Tag Archives: Fedora

Ubuntu: Is it worth it?

I have been enjoying using Ubuntu. But there is one issue that make me start to think about switching distribution, again. The one issue is Mark Shuttleworth. But the individual, but his role in the distribution.

First of all I do not believe in the concept of benevolent dictatorship. I rather believe in the wisdom of crowds. So I do not trust the decisions of a single person, whoever it is. Does not matter who!

The second step is to look at some decisions Mark had made. In tle last 2 years I especially have a problem of two core decisions, which are:

  • Deciding to remove the shutdown option from system menu
  • Deciding to move the window buttons from right to left.

My main reasoning for disliking the decisions is that I had big, big problems adopting the changes. But I dont want to reduce decisions oin if I can get along. But if you think twice it is easy to realise that people with disablities, children or old people with have much more problems adopting the changes. I have enabled the FUSA on some other desktops and it sill feels totally unnatural to me.

Also my view is, that a distribution in fact should not fiddle around with the software as much as Ubuntu does. The right way would be to talk to GNOME and to reach a consensus . From a service perspective it is just hell if you assume you are providing services to different Linux distributions and you cant assume a specific layout, which is known to be a GNOME standard.

Maybe Mark decided this way so that Ubuntu is so different to other distributions and then people who learn Ubuntu will stick to it? I dont know – because obviously he and the gus from Ubuntu made a very bad decision from a usability perspective (TWICE!).

I am not  always conservative. I have played around different window managers – and I think GNOME has missed the opportunity to adopt tiled window managing before Windows did. And now Windows advertises with tiled window managing, while Linux had this for ages – but  GNOME can not claim to have supported it. It had the taste of being too geeky (while in fact its a very practical feature).

So I like to update my desktop. But what I do not like is that I incorporate drastic UI changes which are not really thought through. and forcing to manually fix. I install a great deal of Linuxes for other people – and what I hate is that I have to fix all kinds of stuff before I can let people work with the machine. I like to keep things as default – because this enables people to feel home on many machines. Right now its so that somebody who gets a default Ubuntu will never feel home on a default Fedora, although both use the same GNOME and would have the perfect chance to show that different distributions dont mean you have to adopt and learn before you start working with another distribution. And it is not Fedoras fault this time!

So my criticism to Ubuntu is exactly two very consious decisions they made – without any need. So its not just some kind of bugs. They want it that way – they want people to get upset and have second thoughts about using Ubuntu. Why? I do not know.

I am think between switching to Fedora or Debian right now. Debian has the advantage of being more democratic and me being mor efamiliar with apt-get. Fedora is more interesting technically. But as I am getting older I also do get more conservative. I have used both for some years. I did like the responsiveness of the Debian maintainers, whoch is much higher than on Ubuntu. On Ubuntu you are mostly being seen as just a stupid user.

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Fedora has been making a Licensing switch

After I got a note on my blog in a comment, that Fedora actually has left the OPL and changed the CLA. I have looked into the topic again, after I left Fedora 2006 because they chose OPL (as one reason) and after I repeated my critique in April 2009 in “Fedora: Open up your documentation!

Four years into the future and things seem to have changed. This sentence says it all:

To be honest, this change is probably a bit overdue. Most of the time, though, you can’t push the river, it has to flow as fast as it can in the direction it wants.

Also the change of the ICLA t a newly FPCA (Fedora Project Contributor Agreement). Another quote from the change FAQ:

Q. Why change the Fedora ICLA?
A. The current Fedora ICLA wasn’t really well structured for the needs of Fedora. It was composed of a lot of legal boilerplate, and was written before Fedora had really taken shape. In fact, the only reason that we’ve been able to leverage it for as long as we have is because of some creative interpretation on the part of Fedora Legal. Also, there were many people who could not agree to the Fedora ICLA for a variety of reasons, and we hope that the FPCA will resolve most (if not all) of those concerns.

That is true.

