[conspire] No more GNU HP Minis

Rick Moen rick at linuxmafia.com
Fri Nov 6 01:59:04 PST 2009

Quoting Ruben Safir (ruben at mrbrklyn.com):

> 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.

Not surprisingly, you've chosen to ignore what I said -- quoting it and
then writing a non-sequitur paragraph under it.  Here once again is what
you chose to ignore:

  > 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.

That's what you say you want leads to.  Ignore that fact if you want,
but it's a fact.

Leaving that basic, crucial fact aside for a moment, however, there is
_also_ the fact that you have absolutely no plan of action that
intersects with consensual reality in the first place.  Consider the way
the usual conversation with you on the subject plays out:

1.  You come barging into here complaining about $OEM, and how (I
paraphrase slightly) it's necessary to the survival of the free world
for $OEM and various of that company's peers to resume shipping Linux

2.  Somebody like me or Don Marti, assuming you must somehow not know,
or have forgotten, about the realities of the current co-op
marketing-dominated OEM marketplace, takes time to describe for you the
forces that influence OEM preload behaviour, plus the little industry
negotiating game between Microsoft and various OEMs in which Linux
preloads tend to get used as tactical ploys.  This _should_, if you're
paying attention, make the point to you that rhetoric about advocacy is
a waste of your time and others'.

3.  But no.  You ignore all of that and go on to _even more dumb_
appeals, such as the infamously ineffective, time-wasting, and
undignified "Hey, let's _ask_ $OEM that they resume Linux preloads" idea:

  > 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.

Whisky.  Tango.  Foxtrot?   _Ask_ them?  Like, "Hey, HP, I'm Joe Linux
User, who used to work in your [blah blah] lab.  Could you please see
your way clear to resuming shipping Linux on your HP Minis?"  "Uh, sure,
we'll get right on that."

Hey, Ruben:  They're a company, that does what it thinks is making money
under a variety of forces including market conditions, deals with
retailers, deals with Microsoft Corporation, competitive moves,
marketing campaigns, and possibly the CFO's horoscope.  A request from
"someone with a connection to HP" is going to be as much of a
non-starter as those stupid online petitions that morons occasionally
put together and send to Nvidia and Broadcom.

> 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 still aren't getting that, even if true, I really don't give a damn.
I've already told you why.  Again, you are choosing to ignore it.  (At
one point, you actually presume to argue with my reason, a point I'll
get to.)  Sorry, Ruben, when I said I really don't give a damn, I really
did mean I really don't give a damn.  (Specifically, what I said was "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.")

> 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.

Bollocks.  What you mean, I would wager, is "...because getting
_incompetently selected_ hardware to work is a PIA."  Or you mean people
attempting something really boneheaded like expecting the
last-_before_-current release of OpenSUSE to work without problems on a
netbook released within the past year.

You cannot bullshit me about Linux distro support for hardware.  I've
done it for a living.

> 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.

You might as well wish for a pony, too, because your OEM-preload
scenario _doesn't lead_ to GPL-supportable hardware.  It leads to
proprietary, crappy hardware -- Nvidia, Broadcom, and friends.

>> 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?

What, are you suddenly dim?  If it's a commodity distro on a _retailer_-
provided kiosk, then they can't hide dependency on hardware that
requires buggy, brittle proprietary drivers, in ways that become
apparent only when the owner attempts to reload the OS or upgrade the

Get it?  Are you grasping the main point, now?

[Lots more about what you "want", snipped]

As I said, wish for a pony, too.

> 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.

See, that's a model that can and should work -- and you don't seem to
have noticed that it's part of one I've _already talked about_, that of
independent hardware certification.  (Don't give much credit to Art
Tyde.  It was probably my friend Duncan Mackinnon, or one of the good
technical support staff we then had at Linuxcare, who gave you competent
help for a change.)

The reason they were _able_ to give you that help was almost certainly
that Duncan already had put that Dell model through Linuxcare Labs
hardware certification, and so was able to know in advance that it had
no problematic winmodem, no spanking-new, unsupportable graphics chipset
from Nividia, or anything like that.

See, if you'd bothered to _listen_ to me the first time, this could have
been a shorter and more meaningful conversation with less wasted time
going over the same ground.

>> 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.

Listen up:  I don't work for you, Ruben.  You don't get to tell me what
my goals are, and I have no time for dumbass ideological causes.
Believe it.  I get to decide for myself what a "big problem" is, and
what's worth my time and effort.  You do not.

>> 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.

What a bunch of intellectually insulting crap.  Trying to hike up
"adoption rate" hasn't ever done diddly-squat for free software.  All of
the real gains have been brought by _coders_ attempting to solve their
own, their employers, and their friends' problems with open code -- and
that had absolutely nothing at all to do with whether only a few million
people benefit, or a hundred million.

