Blog Post

Those are choices!

Sorry for the double post, but low and behold this just came across Akregator.

With the recent news of several Linux vendors entering into partnership agreements with Microsoft (Novell, Linspire, Xandros), there has been much debate recently about two factions of Linux forming. Saying that Linux is going to be torn in two, makes for good press and lively debates, but this is certainly nothing new for Linux. There are far more material splits today in the Linux world, such as Debian vs RPM, KDE vs GNOME, Distro A vs Distro B, and so on. These divisions are quite material, and dilute significant energy and efforts across competing standards. However, we accept this as the price we pay for freedom of choice.

Note the There are for more material splits today in the Linux world, such as Debian vs RPM, KDE vs GNOME, Distro A vs Distro B, and so on. THOSE ARE CHOICES, NOT SPLITS!.

You have made your bed, lie in it. Don’t sit here and try to make excuses now and try and point the finger at other distributions. You talk about this Moral High Ground that some distributions are standing upon and then claim that some of these same distributions also link to tools that allow illegal installation of codecs and drivers. Bah humbug! I am willing to bet you are speaking of Automatix, in which not many developers I know like it, use it, advocate it, support it, and the list goes on. I know that Ubuntu, Debian, and Red Hat don’t link to it at all, and if there was a moral high ground, these 3 are standing proudly on top of it.

Quit defending you decision, or trying to, and then spewing opinions and not facts about the situation. You said you are fine with us disagreeing with your deal, yet you defend it every chance you get.

NOTE 1: I do understand there is a demand for the proprietary codecs and drivers, however I don’t feel we should sign a deal with the devil in order to provide them. And what does signing a deal with Microsoft have to do with proprietary codecs and drivers? Microsoft doesn’t create any of these items that are in demand.

NOTE 2: GPLv3 to be released in 24 hours! ๐Ÿ™‚

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  • All this talk about “illegal” codecs and drivers is mostly just hysterical hype, at least in the United States.

    Using codecs and drivers to decode content is legal under 2 conditions: (1) the primary purpose is to enable interoperability of software and hardware, and (2) the person decoding content has the right to the content in the first place. See. 17 United States Code Sec. 1201(f).

    Consequently, it is entirely legal to install and use the codecs and drivers to play that DVD you just got from WalMart on your Linux computer. What is NOT legal is making copies to sell or give to your friends.

    Software patents do play a part, but an inconsequential one. When someone says that XYZ Corp has patented a file format, it’s really just a figure of speech. Under US law, patents can be granted for a novel “process”. (See 35 United States Code Secs. 101, 102. So, it’s not the file format that’s patented, but the particular novel process used to create or decode the format.

    As has been observed before, “there are many ways to skin a cat; how many more is left as an exercise for the reader.” Because the so-called “proprietary formats” keep their code a secret and due to the open nature of open source, the odds that any open source project has recreated the precise process used in the patent is almost nil. If there’s any dispute, the patent holder need merely send to the open source project a copy of the patent (to prove such a patent really exists and specifically what was patented) and the holder’s source code (to show the invention has not been abandoned). Further, if someone with ordinary skill in the art would have found the process obviously, the patent is effectual. 35 United States Code Sec. 103.

    The long and short of it is that we should all get back to writing code and worry less about chest-thumping lawyers.

    Loye W. Young, J.D.
    Laredo, Texas

  • C’mon! Only a footnote about GPLv3?? I was expecting something more from you! ๐Ÿ˜‰

  • erik

    Microsoft does produce sometimes things nowadays on demand. Like Firefox plugins. (They did magnificent Silverlight and WMP plugins recently, adding really nice functionality to the Windows versions of Firefox and others that use the same plugin system. Good telltale that some day they might actually abandon IE.)

    But that’s actually quite irrelevant. What is relevant that they are splits. In the sense that without them there would be more force combined in one good project, synergies, and less re-inventing of the same wheel. Open source desktop would be years in development farther and perhaps even actually usable without all that crap.

    What has happened is very much THE definition of split, ask “definition:split” from Google if you don’t believe. Choices, yeah.. But worse choices. Gee, thanks a lot, asshat KDE project etc. ๐Ÿ™‚

  • @Loye: I like your style ๐Ÿ™‚ More code, less worrying.

