Archive for the ‘Rant’ Category

Miguel de Icaza, Microsoft MVP

January 15, 2010

From an e-mail I sent to the Ubuntu Sounder mailing list:


Microsoft names ex-rival ‘MVP’
Todd Bishop on Wednesday, January 13, 2010, 8:16am PST

Miguel de Icaza, Microsoft MVP?

Yep, it’s true. The open-source rabble-rouser who was prevented from hosting a session inside Microsoft’s 2005 Professional Developer Conference has been accepted into the ranks of the company’s “Most Valuable Professionals” less than five years later. He announced the news on his blog.

De Icaza is the leader of the open-source Mono project, sponsored by Novell, which previously set off alarm bells inside Microsoft for its ability to expand Microsoft .NET applications to other platforms, including Linux. Relations between de Icaza and Microsoft have warmed following the Redmond company’s partnership with Novell.

He’s also on the board of the Microsoft-supported CodePlex Foundation, Meanwhile, Mono spin-off project Moonlight, an open-source implementation of Microsoft’s Silverlight interactive technology, has won the blessings of the Redmond company.

De Icaza was accepted as a Microsoft MVP for C#, the .NET programming language.

“This will be a great opportunity to build more bridges with Windows developers and show them that there is an ECMA CLI (Common Language Infrastructure) life in the other side of the OS spectrum,” he writes in his post, adding, “Looking forward to the group picture!”

A bit of a rant follows below…

Miguel de Icaza is (and really always has been) chasing rainbows.  A quote:

“when we tell people the right applications which are not unique to Windows that doesn’t particularly help Windows. And so we’ll continue to see and do things that are standard-based because that’s important. And you continue to see us encourage developers to do things that run uniquely on the Windows platform. You know, with the new Silverlight, you can build Silverlight applications that are flash-like in the sense that they run across platform. But you can also do things which are even nicer which really narrow down and run only on Windows.  And given that Windows is a billion units, you can afford to make optimizations as long as they bring value and do your applications that are Windows unique.” — Steve Ballmer

Another:

“Microsoft has had clear competitors in the past. It’s a good thing we have museums to document that” — Bill Gates

And this too:

“I once preached peaceful coexistence with Windows. You may laugh at my expense — I deserve it.” — Jean-Louis Gassée

(don’t know him? He ran a company, Be, that made an OS called BeOS… some pics. No, I didn’t know about them either until relatively recently ):

A bit of an aside, a quote from Scot Hacker, author of that article:

“So here we are in 2001, and guess what? It’s still not possible to purchase a dual-boot Win/Linux machine. Doesn’t that seem kind of odd? With all of the hype Linux has gotten, and with the technical simplicity of shipping dual-boot machines, not a single PC OEM is shipping such a beast. The technology marketplace is glutted with options. Vendors use even the smallest opportunities to trumpet their differentiating factors. Linux is free. And yet there are no commercially available dual-boot machines on the market. Not one. The silence of the marketplace speaks volumes. There is no other way to explain this phenomenon other than as a repercussion of the confidential Windows License under which every hardware vendor must do business.”

…and realize that now it’s 2010 and NOTHING has changed as far as that’s concerned; Linux has to try and claw its way onto machines where it can, mostly used Windows systems for which the hardware was not Linux-optimized.

And now getting back to Mono, realize that Microsoft controls the show; that ultimately they will steer it in the direction they want (to Windows sales) just as they have done with Microsoft Office document formats that really only work perfectly in Microsoft Office.

If we follow that route, we will only ever be a ‘Windows knock-off’.  We need to take a page from the ODF struggle and refuse to play the game by Microsoft’s rules.  I really think that collectively we need to say no to Mono just as much as if Microsoft wanted us to use Bing as Ubuntu’s default search engine.

(please do not scoff; when Microsoft got Linspire to do a ‘patent protection’ deal, one of the results was that “Linspire will make Microsoft’s Live.com search engine the default Linspire 5.0 web search engine”)

Apparently Ballmer just had his 10th anniversary as Microsoft CEO; the tactics may change somewhat, but realize that Microsoft is still not our friend.

Morbid Fecundity

December 29, 2009

Pictures of ‘Octomom’ ready to burst are disturbing enough (while this is cute, this is not!) and the decision by ‘Jon & Kate plus 8‘ not to selectively reduce becase of their religious beliefs should be a warning about faith versus common sense (because adding more kids is always so good for a relationship), but the other day I was browsing the news and I found this:

Michelle Duggar Gives Birth To 19th Child Via C Section

The thing that especially disturbed me was this line:

The Duggars belive [sic] that every child is a gift from God and do not use any contraception.”

Which prompted me to leave a comment:

“There’s something wrong with that along the lines of a morbidly obese person stating that ‘every inch of waistline is a gift from God and that they do not use any dietary restrictions’.”

Even more disturbing than them are things like the Quiverfull movement; its ‘gluttony for god’ but with babies instead of food.

The quote that springs to mind is: “The command “Be fruitful and multiply” was promulgated, according to our authorities, when the population of the world consisted of two people.” William Ralph Inge, More Lay Thoughts of a Dean, 1931 [source]

Dell’s Ubuntu Netbook FAIL

August 23, 2009

So I headed over to dell.ca to look at their netbooks with Ubuntu and this is what I just saw:

Dell.ca Netbooks: 'Ubuntu' machines have no discount AND don't have Ubuntu!

The “Ubuntu” netbooks don’t get a discount, but the XP ones do (so you save nothing… oh and no free movie on a flash drive either) AND…

…here’s the kicker…

they come with XP anyway.

Seriously (I clicked the link to check).

Dell, I should buy from you WHY?

Update Aug. 24: Dell updated the site so that there’s now a “Mini 10v Ubuntu” but its still the same price as the (discounted) “Mini 10v XP”.  Why does Dell have to play shell games with the prices?  Grr!

