HostGator, Linux and The Dukes of Hazzard


If you’re old, like me…let’s say, over 30 years old…you might remember the television show “The Dukes of Hazzard”.  Waylon Jennings, a popular country music singer during the late 70’s and early 80’s sang the theme song.  The lyrics are:

Just the good ol boys, never meaning no harm

Beats all you ever saw, been in trouble with the law

since the day they was born

Many times in IT job settings, you’ll find that you need to become one of ‘the good ole boys’ in order to accomplish your job.  You have to like the things others’ like (or pretend to), you have to laugh at the things others’ laugh at.  In other words, you may have to become all things to all people.  It’s stupid that things are this way…but if you don’t change, you’ll find yourself on the outside looking in.  I’ve always been one to try and strike the right balance between becoming what my coworkers wanted me to become versus what I want to be.  Through the almost 10 years I’ve been blogging here, I’ve both sponsored and at one time hosted Ken Starks (aka Helios) blogging efforts and even his Lobby4Linux initiative…and I still consider him to be a great friend as well as an uncompromising voice in the world of Linux.  Over at his blog, he gave the anonymous experience of one HostGator employee.  You can read her experience over at his blog but here is an excerpt:

But my friend did have trouble answering a question and she dutifully IM’ed her tier two technician for help…. Twice. Then three times. And finally a fourth. She didn’t even get a response from a tier three tech or a supervisor. And I’ve been a tier three technician…I played a lot of online games. Help requests were infrequent. We mostly helped supervisors keep track of call times. She was a nervous wreck…and the customer wasn’t happy. She had to take down the customer’s number and promise to call them back when she found the answer to their question. A callback counted against her in her call stats and bonuses can be earned or lost on customer callbacks. She was close to tears, but nothing like she was when she found out why she being ignored when she asked for help. It seems that there is a little initiation when you go to work in that particular call center. It’s a game of sorts and it all boils down to this.

I’ve experienced things just like this in my career in the world of IT…not to the level above…but in some form or another, I’ve been hindered at performing my job by someone else who wanted to ‘initiate’ me into working where they do…or someone who just didn’t like that I spoke in an accent.  It’ seems rather stupid that someone would want you to become part of their ‘good ole boys’ network before they give you the help you need.  It’s unprofessional and counterproductive.  The only real permanent damage it does happens to the end user.

One can’t get too mad at companies though…they may not even know it is going on.  It starts at the mid-management level.  Managers who enable and allow this sort of behavior on their teams or ignore this sort of behavior are to blame.  Having a workplace that isn’t fun to work at unless you’re a part of the ‘good ole boys’ or that makes the end user suffer just for a laugh isn’t a good workplace.  Turnover will be high.  Ego’s will be allowed to cultivate and grow.  Cliques will form.  Boundaries will be crossed. In the end, your workplace suffers because it becomes hostile to those who refuse to adapt their behavior to jive with the few who behave in this way.  If you’re an IT Manager, take note of the story I linked to above.  Don’t be that guy.  Don’t let your employees set the tone for the work environment.  Make it your mission to set the tone yourself.  Making your work environment an inviting and supporting place to work isn’t hard to do.

Disillusioned by the Community

There are times when I don’t want to admit that I use and love Linux.

It’s true…at times, I’m embarrassed to tell people that I’m part of the community as a whole.

You may wonder when these times are…right now is one of those times.  I despise infighting found in free and open source software…specifically, I really don’t like it when people have one sided experiences and apply their experience to ALL areas of Linux and open source software.  Case in point is this blog post on KDE 4.6 experience in Ubuntu.  For everyone out there, please be advised that Ubuntu is not equivalent with ALL Linux.  In fact, Ubuntu does Gnome very well…but it doesn’t do KDE well at all.

If you truly want to know what KDE 4.6 is like, you need to go with a KDE specific distribution like Mandriva and ride that cutting edge.  I can guarantee you won’t be greeted by crash handlers and all sorts of nonsense that you’ll get inside Ubuntu when you install KDE along side of your Gnome install.

