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GetGNULinux: the big field

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ariadacapo's picture
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Hello everyone,

here are thoughts about the future of GetGNULinux, specifically the possibility of "partnering" with vendors selling hardware. It's in a 4-page pdf file (300kB) that (hopefully) is clearly structured.

Olivier wrote:

Introduction
As I am writing these lines, the GetGNULinux (GGL) project is turning into a better-organized, truly international advocacy effort. There are many exciting projects being pursued, good tools to be used, interesting ideas and improvements. In this paper however, I do not want to mention all of these, instead, I focus on what I call “the big field”: pushing GNU/Linux up in the world software market.
We can't ignore that free software is still a minor player, and that the future doesn't look to bright as DRM and “Trusted Computing” become reality. Without going into an exhaustive study of factors, I try to give answers to the question: What can the GetGNULinux project do about it?

Content:
-Intro
-The problem
-Some remarks and thoughts
-What can GGL do?
-Summing up

This is not an official white paper, nor a road map, just an attempt to structure and express my thoughts. As usual your thoughts, suggestions etc are most welcome.

Cheers!

Olivier.

Gustavo's picture
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Hello.I can only say that

Hello.

I can only say that I fully agree with you.

Unless we are the one who agree with this, now the question would be, how to carry it out?

Firstly, it's quite obvious this must be done by our ambassadors, so the accurate question is, how are our upcoming embassies going to carry it out?

I propose this: Our ambassadors send letters to important hardware stores in their "jurisdiction" explaining how great Linux is and also ask them for an appointment to discuss further about Linux (if needed) and how can GGL help them, this is, we may provide them with brief and not-so-technical written information on how to implement Linux, as well as advertisement on our websites.

Cheers!

libervisco's picture
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I'm reading your paper and

I'm reading your paper and here are some thoughts.

Olivier (in the paper) wrote:

Still on just about every computer you can spot around you you'll find Windows. Walk in any library,
small or large company, high school, or computer vendor, and it'll be on every screen. And time is ticking
by.

Not anymore, not on every screen and even if so not for long. Just last week one of my sisters say they've got GNU/Linux on some boxes and just today another of my sisters say they've put GNU/Linux powered thin clients in their school as well. A few months ago I also saw a room full of GNU/Linux installed on *every box*. In fact I am starting to feel like GNU/Linux is becoming a norm in educational institutions here rather than an exception and would not be surprised to see it running in most schools and colleges if I went to each one and check.

Maybe we in Croatia are suddenly more advanced in this regard than others, but to me this shows that days of Windows domination, at least in educational institutions, are quite numbered already.

Olivier wrote:

Most users will never ever choose their operating system.

Just as I don't care which brand of a vacuuming device I use, as long as it works. There are many other valid comparisons like that. The battle is internal. We who know and care are the ones responsible for those who actually *can't afford to care* (unfortunately). But yeah, I agree with you there, of course. Smiling

So you further suggest creating a page that lists good GNU/Linux hardware vendors both on internet and non-internet based, where the latter will be harder. That sounds like a good idea.

I've got the impression that those listings will be sponsored (payed for) by the vendor who is advertised on it. Sounds good, but could also make some people think that the list is biased in some way. How to deal with that?

Also you've got a good point about stores possibly partnering with other sites in addition or even worse instead of GGL (such as Linux.org). Since GGL still probably doesn't get as much traffic as Linux.org the only selling point you have to grasp to is quality and *potential*. Vendor needs to be convinced that they will win by advertising on GGL. So they have to be convinced that your site is going to be huge enough for their partnership with you to be meaningful.

And I think you're actually quite close to that since no other site on the web, including Linux.org, so nicely describes GNU/Linux and how to get started with it. But.. you need even more traffic and higher search engine page ranks.

Gustavo wrote:

Unless we are the one who agree with this, now the question would be, how to carry it out?

Firstly, it's quite obvious this must be done by our ambassadors, so the accurate question is, how are our upcoming embassies going to carry it out?

Whatever vendors you will contact, international or local, they will expect to talk with someone "official" within your "firm". They expect a professional inquiry worth responding to. I guess I'm stating the obvious though. My question is what or who are these ambassadors and what would be their official status?

You're obviously planning to be forming a non-profit foundation around GGL so I guess ambassadors are volunteer contributors with an official position which allows them to represent GGL in a given country... Hmm maybe I answered my own question.

Anyway, helps to clear things up at least I guess.

Overall I also agree. Good ambitious ideas.

Gustavo's picture
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I agree with you, libervisco
libervisco wrote:

And I think you're actually quite close to that since no other site on the web, including Linux.org, so nicely describes GNU/Linux and how to get started with it. But.. you need even more traffic and higher search engine page ranks.

That's right, and we're about to start working on it.

libervisco wrote:
Gustavo wrote:

Unless we are the one who agree with this, now the question would be, how to carry it out?

