My Freedom Zero <> Freedom 0

Was Richard Stallman wrong when he wrote the Four Freedoms? I would argue, and I am, that he views/viewed freedom through *his* lens, which is something that people normally do. RMS is a highly intelligent man, and accomplished programmer, and a thought leader for our movement. He is able to read source code. He is probably able to make any software work, if he were to apply his time and intellect or that of his staff.

Life in the "community trenches" has taught me a valuable lesson that I feel is obvious yet eludes most programmers: Not everyone is RMS. And, if you're reading this as a programmer, or someone who *gets* technology and its arcane underbelly, not everyone is you.

Software is useless if people lack the capacity (or means) to enjoy it. By that, I am referring to aptitude, though one could extend this line of thought to time, attention, and any other finite resource. For many, the barrier of adopting new (to them) technology is high, and maybe even unreachable.

Richard wrote "freedom 0" to be:
"The freedom to run the program as you wish, for any purpose"

I propose that we consider an alternate "freedom 0", which I will call Freedom Zero:

    "The freedom to enjoy the benefit(s) of a program without the need for advanced knowledge of technology, undue effort, or expert assistance."

See the difference?

When we make software (and systems) that respect the fact that not everyone has the time, knowledge, aptitude, energy, etc. to enjoy it, then we begin to approach Freedom Zero

Technology (software or otherwise) that provides Freedom Zero is technology that *everyone* can enjoy; technology that knows no prejudices.

If you are advocating a particular program, operating system, or technology in general, please consider this question first.

"Can everyone I know enjoy it (even my most non-technical friends, relatives and neighbours) without the need for my assistance?"

If the answer is "no" then I suggest you re-think your motives.


Note: RMS has neither reviewed nor endorsed this article.

Ubuntu at Mobile World Congress 2015

Ubuntu was in "full force" at this year's Mobile World Congress in Barcelona last week.

I was very happy to see the awesome booth we had, (which helped offset my disappointment about not being there. Hopefully next year ;)

Check this out!

What I always enjoy about booth duty at conferences is that moment when people walk up to our booth and say "Hey, I've been enjoying Ubuntu on my laptop for years. It's amazing! Thank you for working on it." It's encouraging and makes up for those days "in the salt mine" when I feel we have so far to go before Ubuntu, Juju, MAAS, Landscape, Snappy Core, and many more become household words.

If you dropped by the booth or just walked by it casually, I'd be interested in what you saw, what you liked, what you wish you would have seen, any impressions of the show...

And, to provide an example, here's what one booth visitor had to say:

    "And, for the record, the entire team at the stand were beyond amazing. Incredible, lovely, talented people with amazing knowledge. The new phones and OS are excellent. it nearly killed me that I couldn't buy one immediately. Keep your eyes on for their flash sales on handsets. The basic model is excellent and amazing for the money, the premium model will be available in a few months and is a larger, sleeker device. I'd flash my device to the OS today if I could, but I'll wait until I can buy the real thing. A flash sale is about a week away, and one week per month at the moment. It's a handheld, fully functional version of Ubuntu which operates in a really impressive touch mode normally, and seamlessly switches to full desktop mode with the connection of a bluetooth mouse / keyboard. I am in love."


Were you there? Please share your story in the comments or email me at randall (at) ubuntu (dot) com

On Writing Software for OpenPOWER

We live in exciting times!

Not only do we now have an Ubuntu Phone, but we also have Ubuntu running quite nicely on the OpenPOWER platform (which is based on the POWER8 architecture).

You might be thinking "So, where are you going with this?" I'm glad you asked :)

In just a couple weeks, the very first OpenPOWER Summit will start. Everyone who's involved in the OpenPOWER community will be making the trek to sunny San Jose, CA. If you're writing (or thinking about writing) software that is targeted for the OpenPOWER platform, then you'd be crazy *not* to be there!

During the OpenPOWER Summit, the fun folks that bring you Ubuntu will be hosting a session entitled the "ISV Roundtable". This session is designed to connect people who have great ideas that would benefit from OpenPOWER to the people who can help make them reality.