Ok, after all this years Fedora did what I requested. I publicly acknowledge that. So currently i do not have any legal doubts when it comes to Fedora contribution.

Would Fedora now be a viable choice for me? Well most major distributions suffer from a strange illness which is tat they constantly move forward into new technological grounds, same is true for desktops like KDE and GNOME. But Fedora especially did meet those demands.  I think that partly this is because Fedora was invented as a testbed for future Red Hat versions. Another motivation sure is that new stuff excites contributors more than old stuff.

But right now I am frustrated and sticking with Ubuntu. I hate what they do with the GUI (FUSA, button switches) every now and then. Especially as somebody who people ask what distributions the should use. Ubuntu is a compromise. Part of why I recommend it is because its popular – and that makes argumentation easier. It’s not all Ubuntus fault. GNOME does a lot of changes but some change just are not going to happen. But KDE is still worse in many aspects.

Fedora is not that much different and better than Ubuntu. And it actually does not have any larger user base in Germany. I would estimate the relation of Ubuntu:Fedora here to 1:12 or so.  Fedora here totally has lost the popularity contest. It also stated it never wanted to win this as far as I remember. I have not used it for a while. So I can not judge on how stable or well crafted it is right now. At the pint where I left Fedora it had been technically ahead of all other Distros.

What I see is that it seems the users have got more grip on the directions of Fedora and that’s a healthy development.

What is the future of Linux and Linux distributions? I do not see much innovation that excites me. Most of the interesting stuff is happening inside he applications. And it seems the more they are independent from a major desktop the larger the user base is. Thats not the whole point of development for sure. I can also understand the OpenBSD approach and like it very much. But OpenBSD in effect does what its users want – or many of its users are also core developers or at least have the same interests.

In Linux distributions it seems there are two kinds of distributions:

  1. Those who are supported by larger companies and that exist as a door opener for services and other products (Ubuntu, Fedora,…)
  2. Distributions who are driven by the community and the excitement about software  (Debian, Arch Linux)

Although Ubuntu has claimed as being a Linux for “human beings” it has not proven to be easy to install and use. Especially those major changes in GUI design that Mark seems to have forced personally (?) have been fatal. And I would switch tomorrow. The obvious commercialisation an weaknesses on free software usage has also been mentioned by many users as being a reason to consider switching or for having switched already. Many have already switched. Many have switched to Grandma Debian. And for good reasons. But Debian has been very slow and unpredictable in its development phases in the past.

On April 29th a new Long Term Support Ubuntu has been released. I have not been too excited about it for the above reasons. Ubuntu is destroying most of its reputation and popularity right now. It still has a lot of momentum, but that is only because all other distros still do worse.

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Fedora Community

Max Spevack hold a talk about the Fedora Community on 2009 FOSDEM. Which I suggest you listen first before reading on:

Essentially I think Max grabbed the “Community” at the wrong handle. He elaborated a lot about how Red Hat and Fedora  work together and ow they enable people to build uppon the tools that Fedora has invented. Thats all very nice, especially for Red hat. In the last years Fedora often has stated that they do not interfere at all with Ubuntu. This always comes up when people compare the popular success of Fedora to Ubuntu.

Fedora is very developer centric. What Fedora is missing some warmth – some more “family” feeling. Do people feel comfortable? Fedora is also a big testbed for Red Hat – it can look what technologies work or are popular – and which are not. That makes Fedora often bleeding edge – more than a general user might often want. Also the support cycle is much shorter than on Ubuntu. So Fedora is not really a distro you would want to plant on your organisations desktops or servers. You will be forced to update quite often. Fedora moves fast. But thats getting offtopic from the community.

Fact is that trough the developer centricity leads to make the barrier for non-developers harder. One thing is what I already have pointed out in another post is the fact that even when editing the wiki you will have to sign some papers.

My view is that it is very important that the connection between general users and developers is open and flowing. Fedoras style is more a either you are a part of us or you are not.

