09.25.09

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DON’T Boycott Ubuntu

Posted in GNU/Linux, Novell, Patents, Ubuntu at 5:55 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

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Summary: Response to an impulsive decision to reject Ubuntu

THE short story is that Tux Machines made an informal call to boycott Ubuntu because of something that Mark Shuttleworth had said. This is not a final thing, but it is saddening because Tux Machines is my favourite news site.

In my humble assessment, the biggest problem Free software might be facing is software patents; womanisers, resistance to feminism and misogynists are true issues, but they exist in many aspects of computing; they are not exclusive to Free software or specific to particular distributions of software and there is nothing about “closed” or “open” in the software sense which implies openness or closeness when it comes to other religions, sexes, races, and nationalities. Instead of “Mark Shuttleworth”, that remark which rubbed Susan the wrong way could just as well come from “Steve Ballmer” or “Steve Jobs”. Making a tactless remark is not impossible; it happens now and then by accident. Mistakes happen, especially when people have no chance to reread or rethink a spoken word (where there is no opportunity to ‘proofthink’, either). Microsoft, for example, stages in advance so-called 'interviews'. It’s all just theatre, it’s fake. Like the 2008 election, it is conducted by the PR industry with advisors rallying and combing past every single thing that the candidate said or might say; there are secretaries and aides, which Mr. Shuttleworth might not enjoy the company of.

“Making a tactless remark is not impossible; it happens now and then by accident.”To neglect Ubuntu is to lose far too much. We have always been rather supportive of Ubuntu, with the exception of other people putting words in this site’s mouth, i.e. misrepresentation. Where we criticise Ubuntu it is usually opinion or advice, purely factual. We actually defended Ubuntu when it came under attacks from critics inside the GNU/Linux world.

At the end of the day, let us remember that Ubuntu is really fighting for broader acceptance of GNU/Linux on the desktop. Here it it from the latest news:

Shuttleworth: Don’t Give Up the Linux Desktop

Speaking at the LinuxCon conference late Wednesday, the Canonical founder pitched his approach for expanding Linux to provide a better user experience and broadening its appeal. The approach involves having a degree of cadence and coordination between projects and distributions, as well as improving quality and design.

More here:

LinuxCon: Shuttleworth’s Three Methods to Improve FOSS Development

[...]

Speaking before a combined session of LinuxCon and the co-located Linux Plumber’s Conference, Shuttleworth drilled home the importance of these concepts in the Linux development ecosystem, particularly cadence.

Shuttleworth has long maintained that if free and open source software projects can begin to sync their development cycles with each other, then both upstream and downstream developers (and, ultimately, users) will benefit. This is large part of the strategy behing Canonical’s strict six-month release for the Ubuntu distribution and the 18-month Ubuntu Long Term Support (LTS) cycles.

IBM is now working with Canonical/Ubuntu to actually advance GNU/Linux on the desktop. That’s more than IBM ever does for the platform on the desktop.

Tux Machines has been critical of Ubuntu for years, so Mark’s remarks were probably a trigger. Mark will hopefully apologise in public.

As for the technical criticisms from Tux Machines, as it showed just hours ago, the looks of Ubuntu can easily be changed. As a blogger who was cited by Tux Machines only hours ago stated in the headline, Ubuntu may be “the most promising Linux distro in the world.” In summary, he writes:

Given the recent spate of expansion of the ecosystem surrounding Ubuntu- from Ubuntu One, Ubuntu Cloud, Ubuntu Server, Ubuntu -Dell partnership among others- there is no gainsaying that Ubuntu is sure to be the Linux distro of choice in the future for both individuals and corporate customers.

For these five and possibly more other reasons, i strongly believe that Ubuntu stands among the lot as the most promising OS in the Linux world.

Even a hardcore user of GNU/Linux, Penguin Pete (Trbovich), is now embracing Ubuntu.