Firstly, it's quite obvious this must be done by our ambassadors, so the accurate question is, how are our upcoming embassies going to carry it out?

Whatever vendors you will contact, international or local, they will expect to talk with someone "official" within your "firm". They expect a professional inquiry worth responding to. I guess I'm stating the obvious though. My question is what or who are these ambassadors and what would be their official status?

You're obviously planning to be forming a non-profit foundation around GGL so I guess ambassadors are volunteer contributors with an official position which allows them to represent GGL in a given country... Hmm maybe I answered my own question.

Yes, you have the answer Smiling .

As for the requirements to be an ambassador (who can be an ambassador?), I consider they'll be similar to Fedora's, but a bit harder: I would add an interview through video conference and later they'll have to send us a filled and signed a form by postal mail or fax along with a copy of their national document of identity.

libervisco wrote:

Anyway, helps to clear things up at least I guess.

For sure.

Cheers!

Gustavo's picture
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What about this...We might

What about this...

We might encourage hardware vendors to sell Linux pre-installed with the following non-free components because they are important and not-so-easy to install:

  • Needed drivers and firmwares.
  • Software needed to play a DVD encrypted with the Content Scrambling System (when the computer ships with a DVD reader).

And when it's purchased, the end-user must agree with these few restrictions.

Cheers.

PS: Perhaps this is very obvious...

tbuitenh's picture
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Wouldn't it make more sense

Wouldn't it make more sense to encourage hardware vendors to sell Linux pre-installed on hardware that doesn't need non-free drivers?

Gustavo's picture
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yes
tbuitenh wrote:

Wouldn't it make more sense to encourage hardware vendors to sell Linux pre-installed on hardware that doesn't need non-free drivers?

Well, yes, it really makes more sense!

But in case this was not possible, what about using what I suggested above?

a thing's picture
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possible

But it is possible.

And the DVD thing would be illegal in places with DMCA(-ish) laws. Playing DVDs legally would have to be supporting DRM.

ariadacapo's picture
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re: supporting DRM
a thing wrote:

And the DVD thing would be illegal in places with DMCA(-ish) laws. Playing DVDs legally would have to be supporting DRM.

You raise quite a critical point here. We have to get our hands dirty somewhere.
We may be strong enough to influence people not to buy DRM music from iTunes. But certainly not strong enough to counter the DRM in DVDs. Everyone has DVDs. Because a movie costs in the millions to shoot and produce, only large corporations are at hand, and they are not letting the DVD CSS go. You can buy music in fair formats, with fair licenses these days, but if I want to watch Ocean's Eleven, the only legal choice I have is a DVD (whether rented, new or second-hand). And that's not going to change soon.

Now we have three possibilities to deal with this.

  • ask people to go illegal.
    Unthinkable if we want to be sustainable... We can't fight on all sides at the same time. If GNU/Linux becomes immediately associated with civil disobedience, we aren't going to see people leave Windows soon.
  • ask people to give up DVDs.
    We can't do that. It's just totally heading into a wall.
    We can close our eyes, a little bit like the way most distros do it, even go into the extreme of the FSF distros where even Firefox has to be renamed into something else ("we stay pure"). But the DVDs are just going to be popped into another player. A Windows box. A lounge DVD player. We can then proudly say "we don't support DRM", but we promote the use of machines/software that do.
  • provide legal (paying) support.
    You can see what option I favour. Some people already are preparing for this: CNR (far from perfect, as wisely discussed on libervis), or, closer to the idea of the Codex expressed in WD201,
    Fluendo.

I'm not saying we should compromise so as to accept any proprietary format decoding. But DVD playback isn't a "nice little extra". We're burying our head into the sand if we pretend otherwise.

ariadacapo's picture
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libervisco wrote: I am
libervisco wrote:

I am starting to feel like GNU/Linux is becoming a norm in educational institutions here rather than an exception and would not be surprised to see it running in most schools and colleges if I went to each one and check.

Hmmm... I wish it was the same over here. I really wish I spent more time addressing free software in education, especially as a future teacher. There's lots of potential to improve but I don't give it enough time (quite a struggle...). In my part of the university (the only part I know), proprietary software rules.

libervisco wrote:

The battle is internal. We who know and care are the ones responsible for those who actually *can't afford to care* (unfortunately).

Yes, I'm often thankful for all the good things (in general, throughout society) we benefit from, because other people took the care to fight for them while I was doing something else. I'm glad I found such a nice way to contribute to "good battle". ;-)

libervisco wrote:

I've got the impression that those listings will be sponsored (payed for) by the vendor who is advertised on it. Sounds good, but could also make some people think that the list is biased in some way. How to deal with that?

