Ubootnu versus the neck beards.

Late last night saw an effective end to what I’m calling “the neck beard incursion”. It started last Saturday with a rather unfortunate post on the popular site OMGUbuntu.co.uk, and ended amicably with the author’s apology.

At least I hope it has.

The last thing I want to do is stir up more bad feelings, but I actually left a comment or two on the infamous neckbeard post, and I want to reiterate what I wrote to the Linux community at large.

If you didn’t know, there has been a growing wave of discontent with Canonical. the company behind the Ubuntu Linux Distribution — first for ignoring the requests of its users, and more recently for the revelation of their lacking contributions to upstream GNOME development. But lately I’m starting to wonder if there is as much anger towards Ubuntu users as Canonical itself.

Exhibit A:

Prior to the neck beard incursion I unknowingly started a bit of a shitstorm on Identi.ca, for cross-posting a link to both the Linux and Ubuntu groups there. I’ll take all the blame for not getting that posting to such a group is much more of an intrusion than simply hashtagging it, as is the convention on Twitter. Again, my apologies for that.

But the amount and ferocity of anti-Ubuntu venom that resulted took me by surprise. You can read it for yourself here.

You could chalk up that exchange to semantics, as I did. But there’s more…

Exhibits B, C and D:

Read this, this & this and you’ll hopefully see where I’m coming from with my hypothesis. Sure, two of the three directly relate to me (maybe they all do) but I can’t shake the feeling that I’ve heard the term “Ubootnu” before, and not in a good way…

Oh, if you’re here for the first time I should state the obvious and point out that I’m currently an Ubuntu user — I’ve been distro-hopping on a couple of netbooks since 2009 but only went Linux full-time this past April. Thanks to some very kind and generous folks I’ve learned a lot in a very short period of time, but I also understand that there’s still boatloads that I don’t know.

Apart from MeeGo on my netbook and Debian on a borrowed phone (!) I don’t have much in the way of experience with non-Ubuntu-based distributions. The distros I use — Easy Peasy and Linux Mint — make it a trivial matter to install proprietary blobs like video codecs and Adobe Flash. I knowingly use these things, but have only the utmost respect for those who adhere to higher standards of FLOSS on their own machines.

Short answer: I’m here for the free ride, but I also want to learn.

Calling me a n00b is fine (it’s all relative anyway, isn’t it?) but does using Ubuntu condemn me to the eternal scorn of the rest of the Linux community? Does the same meritocracy of coding apply also to general computer usage?

Except for the examples cited above my experience thus far would suggest otherwise — again, I’m grateful for that. And I don’t mean to diminish anyone’s accomplishments in the days before widespread live CDs; I just think it would a shame to scare away users who at least recognize that there are other, better choices for a desktop operating system than Windows or OS X.

I guess what I’m trying to say here is that there are many levels of commitment and expertise in Linuxdom, and all should be respected so that there may be peace across the land. For what it’s worth I always preferred the more complimentary “freedom beard” anyway…

P.S. If Ubootnu users are really on the outs please tell me which distro to switch to so I can be one of the cool kids… Please?


  1. Enough of this Linux Al-Qaidaism! Now I am responding to all the nonsensical vituperations that we suffer just for using a *different* distro that does not require us to read our newspapers via the terminal!

  2. I think the reason why people on identi.ca get so worked up is because in some ways people equate the !linux group with the !ubuntu group.

    Having said that, I’d never call anyone a noob. For starters, I used to use Ubuntu until I got fed up of their patching. Also, I don’t like the elitism assoicated with that sort of behaviour.

  3. This isn’t new with Ubuntu – it has ever been thus: Ubuntu, Fedora/Red Hat, SuSe, debian, Mandrake/Mandriva, Gentoo, Slackware, Caldera, and all the rest. Every distro has had its “cool kidz booster club/purification squad” as well as its committed detractors, and it will probably always be so. And, frankly, it’s not much different than the Windows vs. Mac wars, but without the advertising budget. We just have smaller, more closely aligned communities, and small conflicts (like figuring out the difference between !groups and #tags on identi.ca) get quickly ratcheted up to Global Thermonuclear War status in the insular Linux media outlets.

