Linux is NOT a Crusade!

After my article about Novell, i received at least one comment ( and more always come in ) which makes me really annoyed. Although i replied in a lengthy fashion, i feel it deserves its own article. It's something that gets to me, and i just don't understand the mentality behind it:

Why do so many people treat Linux as a crusade?!?

I really don't get it. I have stated my reasons for using Linux, none of which come down to some arbitrary ( almost religious ) crusade against Microsoft. I've been part of the free software community for a while, and have noticed that it seems to be more against Microsoft than Apple, which honestly i find really odd. I see free software as something that i don't pay for and that i can do whatever i want with. But i also need to be practical.

I don't hate NVidia because i have to install a binary blob if i want some decent 3D Graphics, nor do i blame the kernel developers, because what they do isn't easy, even with hardware specs.

I don't hate Opera because i can't see their source code. Sure, it'd be really nice, but the software costs nothing, and in my opinion, is better than the alternatives. Browsing is really high on my priority list, so i want the best experience i can get.

I don't hate Microsoft because they were early to the desktop OS market and Apple made some silly business decisions ( which they still stick to oddly enough ). I'm referring to their insistence of bundling the OS with the hardware. Had they decided to put in the effort and build a kernel to support anything, they'd probably be number one and Microsoft might be known for something else.

What i do hate is people who think it is their task ( or maybe righteous calling ) to hate Microsoft for having built a business out of their OS market, such that it is hard for anyone else to enter the market. That's capitalism people. Microsoft just conduct business in the way that almost any other company in a capitalist industrialized society does. I'm not so much into big business, i dislike all the trickery and deceit, but that's just how it is. If something else that is better than Windows ( in cost or features ) comes along, it will slowly gain market share, but for that to happen, people need to have a reason to switch. Cost and features is part of it, but so is community interaction.

Years ago i installed Mandrake ( now Mandriva ) Linux on my mothers home PC, and she loved it. But there were problems. She couldn't walk into a shop and buy any hardware, she needed to call me first to see if it would work. She also had issues receiving and sending certain files to friends via email, such as Microsoft Word documents. Your normal non-tech member of society finds these things to be an issue. It's not Microsoft's fault. But so many people in the Linux community love to blame them for it. As Linux grows in popularity, which it clearly is, more hardware manufacturers will strive to support Linux. And with forward thinking companies like Novell, document, service and protocol compatibility will slowly fall into place. The Wine project is another great idea, and allows people to run Microsoft Office and Adobe Photoshop on Linux. Personally, i have no need for either of those, but not one of the professional artists that i have worked with would replace Photoshop with Gimp ( even tho i prefer Gimp ). Samba allows for protocol compatibility, again making life easier to integrate a network of mixed OS. And there are some zealots out there saying, "But why mix them, you don't need Windows and Mac, just use Linux", but that's not the way it works in big business.

So why should i care if some people are getting a bit overzealous?

Firstly, it gives me a bad name. When i say i'm a Linux user, some people actually say, "Oh, one of those" or "Ok, i won't mention Microsoft" or even hide an XBox behind a curtain and put away their Windows Mobile phone. And honestly, i don't like that. If i were to buy a gaming console ( other than my Wii ), i'd probably buy an XBox. Shock, Gasp, Horror, Linux guy wants XBox. My reasoning is that out of the 3 big current generation consoles, Microsoft have the best community support. If i have access to a Windows PC, i can make a game and sell it on the XBox. Sony and Nintendo don't allow that.

Secondly, what might rise if some Tux Crusade destroys Microsoft? Linux doesn't have the market share yet, so it'd probably be Apple. I'm very convinced that on the scale of proprietariness, Apple rank higher than Microsoft. One OS, only Apple hardware, no attempts to disassemble anything, we can't try and install the OS anywhere, their EULA even prevented users from using their own boot camp ( no other OS on the hardware ), and i'm not allowed to talk about the rest. And in my opinion, i'd rather use the Windows desktop to the Mac desktop. Kernel, not so much, Mac is much more stable and less issues with malware and viruses, but the coming from a Linux background where i feel Windows isn't configurable enough, OS X doesn't even have a task manager/bar/window list. I can't even change the shortcuts, so after a day of work i come home and have to get used to Alt+Tab again, and Home and End actually doing what i expect. So i'd rather have Microsoft, who seem a little willing to bend to pressure, up there than Apple.

