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Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Linux - Dealing with the reality

People that read my blog with any regularity will roll their eyes at the next statement...I believe I've made the point before:

I don't write because I think what I have to say is important...I write to draw your comments.

That's when I begin to understand.

Has my blog been a soapbox? You bet. The biggest, bestest one I could build. But through it all, it has existed as a learning tool for me.

That being said, the Deja Vu article drew some notable comments. I wrote it to state that I had the same revelation the "Linux Sucks" author had recently, only several years before. One comment in particular stood out and I thought I would share it verbatim, as a feature article. Thank you Magice for sharing your knowledge and thoughts. I believe they are important.

All-righty Then


My question to this kind of suggestion would be "then what?". Assume that we succeeded in "unifying" the effort and experience, and GNU/Linux achieves significant market share in desktops, then what? What have we offered to the world but Windows-with-Linux-kernel?

The real meat of GNU/Linux is not about speed, or stability, or usability. These are the result of the real meat, side effects at best. If you wish those that much, you can go for Macintosh just fine. Or some specialized version of Windows. GNU/Linux is not about these. I still put the "GNU/" part there to remind myself that GNU/Linux is all about personality and freedom. That is what this system offers to the world.

True, it takes time and effort to put together a GNU/Linux system. True, it may be weird and inefficient from time to time. But so what? It is, for God's sake, MY GNU/Linux system. It's different from yours. It's unique. It's like how your parents feel about you: you are not the best, but you are theirs, period. They love you, enjoy spending time with you, nurture you, not because you are the best, but because you are theirs.

Same goes of "joy of computing. It's not about showing off, or speed, or stability. It's PC, personal computer. It's mine. It took me a month to put everything together, and it sort of works. However, you know what, I love it. It's mine. I can sometimes even feel its working for me, restlessly overcomes any mistakes I made along the way. It's personal. If I don't like such and such component, well, dead with that. I will switch. I hand-pick the part that I trust and love. My fingerprint is all over the place: it's my personal computer.

Can Windows ever achieve that? Can Macintosh can ever achieve that? Windows Vista is flashy alright, professional alright, but it's someone else, it's something I bought, not built. It's just impersonal, cold, and fake at best (cruel at worst, if you are talking about the EULA).

GNU/Linux is different, that's the main point. It takes time, effort, and sometimes money. It can frustrate me from time to time. But it's like my little kid.

And that's what GNU project offers to the world: a taste of freedom, of possessing your own system. It's the meat of the whole project, and later the whole free software movement. Linux is adopted to be a part of that. Thus, it is best that GNU/Linux stays what it is, "an alternative to the mainstream" (quoted from forgotten source).

If we change, if we "standardize" the system, we just prove one thing: that Thomas Paine and his bunch were wrong after all; or any freedom worshiper for that matter. It is best to have some "developers" to control your system; it's best to hand over your computer to someone else; it's best to not doing anything; it's best to be under control, to be slave, to not think. Freedom, personality, possession are too effort-intensive, too time-consuming. Is that what GNU/Linux about? Oh, sorry. Is that what Linux is about? Is that PC? A brand, sounds good, connote nobility, but denotes nothing but an empty name?


Xetheriel said...

I disagree with his comments, but somewhat agree with the sentiment.

Yes, GNU/Linux is about freedom. The freedom to change, to modify, to make your own, and thats fine, that can be maintained and still follow a standard for doing things.

Create a standard driver model, create a standard printing model, create a standard GUI model, create some stability. You always have the source code if you don't like what you see, or if you think it can be done better. Thus, you still have freedom.

But at the same time, you are striking out at the systems that promote conformity, that promote instability, security holes, malware and viruses. See, you say that if GNU/Linux follows standard, that you have nothing but Windows by a different name. I disagree. If GNU/Linux follows standards, then you have a working, marketable, mainstream alternative to a loose, buggy, insecure, closed system. *THAT* is what distinguishes the difference between GNU/Linux and Windows et al.

A primary example of why GNU/Linux needs standards:

I just upgraded my machine from Ubuntu 8.10 to 9.04. My video cards hardware acceleration no longer works, and I have to boot up into an older Kernel, or my Mouse and Keyboard also don't work. Is this conducive to attracting new users? Or will this frusterate and annoy people into turning back to Windows? Hell, I'm an experienced Linux user, and developer, and *I* was frusterated by the experience. How is a basic user supposed to deal with this kind of malfunction?