Update Aug. 25: More Dell Ubuntu Netbook FAIL!

Saskatchewan Wayside Wildflowers (and a little rant about lawns)

July 7, 2008

Once in a while I actually do get out and see the sun, breathe some fresh air and stretch my legs a bit; today I went wildflower picking with my daughter and a copy of a wonderful little book for people living in Saskatchewan that I had picked up at Superstore one day:

Saskatchewan Wayside Wildflowers

Our main target was a patch of giant thistle flowers near the Preston Crossing ‘Big Box’ development; they last for quite a few hours without water after cutting and make for a rather striking presentation at the table.

Trefoil, which is growing like crazy on a lot of the roadsides, has an extremely nice sweet scent, as does ‘Pineapple weed’ when you crush the small, petal-less flower heads between your fingers.  SWW advises that the latter are ok to eat (e.g. as tea) but the former are poisonous.

My daughter loves dandelions, but the giant Pusteblume from Goat’s Beard are her new favorites :)

[An aside to rant: lawns are a pain; they suck water like crazy and if you want a perfect monoculture you have to apply poisons that are dangerous not only to those applying them, but also to pregnant women and children.  So I don’t and my lawn gets a little weedy.  Most of my neighbors don’t mind (you can tell who they are because their front lawns aren’t ‘perfect’).  A handful (usually older people) are obsessed with their lawns though (e.g. one waters hers until there’s a small stream running down the street) and get angry about mine; I was told in no uncertain terms that I “must” use herbicides.  Another one of them anonymously sent me a poison pen letter.  I’m fairly certain that I know who did that though (they’re old and crotchety, so I will put some dandelions on their grave when they die >;).  But anyway, if I mow my weedy lawn often enough it still keeps the desired mown look (cutting down the tall dandelion plants made my daughter cry ): but they’ll always come back ;).  In some patches where daisies are growing I mow around them until they’re done flowering.  On one side of my place I have mostly grass and on the other, mostly dandelion or clover in some spots :)  The grass side needs watering pretty much daily when its hot.  The other side gets enough from the rain and when I cut it is always moist.  I leave it to the reader to decide which is ‘better’.]

Update July 14: I note, via boingboing, an article in the New Yorker titled “Turf War“.  Apparently what I am growing on the ‘weedy’ side of my place is a “Freedom Lawn” (my, doesn’t that sound nice? :)


the simplest alternative to the modern, industrialized lawn may be a lawn that functions more or less as it did in the eighteen-forties, before herbicides or even sprinklers had been invented. In “Redesigning the American Lawn” (1993), F. Herbert Bormann, Diana Balmori, and Gordon T. Geballe dub such a lawn the Freedom Lawn. The Freedom Lawn consists of grass mixed with whatever else happens to seed itself, which, the authors note, might include:

dandelion, violets, bluets, spurrey, chickweed, chrysanthemum, brown-eyed Susan, partridge berry, Canada mayflower, various clovers, plantains, evening primrose, rushes, and wood rush, as well as grasses not usually associated with the well-manicured lawn, such as broomsedge, sweet vernal grass, timothy, quack grass, oat grass, crabgrass, and foxtail grass.

The Freedom Lawn is still mowed—preferably with a push-mower—but it is watered infrequently, if at all, and receives no chemical “inputs.” If a brown spot develops, it is likely soon to be filled by what some might call weeds, but which Bormann, Balmori, and Geballe would rather refer to as “low growing broad-leaved plants.”

Update Auguest 24, 2009: While researching a plant growing in my lawn called Black Medic, I stumbled across this wonderful description:

A common weed, or “a feature of flowering lawns”, depending on your point of view.

I like the term “flowering lawn” even better! :)

Update Aug. 28, 2009: Here in Saskatoon, Early’s sells sacks of “Xeri-Lawn” which is a mix of low-water requirement fescue grasses:

20% Creeping Red Fescue
20% Chewing’s Fescue
20% Hard Fescue
20% Sheep’s Fescue
10% Slender Creeping Fescue
10% Turf-type Tall Fescue

I planted some and it’s established itself in a few places quite nicely, so I bought more this year :)

Keith Olbermann just read the obituary for Hillary Clinton’s 2008 political ambitions

May 24, 2008

It looks like the Hillary campaign just imploded.  Text from here; video (with slight differences) here. The below quote starts ~7:15 into it and runs to the end:

God knows, Senator, in this campaign, this nation has had to forgive you, early and often…

And despite your now traditional position of the offended victim, the nation has forgiven you.

We have forgiven you your insistence that there have been widespread calls for you to end your campaign, when such calls had been few.

We have forgiven you your misspeaking about Martin Luther King’s relative importance to the Civil Rights movement.

We have forgiven you your misspeaking about your under-fire landing in Bosnia.

We have forgiven you insisting Michigan’s vote wouldn’t count and then claiming those who would not count it were Un-Democratic.

We have forgiven you pledging to not campaign in Florida and thus disenfranchise voters there, and then claim those who stuck to those rules were as wrong as those who defended slavery or denied women the vote.

We have forgiven you the photos of Osama Bin Laden in an anti-Obama ad…

We have forgiven you fawning over the fairness of Fox News while they were still calling you a murderer.

We have forgiven you accepting Richard Mellon Scaife’s endorsement and then laughing as you described his “deathbed conversion.”

We have forgiven you quoting the electoral predictions of Boss Karl Rove.

We have forgiven you the 3 a.m. Phone Call commercial.

We have forgiven you President Clinton’s disparaging comparison of the Obama candidacy to Jesse Jackson’s.

We have forgiven you Geraldine Ferraro’s national radio interview suggesting Obama would not still be in the race had he been a white man.

We have forgiven you the dozen changing metrics and the endless self-contradictions of your insistence that your nomination is mathematically probable rather than a statistical impossibility.