Thirdly, it maintains the general view of Linux as a geek OS. Bearing in mind that the people who shout loudest are most frequently recognized, i don't like the thought of the Linux user base of consisting only of a bunch over overzealous nerds. I've heard of shop assistants say, "Use Linux if you want to write your own drivers", which is the rubbish that prevents adoption. If it's not for everyone, then the free software movement has failed. Anyone should feel comfortable using it in the way they want, and as a Linux contributor, it's part of my job to assist people in feeling good about using Linux, not complaining that things don't work as they should ( like myself and my colleagues do when using Mac OS X ).

And finally, it scares people. I've seen articles where people refer to Linux as a cult. People warn of getting in the community, saying that its like a secret organization that you need a special handshake ( or maybe some driver code ) to join. This is not good for Linux as a product. Maintaining a cult status will always scare people ( you may think the Jedi cloak is cool too, but the girl next door is really afraid of you ), so at some stage someone well known needs to come in and dispel these myths. And when Microsoft become the biggest seller of SUSE Linux, these myths move away quickly.

This rampant crusade does nothing but tarnish the image of the Linux community and really prevents people from moving forward. Maybe i'll get zealous about it when i can visit a Flash heavy site in any Linux browser and not fear the consequences, or walk into a shop and just buy some hardware knowing that it'll plug and play, or when i can buy a game that'll just run. 

And for that i'm very thankful that Novell have a Silverlight port, because it means that i don't fear visiting some Silverlight sites. I'm thankful for the Linux Driver Project, because maybe soon i won't have to look up hardware details online before buying something. I'm thankful for Wine, because i can play Red Alert 1, Starcraft, Diablo 2, and many other games. I'm thankful for Mono, because the .NET framework doesn't suck, and if i do need to write something that it is suited for, i can without buying Windows. I'm thankful for Canonical for making the community that develops for Linux bigger. I'm thankful for Trolltech, because they helped make KDE the next gen desktop that it is becoming. And all of the people behind these things deserve credit. Because they don't just sit at home and complain about the unfairness of business in a capitalist society, and they accept that it is merely the way it works. And maybe all the Microsoft haters should stop trolling the internet for porn and places to spread their word, and actually get involved. Make an icon, put up a banner, write an unbiased article, anything to make a difference to the community, and invite new users. Make Linux more friendly. Help a new user. Because at some stage, we were all n00bs, and it sucked. The constant banter about how evil Microsoft is doesn't benefit anyone, so stop wasting time on it and do something productive!


  1. I use only free software. And I don't hate microsoft, I simply refuse to sign away my inalienable rights to information so somebody else can make money out of me... As far as I'm concerned paying for software is fine, taking away people's rights is not - and what makes free software free is that it respects my rights- oh and I do contribute - I am an active contributor on a number of projects and I myself lead several more. Things you probably use btw.
    It's because of "zealots" like me that people can even run a cybercafe on their OS of choice - because if I had not insisted on keeping my cybercafe admin project free software there would be no actively growing and alive project to provide such software for anything other than windows.
    We may win the desktop war faster if we sell out... but guess what, we'll have lost. Like every other freedom fight we'll wake up to discover we've made a world even worse than the one we were trying to change - I would rather spend another ten years winning GNU/Linux users one at a time than to get a million who have no idea what it's about.

  2. I assume it was my comment that led to this rant.

    As I said in the last post - the only point I addressed was the false analogy you were drawing between Wine and Mono. (Which you tried to slide in again here.)

    In this post, and in the other, you have created a whole host of fallacies and motivations for straw men positions that no one actually took. (For example, I use Nvidia binary drivers.)

    Anyway, done here since you obviously aren't prepared for rational discourse. It's easy to win arguments when you simply make up what the other side is saying.