    My advice: figure out what works best for you now, don’t be afraid to try something different tomorrow, take your lumps when you make a mistake, and try to model tolerance and forbearance when dealing with others’ errors or intolerance.

  4. Let me get this straight. They went postal over a simple mix-up between “Linux” and “Ubuntu,” and chewed your head off instead of politely pointing out the mistake.

    Yep! That’s a typical advanced Linux user! :)

  5. after all those comments in the identi.ca thread and you STILL don’t see what they’re saying? Labeling a blog post for Ubuntu is a GREAT way to get hits…but passing off programs as being ONLY for Ubuntu when you label your blog posts as such is a GREAT way to piss people off.

    See, if a new user who knew next to nothing about Linux stopped by your blog on a post that was say “3 great photo editors for Ubuntu Linux” they might get the idea that those photo editors are ONLY for Ubuntu.

    I’ve had countless numbers of people who tried out the distribution I help develop on and they ask me “can I install the Ubuntu application Gwibber in this?” It’s infuriating because it negates the amount of work I’ve done and the amount of work the Gwibber guys have done to make sure things don’t just work in Ubuntu but in all distributions.

    The people in the identi.ca thread were right on…programs that don’t differentiate where they can be installed should be shown as such.

  6. I get that, but such detail is probably not going happen in 140-character tweets and dents, for obvious reasons.

    I can and will show more respect towards the Linux group on Identi.ca, though. And in future posts I’ll make a more concerted effort to point out compatibility with other distros.

    Just for the record, I’m not in this for “hits”. Kindly note that:

    1. There’s no advertising on this site;
    2. My reasons for writing about FLOSS are more altruistic than people might think.

  7. More like Arch with Awesome wm. That’s the way to go, and they let you have firefox even though they require you use their icon.

  8. I’m sure this is either besides the point or then it’s too obvious to be worth writing about but I’ll forgive myself for wasting minute or two of your time, so here we go…

    All of these people who hiss when you make a comment that could be interpreted the wrong way are enthusiast of some sort. It’s in essence a good thing, just means that they are into something and are dedicated. Linux or any of the FLOSS projects wouldn’t have ever caught on, if there weren’t these people who see that it’s worth their time to tell you about this (great) thing they know, or in this case correct your statement about this (great) thing they know. It’s actually essential for any successful product or even ideology to have these people. They are often the ones that first tell you about things and the ones that sell it.

    The problem occurs when they are too eager. At that point they might scare you off from this (great) thing that you just have found. At that point something what was good willed enthusiasm has become fanboism / purism / fundamentalism in the bad sense. Thank heavens, in Linux and FLOSS community these people are often also experts. My personal view is that this is actually pretty acceptable. In my eyes they don’t make fools of them selves, partly because they have the credit that they have got from developing or creating the project in first place. You can’t blame a Linux kernel programmer if he or she feels a bit strongly about naming issues like Linux vs. GNU/Linux.

    On the other hand, if you look at other more popular turf wars, like the Win vs. Mac that you mentioned, there you can see more often people that make clearly false statements in their blaze of fanboism. I don’t find this side of fanboism as acceptable. They make fools of them selves, or then they are trolls, it’s not always so clear. I’ll have to admit that there are also some of those in the FLOSS world too, but because it’s so far more expert orientated, these clearly false statements are more rare. Of course, if Linux became more popular it’s not a surprise if there will be more “idiots” making comments.