Freedom means nothing if you have a system so broken that an "upgrade" breaks my mouse and keyboard.

Freedom means nothing if you have a system thats so foreign and mysterious that people are afraid to try it.

Freedom means nothing if you have a system that's so fractured that most basic users look at the list of a thousand distros and turn back to windows for relief.

What is freedom then?

I recently tried to convert somebody to Linux. Gave him a disk, told him to give it a whirl. And he did. But he's not a tech guy. His printer wouldn't work, nor would his camera. He switched back to Windows.

*That* my friends, is why GNU/Linux needs help. *That* is why GNU/Linux, despite having a good interface, and having come so far on the desktop, still has miles and miles to go.


Anonymous said...

I believe the commenter is confusing two issues that need to be kept seperate: freedom of software vs. coordination of the major distro efforts. The lack of a standardized base for desktop Linux is a barrier to entry for new desktop Linux users, as well as any commercial software project that might consider supporting a Linux build. Users want their hardware and software to Just Work, which for all its advances, present day Linux does not do. Software developers do not have time to compile and package different versions of their software for dozens of variations on a niche market of hobbyists and self-indulgent programmers. The cost is simply too high for the minimal payoff.

Do not think that a coordinated standard desktop base would infringe on your free software freedoms. It would require a change in leadership philosophy, not of license. There is a happy median between M$-style dictatorship and the present state of free software anarchy, and until Linux developers can find it, we can never grow far past our core group of highly technically-competent users.

That said, I consider such coordination unlikely because each major distro has a vested interest in their own creations as seperate entities. As Helios has encountered on many occasions, the major players are more concerned with controlling markets than opening them, and that's easier to do with marginally compatible server builds than standardized desktops.

Michael said...

Every 2 years or so, here in he United States, we make changes to our government. We are presented with a list of many different candidates from which to choose. Often times, those changes cause things to stop working, or start working differently, and it is very difficult for the average citizen to comprehend.

In China, citizens have only one option for candidate in most cases, elections very rarely cause anything to change, and while average citizens still can't fully comprehend the government, they have learned to exist within it's confines.

Freedom still has meaning.

Does GNU/Linux need work? Sure, so does the US government. Does the USA or GNU/Linux need single-party rule in order to work? Absolutely not.

srufle said...

In the car analogy GNU/Linux is currently at the stage of the first Monster Truck/Tractor guys. I think they started building everything themselves or perverting existing truck tech. When it became big business then there were companies that produced/manufacture specific parts.

By making GNU/Linux suck less the talented developers can focus on becoming the manufacture of something new, and possibly doing it full time for a nice living wage.

I watched the video and one of the people in the audience had some issue with three monitors and it not working after a kernel update. That is a slight an annoyance for one machine, but an absolute pain for a lab of 12. I have run into this myself, why do I have to get my kernel updated. I want all updates except the kernel, is that possible? If it is where would I have seen that in the Ubuntu interface.

I think it was also mentioned in the video. People and businesses have to be willing to pay 200 for the Gimp instead of 600 for Photoshop and realize that they can choose to never pay again, but maybe when an upgrade comes they should throw another 50 in just like they would with a "Regular" company produced app (Developers need to eat!!)

What we need are more philanthropic people that would be will at this stage to just front the 300k to produce I think it was a good video app.

Just think if all that excess spending in corporate America that happened had instead gone to FLOSS projects where would we be.

Justin said...

Last night I was going back and forth with myself about getting a mac, having recently switched to Jaunty and had several regressions in hardware support. This article has reminded me why I use linux! I will be reverting back to Hardy instead.

Blog of helios said...

I am way impressed with an Ubuntu varient called Super OS. I don't impress easily. It has replaced Mint as our main install for The HeliOS Project but there were other factors involved there as well. It is the latest Ubuntu with all the stuff you need and want already adding hunting down the dreaded prop codecs...

Webcam worked out of the box as did every wireless dongle I had to test. I love this system.

FelixTheCat said...

Six of one, half a dozen of the other...

Let me dare to quote the Linux Foundation:
"An operating system's success is inextricably linked with the number and quality of applications that run on top of it. Linux and its variances between distributions, however, present ISVs and individual developers with a unique set of challenges: different distributions of Linux make use of different versions of libraries, important files stored in different locations, and so on. If an ISV wants to reach a global Linux audience, they must support more than one distribution of Linux. These challenges and variances make it difficult--and costly--for ISVs to target the Linux platform."