We have forgiven you your declaration of some primary states as counting and some as not.

We have forgiven you exploiting Jeremiah Wright in front of the editorial board of the lunatic-fringe Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.

We have forgiven you exploiting William Ayers in front of the debate on ABC.

We have forgiven you for boasting of your “support among working, hard-working Americans, white Americans”…

We have even forgiven you repeatedly praising Senator McCain at Senator Obama’s expense, and your own expense, and the Democratic ticket’s expense.

But Senator, we cannot forgive you this.

“You know, my husband did not wrap up the nomination in 1992 until he won the California primary somewhere in the middle of June, right? We all remember Bobby Kennedy was assassinated in June in California.”

We cannot forgive you this — not because it is crass and low and unfeeling and brutal.

This is unforgivable, because this nation’s deepest shame, its most enduring horror, its most terrifying legacy, is political assassination.

Lincoln.

Garfield.

McKinley.

Kennedy.

[Malcom X.]

Martin Luther King.

Robert Kennedy.

And, but for the grace of the universe or the luck of the draw, Reagan, Ford, Truman, Nixon, Andrew Jackson, both Roosevelts, even George Wallace.

The politics of this nation is steeped enough in blood, Senator Clinton, you cannot and must not invoke that imagery! Anywhere! At any time!

And to not appreciate, immediately – to still not appreciate tonight – just what you have done… is to reveal an incomprehension of the America you seek to lead.

This, Senator, is too much.

Because a senator – a politician – a person – who can let hang in mid-air the prospect that she might just be sticking around in part, just in case the other guy gets shot – has no business being, and no capacity to be, the President of the United States.

Good night and good luck.

I would also recommend the post “why am i crying?” and a browse through the comments.

Update: the bulk of an interesting comment from this thread:


I used to view HRC with simple pity, with frustration at not recieving her inevitable nomination.

Now I view her more as a high functioning sociopath who craves power and lacks the ability to comprehend the true wrongness of her words or actions. All is allowed in the pursuit of the goal.

As a political animal driven by coldblooded ambition, I believe she is quite aware of the meaning of her words and feels no remorse for pain or upset they may have caused others.  The moral capacity to feel such remorse is simply not present.

Unlike her opponent, she represents the very worst in all of us.

Update 2: And here is the music for her downfall:

It’s too late
She’s gone too far
She’s lost the sun
She’s come undun

Update 3: a great quote from this post:

This is her “Dean scream” moment.  This is her “I voted against it before I voted for it” moment.  This is [...] her “macaca” moment.  She can’t recover from this – even if she actually gave the most heartfelt apology and retraction and clarification and innocent explanation that she has ever given.

Update 4: snarky sarcasm can be fun ;)

When I referenced the Hindenburg…

…I was talking about the first twenty one minutes of the flight, not the part when it was set aflame and thirty-two people were burnt to a crisp.

I’m really, truly and wholeheartedly sorry if you were too stupid to figure that out and were somehow offended by what I clearly wasn’t actually saying.

Also… when I casually spoke of Abraham Lincoln’s assassination I was talking about how much I would have loved to see Laura Keene’s performance in Our American Cousin, not the fact that the President of the United states was shot in the head and died.

I think about Laura Keen and Our American Cousin almost daily.

She was never better than that night.

I’m sorry… and sad… that wasn’t apparent to someone like you.

And when I brought up the Bay of Pigs, its wasn’t to invoke the image of one of America’s greatest political disasters, but instead because I just love those porcine fuckers so much.

It was OBVIOUSLY about pigs and nothing more.

I’m so sorry you are a pinhead and missed that somehow.

Additionally my choice to talk about Pearl Harbor was not to invoke the harrowing imagery of a foreign power bombing America, but because Pearl Harbor is in Hawaii and my wife and I took a trip to Hawaii and while we LOVED it, we weren’t so much into the poi.

That’s why I had that look on my face when I said “Pearl Harbor”.

The POI not the war.

I’m sorry if you are a simpleton and couldn’t keep up.

And I don’t mention September 11th to try and terrify you into voting for me or to stir up hatred in Muslims or to justify a position I may have had on the Iraq War, but because September is my favorite month and 11 is my lucky number.

I always play 11 in the lottery. And sometimes 22, which is double 11.

If you KNEW me, that would be obvious.

I’m truly sorry you don’t know me.

Glad we could clear that all up!

And from the comments:

Jeff, I know when you mentioned John Wayne Gacy
You were just referencing your love for children’s party clowns.

I SO LOVE CLOWNS! Ha-Ha-Ha…
…just thinking of them makes me happy.

Smokers are drug addicts (duh!)

February 13, 2008

OK, I have to rant a bit. Here in Saskatoon, all public buildings are smoke free… well, according to the law anyway.

Today I had to run some errands at Circle Mall and parked at the second level underground to let my car warm up a bit (the winter is cold here in Canada :). Now, as I exited the car with my daughter, I noticed a slightly ‘off’ smell in the air and cigarette butts on the ground, despite several of the above signs around. When we were done shopping, we came back and a woman was smoking right outside the elevator area, literally creating a cloud around her. It seriously looked like something out of a cartoon. Another guy was smoking by his car.

We marched by it as quickly as we could, but when we got home I noticed an unpleasant whiff of tobacco smoke on my clothes. It was at that point I got really mad >:( So here I am blogging my rant.

‘Oh, but its too cold outside to smoke there’ some would argue. But the fact that they could not wait until they were on private property betrays their addiction:

Smokers are drug addicts.

There are lots of euphemisms to avoid this fact, but when I lived in New York I twice saw people smoking crack in public and it was the same thing; light up and breathe in the vapors to get a quick fix. People who advocate so-called “smoker’s rights” are literally advocating the ‘right’ of someone to do drugs in public and expose others to it.