So, here I am! I think I am probably the the most die-hard power user to have ever adopted Ubuntu as their main system, not counting the Ubuntu development team itself, so this will be interesting.

I personally have Ubuntu installed on 3 computers, so those who wish to characterise me as “anti-Ubuntu” (as some people tried) are simply delusional or highly misinformed. I even used the first-ever version of Ubuntu.

In conclusion, why throw the baby out with the bathwater? Mark Shuttleworth is not Ubuntu. The millions of Ubuntu users are part of Ubuntu and to throw away a distribution because of a single remark from a single person is hugely different from rejecting a company like Novell for its policies that it was unwilling to change even after strong opposition from its very own community, even its own employees (Samba developers for example).

Don’t boycott Ubuntu. Nothing is perfect, but Ubuntu is not a real threat to Freedom; it’s also the basis for development of gNewSense.

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28 Comments

  1. David Gerard said,

    September 25, 2009 at 6:02 am

    Gravatar

    Boycotting is unlikely and over-the-top.

    However, don’t sweep the very real problems this signals under the rug either. The alternative to boycotting is not to give it a pass either.

    The original suggested letter is quite calm and sane: http://geekfeminism.org/2009/09/23/open-letter-to-mark-shuttleworth/ It just asks for consideration, a simple apology and reiteration of the principles of the Code of Conduct; nothing unreasonable at all.

    David Gerard Reply:

    The same applies to RMS’s earlier comments, which were just as bad in context (IMO) as out of context. That they were being spread by frothing Mono advocates does not somehow mean his problematic behaviour deserves a free pass either.

    Roy Schestowitz Reply:

    I never saw Mark’s words in context, but I sometimes find that there is confusion where gender is used without strict imposition; for instance, the “grandma” analogies are often referred to as “sexism”, whereas the “grandpa” analogies too can be seen as offensive (suggesting that a particular age group is less capable); need it be said that there are many more grandmas than grandpas because of lifespan and matrimony? The traps set up by political correctness are too easy to sink into, even through pure misinterpretation (and let’s now forget Microsoft’s homophobia, either).

    Again, it would help to see what Mark intended to say.

    David Gerard Reply:

    See comment below about the dangers of gender use without strict imposition. Not being intended to be exclusionary does not mean it is not exclusionary.

    And the phrase “political correctness” in practice usually means the speaker is asserting a right to be deliberately offensive.

    twitter Reply:

    Well, actually, the fact that M$ sponsored groups are making a coordinated attack on free software leaders is quite relevant. This attack resembles the RMS attack in more than one way. Both were meticulously recorded but the recordings were locked away behind a paywall. Both were spread by a lot of astroturf blog articles and sock puppets. Both were directed against people who are manifestly not sexists. Sexism, while not very nice, is so embedded in our culture that even those complaining about the problem are guilty!

    Women are socialized to be far more sensitive to criticism than men, as well as more critical of themselves. …. Women have much lower self-confidence than men on average, and will generally judge themselves far more harshly than any outsider. … few women have the endless interest in minutiae that men often display.

    Smell a rat yet? I do. Other people smelled it right away when RMS was attacked for his “Virgin of Emacs” routine, which itself makes fun of sexism. Mark Shuttleworth’s comment is of the straight up sexist type but look at the effort put into finding and publishing it. The result is that people in the free software community are wasting their time on demoralizing self defense and ignorant censorship of people who don’t deserve it.

    Anyone can be brought down by this kind of attack. If you follow someone around long enough, you are sure to find something offensive. You will note that no one has been able to point to anything from RMS or Shuttleworth in writing, and these two people’s opinions are some of the most published in the world.

    Free software is no more sexist than the culture it exists in and it is a lot less so than people who work in non free software, a field that is exclusionist and exploitative by nature. We should always be aware of things we say or do that might harm others but we should not let ourselves be abused by people who don’t care about the issue. There are few organizations as open and welcoming as the free software community.

