[sf-lug] "Educating Tux: case studies of Linux deployments in high schools around the world"

Rick Moen rick at linuxmafia.com
Sun Mar 16 00:52:28 PDT 2008

Quoting Ernest De Leon (edeleonjr at gmail.com):

> This has been a pretty long winded post, but I feel that this type of
> argument perpetuating itself is one of the reasons that some people
> view Stallman as a kook and why Ubuntu has leaped over debian and
> slapped them on the way over.

That would be extremely peculiar, since it's no more difficult nor
any easier, to install proprietary software on Ubuntu as opposed to
Debian -- neither more nor less.  I'm guessing you are among the dreary
souls ignorantly confusing Debian with some sort of Stallmanesque
licensing-purity paradise, being piteously utterly unaware of, e.g., the
Debian non-free package collection and the debian-multimedia site with
its _own_ package collections and codec installers.

I'm guessing, in short, that you're running off half cocked taking
potshots in ignorance at entire, rather large subjects you really don't
understand at all -- alleged 14 years or no alleged 14 years.

> In the end, when all of the zealotry is put aside, you must remember
> that the user experience is all that matters.

Really?  I could have sworn that code and licensing, licensing and code
is, in the end, all that matters, having gone around saying that for
the past twenty years or so -- most often in partial reply to annoying
and context-challenged free-software advocates.

So, for example, I spent a long time as an admirer and user of the
DeScribe document processor, which was released as a groundbreaking
package (binary-only, proprietary) for OS/2, Win16, and Win32.  It was
fast, solid, wonderfully designed, and did clean template-oriented
documents like Framemaker, except much more elegantly and without the
need to master typesetting arcana.  

If it were still available for any OS I'm interested in running, I might
be willing to buy and install it again, depite it being proprietary and
binary-only, and sadly a Roach Motel for data, on account of nobody else
being able to read its undocumented formats.  It was that good, that its
merits outweighed the considerable long-term drawbacks of its
proprietary terms and shaky backers -- and I'd throw the same money down
the same rathole, all over again.

Unfortunately, the guy who ran DeScribe, Inc., one James Lenanne, was a
flake, he withdrew the product to the market while it was in its late
5.0 beta stage, and it vanished from the world.  That's one of the main
risks you run when you allow yourself to rely on proprietary software:
You may, without notice, find that a key bit of your IT infrastructure
has simply vanished.  (This happened, too, to users of Adobe Framemaker
for Linux.)

Anyhow, I take no offence at people who allege that "the user experience
is all that matters":  I just bear in mind that their understanding of
the subject is too shallow, and their rhetoric way, _way_ too glib and
kneejerk, to be taken seriously.

> This is why Mac has been gaining in popularity slowly but steadily
> (and I am not a fan of Mac.)

Macs are indeed great!  Both of mine make fine Xubuntu boxes.

(You might be one of those confused people who have Apple, Inc.'s --
formerly Apple Computer, Inc.'s -- hardware in its rapidly diminishing
computer division confused with its operating systems.  I might be able
to help you work through that.  No charge.  ;-> )

> It would be much harder to convince a Mac user to leave Mac than a
> windows user to leave windows. 

Maybe you can explain to me something nobody's been able to
intelligently make sense to me for the past twenty years or so:  Why
would *I* ever seek to convince someone else -- for sake of discussion,
someone I'm not working directly with -- to change operating systems, or
for that matter change between pieces of software at all?  I'm not made
richer or poorer by someone else choices, it's really none of my
business, and behaving like a software-advocacy person would make me
adopt behaviour that I find extremely annoying and basically abhorrent
when I observe it in others.[0] 
(I can see about a half-dozen people reaching to make some facile
advocacy argument about network effects.  My advice:  Don't waste your
and my time.)

> Furthermore, you must also realize that the OS is just a platform for
> people to use.

So, you're saying that an OS's licensing doesn't matter, right?  OK,
good luck with that.  I'll be glad to chat again when you understand
what open source does and does not accomplish.

> I love Linux (and have for almost 14 years now) and want it to grow as
> fast as possible without problems.