    @Jordan: I apologize for that ๐Ÿ™‚ Is Chicago having a GPLv3 release party? if not why not? I know I took flack for the GPLv3 t-shirt Saturday at Barcamp, of course none of the GLUGgers had any problems, but the people who were using Windows did ๐Ÿ™‚

    @erik: I understand that Microsoft does create a lot of things, but the people signing these patent deals seem to bring up MP3, DVD playback, and such. What I don’t understand is, if this is the issue, which in a way it is, why are they signing patent deals with Microsoft and not patent deals with the holders of said codecs or drivers? Well, it is hard for me to say that they are splits. For instance, Debian and Red Hat are splits of what? They share they same kernel, so they aren’t splitting that. What they are doing is offering you something different from the other. Same with GNOME and KDE. Neither one of them started from a single project. Now I can understand them being a split of the initial idea though, but even still I would prefer to utilize the term choice over split. Split also has the meaning of something you do that makes your arse hang out, I know, I did it yesterday ๐Ÿ™‚

    I don’t see how the choices could be worse really. I have a choice, I can either go with what I like, what others like, or what I think I might like. If one is worse than the other, that is others opinions. I think having the various distros and desktop environments created competition, which is good when it comes to productivity. GNOME and KDE wouldn’t be where they are today I don’t think if there were other choices. A lot of people, including myself, believe Microsoft is not as great as they could be because they don’t have true, solid competition just yet. Who knows, we may get to the point where we cause Microsoft to create a near perfect experience, but until then, we can dream right? I would like to totally agree that if there weren’t so many choices that the Linux desktop could be more advanced, but at the same time I believe that these choices also created each project to work harder at being the best. And the great thing, the projects realized they are different, however they are “skinning the same cat”, so they have come together in order to collaborate a general effort, i.e.

    Think about it for a second. If Mac OS and Linux didn’t have the cool compositing features, would Windows Vista have it? If there wasn’t a Microsoft Office, a Wordperfect, and such, would OpenOffice be where it is today? Would Microsoft Office be where it is if there wasn’t some sort of competition. I hate to admit it, but I think MS Office is the greatest thing out of the MS camp. Without the splits or choices, however you want to look at it, there wouldn’t be competition which would mean you have nobody to try and one-up, leaving the goals of project shallow, and at best your goals. People get to use these choices, see what they like and dislike, report it to the projects in questions, and then both projects blueprint it and try to create the best implementation of the idea as possible.

    As for the KDE comment, I won’t comment ๐Ÿ™‚ I love both Gnome and KDE, I prefer KDE for many reasons, but there are some things in Gnome that I truly enjoy and would love to see something similar in KDE, and vice-versa. Tomboy for instance, god I love that application.

  • erik

    It’s very very simple, elementary school level stuff.

    You have a skyscraper. You have two man workforce. You need to get the whole building painted. Okay, so it will take time x to finish using your resources.

    But what if some retard decides to quit. And start painting his own skyscraper. Now you got twice the amount to paint, and half the workforce for one. That means 4x. 4 times more time to finish.

    In short, that project just went down the drain. In fact, they both did.
    As for what comes to patents, Microsoft is licensing for instance mp3 format. The other companies using mp3 are not licensing it from Microsoft, but also from the patent holder… It is Windows Media formats that others are licensing from Microsoft.

    What comes to the pressure changing Microsoft and forcing them to do better – yeah, that’s what they are definitely doing. It’s a big machine, it will take long time to get really into speed and it will take even longer time before we see the results but yeah, they haven’t been lazy.

    They fixed a few quite critical flaws of Windows with Vista. More than what you’d believe fast, especially looking at the news which is full of reactions of simple chain resistance and people who have never even used Vista for real acting like experts of it. Also, they gave a huge bump to Office 2007, which is some 5-10 years ahead OOo at this moment in usability and features. Which will force OOo to develop the gap and fast. It’s nice, I’d like to get that today please.

    Not to forget the other software lines of Microsoft. They have got ERP, CMS, .NET platform, integration platform, systems management platforms, the venerable Exchange, SQL server, .. The list is endless. Steering that kind of ship is not easy, nor happens fast.

  • @erik: I like that skyscraper analogy and it would work if everyone started with the same skyscraper, but we didn’t. Each skyscraper created a team of people to help paint it, then other people decided they didn’t like the paint job of that skyscraper and decided to find one to paint themselves. The GNU people didn’t like the KDE skyscraper because at first there was an issue with a padlock on the door (the license restrictions of Qt), so they decided they would create/paint a skyscraper with a wide open front door.

    Think about it for a second now. If the GNU project hadn’t created Gnome, we would all more than likely be using KDE today, which I wouldn’t mind ๐Ÿ™‚ But there are people out there that don’t like KDE for various reasons, which at times I understand wholeheartedly. So now, people have their choice of 2 skyscrapers to use and maybe one day help maintain. Maybe this 2nd skyscraper helped make Linux as popular as it is today, well I can guarantee it helped, as there are a lot of Gnome users. I know there were other DEs before these 2, but these are the 2 predominant skyscrapers.