On April 23rd I will organize my first Ubuntu  Release Party in my hometown. Why not for Fedora? Because essentially also on marketing Fedora INVENTED barriers and  created the Ambassador program, which I interpret as a means to professionalise the marketing efforts. And to make sure that people talk about the right things.

The problem here is that this turns of a lot of general users who are totally capable to talk about Fedora and show people how cool it is and what to do with it. Fedoras problem is that technically it is slightly ahead – but not years, but rather months – and that this alone does not attract people.

From all the talk I can not really see to what audience Fedora is talking. I would say Fedora is for people who want a fairly new Linux as a build platform and do live and like the Red Hat/ Fedora world. So you can use Fedora to develop an application that will work on future versions of Red Hat. Fedora also contributes a lot upstream and so allows work to be transfered outside Red Hat and Fedora.

So in the end that makes Fedora not very attractive neither for general users nor for company desktops – besides being the testbed for Red Hat. Fedora does not seem to have an autonomous agenda and depends highly on Red Hats decision. it does not make much sense for self-employed Linux folks to base their installments on Fedora nor does it make sense for the typical grandpa.

Some people at Fedora might agree and would define Community as this: Developer Community. The problem is that this also means that general users will not participate as whole heartedly as they do (for example at Ubuntu). And to make it clear: Thats a concious decision of Fedora – everything from development, contribution to marketing is organized in a hierarchical way that DOES allow everybody to start contributing but in fact turns a lot of people of.

In my hometown I have not met one guy who uses Fedora. Many early Linux users did use SuSE – and if they were dissatisfied they switched to Ubuntu – and then there is the Debian, Gentoo and FreeBSD crowd. This means nobody ever sees Fedora, this means nobody ever sees Red Hat. If this is a concious business model it is not working here.

What is Fedora missing? I think as a start it should be encouraged to talk about fedora even if you are not an official Fedora Ambassador. Give people something to work with, encourage them to make  Fedora their own. I also had the experience that nobody was willing to give a speak about Fedora at our local Linux conference – actually nobody even answered my plea. But it should be the other way around. Fedora Ambassadors should go out actively and seek for the possibility to show Fedora. And here is also the problem – if only Ambassadors do it, Fedora will be shown in fewer places.

So I think the whole Fedora eco system has a problem and thats why Ubuntu is so much ahead in popularity. And I dont believe you guys that you wouldnt love it if people would adopt  Fedora as much. Technically Fedora is much better than ubuntu, its the better product – but you very miuch have given up the popularity contest, which is sad. Even OpenSuse is doing more in this regard and it shows slowly.

I dont know who does the strategies at Fedora. And maybe you guys are satisfied with the status. But what I think is that in the longterm Fedora will be marginalized, especially when OpenSuse as another RPM based distribution is gaining more ground.

Thats it for now.

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Fedora: Open up your documentation!

It is now three years ago that I said my final Good Bye to Fedora. One of the main reasons was the usage of the Open Publication License, which is not recommended any more by its creators.

Fedora decided not to use GFDL or Creative Commons because like they describe in their Fedora Documentation Licensing FAQ:

The legal counsel for the Fedora Project carefully examined all of the well-known content licenses, and concluded that only the OPL met all of the criteria for an unambiguous and enforceable license that would guarantee the freedoms of contributors and users.

Actually I think the main reason was and is, that Red Hats own license has been the OPL also. That does not mean that this would be necessary a bad idea. But I like to call the Fedora people to free their licenses because of the follwing reasons:

  1. It is not possible to import any content from Wikipedia, GFDL documentations or Creative Commons content into Fedora documentation.
  2. It is also not possible to export Fedora documentation to other projects.

In practice that means that the freedom of the content and the contributors is very limited. The license effectively means that Fedora lives on the island and only can share data with its neighbour Red Hat. If you see how much efforts have gone into making Wikipedia compatible with CC licenses you see that many smart people do nearly everything to open the gates to let content flow freely. At the same time Red Hat and Fedora have decided essentially to not share anything.

