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Editor's Note: We Put the "No" In Innovation!

Apr 24, 2009, 23:02 (39 Talkback[s])

by Carla Schroder
Managing Editor

A general rule of marketing is "The more noise they make, the less they have to crow about." Who makes the most noise about "innovation"? I bet you can guess....

Every day I get virtually snowed under by blizzards of press releases. (I'm not sure that email is better than paper, because I could burn paper for heat, or compost it. Happy red worms like paper and break it down fast.) A few of them actually have something to do with Linux and FOSS. The rest are horrid collections of buzzwords, broken HTML, political foamings, spam, and irrelevant whatevers.

For a long time the favorite buzzword was "paradigm." Remember all those paradigm shifts? There was a bit of humor value because none of them used the word correctly. (Wikipedia has an excellent article and definition.) But it got boring after the thousandth dopey repetition. Finally it died out, as these things do, and its replacement was "innovation". Now there is a perfectly good word that does not deserve to be abused in this fashion, but marketers are ruthless and without conscience when it comes to word abuse.

Let us turn again to Wikipedia to learn what innovation is:

"In economics the change must increase value, customer value, or producer value. The goal of innovation is positive change, to make someone or something better. Innovation leading to increased productivity is the fundamental source of increasing wealth in an economy."

I'd say that disqualifies 98% (I'm being conservative here, mustn't be too harsh) of everything in proprietary tech that is touted as "innovative".

Windows 7 Starter Edition? If you count advances in crippleware as innovative then it qualifies. (What do you call an advance in going backwards?)

Though it has slimmed down considerably; Vista sucked up about 15 gigabytes of disk space without giving you any actual functionality, and Windows 7 has been whittled down to about 5 GB, still without any actual functionality. In comparison, my main workstation runs Kubuntu, which occupies about 8 GB. That includes KDE3 and 4, Gnome, IceWM, Fluxbox, and several other graphical environments, OpenOffice, KOffice, and other office suites and apps, games, all kinds of audio, graphics, and video editing apps, a big wad of file-web-mail-terminal-VoIP servers, a complete build environment, several kernel trees, astronomy apps, and dozens of other apps I installed, tested, and forgot about. The one thing I'm missing is a feeling of deprivation.

Trusted Computing? The concept is rather innovative, in a Bizarro world kind of way-- instead of fixing their malware-friendly junkware, Microsoft wants end-to-end control of all computing. I'm not clear on how this will fix anything, but I give them a few points for big brass chutzpah. Which, when you peel away all the noise, is the only thing Microsoft really has going for it.

Anti-virus/anti-malware software for Linux? The first few times it made me laugh. Now it's annoying. What's innovative is getting people to buy it.

Buggy, weird-looking vendor-created OEM Linuxes on netbooks? Oh please, make it stop. Hire some high school kids, they'll do a better job. How do these things make it out the door? It doesn't take deep guru voodoo to spot when most of it doesn't work.

This one is fresh so it's still funny: Diskeeper is thinking of releasing Linux and Mac OS X versions of its filesystem de-fragmentation software. Please, someone show them a little mercy and tell them that Linux doesn't use gormy Windows filesystems. And that Ext, XFS, and JFS all have their own utilities for measuring non-contiguous blocks, and re-organizing them if they really need it.

And finally, you might have noticed the new waves of FUD and astro-turfing that are all variations on this: "I really love Linux and have used it for years. Everyday. Really! But it's still just not good enough, especially for The Masses, and the command-line is evil and scares The Masses away. Not me because I'm a guru, but those other people over there." Innovation in scare tactics? Nah, just the same worn-out warmed-over baloney.

Well that's all the hilarity I can handle for one day. Have a great weekend, remember to give thanks every so often to the fine people who make FOSS an everyday reality, and please share your own nomination for "best" "innovations."