It goes on to describe, what they hope, is the answer to this, the Linux Standard Base. Is it effective? I'm no developer and change is so quick in FOSS that it's hard to tell what affected the change. However, I personally believe more focus should be given to such projects so that the underlying technology is standard between distros.

We don't have to give up our computers' individuality but the issue remains there are quite a few distros that must be supported if an ISV is going to provide services and/or software for GNU/Linux. We are talking business/enterprise environments, here. Home users have all kinds of choice since they don't necessarily have to standardize their desktop and home servers to some corporate policy. Still, there choices do affect ISVs who may want to sell in the consumer market are still faced with the choice which distros should they support. Get it wrong and risk alienating users. Give the source to the community for them to build diverse distro packages and then face the costs of restructuring for a new income model, support versus license.

If the underlying technology is standardized, including the package types (not necessarily the package manager), distros don't have to elicit as much manpower keeping repositories up to date except perhaps different packages for different kernel, GCC, or library versions.

Now, as far as the comment from Xetheriel concerning the driver, printing, and GUI models, I don't know what level he's talking about but there are already standardized models in the Linux kernel, some of them quite recent. Basically, there are standard light sockets for companies to plug their standards-based drivers into, but some of them insist on either making their own or not making any at all. In the last case, the community of developers are left trying to reverse engineer the darned thing or simply tell folks there's no option to use that particular piece of hardware. That's a hard fact of life.

Oh, but when the companies release open drivers or at least release specs for the Linux Driver Project to build drivers, Linux works extremely well! No joke! As of a few releases ago, many distros will automatically add a new printer with no user/admin interaction. Supported wireless cards will show Network Manager or wicd any available wireless access points as soon as the card is plugged in. Web cams will work with Cheese and the various VOIP clients with no fooling around with /etc files. Many laptops' media keys work right out of the box with no fooling with the shortcut configuration files or GUIs. A truck load of monitors' native resolutions are automatically configured (by using EDIDs IIRC).

Are all "supported" pieces of hardware configured perfectly? Nope. Unfortunately, either not everyone is following the standards - they are fairly new in some cases, like the GEM - or the drivers are woefully out of date. Even then, there are so many combinations possible that no one can test every single one of them before stuff is released.

Heh, but when stuff fails, it does fail spectacularly, eh? ;)

Drew Kime said...

For most people the computer is not the object of desire. It's just a tool they use to get what they desire. They want a new blog post. They want friends on Facebook. They want a DVD with just the good parts of their vacation video.

Oops, sorry, can't do the video yet. Not as easily as you can on Windows. Call me when there's an app for that.

Sure, there need to be people for whom the computer is the end goal. They're the ones that come up with the great new stuff that the rest of us use. But that's all most of us want to do: Use it.

If you really see your PC as a child, and love seeing it overcome things and grow and change ... well, good for you. I want the computer to get out of the way and let me do what I want. Every time I become aware of how hard my computer is working to do what I want, I start looking for a way to fix it so I can stop noticing the computer again.

I suspect that's how most people see their computers. If it gets in their face to show them how hard it's working, it's broken. Rough edges don't show character. They show that it's not finished.

Reece Dunn said...

There are already standardisation efforts in place. The Linux Standard Base (LSB) provides requirements for basic file system organisation, where certain "core" programs are located, what "core" programming interfaces are available.

The project has various standards on UI and desktop functionality such as drag & drop, copy & paste, menu format and desktop program shortcuts.

The standards and protocols are there to help interoperability. Could this be better? Sure.

There is a balance between standardising common practices (and getting all the affected parties to buy into the standard), and being able to innovate on top of those standards (providing a clear migration/support strategy).

I'm not sure if there are any standardisation efforts around packages/installers (aside from `DESTDIR=`/`prefix=`, which is more of a convention).

Jeremiah said...

It's the snowball effect, once you are big enough, everyone jumps on board. The current problem is very few are pushing very hard toward the needed critical mass.
GNU/Linux can take over Microsoft's market share. But it will be death by a thousand cuts, and take decades.

Unless MS just fall over and go bankrupt, GNU/Linux (and freeBSD) will have to make an effort.

