Saturday, November 28, 2009

Strange Ideas About Freedom Of Speech

As many of you have undoubtedly noticed I do moderate comments on my blog. If you've read the comments you know that I almost always publish what people have to say even if they strongly disagree with me. On rare occasions I hold a comment to check something before publishing or to compose a thoughtful response. However, if someone is abusive or offensive I do reject comments. A person who wrote such a comment then accused me of having a "strange idea of free speech" and censorship. It's actually nothing of the sort.

If you write something is the New York Times obligated to publish it? Must the Washington Post run a sharply worded op-ed? Can I compel Fox News to give voice to my liberal opinions? The answer to all these questions is an unequivocal no. Private media is permitted editorial control of their content. Websites and blogs are no different. They are simply a newer, different form of private media.

O'Reilly Media editors have deleted comments to things I've written once in a while: comments I would have accepted. It's their website, they own it, so it's their choice. Thomas Holbrook II recently complained about the Terms of Service on in a post on his The Nixed Report blog. He finds their prohibition on political discussion "ridiculous". I happen to disagree but I certainly recognize Mr. Holbrook's right to express his opinion on his website. He, too, discussed this prohibition in terms of "freedom of thought and expression" and it is no more a limitation on his freedom than a refusal from a local paper to publish something. The owners and editors of have a right to manage their site as they see fit.

I'm not preventing anyone from voicing an opinion or expressing themselves. I am merely exercising my right to editorial control on my blog and websites. If someone wants to post something I won't publish they have every right to do so... on their own blog or website. Everyone has a right to setup their own proverbial soapbox and voice their opinion. Nobody has a right to take my soapbox and appropriate it for their own use. Those who argue otherwise are the ones who have strange ideas about freedom of speech.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving

Too everyone who is reading this and is here in the United States... Have a very Happy Thanksgiving holiday!

Oh, and don´t go too crazy with black Friday shopping tomorrow.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Some People Don't Know When To Leave Well Enough Alone

I've had enough of the hatred spewed at me from the Puppy Linux forums and Puppy Linux users everywhere. I am hounded, week in and week out, including three comments on DistroWatch this week, about my "refusal" to run Puppy Linux and my "crazy review". It never stops, it continues in e-mail and on every Linux forum where I write. Why are the Puppy Linux community members so obsessed with me? Here is the only reason I can think of:

A couple of years back I wrote a very short piece for the old O'Reilly Linux DevCenter blogs stating that Puppy Linux 2.17 (the current version at the time) wouldn't boot on my systems except for one ancient desktop and that made it impossible for me to give it a fair review. The Puppy Linux community got all bent out of shape and it escalated from there, into intimidation and threats, including what many interpreted as a death threat in the comments section of DistroWatch Weekly. Puppy Linux community members also tried to get my writing pulled from O'Reilly. My editor at the time saw the post in question as threatening and backed me up.

I have no clue whether Puppy Linux is good, bad or in between nowadays. I won't look at the code because of the community which keeps after me incessantly. There are different parts of the Linux community which are everything from very good to truly awful. The Puppy community is the worst of the lot when it comes to absolute fanaticism. No dissent or criticism is tolerated.

Meanwhile truly nasty personal attacks on me continue unabated two years later. Heck, they've even got Notorik, a user who insists on DistroWatch that information security is "poppycock", telling everyone there I'm "unbalanced" because I believe security is important. (I wonder if people there still agree after the Puppy Linux website was defaced recently.) The threat, which many others saw exactly as I saw it, is a "demented fantasy". I can do no right and the Puppy Linux community is perfect. Sure, that's it.

I've received e-mail and seen comments from others who have had bad experiences and/or feel the same way. No, sorry, it's not just some delusion on my part.

Don't you people know when to leave well enough alone? I would NEVER, EVER mention Puppy Linux in any context if you'd just let well enough be. That's a message they can't seem to get in what I see as the deepest, darkest, nastiest corner of the Linux community.

