An analysis of topics that need more amplification in a world of noise.

Why I Work on Ubuntu

There's been a lot of talk this year about two things. "Open Data" and "Open Web." These are seen as top priority projects by a lot of people, and I have been asked "Why don't you work on these?"

*Note that in my post I am going to use the word "open" prolifically. Not because I think it's the best term (I don't), but because it's the term that has become embedded in popular discussion.

So, back to the two opens. Sorry to burst any bubbles, but we cannot truly have them yet.

If you think you can, go outside to your back yard and try to build a deck that floats in the air. (Thanks Bruce Sterling for inspiring this metaphor.)

Open Data. Consider a thought experiment, purely hypothetical of course. Imagine a treasure chest of publicly-funded data, once tucked away in quaint cabinets now all "open". Imagine that it has been liberated from the shackles of bureaucracy by the most l33t team of hackers. Your local government's data is now all exposed, ready for you to harvest, mash, and presented to the world in a format so beautiful that Michelangelo himself would blush. So transparent that it's clearer that polished glass. Sounds idyllic.

Now imagine that everyone that's mashing this data is doing so using proprietary systems and tools. Notice the dichotomy? See the problem? What if the beautiful reports they generate are in a format that can only be viewed on devices that lock us in? What if they are stored (or processed) in a cloud that is hostile to the revelations they contain? What will we have gained? Freedom from one trap to be ensnared in a bigger one.

Open web. How does one get to it? If I have my newfangled googly chrome-like-gadget that takes me directly to proprietary online properties that speak a single philosophy, have I gained anything? Sure my gadget runs an "open" browser (kind of). However, even if this browser, and the underlying web is truly open (and standards-based, and perfectly neutral) a monopolist, or a fruit company, or a large-googly-number-company can decide at any time, and for any reason that you are out-of-bounds. You're out. Game over.

We get neither "Open Data" nor "Open Web" until we get one thing right: Open Operating System. Nothing is open until your OS is open. And, this is why I work on Ubuntu.

In 2011, I hope you too will make Ubuntu a priority. Let's build a solid platform that enables true openness. Let's do it together. Let's let every person on the planet in on our little project.

Happy holidays and all the best for the new year.

Party! You Dig?

Hello friends on Ubuntu Planet!

Sorry it has been soooo long since my last gripping tale of local community. I do have a good excuse though...

Meerkats! Lots of them.

During the past weeks, Ubuntu Vancouver has been hard at work planning, promoting, preparing, and ultimately *partying*. Our real release parties celebrate the amazing community that orbits around and delivers Ubuntu. (I've covered the philosophy behind the word real in a previous post. Hint: Have fun and by doing so attract those from the other side of the chasm.)

This time around, our "Real Maverick Meerkat Party" was promoted as "A party by and for people that love Ubuntu, and their guests". The result? We attracted a really fun crowd, and startled a city that generally thinks Ubuntu is something for "techies" (or "geeks"). One small leap across the chasm! (And one more myth busted!)

Anyways, enough words. Talking about parties is like dancing about architecture. Instead, please allow me to present our first party video, compliments of our "Master Presenter" Joe Liau. Joe has done an awesome job remixing some of our stills and clips. Please take a look, and more than that, please share it with everyone you know, especially those who don't quite get Ubuntu. It's fun and quirky!

I'll soon be sharing more gripping tales of community and more party stories too. I think you'll be pleasantly surprised...

Ubuntu Vancouver Buzz Generator

Your Computer is Likely *Not* Ubuntu-certified

One week ago, I asked Planet Ubuntu to vote on the following question:
Is your computer Ubuntu-certified?Is your computer Ubuntu-certified?

Votes were cast by 285 people. The poll is now closed and my personal opinion is that we Ubuntu users and advocates should be the example for those on the other side of the chasm. So, I hope to see these numbers rise over time. Thanks for playing!

Big Media: A Cautionary Tale

The other day, I spotted a particularly unflattering (and inaccurate) story about Ubuntu that appeared in a fairly mainstream IT publication. I wrote about it here.

History is indeed repeating itself.

Way back in time, in what some might call "the old days", there was this scrappy computer company in Cupertino (that sold fruit) and refused to accept the status quo. For a time, they actually put users first, gave them respect, treated them as humans. (I'm talking about the late 80's and early 90's. My how times have changed!)

The problem that this (fruit selling) company had was that the mainstream media (the establishment) had no interest in seeing them succeed. In fact, they had a vested interest in seeing them fail. Big advertising revenue was at stake. The editors knew it even if the writers did not.

As a result, nearly every story I read for 10 years got it wrong. Very wrong. The distortion was epic. Compounding this was a distinct lack of marketing savvy and budget from the company under attack. Does this sound familiar? I think it's where we (Ubuntu) are right now. And with our recent announcements and innovations it's just starting.