Are you thinking of writing, tuning, or porting (it's super easy) software to benefit from OpenPOWER? This is the session for you.

Are you looking for the "next big thing"? You've found it.

I'd love to see you there!

Contact randall (at) ubuntu (dot) com

Watch Jono's "Ubuntu: The Past, Present, and Future."

I just watched Jono's talk from SCALE [1] entitled "Ubuntu: The Past, Present, and Future."

It's really quite an interesting talk, so I'm recommending it to you, my dear readers. I think he did a great job describing the key moments in Ubuntu's history. (Click image to view.)

Towards the end of the talk, Jono makes some startling predictions. Do you agree with them?


[1] Just why people insist on naming a conference after a kernel still baffles and disappoints me. Do we name car shows after carburetors? Didn't think so. ;)

Ubuntu Phone: (Some) People Are Missing The Point

I thought i had successfully wrapped up my rant on how "smart" phones aren't, but evidently there's still work to do.

Some people don't get what's important or what innovation is.

This morning, while looking for Ubuntu Phone un-boxing videos (I found some), I also stumbled on an opinion piece entitled "The first Ubuntu phone is here, and it's lame" by Mike Wehner who has evidently come late to the Ubuntu Phone party. I won't get into all the details but here are select "treasures" from his piece:

  • "Underwhelming."
  • "A soft ball."
  • "A step backward."
  • "The specs aren’t exactly impressive."
  • "A phone that is so middle of the road it could be arrested for jaywalking."
  • "Two broken promises in the same press release (referring to Canonical's publicity)."
  • "This first step is more like a stumble."
  • Not quite getting it.Not quite getting it.
    I don't know Mike, and he's probably a great guy. I'm going to give him the benefit of the doubt. But, I think Mike and people like Mike are missing the point, and I'm going to call them out.

    Mike and friends, this is not about technical specs and "my gadget is faster and bigger than your gadget." It never was. You're fixated on the wrong stuff. This is not a nuclear arms race in your pocket. There is no monster at the end of this game that you have to kill to win.

    This is about a community (that includes a company) making a phone that dares to disrupt an (at worst) really predatory and (at best) boring status quo.

    You see, the real story is about the people behind the phone and their motives. Offer me a phone with the fastest hardware, the sharpest screen, and the most megapixels. You might think I'd happily accept it. Now, tell me it's powered by code written to exploit its owner and watch how quickly I refuse to accept your gift.

    It's never about the technology. It's about the social contract.


    I'm not going to link to the original story. If you're curious, a quick search should get you there.

    Photo credit:

    Why Smart Phones Aren't - Dénouement

    Before today, if you had asked me what I thought of smart phones, you likely wouldn't have been surprised by my answer (unless of course you're trapped in social media space and don't read the Planet):

    "What an utter waste of time."

    You see, "smart" phones were never smart. Clever, maybe. Contrived, definitely. Deceptive, by design. "Smart" was a term invented by a predatory tech industry to dupe you. How does that make you feel?

    It used to be okay to sell people the minimum technological capabilities available and then force them into a never-ending rat race of installing add-ons ("apps") to fix what should have been part of the product in the first place. This process ultimately ended in a phone being too "gummed up" (slow) and power hungry. Sadly, a lot of people accepted this status quo.

    The status quo is the most boring place to be in the world, unless of course you created that status quo and are using your privileged position within it to buy mansions in Los Altos Hills, or to build palaces in the swamp.

    In my "Why Smart Phones Aren't" series, I had expressed my hope that I would actually see a phone that is truly smart in my lifetime. Today, that day has come.

    The Ubuntu Phone has arrived. The world now has the means to finally disrupt an industry that has needed a good shake for at least a decade.

    "Smart" phone, your days are over.

    What Does Getting Thrashed Feel Like?

    Ubuntu runs on POWER8. That's likely not news to many of you. But what hopefully is news, is that you're not allowed to say "So what?" any more. (Call it "Randall's Rule of POWER"). By doing so, you discount that which can power the future.

    Remember the future?

