Normally I run Ubuntu Hour Kitchener the first Friday of each month 7pm at Misty Mountain Coffee Shop, 33 Queen Street South. This month the first Friday is Good Friday, so I won’t be holding Ubuntu Hour the first Friday. The second Friday is Friday the 13th! It seems somewhat appropriate to hold an Ubuntu hour on Friday the 13th. I can think of a few marketing gimmicks “Jason wants you there…,” “Be there, or be cut in squares…” (that last one might land me in hot water).. chuckle. So Friday April the 13th, 2012 it is.
My schedule is changing as of next week, likely for quite some time to come. I was working Monday to Friday 9-5 with a slight difference on Thursdays, 10-6. Starting after Easter I’ll be working Tuesday to Friday 10am to 6pm and Saturday 10am-4pm. Given this change I’m thinking about changing Ubuntu hour completely for subsequent months, I’m just not sure what to at this point.
Rights Management error message
Reason #2 why I like Linux is more of a “why I dislike closed systems.” The “Rights Management” error in the image on the left is from a Microsoft Word document I tried opening in LibreOffice. Sadly when I copied the document over to a USB key I couldn’t even open it on a Windows machine using Microsoft Word 2007.
The open nature of Linux and open source software means that stuff like this rarely happens. Quite some time ago I remember reading about a hospital unable to access their medical data because it was being held hostage by a company that developed the hospital’s proprietary software system and data formats.
You don’t have to be a fan of free software, or open source software, to be a fan of open data formats, but open source software is a good introduction to openness. It’s also a great introduction to sharing and playing nicely together, something we seem to have forgotten in this competitive age.
Being open also means being open to change. And here free and open source software also excels. A great example is the story of how The Working Centre’s community Computer Recycling Project developed their point of sale. It began with the eCommerce suite OSCommerce. Because OSCommerce is an open source project the centre was able to hire a programmer to build on top of the eCommerce suite a simpler to use Point-Of-Sale system tailored better than a closed source POS could be. But the story doesn’t end there. The project already had a programmer on staff who helped spec the project and made modifications when the contract for the original programmer was finished. Even I, with my limited programming knowledge, was able to fix some bugs (which I couldn’t do with closed source software). And for the past year the project has had a new volunteer, Todd, who has been doing an amazing job squashing a tonne of bugs and moving it more towards something we wouldn’t be embarrassed to release, after all it’s also about contributing back.
This morning I read Ubuntu: “We’re not Linux” a blog post written by Joe Brockmeier about Ubuntu disassociating itself with the term Linux. Joe initial argument begins with the kernel name, the “Ubuntu” kernel. I have to say that I agree wholeheartedly with Joe that the kernel is one thing whose name shouldn’t be branded too differently. I’d be fine with Ubuntu Linux kernel, but the Ubuntu kernel just doesn’t seem right.
My first guess was that Canonical was trying to brand Ubuntu to make it seem less scary. But the whole Linux community has already done this long ago – Linux is a lot less scary than when I began with Slackware ’96 (forget Yggdrasil which I think was the very first distro I touched). Linux is the kernel. We’ve screamed that from the tops of houses for a long time. The other collection of software and how they’re put together are the parts that make up the distribution (including branding). Branding shouldn’t extend itself to the kernel, at least not in place of calling the kernel Linux. Can you imagine Microsoft forking the FreeBSD kernel and calling it Windows 2012?
So I went looking on the Ubuntu web site to see if I could find the word Linux mentioned anywhere off the main pages, and I did on the devices page. Paltry mention of Linux. Ubuntu should be proud of its Linux heritage. It seems Mark Shuttleworth is, he praises Linux, Red Hat, GNU, Debian, and IBM, but even his language seems to reflect a differentiation between Ubuntu and Linux – when there is none. The Linux kernel is still the Linux kernel, modified is still the Linux kernel.
And this lead me off on a different tangent when I saw Marks’ challenge “There isn’t another company that I’m aware of which is definitively committed to the free software desktop.” Mark is of course referring to support for end users, but for a moment let’s look at this literally – the Gnome/KDE desktop.
Several arguments have already been made showing Red Hat contributes much more in terms of code to the Gnome project – a fact that Jono Bacon acknowledges in a blog post about Ubuntu and Red Hat Gnome contributions. Without the Gnome desktop and these code contributions there is no desktop. Of course we have KDE, we have Window Maker, Icewm and they myriad of other desktops (go Enlightenment). Yes, Canonical does an amazing job of creating community, there’s no question. But let’s recognize that community as a good part of the larger ecosystem that is the Linux community.
Joe’s correct – Linux is Linux. If Ubuntu and Canonical are going to help Linux, they should be promoting it, not hiding it in shame.