If this is the revolution, I’m out

Ubuntu LinuxI don’t know if I should call this a trend or just an occurrence, but for some reason I find it distressing that some people are forcing others to use Linux, as a means of converting them. And on top of that, are suggesting other Linux fans do the same.

Here’s one example; I can think of others but they date back a while into the past and it’s harder to find them. One from a month or two ago mentioned a similar effort: Surreptitiously replacing XP with Ubuntu styled to look the same, in an effort to force people out of Windows. (I can remember one from a year or so ago where someone actually hijacked an entire series of computers in a public library, installing Ubuntu over top and eradicating whatever system was originally in place. What a nightmare.)

Now I’ll admit, I occasionally chase an IceWM theme that looks remarkably like the Windows Classic theme out of XP. And there are some quick and painless ways to make Ubuntu look identical to XP. That’s different. That’s changing the look to suit the user.

And I give away dual-boot machines quite often. I have in the past given away machines with only Linux installed, knowing full well that the recipient will erase the drive within minutes of getting it home, and put whatever pirated version of Windows on it. But I don’t consider it prosletysing, I consider it demonstrating that the machine is fully functional.

Tricking the user into using Linux (in some cases after they expressly turned it down). … What can I say? I know with absolute certainty that of course it happens, and it may well even work successfully, for all I know.

But how do you preach freedom and sharing to someone whose first experience with Linux was a complete opposite of that? How can you enjoy a sense of community with someone who was forced to join it? Where’s the logic in saying, “It’s free, it’s open, it’s faster, it’s more secure. … Now use it, because I said so.”

I suppose it’s none of my business. But if the tide of public opinion is turned, and Ubuntu users are shifting from passive to aggressive, then I would like to step out of the revolution now. I don’t agree with any effort to force someone into our community; those aren’t the terms I came to learn when I started using Ubuntu and Linux. Nobody tricked me into getting here, and I wouldn’t trick someone else into it either.

Respect, community, sharing, freedom — including the freedom to say, “No.”

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21 Responses to “If this is the revolution, I’m out”


  1. 1 damaged justice 2009/09/06 at 11:21 PM

    With fraud and coercion do the revolutionaries become the establishment.

  2. 2 celettu 2009/09/06 at 11:45 PM

    Oh I hear ya…I encourage my gf to use Linux because whenever there’s a problem with the laptop I have to solve it, but that’s just because it’s easier for me. If she wants to user Windows, fine. But I won’t do a complete re-install anymore. Much too much trouble :)

  3. 3 LeoSolaris 2009/09/07 at 12:46 AM

    There will always be those who think that they know better than everyone else and seek ways to bring others to their opinions, even if that means force… even if that use of force is squarely against the opinion that they are trying to convey.

    Religion is rife with past examples of this. It is an old, primitive impulse that aims at making those around us “safe” by making sure they are predictable to us. Those with shared ideals are the easiest to predict, and the least likely to harm us, thus, forcing our ideals on those around us is seen as a logical method of eliminating competition and threats to ourselves an our ideals.

    Unfortunately, it is also the least likely to work in the long run. Sure religions around the world have shown that it is possible to use force to coerce submission, but religious zealots have also shown that force is ineffective in coercing belief. All it does is build resentment, rebellion, and distrust of the ideals themselves because the ideals are seen as leading the believers into using force by not being strong enough to sway people on their own. In the end, the use of force will lead to the weakening, and possibly the downfall of the ideals that the zealots cling to, be that a religion, an OS, or a governmental style.

    (My apologies for steering this post towards religion, but it is the only easily conveyable historical reference point that can be pointed towards acting in this manner. Other groups have acted in this manner, and many still are, but most of them are either more limited in scope, or have not yet hit the real backlash of their use of force in the way many religions have.)

  4. 4 Greg 2009/09/07 at 12:49 AM

    Although it should be noted that in this case, it was his own laptop…

  5. 5 Mig-San 2009/09/07 at 2:34 AM

    i don’t mean to state stereotypes
    but usually the only people who do this are noobs that use ubuntu and go crazy with unneccesary compiz-fusion effects on their desktops and go around on forums posting about how ubuntu is insanely fast and “amazingly” better that vista. and they usually know almost nothing about the build up or what linux can actually do.

    on a different note
    as a arch linux user i wouldn’t force other people to use it unless they would like to learn because of the “rawness” of the system after a base install, i suppose this prevents some people who might want to force others to use it because if the main user does not know what is installed they probably wouldn’t want to use it(or know how to manage it) and the person who forced it on would end up inconvienencing themselves(spending time teaching and maintaining someone elses system)

  6. 6 James 2009/09/07 at 4:11 AM

    Yeah, kind of a bad example. The guy in that forum thread installed Linux on his old laptop, styled it to look like Windows XP, and gifted it to his mom without telling her what it was really running. Sneaky, but not really malicious.

    Though I have seen the posts you’re referring to with people bragging about covertly installing Linux on school and family computers, frequently after being denied permission to do so.

    @LeoSolaris: Religion as the “only easily conveyable historical reference point”? ONLY? Um, no. In the immortal words of XKCD, “look, maybe you just suck at explaining.” ;-) http://xkcd.com/566/

  7. 7 revdjenk 2009/09/07 at 7:49 AM

    @james…
    thanks I was wondering at a response to leosolaris, and you have given part of my answer, although leosolaris may be correct in that religion may be, to him, an “easily conveyable historical reference point.”
    It is interesting that for Jesus (and appears to be true about those who began other movements), showed coercion in his spreading his message. When asked by the rich young ruler how to get to heaven, Jesus gave him an answer, and the man walked away disheartened, because he did not like the path. Jesus is NOT reported running after him, giving him printed material, and/or disparaging him for turning to the other side!
    leosolaris…not ALL religious people are coercive, or corrosive.
    This same with Linux people. Linus didn’t tell people they HAD to use the code he was developing. He invited them in.
    I appreciate your views, K.Mandia, about Linux zealots…and find sometimes it is true, yet, thankfully, most often, not!

