Bonum Certa Men Certa

Con Artists in the Press

ABOUT one year ago, Rea Maor wrote an excellent post stating that people who don't use GNU/Linux shouldn't write about it. Carla has just published a spot-on essay on exactly the same topic and she's not shy to drop some names in. We strongly recommend reading it.



My current favorite horrid example is Dana Blankenhorn's famous "someone please send a Linux laptop" column [Dana Blankenhorn runs ZDNet's "Linux and open source blog" and he hardly ever uses open source, let alone Linux], written in July 2008:



"I have written about, and been written to about, Linux laptops for some time. Now is a good time to take the plunge. So I am asking for a review unit. "



How can one craft any sort of response other than WTF??! But let us not be hasty. The Internet is already full of hasty, kneejerk flamers and uninformed pontificators, and we do not want to be like them. Perhaps there is more to this story, so let us make use of the very secret weapon that nobody in tech journalism knows about: Google. I've been reading Mr. Blankenhorn's column for some years, and between my cluttered old memory and Google I do not find any indication that he had ever actually touched a Linux PC until September 2008:



"My first Linux laptop is the ASUS EeePC."



Be still my heart.

Preston Gralla, famous Windows author, wrote a good article about his first serious Linux experience Living free with Linux: 2 weeks without Windows. But again, WTF??! Another technology writer who has been writing about Linux for years without knowing anything about it:



"Now, I recognize that a few hours of using desktop Linux isn’t a true test drive. But if you want someone to throw over their habits of a more than a dozen years, you’ve got to wow them right away. And Linux didn’t do that for me."



Like, heavy, man. This doesn't even rise to piffle-- it's piffle lite.



We also strongly encourage everyone to watch out for sources of disinformation -- marketing and bias disguised as "trade journals". Preston Gralla from IDG [1, 2] is just one example. As for ZDNet, we covered this problem many times in the past. They have many Microsoft bloggers on staff (even Microsoft employees), yet none who is pro-GNU/Linux and Free software. Novell employees don't count as such. Microsoft has relationships with ZDNet and it also sends employees to comment there anonymously.

This is known as editorial control by selection or self censorship. In some cases, Microsoft tries getting reporters fired. There is always room for improvement [1, 2].

"Ideally, use of the competing technology becomes associated with mental deficiency, as in, "he believes in Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, and OS/2." Just keep rubbing it in, via the press, analysts, newsgroups, whatever. Make the complete failure of the competition's technology part of the mythology of the computer industry. We want to place selection pressure on those companies and individuals that show a genetic weakness for competitors' technologies, to make the industry increasingly resistant to such unhealthy strains, over time."

--Microsoft, internal document [PDF]

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