Saturday, March 14, 2009

Fear and loathing in Holland

With "Linux's dirty little secret: Uninstall" professional journalism has reached another, unprecedented low. Frequent readers of my blog know I've exposed and criticized IT journalists and editors for years. I'm a customer and I expect nothing less than high quality articles of knowledgeable professionals.

For this, I've always liked German magazines, which I consider to be the best in the world. Nothing simply compares to "iX", "c't" or "Linux Magazine". It's sound stuff of people who know their thing and are not afraid to research it. I've learned a lot of neat things reading their work. Most of the articles are signed with the initials of the writer. These guys take pride in their work and are not out to become pop stars.

That is in sharp contrast with David Ramel, who considers himself to be the new Hunter S. Thompson, the man who invented "troll journalism". Mr. Ramel admits he's a newbie where Linux is concerned, but is not afraid at all to write about it in order to educate us idiots.

Mr. Ramel, let me remind you that there is something like ethics. Yes, you have a B.A. in journalism, so you ought to know all about it. I know, you hardly got your degree at Harvard or Yale, but even in Montana the concept must have crept in by now. Mr. Ramel has no degree in computer science, but in 1995 he was even able to start up Wordstar on his CP/M system.

It is clear that Mr. 'newbie' Ramel has a Windows-centric view on the world. To him, the only way to set up a home network is to use SMB/CIFS, you know that proprietary Microsoft framework that kept Samba developers busy for years until a billion dollar fine from the European Union forced Microsoft to open up. Next time, try NFS and CUPS for a change. BTW, Mr. Ramel hates Apple computers as well (and loved them a few months later). You really have to read his interesting article with all those compelling arguments. His love for Windows XP is.. well, touching.

But that is not the only thing. Mr. Ramel proves he is also unable to cope with the greatest invention since sliced bread: the Internet. "Uninstall Linux" (with quotes) gives me 16,700 hits. "Uninstall Ubuntu" gives me even 24,600 hits. That's a lot of hits for a "dirty little secret". Still, Mr. Ramel cannot uninstall Linux.

If Mr. Ramel claims to be a professional journalist, I'm afraid. Very afraid. Although Mr. Ramel admits in his latest article that he is still a Linux newbie, that doesn't stop him to produce SOFUD - a year ago:
"As for Linux, I've been hearing it's "ready for the desktop" for years now. Well, it's not ready. (..) It might be fine if you're the type of person who used to type "debug" in the DOS command line to make hexadecimal changes to standard operating system messages just for fun, like I did long ago."

Sounds familiar? The sad thing is that Mr. Ramels resume is quite short. He knows nothing but "Computerworld", which has so generously provided an income for Mr. Ramel and his family for so many years. Hopefully, the current crisis isn't a reason for "Computerworld" to reconsider its staffing. I'm afraid, that the current quality of his ramblings could be a reason for "Computerworld" to let him go. Let's hope it won't come that far.

Update: It's even worse than I thought. Currently the first sentence of this blog post contains a link labeled "Fedora Project Wiki" but when clicked you are actually taken to Ubuntu's documentation site. Perhaps this is why searching for "uninstall Fedora" and "remove Fedora" returns nothing? I've had it. Just fire the guy.

Update: "Journalism can be truthful without striving for objectivity" Mr. Ramel must have thought when he added this note to his article:
A page titled "How to uninstall Fedora" was added to the project Wiki after this blog was published.

Like magic, the error of the previous update has disappeared as well. Adding an entry to the Fedora Wiki is perfectionism. Covering up a blatant error without admitting it is just sneaky.

Update: David Ramel posted a reaction to the previous update:
If the "blatant error" you accuse me of "covering up" is the incorrect URL for the Fedora project in the original post, you can see in the comments that I replied to the person who informed of the error: "Thanks for pointing out that URL mistake. I fixed it."

It would have suited him if he had added the correction to his post. Comments are easily overlooked. I have posted the same text to his blog.

Update: My promise to Mr. Bernard Swiss has been fulfilled: I added the "I love Macs" link. Twice.


Anonymous said...

Completely agree with your comments.

Ive noticed many "IT Experts" on the net with no experience in anything other than Microsoft products.

A little like me saying that Im a vet but only having knowledge of hamsters.

The dangerous thing with these "IT experts" is that the average user will probably buy into anything they say simply because they believe the title. I think thats why I post on places like MSwatch. If we leave these "IT experts" to it, theyll have everyone convinced that you need to compile every package on Linux, and that there is no alternative to MS office.

In my experience, anyone who tells you they are an IT expert, isnt.

Great blog by the way, I hope you dont mind if I pimp mine!
"Celebrating FOSS, exposing Fud"

Anonymous said...

"uninstall windows" gives me 618,000 hits.

Anonymous said...

Thank you very much for clearing that up. I think Mr. Ramel must have no friends at all in order to have to write crappy "articles" like that to get some attention...

The Beez' said...

With quotes: 219,000. Most of these concern themselves with reverting to a previous Windows OS, which (in this case) is not quite the same. It is more like "uninstall upgrade".

Anonymous said...

Nice article, Hans,

Yes, the reference to Hunter S, is rather blatant, isn't it. It's giving this guy too much credit, though, to place him in the same category. David Ramel (if that's his real name) is a troll; Hunter S. Thompson actually had something to say.



Anonymous said...

Similar to my blog on the Mepis Community site. I agree Mr. Ramel clearly wasn't willing to look very far to disprove his 'story'. I suspect it doesn't sit very well with him that the Linux community does appear to be willing to help at all with the issue of uninstalling Linux...

