Wisconsin Ubuntu fall-outJanuary 23, 2009 10:03 am community, freesoftware, gnome, marketing
That’s what I am. Bamboozled.
For those who haven’t heard this story over the last week, a young woman in Wisconsin accidentally ordered an Ubuntu laptop from Dell and dropped some college classes because she couldn’t make her internet connection work, because when she put in the CD it didn’t launch, and she didn’t have Microsoft Office, which was a requirement for her online classes.
The story, for me, is the total ignorance that both the university and the ISP have of other operating systems. Instruction manuals have information for Windows, maybe Mac, and outside of that, you’re on your own. A newcomer to Linux can’t get by on their own.
Course requirements list specific commercial programs you need to have. And we have a long hard battle to fight for minds & hearts of the universities, hardware manufacturers, ISPs and everyone else who gives software to users, or who exchange files.
The news station story had a happy ending:
However, we think we’ve helped her get back to school.
Verizon says it will dispatch a technician to try to assist her accessing the internet without using the Windows-only installation disk. Verizon says its high-speed internet does indeed support Ubuntu, but some advanced features and installation disks clearly don’t work with Linux.
MATC also says it promises to accept any of Schubert’s papers or class documents using whatever software she has installed.
Schubert’s computer came with Open Office, a word processing software package that is compatible with Microsoft Word. She says she wasn’t aware it was compatible. MATC promised to show her how to save documents in compatible formats so she could enroll in online courses again.
So – happy ending, right? We’re helping win the hearts and minds, we’ve solved a new user’s problems, and we’ve got some nice press showing how Linux users are neglected by the industry.
Ummm… no. That’s what has me bamboozled.
The story quickly got spun as “news channel said Ubuntu sucks” on tech blogs looking for a big headline. And from there, all of a sudden, the reaction of “Ubuntu fans” becomes the story. The young woman in question got some abuse for not figuring out how to solve her problems – she was “lazy”, “a dumb girl”. The news channel gets lambasted for “unscrupulous reporting”.
We all get lumped in the same bucket. When I go to free software conferences and say I work with GNOME, I hear stories about rude behaviour of others in the GNOME community. Outside the free software world, people don’t make a distinction between the lunatic fringe and people like Mark Shuttleworth or anyone in between.
One of these days that’s going to change. The loony fringe will become the loony fringe, and the mainstream will go mainstream. It’s happened with every “movement” to come from off the radar, and it will happen to us. In the meantime we need to start controlling the story – reminding people what’s important, and generally drowning out the fringe.