What’s behind GregKH’s (latest) Rant?

September 18, 2008

If you haven’t seen the latest rant from Novell‘s Greg Kroah-Hartman, I’m not going to link to it. You’ll have to find it on your own.

Greg has used at least two high-profile speeches this year (a Linux Plumber’s Conference keynote, and a Google Tech Talk) to tear down the contributions of Canonical to the Linux ecosystem.

I hope that people take it for what it is, pure and simple…

a negative marketing campaign
engineered by a high-profile Novell employee
against a key competitor

Greg threw out some numbers in his slides, usually showing a very small number next to Canonical, and then much larger numbers next to Red Hat, Novell, and others, such as IBM.

Full Disclosure…

In the interest of full disclosure, I should mention that:

  1. I am currently employed by Canonical
  2. I was an IBM employee from 2000 – 2008
  3. I spent most of 2005 as an IBM employee on-site at Red Hat

Some missing numbers…

I dug up a few numbers that Greg missed.

So, yeah, Canonical is a small, young company. It would be nice if Greg would normalize some of his numbers against each company’s size.

But why pick on Canonical and Ubuntu…

Here are some more numbers from Google Trends.

Google searches of “suse” vs “fedora” vs “ubuntu”, over the last 5 years:

Site traffic of opensuse.org vs. fedoraproject.org vs. ubuntu.com, over the last year:

These numbers are corroborated by DistroWatch.com‘s popularity ratings:


Drum roll please…

Ubuntu’s popularity has some people from other distributions uneasy. But I think the next chart is the most impressive, humbling, and telling. The following shows the Google trend between people searching for “linux” vs. “ubuntu”:

I left “red hat”, “fedora”, “novell”, and “suse” off of this chart because they don’t even show up. Click here if you’d like to see.

At that pace, there will soon be more people searching for
“Ubuntu”, than searching for “Linux” on the Internet.

So back to this “ecosystem”…

As Matt Zimmerman discussed, Greg’s “Linux ecosystem” seems a bit unfairly limited to the kernel, gcc, and binutils, and neglects a wider macrocosm of Ubuntu’s contributions to the Linux, free, and open source space. Canonical and Ubuntu actively contribute to GNOME and KDE, as well as dozens of other open source projects (e.g., I’m co-maintainer of the upstream eCryptfs project and have contributed considerable code there on Canonical’s dime).

Something must be said for the user base that Ubuntu brings to the ecosystem. While some Ubuntu users may have come from Red Hat, SUSE, Debian, Gentoo, etc., many Ubuntu users are first time Linux users. I dare say that some of these individuals are Linux users because of Ubuntu.

I personally know Fedora and OpenSUSE users (I used to be one of them) who actively search the Ubuntu Forums and the Ubuntu Wiki when they run into problems on their respective distributions. The Ubuntu documentation spectrum is simply the most informative, comprehensive, and useful in the Linux business.

Reducing the Linux ecosystem down to the kernel, gcc, and binutils is equivalent to reducing the human diet down to bread and water. I suppose one can do that, but that’s not a very satisfying existence. There’s so much more to a complete and fulfilling life-sustenance.

Or, better yet, let’s work our way back to the Linux Plumber’s Conference. While we need plumbing in our house every day, don’t we also appreciate a roof, electricity, windows, and furniture? And did your plumber also roof your house and wire your electrical sockets? Perhaps that was another team of qualified specialists…

:-Dustin

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