  8. 9 dwasifar 2009/09/07 at 8:23 AM

    Whoa, wait.

    You’re opting out of a “revolution” based on being able to cite ONE example?

    Doesn’t look like much of a revolution to me. It looks like… one guy. (Two, if you count the library vandal as a documented example, which is a stretch.)

    I don’t think you have much to worry about. There’s no such revolution of deception going on, and none likely to. You couldn’t mount a revolution this way anyhow. Maybe this one kid can fool his mom, but most such attempts would fail as soon as the user tried to install a piece of software or change something in Control Panel.

  9. 10 Gen2ly 2009/09/07 at 10:32 AM

    I have to agree this post has gotten alot of attention. Alot of people on the Ubuntu forums are young or new users so I think this sets a bad example to the type of open mindedness I’d like to see in Linux. I don’t think you’d see this in alot of smaller-community distro’s – guess it goes with popularity but it’s unfortunate.

  10. 11 flipouk 2009/09/07 at 6:03 PM

    I could’t agree more with this post.

    I have never forced anyone to use Linux not have I ever been forced into using Linux. However, I am forced every day into using Windows, although I’d prefer not to. I cannot buy a computer without Windows (not easily at least), many gadgets are refused to me because the manufacturer couldn’t be bothered to make them Linux compatible, at work I don’t have a choice etc. etc.

    People force others to use Linux. Really? I guess for one time that it happens there are millions where the opposite happens…

  11. 12 Luca 2009/09/08 at 12:54 AM

    A friend and I thought it would be humerous to open up an Ubuntu shop opposite an Apple store, but that is about as far as my extremism goes. :P

  12. 13 Mikko 2009/09/08 at 2:55 AM

    I kind of forced my wife to use Linux five or six years ago, as I bought us a desktop computer that had no OS installed.

    After a few days, and after I installed Mahjongg and OpenOffice she had no complaints against using openSUSE, Mandrake/Mandriva, or (K)Ubuntu. On the contrary, she has been quite happy using both KDE and GNOME.

  13. 14 thealphanerd 2009/09/08 at 7:00 PM

    Glad to see there’s some sane fans.I like Linux, and will offer as an option to new computer users or people with b0rked Windows, but I do not forcefeed it.

  14. 15 matthewgraybosch 2009/09/08 at 10:00 PM

    You’d think that Linux advocates would have learned from the US government’s failures in Iraq and Afghanistan and realized that you can’t force people to be free.

  15. 16 John Jeffers VE3GYV 2009/09/09 at 1:09 AM

    At home I do enforce a no Windows policy for my kids unless they are grown up enough to understand how to use a firewall and anti whatever ware. I have also pointed out they may not have a projectile weapon unless they pass a gun safety course.

    In my mind they are equivalent. Both loaded guns pointed at the head or the foot as one would like.

    I have reformatted and reinstalled windows too many times. My kids actually took then lost the last OEM Microsoft copy of XP I had.

    The kids previous average installation lasted 3 weeks with XP infinite with openSuSE.

    Naturally now the eldest got himself a i-pod i-touch so he HAD to have windows.

    So is i-Tunes the killer app now?

  16. 18 ArmorNick 2009/09/09 at 3:55 AM

    To tell you what I think about this, I will quote Dissidia Final Fantasy (I’ve become addicted to that game and I don’t need Windows to run it :D );

    “Light can never truly eradicate darkness”

    That is to say, Linux was once only used by volunteers. Now that more and more users begin to use it, there will always be the zealous who want to spread ‘the message’ in a more agressive way.

    Not that I just said something anyone else said in this thread ;) .

  17. 19 Shae 2009/09/09 at 9:36 AM

    I think forcing Linux on a person is just as bad as Windows being forced on people by hardware manufacturers.

    Linux is all about people having and making the informed choice about what OS they use and we just hope that Linux is that choice and we are not shy to tell you why you should choose Linux, but that is not installing it and masking it as XP or whatever.

    I am afraid that more people will do this and that is not OK. I remember even some Distros that tried to bill themselves as XP and called themselves things like Lindows and Linux XP. I think Linux should build its own image and not try to emulate XP because Linux is not Windows and hopefully it will never be.

  18. 20 lverona 2009/09/09 at 6:30 PM

    This is an interesting point and I agree – I also do not want my understanding of free software to turn into revolution, so I am very delicate about it. I can inform people but I never force them. I rather introduce them to free software, Ubuntu or any other free operating system and let them make a choice for themselves.

  19. 21 Ari T. 2009/09/10 at 12:06 AM

    This post doesn’t quite make sense to me. I mean, how can you *force* someone to use Linux, unless you own the computer in question? Actually, instead about forcing the writer seems to be talking more about tricking or cheating. Whether changing someone’s operating system can be called forcing should be judged case by case – which an outsider can’t do. Some people don’t even know they are using Windows – or an operating system. They may have a trusted computer person – a family member, friend, etc. – who has free hands to do whatever he thinks is good for the computer. The user often doesn’t care or want to hear. The only important thing to him is that he’s able to do all what he wants with his computer. Doing changes against someone’s will or best personal interest (without asking) is of course wrong.


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