Ubuntu Ruined My Life

[There’s a whole bunch of meandering academic pontificating and me taking myself too seriously. About two thirds of the way down it gets really good, though. I promise. Also, the woman is now online and back in school. -JC]

So apparently, someone was trying to take online courses, ordered the cheapest Dell with a CD—which happens to be running Ubuntu—she could find, and then couldn’t get online to her courses. So she withdrew from the University, and the Linux Lusers rushed in—talking about how dumb she was for not being able to slickly navigate Linux through customer support in a Windows-only world, and apparently, this degenerated into people harassing her on Facebook.

There are a couple takeaways to this for the world at large:

  1. Facebook works fine on Ubuntu (or the student in question has gotten a different Dell).
  2. If you aren’t raising your kid to be able to handle computers like a nerd, you are handicapping your children’s ability to prosper.

Obviously, the second is the controversial opinion. While the new imperialist geek overlords are kinder, gentler overlords than the robber barons of the past, technology is a big ugly mess. The de-facto reality this illustrates is that if you are attempting to live in a modernized country, but are unable to figure out how to purchase and use a computer, you are fucked. Those who cannot figure out how to scam Central Services to get online are destined to be crushed underfoot in the information revolution. It’s an ugly, brutal reality. Fortunately, when dealing with economy, reality is what you make of it. There are a couple points for the democratic wing of the new masters:

  1. There is a contingent of raving lunatics who have decided to immigrate to Linux as their chosen nationality.
  2. When you smirk at the clueless n00b, you are the sadistic prison guard tormenting the hapless inmate. By making your system difficult for others to use, you are actually hurting them—not only in terms of time and stress, but also in financially measurable ways.

But none of that works on the real issue of this story: What was it about the Ubuntu desktop as shipped with Dell that prevented her from going to school? If you haven’t already, find out why our OS didn’t work for her, publicize the problems, and fix them. If it’s a technical problem then it’s completely trivial to fix: we’re all geeks here. If it was a more mushy social reason—the bureaucratic pronouncements of overworked support staff at her Uni and ISP: you must use MS Word on Windows (because we won’t support anything else)—then that’s something we have traditionally sucked at, but something which community growth could address in an indirect way, and B2B schmoozing could address in a direct way. Remember, she’s not the only one going through these difficulties, she’s just the only one who’s difficulties were severe enough to warrant a newspaper article on it.

11 thoughts on “Ubuntu Ruined My Life

  1. Please stop confusing this issue. It’s not about Ubuntu at all; it’s about a university refusing to provide materials in the format that some of its students (i.e., its customers) need. This is a case of institutional discrimination, not a technology case.

  2. Lee:

    Claiming this is a case of “institutional discrimination” is offensive. A blond woman in Wisconsin does not have a right to her (albeit poorly-made, in this case) choice of computer system being supported, and claiming it is akin to missing curb cuts, or being denied entry because of race belittles those claims of discrimination.

    This is very much about Ubuntu, and how it fits into the world at large: it’s about finding out what can be done to make the choice to use Ubuntu the best choice you can make, in every case.

    As an aside, the University’s customer is society in general, and business in particular. Students are the raw materials.

  3. Well, yeah, we live in a competitive world, and a computer-driven one. So if you can’t handle a PC, well, too bad for you: someone else who’s computer-savvy will, and will take your place.

    If you can walk, drive, read, and use a computer, you have far better chances to get a good place in society than if you can’t. It may not be a good thing, but it’s true.

  4. It was the mushy social stuff. She thought she couldn’t get online if she couldn’t run the Verizon CD – she didn’t realize it wasn’t at all necessary. And her university had initially told her Word was required for her courses, but it has now said it’ll accept her work in any common office document format. This is more a story about how sad it is that we’ve got to a point where people just figure that if it isn’t Windows, it won’t work.

  5. and as usual the drive-by media morons made a loud, stupid mess of things. i feel sorry for her and for dedicated ubuntu people who have tried to correct the situation.

  6. With every word you make it more obvious that you have no idea the details of the story, nor do you comprehend the magnitude of the potential fallout. I suggest you find another topic to blather on about before you make fools of us all.

  7. pdusen:

    Since I never claimed to know anything about the story beyond the (extremely fluffy) article and what a few contributing members of Ubuntu had to say, and pretty much directly asked the question “what happened”, I figure the whole “I’m not omnipotent” thing would be implied. Congrats on passing your basic reading comprehension test! Go you!

    So please, oh anti-social forum dweller, enlighten us as to the earth-shattering consequences of The Girl in Wisconsin Who Couldn’t Get Online…

  8. I find it interesting that you freely admit to having little detailed knowledge on the events in question, when you certainly seemed to feel qualified to make a number of assumptions in your original post.

    I don’t claim to be any more or less qualified than anyone else, but I can say at the least that I don’t tend to speak unless I’ve researched and analyze facts to back up my assertions.

    Despite your implications on my character, however, I have no intention of instigating a drawn out argument with you; in my experience, those are tiring and rarely constructive, and you seem to have little patience for criticism in general.

    Have a nice day, sir.

  9. pdusen:

    I think you would be hard-up to define the word “assumption” if challenged, let alone identify them in the original post. I further believe that you are even likely incapable of identifying my conclusions, let alone one that would be considered controversial in anything but its tone.

    What you have demonstrated aptly, however, is the ability to throw wild accusations like hand grenades, and then attempt to claim your refusal to stand by your words is on the same moral plane alongside pacifism, rather than simple intellectual cowardice.

  10. I do wonder how one buys a Dell laptop with Ubuntu *by mistake*. It’s really difficult. http://www.dell.com/ubuntu states all over the place that this isn’t Windows, and you’d better get Windows if you’re not sure about this Linux thing.

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