I started asking myself questions about Linux the other day. I began to think about what Linux lacked that Windows had (trying to get into the head of a die hard Windows fan and persuade them to think Linux). Certainly it isn’t appearance. Windows is actually behind Linux in this area. Certainly it isn’t detectability. Linux is also ahead of Windows in this area. Driver support? Yes…big gap…but one that we as Linux programmers, developers, and users are all well aware of and one that cannot be improved drammatically unless manufacturers get behind Linux. So what is left? Wizards. Wizards? That’s right. Wizards. No, not the D&D spellcasting folk…put your twenty sided die away. I’m speaking of the nice trail of menu’s that greet you to set up a function in your operating system.
In the beginning of things, open source was about open everything. I remember joining an irc channel # on efnet back in 1993 and chatting with people who could make things happen with computers…really make things happen. Coders, managers, hackers…they were all there and a tight nit core of about 6 of us stayed in touch for about 7 years until we went our separate ways and began to use irc less and less. The thing that I remember the most is the fact that when I joined their little group, I was a complete and total n00b. Not just a n00b to Open Source…but to computers altogether. I had a Texas Instruments computer back in 1985 but only messed with that for about a year. Mice were new to me…I didn’t know ANYTHING at all. In the short time that I began chatting on irc, I was shown how to do things. When I didn’t know how to do something, I could count on one of the guys or girls in the channel helping me to solve my problem within a matter of minutes. These people stepped down off of their level of operation long enough to educate me in the ways of the open source.
I look fondly back at this time and have spoken about it before…not because I don’t think something like this exists now…just that I think it is a rarity. There was a time when this “spirit of open source” was all about educating and furthering the program/app that you were working on. Now it seems that when a new user comes in to any channel on irc or forum, they are told off with a hearty RTFM (Read the ‘Friendly’ Manual).
Where did this Elitism come from? Where and when did Linux and open source become about the mentality “you must be this knowledgeable to ride?” It pains me to see people do this to new users…distancing themselves from potential advocates of open source…zealous ones at that. It’s a real testament to some of these new users STILL wanting to plug open source and Linux, despite being squashed by elitists in forums.
Many of you may have read my last post on this subject regarding action that needed to be taken in the form of a petition for Linux and printer manufacturers and their lack of drivers. In a sense, they hem us in to a Windows environment by not allowing us the choice of operating system. I felt this was wrong and started an online petition. The host of the petition has actually seen large companies such as WebTV and CNN, respond to their petitions. I was hoping that our petition would garner enough interest to do so as well.
Many of you thought it was too agressive and felt that we should get them where it hurts by ‘talking with our money’. Some also felt that the correct action would be to write letters urging manufacturers to produce Linux drivers.
For those of you that were thinking along these lines: a reader emailed me recently and sent me scans of the official reply that Canon gave him after he pulled out of a $4000.00+ deal for his business with them. It seems that money doesn’t talk unless it is from a large corporation. It also seems that letters to your manufacturer don’t work out that great either. All private information from the individual providing these letters has been removed. If you’d like to get in touch with him or his business, please email me and I will forward it to him. I’d like to draw your attention to the underlined text on the letter itself. It’s rather funny that a company comes right out and lies about reasons for not developing drivers…everyone knows that they could release binary versions of drivers that could be compiled on ANY and EVERY version of Linux and that people would just snag them and adopt them. The real reason they don’t release them has yet to be devulged. Without further discussion, the letter and envelope:
The simple fact is that Canon threw away 4 thousand dollars US worth of business at the drop of a hat. That’s because it is a drop in the proverbial bucket. Large corporations only listen when other large corporations tell them to…although there are exceptions…in this case, 4k isn’t anything…nor is the opinion of the man who sent a letter to them. In fact, if you’ll notice, they ask him to purchase products from them in the future! The audacity these companies have is flabbergasting. If you don’t feel like taking this lying down, go out and sign the Linux Printer Driver Online Petition and make your voice count by bringing it into harmony with over a thousand people who have signed it already. Thousands of voices together can be quite an influence. Let’s get these companies to take notice. A letter with a link to this petition might cause them to change their minds…but we need more people. Pass this on as much as possible. The more attention this thing gets, the better our chances are at having printer manufacturers take notice.