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Tuesday, 18 December 2012 11:11

The best of Linux - made on a Mac


The Linux Foundation has released a video of what it sees as the 2012 highlights for Linux - but the presence of decent video-creation and editing software running on Linux does not seem to be one of them.

Else, why did the Foundation choose to use a Mac to make this video? Is it meant to rub in the fact that Linux still lacks, in many areas, the spit, polish and ease-of-use that Apple boasts of? Or is it because the man running the show, Jim Zemlin, has a ready defence when asked about it? Zemlin never responds to inquiries and his defence is like that of Microsoft's famous "security through obscurity" approach. Or like Manuel in Fawlty Towers - "I know nothing."

The Foundation appears to believe that the spread of Android is a good thing - even though there is much that is not open about this mobile operating system. There is a lot of publicity for Google, the company behind Android, one that plays fast and loose on its tax requirements in many countries and claims that it is all part of capitalism.

The CyanogenMod project is one of the best Linux stories of the year, seeing as it has provided a community version of Android for numerous mobile phones, one that comes with root enabled. But the Foundation is all about corporates, hence founder Steve Kondik does not rate a mention. Not to omit the fact that it may well have annoyed Google.

The Foundation also does not seem to rate the release of the ground-breaking Samba 4, something that will go many miles towards freeing people from the clutches of Microsoft, as a good thing or a highlight. But then Samba does not fit into the open source universe - it is, fiercely, free software and Andrew Tridgell or Jeremy Allison would be proud to say so.

But the Foundation has no time for this; it is busy giving a plug to Amazon chief, Jeff Bezos. What does this worthy have to do software openness?

According to the video, not much seems to happen with Linux outside the US - except a few conferences. A mite insular, don't you think Jim?

And while there is plenty of time devoted to Red Hat - the company became the first to reach $US1 billion in turnover this year - there's no mention of the progress made by Canonical. SUSE does not rate either, except a brief mention of the fact that openSUSE, its community distribution, celebrated an anniversary. No mention of the remarkable turnaround by SUSE after it went private and returned to its roots in Nuremberg.

Much is made of the fact that a study by Goldman Sachs - surely the most reliable and truthful company worldwide? - claims Microsoft's share of the "compute" (sic) market is down from 97 per cent to 20 per cent. But there is no mention of absolute numbers - which often expose percentages for what they are - and the fact that Microsoft's clout in the industry is still so much that the Foundation could not even marshall the Linux players to deal with secure boot. The Foundation is struggling to release a first-stage bootloader to cope with this new block that Microsoft has created to make life difficult for would-be Linux users.

Admittedly, the Foundation does plenty of good work in getting competing companies in the Linux space to contribute in order that it can hire key developers, including Linux creator Linus Torvalds, and keep them away from the pressure they would face if they were, instead, working for one of these companies.

But its main preoccupation appears to be PR, and most of it self-directed, preaching to an echo chamber like a monkey admiring its own moth-eaten tail.

And it doesn't do even this PR stuff very well.

A recent series, "30 kernel developers in 30 weeks" looks like it was done by a kid with a marked inability to concentrate. Kernel developers are highly talented people and deserve to be treated with respect and dealt with at length - not in some short, snappy piece so characteristic of the YouTube generation. It is a pity that people who make such a great contribution to good computing are treated like dogs with a bone.

And finally, the Foundation is yet to tell the world at large what exactly happened when it suffered a break-in last year. Like the commercial companies it deals with, it has conveniently brushed this episode under the carpet. One wonders whether star kernel developer Greg Kroah-Hartman, who has kept quiet about the break-in at the kernel project, advised the Foundation to do likewise - or whether it was vice versa.

But then, why should the Foundation bother? The money is rolling in, and that is the name of the game, ain't it? Openness is taking a bit of a beating, sure, but who cares? Incidentally, if Linux had been closed software, it is unlikely that it would have gained even a millionth of the traction it has. But that fact seems to be lost on the PR-heavy Foundation.

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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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