Increased Media Chatter Targeting Linux Desktop

Posted by tadelste on Aug 31, 2005 11:22 AM EDT
Lxer; By Tom Adelstein
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The media buzz about Linux's alleged failure on the desktop probably means Linux is continuing to take a significant share of Microsoft's market - maybe even more than we think. Why else would the big Redmond company's minions write such claims? Disinformation provides an insight into someone's fears. The noise level has gone up and that probably means Linux is creating trouble for Windows.

Unless you live in an isolated fortress you probably know about "terrorist chatter". Officials in various government agencies say that an increase in traffic on the Internet by known and suspected terrorists often precedes a planned attack. Similarly, anti-Linux chatter often means problems in Redmond. When they feel the heat, that usually signals the start of a disinformation campaign.

Right now, you can see evidence of a classical disinformation campaign against Linux. If you asked me to guess who had commissioned such a campaign, I could think of a few interested parties. One of those parties announced they planned to invest heavily in an advertising campaign at the beginning of 2005. Frankly, I do not know who has sponsored the disinformation. I can only guess.

If we look around then some people seem to have added to the anti-Linux chatter. Peter Galli wrote in a recent Article

Microsoft has once again stirred up a hornets nest in the open-source community, this time approaching the OSDL (Open Source Development Labs) to work with it on a joint, independent research project to do some facts-based analysis of Linux and Windows.

Microsoft's proposing a joint research project with OSDL is like asking someone if they have stopped beating their spouse? Say yes or no and you lose.

So What's the Subject of the Disinformation?

Major media has started a full court press against the Linux desktop. Suddenly, the Linux desktop has become irrelevant and has failed against Microsoft. I don't have to point you to the noted pro-Linux writers who have fed the smoldering fire. You can read the headlines for yourself. "Gartner pours cold water on enterprise Linux desktops" and "Self defeating desktop Linux strategies" or "Cost of abandoning Windows too great for Linux Desktop migration". Then there's the one that states "Linux on the desktop nearly there, but not quite".

One headline states that "Linux is harder to live with, reckons poll" and then goes on to explain Linux actually polls out as less hardware hungry and preferred by the respondents. The same writer states, "Companies find that their Linux server setups are less hardware-hungry than Windows-based systems, if the results of a recent survey are to be believed." Does that mean we're supposed to doubt the survey that favors Linux but believe whole-heartedly in the ones that favor Windows?

You might feel a little concerned when you see these subliminal messages but don't give it too much thought. The message isn't aimed at you. It's aimed at our elected officials and regulators. The propagandists and disinformation junkies have fired shots at governments around the globe who were counting on Linux and Open Source software to help them dig out of their collective piracy status. Even an agency in China yesterday spoke out against the Chinese government's sojourn into Linux. You can read about it in Open opposition. It looks suspiciously like articles that came out when the State of Massachusetts proposed going with open source and Linux.

You might like this too. Have you noticed articles about how countries such as Cuba, Iran, Syria and Viet Nam have all embraced free and open source software and Linux? Those are subliminal messages aimed at our elected officials. What does it say? Open source must be communism and terrorism.

Disinformation is Real and Based on Science

People have proved the phenomenon of social perception exists through real time experimentation. Several variations of Solomon Asch's work involves groups of participants with each entering a conference room. On a black board the instructor draws seven to ten lines of which all are the same length with one noticeably longer than the others. The instructor asks each of the participants which line appears longer. While the fourth line from the left appears measurably longer, each participant says the fifth line. This experiment went on countless times at countless universities and workplaces in the western hemisphere beginning in the early 1950's.

The instructor had secretly told all but one of the participants to say the fifth line appeared longer with one participant having no prior instructions. In over one-third of the cases the answers and influence of the participants affected the unknowing person's perception such that he or she thought they observed the fifth line as the longest. In some studies, all the subjects had their perceptions affected.

While in college, I had a sociology lab class that subjected me to this experiment. When I first entered the room I noted the lines on the board and countered them. When my turn came to answer the instructor's question, I had to count the lines again because I had trouble determining if the fourth line was really the longer. I remember feeling groggy and slightly dazed while I attempted to count the lines. The sensation seemed odd.

I grew interested in perception and eventually got my hands on materials that led me to understand the reticular activator, consumer behavior, political behavior and subsequently disinformation. While I don't use disinformation tactics in my own writing, I can recognize when others do. Conspiracy theorists have identified about 25 activities people can use to spread disinformation. The Wikipedia has an entry on disinformation.

One of those techniques interests me and we have a fairly good example of its use.

"Emotionalize, Antagonize, and Goad Opponents. If you can't do anything else, chide and taunt your opponents and draw them into emotional responses which will tend to make them look foolish and overly motivated, and generally render their material somewhat less coherent. Not only will you avoid discussing the issues in the first instance, but even if their emotional response addresses the issue, you can further avoid the issues by then focusing on how sensitive they are to criticism."

The example I refer to occurred when Microsoft went after Sergio Amadeu of Brazil. In a filing to the Criminal Court of Sao Paulo, Microsoft stated "... Amadeu, President of the National Institute of Information Technology (ITI), aiming at disseminating free software among Ministries, State owned companies and governmental bodies, made aggressive declarations lacking any kind of technical foundation about the use of the software developed by Microsoft... In defending free software, Mr. Amadeu does not abstain from criticizing Microsoft, accusing the company of a 'drug-dealer practice' for offering the operational system Windows to some governments and city administration for digital inclusion programs...These declarations made by Mr. President of the ITI, beyond being absurd and criminal, extrapolate prohibitions and violate duties inherent to the public office the Defendant exercises."

How's that for some serious misdirection? Consider how Sergio Amadeu might have reacted. Did Microsoft focus on how sensitive Sergio was to criticism? Regardless, the next technique Microsoft used was to disappear from the filing.

What's Wrong with The Linux Desktop? Could You Run that By Me Again?

Linux is making significant progress with the desktop. In next month's Linux Journal, for example, you can read an article about Project Utopia where Robert Love explains about how hardware just works now with Linux. He says:

Today, the Project Utopia mindset continues to foster new applications, interesting hacks and fresh projects aimed at making hardware just work. Linux distributions from Novell, Red Hat and others sport powerful HAL-based infrastructures. The GNOME Project is integrating HAL and D-BUS across the board. The Project Utopia cause is spreading beyond GNOME too, as other platforms implement HAL-based solutions in a similar vein.

I feel fortunate to see the success of Linux across the globe. Projects like those in Extemadura Spain say the Linux desktop is robust, practical and the best tool for the developing nations of the world. Commercial Linux vendors like Novell have seen significant uptakes in enterprise Linux. Community oriented projects like Ubuntu have demonstrated how well Linux fits in the rest of the world.

But, I do have to admit that even I resorted to using Windows XP recently. In a Five Star Hotel in a foreign land, I could only get a Microsoft OS to connect to the Internent. The Hotel deployed a 100% Microsoft Active Directory infrastructure. While I was at it, I did find something specific to Microsoft's OS. I could download and watch a pay-for-view movie. That's something that's difficult to do with Linux.

So, Microsoft is capturing the Digital Rights Management Market. You'll need XP to buy those movies. Of course, I forgot to mention that after I watched the movie, I had to run the defragmentation tool to get the system to run again. But, that's a discussion for another day.

» Read more about: Story Type: LXer Features, News Story; Groups: Community, GNOME, Microsoft, Novell, OSDL, Red Hat, Ubuntu

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