    Anyways, in conclusion, everyone has been at that point where they new to something. Then they might become experts. Being a fanboi at the stage when you are new makes you more likely (depending on your temper) to seem like like a total moron. When you are an expert being an idiot in social skills (i.e. starting petty flamewars) is more acceptable. The good thing is that the silent majority of people, both n00bs and experts, are the kind that won’t give you hard time when you say “Ubuntu program”, either because they want to understand what you are trying to say, or are just too lazy or nice to correct you.

    And really, if it’s a brainfart, I might feel annoyed when people point out something I in reality do know, but still it’s good that you do point it out. If I actually have understood something wrong, please correct me, I appreciate that. But if I make a statement that can be interpreted the way I clearly meant it, or the other way, try to understand it the way I meant it instead of excess whining.

  9. I’m 64, like being in a slow cab with a fast meter. Vista was a bona fide time-eater. It made me see the light. I looked at Macs but as a retiree, too expensive. Then I tried Gnome/Mint and Ubuntu7 and the light got brighter.

    It is easier for me to ham-fist a few commands in terminal than to wander around in Window’s registry with a dim light. Back-ups galore and pay the likes of Acronis for the privilege of buying false-security.(Norton waits in the wings to be fed.)

    Unix/GNU/Debian/Linux/Ubuntu is like a centipede, with Ubuntu presently at the head as the face because of its distro. count. This could change as the younger generation gets more savvy and more “demanding.”

    Microsoft divides and conquers. That is what they are really good at, or they’ll do a “buy and squander” bit. Don’t divide and cut-up the centipede for them. It will never have a chance of becoming a millipede. Then it will be able to stomp Microsoft’s butt and Ballmer won’t make another billion.

  10. You wanna be cool? Then make a choice or several and enjoy the freedom. I am from the “tribe” UBUNTU and I love this OS to damn-near fan-boy-ism. Nevertheless I live peacefully amongst anyone using Linux, whatever your favorite distro is. Quit all the bitchin’ and let’s promote LINUX and OPEN-SOURCE together.

  11. This would be a much better post if you took 2-3 paragraphs to explain things rather than linking us to about 10 different stories and expecting us to read them before we read this. blogfail.

  12. Thanks for the feedback. Unfortunately that’s not really my style — I prefer to make liberal use of the time-honoured web tradition of citation, so that some readers won’t be burdened with information that they already know.

    Sorry to disappoint you.

  13. Two points.

    Hatred for Ubuntu comes from 1. Canonical attempting to provide something easier for end users instead of trying to ram as many ideas as they can into the upstream regardless of whether your average joe can figure it out or not and… 2. Just plain jealousy of the publicity that Ubuntu receives. However I do agree that talking about apps or anything Linux related in general as if they are Ubuntu specific simply is not right. Yet its going to happen because many people’s first experience with Linux will be Ubuntu and so everything they see if going seem to be Ubuntu specific and not Linux.

    Second the mudslinging between the experienced and inexperienced goes both ways. Yes some experienced act as if everyone should just learn the command line and forget about GUI’s for example. But then you have the inexperienced crowd that may say things like “normal users don’t care if its using Mono”. Well they will certainly care if it were to cause some patent problems and we end up without any Linux to use at all. And by the same token the experienced guy thats probably a sis admin has to understand that the photographer that likes Linux wants to be able to focus on photography rather than learning a command line. Now thats not to say that neither side ever has valid points either. Some people probably shouldn’t even use a computer and you shouldn’t bend Linux to suit them. And people do need to learn something about what they are using so that you don’t have to tip toe around them to keep them safe. It doesn’t hurt to get a brief understanding of what you do with a command line and how to use it if need be. Just don’t make it so that everyone has to remember command line instructions just to get the simplest of things done. There has to be balance.

  14. I always try to predict what DE will prefer this or that of my friends. And you know, either I’m a very bad prophet, or you have to really try them and see which one will be the best for you.

    (For the protocol: my desktop is Debian, with KDE.)