    It is a tribute to the free software community that so few offensive comments can be found in so large and vocal a group. Why do they go after the leaders? Because everyone knows them and no one can accuse the attackers of just planting their own offensive agents into the conversation stream. It has taken them six months to catch another FOSS leader making a comment that is even remotely offensive. I doubt people like Steve Ballmer and Bill Gates can make it through a work day without treating someone like shit.

    Roy Schestowitz Reply:

    Yes, that Open Letter was OK, but it’s Tux Machines I am addressing.

  2. David Gerard said,

    September 25, 2009 at 6:20 am

    Gravatar

    For an example of why apparently minor linguistic usages such as Mark’s can be quite offensive and excluding, even with no ill intent whatsoever and assuming he’s basically a good guy (and I’ve seen no evidence he isn’t, and know people who know him and strongly affirm he is), read this thought experiment:

    http://www.cs.virginia.edu/~evans/cs655/readings/purity.html

    Roy Schestowitz Reply:

    You should mail this link to Microsoft Poland. [context]

    David Gerard Reply:

    Roy, Mark’s problematic words and the outrage at them are nothing to do with Microsoft. They are because the words were problematic and the outrage is genuine. Insinuating that it’s all a Microsoft plot is odious.

    twitter Reply:

    It’s not odious to suspect a criminal of bad behavior. They have taken a loaded subject and are using it to smear free software leaders. I’m not going to defend Mark Shuttleworth for what he did, but I will point out that he is being treated with special scrutiny by people who don’t really care and that other perfectly innocent people are being smeared by association. See above for details.

    Roy Schestowitz Reply:

    No, that was not my point. I am merely trying to show that not only Ubuntu is to be criticised for such things.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=weUZsIjC7UU
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MI_0Kt_e3Go

    TheTruth Reply:

    Nice Spin Doctor,

    “no matter what the message is, make sure you always get to state your own message”. Regardless of the platform.

    If you have an adjenda, push it every chance you can.

    It is what it is, you should not be making excuses for it.

    It was a tactless, stupid statement, that can kill a career.

    I’t nearly (but not quite) as bad as racial slurs on the President of the United States. (Did you see your future flash before you’re eyes with that SNAFU Roy). ?

    You see Roy, if you are going to sink to the lowest common factor, (and you do), You need to expect that others will consider treating you with similar contempt.,

    You like your “dirt files” on people, we’ll Roy.

    So keep up your hate speech, keep putting more and more people off your cause. Make sure during your “RANTS” you show your true self as you did the other day. It’s all pure gold.

    At least I can come on here and say I have not lied, or fabricated stories to suit my adjenda.

    Whats your credibility rating Roy?

  3. TheTruth said,

    September 25, 2009 at 6:39 am

    Gravatar

    “which rubbed Susan the wrong way ”

    you’re writing an article about sexism, please try to take a little more care in your own terminology..

    It also seems a bit typical saying it was a “brain freeze” type thing.

    It is what it is, it’s sexest, almost as bad as Racists right Roy !.

    One stupid racist statement can end a career, especially if you ever want to be considered a “public figure”. That means shuttelworth, stallman, ESR and.

    Anyone who uses hate speach to further their goal.

    Roy Schestowitz Reply:

    “Mutex”, aka “zlg”, aka “zilog”, aka about 20 more names including “TheTruth”,

    I don’t usually respond to trolls like yourself, but “rub the wrong way” is just an idiom. Take your trolling elsewhere please.

    TheTruth Reply:

    why do I scare you so much Roy ? Is it because I check the FACTS of your “claims”. And call you out for your FUD.

    Or is it you dont like me tying to keep you honest?

    Why do you continue to kick me from your IRC, ?

    Is it that you do not like reasoned argument, I know you like to be in control of the information flow to your diciples.,

    So Isolate you’re group, Exclude others with reasoned argument.