As for the free-v-dictatorship GNU/Linux is in the unique position to make the best of both. Having standards and massive collaboration will actually give more to the niche market distributions, and increase their following. A rising tide lifts all ships.

Worst case:
We get a Linux that is as big and as bad as Microsoft.
Who loses?
The people that make Wine.

kozmcrae said...

A dictatorship is the most efficient form of government. Democracies or Constitutional Republics like we have here in the USA are messy by comparison.

Similarly, chaos represents life, perfection death. The GNU/Linux system needs to find the measure of less chaos to satisfy the mythical Joe Sixpack user. To move beyond that mark is to step into the realm of software dictatorship. We know what a digital dictatorship is like. It's only when you leave it that you really start to learn how bad it was.

ARM-C said...

Ken, not having read any of these comments, I'd like to give my two cents for the masses:

a. First about Bryan's "Linux Sucks" presentation. The whole point there is that for some aspects, we really do need to find a way to get quality developers to work on the much needed applications that we are missing, most notably to me Sound Recording/Editing, Video Editing, and "PhotoShops"... We are hurting in these areas and it is holding back Linux as a larger movement... so lets fix that. Lets find a way to organize and fund that OpenSource development in those Key Areas.

b. As for a unified package / linux, well, it should not be looked at as a "limitation to the freedom". We really do need one. More precisely, we need a "Main Stream" version. The fact is that Ubuntu / .deb are quickly becomming that format for the masses in Desktop Linux. Having an "Well polished and commonly accepted" distro will only help. GNU/Linux will remain a live and well. I mean by that, once you get the taste of it and start hearing about the other options that do exist and that you can build a Arch system or build from source, for example, many will explore into that. No, it won't kill GNU/Linux, it will increase Linux, OSS, and we will see a broad acceptance of Linux at a quicker pace than ever before. Once the user base is there, we will Start to see commercial applications produce a Linux version as a common version, vs an after thought or being told "we wrote it to run under Wine."

Well, All Righty... :)

Take care and as always, I enjoy your blog.

-- Arick

Dega said...

Although I don't agree entirely, I think he makes a very good point. This somewhat ties in with another concern I have had lately.

If GNU/Linux does hit the mainstream to the point that we start seeing it pre-installed on more retail machines, can we really expect that companies looking to make a quick buck will just leave it be?

Many retail windows machines come loaded with bloatware, and I think we could expect to see the same thing on GNU/Linux should it become popular enough. You might think "big deal, it's easier to uninstall software we don't want on Linux than on windows" right?

Well, why would it end there?

With the ability to create their own distributions, what sort of bastardizations would some of these companies unleash on us? I think a vague example of this would be the versions of Linux that shipped with the EEE Pc and Aspire netbooks.

Don't get me wrong, I was thrilled to see Linux in any form on an actual retail computer. I wasn't so thrilled to see that they were offshoots that looked and felt extremely cheap. This bothered me considering that the distros they were based off of were very clean and professional in comparison.

Feel free to disagree, but in my opinion they were lousy. It's no wonder the return rate on them was so high(in addition to the fact that Microsoft has created a culture where the average computer user refuses to try anything new and unfamiliar of course. And they want to keep it that way. Take a look at this absurd propaganda:

I honestly think that if netbooks were to be shipped with the new Ubuntu 9.04 Netbook Remix, unmodified with only the drivers and software it needed and no added bloatware, it would have much more success. I can't really see that happening, but I can dream.

Anonymous said...


"I still put the "GNU/" part there to remind myself that GNU/Linux is all about personality and freedom. That is what this system offers to the world."

Yes indeed, thats well worth the pain of a few quirks and regressions.

So why do you recommend a distribution which includes the mono/moonlight timebomb that novell is so determined to inflict on us? Sure, it makes some real pretty pictures but at what cost? If there are patent rights in long FAT filenames, there is sure as hell a lot more in that poison framework, just waiting until we depend on them. That's risking the very freedom you so zealously defend.

Anonymous said...

People and businesses have to be willing to pay 200 for the Gimp instead of 600 for Photoshop and realize that they can choose to never pay again, but maybe when an upgrade comes they should throw another 50 in just like they would with a "Regular" company produced app (Developers need to eat!!)Don't hold your breath for people to spend $200 on the Gnu Image Manipulation Program, it is not worth that amount of money. Had the developers not made the biggest bone headed decision to toss out the Hollywood patches and limit its functionality to web based images ten years ago it might be worth that amount now, but as it stands it is one of the biggest con-jobs of the "community" to continually tell us to use GIMP when we can't because of its limited feature set.

