Editor's Note: Not-So Friendly Fire
Jan 05, 2007, 23:30 (38 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Brian Proffitt)
How to Help Your Business Become an AI Early Adopter
By Brian Proffitt
There's no other way to come out and say it, so here goes: Media
sites--especially media outlets devoted to covering Linux, Open
Source, and Free Software--should not be forced to be apologists
for Linux. Nor should they try to portray everything about Linux as
pleasant and rose-colored.
Reporters should try to be fair. Reporters should try to be
honest. And if they happen to reveal something that is
not-so-perfect with Linux, they should be listened to, not
ridiculed or labeled as some pro-Microsoft flunky.
Part of what prompts this diatribe is the oh-so-predictable
reaction to Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols' column this week on
DesktopLinux, where he succinctly lists
four reasons he believes Linux has fallen behind Windows.
I understand that many of LT's readers might not like the notion
that Linux is behind the Microsoft eight ball for any reason
(myself included), and I fully support the right of anyone to
publicly disagree with any writer's assessment.
But to accuse SJVN of being a shill for anti-Linux forces? How
dense can you be?
For the record, it should be noted that Steven and I work for
competing media groups. Despite that, I consider his
professionalism to be impeccable and I consider him to be a trusted
colleague. I also know on a personal level that he enjoys running
the Linux sites for ZiffDavis and has a great love for this area of
IT. So, on a professional and a personal level, the idea of him
being a front man for any corporation is ludicrous.
This isn't to say that everything that comes out of Steven's PC
should be held as gospel. He, like any of us, can be wrong. I know
I certainly fall into that latter category. But to me, there's
honestly wrong and deliberately wrong. The best reporters try to be
honestly wrong and right.
I realize that this is typical shoot-the-messenger stuff, and
that despite a very vocal minority, most people thoughtfully read
that piece and brought out agreeing or opposing opinions. I would
encourage those who went into knee-jerk mode to read those comments
and the article again and perhaps gain a new perspective on what
Linux may need to do to improve itself.
I orginally wasn't going to stand up and defend this article.
SJVN's a big boy and he can handle himself. But something else
happened this week that made me think that a dose of common sense
needed to be delivered: the reaction to the
positive InformationWeek review on openSUSE 10.2. Here, and on
other Web sites, there was quite a bit of fuss and accusations of
the review being just positive PR spin for Novell.
Now, I don't know the writer of that review, Eric A. Hall. And
long-time readers of LT know that our
professional relationship with IW's parent company, CMP Media,
has been strained at times (though normality has finally
returned after the departure of certain CMP execs). But I find it
highly unlikely that Mr. Hall was unduly influenced to write a
positive review. He was looking for a distro to do a specific task,
and openSUSE seemed to fit the bill for him.
(Actually, it's a bit weird that I am defending this particular
review, because I thought it was too specific to his scenario and
setup to be very useful for a broader audience. But, there you
The other reaction that bugged me was this guilt-by-association
that's been glommed onto openSUSE. Why does this product and its
developers suddenly have to take the fall for the actions of
Novell? openSUSE is a good distro--it's no more evil than any other
distribution, though less evil than Ubuntu Satanic Edition.
The people who code for openSUSE didn't make the decision to
partner with Microsoft. Jeremy Allison, a top-gun coder and former
Novell employee, said himself that he didn't learn about the
partnership until just a few days before the announcement. And by
his own statements, Jeremy actually tried to be positive about the
deal for the sake of his company. Does the fact that he waited for
a month to leave Novell make him evil? Does leaving now absolve
What does that say about the rest of the open source developers
still working or volunteering for and with Novell? I have seen and
heard people actually accusing them of being corrupt or moral
I think these developers are, on the whole, good and decent
people who are trying to make the best of a bad situation. They,
like many of us, may not be happy with what the Microsoft-Novell
deal means. And they, like Jeremy Allison, will have to make some
tough calls in the days ahead.
I completely understand the need to communicate to Novell that
this partnership may not be a good idea. And, I also understand
that boycotting openSUSE is one strong way of communicating this
dissatisfaction to Novell. But I don't think it's necessary or
worthy to malign the coders participating in openSUSE, nor the
results of their hard work.
It important that we all have the ability to stand up for what
we believe. Just be careful not to let the wrong people get caught
in the not-so friendly fire.