    **************

    Isolation

    Isolation represents a key component in the restructuring or
    indoctrination phase of most groups.
    (exclude all those that do not follow your mantra)
    CHECK.

    ********

    Projection:
    Stage 1
    “First, the group projects
    responsibility for its decisions and direction onto the leader”
    CHECK

    Stage 2
    “Second, the group projects the cause for its perceived grievances
    onto some outside entity. These outside sources can be specific
    people or groups or merely the outside world in general.”

    You’ve projected the groups responsibility onto yourself, and you’ve given the group somthing to hate, Ie MS and Novell, US Government, black people, Windows users, anyone not willing to buy into your hate talk.

    “name calling, and modifying names is a sigh of this like
    “Vista7″ “USDOJ”, OBAMAA.

    *************

    Pathological Anger

    The final component of the Lethal Triad, pathological anger,
    grows from the combination of isolation and projection.

    ************

    I’ve seen you go into crazed rants about MS and how evil they are and how terrible they are, you use Novell and MS as your vehicle to allow you to manipulate impressionable people and indoctrinate to your cause.

    ISOLATION
    PROJECTION
    PATHOLOGICAL ANGER.

    3 Prongs of Extremist HATE GROUPS.

    It’s the classic pathology, and Roy (sorry to say) you fit the pathology perfectly.

    ************

    Are you just a rich boy, playing with people heads for your own amusement. Or do you somehow actually think you are doing some good for the people you corrupt.?

    Why would you want to give up the change to do post Doc work at Oxford to continue with BN,

    IS BN more important to you than your career, and the possibility of doing some good with your brain ?

    Im sure it cost alot of money to educate you, you’re at the prime of your interlectual life and what are you doing with it ??

    Diddly.

    Roy, I know you are scared of me, because I have you’re number ive worked you out, (I dont understand it).

    But you are a extreemist group creator and it’s leader.

    You are *NOT a “freedom activist” as you claim, you do not believe in freedom of speach, you have to be in control.

    Thats why you dont like me watching what you do. I wont blindly follow you like your initiates.

    Im sure you censore me appropriately.

    twitter Reply:

    What an ass you are, Mutex.

  4. Yuhong Bao said,

    September 25, 2009 at 9:40 am

    Gravatar

    Yep, I studied the Whole Foods boycott due to John Mackey’s op-ed in WSJ about health care, and it was bad enough that it lead to a buycott (the opposite of a boycott) by a Tea Party, as I remember.
    “Microsoft, for example, stages in advance so-called ‘interviews’. It’s all just theatre, it’s fake. Like the 2008 election, it is conducted by the PR industry with advisors rallying and combing past every single thing that the candidate said or might say; there are secretaries and aides, which Mr. Shuttleworth might not enjoy the company of.”
    Yep, I know. Now of course most companies that do interviews aren’t as unethical as MS, and this blog is about MS’s unethical PR practices, not general problems with old school broadcast style PR, which is a different matter.

    Yuhong Bao Reply:

    “do interviews”
    To be more precise, I mean doing this kind of interviews.

    Roy Schestowitz Reply:

    Has anyone managed to find the full context/details about this incident? A lot of people are trying. I don’t think it was even an interview, just a small, scarcely-documented remark.

    A lady who regularly hangs around our IRC channel defended Mark, but we don’t exactly know all the pertinent facts.

    Yuhong Bao Reply:

    It wasn’t an interview, it was I think a speech he gave recently in LinuxCon 2009.
    BTW, FSF held a summit about women in free software after something similar happened in a speech by Stallman:
    http://www.itwire.com/content/view/27735/1090/
    http://blogs.gnome.org/patrys/2009/07/12/once-again-on-rms-and-sexism/
    http://www.osnews.com/story/21803/Richard_Stallman_s_Possibly_Sexist_Remarks_at_GCDS
    http://www.nowpublic.com/culture/richard-stallman-open-sores-arrogant-sexist-updated-x3

    Roy Schestowitz Reply:

    In this case, it was misunderstood parody.

