Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Every man for himself

I read today, an interesting article on the perceived decline of Ubuntu, a Linux distribution I currently use. I note this with interest because the article clearly identifies trends that suggest a decline in the use of Ubuntu Linux. The cause? The company that manages Ubuntu, Canonical, has pursued selfish interests apparently in order to make the distribution profitable. As far as I know, Canonical has never made a profit.

Canonical has made many controversial decisions about Ubuntu. For example, there is the Unity interface, an interface designed by Canonical but is not widely used by the community. I tried Unity and hated it. I use Gnome 3 instead. Canonical is promoting their own display software, Mir, which as far as I know, few other distributions are planning to use. Over the years, Canonical has been vetoing decisions by the community and leaving the community feeling a bit cold.

This is in contrast to Red Hat, a publicly held company that only sells free software, that does more than a billion in business every year. The Red Hat Linux distribution is software you must buy before you can download it, but once you buy it, you own it. What you pay for, really, is service and support.

Red Hat has a community project, Fedora, as a testing ground for new software. I've used Fedora and I like it, but I'm more familiar with Ubuntu. I also like the ease with which I can get the media codecs to work in Ubuntu. Fedora, being dedicated to free software, attempts to avoid the pitfalls of patents in media codecs like mp3 and mpeg software, and so avoids using codecs that support patented media formats by default. That makes things a bit more complicated, but not impossible. Fedora, in contrast to Ubuntu, plays nice with the community and they work together very well.

A quick look at distrowatch shows that Ubuntu has been on the decline relative to other distributions of Linux. Ubuntu is no longer number one as it used to be. It's descendant, Mint, has almost double the downloads of Ubuntu. The father of Ubuntu, Debian, is a completely free software distribution that is doing a bit more than the son. Mageia has been gaining on the top three and is said to just work. I'm going to try it out on a virtual machine today. I note also that Mint and Debian are excellent community players.

I bring this to your attention because in another arena, Congress, I see a similar conflict playing out. There is a faction I see in Congress known as the Tea Party. They have to be the most selfish faction I have ever seen in Congress. They seek to impose an "every man for himself" ideology upon the rest of us. They seek to isolate men from each other and to set them in competition with each other. They seek to do the work of a tiny and extremely wealthy minority.

The Tea Party leaders in Congress, particularly, Senators Mike Lee and Ted Cruz, have become targets of criticism within even the GOP. These two men, merely free agents in a bag of skin, are pursuing goals that may eventually tear this country apart with a government shutdown. They are not cooperating. They say that they are funding the government but denying funding for Obamacare.

I got news for you two, Lee and Cruz. Have you ever heard of set theory? You know, what is in the circle is part of the set and what is not in the circle is not part of the set? Yeah, that theory. As long as Obamacare is law, it *is* a part of the government. If you want to fund the government, you must fund *all* of it.

Likewise to any distributor of community software. If you want be a part of the community, you cannot dictate terms to the community. The decline of Ubuntu is evidence of isolation of Ubuntu from the community.

The decline of the United States is a a direct result of the unwillingness of Congress, particularly, the Tea Party faction, to take input from the rest of us. In a democratic republic, leaders are servants, not masters. It would be nice if Congress could comport themselves like servants once in awhile.
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