Somehow drum up a few million other people as users, and all you would
do is bedevil the coders and documentation people, the people doing
actual useful work, with troublesome support demands and useless, badly
written bug reports that waste their time.  

That isn't just my prediction; you can observe the effect yourself,
today.  All you need to do look up whatever is the big, talked-about bug
report in https://bugs.launchpad.net/ on any day of the year.  

This day, for example, it's
https://bugs.launchpad.net/ubuntu/+source/glibc/+bug/417757 .  Here, you
have the spectacle of _eighty_ people babbling about problems resulting
from v. 9.10 Karmic Koala's inconveniently thorough and functional
support for IPV6 interacting with DNS forwarders and recursive servers
that don't support that extension.  And something like 75 of those 80 
comments are completely pointless or badly informed, at best irrelevant
and at worst gumming up the trouble-handling process.

That is what high "adoption rate" does.

So, don't give me that crap about how I need to bust my butt working for
higher "adoption rates".  I don't, it doesn't benefit me, and it tends 
(at least, done the way you seem to intend) to do active harm to what I
_do_ care about.

And my mother didn't raise any idiot sons, nor any with much liking for

>> 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. 

Oh, bullshit.  Unless you're stupid enough to do something like attempt
OpenSUSE 11.1 on a recent-model netbook, you just put the disc in the
slot, boot the machine, and hit the spacebar repeatedly with your
forehead to accept all the defaults.

And what I actually _said_ was (emphasis added) that -=joining=- our
community is dirt-simple, that we've the most comprehensive set of
information and welcoming, active presence on the Internet of any
software community that's ever existed.  I didn't say that all
conceivable tasks are easy.  Computers are amazingly complex, because
they are truly general-purpose devices, much more so than pretty much
any other device.  Therefore, OSes that give access to wide ranges of
their capabilities are necessarily both complex themselves and avenues
to reach and deal with extremely complex problems at other levels
(hardware, applications, systems).  

I'm pretty sure you already knew al that, and knew perfectly well the
difference between -=joining=- our community (what I actually spoke of, 
and is dirt-simple) and an aribrarily large set of complex problems that
people then might end up dealing with.

So, again, you basically ignored what I said and went for a meaningless
ideological sound-bite.  This is an extremely annoying habit of yours.
You should fix 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

Yes, you sure as hell misunderstood.  And I have to wonder if it isn't

First and foremost is your bullshit about "undeserving".  Right on cue,
you've decided to inject moral posturing into the discussion, where it
was not present.  Worse, you've projected it onto _me_.  Frankly, how
dare you, man?

I made no moral judgement on who was or was not "deserving".  Do you
remember what I _did_ say?  Here, let me quote it yet again:

  Yes, I'm aware that the public are in general a bunch of shiftless dolts
  who use whatever OS, however terrible, is preloaded, and lack the
  initiative to do any sort of actual operating system installation.  But
  I don't have to join the madness -- and modern Linux distros with good
  installers and live CDs make the process painless and risk-free,
  eliminating all the usual excuses.  So, I have no sympathy for people
  who demand preloads (let alone particular preloads).  _That's_ the first
  problem they need to fix, the one in their heads.

That is a _fact_.  It doesn't call anyone "undeserving".  As to my
willingness to bust my butt helping anyone, it doesn't make any sense
talking about someone being "deserving" or not unless I owed an
obligation.  As mentioned previously, I don't work for you, and I'm not
working for the computing public at large, either.  Neither you nor they
have offered me a working wage for such work, nor have I accepted.

Remember that point:  Until I've accepted your salary cheque, my time,
the sweat of my brow, and my expertise are my own to bestow or not as I
please.  Nobody "deserves" it.  The rapidly dwindling hours of my life
are mine.

> But you straddle two sides of the fence on this. 

It's called "nuance".  You could try it, some day.

If you'd bothered to listen to me, any of the countless occasions I've
addressed the topic, you'd understand _why_ I've worked tirelessly for
decades to further, to support, and to pay back for past help the
(actual, real) open source community.  God knows I've explained the
point often enough, and it has nada, rein du tout, less than bupkes to
do with increasing "adoption rates".  