  5. Yuhong Bao said,

    September 25, 2009 at 10:29 am

    Gravatar

    For more things like this, including a porn remark by Seagate’s Bill Watkins in an interview, which was former CEO of Seagate, you should study Engadget’s “CE-Oh no he didn’t!” series, which was most recently cited by BN to reference the incident where Ballmer almost smashed an iPhone:
    http://www.engadget.com/search/?q=CE-Oh
    And these links are more directly related to the issue of political correctness:
    http://blogs.bnet.com/ceo/?p=1635
    http://draginol.joeuser.com/article/362963/Should_CEOs_post_their_obnoxious_opinions_under_aliass

    David Gerard Reply:

    http://geekfeminism.net/ – a site and wiki of women in open source who are quite capable, have done this for years and are heartily sick of this crap.

    The issue is that they feel they should be able to expect better of the open source world.

    I know they’re trying to track down the actual video of the speech (it’s behind a paywall) to ascertain the context. However, first word of it was live tweets of “oh no he did not just say that did he” and so forth.

    David Gerard Reply:

    Sorry, wrong address – that should be http://geekfeminism.org/ and http://geekfeminism.wikia.com/ .

    (Kirrily “Skud” Robert has been a dear friend of mine for, crikey, nearly 15 years now. She never worried deeply about this stuff for a long time, but finally years of the same crap over and over has led to her putting serious effort in wanting to do something about it. In a calm and reasoned but uncompromising manner.)

    Roy Schestowitz Reply:

    I’ve seen this Wiki before. I wonder why Carla doesn’t speak some more about it.

    twitter Reply:

    The more I think about it, the more I conclude this is an opportunity for the free software movement to show some real leadership and put others to shame. What Mark said was wrong but he did not say it because he’s a bad person, he said it because we have a bad culture. Mark now has a chance to change that culture. He’s got the position and ability to point out how things should be in free software. The fact of the matter is that the free software community is not just another bunch of hyper competitive, money oriented bunch of code monkeys. The free software community is mostly a group of people who love coding and users who have things they need to get done. There’s no need for corporate power plays to get results. Canonical and other companies have shown that you can harvest that same community spirit to offer services and make money. The corporate world can be changed for the better by this realization, and the petty power plays that harness sexism, racism and other forms of exclusion can be banished. The gift economy of free software is already changing world culture for the better. Mark should take this chance to speed that change. The enemies of free software have spent a lot of energy creating this situation, now it’s time to use that energy in a positive way.

    Yuhong Bao Reply:

    Yep, as I said before, already the FSF hosted a summit on woman in free software after similar things happened to Stallman.

  6. karablak said,

    September 26, 2009 at 10:09 am

    Gravatar

    This whole situation annoys me immensely. I already commented on in at a couple of places, and I don’t like to repeat myself, but here goes:
    This has nothing to do with sexism. It’s all about self-victimization – the primary method of worshiping the Almighty Bulls**t in the Great Church of Political Correctness. How come I never have met a woman who would be offended by what Mark said? How is it that basically every feminist I know would rather be offended by the notion that women need to be protected from basic human freedoms (we’re talking about freedom of speech, and simply not feeling guilty for your human nature, after all)? After all the only people who need protection from anything are those who are too weak to deal with their problems themselves (whatever the nature of these problems might be). Doesn’t saying that women need to be protected from that imply that all women are intrinsically to weak to be free? Not a very feminist thing to say. Why doesn’t all this make any sense to me?
    …oh right! I’m not from US, I’m not being spoon-fed this crap every day of my life since early childhood by politically motivated hypocrites and their brainwashed, self-victimizing victims.
    Seriously America, wake up. Please do. You used to be great, now you’re just poisoning world’s culture.

    (Basically copy-pasted my comment from another website, but I just don’t have the patience to put out another rant.)

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