As for the stabilization of the kernel and ABI's and API's, good luck it will never happen. Some people actually like the fact that certain things break at each new release, yet they fail to see themselves as the bad guys.

Alan Moore said...

It's hard to make blanket statements about "standardization" without people getting upset because it all depends on what you intend to standardize and how you intend to do it. Look, how many of us REALLY care what package management system our distro uses? As long as it WORKS, does it really matter? Maybe you had a bad experience with a .deb/.rpm distro and now have some superstition that one is better than the other, but otherwise I don't think it makes much difference.

On the other hand, some people worry that we'll all be "forced" to use a certain DE or browser or management tool to comply with standards. I don't think that's the point of standardizing.

Standards happen. They either happen by people coming together and agreeing to things, or by one project/product/vendor rising to the top and dishing out a de-facto standard. I don't know about you, but I'd rather see the former option come to fruition than the latter.

I'm all for LSB, freedesktop, and similar standards. I'm all for standards that result in users having more choices about how to configure the system. And I'm certainly for things that make development easier.

But if people are going to discuss this, they need to be intelligent and specific. Too many emotional terms cause misunderstanding and knee-jerk reactions from either side.

Anonymous said...

I prefer Mac OS X for my personal computer (while accepting nothing but Linux for servers!), but I feel similarly about my MacBook. I may not have built everything from the ground up, but I customized things the way I like them. I made it my own. It is unique, even though I didn't compile everything myself. Wallpapers, system settings, Dock arangements, utilities, haxxies, etc.

Blog of helios said...

Oops, sorry, can't do the video yet. Not as easily as you can on Windows. Call me when there's an app for that.

Dead wrong. Have you seen the changes to the latest ffmpeg? One small change brought it up to par with most any windoze offering. We just did handicam edits that were impossible one release ago. Now they are as smooth as silk and in a couple of features, outshine some of the most expensive Doze apps.

Rough edges? Drew are you familiar with the EULA Microsoft makes you agree to when you click "I agree"? If you are comfortable with that, then I really don't know what to say. I will deal with "rough edges" all day and teach my clients to do the same. Of course if a person is stealing their operating system, this conversation is worthless...that person sacrificed their integrity and moral freedom long ago. One who sacrifices his freedoms for convenience ends up losing one and a slave to the other.

Blog of helios said...

So why do you recommend a distribution which includes the mono/moonlight timebomb that novell is so determined to inflict on us? Sure, it makes some real pretty pictures but at what cost? If there are patent rights in long FAT filenames, there is sure as hell a lot more in that poison framework, just waiting until we depend on them. That's risking the very freedom you so zealously defend.Mono can be stripped out in less than 5 minutes. I don't allow it on my system nor any system I install on my client's computers, however I do tell them it is available. It took me about 20 minutes to do the remaster without mono. Linux people know the deal with Mono and they can deal with it as they wish.

there is sure as hell a lot more in that poison frameworkThat's a stretch and a long assumption. Don't you think we'd have found such poison by now? I am no fan of Mono but I also trust the thousands of developers world-wide to sound the alarm on things like this.

To date, the sirens are silent.


Anonymous said...

Arm-C / Arick

My goodness. As I read your post I keep seeing this image of a hammer hitting a nail squarely on the head.

seriouslycgi said...

GOD it must be hard to be GNU/Linux. i think it might be one of the reason why i use it exclusively. its already fighting to become the best for hardware support, its already available on more architectures than most of its users have had girlfriends (well not a good example really cos most of us linux geeks havent had many of those LOL) ok more girlfriends than colin farrell, it is open to anyone to expand and created anything they can imagine, its unique on every machine its installed on. there is an uphill battle for what? if the number of users and developers/creators paused at this very moment and never raised any higher would it die? why does linux have to compete with microsoft or apple? sure we know its better we have tried both (in most cases) but who cares if others want windows, if they complain, sure, try and explain the options, but its a little like being forced to listen through a religious slide show (for some tech users) when you already made your mind up. who cares if the numbers at 1% or 99% we dont need world domination to be succesfull in using a computer properly. celebrate linux laugh at those that don't want to behind their backs. muahahahaha

Anonymous said...