This is license fundamentalism. Their view is from the perspective of what is good for Fedora (to protect the contributions). But the better view would be what would be good for the whole community. Documentation can be a common good, just like software. If  Linux software chose one license GPL to license most of the stuff this was due to recognition that it would be stupid if every distribution would use a license, only they themselves use. But this is the very situation in Fedora. But also Fedora chose to be incompatible with the other documentations they are inheriting from upstream. So like GNOME documentation is licensed as GFDL. Fedora can not use phrases used there to describe software behaviour but would have to write it all from scratch.

As far as I have seen no orher distribution has been going that path. There are already a lot of incompatible licenses in the open source sphere and also beyond that. We have to deal with that. Fedoras step is not helpful for the community at large. It may help some managers at Red Hat feel more comfortable with the Fedora project, but I would rate this decision as stupid and harmful. There is only one good thing which I considered a bad thing in the past: As all contributors now have to accept a CLA it allows Fedora to ignore the licenses the contributors made their contributions and to relicense all the stuff. They can not take aways the licensing of what was already contributed – but they can decide to:

  1. Take all OPL stuff of the net and
  2. replace it with the same content and a new license

This license could even be more restrictive. In the past it was acknowledged that Red Hat could do that, but that they would not do it, because the community would not like it and that we can trust Red Hat. From my viewpoint licenses are there, because you do not trust an entity – you want to make sure that what you contribute stays free. In Fedoras case freedom only means that your past contributions are still free if they are still online somewhere, because somebody mirrored it. If not your contributions were free under OPL and next day they can only be available under restrictive licenses or if people pay money to be able to read it. And you have signed the CLA and can not do anything about it. The positive side is that Fedora can relicense all stuff under GFDL or a Creative Commons license immediately. As they stated in the past the CLA was there “so that we do not have to go through the same thing again” (or so). I am positive that they will do that finally. There is no alternative. The current movement is trying to streamline licenses and to avoid unnecessary incompatibilities. Fedora has taken its time and I think its now the time to reconsider the licensing policy and also to restrict the power of the CLA. I know some other project give an entity also non-exclusive rights. But most projects do not – and also the question is if the contributions are made to one single piece of software like Apache or if they go into a complex product or service like Fedora, whereas 99% of all parts of Fedora come from a third party. So the CLA is more like a method to keep contributions inside Fedora and against competition from CentOS or Ubuntu. But this is essentially against the core spirit of Open Source and Free Culture.

So come on guys Free Your Documents !! 🙂

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It’s final: Good bye Fedora!

As things will not change in Fedora and my arguments were not accepted by the Meritocrats of Fedora my decision is final that I will longer promote the use of Fedora or install it on my customers computers. It took me a long time to make this final decision – The final decision came with a talk with a customer of mine, where I was not convinced enough to tell him that he should install Fedora. I hate to make this cut but I see no other choice because the basic of my choice are the possibilty to contribute to a free software project. If this is not possible I rather choose another. This is because if I can not contribute I can not influence the direction. And then I can not work in my customers interest. I hate to do this cut because I was quite satisfied with the technical aspects. I fee a bit like I left MacOS /Apple 1998 where I also felt that it had some nice points but that it was not based on Unix, was not build for cheap i386 platform and was not free. Things have changed and Apple made some things better than they were 1998 (well I think the GUI was better back then, than nowadays). So I guess this mean that some time next year I will have to make a complete backup of my new 160 GB disk or buy a new one. What to put on than? I am thining about these choices:

  • Ubuntu or Mint (Ubuntu clone)
  • OpenSuse
  • Freespire
  • rPath

Umm, anybody wants to comment on one or all of these options? (No, I am not going to take Gentoo, FreeBSD, Debian or Mandriva into account) Would be happy to hear some new arguments. What I find interesting is rPath – somebody had mentioned that for creating live cds. I think their concepts sound interesting. This distributed thingy that also Mercurial does has large potential. I think this “RELEASE” thing is rather outdated. You see this with Debian: Some seem really to use Debian stable. But really who is so silly to use GNOME 2.8? So the directions is clear – that users want a mix of modernity and stability. Best is if they can choose – They might want the most stable Apache web server but the latest Evolution mailer. Every user or organisation has its own profile. And rather than having a dozen distros the user should be able to mix like he wants without having to switch.

