Eric S. Raymond Ditches Red Hat for Ubuntu, Might Keep Red Shirt

by Joey deVilla on February 21, 2007

Gentle readers, before I begin, let me show you the scariest photo I’ve seen all month. I found it while doing an image search for Eric S. Raymond for a photo to go along with this article:

Eric S. Raymond kissing a comely young woman in a red shirt.

I’ll give you a moment to wipe the coffee off your screen before continuing.

Better now? Good.

Anyhow: Open Source thought leader (and author of many books and articles, including The Cathedral and the Bazaar and Sex Tips for Geeks) and gun nut firearms enthusiast Eric S. Raymond has publicly given up on the Fedora Linux distribution after thirteen years of being a Red Hat, and later, Fedora supporter. His reasons:

Over the last five years, I’ve watched Red Hat/Fedora throw away what was at one time a near-unassailable lead in technical prowess, market share and community prestige. The blunders have been legion on both technical and political levels. They have included, but were not limited to:

  • Chronic governance problems.
  • Persistent failure to maintain key repositories in a sane, consistent state from which upgrades might actually be possible.
  • A murky, poorly-documented, over-complex submission process.
  • Allowing RPM development to drift and stagnate — then adding another layer of complexity, bugs, and wretched performance with yum.
  • Effectively abandoning the struggle for desktop market share.
  • Failure to address the problem of proprietary multimedia formats with any attitude other than blank denial.

In retrospect, I should probably have cut my losses years ago. But I had so much history with Red-Hat/Fedora, and had invested so much effort in trying to fix the problems, that it was hard to even imagine breaking away.

If I thought the state of Fedora were actually improving, I might hang in there. But it isn’t. I’ve been on the fedora-devel list for years, and the trend is clear. The culture of the project’s core group has become steadily more unhealthy, more inward-looking, more insistent on narrow “free software” ideological purity, and more disconnected from the technical and evangelical challenges that must be met to make Linux a world-changing success that liberates a majority of computer users.

I’ve always preferred Raymond’s “Open Source” pragmatism over the ideological purity of the “Stalliban” (my pet name for the more stringent ideologues at the Free Software Foundation).

I myself was a Red Hat user back around 2000, when the cooler nerds were already beginning to don “Fuck Red Hat” stickers, but moved to Mandrake and then Ubuntu long ago for about the same reasons as Raymond: because I didn’t want to go through all the “yak-shaving” that other distributions like Debian, and now Red Hat require. My current desktop Linux distro, Ubuntu (I’m using the “Dapper Drake”; Raymond’s using the newer “Edgy Eft” version), is considerably easier to install, maintain, update and find help for than any other distro — so much easier that in terms of my own usage, it’s vying for the number 2 spot against Windows (OS X remains the OS I use the most).

I see that Raymond had the same surprisingly pleasant installation experience as I did:

This afternoon, I installed Edgy Eft on my main development machine — from one CD, not five. In less than three hours’ work I was able to recreate the key features of my day-to-day toolkit. The after-installation mass upgrade to current packages, always a frightening prospect under Fedora, went off without a hitch.

Welcome to club Ubuntu, Eric! Hope you like it as much as I do.


{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Anthony A. Jean November 27, 2009 at 3:26 pm

I don’t usually post to agree with a point someone is making but in this case an exception is in order. I have lived through the migration of at least 15 flavors of Linux and find now that Ubuntu has a special place in my heart. The red tape however, is now seemingly entering the Ubuntu arena. I recently attempted to add a simple project to Ubuntu and here is what I posted at the Ubuntu forums upon my dismay:

Dear lord, I think I just lost faith in the whole Ubuntu project…. What a tangled mess of red tape just to include a simple gtk gui based program for inclusion. I followed ALL of the steps, have an account AND at REVU – now I see I need SPONSORSHIP by 2 developers just to UPLOAD my contribution for review? That is besides the fact that I cannot just send the .deb file but I have to parse it with some silly utility to get a .changes file? Hmmm… and now I see that I cannot even use the parser if I am attempting to use a binary? C’mon guys! Gentoo is far more case-hardened and FAR FAR less red tape just to include a simple file. This is ridiculous. I love the way Ubuntu works so nicely but I think it’s being made impossible for others to DIRECTLY contribute. How about just FTP’ing the source and .deb file for approval? The DE FACTO UNIX standard is usually what a developer uses. what about SVN? FTP? Do I REALLY need to upload a GENERATED .changes file instead of my .deb ? Please help me understand. I’m NOT the only person with this complaint – just google it. Like I said – love the Ubuntu – HATE the oppression of potential contributors and developers.

I still believe in Ubuntu and I am not “jumping ship” but I still am becoming disenchanted with the path the team is choosing. (Must be liberals)

Just my 2C…

2 Justin November 21, 2010 at 12:06 am

You mentioned that Mac OS X is your primary OS, but that Ubuntu vies for second place. I would love to dual boot my Macbook with Mac OS X and some variant of Linux. I have no Linux experience but I would love to install it and change that. I was, (until this article) torn between Fedora and Ubuntu. I’m thinking now I will go with Ubuntu. I have two questions for you.

1)Do you still favor Ubuntu, or is there another Linux Distro you would recommend now?

2) Can you direct me to detailed, step by step instructions on partitioning the HD and installing Linux? Some of the available “manuals” online merely tell you to partition with Bootcamp, Install rEFIt, and pop the Linux CD in. This does NOT work, and it took me quite a few days to fix my macbook. As it is, I will have to start over with a fresh install of Mac OSX Snow Leopard to get the hard drive un-fragmented.

Thank you for your time

3 Alpheus December 22, 2011 at 2:53 pm

I didn’t make a “conscious” decision to leave Red Hat or Fedora; I started exploring other options, like Mandrake and Debian, and settled on Debian. (I was never able to install Gentoo, and every so often I’ll look into something like “Darn Small Linux”.) I like Debian a lot, but it’s beginning to get on my nerves too, particularly the “out-of-date” feel that the stable version provides. This has become especially apparent as I am currently trying to learn Ruby on Rails, and have encountered the friction that has been created between the Debian Way, and the Ruby Installer way. (Since programming languages can be mini-OS’s in their own right, I tend to favor Ruby in this fight!)

I might just make the migration to Ubuntu…or rather, to Kubuntu, since I prefer KDE over Gnome…sometime soon! Although if Anthony is right, it may be time to try to figure out another option anyway. :.(

In any case, it’s kindof funny how these migrations happen–sometimes, without even overtly thinking about it!–because of what can best be described as friction!

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