July 17, 2009
"I am more afraid of an army of one hundred sheep led by a lion than an army of one hundred lions led by a sheep."
-- Charles Maurice

What Have You Done For Linux Today?

Mar 30th, 2009 | By Mike Dailey | Category: Latest Articles, Linux and Open Source

Over the past week I’ve been blogging about the Linux vs Windows debate, or–more accurately–setting off a firestorm with an article I posted concerning the migration of Microsoft to Linux.  In my article I challenged the views of j00p34 a fellow blogger and Linux advocate.  My article was then responded to by another blogger, Hans Bezemer, who fired off a searing rebuttal.  Between the three blogs we’ve generated quite a discussion.

If you take the time to search the web you’ll see that one or more of our blog posts have been picked up by other blog or news sites.  Hundreds of comments have been posted so far.  Dozens of people have joined in the debate, some posting great comments and some posting great blog posts of their own, like John Buswell’s Open Source vs Closed Source — Its about investing in People.  The more I read the more I learn from the debate I helped to start, and the more it makes me wonder “what have I done for Linux today?”

Several comments to my articles made me pause for thought.  Have I become a victim of the very thing I argued against, the lack of action on the part of the Linux community?  Have I actually taken the time to invest something else besides my opinions towards the benefit of the community?  Thankfully, it took the comments of a few new friends to help me reach my conclusion.

“You’ve posted an excellent comment to my article. Why not put that into a post? You may be right, we might be closer to each other than you think. Why leave it at a few flaming posts? Ok, let me make a few steps to your side. I’ll change a few things here and there, make a few links. You decide whether it is good enough to come to a mutual understanding. This is not getting us anywhere, I guess. I’d rather make peace than war.”

Thanks to Hans Bezemer, I understand that the Linux community does have some excellent people to lead the way.  Hans and I have exchanged several emails since our debate, and I’ve learned that my views, while based on my own experiences and successes with Linux deployments and in using open source tools, may not be accurate in all situations.  Hans opened my eyes to different views of the same opinion, and provided some really good insight.  While I do think the debate over the better OS is dead, at least for now, with passionate and knowledgeable developers like Hans involved I’m entirely confident we’re heading in the right direction.

“I do really think we are on the same side. And I also think you are right when you say people get upset when they perceive you as being on the “wrong” side. I think this is not something about Linux community, you see this everywhere on the Internet. I did not think you are pro-Microsoft, but you can’t deny you called the responses upon yourself a bit. As you assumed my article to state “Migrating is easy, do it tomorrow”, other people assume their own things from your article. The reason that I wrote the article was by request from someone for some reasons which can be given to his boss for using Linux. Not to be seen as the only things to consider at all.

Where it comes to opinion I can’t say anything else than: I’m happy we can all speak freely.

I don’t think we differ in opinion about migration that much either. The only thing where we really differ I think is where you think it’s not at all possible to move a complete organization in the long run to Linux. Were it comes to moving part of the organization to Linux and making everything work together, I think that’s the only real success path for a migration. As a complete overhaul at once is undeniable a very big, risky and expensive project, which you probably can’t sell to anybody. (maybe in small organizations, I assume big organizations to be the subject here)

Thank you for your response. I like to debate, and as it seems we could have some very interesting discussions.”

The above is an excerpt from an email I received from j00p34, the author of the article upon which I based my original response.  j00p34 helped me to realize that while I may not see it from my view on shore, there is a swift undercurrent beneath the deceivingly calm waters of the Linux and open source movement.  If most Linux and open source community members are as well grounded as j00p34 it will force me to admit that I may have underestimated both communities; something I am happy to do.

Some will say that this debate was simply a rehash of the same type of debates we’ve heard for years.  I have a differing opinion, choosing to believe that this debate had true value.  This debate thus far hasn’t devolved in to the tired old “Linux is better” debate.  This debate grew wings, and if only for a few days has sparked genuine conversation about important topics.  How to sell the idea of Linux and open source to IT managementwhat arguments need to be made; and what quality of code must be delivered.  These are all important discussions, and while I’m sure this isn’t the first time they have occurred I hope that the debate between j00p34, Hans and myself helped to keep some focus on the target, even if just a little and for just a few days.