Wordpress does it extremely well. A few good sentences clear things out. There is a bias anywhere there is money involved. It is a healthy one if it is transparent.

tbuitenh wrote:

Wouldn't it make more sense to encourage hardware vendors to sell Linux pre-installed on hardware that doesn't need non-free drivers?

I agree, I'm sure this is completely possible. Hardware vendors who are really interested in GNU/Linux will head towards such hardware naturally, I believe.

Thanks for all the comments...

libervisco's picture
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Olivier wrote: We can
Olivier wrote:

We can close our eyes, a little bit like the way most distros do it, even go into the extreme of the FSF distros where even Firefox has to be renamed into something else ("we stay pure").

I wouldn't call it extreme as even if we accept to compromise in some specific distros to achieve an influential position needed to change things in the world for the better, someone needs to stay out clean to serve as a mirror in which we can determine where exactly have we compromised, so that we don't forget to undo these compromises once this becomes possible. In fact, if we accept to compromise the role of the FSF distros such as gNewSense becomes even more important. If compromise is to be made then that is only as a tactical move towards the main goal, and the main goal includes no proprietary software and DRM whatsoever.

Also there is a lot of guilt to Mozilla itself for the ensuing renaming of Firefox in Debian and gNewSense, their strict trademark policy and a non-free license on the Firefox logo artwork (AFAIK). Although gNewSense does go a bit further in removing all pointers to non-free software.

But that's just the role they need to play and that's good.

ariadacapo's picture
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FSF attitude
libervisco wrote:

[...] someone needs to stay out clean to serve as a mirror in which we can determine where exactly have we compromised, so that we don't forget to undo these compromises once this becomes possible. In fact, if we accept to compromise the role of the FSF distros such as gNewSense becomes even more important.

You are right here. I am quick to forget that. Well said.

libervisco wrote:

Also there is a lot of guilt to Mozilla itself for the ensuing renaming of Firefox in Debian and gNewSense, their strict trademark policy and a non-free license on the Firefox logo artwork (AFAIK). Although gNewSense does go a bit further in removing all pointers to non-free software.

True, but I am sometimes very annoyed by the attitude of the FSF regarding the work of others. I fully agree that their work is essential and that gNewSense needs to be here; however they seem to despise the considerable contribution of Mozilla or Red Hat and others. It's a corporate world out there, harsh and cold. There is no way a product can make it if its name is not protected (how would you like to see a supposedly free culture discussion at a "libervis.microsoft.com"?), there is no way it can reach the market if some compromises are not made.
The FSF could recognise this work, explain it's not fully free but nevertheless say: this is available. Instead of this attitude of "Ubuntu, Fedra & Firefox are a good idea that has gone totally wrong and we want to correct that". [--EDIT: poorly expressed. This is not a quote but a general feeling I have about the attitude--]. Anyway. I guess in this sense, the FSF and GetGNULinux are complementary, not opposed.

Olivier.

libervisco's picture
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Olivier wrote: It's a
Olivier wrote:

It's a corporate world out there, harsh and cold. There is no way a product can make it if its name is not protected

FSF never was against trademarks. I think you are misunderstanding the issue. It is not about Firefox trademarking its name. It is about it adding an additional trademark policy which delves a bit deeper into controlling what can be done with Firefox. They require that all patches made to the Firefox in a given distro be checked by them before they are shipped with the distro or else you can't use the trademark. The reason for a name change is here not entirely ideological, but merely practical. Having to check every modification with Firefox slows down the development process and so some have decided to rather ship it under a different name than wait for Mozilla to approve patches. That's at least how I see it, but I'm sure that the issue with trademarks has nothing to do with FSF despising anyone because of having trademarks. FSF supports trademarks as a valid way of protecting an identity of your business online. FSF is about software freedom and trademarks don't usually affect that.

Olivier wrote:

there is no way it can reach the market if some compromises are not made.

Now you make it seem like nothing is marketable without compromises. You are generalizing. Judge on whether compromise is needed or not on a case by case basis by carefully examining the goal and the methods and whether a compromise can be a justified method. Compromise is not *always* necessary for something to reach the market. It depends on what you're talking about and which exactly market you want to reach.

Quote:

The FSF could recognise this work, explain it's not fully free but nevertheless say: this is available. Instead of this attitude of "Ubuntu, Fedra & Firefox are a good idea that has gone totally wrong and we want to correct that".

What's the point of saying "this is available". It goes without saying. Sticking out tongue Also what's so wrong about that statement if you consider the source and their goals. FSF is about 100% Free Software. That is their goal and that also tends to be their only method of achieving that goal. This has nothing to do with despise or anything evil like that. They have a different perspective, purely from an ideological "100% Free" standpoint. They prioritize Free Software over any other kind. Look through their glasses and you will understand this statement completely because from their perspective Ubuntu, Fedora and Firefox really are great idea which have gone wrong in one aspect they consider most important; they include or recommend proprietary software.

