Thursday, 15 April 2010 12:08

The main problem with Linux: ignorant users


Last month, when the debate about the change in the position of window buttons in the next release of Ubuntu was at its height, I wrote a piece headlined "Ubuntu users, Shuttleworth doesn't owe you anything."

It discussed, at length, one obnoxious aspect that is common to many GNU/Linux users - they have a sense of entitlement and feel they are doing a favour to the developers of any distribution they choose to use. The fact that they are benefitting by doing so does not appear to register.

Yesterday, I discovered one more GNU/Linux user who appears to think that Canonical does owe its users something - reliability - and is prepared to vent about it in public.

One would be inclined to expect better from Caitlyn Martin, who claims to have used GNU/Linux from 1998 onwards, and also advertises herself as a technical consultant with a background in several tech-related areas. But, sadly, such does not turn out to be the case.

Under the heading "Ubuntu is a poor standard bearer for Linux" Martin vents on a blog provided by the publisher O'Reilly, with her starting point being that she could not cold-plug (corrected) a printer and get it recognised by her netbook which runs Karmic Koala, or version 9.10 of Ubuntu.

Martin wants to apparently stay on the cutting edge by constantly updating her distro but also wants everything to continue to work. She wants the same functionality that a long-term support version of Ubuntu offers to continue into the bleeding-edge releases which occur between LTS releases. What could be a more logical demand?

Her main grouse appears to be the fact that Ubuntu is now recognised as being more or less synonymous with Linux; other distributions, she claims, are better.

Have the good folk at Canonical done something wrong by marketing their product well? Is it anybody's fault that Ubuntu head honcho Mark Shuttleworth appears to have a few spare coppers that he wants to spend on developing and marketing a GNU/Linux distribution? Or does it irk her that, horror of horrors, the man is actually trying to make money off Linux?

There are so many contradictions in her rant that anyone who takes her seriously would have to be smoking some rather strong stuff. For instance, at one point she writes: "There has been a lot of discussion about why Ubuntu consistently fails to deliver a stable, reliable product."

But the very next line reads: "Ubuntu 8.04 LTS (Hardy Heron) was, in fact, very stable and reliable after the first maintenance release (8.04.1) so I have no doubt that Canonical can produce a quality product."

So can Canonical deliver a quality product? Or does it deliver an unreliable product? Does Martin read what she writes?

When I pointed out to her, in the comments for this rant, that she was displaying the same sense of entitlement that is a major fault line among GNU/Linux users, she responded: "We should not accept broken or mediocre. We should not simply just accept failure as if it is our lot to have crap shoved down our throats. If I wanted that in my computing experience I could run Windows."

Again, what is Ubuntu? "Crap shoved down our throats" or a quality product as Martin herself wrote? Or an unreliable product as the same Martin wrote? Are we dealing with multiple personalities here?


Martin does not appear to understand that nobody is shoving Ubuntu down her throat. She has chosen to use a free product and she wants everything to work.

Apparently, the moment she complains, Shuttleworth should be at her doorstep, developers in tow, to dance attendance on her.

After the rant generated a fair few comments, Martin adopted her spinmeister mode and decided to "clarify" her thoughts by writing a second rant: "How Canonical can do Ubuntu right."

In this rant, she wrote that she would like Ubuntu releases to be advertised differently - but that's exactly what is being done at the moment as there is always a clear differentiation between the LTS releases and the rest. I guess you can't please some people.

Or, Martin wants better QA for the non-LTS releases - but admits that this would involve the recruitment of more developers or allowing release dates to slip.

In short, she has nothing of any worth to contribute but is merely milking a topic that is guaranteed to generate responses.

Her ignorant contributions only confirm an old proverb - that it is better to say nothing and let all presume you are stupid than to open your mouth and prove it.

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Sam Varghese

Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the site came into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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