Smoking is a particularly nasty way of getting high; breathing smoke supplies the drug (be it nicotine, or something else) as well as a toxic cocktail of poisonous gasses. Now, someone drinking alcohol or popping pills might be killing themselves slowly, but imagine if they had trouble getting it into their mouth and sprinkled alcohol in your child’s drink or dropped some pills in your food. Imagine the outrage that would follow. Is it any better that I have to breathe their poison? Is it any better that its been part of society for decades?

There really is no such thing as a polite smoker; the stench infuses their clothes and their breath reeks of an ashtray. I cannot hold a conversation with a recent smoker without wishing to flee the smell. Whenever I am invited to the house of a smoker (e.g. my in-laws), I invariably have to have a shower afterwards.

My grandfather, very nice person that he is (though now suffering from senile dementia), used to be a smoker. He smoked for decades (literally since the end of WWII) and only was able to quit as a result of the dementia (literally forgetting to smoke) and the patch (because even though he forgot to smoke, he still got VERY grumpy as the withdrawal symptoms kicked in… he had tried to quit ‘cold turkey’ several times when I was young, but he would always start again after spending a couple days in bed with flu-like symptoms). Before he quit, he smoked three (U.S.) packs (60 cigarettes) a day (~2 cartons a week). At times he would light a new cigarette from an old one (“chain smoking”) and fill a room with smoke until it was cloud-like. And he wondered what was wrong with me when I would cough uncontrollably around him sometimes. He got mad at me as a little kid when I went to hold his hand while were walking and got a burn from the lit cigarette he was cupping in his one hand to shield from the wind. When someone would point out a no-smoking sign near him he would joke that ‘I’m not smoking, the cigarette is’ as if that actually made it ok. Probably the nastiest smoking story involving him was when I spent the night at my grandparents’ place as a kid; I changed in the morning and they washed my clothes and hung them up to dry in the bathroom. My grandfather smoked in there and my clothes were smoked like sausages. When I later put on the pair of underwear they had so much smoke and tar on them it literally itched to wear them. NASTY! And while I can’t prove a direct cause and effect link, my grandmother (who never smoked, but breathed in his clouds) died of cancer…

Conservatives talk of marijuana as a drug but don’t realize their cognitive dissonance in not treating tobacco as the same.

OK, end of rant.

The $20 iPod Touch Fee: Why I won’t be buying Apple products as Christmas presents ever again.

January 15, 2008

I’m mad. But I find that blogging about it can be cathartic. So here’s the deal: Jobs just gave his Macworld 2008 keynote and while I have to say the MacBook Air was very neat and would prefer to be blogging about that right now (and its expensive SSD option), I noticed this little tidbit:


9:35am – “All the same stuff we just heard about on the iPhone — on the iPod touch. Starting today we’re going to build it into every new iPod touch, for existing iPod touch users it’s going to be just a $20 upgrade.” EXCUSE me?! You have to PAY for this? This is SO weak.

Apple is now allowing iPod touch users to install these five applications for the low, low price of $20. The keynote crowd’s reaction to this announcement was unmistakably negative; a unified gasp was let up as well as a rowdy round of jeering.

Funny that the negative audio wasn’t in Apple’s online version of the Keynote…

Anyway, I sent a note to Apple’s iPod Touch Feedback:


My wife is a recent Mac user and wanted an iPod Touch in the worst way for Christmas; I saved and bought her one and now I find that the software that iPhone users are getting for *free* will cost $20 for the Touch?!?

This teaches me a couple lessons; first, that Apple products shouldn’t be considered for Christmas presents. I got it for her LESS THAN A MONTH AGO and now I’m expected to pay a 6% fee [based on Canadian price of the Touch] just to keep it up to date with a minor software update, otherwise get a ‘crippleware‘ update? Even Microsoft isn’t usually that money-grubbing. Second, that Apple products are a phenomenal money pit: they are the gift that keeps on taking.

The $20 fee is absolutely short-sighted; for the meager amount of money that will likely be raised, Apple has now alienated me a a customer and likely lost thousands of dollars in future sales.

Apple can justify it any way it wants, but it really boils down to trying to squeeze money out of those trapped in their vendor lock-in. Microsoft won’t be getting any more of my money and now neither will Apple.

Update: I think this sums it up fairly nicely:

I find it interesting that Apple chose to charge $20 for the new iPod Touch software. I think it should be free, especially when you consider that new iPod Touch models will come with the software pre-installed. I have never been a fan of penalizing the folks who have been using the device since day 1 and I think this does that. When I think of folks who got a new iPod Touch for Christmas who have to shell out $20 to keep up with the joneses, I think it’s a little unfair. While I don’t think we’ll have a $100 iPhone credit rebate firestorm on our hands, I think there will be some questioning by the iPod Touch faithful.

Dell: one step forward, two steps back

December 19, 2007

Ubuntu famously has Bug #1, reported by Mark Shuttleworth before the first Ubuntu release: “Microsoft has a majority market share”. But its really more than just that, as the current description of the bug mentions:

Non-free software is holding back innovation in the IT industry, restricting access to IT to a small part of the world’s population and limiting the ability of software developers to reach their full potential, globally. This bug is widely evident in the PC industry.