However, I would concede that this statement is a bit of a stretch at least for mentioning Fedora which is AFAIK 100% Free (although it tends to use "open source" terminology which FSF considers misleading a bit too much for their liking). You can't judge them on one quote though. Look at the big picture. Look through their eyes and you'll understand. In fact I think you do sympathize with their goals. Don't let the frustration and annoyance blur your eyes (I know cause I sometimes feel in a similar way as you).

Quote:

Anyway. I guess in this sense, the FSF and GetGNULinux are complementary, not opposed.

If GGL was ever to officially state its opposition towards FSF I would be forced to reconsider my support for it. Of course they are complimentary.

Just because you and me may carefully be considering *some* sorts of compromises doesn't all of a sudden mean we have to start despising FSF because it may not follow the same road. Looking at the big picture we can actually see how important their role remains even within the strategy we envision.

ariadacapo's picture
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Yes, once calming down,

Yes, once calming down, things are clearer.

libervisco wrote:

That's at least how I see it, but I'm sure that the issue with trademarks has nothing to do with FSF despising anyone because of having trademarks. FSF supports trademarks as a valid way of protecting an identity of your business online. FSF is about software freedom and trademarks don't usually affect that.

My mistake here. I misunderstood the dispute about the Firefox trademark. Thanks for clarifying.

libervisco wrote:

Compromise is not *always* necessary for something to reach the market. It depends on what you're talking about and which exactly market you want to reach.

Here I was referring to the DVD/CSS issue above. I phrased that too generally.

Just today I went to five very big stores in my city to buy a laptop for my sister (hers melted down last week). It is just a very sobering, difficult experience. Let alone the fact that there's no mention whatsoever of free software, the Vista launch is a massive takeover. It's hard to find laptops "only" under XP (4 days after the launch...). There are banners everywhere, new exciting boxes, Windows LiveOneCare protections, enthusiastic vendors showing the shiny new desktops, really, an avalanche. I just stand there thinking what a great operating system we have that would free up all these computers, and wonder: what do we do wrong? Somewhere we're not getting it right. We might shout as loud as we can on the internet about proprietary software and DRM and "Trusted Computing", tons of discussions and articles happen, but down at the bottom we are losing. Totally, completely losing.
And all the while, we spend so much energy on things that don't get us any further. Every time I visit distrowatch.com I sigh. And so when I see the FSF rip the Firefox logo off the program (seeing how Firefox truly plays a major role in the acceptance of alternative, free software amongst Windows users) and superbly ignore the Fedora community's stand for strictly free software (could they show more respect for their choice to only call it open source?), I get frustrated (not entirely rightly so, I admit).
Yes I can see that quote (it's not a real quote, just an attitude I tried to represent, I wrote this poorly) through their eyes. It simply takes a lot of reflection... Yes I sympathize with their goals.

libervisco wrote:

Looking at the big picture we can actually see how important their role remains even within the strategy we envision.

Well said. I'll think more before I type next time.
Thanks
Olivier.

libervisco's picture
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I understand your

I understand your frustration now. You're right that it sometimes feel like we're just bickering over nothing while the rest of the world largely ignores us even while popular magazines talk about GNU/Linux as a cool alternative.

I guess it's going to take much more than talk and a merely increasing number of switches from Windows to put GNU/Linux on at least half of those shelves.

Enter World Domination 201. This is why I have conceded to that document in agreement, despite my stand on strictly Free Software. I am willing to slip a *few* compromises that obviously *need* to be slipped so we can dominate and then finally have enough power to dictate the software standards of the world, to free what hasn't been freed yet and finally finish this revolution.

The reason why I still emphasize FSF so much, even if I may not *exactly* follow the "100% Free Software or nothing" approach is because I believe someone needs to hold the candle lit while we jump on the bandwagon of compromises. Someone needs to stay behind to watch for our legacy so that we don't get lost in the proprietary crud we might be letting in as part of this World Domination plan.

We've discussed this on Libervis.com in this thread. Note how this WD201 instructed compromise is seen not as an end to itself and not merely about world domination for its own sake, but world domination in order to reach that 100% Free Software ideal. This can't be emphasized hard enough, eyes need to be set on the ball constantly not to lose ourselves in thinking that just because we compromised in one area we can compromise in another.

So if Ubuntu is going to implement some proprietary drivers by default, Linspire and Fluendo buy us legal codecs for pre-installing in distros, in order for these to capture the world as products that "just work", so be it. But adding proprietary software in places where free software already exists is in my opinion completely unacceptable. A case in point: Opera instead of Firefox or ATI proprietary drivers instead of *working* ATI R300 drivers or LinDVD burning application instead of K3B or GNOMEBaker. Those are the examples where compromise just can't be justified.

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