First, have a look at what Carla Schroder has to say about Linux' 1% market share:

"If Linux is such a pipsqueak, why are there such relentless tides of propaganda and deception against it? Nobody is attacking OpenSolaris, FreeBSD, or Mac OS X."

Second, Linux is the best general OS. That has nothing to do with Linus' genius or other magic, but results simply from attracting the most and best programmers. Linus' biggest contribution is his ability to stand aside and keep others out of the way.

The nex question is, why does Linux attract the most and best developers? A simple example will suffice.

In November 2001 an 18 yo Brazilian, Marcello Tosatti, became the maintainer of the stable 2.4 kernel (he stayed in Brazil). That is, an "unknown" teenager from a developing country decided what would be included and what not in the Linux kernel. He proved to be a good choice.

That is what "freedom" in Linux means. Everyone can contribute according to her or his abilities. I know of no other OS that allows this to such a degree. Eg, MS and Apple are ruled by bureaucrats, and the BSD's are infamous for their infighting about commit-rights.

In contrast, Linus is actively stimulating people to start their own Linux trees. He even developed Git to make this as painless as possible.

And that is why, in the end, MS will lose out. They will simply be unable to match the freely gathering developer base of Linux with their paid command-and-control armies. Unless, of course, MS will succeed in outlawing FOSS altogether.

A really, really, good read about this is:
The Bamboo Forest


Geoff said...

Intellectually and philosophically I'm subscribed to the open source approach to life. Above those considerations and in terms of software, I use Linux because it's free from cost and advertising - these are its chief pulls for me.

r_a_trip said...

Aren't we glossing over the problems with Operating Systems in general? I hear standardization, standardization, standardization as a mantra against driver and application problems. I hear that mantra as an implicit claim that Windows is problem free because of it.

Might I remind you that Windows is wrought with problems when it comes to drivers? Between major versions MS can't keep their driver model the same. They have to reinvent that wheel over and over again. This causes perfectly working, but slightly older hardware, to stop working. It even causes new hardware to stop working. The only reason this has become less of a hassle is that the hardware vendors bend over backwards to deliver new drivers for hardware they deem to be current. Good luck though if your older piece of equipment is marked EOL. No more driver support for you.

When it comes to applications, some of these also tend to break between versions of Windows. When I was still on that treadmill, I would be scrambling to get new burning software and anti virus on Windows, if a new version was available. The last I heard, this still is the case. Implying Windows as a shining example of hassle free computing in this instance is doing disservice to GNU/Linux.

Not having a stable driver ABI is a blessing (as well as a curse). It keeps developers on their toes. Do we really think Nvidia would keep developing their driver the way they do, if they could have just plonked a blob out their and know it would run on ancient kernels to the bleeding edge ones? What about other vendors? Do you think they would open up their drivers if they could just smack together something that halfway works and be sure it would work halfway for eternity? Would people even bother with reverse engineering, if a closed blob was good enough? The only downside to a changing driver ABI are the occasional regressions, but I'll take them as the cost of having otherwise stellar hardware support (range, duration, security, etc.)

When it comes to standardization FOSS desktop systems are highly standardized. Look at GNU/Linux. Most use the following components: Linux kernel; GNU user land;; Gnome/KDE; DPKG/RPM;; Firefox. Incompatibilities are mostly binary and on the corner edges. You don't even see most of it, if you aren't addicted to distro hopping.

Just when GNU/Linux is on the rising and attracting non-geeks, we all come out of the woodwork and we scream "We aren't standardized! Linux is a mess!!!" ourselves. Why do we insist on shooting ourselves in the foot? The "Linux Sucks" article even repeats the propaganda of our proprietary opponents. -- GNU/Linux is a non-standard hodgepodge, lacking critical applications and focus of getting them and there is no money to be made with it, so developers will starve. -- If that is the message we repeat ourselves, who will want to step up and support our crazy endeavors?

Truth is, GNU/Linux is advancing at a stellar pace and initiatives like LSB and are making an impact. Every iteration within GNU/Linux bring new ways of overcoming the few existing walls. Patience is key. We are growing slowly and so far we attract more and more people. Ubuntu would have been near impossible ten years ago. Today it is an example of what a focus on the desktop can achieve with the available means, without campaigning for the eradication of choice and freedom. FOSS is for the long haul, so why are we clamoring for short term success at the cost of losing what makes GNU/Linux valuable long term?