    I tend to agree at the same time though because if all of the effort was targeted at one project, maybe then things could be better. I think the skyscraper analogy can work in a lot of circumstances, but I think the society that Linux has created also prevents it at the same time. I think the society realized that everybody has a different need from their system, so offering this choice tends to help everyone in the long run. It is still kind of hard to imagine because it leaves a huge “what if” that would go on forever.

    You are 100% correct though that Office 2007 has put OO.o years behind functionality and somewhat with usability. I don’t/haven’t used Office 2007 enough to see the usability side just yet. But from what I have seen, at first there was a decent learning curve of where everything was located. That is what I liked about OO.o is that usability wise it was damn close to spot on with Office in a majority of locational aspects.

    I will also be the first to say that if it wasn’t for Microsoft, more than likely, you and I wouldn’t be holding this conversation the way we are. BBS might still be alive, well it is, but not like it was. Microsoft has done so much for the technology world that you can’t really be all that angry at them. Granted their past, and somewhat present, business practices aren’t all that ethical. But at the same time either was Ma Bell’s. Look at AT&T today, they have painted, sold, torn down, and somehow recreated a skyscraper that integrated everything their previous skyscraper(s) did.

  • erik

    The largest problem I see is that I am aware of only roughly 5 good developers on the whole planet. So you got 5 painters and at least as many skyscrapers. And thousands of little helpers, apprentice, and silly volunteers. Sure, not building the same skyscraper.. However they got similar components, insane amounts of them. Windows, doors, ventilation systems, ..

    Also, there are a few things the open source hippies could do to make the life of Microsoft really bad and really really fast (practically you could at least quadruple the migration rate of Linux within couple months from what it is currently). There are a few (~10) strategically juicy targets but no one seems to be working on them. The lack of coordination issue again, people would be working on those if they just had finished some other things first already…

  • I definitely do see a lack of collaboration on a lot of projects. One project that us hippies seem to work around is CAD. Quite simply there is not one CAD solution for *nix. I would like to know what the strategically juicy targets are for sure. I haven’t messed around in a Windows environment long enough to catch them all, if any at all.

    Another thing I see lacking besides a common goal, is a goal in general. Most people will say our common goal is to destroy Microsoft when that isn’t it. Another person might say we just want to be a viable option for the desktop market, which I still feel has a bit to go, but has gotten better in the last 3 to 5 years, actually the past 2 years have been pretty good for the Linux desktop.

    Oh, and the volunteers aren’t silly. Because if it wasn’t for all of these volunteers, Linux wouldn’t be anything more than a Kernel that Linus enjoys working on. I am interested in who you feel are the top 5 developers in the world. I have 3 that stick out in my head, however I feel they might be past their prime in some cases.

  • I have a good way to defuse whiners who complain about this “wasted effort” in having two projects which do the same thing: I say “I agree, everyone should just use KDE.”

    This inevitably leads to one of two situations:

    1. The user happens to love KDE, in which case they see you as an ally anyway.

    2. The user happens to love GNOME, in which case they instantly see why choice is a good idea.

    Mind you, this “split” is becoming less of an “issue” lately anyway, as both KDE and GNOME are making a concerted effort to do similar things in a similar way (via FreeDesktop specifications), and largely apps on one have no issue working on the other anyway (not that they really ever had any issue, beyond look and feel mismatches.)

    I use the same kind of counter for people who complain about there being too many distros: I just say “I know, everyone should just use Gentoo.”

  • HAHAH! Everyone should just use KDE! I love it. You are right though, and no matter if your reverse the circumstances, you will end up at the same location. With the DE split, we can say it is Gnome’s fault ๐Ÿ™‚ I did not know came after KDE, I thought it was the other way around for some reason. Been a long time. I applaud the efforts of the FreeDesktop specs and I hope that we can all come to some kind of conclusion and keeping the cat skinned the way the user likes ๐Ÿ™‚ Were you being sarcastic with the Gentoo comment, seeing as you posted with Kubuntu? And ever since I upgraded to Gutsy, my OS reports as just Linux.

  • 2erik I’ve never believed in synergy. I believe in stagnation.
    A lot of choices bring us less stagnation.
    There are CADs for Unix, most of for Unix , Pro/E, CATIA, UG all work under Unix, and some under Linux too. They are expensive proprietary software, that’s true.

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