Its not just Microsoft (though they are one of the worst offenders), its also Apple, Adobe, etc. Today I commented on this bug:

http://www.ubuntu.com/

“Ubuntu CDs contain only free software applications; we encourage you to use free and open source software, improve it and pass it on.”

http://www.markshuttleworth.com/archives/84

“I hear you when you say “users want proprietary codecs”. That’s why we make sure these items ARE available, at the user’s option, as packages on the network repositories. That allows users who need that functionality, or who choose that functionality over free alternatives, to exercise that choice freely. We don’t make that choice for them, though of course there is huge demand from real users for that. And we will stay firm in that regard. Ubuntu does not, and will never, include proprietary applications.

http://direct2dell.com/one2one/archive/2007/12/18/38935.aspx

one step forward…

“Today, we’re adding Ubuntu 7.10 (a.k.a Gutsy Gibbon) to the Dell Consumer Linux line-up for customers in the United States. It will also be available on the Inspiron 530 in England, France, and Germany later this week.”

two steps back…

Pre-installation of [Adobe's] Flash for a better web experience”

“we now include built-in DVD movie playback with all Ubuntu 7.10 systems” using LinDVD

While its one thing if Dell wants to preload flashplugin-nonfree (which still is clearly NOT in the ‘spirit of Ubuntu‘), I am much more concerned by the fact that they’re using LinDVD to play a restricted format, as its not available in Ubuntu’s repositories (contrast with a case like MP3 support via gstreamer0.10-fluendo-mp3). The LinDVD page says “LinDVD, InterVideo’s Linux software DVD player, is currently available only to manufacturers for evaluation and integration.” Is this only legally available to Dell owners then?

It looks like Dell wants to create a DellOS distro based on Ubuntu with various of proprietary things in the mix (ala Linspire) to help sell their computers. There’s nothing stopping them from doing that, but is it really fair for Dell to be calling this “Ubuntu” though?

Update: Mark Shuttleworth responds:

The question of OEM’s adding proprietary bits to Ubuntu has been the subject of long discussions here. In the end we concluded that customers always have the option of buying the systems and installing Ubuntu themselves, without those. Most folks who are primarily freedom-focused and self-powered will do that, and many of them then add Flash in any event. But folks who are buying a complete solution have said they want the DVD playback, and want it pre-installed for them.

Ubuntu itself is unaffected by this decision. Folks who want Linux, with those capabilities installed, can get it.

and… so do I:

“we concluded that customers always have the option of buying the systems and installing Ubuntu themselves, without those.”

I can buy a computer from Dell with Windows on it and overwrite the HD with Ubuntu, but that’s also sub-optimal.

Adobe’s Flash plugin is gratis; AFAIK, LinDVD is not however. As it is bundled with Dell’s Ubuntu systems, have we not just started trading the ‘Microsoft tax’ for a different ‘proprietary software tax’? Is that really any better in the long-run?

Philosophically, how does this ‘Dellbuntu’ really differ from Linspire?

“Starting with the best that open source has to offer Linspire adds [...] proprietary software [...] and codecs”

Update 2: houstonbofh replied:

Providing a “free” OS if different from delivering a free OS. Yes, Dell is adding there “value add” to Ubuntu. Have you looked at a Dell Windows PC lately? If you want a clean Windows install on a Dell, you reinstall Windows. An entire project (The Dell Decrapiffier) was created just to address this. It is not a surprise that they also want to put a stamp on the Ubuntu desktop, and if we try and stop that, we are stepping on Dell’s freedom. And having them ship a commercial project shows the viability of the Linux market, and this is not a bad thing. While Dell mucking about with the desktop (any desktop) is a ugly thing, it is a sign of a very good thing; the adoption of Linux by the infrastructure that made the wintel standard so powerful.

And so I wrote:

“It is not a surprise that they also want to put a stamp on the Ubuntu desktop, and if we try and stop that, we are stepping on Dell’s freedom.”

If they wanted to rebrand the systems ‘Dellbuntu’ that would be different. This cheapens the name Ubuntu and mocks its core principles. It is also a step backwards; a proprietary Flash plugin and DVD player software are examples of exactly what Bug #1 is about:

“Non-free software is holding back innovation in the IT industry, restricting access to IT to a small part of the world’s population and limiting the ability of software developers to reach their full potential, globally. This bug is widely evident in the PC industry.”

Up until now, despite some annoyance I’ve had about the way Dell was going about handling its Ubuntu systems (including not selling them here in Canada ;), I planned to replace my current system with a Dell when it got older. But if they’re going to pull games like this too, I’m going to reconsider.

I note that Mr. Shuttleworth has blogged about the proprietary DVD playback as a good thing: “the US patent landscape makes that impossible, so for the moment this requires proprietary software”

Why does it have to be preinstalled though? Why can’t users be given the option to download it like Real Player from Canonical’s partner repository? If its not even gratis, that is a very slippery slope Dell is heading down indeed.

But arguments for ‘legal’ encrypted DVD playback aside, what justification is there for the preloaded proprietary Flash plugin?

Also I note in the comments to that post:

“Excellent news! Next step is audio and video codecs – mainly mp3, wmv and others.”

What is there to stop Dell from including all sorts of non-free codecs and STILL calling it Ubuntu? At what point does Ubuntu slide down the slippery slope and the “Ubuntu promise” become a bad joke?

Update 3: I filed a new idea on Ideastorm:

Dell should follow the ‘spirit of Ubuntu’ for its Ubuntu systems!

I was all excited to read that “Today, we’re adding Ubuntu 7.10 (a.k.a Gutsy Gibbon) to the Dell Consumer Linux line-up for customers in the United States. It will also be available on the Inspiron 530 in England, France, and Germany later this week.” but then it was with a bit of horror that I read:

“Pre-installation of [Adobe's] Flash for a better web experience”

and

“we now include built-in DVD movie playback with all Ubuntu 7.10 systems” using LinDVD

So under the guise of ‘customer desire’ Dell is going contrary to the ‘spirit of Ubuntu’ by preinstalling non-libre software. What’s worse, as confirmed by a second posting:

“Note that this is a closed-source, proprietary application, and is not included on the Ubuntu 7.10 OS media. [...] ISO images DO NOT CONTAIN LinDVD, as LinDVD is a non-free application that is included in the cost of a system purchased with our Ubuntu 7.10 factory-installation. We’ll make information available on how this application can be purchased after the holidays.”

