber hits the road.  And it is a
> big problem in many sectors of the Free Software community.
> >It doesn't make me one cent richer or poorer when J. Random User chooses
> >one OS over another, and my preferred OSes have healthy
> >communities, so other people can live off the canned Spam of
> >software if they want, and
> >leave the confit de canard for me.
> >
> >
> But it doesn't work like that.  Free Software is not in a walled
> community.  What happens outside of the community affects it deeply.
> Low adoption rates mean less work, more proprietary information
> formats, worse hardware, more DRM, fewer participants on a
> technical, literary, artistic, medical, scientific, poetic, musical,
> theatrical, and research level, and produces ARTIFICIAL POVERTY,
> stifling progress, human development, and the enrichment of even
> your life on multiple levels.
> The reason why software should be free is not because of
> technological reasons, but because it is the leading revolutionary
> communications  force on the planet and is reshaping humanities
> essential political, technological and social context.  A tool this
> powerful must be FREE, or it will enslave us...hence it is called
> >>I don't want the GNU OS's to be an exclusive  status symbol for
> >>the a  certain class of people.
> >
> >And it isn't.  Joining our community is dirt-simple, and we've the most
> >comprehensive set of information and welcoming, active presence on the
> >Internet of any software community that's ever existed.
> >
> No, it is not dirt simple.  It has a high bar with a lot of
> studying, time and energy.  And for most people it is not fun
> either.  I'll let you know when it is no longer an elitist thing
> when I go into Bedford-Stuyvesant for work and find 2000
> semi-educated children of former junkies using GNU systems to live
> their daily lives.
> >Try to pull the elitism card, and I'll just laugh and point.
> >
> >
> >>Couldn't disagree more.
> >
> >And you're welcome to your view.  I sure don't want it.
> >
> >
> But you straddle two sides of the fence on this.   On one hand you
> are one of the most powerful educators and spokesmen for GNU
> systems, performing daily important work in education, community
> involvement, and support in so many ways that I don't want to
> embarrass you in public listing all the groups and efforts that you
> have silently, and not so silently maintained over the years.
> leading installfests and political action work for the willing for
> decades...
> but your writing off the public as too lazy and undeserving if they
> are not willing to  buy computers, and correct me if I misunderstand
> here, without prepackaged OSs out of the box and individuals who are
> unwilling to tackle the daunting task of learning the details of
> installations, something that my classes would teach over 7 weeks.
> Yeah, I disagree, and I believe your hanging out on a thin twig on
> this.  I think it would be a better thing if someone with a
> connection to HP, which is right in your neck of the woods, ask HP
> to make available again HP Mini's with GNU OSs.
> >>BTW - I'd like to make a trip out there in the near future.
> >>Could  anyone put up with me for a few days?
> >
> >I'm sorry to report that our place is too jammed at the moment, but
> >maybe someone will offer.
> >
> Thanks for the thought.
> Reuvain
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Carl Myers 
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