How the Spinach Pie Got Forked, and Other Tales of Open Confusion
Most people "don't even know things like cellphones HAVE an OS," observed blogger hairyfeet. "To them it is just buttons on a screen, like their ATM." How important is it to spread the Linux word to the masses? "It is our duty to do so," said blogger Robert Pogson, "because we have the knowledge and it is their right to know."
Feb 25, 2010 5:00 AM PT
Fans of FOSS have no shortage of ways to enjoy openness in the technological world, but when it comes to the other aspects of life, such opportunities can be few and far between.
We've already seen how Linux can be used as a language of Love -- how better to ensure your relationship is truly open, after all? -- but it wasn't until just recently that we saw the open philosophy applied to fine dining.
Yes, you heard that right!
'Full Instructions for Everything'
There really are "no secret recipes" at Amsterdam's Instructables Restaurant, as the Springwise blog put it, because everything there is open -- not just the recipes, but even the fixtures and furniture.
"The Instructables Restaurant comes with full instructions for everything," its founders explain. "In most restaurants you get to buy and enjoy the food. In some restaurants, if you like the furniture you can buy it. But in the Instructables Restaurant you go home knowing how to make the food as well as the furniture. We give you the instructions and recipes!"
There are even instructions, in fact, for how to make your own open source restaurant. How's *that* for open, Freedom fans?!
'The Lasagna Forum'
"Uh, excuse me ... I've been waiting over an hour for my meal."
"Really? What did you order?"
"Did you check the project activity before ordering?"
"The project activity? What on earth do you mean?"
"Well, it looks like the lasagna hasn't been updated since 2003. I think it's pretty much dead. There aren't even any recent posts on the lasagna forum any more. Would you like to order something else?"
"Fine, I'll have the spinach pie."
"Which one? I just want a spinach pie."
"Well, there was a dispute within the spinach pie group and they ended up forking the codebase. There are now two parallel spinach pie projects."
The hilarity goes on from there -- well worth checking out!
'When Is It Worth Saying It's Linux?'
Of course, even back on the technology side, the notion of open source is still an unfamiliar one for the majority of users out there. Even the name "Linux" can often cause considerable confusion, as Dj Walker-Morgan recently pointed out on Heise Online -- particularly now that we have Android doing so well in the mainstream.
Upon hearing that Android is based on Linux, in fact, some users expect to be able to run applications like OpenOffice on their Android phones, Walker-Morgan asserted in a post provocatively entitled, "When is it worth saying it's Linux?"
That, in turn, led Walker-Morgan to wonder, "When the user interface is different and the API for developers is different, is an operating system still Linux, or is it something else?"
Should there be an overt distinction made, in other words, between Linux distributions and technologies that use the Linux kernel?
'I Have Not Heard of Any Confusion'
The Linux Foundation's Jim Zemlin weighed in on the matter in a subsequent interview with Walker-Morgan, arguing that there was no real confusion.
"For most consumers the only way to access Android applications is through the Android marketplace on the device itself," Zemlin told Heise Online.
"I think it is helpful for consumers to understand that Android is based on Linux and they are supporting software freedom by using open source code," he added. "I have not heard of any confusion in terms of an Android user attempting to run a desktop Linux application on their phone."
'It's Always Worth Saying It's Linux'
Nevertheless, Linux Girl couldn't resist taking a small poll of other opinions.
"It is always worth saying it's Linux," Montreal consultant and Slashdot blogger Gerhard Mack told LinuxInsider.
"Does Windows Mobile run MS Office or Photoshop? Same deal here," Mack pointed out.
Meanwhile, "saying it's Linux means someone trusted Linux enough to use it for that task, and that only does good to Linux's overall reputation," he added.
'When It Is Hackable'
Slashdot blogger hairyfeet saw it differently.
It's only worth saying it's Linux "when it is hackable," in hairyfeet's view. "Kinda not much of a point otherwise, is there? It is like the TiVo is running Linux -- but fat lot of good it will do you, since it is locked down tight and can't do anything more than any other black box."
The simple fact is that most people "don't even know things like cellphones HAVE an OS -- to them it is just buttons on a screen, like their ATM," hairyfeet explained. "Trying to explain what OS is on it will just confuse them and make your device sound more complex than it is."
For a device like a router that can run something like Tomato, on the other hand, the Linux connection may be worth advertising.
"It makes sense in that case, because Linux is providing an extra value for my money," said hairyfeet. "I may never use that ability, but it is there nonetheless, so let me know about it."
Linux's big selling point is "all you can DO with it, not just a name on a box," he concluded. "No access to the hardware? No point in saying it runs Linux. It is just that simple."
'Brand Recognition Is Valuable'
Of course, there's also the question of brand recognition, blogger Robert Pogson pointed out.
"Brand recognition is valuable, and we don't get it by referring to Ubuntu, Android, etc.," Pogson explained. "Debian GNU/Linux does it right -- they get brand recognition for their efforts and describe the technology properly, too."
Descriptions on mass-market appliances, in fact, "would be a good thing," he added.
'We Should Educate Them'
As for mainstream users being confused, "we should educate them," Pogson opined. "It is our duty to do so, because we have the knowledge and it is their right to know."
Bottom line? "That other OS gets way too much mention," Pogson concluded. "We should mention GNU/Linux as much as possible."
Then again, maybe not. ;-)