What else is important? I want a distro where there is room for engagement and where I can go and promote this distro without having to fear to be sued because I am not an “official” represantative or without being able to contribute without signing a CLA.

I use Linux because I want freedom – and I rather like distros telling me: You want that – do it – we look at it and if its good we thankfully take your contribution – no agreements – no buzzwords – just community and understanding. This might make some lawyers unemployed but i am noit using Linux to make THEM happy. As Creative Commons states: “This is how you skip the intermediaries” – free licenses should be really about THAT not having lawyers hanging around to be asked,…(argh)

Those who know me a little know that I really was kind of an unofficial Fedora advovate – but there is no going back because I have tried multiple times but meritocracy works differently. In a meritocracy you have to show your commitment and it gives those power and only listens to those who have earned a reputation in a defined community. Thats’s my impression – arguments are not counting much – reputation does a lot. Unfortunately meritocracy is a very popular concept in free software. I am not saying that it is not ok if good people make good decisions, but I think that one should always try to make a community where one strives equalness of all users – where only some do more or decide more – but not because they are “leaders”, but because someone needs to decide and to make this democratic is not more just than if somebody tries to collect a rough consensus in order to move forward. I think “leadership” is the wrong way, because this leads people to become followers and not getting active. A good community activates its members and also outsiders. The problem with leadership is that if only few people have to decide they have a lot of power that can be either abused – or – if they get ill or do something different a whole projects can be in danger. You can see this all over projects, also in democratic ones like Debian, because they elect leaders and those then have these powers – or they get bought by Ubuntu ;).

That’s it for now.
Thilo

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Frustrated about Fedora policies

I am dissapointed and angry about the move of fedoraproject.org Wiki to the OPL license. OPL is Open Public License – a license that the creators do not use and instead indicate using CC licenses. What angers me the most is that Fedora started as being a “community” effort. But right now it looks more and more as if Red Hat is just interested in those who are willing to follow their rule. The whole licensing change was not discussed in public. But the result was that people like me (I have translated parts of the home page and general stuff) where locked out and had to sign a CLA. In my eyes it also looks like they are trying to kill the wiki. I don’t say that a wiki needs no control at all, but freedom is very important. It is the spontaneous visitors who often do some quick changes (typos, etc.) and it helps to involve people.

Karsten Wade made it very clear what he thinks about community processes: “To be clear, the OPL change to the Wiki is not what is up to vote.” For me that absolutely makes clear (if you also look at name and logo process) that Fedora is everything but a community distribution. We end up being there to help Red Hat selling there stuff or developing better software. I am not here to do this. I do many things for communities, but I want to be able to influence and discuss things. If there is a “not up for discussion” – this is the end of my involvement. I feel a bit abused by Fedora. I liked the quality of the software and also thought they really want to make it a community process. I am not against businesses trying to make money, but do not abuse the community! If you do that you can make the work by your own if it comes to my involvement. So Vinci is now looking for a new distribution which is

  1. not owned by a company
  2. actually is able to deliver new software
  3. takes freedom of software and documentation as something valuable
  4. and has an active community

To me that sounds like Debian again. But I must say from technical perspective I have used Debian for years and I really do not want to wait 3 years for new releases any more. Gentoo? I also did use that but I did not want to compile all the time. my god there are more than 350 distros, there must be at least one that fits my views? The thing is: I am planning to leave Fedora not for any technical reason as all other distros I had used before.

Any suggestions?

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