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The Joy of Linux Myth Debunking

The Joy of Linux Myth Debunking

It was with much joy that the Linux community saw two harmful myths about open source get put in their places recently. Myth #1: Linux is bad for business. Linux Foundation: More than 70 percent of work on the kernel today is done by developers who are being paid for their efforts. Myth #2: Linux netbooks have a high rate of customer returns. Dell: No more so than Windows netbooks.

By Katherine Noyes LinuxInsider ECT News Network
08/24/09 4:00 AM PT

Debunking long-held myths is always a gratifying exercise, but never is that more true than when said myths have done our favorite operating system harm.

It was with great glee, then, that Linux Girl came across not one but two myth-debunking conversations on the blogs in recent days.

A recent report from the Linux Foundation, for example, showed conclusively once and for all that the image of kernel hackers as basement-dwelling nerds who still live with their parents is just plain false.

'It Is Good for Business'

In fact, more than 70 percent of work on the kernel today is done by developers who are being paid for their efforts, the report found.

"I hope this finally kills off the 'GPL is bad for business' myth," wrote chrb on Slashdot, where more than 250 comments greeted the findings. "Every one of those companies is paying for work on the kernel because it is good for their business. Red Hat, IBM, Novell, etc. aren't charities -- they sponsor Linux development because it expands their markets and brings in profits."

The findings ring true, Chris Travers, a Slashdot blogger who works on the LedgerSMB project, told LinuxInsider.

"Every FOSS developer I have known has been a professional programmer," he said.

'A Staple of Anti-Linux FUD'

Others cheered the news for other reasons.

"Painting Linux devs as a bunch of amateurs who are accountable to no one has been a staple of anti-Linux FUD campaigns for years," Montreal consultant and Slashdot blogger Gerhard Mack added. "It's nice to have a quick means of refuting that form of misinformation."

Speaking of hackers, we were distressed to see reports last week that the noted Ruby hacker "why the lucky stiff" -- more commonly known as "_why" -- has apparently disappeared from the Internet without a trace!

If any readers learn more about the situation, we'd love to hear from you in the comments.

Netbook Returns a 'Non-Issue'

Meanwhile, on to myth-debunking No. 2, which is perhaps even more gratifying than No. 1 was.

Specifically, after months of claims that Linux netbooks get returned far more often than Windows ones do -- claims that were reiterated just recently by Microsoft COO Kevin Turner in a speech at Microsoft's annual financial analysts' meeting -- Dell came out and said that it just isn't true.

In fact, Linux returns are about the same as those for Windows netbooks, Dell senior product marketing manager Todd Finch reportedly said at OpenSource World, according to a report in The Register.

Further, the matter is "non-issue," Finch reportedly said.

'Linux Is Mainstream'

Not only that, but "they are making something of nothing," he said of Microsoft's returns claims.

YESSSSSSSSSSS!! The resounding shouts of joy could be heard throughout the blogs -- DesktopLinux, Slashdot, LXer and Digg, to name just a few.

"People keep trying to explain what has become now pretty obvious: Linux is mainstream," wrote jotaeleemeese on Slashdot, for example. "It is high time companies and people interested in computing wake up to this simple reality."

'Nice of Dell'

It wouldn't have been entirely surprising if Microsoft's claims were true "simply due to user expectations," but "it is interesting at least for Dell that they aren't," Travers said. "This suggests once again that Linux is competitive on the netbook and is a valid option, despite Microsoft's attempts to suggest otherwise."

Indeed, "it's nice of Dell to set the record straight, even if it probably means annoying one of their largest suppliers," Mack told LinuxInsider.

Some distros might have higher returns due to bad marketing or inadequate product testing, Travers pointed out, but "this isn't an issue confined to Linux.

"A couple years ago I bought my wife a laptop with Vista, and it just didn't work right until I got a recent version of Fedora installed," he recalled. "My wife was ready to return the thing before I made the switch for her. So similar problems can affect Windows as well."

Hidden by Design

Dell may have fewer problems with Linux netbooks than other retailers do because "it is pretty much impossible to accidentally get Linux at Dell," Slashdot blogger hairyfeet told LinuxInsider.

"If you don't specifically know what Linux is and go out of your way to find it at Dell, you simply will never run into it," hairyfeet explained. "Is it on the front page? Nope, not there. First page for netbooks? Nope, not there either. In fact, you'll navigate a maze of 'recommends Windows xx' before you come across the Linux offerings."

Dell is smart to use such a strategy, hairyfeet asserted: "This cuts down on returns, since only someone who knows what Linux is AND wants it will actually buy Linux from Dell."

'Network of Shills'

Then again, it's also difficult to overstate Microsoft's marketing prowess.

"The hard part in competing with a monopoly is the scale of lies," blogger Robert Pogson told LinuxInsider. "If a lie is told often enough, or if it is a big enough lie, people believe it."

Microsoft runs a "network of shills" that spreads "outrageous lies that that other OS is faster, better, smoother, 'more intuitive' and more reliable," Pogson asserted. "They will show huge uptake of M$'s products induced by payoffs and claim folks are choosing a superior product. They will show stock not sold as sales while hiding prices by bundling."

'Just a Hair on the Camel of Lies'

Regarding netbooks, "killing the true netbook by persuading OEMs to upsell and spreading FUD about returns is just a hair on the camel of lies that M$ induces on a scale usually only seen coming from ministries of propaganda in totalitarian regimes," Pogson added.

"M$ has no monopoly on truth," he concluded. "The netbook was the largest and most successful advertising campaign that GNU/Linux ever had, with many millions of users and all their associates realizing that there is another way to do things and that lies are lies even when widely believed."


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