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Friday, December 29th, 2006, 3:53 pm

Linux, ‘Ubuntification’, and Freedom

Season of the playful penguins
Season of the playful penguins from Oyonale

I have used Ubuntu for about a year, at work. Even though I don’t use it anymore, I’d certainly recommend it. I am saddened to see that many people resent Ubuntu. Even some avid Linux users seem to raise a brow and associate Ubuntu with newbies and moochers. Perhaps its because of its popularity, which sometimes helps obscure the role of GNU and the Linux kernel, especially with people who are informed w.r.t. key background yet happily hop on the Linux bandwagon. That snobbery and resentment could also be attributed to the flocking of some long-time Linux users, who are dazzled by this exciting branch of Debian.

It’s amazing how many hungry hounds are barking are out there, either complaining about the ‘Ubuntification’ of Linux or about Linux, as a disruptive technology, in general, having never used even it. But not to worry, GNU/Linux is most definitely taking over, albeit gradually. No disruptive technology could be accepted without resistance, not even cars.

As for ‘Ubuntification’, who cares? People can use any distro once they hop aboard the Linux bandwagon. It’s open. It’s interoperable. The customer, not the vendor is in charge, so one can dance between products at will, or even fork.

If Ubuntu users don’t associate Linux with Ubuntu, that’s fine too. It shows that Ubuntu is not chosen for ideological reasons. In fact, I am rather surprised that many Linux users (especially newcomers) think that Linux is just about freedom (cost), not Freedom (as in control independence, involvement, et cetera). We’ll see more of the latter as ‘Trusted’ Computing, DRM and spying begin their rise, much to humanity’s misfortune. You can either escape to Linux before you get shackled, or struggle later on to break the shackles (it’s possible, but it’s harder). It’s no coincidence either. Products such as Vista and Office 2007 are carefully architectured to master and implement the art of lockins and vendor control over the customer, which essentially raises exit barriers/cost.

Can Microsoft do anything to reverse this trend and further delay the inevitable? Can it stop a community rather than defeat or buy a company (e.g. Novell)? It’s highly improbable. Google is where the talent and passion resides. Microsoft (marketers and lawyers) is the past, not the future (innovation). Same with OpenXML and ODF.

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