Posts like the one I linked to above make me angry…it’s like driving a Volvo compact car and then dismissing every other car company that makes a compact car as equivalent the experience on the Volvo.  To me, you need to drive each implementation (each companies interpretation) and make an informed decision as to what you find.  Taking a test drive of a Volvo compact and then bad mouthing all compact cars is ignorant…and in my opinion, that is what the person above does with KDE 4.x

I’m a staunch defender of KDE 4.x and I’ve blogged about ignorance surrounding it in the past.  Not all gripes about it are ignorant…but a majority of people’s problems they have with it are simply people band-wagoning together to trounce something because it’s cool to do so.  Much the same is M. Night Shyamalan’s Airbender movie…people talked so much crap about the movie and him as a director, I thought that the movie was going to be the worst movie of all time.  It wasn’t near as bad as people were making it out to be and Shyamalan isn’t the worst director out there by any means.

I think overall, KDE 4.x has become the M. Night Shyamalan of the Linux world…a very talented director(project) that everyone was accustomed to making great movies(desktops) that doesn’t want to be pigeon holed into fitting what others feel it should fit.  KDE 4 is not KDE 3 and for good reason.  It’s being coded and made into something different yet subtly similar because it’s 2011 and not 1996.  If you don’t like it, don’t use it.

IF you don’t use it…don’t trash talk it.

If you want an HONEST representation of it, go to a distribution that prides itself on providing a good implementation of it.  Saying “Ubuntu is the most popular and people are going to try it out on Ubuntu” is wrong…because I don’t know of many end users that will enable a PPA repository and possibly jack up their Gnome install to give it a go…when they can just pop in a Live CD and give it a try….I think the poster of the blog entry above forgot about the magic of Live CD’s for his ‘review’.  It’s too bad that he feels Ubuntu’s lack of attention to all things KDE are representative to KDE as a whole…and it’s too bad his attempt at ascribing this notion comes off as troll-like.

I don’t use Ubuntu at all yet you don’t see me trolling the Ubuntu boards talking about how crappy I feel it is.  If you use Linux you are a part of the Linux community as a whole.  This community encompasses all distributions and all desktop environments.  You have a responsibility therefore; if you want to see Linux succeed, be tolerant and understanding of opposing distros/desktops. Talking trash about other opposing opinions is irresponsible and juvenile.  I hope someday people take this inherent and implied cordiality to heart.  Until then, we have posts like the one above…whether inadvertently geared to bash KDE or absolutely geared to bash KDE…it nonetheless bashed it.  I hope we can grow past things like this in the future.

A Canonical Controversy

Remember these past few months where Ubuntu/Canonical’s contribution to Gnome (or lack thereof) was called into question and the topic was on the tip of every Linux news website tongue (see closing thoughts for info links)?  Let’s throw some gasoline on that fire for your Friday!!  It’s time for a Barbecue!

Today, Mark Shuttleworth’s blog was added into Planet Gnome after he made a request for it to be added.  Why is this a controversy?  Mainly because some people want blogs that are featured on Planet Gnome to be from authors that are active in the Gnome community and to actually blog about Gnome as a topic.  If Canonical’s contributions to Gnome are being called into question (as evident from the links in closing thoughts below) then what results is a controversial decision for Mark’s blog to be added in.

If you read the comments on the buglist issue, you will see that there are quite a few people in opposition to this move.  According to the Planet Gnome FAQ, there are criteria for being added.  Does Mark’s blog fit the criteria?  A close examination will result in a resounding NO.

Examining the Evidence

The evidence?  Mark has only one, single post on the topic of Gnome on his entire blog.  Is it recent?  If 2008 is recent, then yes, it’s recent.  If that’s not recent enough for you then no, it fails horribly on being recent.

Up next, let’s pull from the Planet Gnome FAQ, “It generally helps to write a few words about you and your contributions to GNOME, or why you think your blog should appear on Planet GNOME”.  Looking at the bug that was filed we find no explanation as to why it should be added other than “I contribute via Canonical”.  This phrase is going to be flogged by those people that were/are irked with Canonicals level of contributions upstream.

