Reasons to Be Cheerful or Angry - Your Choice
As summer draws to a close, the activity has started to heat up on the Linux blogs. Among the topics at hand this week: The Democratic National Convention's lack of Linux support for its video feed, an estimate that Linux might own 20 percent of the OS market and a list of the best Linux-based devices out there.
09/02/08 4:00 AM PT
Well Labor Day is here and gone again, and the footloose, fancy-free days of summer are over for another year.
It may warrant the shedding of a small tear or two, but we here in the Linux community are fortunate to have so much uplifting and entertaining news these days to keep our spirits up.
Besides the highly comical Microsoft-Seinfeld alliance, which we wrote about last week, bloggers on the Linux Loop were speculating this week that Linux's market share may be as high as 20 percent or more, for example. That would certainly be something to celebrate!
'10 Coolest Devices'
Not only are more and more computers running Linux, but a variety of other devices are too, as 168hours blogger Fibonacci noted recently in a post titled, "10 Coolest Devices Running Linux." Worth checking out, if just for the inspiration!
(Those in need of a smile, incidentally, may also want to check out Fibonacci's post, "10 Linux T-shirts that will make you smile." Be happy!)
Not all was happy on the Linux blogs last week, however. On Slashdot, for instance, a turbulent conversation broke out when it was noted that the Democratic Convention Web site didn't support Linux for streaming video. Almost 800 comments had been posted by Friday.
'This Isn't Acceptable'
"If it were the 'most technologically-savvy event' wouldn't it at least make an effort to support ALL operating systems, especially the one used mostly by the 'technologically-savvy' people," wrote n3xg3n. "It isn't a difficult feat to use technology which is supported by the three major OSes on the market. This isn't acceptable in this day and age. =/."
On the other hand, "the McCain camp is still trying to figure out what Linux is, and if it is a threat to national security," shot back Anonymous Coward.
Regarding the site's use of Silverlight, "I can't imagine why the Democrats used a video player no one uses," Gerhard Mack, a Montreal-based consultant and Slashdot blogger, told LinuxInsider. "I tried to watch one of the speeches but it just wasn't worth rebooting into Windows just to see some politicians talk. Silverlight just isn't a killer feature for me," he added.
"Supply and demand -- that's what defines whether a product is delivered," Slashdot blogger yagu told LinuxInsider. "The demand for Linux support for streaming video hasn't reached its tipping point to require all video everywhere support Linux. Eventually it will."
In the meantime, "the protests bring much-needed attention to Linux, and bring Linux closer to main stage," yagu added. "Does it bother me Linux wasn't supported? Not much."
Then again, there's also a silver lining, yagu pointed out, in the Democratic Convention's support for Firefox. "Firefox, at one time barely supported and largely ignored, is now always included for compatible browsers," he explained. "Firefox has actually become the (more) golden standard to which Web sites code, and Internet Explorer takes second priority. This is good news and a good example that Open Source can succeed. Someday, Linux will be as important to support. Give it time."
Until then? "Rather than complaining on Slashdot, send the Democratic Convention people an Email at tell THEM you are not happy," markdavis urged. "I did. Took about 2 minutes to compose a polite and informative message.
"Linux/*ix users might be in the minority, but they do tend to be more vocal.... and often it works (to my utter surprise)," markdavis added.
Speaking of vocal and emphatic complaints, Slashdot blogger samzenpus noted on Thursday that the Quebec government in Canada is actually being sued for ignoring free software.
Specifically, FACIL, a nonprofit that promotes the collective appropriation of free software, has filed a motion before the Quebec Superior Court arguing that the government's methods for purchasing software are not only not in the best interest of the Quebec government but also "not in accordance with the regulation for supply contracts, construction contracts and service contracts of government departments and public bodies," according to the group's press release.
"Ok, I'm not Canadian, but this applies to everyone when their local government is pissing away money for no good reason," responded rossz on Slashdot, where more than 350 comments followed. "It's one thing for a business to choose the more expensive option -- the people making the choices must eventually answer to their stockholders.
Shame on Schools
"Well, as a voter, I'm a stockholder in my country," rossz added. "Wasting truckloads of money for no good reason means I'm going to vote your ass off the board of directors."
Microsoft alternatives such as Openoffice.org are usually "more than adequate for the job (and usually a better choice)," rossz explained.
Local schools, unfortunately, "seem to be the worst offenders," he added. "They constantly bitch and moan about lack of funds, then piss away a pile of cash on a site license for Microsoft Office so they can teach their word processing course."
The Canadian government "is famous for single-sourcing contracts at several levels," Mack said. "It's about time someone did something. MS has gotten where it is today largely by convincing managers that they are the best option. Somehow MS has the ability to make managers take their advice over the advice of their own technical people."
Success by Force
FACIL is unlikely to win the suit, "but again, it's bringing attention where it's needed to show people there are alternatives, good ones!" yagu added. "I also doubt there's any (or much) malice in Quebec's motives -- it's simply a government with its own inertia, its own way of doing things based on how they've always done them. More blame should go to Microsoft for messing up the free marketplace dynamics."
Government itself is "established only by force," Kevin Dean, a blogger on Monochrome Mentality, told LinuxInsider. "People who consider Free Software or Open Source to be ethically superior are forced to fund (via taxes taken at the threat of force) companies with business models they disagree with."
The problem with the lawsuit is that if it's successful, "they'll be using the same violence and force to force open alternatives," Dean explained. "While I believe that open and accessible formats, standards and implementation are superior, it's not okay to use force to get them in place."
'Must-Have Linux Cheat-Sheets'
People lose whenever choice is taken from them by force, asserted Dean. "Getting government out of it, and convincing people of the viability and importance of open standards and interoperability, is the only way to have a long-term, sustainable and open software eco-system."
And on that note, dear readers -- promoting Linux's viability and increased use -- we'd like to direct your attention to the super-handy "10 Must-Have Linux (and not only) Cheat-Sheets" posted recently by nongeekboy on "A Non-Geek's Linux Notes" blog and picked up on LXer.
After all, anything that helps Linux geeks can only help Linux in the long run. Onward with the revolution!