Though it’s making its debut here on Oa with today’s post this is technically the second installment of my “five questions” series — the first appeared on my previous blog with IntoMobile.com blogger and fellow Canadian Simon Sage.
I should also confess that I’ve a special place in my heart for Mother Africa. I’ve had the good fortune to visit South Africa, Uganda & Egypt, and recommend that everyone who’s able should make a pilgrimage to some part of it in their lifetime — it really is the cradle of civilization.
But enough about me… This is Luqman Saeed, owner & operator of Ghabuntu.com — which I first came across on one of my many early searches for Ubuntu-related things on the web. He’s been an avid supporter of this blog on Facebook and fairly active in the comments as of late, so what kind of host would I be if I didn’t introduce him to you all?
1. Given the name of your blog I’m pretty sure that I know the answer to this, but for the record: which Linux distro are you currently using, on what machine(s) and why?
As is my “open” secret, I am an Ubuntu user. In fact I have always been; I don’t know why but the distro has blown me away. Besides, it works well for me. I think the main reasons I use Ubuntu are twofold: the ease of accessibility to support — just Google your question (and make sure there is the word Ubuntu in it) — and also the African connection in the name.
I am currently running it on An Acer Extensa 4220 (lappy) with 1GB of RAM, 80GB HDD, 2Ghz Intel Celeron Processor. Not a powerful machine by your standards. 😉 … but Linux still makes me get the best out of it.
I do, however, do what I call distro testing as and when I get the chance. I like hopping to DistroWatch and checking some of the distros that I’ve not tried before in their live mode. And to be honest, I have been impressed by some and woefully disappointed by others.
2. How did you first become a Linux user?
Back in 2002-03 or thereabouts I started using computers. But I noticed the software (I didn’t yet know the term “OS”) was agonizingly slow. It took ages to boot up and eons to execute mouse clicks. I just had to make do because after all, everybody else was using it — “it” being Windows…
A couple of years later when I became more familiar with computers I became even more fed up with Windows. Out of frustration, one day I just Googled the query “free alternative operating systems” and the rest is history. The first result on that list was Ubuntu.com, I headed there and even though most of the terms there sounded like gibberish to me at the time, I still went ahead and requested a CD. Hardy was then in beta I think, so I added my name to the list and waited patiently for it to arrive some time later.
It was during that period also that I bought my laptop. So the CD couldn’t have arrived at a better moment. And I have been playing with Linux since then. So roughly I have been a Linux user since 2008 and recently went full-time. No more “Winblows” on my machine. 😀
3. So what moved you to make the jump from user to blogger?
As with every (software) project, there are people who make it, and people who use it. I am a user. I have no formal qualification in IT whatsoever. When I have a problem, I turn to Google or my very good friend from Brazil who also writes on the blog. What I realized was that most of the blogs out there are mostly top-down blogs — that is, the writer is either a coder or programmer and always writes stuff telling the “rest of us” about how to do stuff. Such blogs are in the overwhelming majority.
There are little to no blogs that use the bottom-up approach — that is, a user sending feedback, criticism, views, ideas, praise and more to the developers. Sure you can do all of those in the respective projects’ forums or sites. But I realized that would just be one more bunch of text that would get filed away and possibly lost. So I decided to use my dormant blog for which I had no us, other than the fact that I heard you could create a website easily through something called Blogger.
And Ghabuntu was born. I struggled a lot to come up with that name. I wanted something that could project my identity as an African and at the same time give you an idea upfront about what the blog is about. As a blogger, I am bound by nothing in what I can say as long as to the best of my knowledge it is true and fair. I critique when the situation demands it, praise, defend, bring to the limelight unknown projects or applications, share my small small discoveries and overall, get to learn a great deal from people around the world.
The greatest thing to have come out of this blog however, is the kind of people I’ve been exposed to. I now have some really great friends, as in true friends from almost all the continents of the world. And the best part is, all of them know way more than I do and I get to benefit a great deal from them.
4. What do you see as the biggest challenge for Linux adoption in your part of the world?
The structure of Linux. Let me explain. For instance, after every Ubuntu install I have to do some “sudoing” in and there to get multimedia codecs, install my favorite applications and update my system. All these sound like no big deal until you remember you need to be connected to the net to do all of those. It is a big hurdle you know. Distros like Mint and Lubuntu have a great future here in that light. They hit the ground running with no fuss whatsoever.
Then when I want to install an additional application, I need to be connected to the net, unlike Windows where I just need to get the “.exe” file and be done with. Bandwidth over here is very expensive and thus running such a network-intensive OS can be costly in the long run — that is if you rely on the more popular mobile broadband Internet as I do at home.
Then too we have the Windows piracy cancer. Windows here is at the same price point as Linux. Just ask a friend and you have a copy of XP to 7, free of course, no fuss. And given the dominance of Windows around the world, Linux is already at a disadvantage because its biggest selling point — which is price — has been eroded already. Add to that fact that 9.5 out of 10 don’t know what Linux or Open Source for that matter is and you have a Herculean task at hand.
The big-name Linux vendors are also not helping. Sometimes I really feel disappointed in that all their attention is focused on already-saturated markets in advanced countries when there is a massive potential here for them to dominate. I am yet to see any proactive move by say Red Hat or Canonical here in Africa (barring South Africa where Ubuntu hails from) that is aimed at projecting Linux to the masses here. Windows recently teamed up with the biggest cyber-cafe in Africa to provide users with a security software called Internet Explorer 8 — yeah, you read right! — in a PR stunt that puts M$ in the light of a great “benefactor” to Africa.
5. What would you say Ghabuntu is doing that other blogs about Linux aren’t?
Independent. Yeah, none of the FOSS blogs are owned by any of the distros, but I see Ghabuntu as independent — though I am an Ubuntu user, I have myself chastised it a lot. I have chastised FOSS in general too before. I do not see myself as a dogmatic user but a normal everyday user. I quite remember just two days after I hit a post defending Ubuntu, my friend and co-writer also wrote another post severely but academically chastising the same Ubuntu. For some strange reason, I felt proud to be part of a blog — an underdog but not afraid to have divergent views on the same issue, something that is not taken kindly in the FOSS arena.
If there is one thing that FOSS has more than enough of, it is “fanboy-ic” blogs that do more harm than good to the overall community and projects. Ghabuntu is a FOSS blog in general and Linux in particular, but is not bound to singing FOSS hymns only. 😀