Anonymous said...

Ken, what I think I appreciate most is the fact that you chose to post a dissenting view of your blog. that is good form indeed and I thank you for being big enough to do it.

Sam Hall said...

That was a beautiful post... I had a look Linux Sucks guys slides, personally I wouldn't have responded to something like that, but you did such an eloquent job I'll forgive you. His stating of such obviously flawed ideals is really just trolling isn't it?

He's talking about uniting the whole world. No, not the whole world, just the geek fringe culture. First of all what he's talking about is either Fascism or Communism, but it's certainly not going to attract his target audience. That's trolling. I mean, what a toss bag. He should just stick to the crack.

Drew Kime said...

"Have you seen the changes to the latest ffmpeg? One small change brought it up to par with most any windoze offering. We just did handicam edits that were impossible one release ago. Now they are as smooth as silk and in a couple of features, outshine some of the most expensive Doze apps."

That's completely missing the mark. I'm not asking for a set of tools that I can use to roll my own video editor.

Have you used Windows Movie Maker? I plug in my camera, the system prompts me to import the video and creates clips from it. Okay, Kino mostly does that, but the latest version kept creating clips of 2-3 seconds each instead of correctly recognizing start/stop points on the tape.

Then I select what clips I want, in what order on a timeline. I can drag the start/stop points, create fades and transitions, add titles and captions, include effects ...

Yes, I'm talking about drag-and-drop, GUI, eye candy, consumer level ease of use. But that's what I want to do. I want to edit my vacation footage into something that the family will want to watch. Not just convert and stream the raw footage.

If there's something that lets me do this on Linux, please let me know. Right now I have a work laptop with Windows on it that I can use at night to do this. Someday I'll change jobs and not have that. I'd really like to have a Linux alternative.

Any solution that includes, "But you don't really need that," is not a solution. I like the way Windows Movie Maker works. I want a Linux alternative. Does anyone know of one?

FelixTheCat said...

@Anonymous coward
Concerning GIMP, give Ars Technica's article a once-over. This is one of the best reviews of the GIMP I've ever read, even though it does remain critical of some parts of the GIMP.

FelixTheCat said...

Having used several of the Linux video editing apps, I will disagree with your statement to a point. Of the ones I've used, kdenlive is easy to use but can be unstable, kino is good for
rough editing but offers no multi-track editing, avidemux works mainly with .avi
files, and Cinelerra takes a rather dedicated person to get over its learning
curve. I have yet to try Blender's multi-track NLE funtions.

Honestly, the apps are there, though, and actually quite easy to learn and use. It takes some familiarization with the features and interface, and a user can easily work with family vacation videos.

I don't think you've given an honest statement without honestly trying these options.

Drew Kime said...

@FelixTheCat Do you listen to yourself? "unstable ... good for
rough editing but offers no multi-track editing ... works mainly with .avi
files ... takes a rather dedicated person to get over its learning curve."

I have tried all of those. And the first three failed for exactly the reasons you stated. I'm trying to getting up the learning curve on Cinelerra now, and it's more than a little steep. The only reason I'm sticking with it is because I don't own a Windows machine. If I still had an XP install under VMWare I wouldn't even bother.

Your comment is a perfect example of how a lot of Linux supporters completely misunderstand why people use Windows. I told you exactly what I needed. I specifically said that "you don't need that" is not an acceptable response. Then you promptly offered me three options that you said yourself don't do what I said were requirements.

"This is almost close ... that one works but doesn't do what you need ... the other one probably does what you need, but it's really hard to use ... the last one is so hard to use that I've never even learned it myself." This is your proof that Linux is as capable of Windows? Wait, let me be more specific: More capable of the specific task I'm trying to accomplish.

Blog of helios said...

Hey Drew,

You make some good points and I agree with every one you made.

Here is what I think Felix is communicating under the surface.

The reason many of us suffer the problems we are talking about in the various rough edged apps is that we rather do that than capitulate to the EULA MS forces into our faces in order to use their systems. Drew, I would rather chew up an entire bucket of broken windshield glass than use any Microsoft product. If I have to stay up all night learning how to use a Free Software appliciation instead of an easier Windows app, I will do it and I will do it as long as it takes in order to master it.