Apparently Dell thinks that because they can hide the cost of Windows in a regular Dell system, its OK to hide the cost of a proprietary application in their Ubuntu systems.

NO IT IS NOT!!!

If Dell wants to sell LinDVD as an add-on, that’s fine, but one of the major draws of Ubuntu is specifically the LACK of proprietary software and its FREE cost. Do not force users to pay for non-libre, non-gratis software by attempting to bundle it into the cost of the hardware!

Also, regarding Adobe’s Flash, while most Ubuntu users will likely want it, its again contrary to the ‘spirit of Ubuntu’ to force users to have it by default. Quoting Mark Shuttleworth:

“I hear you when you say “users want proprietary codecs”. That’s why we make sure these items ARE available, at the user’s option, as packages on the network repositories. That allows users who need that functionality, or who choose that functionality over free alternatives, to exercise that choice freely. We don’t make that choice for them, though of course there is huge demand from real users for that. And we will stay firm in that regard. Ubuntu does not, and will never, include proprietary applications.“

Ubuntu 7.10 will automatically offer Adobe’s Flash or the libre Gnash plugin when Firefox encounters a SWF file, so there is NO NEED to bundle it.

So allow me to suggest how Dell can make its Ubuntu systems better:

When a customer orders one, have a software choice like the following, which assumes LinDVD costs $20:

Ubuntu 7.10 [subtract $20]
Ubuntu 7.10 with proprietary codecs (Flash, etc.) [subtract $20]
Ubuntu 7.10 with proprietary codecs (Flash, etc.) and LinDVD player [Included in Price]

Dell could then go all contrary to Ubuntu’s philosophy and include things like MP3 support via the gratis but not fully libre fluendo codec but give users a say in the matter.

Alternately, if Dell is going to insist on bundling all sorts of non-libre and non-gratis software and not give the purchasers a choice about it, please stop calling it Ubuntu!

If you feel that I have a point, please vote to promote the idea! :-)

Update 4

I left a comment on Mark Shuttleworth’s blog post, but its still “awaiting moderation” so we’ll see if it actually posts:

Mr. Shuttleworth, while I understand that you’re happy that Dell’s Ubuntu derivative will appeal to a wider audience than free software advocates, I must direct your attention to http://direct2dell.com/one2one/archive/2007/12/19/38924.aspx

“Several people have been asking about the reinstallation DVD ISO’s mentioned in the post. We have made these available for download on the wiki. These ISO’s duplicate a factory-installed Ubuntu 7.10 image from Dell for those systems listed. They have not been tested on any systems other than those listed, so they may or may not work well on other systems. Note that these ISO images DO NOT CONTAIN LinDVD, as LinDVD is a non-free application that is included in the cost of a system purchased with our Ubuntu 7.10 factory-installation. We’ll make information available on how this application can be purchased after the holidays.”

Are they really saying that LinDVD is going to be bundled into the cost of the hardware? With no way to decline that? When you go through their purchase system on http://www.dell.com/ubuntu that appears to be the case. It is the same sneaky technique used to mask the cost of Windows on a PC. I can’t imagine that you approve of that; please use your influence with Dell to make LinDVD an OPTIONAL purchase; I don’t want to be *forced* to buy proprietary software to get an Ubuntu PC from Dell!

Also, he made another post to Bug #1:

> What is there to stop Dell from including all sorts of non-free codecs
> and STILL calling it Ubuntu? At what point does Ubuntu slide down the
> slippery slope and the “Ubuntu promise” become a bad joke?

The Ubuntu promise has always been that *we* will publish a system which
has only free software applications, but that we would work with
proprietary vendors to make sure their stuff works on Ubuntu because
Ubuntu users have every right to choose a proprietary application if
they want. We took the difficult step of deciding to include proprietary
drivers precisely because we WANT people to experience free software,
even if their hardware provider has not yet figured out how to do Linux
properly. In this case Dell is the user, and Dell is also acting on
behalf of their customers.

The underlying idea is that Ubuntu should express the best of free
software, but that it should also be useful to EVERYONE and a platform
on top of which people can build even if they don’t have entirely the
same set of values. We are not trying to beat freedom into the skulls of
those who do not want it, we are showing them what is possible and
leading them towards that freedom one step at a time.
The set of people who will build their own kernel with all the firmware
removed is very, very small, and they can help themselves. We, at
ubuntu.com, aim to reach a wider audience, which is people who are
passionate about free software and want a trusted, convenient place to
get it. They will make their own decisions about non-free applications
they might add, just as you describe. Dell is aiming for a slightly
wider audience, of people who are willing to try something more advanced
or new, but don’t want to stumble on something they consider a basic
element, such as DVD playback, just because there are US patents on that
technology.
Update 5:I’m rather discouraged and a bit disappointed at this point. Not really by Mark, since his heart is in the right place, but more by Dell who refuses to sell an all-free OS (just as they have consistently refused to sell no-OS computers). At this point I won’t be buying a Dell machine, let alone recommend anyone else buy one. Oh well, there’s always system76 and ZaReason (or I could build my own machine… with some help anyway; I’m not really a hardware person).
Update 6:I just noticed that iTWire has an article referencing this post:
If Linux on the desktop is to have any hope of making a serious impact on Microsoft’s market share, then it needs to have companies like Dell and Asus pushing it out to the mass consumer markets of the world. Those consumers are simply not concerned with the niceties, political correctness and purity of the version of Linux on their machines. All they want is a computer that works out of the box. And as far as I can tell, that is what Dell is trying to deliver.

The comments on the post indicate to me that I’m very much in the minority position, that “there’s no problem with what Dell is doing here”, “We should praise Dell for making an effort to promote Linux, not knock them.”, “I applaud Dell for listening to customers” and “It’s attitudes like those expressed by Limulus that continue to try and drive a stake in the heart of Linux.”