Lastly, since Mark is the face of his company, does this mean Gnome supports his company more than say…CEO of Red Hat or Novell since those CEO’s are not added on Planet Gnome?  Does this constitute a conflict of interest?  Does it signal favoritism?  If one person believes it to be this way, everyone loses…because there will be a debate about it and it WILL divide people and not unite them.

To be honest, I can’t believe Mark even asked to be on Planet Gnome as the CEO of Canonical.  He should know right out of the gate that it would look bad if he was added in…if it were me, I’d remove myself immediately.

Closing Thoughts

I said that this would be gasoline on a fire because of the firestorm debate surrounding how much Canonical, Mark Shuttleworth’s company, gives back to upstream projects like Gnome.  For more on that debate [1] [2] [3].

This is just the icing on top of the cake in my opinion.  Whoever decides what goes on Gnome and what doesn’t should really evaluate their processes and stop looking at a persons stature or bling factor and instead on the merit for them to be there.  In this instance, Marks blog provides little to merit its presence on Planet Gnome.

Please note, I’m not saying Mark hasn’t done anything at all for Gnome…just saying he doesn’t blog about it (and the evidence supports me on this claim)…and before a blog is added to Planet Gnome it should have more than one post in the past 7 years (yes, he started blogging in 2003) to be considered as a good candidate to be there.

What do you think?  Should Mark be on Planet Gnome?  Whether you agree or disagree, please state your reasons in a comment below!

Zealots and Narcissism

Many times in my journeys of distribution hopping, I’ve run across rabid fans and communities [1]

I’ve written a guide for new users on how to understand the vitrol that rabid zealots spew in Linux communities [2]

Those problems are all very easy to see…but these articles deal with only the tangible problems in these areas.  What are the reasons these problems exist?  Is it because of one or two individuals?  Is it mob mentality?  Are people just waking up on the wrong side of the bed?  I don’t think these reasons get down to the core of what the real problem is…the hidden problem…of zealots in the Linux community.

The Hidden Problem

The hidden problem is Narcissism…people think that what they have to say about a given subject makes the most sense and is 100% correct (or at least more correct than others’ POV) and it’s one that is hard for people to talk about…because anyone that writes or blogs has to be a little bit narcissistic.  People don’t like talking about problems they’re guilty of.  I know I am guilty of it…and I’m still going to talk about it.

With social networking riding a tidal wave right now, the era of the narcissist moves on, unhindered, on the interwebs.  Subscribe to my twitter feed…what I have to says in 140 characters or less is a MUST READ!  My facebook page will keep you updated on EVERY little thing I decide to post unless you edit me out of your news feed.  Sites cater to the egocentric tendencies of anyone plugged in.  So what happens when you get a bunch of narcissists together sharing a common goal?  “My distribution is THE BEST out there and no other point of view matters!”  That’s right, you get zealotry in the purest form.

This has slowly begun leaking into Linux communities during the past few years as Linux is tried out by more and more people and becomes more available to people who aren’t technologically advanced.  Bottom line is, more people are trying Linux now than ever before.  This makes the user pool larger and more diverse.  Where there are more people though, there are more narcissists…and birds of a feather flock together.

Take narcissism with a twist of mob mentality and the powder keg in Linux communities is set to blow.  The zealots seethe and team about in forums, IRC, and on blogs across the internet looking for a place to show how right they are and how wrong the person posting information is.

Oh, I admit it…I have a narcissist streak in me…I want people to read this blog.  I want people to follow me on twitter.  I want people to pay attention to what I say…it’s part of being a blogger…but I don’t think that my distribution of choice is any better than yours.  In fact, I know it’s not.  Just like my car isn’t any better than the one you drive and my clothes are so last year and aren’t as good as yours.  I offset my narcissism with realism…I understand that what I think isn’t the only point of view out there…I don’t think I’m 100% right all the time.

I also don’t go out on the web and try to find others who think my view is the best view and then try to push my egocentric viewpoint to others.  I don’t create a community of zombie thinkers who all believe my viewpoint is the best out there.  I’m not forming any mobs for my mentality.  I’m not flocking together with birds of a feather.  I’m a part time ego-narcissist I guess.