Just because I'm a fan of specificity, would you mind explaining what
you mean by "grow" in this context?  Then, it would be possible to
discuss what does and does not support that growth, once you specify
what the term denotes in your sentence.  Thus, for example, if you were
to clarify that an example of "growth" would be convincing a bunch of
proprietary-OS non-technical desktop users to "switch" to Linux, I'd
point out to you that such a hypothetical development would not, in
fact, improve Linux and associated applications in any way at all.

> If you don't want to call it FOSS, call it a purple pig then.  Who
> really cares?

*I* care, bubeleh.  And so does just about everyone who's been here for
a while and knows what's gone on.

Are you curious _why_ I care?  OK, I'll explain.  (You're not going to
get a coherent explanation, or anything much more than userbase
cheerleading and oddly technophobic OS-advocacy from Christian, after

Starting around the late 1970s, the BSD community emerged from under
AT&T's control -- but didn't quite realise or believe it -- and wasn't
free of that spell until the UC Regents lawsuit was settled.  1984 or so
saw the founding of FSF, which achieved slow technical brilliance in
re-engineering an entire unencumbered system from scratch, unfortunately
accompanied by utter, abject failure on the marketing side.  

For the entire history of the FSF effort from that point forward, the
"free software" marketing effort scored a big, fat goose-egg with
everyone except hardcore software engineers as a preaching-to-the-choir 
audience.[1]  Zip.  Nada.  Rein du tout.

Fourteen years of abject failure later, in Feb. 1998, a group of people
in Palo Alto invented a different marketing scheme for the same
underlying effort to promote real software rights and freedoms, "open
source", sheperded by the Open Source Initiative.  This parallel
marketing effort, by sharp contrast, was a roaring successed from the
very start, confirming everyone's intuition that a stunningly appealing
idea had been held back from broad success only by miserably bad, and in
fact counterproductive, marketing.

In less than six months, nearly all software users had heard and vaguely
_and mostly correctly_ understood the term "open source".  In nine
months, all but one major SQL database vendor released en-masse their
(still proprietary) database kits for Linux, spurred in large part by
the now-famous long-term advantages of open source.

And we all thought, "Damn, that was amazing.  Note to self:  Encourage
FSF to code and talk to engineers, but keep them away from everyone

flash forward to the past couple of years:  some genius of
anti-marketing invented the acronyms "floss" and "foss" and attempted to
promote those loser inventions for their supposed "compromise"[2]
advantages -- with a startling lack of ironic intent that suggests
strongly that the idea might have originated from FSF folk.

It's anti-marketing in the sense that it's wilfully, carefully
constructed to be impenetrable jargon to the uninitiated -- even more
impenetrable in context than "free software" was in its day.  For the
same reasons, compounded by additional burdens of abstractness and

And that, sir, is why I care:  because I think that competency at
marketing initiatives one cares about is a good thing, and that inept
sabotage of those same marketing efforts, by the same crowd of
foot-shooters who sunk us the first time is a bad thing -- and should
therefore not be allowed to prevail.

> Bickering over stupid issues is why debian is as stagnant as our
> economy and why other distributions are running with innovation.

How do _you_ measure how "stagnant" a Linux distribution is, Ernest?  
Do you even have the beginnings of a _theory_ on what metric to use?

> I seriously doubt calling a box with a flash plugin installed a
> FOSS box is deliberately misleading.

Deliberate _or_ inept is pretty much the same, functionally.  It's
misleading and dishonest, either way.

[0] It's the sort of extremely annoying behaviour that deservedly gives
software advocacy a bad name, and even leads _some_ extremely
unobservant people to mistakenly think I'm do carry it out, which I
never do -- and to make fatously and grossly mistaken remarks like "Its
[sic] people like you with a jihad attitude that turn people off to
FLOSS software."  In fact, I consider people such as our
apostrophe-challenged speaker refers to, in the prior sentence, to be
both unspeakably rude _and_ grossly ineffective, and would not in a million
years want to be one -- nor see the least point in being one.  More at:

[1] The FSF camp seriously believed that enlightenment would trickle upwards
and outwards from engineers.  Decades of history has proven them to be
both wrong and painfully naive, not to mention self-defeating.  See:

[2] Advocates of these bits of jargon tend to imply that their ability
to "compromise" the positions of FSF and OSI makes them inherently
desirable.  "Compromise" is something Americans tend to think is
inherently good, as long as it involves interests _other_ people care
about.  See:  http://linuxmafia.com/~rick/lexicon.html#compromise

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