:(

Update 7:

Many more comments have been made on the iTWite article and I’m glad to head that I’m not alone in my concerns! :)


The fuss is good
written by TheQuickBrownFox, December 21, 2007
Note: All instances of the word “free” in the following are as in “freedom”.

I think it’s great that people are making a fuss. The point of the free software movement is not to get everyone using Linux no matter what. It is to get people to use free software for their own good. There may be cases where the only solution is proprietary (DVD playback, unfortunately) but the act of bundling proprietary software with a system whose main advantage is to be free should be met with some resistance every time. It’s starting down a slippery slope to bundle DVD software. The next step would be mp3 playback software. But there is a perfectly good ogg audio codec that we should be promoting for the same reasons as Linux. We shouldn’t restrict freedom to the world of computing but aim to spread it to other industries too. This is already beginning to happen thanks to the temptation to use Linux in various hardware including media players and the “freedom infecting” nature of the GPL license.

I’m not saying that Dell should not have bundled the DVD player but I am glad that some people made a fuss. These “zealots” will at least stick to the principles that are the main reason we have such high quality free software to enjoy today.

And frankly, exactly the same arguments apply to the proprietary flash player.

The giants’ buddies…
written by buffalosoldier, December 21, 2007

The giants’ buddies are not for a moment trying to do the Linux communities any favours here. The capitalists are only in this for one reason…you guessed it, the personal rewards, (stuff the rest of us).
And most who buy a Dell computer, probably don’t ever consider any more about it than whether or not it works, let alone what OS is on it.
I am a relatively new Linux user and I am sad to see that there are so many maybe being sucked in by this.
Free is free, and not free is not free…what part of that is hard to understand?
You all have a nice day :)

Poor, strawman, he must be hurting bad by now
written by AlanM077, December 22, 2007

I keep reading terms like “zealots”, “religious”, and “purist” in relation to FOSS advocates, and when those types of terms pop up, chances are we have a strawman somewhere in the vicinity.

Dell can do what it wants, as long as it abides by the law and follows the GPL. But thank goodness for folks who hop up and down about proprietary software. Without them we would continue to be at the mercy of software corporations like microsoft. They may not be 100% correct, but they balance out the masses who would happily sell their soul in a EULA as long as they could view youtube videos and play world of warcraft.

What I’m saying is that there comes a time to compromise, but we need to remember it’s a compromise. There needs to remain a bit of conflict, a certain amount of pressure towards free software. The FOSS “purists” maybe should not get their way all the time, but they should by no means be silent. The whole “shut up and let us have our toys!” mentality people are expressing here is what got us in the situation we are currently in.

I feel better now ^_^

Dell sells 40K Ubuntu systems in 6 months

November 30, 2007

I note that The Register has an article up stating that “Dell has shipped close to 40,000 systems pre-installed with the Ubuntu flavor of Linux, according to multiple sources.”

But I’m going to call out the author of the article, Register editor Ashlee Vance, for also trolling with comments like:

“By most accounts, that’s a heck of a total for what remains more or less a fringe operating system.”

“more than 130,000 people promoted the notion on the company’s IdeaStorm web site. It would seem, however, that only a fraction of these zealots were willing to back their votes with cash.”

(emphasis added)

He defends his use of the term “fringe operating system” by defining it as an “OS [which] trails major desktop and notebook OSes by quite a margin” A hint to Mr. Vance: by your definition, there is ONLY ONE non-fringe OS: Windows XP. Look at the Net Applicatons OS stats (which I don’t fully trust BTW, but are good enough to illustrate the point) and you’ll see what I mean…

~79% Windows XP

["quite a margin" here]

~8% Windows Vista
~6.5% “MacIntel” + “Mac OS” (a little confusing, so I lumped them together; most of that will be OS X though)
~3% Windows 2000
~1% Windows 98
~1% Linux
~0.5% Windows NT
~0.5% Windows ME
~0.5% Other

Why not define a “fringe OS” as one which doesn’t have a major OEM offering it? Oh wait…

:P

His statement that “more than 130,000 people promoted the notion on the company’s IdeaStorm web site” is improperly drawn; note here that when Dell started selling Ubuntu systems in late May:”about 30,000 community members weighed in to support it, and over 100,000 of you completed the Linux survey to tell us more.”

I imagine that a good chunk of the 100K that took the survey (which was on dell.com NOT the IdeaStorm site) were from that 30K listed. Also, the current score on the idea is in “points”; initially it was 1 point per vote, but later they switched it to 10 points per vote. So really, his griping that the people who voted for the idea didn’t buy the computers is bogus.

Also, how often do you think most people buy a new computer Mr. Vance? Every month? Every two or three? no? Let’s say that people have more dollars than sense (pun intended ;) and fully replace their computer every two years or so. Its only been six months since the Dell Ubuntu systems went on sale; 6/24 = 25% Even IF 130K people had voted, that would mean that only 32.5K would have bought a new computer since then. Again, less than the 40K sold!

Also, up until August when Dell started to sell the Ubuntu systems in Germany France and the UK, they only sold these systems in the US. I’m in Canada and they *won’t* sell me one; search dell.ca for Ubuntu and you’ll get a notice that:

Dell Canada does not offer Ubuntu
We currently do not offer Ubuntu or any other open source solution.
We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause.
Check out the Dell Community forums for additional information.

Finally, Vance does an apples-to-oranges comparison of the number of Ubuntu systems sold thus far and Dell’s sales of “about 10m machines per quarter” asking “Is 40,000 units over a number of months enough to keep Dell interested?” (yet earlier in the article he quoted “David Lord, a spokesman at Dell” as saying “Adoption has been very good” regarding the Ubuntu systems).

If you want to see some real sale numbers, Dell needs to:

1. stop hiding its Ubuntu machines in a tiny corner of its site (dell.com/ubuntu) and make it a general option when buying Dell machines.