  3. silentcoder... this is what i mean. Its not a war! In the end it comes down to business, because Linux would not be as big as it is, if it weren't profitable ( from the user or the "seller" side ). Maintaining my rights and freedoms is important to me, and i take great steps to do so. If Linux is good enough, it will take market share.
    meandubuntu... u inspired me, but after checking out your blog i see you are contributing to the community. i still have been wanting to write this for a while because there are a lot of people who treat it as a crusade. I'm happy to debate rationally, in fact i hope for rational debate above ardent head bashing.
    oh, and about Mono:
    "Important Rules
    If you have looked at Microsoft's implementation of .NET or their shared source code, you will not be able to contribute to Mono.
    In general, be careful when you are implementing free software and you have access to proprietary code. We need to make sure that we are not using someone else's copyrighted code accidentally.
    Do not use the ildasm, reflector or other equivalent tools program to disassemble proprietary code when you are planning to reimplement a class for Mono. If you have done this, we will not be able to use your code.
    Please stick to published documentation for implementing any classes; when in doubt, post to the mailing list and discuss the possible approaches with others."

  4. You're right. Freedom is the crusade, Linux is just an instrument in its creation. But Americans are passionate about the Declaration of Independence and Brits are zealous over the Magna Carta, two other instruments of freedom. Should Linux be denied such ardor, just because it's written in C, rather than English?

  5. um... Rambo Tribble... i have no problem with being passionate about something. But Americans shouldn't invade other countries and kill people because they want to spread the Declaration of Independance ( i'm not trying to make any current political reference ). And i fully support freedom, but if 90% of the world doesn't want to be free, that isn't my problem. I'll object if they push their way of doing things onto me, but i also have no right to interfere with their freedom ( or the lack thereof ). But i'm glad that you are taking the discussion into a philosophical topic :) Thanks

  6. one thing you dont realize is that linux has less than 1% market share and the only thing that makes it seem like it has 20% market share online comes from the crusaders and zealots ..

    you might not like some of their tactics, but they are crucial is keeping at the very list, FOSS presence alive online .. how many different ways can people be mobilized to work on and advertise FOSS without having a religious mentality?

    are you a free software guy or an open source guy ..the distinction is crucial is we are to have a meaningful discussion ..if you use FOSS because for whatever reason you dont want to pay for software ..then there is really not that much to talk about because that will mean you go where the wind goes and you might change your position tomorrow if it suits you ..

    the $0 that comes with FOSS is an after effect, its not why FOSS exists ..and if you use FOSS because it costs $0 ..there you will not get where the zealotry is comming from ..because you are just a cheap person who use FOSS because you cant or dont want to pay for software

    mono/moonlight goes against the spirit of free software and its understandable and it should be expected when novel's or anybody make decision that break the FOSS licenses or the spirit of FOSS licenses ..

    there is a difference btw convenience and principles .. .if you dont see a problem with mono and you want to use it because you dont want to use .NET(and by extension pay for windows license) ..then you are all about convenience(being cheap???) and you should expect people calling you out if you conveniently look at away at FOSS principles ..

  7. Anon, i'm a free software guy, as in beer and speech. I like to use stuff that doesn't cost much, but if there are no alternatives i will pay for something. However, i also like having source code available to me, mostly as a developer so that i can understand how it works and possibly improve my experience with it. What i don't really understand is why Mono goes against free software. Yes it might be an implementation of an idea that Microsoft came up with, and yes, its funded mostly by a company who have a deal with Microsoft and can't be sued because of it, but ( and its a big one ), it's still open source and you are not allowed to use Microsoft code if you contribute to it. I'd much rather see efforts like Mono pick up steam than a direct closed ( and free ) port of .NET by Microsoft. I don't see how Mono is different from Wine or Samba. The article from meandubuntu posted in my previous blog post doesn't explain it at all, it just states something with no justification ( which is that coding with Mono spreads Microsoft patents ). And i don't see why it does so more than using Wine or coding with Wine to make something cross platform. I don't have an issue in principle with Wine, Samba, countless attempts at .doc support, MSN plugins for Kopete and Pidgin, so then why should i have an issue with Mono?
    The article meandubuntu posted btw: http://www.computerworlduk.com/community/blogs/index.cfm?entryid=1380&blogid=14

