Saturday, September 13, 2008

lipstick on pigs and pitbulls, a true standard

Lipstick on a pig is a funny expression in America. Dressing up the same old thing as a new and exciting product is common practice. You already invested lots of resources, you believe so strongly in your product and you can't see anything wrong with it, yet people are complaining about it. So, you repackage it, describe it as something people want and hope they don't notice. This link is to an NPR story, a farmer who tried to actually put lipstick on a pig.

Let's look at the problems. Pigs aren't very attractive, pigs don't have lips, people tend to eat pigs, pitbulls might look better than pigs, don't have lips either, have potential to bite their masters and neighbors. Of course I am eluding to the upcoming election but the trend is a common practice. Microsoft is using the sitcom comedian Seinfeld as lipstick for his pig and the Big 3 American car makers are pushing gas burning new cars as "greener" (green lipstick, yuck!). There is quite a list on which people are smearing the lipstick these days. If you have that kind of mind, you might think lipstick is an improvement, but there is something deceiving here. In a country that boast in technical prowess, inventiveness and more educated people per square mile, we certainly have a lot of pig salesman and lipstick peddlers. Oh, and don't forget, visionary people who put the two together.

I talk about many things but Linux mainly. If some company were to advertise Linux, thus marketing Linux as a product, would it become the posterchild for the whole Linux world? Would it represent or define what Linux is in the minds of would be users? Would people have an expectation of what Linux should be because some brandname product has set the standard? Would ad folks find ways to say Linux is a pig or pitbull so they could put lipstick on it? Truth be told, Linux is just the kernel. You could possibly fit it on a floppy disk. Hey, you could embed the kernel in the flashROM on the motherboard!! No, motherboards would no longer be useful for any OS of your choice and if Linux were a brandname we'd probably have to ditch the word "distro".

A friend hip me to Artweaver, a MS windows only program. It has two main features, it's free and it looks like Photoshop. Some folks are applauding it, some are bashing GIMP instead. Looking like Photoshop and being free seems to be a winning combo, yet GIMPshop takes the hits because it's still GIMP, go figure. GIMPshop is GIMP with the tools arranged to look like Photoshop. In this case free and like Photoshop is not winning, hummmmm....... It's really too bad comedians can't screen their audiences. Ever wonder how they smuggle in a sack of tomatoes to throw. I think the solution is simple. Make the Photoshop style interface the standard then have a button you can push to switch to the traditional GIMP desktop, if you want it. As for Artweaver, sorry, it's not really free or close to being free until an open source Linux version comes out. Look at Xara Xtreme. You have to ask if you need a conversion program for files to work with the other programs you are using.

The Linux class is going great, exploring the live-CD OS is fun. It is cool to hear what others have discovered and get their spin on it. One person is looking at ReactOS, a couple more at Puppy, DSL and whatever. It is hard to get all the best or preferred stuff in one distro, we like to emphasize different things. So read the instructions that say your basic "kit" includes this, build and adjust to suit and don't forget mileage may vary. I did Dyne:bolic Linux last class, it was fun and it has features I wish were in Ubuntu.

I have this view of Linux. The kernel is the part that can be compiled to run on any machine and orchestrates the interaction between the other parts (also compiled to suit), the libraries and utilities and user interface and the applications. All the pieces and parts may run great in some situations or poorly thus distros have been devised of stuff that work great together. It may be cosmetic (different GUI), an arrangement set for a purpose (server/desktop) or a hardware requirement (32 bit Intel/64 bit AMD) or a language/cultural thing that sets a distro apart. You the user can start by selecting a distro that seems right for you and adjust it for a better fit. I also believe from a user's side certain things should be transparent to any OS. Common fonts and file formats should be released from the control of any computer OS platform company. My documents should look great in any application, on any platform and in any web browser, and I should be able to move data without application specific conversion, between similar programs. The SVG format and the FLI formats are examples, different apps have different implementations of the same standard, thus they are not really standards, right! Come on folks, it's what the user uses that should be a standard.

On the Ubuntu front, Mark Shuttleworth has put out the call to all developers to sell their lipstick stock and put real effort into making Ubuntu look as good if not better than Vista and Mac OS. I am glad they won't waste time trying to discover which new mascot looks good in lipstick or a grille of human dentures. I think integrating all the effects of compiz was fun as in graffiti, but polish is more a fine art. Let's see Suse's got green, Mandrivia's got yellow, Fedora's got blue, Ubuntu's got brown, hey isn't that like branding, having a signature desktop? The default desktop is big stuff, it makes the first impression and sets the tone. Brown needs lots of help.
Ubuntu users need to weigh in, not complain, but offer alternatives, solutions and ideas. That's the Linux way.

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