On my way to work this morning, I was listening to Episode 46 of Late Night Linux. Among the many things the team discussed, Joe’s recent interview with author Vicky Brasseur was a hot topic of debate.
Vicky, or VM as she prefers to be called, has recently written a book about how to contribute to open source projects effectively. However, during the interview with Joe, some of LNL’s listeners noticed that VM was using a Mac OS.
It later transpired that VM had stopped using Linux due to her perception of Linux being a “hostile and arrogant UX” as shown in the Tweet below:
It’s crap like this that caused me to leave Linux (for macOS) after suffering through it as my daily operating system for 10 years.
I don’t have time for this shit, and neither does most of the rest of humanity. This is hostile and arrogant UX, pure and simple. pic.twitter.com/Tnz620xXVP
— VM (Vicky) Brasseur (@vmbrasseur) 26 August 2018
So this now begs the question:
How can a person who has literally written a book on contributing to open source projects not use Linux on their desktop?
This very subject was the topic of much debate within the LNL Telegram group; and I’ll give you the TL;DR upfront – I personally don’t care what OS someone uses, I think they can still contribute in a significant way.
The long-winded answer
Linux doesn’t exist purely on the desktop. Actually, the desktop is Linux’s least successful demographic, with servers being by far the most successful. I can be on a Windows PC, or a Mac, and still SSH in to my Linux server.
In this scenario, yes, I wouldn’t be running Linux on the desktop, but I am still running Linux.
Not only that, there are many development tools that are OS agnostic, or there are alternatives available. For example, Microsoft’s Visual Studio Code is available for Windows, Mac and Linux.
Not to mention there are open source applications that you can still use on proprietary operating systems; Firefox, Thunderbird, Chromium, LibreOffice, GIMP, Inkscape, VLC, Audacity, KeePass. The list is endless.
So you see, it’s quite trivial to be an open source advocate/contributor, yet still use a proprietary operating system.
So why not use Linux too?
I get it. A person is using a bunch of open source software, they’re contributing to it, they advocating it, so why not use it as their operating system? There are hundreds of potential answers to that question but some might be:
- The person prefers the workflow of Windows/Mac.
- They have a particular piece of software that isn’t compatible with Linux, and they don’t want to dual-boot.
- More knowledge of other operating systems.
- Other operating systems may be easier to use.
- Etcetera, etcetera, etcetera.
Personally speaking, I stopped using Linux on the desktop for a few years when Ubuntu first migrated to Unity. Not because I hated Unity as such, but because I couldn’t find a workflow that worked well for me, so Windows was the better option.
You see, many people don’t want to go under the hood on their machine. They don’t care about the nuts and bolts. They just want an operating system that works well, then gets out of the way.
Whilst I’m technical, and enjoy playing around with this kind of thing, I am very much in the it must work camp for my daily driver. My X1 Carbon needs to work well, have a stable OS, and it needs to let me get my work done.
During this time however, I still used a number of open source applications (many are named above), and I still advocated the use of Linux on the desktop – hey, just because the workflow didn’t work for me, doesn’t mean it wouldn’t work for others.
Since 2012, when Ubuntu migrated to Unity, the MATE project has really matured and I’ve now found a workflow that works brilliantly for me, which has allowed me to return to the Linux desktop full time.
What about PR?
Let’s say that someone really prevalent in the open source community, like Alan Pope (community manager at Ubuntu), turns up to do a talk at a Linux conference, but decides to use Mac OS to run his presentation.
Now, if Alan was there in an official capacity, and was talking in such a way as to promote Ubuntu, then yes, I feel he should probably be using Ubuntu as his OS for that presentation.
However, if Alan was there to talk about how to effectively manage and grow a community, I don’t feel that he should be held to account for not using Ubuntu. As he’s not there to promote Ubuntu, he’s there to promote his community work. So why is his choice of OS relevant?
Note: This is purely hypothetical. I’m not implying that Alan Pope would ever turn up to a conference with Mac OS. But if he ever did, that’s his choice.
Let’s take that theory one step further – let’s say Alan turns up to do a talk about Ubuntu and he’s running Mac OS for his presentation, I’d be willing to bet my mortgage that he would get a lot of flack for it on social media.
However, if he turned up to that same conference running KDE Neon, I don’t think he would get anywhere near as much flack, if any at all. Now, some of you might say “yeah Kev, that’s because Neon is based on Ubuntu.” Right, I get that. But it’s based on Ubuntu. It’s not actually Ubuntu.
So if he’s there to promote Ubuntu, but is running an OS that is not Ubuntu (yes, it’s an open source OS, but it’s a different OS nevertheless), shouldn’t the same flame wars erupt by this rationale?
Personally, I feel that a lot of these conversations come from people who have a bias against a certain operating system for one reason or another; and I can see where those biases come from – privacy, security, lack of configurability, adverts in the OS etc.
But if someone wants to use a different OS to you, why should they be belittled for that choice if they’re still contributing to, and advocating, open source software.
Do you have to use an Open Source OS to be a FOSS contributor?
No. Absolutely not.
Those are just my own opinions though. Why not tell me yours in the comments section below?