  8. one thing you must understand is there there is a difference proprietary software development and distribution model and FOSS software development and distribution model ..

    at the distribution level ..one of the crucial principle is the concept of "all or nothing" ..which means if one of us goes does, all of us do ..if one of us benefits from something we all do ..these two comes from the last 2(out of 4) criteria that determines if a piece of code is free or not

    when it comes to samba, if microsoft decides to sue, they will sue each and every person that uses samba or wine

    ..novel broke this bond that exist in the FOSS world when they signed their deal with microsoft ..this bond may not be in the FOSS licenses but its there in the spirit of FOSS licenses and GPLv3 tried to be a bit more descriptive to close these loopholes ..

    what is wrong with moonlight you may ask? well ..lets say i want to use moonlight and i download it from novel ..and then you want to use moonlight tomorrow and you download it from me ..when microsoft decides to go around suing people who infringe on their intellectual property ..i will be safe since i got it from novel and you wont be since you got it from me ..you dont see anything wrong with that?

    one of the principles of free software is the freedom to redistribute software ..the deal btw microsoft and novel and the threats that microsoft is making will force everybody to get moonlight from novel ..essentially making novel a sole distributor of moonlight ..

    ..if moonlight was free software ..then we would all be either sued or saved regardless of where we got it from ..why only novel customers are saved? ..

    lets say you got moonlight from novel when you got suse linux ..then you are ok ..but what if i got it from ubuntu ..then i am not .. suse linux will have an advantage at the expense of all of us ..and they got this advantage by using divide and conquer tactic ..

    mono is in the same boat ..novel is collaborating with microsoft to build mono and microsoft wont sue anybody who uses mono if they got it from novel ..this, in essence is pressuring all of us to get mono from novel and not making us redistributers if we want to ..something that is a required component of free software

    no such agreements exists with wine or samba and no such agreements should exist in FOSS world ..remember, its an all or nothing..

    the whole thing is all about patents ..microsoft says FOSS infringes on its patents ..FOSS people including novel says we arent ..then why did novel went into the deal with microsoft? microsoft says to cover novell's customers and novel denies this .. there is a double talk here ..

    i guess if you really want to use mono and moonlight and FOSS in general and you dont want to get sued one day by microsoft ..you are better off using suse linux ..because they are the ones who are covered and the rest of us will get burned ..

  9. Anon, some good points, but surely it only applies if you are willing to accept that the patents own by Microsoft are valid ones, which ( judging by their lawsuit track record ) they aren't. The Mono project actually states that anything in the project will circumvent Microsoft intellectual property by being done in a different fashion, or using prior art ( showing that its been done before ). By your arguement, the traditional KDE menu, the Close button and the Menu bar on an application window ( and the concept of the window ) are all owned by someone, and hence Linux itself is merely infringing on Xerox, Apple, Sun, Novell and Microsoft patents, but none of these companies will ever try and contest these things in court because a loss means that software patents go out the Window.
    Although i do agree, that all Novell are trying to do is further their Linux business, and it sure as hell works. They have had a record year for Linux sales, with more than 50% of their income from this business.
    But my reason for using openSUSE isn't for patent protection ( i'd use Moonlight on any distro ), it's purely because i prefer the distro and its tools ( like YaST ).
    In the end, i feel that if i don't acknowledge a great deal of Microsoft's patent portfolio, then there is no problem using Mono.

  10. "Although i do agree, that all Novell are trying to do is further their Linux business, and it sure as hell works. They have had a record year for Linux sales, with more than 50% of their income from this business."

    yeah, but at whose cost? ..like i said earlier ..one of spirit of FOSS is the concept of all or nothing ..if they are gaining market share using divide and concur tactics, then they should expect to get called for it by the community

    how much of their gain came from superior product/service or from people being afraid of microsoft's "you have an undisclosed liability in your spread sheets, if you dont want us to sue you .use FOSS from novel" ..where is the solidarity? you may argue that ..they are a business and they have bills to pay and shareholders to respond to ..but you cant do stuff like that expect people to just look away ..