The first step is admitting that you have a problem.  The second step is having some good old fashioned manners, respect for others, and above all…tolerance and realism.

Solution to the Problem

When you’re standing in line at a bank, would you cut in front of someone in the line?   Most likely you wouldn’t.  Personal conflict is something we as humans avoid most of the time.  So, why is it when you’re driving you don’t mind cutting someone off and do it regularly?  It’s because the personal aspect of that motion has been replaced into an impersonal one…the car becomes a protection from that personal conflict that would happen if you had done the same thing in a bank line.

To fix the problem this presents on the web and in Linux communities, think about others (not yourself) and in doing so, become less narcissistic.  Apply this thinking to commenting and blogging and facebooking and tweeting.  Imagine that you are face to face with people saying the things you’re typing.  If you wouldn’t say things like that in a face to face situation, don’t say them.  Remember that tolerance of other viewpoints makes you a better person…AND smarter.  How?  Albert Einstein is largely considered one of the smartest humans to ever walk the earth.  He often gathered with other intelligent people to debate and discuss various topics that interested him.  In doing so, he caused those he debated with “to sharpen and refine their understanding of the philosophical and scientific implications of their own theory.”  Remember that everyone does NOT have to share your viewpoint…what works for you may not work for them.

Lastly, no one cares if you sat down in your office or are eating a peanut butter sandwich.  We subscribe to feeds and twitter accounts for meat and potatoes posts…not 1 liners that tell us you’re in the bathroom of a bakery on 96th street.  So, you zealots out there…you know who you are…take this opportunity to reflect on yourself (your favorite subject) and try to replace your narcissism with realism, tolerance, and good old fashioned manners.

And no I don’t think any zealots will be converted by this post…it’s more of a rant than anything else…and rants are one of the reasons why I have a blog :)  Well that and because what I say is more important than anyone else and my viewpoint is 100% correct 100% of the time of course. ;)

A Little About Ubuntu

I’m not a hater of Ubuntu by any means.  I think it’s done a ton of good for Linux.  It’s opened many doors and perceptions of users everywhere.  It’s available to more people than any other distribution in history.  However, I do have a problem with some of rather “excitable” users in the Ubuntu community.

Let’s take a look a look at why I’m not all over Ubuntu as a Linux Blog.

Perception is as Perception Does

When I say I don’t blog about Ubuntu…it’s not to say that it was always that way.  I did blog about Ubuntu a bit when it was the 5.04 version.  I put it into the rotation for an experiment I was doing.  See, back then, my wife and I had only been married a short while.  She didn’t know Linux from any other operating system…but the important part is she was willing to give it a try.  So we picked out a bunch of desktop driven distributions like Mandrake (now Mandriva), MEPIS, Ubuntu, PCLinuxOS and Fedora Core (now Fedora) and had her test drive each and every one…AND give valuable feedback on what she felt didn’t make the cut for each distro.  I had a set of criteria that I created and I didn’t tell her how to find things on the web…I didn’t hold her hand after installation.  We installed it and turned her loose.  She found Ubuntu to be a very bad experience.  The community, instead of saying “hey, there is a new Linux convert now!  We all win!” thrashed her for all sorts of things.  They didn’t pull any punches…they actually posted so many hateful things, I had to respond to the comments.  The Ubuntu supporters that commented on that post made me ASHAMED of using Linux because of their horrible and hateful words.  The community should be above that…other distributions that I and my wife reviewed were above that.  The Ubuntu community was not.

During that experiment, I was a die hard MEPIS fan.  I think if I hadn’t been using MEPIS before Ubuntu, I would have probably liked it quite a bit. At the time, MEPIS was new and exciting and did TONS for desktop users out of the gate. Handy tools, great installer, debian base. I saw what desktop linux should be in MEPIS and found Ubuntu to be lacking at that time…so I didn’t change what I was using.

Fast forward to the present. Ubuntu is now synonymous with the word Linux.  Articles like “Install 100 fonts on Ubuntu” and “10 Media Players for Ubuntu” are posted to every hour.  People adore it. The community loves it. Analysts love it. Journalists can’t stop talking about it. Zealots bite your head off about it.  The problem is that if you substitute the word “Linux” for the word Ubuntu in each of those blog posts and articles…it wouldn’t matter.  Ubuntu has become THE Linux and with all other distribtuions being held up to a certain expectation, it can cause confusion.

