Sony’s Shocking ‘Other OS’ Win and Suspect Distro Popularity Trends

You can’t win them all, as the saying goes, and that apparently includes Linux fans.

To wit: Despite the best hopes of many of us in the community, the man suing Sony over the removal of the “other OS” feature from its PS3 has apparently lost his case.

The bad news is that the man won’t get the money he had requested to compensate for an upgrade to his newly crippled PS3; the good news is that he reportedly wasn’t forced to pay Sony’s legal bill to boot.

Linux bloggers were none too pleased with the news.

‘Completely Ridiculous’

“It’s completely ridiculous,” wrote chaboud on Slashdot, for example. “We already know that going into court is a crapshoot, with somewhat random results, but the one thing that we can be certain of? Having money enough to have a team of attorneys permanently on staff (like Sony) is definitely going to help tug the randomness in your direction.

“How could any court not view this as false advertising?” chaboud wondered. “My guess is that they have fresh Vaios and PS3s (i.e. hookers and blow) to spare.”

Indeed, “the only thing worse than Sony doing this is that I haven’t yet heard of a single legal case where the judge(s) involved seem to be taking it particularly seriously,” agreed jimicus. “I really don’t like the idea of living in a world where a manufacturer can release a product with features X, Y and Z only to remove Z — even from items already sold — at a later date.”

Linux Girl couldn’t have said it better.

‘Completely Meaningless’

Elsewhere in the blogosphere, meanwhile, an interesting discussion has been going on about a report published not long ago about the popularity of the various Linux distros.

Whereas Distrowatch has traditionally kept track of popularity via hits on each distribution’s page on the site, LinuxTrends recently decided to take a different approach. Specifically, it entered the names of the distros into Google’s Insights for Search tool and grabbed images of the resulting graphs.

The result? A pretty different view of who’s “hot” and who’s not; Linux bloggers weren’t sure it was the right one.

“This article has absolutely nothing to do with install base, relative to the rest of the market or otherwise,” complained Anonymous Coward on Slashdot, for example. “It’s solely google trends, and thus completely meaningless.”

‘Not Terribly Encouraging’

They also weren’t convinced that the results “bode well for the future of Linux,” as LinuxTrends suggested.

“I don’t think it does bode well for Linux,” wrote je ne sais quoi. “If you look at statcounter’s usage stats, while Linux has finally made it above the ‘other’ category, growth has essentially stalled. Worldwide, linux has gone from about 0.7% in 2009 to 0.8% in 2010.”

While “that’s going in the right direction, it’s still not terribly encouraging,” je ne sais quoi concluded. “At that rate Linux will never become a mainstream OS.”

It was at that point that Linux Girl realized there was a debate in the offing. She snagged a stool at her favorite blogobar and listened in on the conversation.

‘A Rehash of the Sucks-Rules-O-Meter’

“These stats are completely useless since judging an app by its Google searches is barely related to how popular the distro is,” Montreal consultant and Slashdot blogger Gerhard Mack was saying. “Personally, I tend not to search Google for anything related to my distro unless I either can’t figure something out or something has broken; since both happen rarely, I can’t imagine I contribute much to my favorite distro on Google trends.”

Similarly, “this seems like little more than a glorified rehash of the sucks-rules-o-meter, as it’s apparently based on browser search terms,” Hyperlogos blogger Martin Espinoza agreed. “It’s no surprise to me that the most successful implementation of Linux is Android, which barely seems like Linux to the typical end user, especially in light of the success of the iOS-based devices.

“It turns out that NeXTStep with a candy coating is a lot more operating system than most users actually need on a regular basis, just as a complete Linux system with the kitchen sink, the kitchen and the municipal water plant is more than most users will ever need,” Espinoza added. “It is also rather gratifying to see Debian continue to succeed in the form of Ubuntu.”