    there is a double talk from novell ..why did they get into that aggreement with microsoft if they will go around microsoft patents?

    how should the community deal with only getting mono/moonlight from novel? ..what happen to the fundamental freedom as users of FOSS to be distributors if we choose to? ...

    how should the community deal with this blatant divide and concur tactic that seem to be fattening novell's wallet?

    things are somewhat easier with samba and wine ..an attack on them would be an attack on all of us because that attack will not be on them as products, but the model they are build under and the licence they are distributed under

    ..when law suits start flying around with regards to mono/moonlight ..people in the FOSS world will respond based on what distro they use ..and suse linux will be the only one unaffected ..

    basically, there is a double talk from novell when it comes to that deal and its understandable when people respond with skepticism when they do anything that can directly be link to that deal and currently, that is moonlight, mono and whatever they will do with go-oo

    at the very list, the deal btw microsoft and novell went against the spirit of FOSS and its understandable when people become skeptical of anything out of that deal ..

    you may say that the code is open and that is good enough for you ..but what limitations does that code come in that arent in the licence its released under but under the term of the agreements btw those two companies?

  11. The thing is, Novell aren't forcing you to use Mono. As with all free software, you don't have to use it, thats part of the freedom, and one thing that makes Linux so great. Bascially all u need is a kernel, which you can modify yourself. So Novell are doing something supposedly against an unwritten spirit of free software, and if you don't feel they've done wrong then you can use it. But if you do have a problem with it, then don't let it affect you. I don't see why the anger is often directed at them instead of directing it at NVidia ( since binary blobs taint the kernel license ), Adobe ( since Flash is closed and proprietary ) and many many other companies. Novell are a business doing business things, no one is forcing you to use their product, but if you choose to its still free ( as in beer and speech ). It's not about divide and conquer, for Novell it's actually about doing the same thing that all these crusaders are doing, getting Linux on every desktop. The difference is that their reason is profit.

  12. there are principles and credibility issue at stake here ..microsoft says FOSS is infringing some of its patents ..the FOSS world says "no,we arent, if we are, show us these patents we are infringing" ..then novel went around and sign up the deal with microsoft

    ..what exactly did they sign if they dont believe that FOSS infringe on microsoft patents? ..now they have given them a reason to go around and say "see, we told you,you guys are infringing on our patents and if you dont want us to sue you, use FOSS from novel because we have an agreement with them"

    novel's position has weaken the FOSS credibility and it has given microsoft an extra leg to spread their FUD against FOSS ..

    proprietary softwares are always called upon in the FOSS world ..binary blobs actually do not break the GPL license ..they break the spirit of the license and there are always issues with them

    ..people have always complain about the proprietary nature of flash ..you arent paying attention if you dont people complaining about any proprietary code in the FOSS world ..

    true, novel isnt forcing anybody to use mono ..but they are saying that it is a free implementation of .NET framework but it comes with strings that dont show up in the license its release under ..and these strings are in the agreement they have with microsoft

    fpr example, a right to redistribute is a critical one for any code to be free software ..but if the code comes with an extra agreement that you must only get it from novel ..it is really not that free, is it?

    nobody is forced to use their products, true ..but if they sell their products as FOSS, then they must comply with the licenses those programs are released under and they must live by the rules set forth in the FOSS world

    There are general rules and principles in the FOSS world ..some are written down in licenses and some are inferred from the written texts or those licenses and these are known as "the spirit of the license" ..

    novel deal with microsoft may be legal in a sense that it doesnt break any FOSS licenses but its against the spirit of those licenses and the general outlook of the FOSS world

    goals could be different ..one group of people could be all about putting linux on people's desktop and conveniently ignore all the free principles that may make that a little bit hard to do

    ..other people's goal is to put a free desktop on people's computers and are willing to forgo market share to stay true to principles ..i guess people are the ones you call religious

    nobody is saying novel shouldnt make money ..redhat is making more money than them and nobody is saying anything against redhat ..the issue is how they are doing it and the deal with microsoft could be making them money now, but it was a bad PR move from FOSS world and they should have known they would get the flack they are getting

    principles exists for a reason, we can conveniently choose to ignore the ones we do not agree with but we should expect to be called upon when we do that ..