Some people don't have that kind of time but I really don't either. I simply am not going to conveniently circumvent my core principles in order to do it the easy way. I have went as far as paying someone to do something a Linux app wouldn't do so I did not have to put that garbage on my machine. I realize fully that my stance is a bit zealous...but then again, remember who you are dealing with here.



Drew Kime said...

I respect your position. And like I said, I don't have a Windows machine myself. That's why I'm trying to learn Cinelerra.

You brought up ffmpeg, which may be better than any comparable Windows tool for the same task, but isn't suitable for the task I'm trying to accomplish. Felix brought up several more apps that are in the same space, but unsuitable for other reasons.

My point here isn't really just to say that Linux doesn't have a good, free video editor. What I'm saying is that Linux really doesn't have several of the tools that ordinary users want. Just because it has the tools that programmers want doesn't mean it's comparable to Windows. It's not.

The whole rant about package systems in the "Linux Sucks" talk was that good programmers are spending time packaging and repackaging things for multiple systems, instead of working on the tools that non-programmers really care about.

Suppose there is one person at Canonical, one at RedHat, and one at Novell, each working full time on building packages for their respective distros. Those three people, in one year, could build a MovieMaker replacement.

At some point, you have to say, "You know what? I don't care what package system is in place, so long as it works. What I want is applications that work."

FelixTheCat said...


{sigh} Yes, you completely misunderstood my text. That's pretty sad but, granted, I didn't spell it out completely.

My prose was to let you know there are choices but they are not pat answers that you are looking for. If you hone in on a single niche, that's your prerogative, but then you are really not seeing the forest for the trees. Thankfully, Ken managed to pull out the underlying context for me and served it up in an much easier to digest paragraph.

My congrats on you taking on Cinelerra. I've used it myself for some relatively intense video editing and have grown to appreciate it. If you haven't already, check out the documentation page and follow the links to The Source. Those four videos are what got me on the ground running with Cinelerra.

As far as seeing the forest, we merry few (compared to the world computer-user population) enjoy an increasingly worry-free experience when hopping onto the computer. Heck, using GNU/Linux can be downright boring unless you want to go out and jump into Gentoo or Slackware or LFS.

As far as a MovieMaker direct alternative, Kino is probably the closest and will be the most viable once they get some support to run the bugs out of the code. Yep, I'm not going to be an apologist for that kind of coding but their direction is good. Next up is probably LiVES, although I haven't tried that one yet.

Listen, using Linux can be a compromise between a near worry-free computing experience versus losing familiarity, but we're still alive! We haven't been infected with the latest swine flu simply because we switched! We're still doing plenty of stuff online - there are a TON of videos posted on YouTube made with all-Linux tools. The key is venturing out of your comfort zone and trying out stuff when you have time.

Anonymous said...

I totally, utterly disagree with these comments.
It took some time for them to sick. At the surface, they seemed to make sense. Linux : freedom - freedom : multi standard.
Then it hit me: no way! Nobody says we shouldn't have more than one standard. Nobody say we should get rid of pulseaudio, OSS, ALSA and what not, in favor of Gstreamer.
If you want to fiddle with all of them, knock yourself out.
But the very basic functionality of an OS relies in the usability.
So give me "a" standard that works 100% or the time. That I can use reliably on every application. Then do what you want with the rest. It has nothing to do with limiting freedom of choice. It has to do with making a product accessible to everybody. It has everything to do with freedom of choice between OS.
I have Ubuntu on my PC, where once was Windows. The HW is unchanged. I have one audio card and yet, on any application in Ubuntu, I can choose between 8 or 10 audio options. I don't need them. I don't want them. I want to be able to enable them is I ever need them. But by default, I only need to see 1 output.
I don't to see a problem when I open multiple applications that use audio, because Pulseaudio, OSS and ALSA are fighting for the same resources. That's not freedom: it's crap. It's not ease of use: it's the definition of un-usability.
Same goes for the video system: I have made the unfortunate (for a Linux user) choice to buy an ATI graphic card. So now I need to be careful to route the video on "noX" because on X11 it flickers. Or maybe I need to turn off the (default) compiz. Come on! It's one video card: have a way for the applications to use the resource. You can't be responsible for crappy drivers from AMD/ATI? Fine: have a "safe" button which takes care of it.