Refugee Expectations

When a previous Ubuntu user jumps into say…using Slackware Linux…some of the first questions they’ll ask are “Why doesn’t sudo work?” or “I can’t apt-get anything!”.  These things present in Ubuntu are assumed to be present in all of Linux.  Ubuntu has become the face of Linux and with that, holds all other Linux distros up to refugee expectations.  In some instances, this causes those distros to rise above and implement changes for the better (example, Linux Mint).  But in other cases, it just plain confuses both end users and developers.

Keeping this in mind, I’ve found there are more things than just software, packaging systems, and authentication methods being confused and mismatched…

Some People who Blog about Ubuntu Confuse and Muddle Linux as a Whole

Take for example, this article.  It’s a DVD player for Ubuntu. So a new user surfs in and sees that this DVD player is for Ubuntu. Since they are new to the Linux world…they see each distribution as separate.  So they think “Oh hey, that’s only available for Ubuntu”.  Call them properly confused.  A couple of new users I converted to Mandriva didn’t install Banshee because they thought it was for Ubuntu only (after reading a blog post on it).  They also didn’t install fonts from a blog post because they thought it was “for Ubuntu”.

It is my opinion that these authors aren’t thinking much about what they’re posting.  They’re just posting things with exclusivity because they think “if I throw Ubuntu on the name, it’s going to be a wildly popular post and get me more clicks and/or attention/comments“.  I’ve blogged about this before, It’s a foolproof way to garner more clicks and that’s evident by how many Ubuntu articles hit the front page of digg each week.  It’s also misleading.

Now some of you are going to say “well if those users can’t figure this simple thing out…that things are installable on more than just Ubuntu, we don’t need them because they’re stupid” or something similar.  I’d have to disagree with you there because Linux is not exclusionary.  It does not say you must have this much IQ to use.  Open source software means that no matter who you are…you have the opportunity to look at the source and use it how you see fit.  If anyone can look at it and use it how they see fit, should not anyone be allowed to use it no matter their IQ or computer savvy abilities?  I’m of the opinion that no matter where you come from, how much education you have, or who you know…you should have choice to use open source and Linux or not to use it.

Ubuntu uses Gnome. Most of the “cool things” about Ubuntu is just Gnome.

I used Foresight Linux at my last job.  It’s absolute cutting edge for Gnome.  It is where the Gnome developers kit is made…that means SVN builds daily of the best of what Gnome has to offer.  I found it quite usable.  Gnome has great integration and lots of little nice things that work for it.

Don’t get me wrong, Ubuntu does a lot of good stuff for desktops…its detection is right up there with all other distros (you zealots would say it is superior…but that’s hardly true.  All distros are pretty close to equal nowadays…thanks Linus and team kernel!).  I just don’t find it “the best” distribution for new Windows converts.  It just doesn’t fit the bill.  Gnome is too far away from the way Windows looks and feels.  I know some of you will be saying “Bullcrap.  It totally fits the bill.  When I transferred from Windows, I was fine”.  I’m sure  you were.  But a majority of the people that I know that have no idea what Linux is or does are immediately attracted to KDE because of its familiarity and they shy away from Gnome.  These people are ones that don’t delve into customizing and tweaking their operating system.  These are the people that just use a computer to read webmail and hit facebook or myspace up from time to time.  What they’re looking for is a no frills experience with any computing they do.  That means familiarity and things ‘just working’.  I’ve found a good implementation of KDE (like Mandriva or OpenSuse) to fit the bill for most new Linux users.

It is my opinion that the best parts of Ubuntu are Gnome.  And it is also my opinion that Gnome isn’t what I feel is best for new Windows-to-Linux converts.