    I recently stumbled on a fresh analysis of IBM POWER8 vs "something else". Here's what stood out, and what one author has called a "thrashing":

    POWER8 offers:

    • 8 threads per core (compared to 2)
    • twice the amount of L2 Cache memory per core
    • almost twice as much L3 Cache
    • a L4 Cache using buffer chips (compared to no L4 cache)
    • much higher clock speeds
    • 12 sockets for Coherent SMP (compared to 2)
    • 8 core systems at less than 50% the cost of "something else" having 12 cores.
    • 12 core systems at around 70% of the cost "something else" having 18 cores

    You can read the whole article here, for free:

    If you're a developer, you might be excited by these specs. Get your code executing as fast as possible (but no faster.)

    And if you're not a developer then maybe you'd be excited to run your business (or your institution, or your organization) on hardware that's cheaper, faster, and more future-oriented.

    Future is now! Check out and join OpenPOWER to get involved.

    Image CC BY-SA 2.0 by Torley,

    Are You Bullish on OpenPOWER?

    Earlier, I blogged about my belief that OpenPOWER represents the next big disruption in the server space. Turns out I'm not alone. Check out what another author has to say:

      "My personal belief is probably obvious, and I believe this has an excellent chance of success, and is the greatest threat to Intel and x86 in the server space. The technology is excellent, the degree of freedom partners have extraordinary and the partners strong and well-respected. We should also consider the importance of China, and IBM's partnerships there. While there's no such thing as a sure thing, this comes pretty close for me; the argument for it is compelling on so many levels."

    The rest of the article is here, and it's worth a read:

    Why Smart Phones Aren't - Reason #6

    You dutifully inform me that I have a voice message waiting. You carefully protect me from some unknown threat by forcing me to type in a voice mail password that I can never remember, *every* time. You eat my minutes to hear someone say "Call me back, blah, blah, blah."

    "Smart" phone, why are you wasting my time?

    You see, I never wanted your voice mail anti-feature. You assumed I did. I gave you my voice mail password more than a few times. Why did you not remember it? Why can you not just inform people that there are better ways to communicate?

    "Smart" phone, you have not progressed since the '90's. I'm tempted to dump you.

    In fact, I already have plans...

    In my lifetime I will actually see a phone that is truly smart. When the Ubuntu Phone arrives, the world will have the means to finally fix this and other issues once and for all.

    "Smart" phone, your days are numbered.


    Image: Ribbit, CC BY-NC 2.0

    The Future is Open, and It's POWERful

    Are you content with the status quo in technology? I'm not.

    Years ago, I became aware of this little known (at the time) project called "Ubuntu". Remember it?

    I don't know about you, but once I discovered Ubuntu and became involved I was so excited about the future it proposed that I never looked back.

    Aside from Ubuntu's "approachable by everyone" and "free forever" project DNA, one of the things that really attracted me to it was that it had the guts to take on the status quo. I believed (and I still believe) that the status quo needs a good disruption. Complacency and doing things "as they always have been" just plain hurts.

    In those days, the status quo was proprietary software and well-meaning but inpenetrable (to the everyday person that just wanted to get things done) free and open source software. I'm happy that we've collectively solved the toughest parts of those problems. Sure, there are still issues to be resolved but as they say, that's mostly detail.

    Fast forward to today. Now, we are faced with a hosting (or call it cloud infrastructure if you wish) hardware landscape that is nearly a perfect monopoly and is so tightly locked down that we can't solve the world's big problems.

    Spotting an opportunity to create something better and to change the world, a bunch of people rallied together to create

    Click to learn more!Click to learn more!

    Not surprisingly, Ubuntu joined and became a partner early on. And today, another one of the most famous disruptors has joined: Rackspace. In their words,

    "In the world of servers, it’s getting harder and more costly to deliver the generational performance and efficiency gains that we used to take for granted. There are increasing limitations in both the basic materials we use, and the way we design and integrate our systems."

    So here we are. Ubuntu, Rackspace, and dozens of others poised once again to disrupt.

    It's going to be an interesting and fun ride. 2015 is poised to be the year that the world woke up to the true power of open.

    I'm looking forward to it, and I hope you are too. Please join us!

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