The IceWeasel Debate

I am against IceWeasel. Debian and related distributions are going to setback Linux on the desktop in the name of ideology. The few people who are actually pro-IceWeasel will stick around, and the normal users will either find greener pastures or replace IceWeasel with the real Firefox. Personally, I’m uninstalling the Firefox on my Ubuntu and installing the real Mozilla version.

I am a big-time Linux user. I’m going on 7 years of heavy Linux desktop and server use. However, I do not have the hangup that everything has to be free. I use Linux because it is a better operating system. I use Firefox because it is a better browser. I use it because it is an environment in which I can be more productive in my computing. I use it because it allows me to use my computer the way I want to. It is only a vocal minority of the open source community who disagree.

If you ask Linux desktop users, the people who will use Firefox on Debian, most of them want the original icon back, and they will go to great lengths to get it back. There is an extremely popular thread on the Ubuntu forums for a script that simply re-adds the original Firefox logo. People actually care about the icon. They even care about a dialog box they will never look at. They don’t care about two silly patches they will never notice, and they don’t care about using only 100% free software. Only a few crazy idealists like RMS care, and they’re ruining it for the rest of us.

Open source people often promote the fact that OSS is all about choice. Users are given choices. However, most users aren’t smart enough to make those choices. I know how to build Linux from scratch, but my mom doesn’t. She runs Ubuntu though, so whatever Ubuntu decides is what she gets. When IceWeasel appears, she is going to be confused. When we have less than 1% of the users imposing their ideology on the rest of us, that is not choice. It is not freedom. If you demand in ideological 100% freedom, you actually end up losing the freedom to use something that is not 100% free. In trying to fight for more freedom they have somehow achieved less freedom.

Imagine a Linux distribution just like Ubuntu. Now imagine this Linux distribution comes with ndiswrapper all set out of the box. It comes with NTFS read/write support out of the box. It comes with NVidia and Ati drivers. It comes with Xgl/Compiz/latest 3d shiny stuff out of the box. It comes with demos of some of the few proprietary games that run on Linux, perhaps from Introversion. It comes with wine already setup and working. It comes with real Sun java and real Adobe/Macromedia Flash already working. It has codecs and players for every multimedia format that exist right out of the box. This would rapidly become the dominant Linux distribution on the desktop.

That distribution would have questionable legality, but, if it existed, it would make every other Linux distribution insignificant on the desktop. Nobody would continue to use distros like Debian on the desktop except for the scant few crazies who support things like IceWeasel. There would be no reason to. I help people convert to Ubuntu very often, and such a distribution would eliminate 90% of the things I have to tell people. How many of those people give up on Linux forever because ndiswrapper is hard to set up? Why deny these people? Why hurt Linux for the sake of useless ideology? Have we forsaken the practicality that makes the Linux platform so great in the first place? I haven’t.yeah

Most people just want their computer to work and accomplish certain tasks. They don’t care if it’s 100% free. They care that their wireless card works. They care that they can visit websites with Flash. And yes, they actually care about a Firefox icon. Linux can do all these things! It just can’t do them easily, because zealots are holding us back. We could have awesome Linux on the desktop right now. Look how good Ubuntu is. It is so close to perfection, it’s not even funny. The only problems we have left are in places where proprietary software has fulfilled a function that open source can not. The only thing stopping us is the unwillingness of a few people to use the proprietary software or to make deals with proprietary software companies.

There is a point at which you can try to promote something with such zeal that you end up hurting it. We have reached this point. Stop it.

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