So as I continue to ask myself “what have I done for Linux today?” I have decided to turn the question to the readers of this multi-blog saga.  I’d like to hear your feedback on the following questions, which I put to you–the Linux and open source communities–in hopes that you will provide honest, constructive, and valuable feedback.  After all, we’ve all got opinions, right?

  1. What do you do for the Linux and open source community?  How are you involved?
  2. What should I do to get more involved in the Linux and open source community?  How can I help?
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Mike Dailey is an Information Technology Architect and Senior Network Engineer specializing in the design, integration, and management of complex computer network and data security solutions for medium and large enterprises.

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10 Responses to “What Have You Done For Linux Today?”

  1. Nate Crouch says:

    It way past my normal shutdown time so please excuse any oddities in the following:

    I’ve always wanted to contribute in my own way but never found a community I could get involved in as easily as I need to at this time. I found I could help myself achieve what I wanted to do with most systems and help the occasional physical human being I came in contact with their system. But at my level I never found a way I could easily give back. The pace of development, the bar seemingly set so high with most distributions. After studying the chakra-project.org offering and realising I finally had enough of a grasp to build my own arch based system. I found the AUR. The user community creates there own package scripts that obtain upstream code, compile and create neat packages that can be installed with the pacman package manager. While trying to install a particular conversion script I noticed the link to upstream had changed and that the package script had no maintainer. After a few clicks of the mouse I adopted and updated the script. I am reminded of times I tried to compile obscure code with no luck or way to correct the issue. It’s great finding a community I can support in what little ways I can.

    Thank You

  2. jecker says:

    Like Nate, I have had trouble finding the best way to give back to the community. For me, I try to test and trouble shoot different distributions on different hardware as often as I can. An example, I downloaded and installed Ubuntu7.04 on an older laptop with a wireless nic. The first problems I encountered were the screen resolutions didn’t function as expected and the wireless nic didn’t want to connect to a wireless network using WPA2 encription. At first my efforts were solely focused on getting both to work properly, doing so I tried opensource and closed source drivers. Once I found the answers, I turned to the Ubuntu forums to see if anyone else was having the same problems I experienced. To no surprise of mine there were several people looking for the same answers I just found. I then spent a lot of my available time helping those in need, explaining how I fixed the problem and where I found the answers.

    Thank you

  3. Sm00f1 says:

    You know Mike, and I hope it’s OK to call you Mike, the answer to your second question is most difficult in its simplicity. What can you do for Linux and Open Source?

    With the audience you’ve gained I would suspect that if you truly wish to help, you would have several options to do so. Just to be clear, in most cases, supporting Linux and Open Source does not make them the only beneficiary. For example, supporting open standards without patent encumbrances would most certainly help Linux but would also help the world at large. Apple, Sun, and even Microsoft would benefit as much as Linux and Open Source. Imagine the advances that could be had if there were more interoperability and it was easier to implement. You could then truly pick the right tool for the job more easily. Even then, the cost of computing would decrease and that means that we might even find the next Einstein who might of otherwise languished in anonymity due to their destitute nature.

    Personally, I use and support Linux. I file bug reports. I even donate some money to some projects. I also use Windows and support it. I even donate to Microsoft (in the form of license fees). I utilize Linux and Windows when working with small businesses so they get the best value and the greatest performance.

  4. Storyteller says:

    Hello Mike,
    In response to question 1, I would recommend you to check out “The Helios Project”, Ken Stark is a passionate and vocal supporter of Linux.
    His blog is: linuxlock.blogspot.com
    His website is http://heliosinitiative.com/news.php
    After you have read his posts and see what his organization does it will no doubt inspire you to help out.

    When I can I help out at our local FreeGeek and I have refurbished a number of computers and given them out to organizations and individuals.

  5. Jose_X says:

    No single company should have exclusive control over the operating systems (and much important software) used by such a large portion of the world.

    One way to help Linux and yourself is to show retailers (or anyone else) the value in having an in-store PC set up with demo software. The software shows the customer how to tap into the services offered by the retailer online. The whole desktop experience on that PC demo revolves around this goal. The setup is implemented through a very light and custom Linux distro. Think of a work of art where the unnecessary is kept out and everything used ads to the whole (this focus would be defined by the retailer). This in-store setup can be duplicated at home by the customers rather easily, as the experience is packaged as a mini LiveCD (maybe one of the cute little disks).

