Something I missed this December passed was a middle school teacher ranting off at Ken Starks of HeliOS Solutions. Ken is the author of HeliOS, an open-source Linux distribution, and sells refurbished computers for disadvantaged kids running his Linux distro. First, for reference, please view the following, original blog article and the retraction just after:
Now, let me state that I have read both articles as well as several opinions, both negative and positive from both sides of the fence on this one. Having done so I can say that the teacher's actions against her student, given her reasons as stated in the retraction, were correct. Her actions against Ken were completely off base and almost entirely illogical. And honestly I'm not that upset at Ken's initial response. Why?
Ken's first response was to defend himself. Given the information in Karen's initial email I don't blame him. While the assumption would be Karen was blustering and had no intention to seek litigation he still had to take it seriously. While his reaction and the retort may have been a little overboard I can't blame him. There have been a few times where I have had to defend my choice of OS to others. There have also been a few of those times where I was told that what I was doing was illegal because there's no such thing as free software. Everyone charges something. You can't get anything for free unless you steal it. Well, whinedows users, I've got news for you: you've been finnagled in to believing that you have to pay ungodly, entirely unethical amounts of money to get something that is entirely free, as in beer and spirit, elsewhere.
The problem I see with this entire situation is that there's no education about what Linux really is or can be going out to the everyday computer user. I know many people who will sit and bluster about how great the penguin is without handing the user information. "Well (winblow$, whinedows, whatever other creative annecdote about the MS OS) is overpriced software created by fucking thieves. You should try the flower child OS." These aren't good arguments but, unfortunately, I've heard them used by multiple, self proclaimed zealots who know how to use the system but don't know how to explain it to others in a valuable way.
Even in Ken's argument there was no explanation about the licensing (GPL) or what functionality was available, just the hint of what was there. People don't understand what we mean when we refer to OOo (OpenOffice.org) as an 'office suite'. They've been fooled in to thinking that the only productivity software (there's another one of those trick terms...) is MS Office. In large part this is due to Microsoft. Before we tread this path let me qualify the statement: I'm not ranting and raving all over MS. It's just simple fact that they have fooled everyone in to thinking that theirs is the only OS/software that the world can function on. The uneducated masses, the unwashed asses, have bought in hook, line and sinker.
As an alternative maybe we should start referring to OpenOffice as a productivity suite, which it is, that has the same capabilities as other office suite software has. Remember, it's not just OOo but there's also it's progenitor, Star Office, KOffice and others I can't remember now, as well as Google Docs and other online alternatives.
Perhaps instead of referring to Linux as distributions, which is the proper term, we should refer to them as different versions of the same core OS. (I can hear the fanboys now...) Linux is a kernel, not an OS. But how many people do you personally know and interact with on a semi-regular basis know what a kernel is? Honestly guys, let's learn how to communicate.
The bottom line is that we know what Linux and OSS is capable of. Let's work better to relating that information to people without the same understanding that we have.
DF of the Month
Every once in a while some person goes above and beyond, standing tall above the rest, a thumb just a little more black and blue becuase they shut it in the door a second time. It is those who we honor here, the DFs of the world who are exemplary role models for those proud to say a rock has more grey matter.
Last week one of these ID10T5, a true example of PEBKAC and BOFH, decided to quit college. It wasn't her class load. She wasn't being hazed by some sorority. It wasn't an inappropriate contact from a professor. No, she just didn't know how to use a computer:
While I don't typically support flaming anyone, and even given the nature of this update, well... she's an idiot. So much for the old saying "ignorance is bliss" eh?
I do have to say that it's not just this student who's at fault here. It's also the company that she purchased the system from. There response was ridiculous, unfounded and a complete load of waffle. Hooray for role models!