The Problem With The Linux Community

The following appears on the O'Reilly Community website. I don't usually crosspost between there and here but I will be writing a follow-up which will appear on this blog only. The reason: it will be decidedly controversial in a way which I don't want to bring to O'Reilly. So... in order for that post to make sense here is part 1:


I wrote a less than stellar review of openSUSE 11.2 this week for DistroWatch. Why? Well.. because this particular release really has issues: the installer choosing the wrong driver causing it to hang, serious instability in KDE on my two month old netbook in a release that touted itself for netbooks, and numerous smaller issues. It's a shame because, in general, I've always liked openSUSE. It was never my true favorite, but that was because of some personal preferences, not because of faults in the distro.

First, I must compliment the openSUSE developers. I've had great correspondence from Joe "Zonker" Brockmeier and Will Thompson, a developer in the KDE team in Nuremberg, which were truly first rate. These are Linux professionals who clearly are much more interested in solving problems and putting out a quality product than anything else. I'll be filing bug reports by tomorrow to try and help them resolve the issues that I found.

While I'm very positive about the openSUSE team I must say that I am a lot less sanguine about some in their community. Some fans (or really fanatics) came out in force ready to attack the reviewer (me), to question my skills and even my sanity, to attack Ladislav Bodnar for posting the review, to blame the hardware, anything at all but the distro code which is, according to some, "the best release ever". Fine, whatever, I'm used to it. Writing honest reviews will never win friends or make me popular in the Linux community. Some folks (way too many) only want fawning fan reviews and distro commercials.

Here are three response comments that I found especially clueful and pretty much spot on:
There is too much fanaticism in the world, people getting all exited over nothing - over stuff which is meaningless. The really important and relevant stuff is ignored.

But the reason is clear - the real issues are ignored because what is most important to me? ME.

So, forget the real issues - you better watch what you say about MY distro (religion, team, car etc., etc.) because what you are saying, you say about ME.
Remember, this is MY distro (religion, team, car etc., etc. ) I have chosen it. Therefore, if it is less than perfect then I am less than perfect......and THAT I can't bear.
--Antony, DistroWatch comments section, post #291

I love Linux, but I sometimes hate the community. I think often the community is Linux's worst enemy. Let me clarify that: I do love the development community, where the focus is on collaboration and making things better and sharing those improvements for the benefit of all. But I can't stand the "user community", at least the vocal part that have nothing better to do that going around with "mine is better than yours" nonsense.


Why can't this positive development spirit be extended to the user community? Why do some in the user community need to "defend" their distro? Why do some, as Antony brought out, take criticism to "their" distro personally?
--Patrick, DistroWatch comments section, post #295

Patrick, I agree that in many cases the Linux community is its own worst enemy. I say that with myself being a big (Linux) free software open source community fan. Unfortunately in many of the comments, from both sides in discussing the reviews in this distrowatch weekly, there have been comments which are only part of the technical, and appear to have been posted either out of ignorance, or posted only designed to hurt.
--oldcpu, DistroWatch comments section, post #297

The three comments above illustrate, that this is not a problem with just the openSUSE community. It plagues large parts of the wider Linux community. I'll have more about perhaps the worst example of this I know, and some people who just can't leave well enough alone, in my next post.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

U.S. House Pases Heath Care Bill; One Republican Votes "Yea"

I was watching live on CSPAN just a few minutes ago when the U.S. House of Representatives passed the heathcare reform bill, HR 3962. The Affordable Healthcare for America bill passed by a vote of 220-215. Only one Republican, Rep. Joseph Cao of Louisiana was willing to put ordinary Americans ahead of the big insurance companies and their lobbyists. Rep. Cao is a freshman Comgressman and he is to be congratulated for standing up to his own party and voting his conscious. 39 Democrats voted against the bill.

The bill, as passed, is far from perfect but it is definitely a step in the right direction. It does not provide universal health insurance but does make insurance obtainable and/or more affordable for millions of Americans. It ends the ability of insurance companies to deny coverage for "preexisting conditions", which has been grossly abused up until now. It does have a public option but it is very weak in that it does not resemble Medicare but rather forces the government to negotiate rates with health providers. Still, it is a huge step forward.

I'll have more on healthcare later, particularly as the Senate debate moves forward.