‘Miley Cyrus Would Be President’

If Google trends were the deciding factor, “I’m sure Miley Cyrus would be president of the USA by now,” Slashdot blogger hairyfeet opined.

Rather, the more important measure “will be the data Canonical gets in,” hairyfeet added. “I hope the other major distros like Mandriva and RHEL will pick up and follow suit.”

Hard numbers on the number of users are what’s needed, hairyfeet explained, “preferably broken down by country and demographic.”

Then, “developers will be able to point to hard data of how many potential customers they are losing and give these figures to device manufacturers,” he said.

‘I Can Prove That Ubuntu Is Crappier’

Slashdot blogger Barbara Hudson, who goes by “Tom” on the site, was inspired to take the analysis in a different direction.

“Using the same methodology, I can prove that Ubuntu is crappier than all the other distros combined,” Hudson asserted, referring to a series of graphs she created plotting trends in users’ complaints about the various distros.

That is, “by supplying some context, we find that Ubuntu users have an extremely disproportionate amount of problems compared to other popular distros,” Hudson explained.

By way of explaining those results, “people using Ubuntu might tend to be n00bs who picked it because of the hype,” Hudson suggested. “Or maybe the fugly color schemes act like waving a flag in front of a bull. What we *can* conclude is that they have way more than their share of problems.”

‘It Is Healthy That People Are Curious’

Blogger Robert Pogson took a higher-level perspective.

“The Google trends are not a good indicator of installed base of GNU/Linux, but they do show about what people are curious,” he noted. “I think it is healthy that people are so curious about so many distros; the total of the small distros below Ubuntu are still a lot of interested computer users.”

The important thing, after all, “is not what distro one is curious about,” he concluded, “but that one is interested in GNU/Linux.”

*ECT News Network editor’s note – Sept. 2, 2010: The original published version of this article erroneously referenced Distrowatch as the author of the trends report that hairyfeet took exception to. It was actually the LinuxTrends report that he considered flawed.


  • Based upon no research, no graphs and no real expertise I offer the following ‘astounding insights’ for your reading pleasure….

    Ubuntu is the distro most likely to attract the most n00bs because of its media exposure, price, ease of install and apparent ‘accessible user community’.

    A quick media search (ok, I did check out a few things, but not rigorously enough to qualify as research) gave me far more hits than any other distro if you restrict it to the last 2 years. I suggest with the growing mentions of Linux in the mainstream media and advertising streams that people who reside outside the fan club are more likely to ‘find’ Ubuntu than any other distro.

    FREE always wins when interest is modest…..

    Ubuntu’s site is very approachable to the uninitiated, making a download and ‘trial’ to see what all the buzz is about far more likely than visiting Red Hat for instance.

    With Ubuntu, even n00bs have a high probability of getting the install right the first time. Therefore they have a much higher probability of actually trying to use it and the more n00bs trying to use it, the more ‘problems’ & questions that will show up.

    A search for info or cry for help re Ubuntu has a much higher probability of getting a friendly, easy to understand reply than any other distro. (Most distros are surrounded by experts with little patience or interest in n00bs and moderate to incredible difficulty in talking to the unwashed. Generally creating a very hostile environment for all those poor ignorant n00bs who might wander in.

    Ubuntu is far from perfect, but it is the most n00b friendly environment for the technically challenged to explore Linux outside an iPhone or Android. And being such it is the natural place to see the most questions and queries stupid or otherwise.

    Personally, I consider Ubuntu and the folks it attracts the natural consequence of attempts to open the Linux club to the world.

    Now if someone would just produce a ‘comic book’ ‘Users Manual for Ubuntu’ that answered the 25 most asked questions, ‘Ubuntu – What to Do With Your Old Tired Computer’ and a ‘Ubuntu Tips and Tricks for Dummies’ book, we might see more and more people interested in and becoming familiar with Linux. People, most of whom would never become Linux ‘gurus’ but who would be come Linux ‘Champions’ at work, play and school.

    What a great dream for the future…..

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