For Those About to Flame Me

For those of you about ready to flame me after this post, remember one thing:  I believe if one distribution of Linux wins, we all win.  I admire Texstar, the creator of PCLinuxOS, for his take on this;  He was approached in IRC some time ago with some hateful comments of someone who said “I switched to distro X and it kicks PCLinuxOS all over the place” but with explicatives laced inside.  How did Texstar respond?  He said “Congratulations on choosing Linux :)”  It’s attitudes like this one that Linux needs to adopt.  If you choose one distribution to use, you win.  You’re in control of your computing.  Therefore, if you are an Ubuntu user and find my post hateful or here to start a flame war, understand that this post isn’t meant to harm but to show how a few voices from a community can change user perception for a lifetime and to show how misconceptions can alter experience.  My wife still despises Ubuntu because of the comments made on her experiment review of Ubuntu.  They made her an enemy for life.

Activism and Promotion

I’ve spoken on this topic before, and I’d like to sum up this post by speaking about it again.  We need the Linux community to understand that everyone does not have to share your opinion on one topic or another…they don’t have to be all about the philosophy behind FOSS and FLOSS.  If they use Linux, that should be good enough…they shouldn’t be ostracized for not picking your favorite.

Keep in mind that there is confusion out there.  It may be caused by your distribution that you use and it may not.  If it does, have patience with new Linux users or distro refugees.  Take the time to explain the how and why of things.  Remember that perception is as perception does and that a new user will remember their initial experiences for many years to come.

It’s a big Linux world and there is plenty room for everyone to thrive.  Let’s all continue to use Linux for the win :)

Laying to Rest the Mandriva/PCLOS Debate

The one thing about FOSS that I love is that you can take whatever you need from various sources and build what you opine is a better wheel. Take Ubuntu for instance…they took Debian and made it into something that many users are happy with.

Is this wrong? Not at all. Each day, many non-commercial distro makes wake up and check various distributions for updated security fixes. They pull source rpms, updated tar.gz’s, and debs into their distro, make minor adjustments, and drop it into their repository. Distros share with one another…they take and hopefully give back. If not monetarily, at least by the number of users that they have that may report bugs or provide fixes.

So what’s the beef that some Distrowatch Weekly commenter’s seem to have with PCLinuxOS? During the past 3 weeks of comments on the DW, some have been hounding PCLinuxOS with accusations saying that the developers hide things from their community and that PCLinuxOS eradicates changelogs and/or lights small dogs on fire while chopping kittens to bits in blenders, etc.

Myth #1: PCLinuxOS Hides the Fact it is Mandriva based (False) has always had an “About” link on every single webpage it has ever had. Let’s look at what information has been conveyed there:

“PCLinuxOS was originally based on another distribution under the name of Mandriva
and shares many features of Mandriva such as the Control Center and the
Draklive Installer
. Texstar and team would like to thank the
developers, contributors and others associated with Mandriva who may
have indirectly contributed to the PCLinuxOS distribution.”

Let’s look at some other distro front pages to see how they compare. Sabayon Linux has their footer at the bottom with Gentoo in it…but no mention on the front page as to what they’re based on. No real ‘about’ link there either. Move on to Ubuntu. No mention of Debian on the front page. You have to visit the Community >> The Ubuntu Story link in order to find that it is based on Debian. Once again, no ‘about’ link on the front page.

Let’s take a look at the PCLinuxOS Page on Distrowatch shall we? This has been utterly unchanged in 4 years:

“PCLinuxOS is an English only live CD initially based on Mandrake Linux
that runs entirely from a bootable CD. Data on the CD is uncompressed
on the fly, allowing up to 2GB of programs on one CD including a
complete X server, KDE desktop, and many more
applications all ready to use. In addition to the live CD, you can also
install PCLinuxOS to your hard drive with an easy-to-use
livecd-installer. Additional applications can be added or removed from
your hard drive using a friendly apt-get front end via Synaptic.”

If that paragraph is an attempt to hide things, I’m Miles Davis.

Considering these two points, I’d say PCLinuxOS hasn’t been ‘hiding’ the fact that it is Mandriva based. I’d say they’re doing quite well with where they have this information. I welcome any comments with information otherwise. If you have specific examples, please make sure they’re from a developer and not a general user…because if general users are where we’re getting our information from, every distro is in trouble.