Does Linux Need a Little Tough Love?

Well, last week started out with a bang thanks to Monday’s announcement of the new, Debian-powered CherryPal PC.

That the low-power machine runs Linux is, of course, good news. The twist is that users won’t even see it, because the entire user interface is presented through Firefox.

Slashdot and LXer, among other forums, immediately picked up the news, and most bloggers seemed to be skeptical.

Not Cheap Enough

“The problem with this device is that it isn’t that much cheaper than a full budget PC that will whack this into the ground,” wrote bestinshow on Slashdot, where more than 350 comments had appeared by Friday.

“For (US)$50 more at Wal-Mart, I can pick up an el cheapo Compaq sporting basic sound, 512 MB of RAM, and a hard disk good enough to put a modern distro of Linux on it and have it work as a decent box,” added mlts. “No, it won’t boot in 5 seconds, but it will do a lot more for not that much more outlay.

“If CherryPal could kick the price down to $100 or so, that would be an alternative, but right now, unless one wants a highly portable cheap computer (which for $50-$100 more, an EeePC can do the job with a monitor), this computer has a hard market to crack into,” mlts added.

Cloud Claims

“Low-powered machines impress me,” Slashdot editor Timothy Lord told LinuxInsider. “That said, I don’t trust computers that seem to rely so much on the network to be useful when I need them to. Besides the network itself, it’s hard to know whether J. Random Company will be able to support claims like 50 GB of cloud storage.”

The device’s apparent inclusion of iTunes also surprised some.

“Perhaps this is simply a deal with Apple and they actually do have iTunes player and store functionality in their products, but it seems odd since Apple has very clearly avoided the Linux operating system themselves,” noted Monochrome Mentality blogger Kevin Dean. “Is this then a bit of deception (which is not good for customers) or has Cherry forged alliances with Apple to bring iTunes to Linux? If so, does Apple’s restrictive DRM (digital rights management) scheme come bundled into that little black box?”

If DRM is involved, this is “horribly misjudging a large segment of their target audience, since most Linux users (for the sake of using Linux) are against the idea of DRM,” Dean told LinuxInsider.

“The CherryPal is interesting, but not quite interesting enough,” concluded Slashdot blogger yagu. “It’s a product to watch.”

Linux Hater’s Blog

Generating far more heated discussion on the blogs, meanwhile, was a recent post from ZDNet’s Jeremy Allison arguing that Linux needs more “haters.” In his article, Allison points to the Linux Hater’s Blog, which asserts, “We hate Linux. And you should too.”

The post was quickly picked up on Slashdot by Soulskill (writing, “dem’s fightin’ woids”), and more than 600 Linux geeks had virtually tripped over themselves to get their two cents in by Friday.

“Linux Hater’s blog is awesome, and I say this as someone who deeply loves Linux and GNU and all that is based on them,” wrote Digana. “His criticisms are very well thought-out, not just stupid name calling, but clear, effective, technical, and explicit complaints about everything that is wrong with free software. … I recommend that any free software enthusiast spend some good time reading the blog. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll wonder how you can make it all better,” Digana added.

‘No Constructive Criticism’

“I can’t agree,” shot back Hatta. “Look at Friday’s post, no real constructive criticism there. Just HAHA look at the lusers!”

On the other hand: “Linux lovers should be grateful that anyone bothers to provide free criticism,” wrote reallocate. “Commercial vendors spend big bucks on focus sessions to acquire the same information.”

Then again, the Mac point of view: “OS X is the ‘tough love’ that Linux needs,” wrote dan dan the dna man.

It would be hard to find a more incendiary topic, so it was with great glee that Linux took it to the streets.

‘Can’t Agree More’

“Nothing could be truer than that Linux needs more haters,” Lord said. “Heck, Linux needs more lovers, naggers, and friends — because every one of those is a user.”

The term “hater” has to be put in context, though, Lord noted. “We’re not talking about dynamite, poison or lynch mobs, only about users moved enough by unhappy experiences to articulate them,” he said.

“I can’t agree more,” Dean said. “The simple truth is that most of the time, it actually does take concern to be critical of something. I can’t really critique Windows since I don’t use it, let alone care about it, but bugs in Iceweasel or Exaile bother me because I use both and like them.”

Bug Report in Disguise

As the article notes, “one could realistically parse the LinuxHater blog and fill out bug reports,” Dean added. “I think the people actually involved with the development of Linux-centric software understand, appreciate and even welcome tough love if it would help them improve the programs.”

On the other hand, “using the Linux Hater’s blog as a bug report source sounds good in theory, but quite often those reports lack enough information to do anything about the problem,” Montreal-based consultant and Slashdot blogger Gerhard Mack told LinuxInsider.

Also, “Linux supporters are already not very tolerant of bugs and inconsistencies, so I wouldn’t doubt that many of the current valid complaints are already on someone’s to-do list,” Mack added.

‘We Should All Be Complaining’

“What’s great about the Linux Hater’s blog, which I’ve been following since the first few blog posts, is that the author definitely knows what they are talking about and has a great way of criticizing Linux,” Adam Kane, a blogger on Foogazi, told LinuxInsider.

“Though most of the posts are written with a humorous tone, they actually make sense, and developers in the Linux community should take complaints and criticism like these into consideration,” Kane explained. “As members of the Linux community, we all should be complaining like the Linux Hater is.”

Allison’s use of the quotation, “the opposite of love is not hate, it is indifference” is “most to the point,” yagu asserted. “Criticism, even harsh criticism, well-written and accurate, improves Linux.”

First, such criticism “means Linux is getting attention, and there’s really no such thing as bad publicity (most of the time),” he explained. “Second, it brings to a large audience food for thought.”

‘Linux Gets Better Faster’

Many readers of such blogs are active Linux supporters, and they will either “point out why a critique is wrong (sometimes it is), or set out to correct the deficiency,” yagu added. “There’s a lot of pride in the Linux community, and sharp criticism brings rapid and proud response. Linux gets better faster this way.”

Similarly, the Unix-Haters Handbook — also mentioned in Allison’s article — “made me a better Unix user and a better Unix evangelist because I was prepared for the Unix Haters’ talking points,” yagu said. “I’d originally read it with nothing but anger, but found it to be well-written with good points about some of Unix’s shortcomings.”

Back in the Linux world, however, no matter how many haters there might be, “there still is plenty of room left over for Linux lovers,” yagu pointed out with a smile.

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