"First they ignore you, then they ridicule you, then they fight you, then you win." -- Mahatma Gandhi

Prepare for it. There will be more stories like the one I discovered. And, we'll need solid strategies to set the record straight and to minimize the damage.

I'll soon elaborate on how I think we should do this. Stay tuned.

Quick Poll: Is Your Computer Ubuntu-certified?

Thought I'd follow up "An Integration Manifesto" with some data collection.

Is your computer Ubuntu-certified?
Vote here:

This poll will remain open for 1 week. Let's see what the numbers say.

An Integration Manifesto

Jorge recently blogged about bugs, particularly those seemingly unfixable "plumbing" related ones. His article is worth a read.

I can relate. And, the answers are fairly clear. The answers aren't in the bug reporting system and code alone won't fix these issues.

The really nasty bugs stem from hardware that does not work. We have conducted *many* public support sessions in Vancouver BC and we have solid data to back this claim. (Email me if you want to talk about it.)

So how do we solve this problem? Do we give up? Do we simply smile? Do we attempt to appease someone who approaches us and says "your kernel broke my wifi and you suck"?

No. No. No! We can do better...

Please Help Report the Facts Accurately!

Whenever I see a headline comparing a kernel to a "proprietary monopoly OS from Redmond", I must admit it sends me into a nostalgic rolling of the eyes and triggers my spidey-senses. Will this ever stop? Really.

An article I read this morning did just that. Here's the (essence of) its title:

"kernel: Does Being Competitive with proprietaryOS Matter?"

The title of the article has been sanitized (by me). Substitute any (free+libre) kernel you like/love and any proprietary operating system you don't (provided it's monopolistic or nearly so) into the above variables to get the gist of it. Now go over and give it a read. Take a deep breath first.

Welcome back. Did anything catch your eye?

For me, the title alone was enough to destroy what little remaining hope I had for a nugget of wisdom in the rest of the article. But wait, there was more, and this time it was personal:

"Ubuntu is locking down default installations with its Unity desktop"

"The same kind of backwards thinking applies with the next release of Ubuntu, version 11.04."

Another Brick in the Wall: With Dead Drops

A "dead drop" is the stuff of spy movies: A location where items can be secretly (and sometimes anonymously) passed between people. No meeting necessary. Usually just a cryptic symbol placed nearby to let the other spy know it's there.

Aram Bartholl, an artist in NYC recently posted an art project on his blog where he embedded USB drives in public places as a means to share files. He didn't say what files he would be sharing though. We'll have to wait and see...

The "buzz generator" in me can't resist an opportunity like this one and I also don't care much for waiting. USB drives are dirt cheap, especially in capacities under 4GB. What if some enterprising local group (of the Ubuntu persuasion) were to install dead drops around their city? Would people notice? Would they be curious enough to plug in?

What if drives were write-protected before embedding them? What if they were pre-loaded with Ubuntu, Kubuntu, Edubuntu, and Xubuntu (with room to spare)?

One-stop shopping, and no CD's necessary! A clever offline way to share Ubuntu with your neighbours.

I say, "Let's do it!" ... What do you say?

image from Agoasi's flickr photostream ) cc by-nc-nd.

Wither Brainstorm?

Ubuntu Brainstorm. What comes to mind? For me, it's a wealth of new ideas for Ubuntu from a lively and diverse group of people who really want to see Ubuntu become even more incredible. It's more amazing than unicorns!

Have you been to Ubuntu Brainstorm lately? Are you on your way to UDS-N (or there already)? Now would be a great time to review the most popular ideas and perhaps include some of them in your discussions. Maybe pick the top 5 and see what it would take to implement them.

According to the site, there are currently zero ideas in development. That doesn't seem right.

Does Hardware Certification Matter?

People might know me for coining the term "U-WOE". I've presented my detailed findings (ranted) about it a few times now, both on the Planet and in the "real world". You can read about it here, and here. Go ahead, it's oddly therapeutic.

Why do I write about (and present) U-WOE? Hmmm. I guess the best answer I can think of is that I care about Ubuntu's success. And, I include the certification of equipment as a critical success factor in customer satisfaction. I theorize that a certified system "just works" and that a user of a "certified system" just smiles as s/he works :)

How about you? Do you care if your hardware has been tested with Ubuntu? Or, is "maybe it will work, maybe not" good enough? And, what would you do if your computer stopped working from one release to the next? (It's hypothetical of course.)

Before you answer me (and please do), please take little glance at the list of desktop systems that are Ubuntu-certified for 10.10.

Yes, it is zero thirteen (updated 10/18).

(Planet Ubuntu readers: Click the link to this story to comment.)

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