2. drop the stupid warning:

The main thing to note is that when you choose open source you don’t get a Windows® operating system. If you’re here by mistake and you are looking for a Dell PC with Windows, please use the following link.

Shop Dell PCs with Windows

3. stop playing the price games which sometimes make the Windows machines cheaper than Ubuntu on the same hardware.

The Myth of “Intellectual Property”

August 28, 2007

This is just going to be a quick post about a subject I’ve thought about blogging over for for quite a while now. People with a financial interest in maintaining the status quo speak of “Intellectual Property” all the time and the more they talk about it without being questioned, the more people actually buy into the concept. But let me state unequivocally:

“Intellectual Property” is a MYTH.

There is just no such thing and I will explain why. Consider first the traditional notion of property. Property results from the finite nature of physical resources. There is only so much gold on the earth, only so many diamonds and rubies; in order for you to increase the amount you have, you either have to go mine them yourself or you have to get them from someone else. Getting them from someone else without compensation or their consent is called “theft”. This is obvious even to a small child; if you go into a store and take something without paying for it you have increased your property by decreasing the property of another.

Now consider an apple.

If I were to go to a store and take an apple without paying for it, I have committed theft. But what if I were to buy an apple, take it home and take out the seeds and grow an apple tree from them and produce my own apples?

Am I an ‘apple thief’ then?

You might laugh at that, but the question is not a silly one; some companies consider it “seed piracy” to do exactly that.

When you hear the RIAA speak of “theft” of music, they are not talking about people shoplifting CDs from stores, they are talking about the digital equivalent of growing your own apples from seeds. Just because copying a CD is easier and faster than growing apples, does not make it any less so.

At its core, “intellectual property” refers to ideas (aka memes and aggregations of them), be they in the form of books or music or patents or what have you…

If nature has made any one thing less susceptible than all others to exclusive property, it is the action of the thinking power called an idea, which an individual may exclusively possess as long as he keeps it to himself; but the moment it is divulged, it focuses itself into the possession of every one, and the receiver can not dispossess himself of it. Its peculiar character, too, is that no one possesses the less because every other possesses the whole of it. He who receives an idea from me, receives instruction himself without lessening mine; as he who lights his taper [candle] at mine, receives light without darkening me.” — Thomas Jefferson, 1813

You can read more about Jefferson’s views here. The entire system of patents and copyright is based on the notion that by allowing a temporary monopoly on the application or distribution of an idea, people will be more willing to share their ideas because of the short-term profit motive; as per the Constitution:

“[The Congress shall have power] To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries.

But that has been subverted; while copyrights were originally for a period of up to 28 years, they have, especially in recent years, been increasingly extended to the point that they are now “the life of the author plus 70 years after the author’s death” (so easily well over a century). Patents may now be granted on software and even business methods. Fair use is hardly ever mentioned anymore except by those labeled “thieves” by large corporations. By accepting the notion of “Intellectual Property”, we agree that others literally own something that is in our heads.

To summarize: “Intellectual Property” is a myth; there are only government-sanctioned monopolies on the redistribution of memes. Making something in violation of a copyright or patent is not “theft” but rather a violation of a government-sanctioned monopoly. To claim otherwise, as groups like the RIAA do, is to LIE.

The copyright and patent system should be severely overhauled to establish that works made public are PUBLIC and only to benefit their creators temporarily before benefiting society as a whole.

Update Nov. 30: Readers of this article might be interested in a Linux Journal article which quotes RMS as saying “The clearest way out of the confusion is to reject the term entirely”, but which advocates a different method:

Instead of speaking of “intellectual property”, which invokes that feel-good idea of property and ownership, we should speak of “intellectual monopolies”. For this is precisely what copyrights and patents are: they are monopolies granted by governments for a limited period as part of a bargain – that, in return, those who are granted those monopolies hand them over to the public domain once the term of the monopoly has lapsed.

Update Dec. 24: There’s another interesting article, this time by David Pogue of the NY Times, “The Generational Divide in Copyright Morality” which is well worth a read; see also some of the comments its generated.

Update Jan. 24: Just a quick tidbit; I noted a user on /. by the name “I Don’t Believe in Imaginary Property” (emphasis added :)

Update March 5: An interesting article called “History suggests copyright crusade is a lost cause” argues that even if you were to treat ‘IP’ as one does physical property, “Congress’s current strategy of imposing ever more draconian penalties for breaking laws that lack broad public support is a recipe for failure. Congress may be forced to concede, as it did two centuries ago, that property law must accommodate the actions of ordinary Americans, and not the other way around.”

Update Sept. 10, 2009: An interesting post (full text here) to read, “Lord Kames Explains Why Copyright Is Not Property… In 1773″. Here are some quotes that summarize it:

The meaning of property, in the laws of all nations, is a right to some corporeal subject [...] [copyright] is not property. [...] this claim [of copyright], far from being founded on property, is inconsistent with it [...] Taking it in all views, no more can be made of it than to be a privilege or monopoly [...] The act of Queen Anne bestows this monopoly upon authors for a limited time upon certain conditions. But our legislature, far from acknowledging a perpetual monopoly at common law, declares that it shall last no longer than a limited time. [...] when, upon expiration of the monopoly, the commerce of these books is laid open to all, their cheapness, from a concurrence of many editors, is singularly beneficial to the public. Attend, on the other hand, to the consequences of a perpetual monopoly. Like all other monopolies, it will unavoidably raise the price of good books beyond the reach of ordinary readers. They will be sold like so many valuable pictures. The sale will be confined to a few learned men who have money to spare, and to a few rich men who buy out of vanity as they buy a diamond or a fine coat.

Update Dec. 18, 2009: Copying is not theft.
Stealing a thing leaves one less left
Copying it makes one thing more;
that’s what copying’s for.


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