    if you call something "free software" then that something must comply with the rules and responsibilities that goes with that label ... you cant pick and choose what you like and what you dont like and then expect people to not raise issues with that ..and "if you dont like it, dont use it" will not suffice ..

    if they want to advertise mono as a free implementation of .NET framework ..then they must come clean with exactly what did they agree with in that deal with microsoft ..and people should know what extra requirements they have as a result of that deal

    having the code may be good enough for you ..but not for others .. people want clear answers and all we get is double talk from novel

  13. Linux is not a "crusade", but we have to remember that Linux is spread by word of mouth. It has no retail presence. It has few pre-installations. It has no spokesperson and practically no advertising. So while it isn't a "crusade" it is important for users to speak up.
    About Microsoft. Most Linux users do not care about Microsoft and seldom think about it. When they do it isn't good. This is not their natural response which would be to ignore it because M$ is irrelevant to them.
    However, M$ cannot ignore Linux because it poses a threat to their dominance. They do not like the idea that software should be free in both senses. They want to control your computer and by extension what you do on it, so that they can maximize their profits. The idea that the computer belongs to you is foreign to them (WGA and DRM, etc.).
    This is David vs. Goliath in all senses. M$ fired the first salvos in the battle and is waging a one sided FUD campaign at great expense. In contrast Linux has been muted in its response because it has no corporate structure. Users have individually taken it upon themselves to become informed about what M$ is up to and the possible implications and they are responding to the FUD.
    It can't be called a crusade because it is defensive. Users are only responding. Some do it in kind and it can get nasty, but nasty is nothing new for Microsoft. They love it and can dish it out with the best of them.
    They are even willing to pay people to be nasty on their behalf.
    Most Linux users just want the FUD to stop and to be left alone.

  14. "It has no retail presence. It has few pre-installations."
    Um, it sort of does. Linux user base has shot through the roof mostly due to netbook sales. Cause lets face it, your average technophobe isn't going to install an OS themselves, they'll use what they bought.
    And MS are afraid, of course, because Linux is better that Windows in many regards. It's more stable, less prone to malware, can be extremely fast and it's free. And slowly it will gain ground, not because random people are handing it out on street corner or because there is a large online community ( that tends toward cult status ), but because manufacturers are realising that it is better and are preinstalling it. Also, when people realise that a Linux version is just as usable and $50 cheaper than the Windows version, they'll be more likely to buy it.
    Don't get me wrong, the community is core to Linux and really important, and i consider myself a member of it. I encourage ppl to use it, and have done some demos at work where ppl are impressed, but i don't feel that this is how it will gain a majority market share.

  15. Oh, and in my experience, there is a vocal percentage of Linux users ( so vocal i don't know how many ) that do care about Microsoft. They hate them so ferverently that even i'm a bit worried. Microsoft is a huge company gripping desperately onto their original business, of course they will try almost anything to prevent Linux from completely crushing them, in the same way they are begging for a Yahoo! buyout to compete with Google's ad business. I don't hate them in any way, and i don't think that anyone should. A company is a company. If we're gonna talk morals, then there are lots of products i don't buy ( McDonalds, KFC, Shell, BP, most oil companies, and a huge list of tested on animal products ), but Microsoft don't kill people or animals. They're just trying to be a software company and struggling to hold onto their empire... i almost pity them.

  16. I think this is an stupid and fallacie discussion.


    "..when law suits start flying around with regards to mono/moonlight ..people in the FOSS world will respond based on what distro they use ..and suse linux will be the only one unaffected .."

    It's simply false.

    The protection only cover to NLD and SLED users. This protection against Microsoft potential reclamation DOES NOT PROTECT TO OPENSUSE USERS.

    I hope you be able to understand this. ONLY SLED AND NLD USERS are covered.

    Please, don't make demagogy.

    People like you will make than a lie like this be a virtual reality.

    Today still is easy to read things like kde is not FOSS or YaST is not FOSS. Thanks a false, incomplete and demagogic opinions like yours.