My stance on Ubuntu and the Bad Vista campaign

From:     Ryan Lortie <desrt@desrt...>
To:       Bad Vista Contact <webmaster@badvista....>
Subject:  My stance on Ubuntu and the Bad Vista campaign

Hello FSF,

This is an open letter.

In the past year your organisation has seemingly taken a new stance on
what is important.  You have started participating in things that matter
to people other than hackers.  You are making attempts to reach normal
people -- wouldbe consumers of Trojan Horse technology products.  These
efforts are absolutely commendable.  There is no doubt that the fight
for freedom will be won only by convincing people that there are
practical alternatives to companies that are more interested in their
bottom lines than they are in providing a working product.

Your Defective By Design campaign is brilliant.  I've actually heard
people other than hackers (albeit, still geeks) talking about it.  Your
new Bad Vista campaign also hits the nail right on the head by letting
customers know what they need to know to make an informed decision.  A
distinct feature of these campaigns is that they don't spend time
harping about ideological freedom, but rather, stress real world
problems inherent in DRM.  You talk about practical problems that people
will encounter and be affected by.  You talk about practical solutions.

I am writing this letter because of a controversial decision that you
have made.

The Bad Vista page contains the following text:

     ...and provide a user-friendly gateway to the
        adoption of free software operating systems like
        gNewSense ( and Ututo

I'm not aware of what Ututo is, but by your recommending it, I'm going
to assume that it is subject to the same problems with gNewSense.

From the standpoint of focusing on real practical issues rather than
harping about ideology, gNewSense is basically exactly the same thing as
Ubuntu except that it doesn't work on most people's computers.

People have ATI and nVidia video cards.  Most people have laptops with
wireless cards that at least require firmware.

One of the real practical problems with closed source software is that
if there's a bug then you can't fix the bug and this might prevent you
from using your hardware.  In terms of practicality, this isn't really
much better then not being able to use your hardware at all in the first

Another practical problem is that gNewSense isn't a rock star.  Ubuntu

Let's face it -- no matter how good you are, you're not going to get the
average computer user to install a new operating system.  The people you
will convince to do this are people who are already technology geeks.
These are the same people who have read tech news sites talking about
this "Ubuntu" thing.

Faced with a recommendation to install gNewSense, they will say "huh?".
Faced with a recommendation to install Ubuntu, they just might say
"ya... I've been hearing a lot about that.  Maybe I should give it a

Even if you manage to get people to install gNewSense, you're most
likely going to be harming your cause.  The overwhelming majority of
computer users have some hardware that requires some sort of binary-only
code to operate.  People will install gNewSense and, with very high
likelihood, some part of their system won't work.  They will get
frustrated and annoyed -- possibly turned off of free software forever.
I know people who still pass judgement on Linux as a whole based on
experiences from 5 years ago.

Ubuntu is more or less 99% free.  It doesn't even come anywhere close to
being as awful as Vista is.  Besides -- I bet your computer is already
at least a little non-free.  Is your BIOS open source?  The ROM firmware
on all your devices?  Your CPU's microcode?  We all put up with these
things in the meantime because we understand that the only chance of
success will be to get people on to our platform.  Without users, we
can't make demands.

I understand that it's quite a strange position to be in to be
condemning Ubuntu on one hand for their shipping of proprietary code,
while recommending them to people on the other hand.  To do so would
require swallowing some pride.  I hope that this is something that
you're capable of doing.

Through your campaigns of the past year you've indicated your
understanding of the fact that your key to success lies in public
acceptance.  Recommending Ubuntu instead of gNewSense will increase the
public's acceptance of your platform.  You have to make sacrifices --
that's just the way it is.

I'm sure you appreciate the importance of what you're trying to do and
that you realise what a unique opportunity you have right now.  Please
don't waste it.

I am an Ubuntu user and member.  This letter is my personal opinion.

Ryan Lortie


what’s the deal with svn? i seriously don’t understand why we are switching to it. basically everyone knows that we need to be using git or bzr (i don’t even care which one).

so seriously. someone please explain to me why we start using svn even though we all know it’s not the correct (final) solution.

ps: i like cvs just fine :)