  15. Doesn’t everyone know people can be jerks on the net?

    If any distribution or project gets out of line, they will be replaced. It’s that simple. It’s not closed crap. This is the good side to, what many call, too many choices.

    Fan boys and the entrenched, really do need to understand that systems need to become better time savers, in all respects. That’s not stupid. It’s not lazy; nor will sane and comprehensive defaults, take away our customization.

    What the world needs, is all the benefits from closed-up systems, and then overwhelming new benefits, to get them over their fear of change.

  16. As an Ubuntu user (and evangelist!), I think it’s appalling the way people look down upon Ubuntu, Canonical, and their users. First, it spouts that whole garbage of ‘we vs. them’ mentality that is SO not what linux is about! Linux is all about openness and sharing. But some people act lick grade-school aged kids, ‘If you’re friends with them, then you’re not my friend!’ It’s just plain stupid.

    Second, regarding Ubuntu not contributing upstream: This is defined by whom? The very people who are griping and complaining? What about the sheer volume of people who know about linux BECAUSE OF Ubuntu? The recognition that there are other viable alternatives to Window and OS X? Usually, from what I’ve read on this ‘subject’ is that Ubuntu doesn’t offer much upstream in the kernel. Well, big friggin’ deal. Neither does a lot of other distros but you don’t see people complaining about them. Why? My guess is because Ubuntu is the ONE distro that is in the public eye. It’s the one that most people see. That is, it’s the ONE distro that most end users go to when branching into linux.

    The whole thing is just sad, stupid, and childish. We are all in this together folks and we need to recognize that we are all on different parts of the journey. Just because someone uses a different OS, doesn’t mean that they are inferior or better than any one else. It just means their different.

  17. I agree 1000%. I am in accounting and am happy to find an OS (ubuntu) that is easy to use and takes me where I want to go. If someone likes using command lines, great. As for me the only time I use the terminal is to copy and paste a command. -Esteban

  18. I occasionally correct people when they do things like call Android a ‘Google OS’ , but I like to do so politely. Basically, what distro you use and whether you use bash or not is none of anyone’s business. Linux is being useful and suiting whatever purposes it’s users have need of.

  19. As a Linux/GNU/MPL/Ubuntu/Whatever developer and user, I came to conclusion that we are all idiots. Racism is a kids play for what we do. We distinct our selves by just couple of different 0 and 1 on the hard disk, which is in our computers, which we use occasionally (compared to our skin color).

    Can’t you see how pathetic we are? All of us.

  20. This is perfectly normal human behaviour. People like to believe they are “exclusive” or “different” and hence the, in some cases, irrational hatred of Microsoft (and any other large or major organisation). Come down the scale a bit and we have Mac v Windows and now the hatred of Ubuntu (it’s not exclusive enough or too popular – same thing). The internet makes it easier (less dangerous) to be rude. Generally I’ve found most people on these types of forum to be very helpful dealing with my humble attempts to improve my knowledge and use of Ubuntu and this is a small price to pay for an excellent value product.
    Certainly it may scare some people away but the issue of increasing the use of Linux generally will not be determined by these “small” issues.

  21. Heh, I saw that post too, and what happened next. It was sad to see but also to be expected. Commented as well (can’t link to exact comment so I’ll quote):

    “And meanwhile, none of you are getting any work done. I’m about to believe that fragmentation and flames will destroy the open source community in the end.”

    Got six likes that.

    I use Ubuntu because it doesn’t give me headaches and because I need something stable to work with — my job depends on it. Meanwhile I play with every possible other distro on my netbook and in a virtual machine. What kind of distro-hopping snake doesn’t that make me!

    You know, I often wonder whether these trolls actually contribute themselves though. Must be hard to write awesome apps for some obscure distro and seeing it used on Ubuntu or Mint. I’d like to read the articles they write and the bugs they help solve…. I don’t think so.

    Keep on doing what you do. Learn, share and help us all keep FOSS — the best thing computing ever saw — alive and kicking.

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