Adventures In Computing

September 5, 2008

Mark Shuttleworth Having Cold Feet?

Filed under: Gates, Linux, Seinfeld, Shuttleworth, Ubuntu, Windows — Normand Bissonnette @ 6:08 pm

While surfing the net I read this article from The Register which states that Mark Shuttleworth is “nervous of encouraging people to substitute Windows for Linux”.  My first impression was What?  Why?  Must be a typo or he must have been misquoted.  I hope so, because if the main financial contributor behind Ubuntu does not believe in it, how should we the end users feel?  If Bill Gates did not believe in Windows he would not have made that silly commercial with Jerry Seinfeld.

Maybe it is just a ploy to get the developers to work harder at getting the Ubuntu Desktop as good as possible.  I just don’t know.



  1. It has been my experience that most people don’t want to learn, especially about computers. Many of these people believe that the computer is this complicated magical device that they can’t possibly understand. I’ve met many people who can’t tell you that they use Windows and Microsoft word, they know what they press the icon they recognize and type in the box. I’ve also met people that “have never used the internet” they “only use AOL”. They recognize the icon and aren’t interested in trying anything different.

    I believe Ubuntu is great for many people, but its not for everyone.

    Comment by Asa — September 5, 2008 @ 7:33 pm

  2. Linux can be a good substitute for Windows, depending on the user’s computing needs and level of open-mindedness, but I understand Mark Shuttleworth’s hesitation about encouraging people to substitute Windows for Linux.

    1. There are too many demographics for whom Linux cannot be a drop-in replacement for Windows.

    2. Sometimes people need to find things on their own instead of being encouraged to change. When you evangelize, you sometimes turn people off to whatever you’re trying to convert them to.

    3. If you want a flawless Linux installation, you buy it preinstalled or you become a Linux geek to figure out the installation on your own… or you just hope you’re lucky.

    Some people don’t have any of those options available to them, and one bad experience trying to install and configure Linux themselves will turn them off forever. A bad experience with Windows, however, will probably not turn them off Windows, as it’s “the devil they know.”

    Comment by A.Y. Siu — September 5, 2008 @ 8:02 pm

  3. I fully understand him. I love working in linux, too, but I’m always nervous when I recommend it to a friend; there are *always* problems with a linux installation. Most of them minor annoyances… and these are the very things that drive most users off… It’s not the brand new stuff with no support that makes people not want linux – in fact, what bugs most of my friends about linux is the shear number of hacks and tech stuff one has to know to have a fully functional linux box..

    Ubuntu makes things easier, but not as “flawless” as windows. And most users don’t think stability, they think ease of use and config.

    Comment by António Pedro — September 6, 2008 @ 1:02 am

  4. You can believe in Ubuntu, and still recognize that Ubuntu isn’t finished. Windows is more than window manager and an internet browser. Everyone has pet applications that don’t have good alternatives in Ubuntu, and migrating an entire company away from windows isn’t the same as the switch from CRTs to LCDs.

    And the quote at least, suggests that changing something like the operating system is a good time to revisit the entire infrastructure. When Australian home builders had to move to Metric from English Standard units, they could have chosen to standardize on centimeters rather than millimeters to replace the inches measurement. But they chose millimeters to reduce wasted materials, when a board needed to be such and such length and they have to cut a bigger one to get it.

    Thats the context of the quote. Trying the “Foldgers Switch” on operating systems doesn’t work, but if you want to examine your diet, maybe switching to decaf makes sense.

    Comment by jldugger — September 6, 2008 @ 1:47 am

  5. It’s been obvious from Shuttleworth’s (and, by extension, Ubuntu’s) long-standing attitude towards linux and Free software in general that ‘openness’ and ‘freedom’ are not their priorities [0]. This is absolutely fine, just as it was fine for the OLPC project to have their much-publicised U-turn from a Fedora-based OS to Windows XP; just don’t confuse Ubuntu with a real linux distribution any more than you would confuse Nicolas Negroponte with Richard Stallman. Mark Shuttleworth’s stated goal is getting computing to the masses, and he, like Negroponte (who also wanted to achieve this goal) may be becoming frustrated with some of Linux’s short-comings compared to a traditional corporate software project (remember that the latter is his technical background) – in fact, he most definitely is to judge by his comments about the funding of SchoolTool [1].

    Of course, traditional corporate software has its own pitfalls, but until both Negroponte and Shuttleworth have tried their hand at achieving their visions through both then they can’t really make a fair comparison, and it’s the Free software community’s good luck that both men chose Linux as their first port of call. I do hope that both project are using a Linux-based system 5 years into the future, but if they aren’t I don’t think it will reflect a change on their part, and it may perhaps be for the best. Ubuntu particularly is being pulled in all sorts of directions, from being a solid server OS, to a Free software flagship (gNewSense), to a dead simple OS that can be installed by default on free computers that you get with some mobile broadband deals here in the UK, to a desktop system that tries to pander both to ‘grandma’ and to teenage windows ‘power user’ nerds (of which I have been one for a few years). Other distributions have clear, defined goals (to a greater or lesser extent), and perhaps the whole point of Free software is that everyone *shouldn’t* be using the same OS or distro, because everyone is not the same, and everyone does not want the same thing. I personally think that almost anyone I know would be better-off on some form of Linux, but they’re free to disagree, and I certainly wouldn’t recommend Ubuntu to all of them.

    Sorry for the essay, but I really think this shouldn’t be viewed as a ‘stab in the back’.


    [0] See the lack of upstream for UME, closed-source launchpad, binary drivers by default, comments on Ubuntu-EEE front page and the popularity of Automatix amongst Ubuntu users.

    Comment by Carl van Tonder — September 6, 2008 @ 11:03 am

  6. […] within two years (see Information Week article, see Mark Shuttleworth blog), he proves to us that he doesn’t have cold feet.  He has decided not to thread in the kiddies pool, instead he is jumping in with both feet in […]

    Pingback by Shuttleworth: Ubuntu As Pretty As Apple In Two Years « Adventures In Computing — September 12, 2008 @ 5:06 pm

  7. Hi! I was surfing and found your blog post… nice! I love your blog. 🙂 Cheers! Sandra. R.

    Comment by sandrar — September 10, 2009 @ 8:59 am

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