I know that, among other places, I've referred you at least a few times
to the inteview Sam Varghese conducted of me in 2001.  I'm guessing
that, sadly, you never bothered to read it on any of those occasions.
So, I guess I'll just need to quote from it:

   Q: How many people have you converted to Linux? Take the case of any
   one individual you've converted to Linux. Let's have a rundown of the

   A: This is my golden opportunity to embarrass my friend Bill Schoolcraft,
   so I'm going to run with it. Bill was a professional industrial welder
   with no particular computer expertise, when he noticed Linux gatherings
   and started attending them to see what it was about. I was one of the
   old-timers he learned from, and I successfully badgered him to take
   extensive notes. I think it was when I kept using the metaphor of
   software as tools, and stressing the difference good tools and mastery
   of them can make, that he really "got" the point of the Unix way of
   thinking. Now, six years later, he's a senior Linux and (Sun
   Microsystems) Solaris administrator, and earns a good living at it.

   But I don't seek to "convert" people in the sense of trying to interest
   those who prefer something else. Why would I? (More about that, below).

   Q: Do you think you could achieve more if your advocacy was a little less

   A: I'm reminded of a story about the 19th century US public speaker and
   political figure Robert G. Ingersoll, who was wildly popular with the
   public but inspired influential "establishment" detractors by being
   publicly non-religious: Some reporters came to visit, and asked him
   about the rumours that his son had gotten drunk during a wild party and
   fell unconscious under the table. Ingersoll paused for effect, then
   started: "Well, first of all, he didn't fall under the table. And he
   wasn't actually unconscious. For that matter, he didn't fall. And there
   wasn't any party, and he didn't have anything to drink.... And, by the
   way, I don't have a son."

   So it's not what I'd call strident, and I don't do advocacy. At least,
   not in the usual sense of the term.

   The usual sort of OS advocacy is what the "Team OS/2" crowd used to do:
   They knew that their favourite software would live or die by the level
   of corporate acceptance and release/maintenance of proprietary
   shrink-wrapped OS/2 applications. They lobbied, they lost, IBM lost
   interest, and now their favourite OS is effectively dead.

   But Linux is fundamentally different because it and all key applications
   are open source: the programmer community that maintains it is
   self-supporting, and would keep it advancing and and healthy regardless
   of whether the business world and general public uses it with wild
   abandon, only a little, or not at all. Because of its open-source
   licence terms, its raw source code is permanently available. Linux
   cannot be "withdrawn from the market" at the whim of some company - as
   is slowly happening to OS/2. (Ed: IBM finally pulled the plug on OS/2 on
   December 10.)

   Therefore, Linux users are not in a zero-sum competition for popularity
   with proponents of other operating systems (unlike, say, OS/2,
   MS-Windows, and Mac OS users). I can honestly wish Apple Computer well
   with their eye-pleasing and well-made (if a bit slow and inflexible) Mac
   OS X operating system: wishing them well doesn't mean wishing Linux ill.

   Note that all of the identifiable "Linux companies" could blow away in
   the breeze like just so much Enron stock, and the advance of Linux would
   not be materially impaired, because what matters is source code and the
   licensing thereof, which has rather little to do with any of those
   firms' fortunes.

   Further, and getting back to your original point, I honestly don't care
   if you or anyone else gets "converted" to Linux. I don't have to. I'm no
   better off if you do; I'm no worse off if you don't.

   What I do care about is giving making useful information and help
   available to people using Linux or interested in it. Why? Partly to
   redeem the trust shown by others when they helped me. Partly because
   it's interesting. Partly because researching and then teaching things I
   usually start knowing little about is the best way I know to learn. And
   partly out of pure, unadulterated self-interest: people knowing your
   name is at least a foot in the door, in the IT business.

   As to stridency, there _is_ a well-known problem of all on-line
   discussion media. Some people become emotionally invested in positions
   they've taken in technical arguments, and gratuituously turn technical
   disagreements into verbal brawls. And unfortunately they tend to be
   drawn to people like me who attempt to state their views clearly and
   forcefully. It's as if you were to say "I like herring" and thereby
   summon every dedicated herring-hater within a hundred-mile radius. The
   problem comes with the territory.

   But that causes occasional unpleasantness and back-biting _among_ some
   on-line Linux users, not an aspect of "advocacy", which isn't something
   we have much use for, generally - especially where the term refers to
   convincing the unwilling.

   Q: What do you hope to achieve by this advocacy?

   A: I hope to have fun, to learn, to help those willing to "help themselves"
   by learning about their systems, to become qualified to work
   professionally with better and more-interesting technology, to spend
   more of my time around people I enjoy, and to improve my quality of life
   by improving the grade of tools I work with.

   Please note that "converting users to Linux" is nowhere on that list.

So, read that, already.  Thank you.

Rick Moen             "The plural of Blackberry is 'Blackberries.'  The plural 
rick at linuxmafia.com   of Blackberry users is 'Dingleberries.'"
                                                           -- FakeAPStylebook

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