Short-Term Pragmatism Isn't

by chromatic

The Linspire Linux distribution gets a lot of attention for its so-called pragmatic view on device drivers. The idea seems to be that making an easy-to-install and easy-to-use Linux distribution and getting many people to use it will be good for Linux and open source and free software.

I do agree that the more people who use free software, the greater the argument for hardware manufacturers to provide drivers.

However, Linspire's approach is a mistake, at least in part.


2006-05-11 18:56:42
Linspire speaks with forked tongue anyway. They badmouth other distributions, call Linux without all their closed proprietary junk "unusable", give phony numbers about desktop Linux uptake, dismiss supporting Free Software as "idealism", and they even had Rob Enderle keynote the Desktop Linux Summit. That last alone speaks volumes. Fooey on Linspire and a pox on their forked-tongue CEO.
Lyz Krumbach
2006-05-13 06:04:40
I had to think about this for a bit, and I'm leaning toward agreeing, even if I still believe Linspire has made a positive influence in Linux world as a symbol of accessible Linux - people in my family have actually asked me about "Lindows" and if it's a good option, I never saw that with any other distro.

However, I don't know how close to "educating" the users about drivers can go before you scare them off. As soon as I mention something as technical as drivers to anyone in my family they throw up their hands and say "just tell me where to click to go to email!" and I believe this is the target market for Linspire.

The educating would have to be some candy coated list of practical reasons for using open source that stears clear of the technical words, presented in a way that would not put them to sleep, and on some medium that they pay attention to. I don't have any suggestions.

2006-05-15 15:53:14
Lyz, that's a really difficult question. I know how my mother would react to discovering that she can't watch video from her favorite news site with the default installation of a desktop Linux system but she can with the default installation of Mac OS X. Not everyone appreciates the philosophical issue as much as a techie who has bad experiences with proprietary software.

Perhaps I would feel more comfortable with Linspire if I had the impression that the company had plans to use its marketshare to approach hardware vendors to ask for truly open drivers.

2006-05-30 06:46:34
gcc and friends are not installed by default on Linspire. you have to go to the click-and-run shop and pull them (free of course).

Linspire operates in a user universe where the users definition of a computer is "a screen, keyboard and mouse". e.g. when I asked my mom to bring her computer over to my house for me to upgrade her disk she came over with the monitor, keyboard and mouse. i had to explain to her that the computer is the beige box under the desk (i.e. the bit she had to "unplug her computer from").

so the idea that you would "educating the user about open drivers" is like saying that you are going to educate the average man in the street about relativistic angular momentum. a very noble idea but a totally ridiculous one.

Linux uptake on the mass market desktop has been very slow and good luck to Linspire for taking up the challenge. folks should cut them some slack taking the line of least resistance on some fronts - particularly when they are staffing the call centres talking to none technical users that are having driver problems. their users are less likely to look up there own solution and are likely to the call centre and run up a support bill.

its up to the rest of us to make the open drivers a "no brainer" rock solid option for Linspire or however to adopt.

2006-06-12 13:56:35
Thanks for the response, anon.

I still think it must be possible to explain some of the drawbacks of binary blobs and the benefits of openness in a way that makes sense to average users who've never had to consider such things before. My parents both understand to some degree, for example.

You are quite correct that improving driver support to make this unnecessary is at least as important, though. They're complementary tasks to the goal of a completely free, usable system.