    This sort of project helps create a need for Linux skills and creates opportunity for many Linux entrepreneurs (and hobbyists). Customize for a fictional company and demo that tape to prospective clients, for example. This effort will also attract “FOSS” artists and help expand the community into areas where the community is not currently very strong.

    This is one example of showing off custom Linux distros. Convince businesses of the value in customizing their own distros and using it as a medium to better connect with their customers (”capture” their customers). Note that the livecd feature would leave the underlying system untouched (proprietary software on the disk would be less of a threat). A light distro means it can run entirely in memory fast and boot quickly, etc. Also, there is, eg, no need for Openoffice or for just about any of the desktop (or browser) menu options since most traditional applications won’t be there. And those applications that are there will be further customized. [Note that these livecd distros can readily be run on the host OS as a virtual machine if virtualization is made easy by the host OS -- eg, on trusted Linux. Canonical and others can sell their distros, additionally, as a virtualization hub to enable just this sort of feature for retailers and others everywhere.]

    LiveCDs should be a great way to lead to advertizing dollars. All of these companies can leverage that, as can anyone else. In fact, the “ads” on these Livdcds can also be animations that are incorporated seamlessly and creatively into the desktop and applications. You control the whole experience on your custom distro.

    FOSS applications also need to start coming up with their own distros along this line. It can be used to help users more easily learn how to use their FOSS app and tap into the community (eg, bug reporting or custom rebuilds, etc). Eg, an “Inkscapix”.

    And, yes, so that users of all types can continue to control their future destinies, we need to put an end to software patents. Spread the word. Show off Linux and its potential to help drive the economy, and then show the risks unjustly posed by software patents. Contribute to the discussion to get software patents ruled Unconstitutional. Write to Congress or to your government’s legislative bodies. ETC.

  6. Frank says:

    1. What do you do for the Linux and open source community? How are you involved?
    2. What should I do to get more involved in the Linux and open source community? How can I help?

    1: I’m a technologist. I am asked to find technologies that can fill a roll, and implement those technologies. Linux is one such technology. Then Linux doesn’t fit, I raise the issue with upstream vendors, and use a technology that does. It’s sort of like an “Information Technology Architect and Senior Network Engineer” with the exception that I take part of the implementation and life cycle. Bugs in tech are either fixed by an in-house staff, or upstreamed. Docs are written. Products are improved.

    2: Find a niche for which you are qualified. Contribute architecture, code, testing, bug-fixing, docs, translations. Whatever fits your skill set. I’d recommend writing documentation as an easy point of entry for an analyst such as yourself.

  7. julieb says:

    I seed my distro torrents.

    I tell everyone that I think will listen (in RL) that open source is the way out of the MS trap.

  8. Jose_X says:

    The idea with LiveCD-s containing some temporary(!) advertising of various company is simply brilliant! You can build a company around this idea. It might even get a nice profit!

    • Jose_X says:

      FWIW, I did not write the above comment from 4:18 AM. I must say though that I basically agree with it. There is lots of room for ads and lots of potential for profit even with you giving away the CDs (if there are enough good ads and you are a good business person/salesman). Use advertizers to fund your tremendous need to let the world know about Linux and how it essentially belongs to everyone.

  9. yonnie says:

    It would be a nice world indeed if that other OS would just fade away. That isn’t going to happen without help. I really believe that the Linux community would be better off if we just strive to be better, help each other and just forget about the other OS. Linux won’t ever be mainstream till we have applications that can use the same files and share the same data. Namely CAD and accounting are still weak areas. The word is already out, people and businesses know of us and they will migrant to Linux when they finally get fed-up with the abuse and having to pay through the nose for everything.
    Linux is well on the path to making the other OS irrelevant. Instead of blogging about how bad they are and starting wars, blog about where Linux could use some improvement so we can focus on doing rather than bickering. One day we’ll wake up and discover the malware writers are targeting Linux and the other OS has faded into history.

    Humor goes a long way. Really good cartoon ads with TUX lampooning the PC guy and the Apple character. Laugh at them, ignore them, they’ll fade away.

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