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Sunday, 18 January 2009 18:00

Move over PC and Mac; it's time for "I'm Linux"

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The Linux Foundation hopes to succeed where Microsoft’s short-lived Jerry Seinfeld experiment failed, namely landing a glove on Apple’s unrelenting "I'm a Mac" ads. And not a moment too soon with fear of anything not Windows at a high as demonstrated by this week’s news about a young lady dropping out of College "because of Ubuntu Linux."

Apple’s “I’m a Mac” ads have gone viral, and are well known around the world, even in countries where they have never aired on television.

It’s a slick marketing strategy that certainly troubled the Redmond juggernaut, who spent a whopping $10m to hire the star – Jerry Seinfeld – alone. If you’re a Windows user, consider where your licensing fees are going!

Of course, one notable operating system has been absent from these comparisons and productions – until now!

The Linux Foundation think, and rightly so, that a Linux advertisement is overdue. They’ve taken on the challenge to bring it to life.

That said, there’s a world of difference between billion-dollar proprietary software companies and a grassroots community of mass collaboration. For one thing, the available budget is enormously different, but making up for this, Linux arguably has a far more passionate and enthusiastic fan base. (Well, moreso than Microsoft anyway; I think we all know Apple fans are in a league of their own!)

Consequently, and considering these two points, the Linux Foundation have opted not to embark on their own production but rather sponsor a community contest, exploiting the minds and talents of Linuxphiles globally.

The contest begins January 26th and entrants are asked to showcase their take on “I’m Linux” within 60 seconds or less.

The content ought to be inspirational and explain why you love Linux, and infect the viewer with your passion. Despite the theme, it’s not necessary to mention, or even refer to, the Apple or Microsoft commercials. This contest will have its own life apart from the competing products.

What are the rules? And what's all this about a girl dropping out of college? Read on to find out just why Linux ads are a necessity!

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The contest rules permit as many different submissions as you like, but don’t go over 60 seconds, don’t violate anyone’s intellectual property and don’t be offensive.

Entries close on March 15th and the winner will be selected by a panel of judges who will take into account originality, clarity of message, its inspirational content, and to an extent, the video’s rating on a community web site.

The winner will receive a free trip to Tokyo to participate in the Linux Foundation Japan Linux Symposium in October 2009. The prize includes airfares, hotel accommodation for three nights and conference registration.

Here’s a sample of the wares so far. This first entry is just penguins about Linux!

Here’s another but brace yourself; this is pretty cheesy!

Meanwhile, this third one is pretty slick. It’s French but you should be able to easily work out what’s happening.

The penguin’s parting joke is “Hey girls, do you know what the difference is between a window and an apple? Nothing! Hahaha.”

What do you think? Are you inspired to give it a hit? It would be tremendous to see an iTWire reader win!

Now, what’s all this about a girl dropping out of college and blaming it on Ubuntu? Sadly, it's true, and it shows the need for some good pro-Linux advertising.

Partially, the advertising is necessary to counter the gross fear that still seems to exist for many ordinary folk when encountering anything that’s not Windows.

We’ve seen this just in the previous year where masses of consumers bought netbooks because they were cheap laptops – and then returned Linux ones in hordes because it was not what they were used to; they decided they would pay the extra Windows tax and negate some of the cost reductions.

Yet, the advertising can also help resolve some of the harm committed – and I hate to say it – by rabidly over-enthusiastic Linux evangelists who forget that the people they are dealing with are, well, people.

A recent example relates to a teacher in Austin, Texas, who confiscated Linux CDs being handed out by a student. She disputed his allegation the software was free, stating “no software is free and spreading that misconception is harmful.”

This lady wrote to The Helios Project, who the pupil obtained the CDs from, to express her aggravations.

Helios blogged about it, the story went viral, and the teacher in question received high levels of abuse and criticism.

Now, it’s one thing to critique another’s point of view, but it’s something totally different to resort to personal harassment, to abuse the individual and most certainly it’s not appropriate to seek them out in “the real world” to vent your spleen.

This happened again this last week; WKOW Television broadcast a regular computer helpline called the 27 News Troubleshooter. They reported the case of a young lady, Abbie Schubert, who spent $US 1,100 on a Dell laptop to aid her with studies at Madison Area Technical College (MATC) in a course delivered online.

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Without understanding what she was ordering, she purchased a laptop with Ubuntu Linux preinstalled because it had a cheaper pricetag than the equivalent model with Microsoft Windows.

However, she found she couldn’t load her Internet Service Provider’s CD, and that she couldn’t load on Microsoft Word which her institution had stated was “a requirement.”

Consequently, she took the remarkable step of dropping out of her course.

Reading this story makes me cringe. It shows how entrenched the Microsoft way is in the thinking of consumers – and not only consumers, of corporations and educational institutes.

Savvy types like iTWire readers know that you don’t need any special ISP software to set up a broadband modem or router, particularly if you use Ethernet or WiFi. It stands to reason Schubert didn’t know, nor needed to know, and it seems to be a failure on the ISP’s part (Verizon) that they shipped a Windows-only CD, let alone that they perpetuated the myth some sort of ISP involvement is necessary.

Similarly, we know that OpenOffice can save documents in Microsoft Word format. Or indeed, documents can be converted to PDF or plain text or anything else. It is also a poor indictment of the college to have wording that stipulates a specific word processing package, and all it entails, be a mandatory requirement.

Mind you, I still find it astounding the girl dropped out but that’s a different matter.

WKOW filed a follow up where they expressed their sheer surprise at how wide the story went, and how remarkably nasty many reader comments had been. Schubert herself reported she was receiving harassment on her Facebook account.

It’s a disappointing start to the year; it would have made a far more positive story had the follow up reported that legions of Ubuntu users offered to help Schubert out and get online and become an OpenOffice power user. After all, we all know how terrific the Linux community really can be, with the ugly side of fanaticism not generally rising to the fore.

So here’s to “I’m Linux” advertising; let’s send out the message that Linux exists and the ordinary person in the street shouldn’t fear it. And let’s also send out the message that us Linux types are nice people and while we might strike out at Microsoft we’re not going to lash out at individuals.

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David M Williams

David has been computing since 1984 where he instantly gravitated to the family Commodore 64. He completed a Bachelor of Computer Science degree from 1990 to 1992, commencing full-time employment as a systems analyst at the end of that year. David subsequently worked as a UNIX Systems Manager, Asia-Pacific technical specialist for an international software company, Business Analyst, IT Manager, and other roles. David has been the Chief Information Officer for national public companies since 2007, delivering IT knowledge and business acumen, seeking to transform the industries within which he works. David is also involved in the user group community, the Australian Computer Society technical advisory boards, and education.

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