Anonymous said...

yeah - this all seems murky like last night...

...and this morning. My advisor and ne'er do well accomplis, the crazed, Samoan lawyer, tried jumping into the land shark at about 8 with 3 large cumbersome duffles while his petite petunia danced behind him trying to maintain her stolen balance to no avail.

She plopped into him and they dumped $456,000 worth of mystery writing that would have seen us through 13 more years of debauchery.

Some people have no sense of fair play.


Anonymous said...

It's all too familiar. I've been writing on and off about this type of "journalism" in Hebrew - I ran a community web site called Linmagazine - until I realized, looking closer, that this is really a more general problem of tech writing (I mostly refer to online presence of big news corps.)

Many of the ("copy") writers have no clue about either Windows or Linux. These newspaper look sometimes like production lines of endless, repeative and weightless reporting, which is meant to bring readers back to the site.

Since most tech sites make their money out of Microsoft (ads), they are safe entertaining the masses, who have no particular interest in Linux, with ignorant commentary, rather then professional reporting. They are very critical of Linux, and very lax on anything Microsoft does.

For instance, coverage of Vista and Windows 7 development (in Hebrew tech magazines/sites) was, for me, "pseudo" journalism. Every MS spin was fed to people as a fact, creating the ever-lasting momentum that MS always depended on, that the next version will be the best thing ever (so, no need to check Mac or Linux just yet).

Mind you, in most cases, we are talking about professional writes who can articulate, and will claim their reporting is blanced. The fact the they are more critical of every perceived flaw in Linux (can't run Windows app... I mean, what can you say? it's true almost as it is irrelevant), and lax about the most fundamental problems of Windows (it sucks, but there's nothing better... because nothing else runs Windows apps...).

From this perspective, they fail doing their job. Reporting and educating their reader, not deciding for them. Mac can't run Window app, but no one will doubt it's superior to Windows. Linux can't run Windows app, but no one will doubt it's more stable, and being open, much more useful in many cases then Windows. etc.

Anonymous said...

Kicking and screaming will the Windows establishmentarians be dragged into the 21st century.

will said...

As a Linux driver developer, I could barely contain my RAGE while reading this article. Especially on a Monday morning...

Anonymous said...

Actually, typing "Howto uninstall ubuntu" yields more than 5 Million hits in Google.....
IT expert indeed... why did they even hire this guy ? What is his real "addition" ? Is it just click-hunger for adSense, knowing full well when another Anti-Linux rant is released, it'll be on LinuxToday and possibly even Slashdot ?
Is that it ?

Well, then, another site to remove from my list then right up there with anything Zidd-Fedvis....

Oh and Hans, I completely concur with your standpoint on the German magazines, iX and C'T are my favorites too. There used to be Byte, that saved the Americans faces back in the day, but unfortunately it got scrapped....

Anonymous said...

If the "blatant error" you accuse me of "covering up" is the incorrect URL for the Fedora project in the original post, you can see in the comments that I replied to the person who informed of the error:

"Thanks for pointing out that URL mistake. I fixed it.

A poster below ("Contribution is easy") indicated he added the "uninstall Fedora" page to the project wiki after this blog was published.

The date of this blog posting is March 13; the date of the "uninstall Fedora" page is March 15."

-- David Ramel

James Dowden said...

sudo rm -Rf /*

Removing *nix is so old it's already the source of a thousand bad jokes.

Anonymous said...

While I agree with your general point about the quality of "tech journalism" in general, and that Mr Ramel's article was rather ignorant and inflammatory, your own article is not entirely without fault, either.

For just one example, you reference his "I Hate Mac" article of Oct 2007, without acknowledging his follow-up "I (gulp!) love Macs" article of Feb 2009, where 4 months later he admits the error of his previous prejudices.

It's also worth noting that the article you linked to in referencing his self-admitted newbie ignorance was the 2nd of a four-part series on networking several computers in a home environment, including Windows (Win 98, Win XP and Vista), Mac and Ubintu Linux. Unlike most self-described tech journalists, he persisted, learned, and eventually succeeded, without resorting to the usual juvenile rants that any difficulties were because Linux or OS X were somehow inferior products compared to the "de-facto standard" Windows. He seemed quite willing to acknowledge help and explanations contributed by the readership.

Yes he is ignorant about Linux. But he admits this, and demonstrates both an ability and readiness to learn, a willingness to persist in the face of obstacles, and a readiness to bring along a newbie readership which is generally at about the same degree of Linux expertise as the typical Windows-user.

David Ramel's not presenting himself as an expert, just as a typical user who's prepared to get his hands dirty while less adventurous would-be newbies watch over his shoulder. He may be ignorant, but he's educable and willing to learn. As far as I'm concerned, this puts Mr. Ramel far ahead of the typical "mainstream" tech-journalist. Call me naive, if you will, but I think that Mr Ramel should be encouraged, rather than lambasted.

The Beez' said...

@Bernard Swiss
I'll be the first to acknowledge this article has its faults too, e.g. I missed the "I love Macs" article (which I will add later on - if I can find it). But note I have a regular job and not the time to dedicate myself to the kind of research I would expect of a professional journalist. Professional journalists have a special responsibility. Simply because this is an anonymous blog and Mr. Ramel publishes for a highly regarded site. His article is read by more readers and taken more seriously. Articles like this hurt the Open Source community. If he would have addressed a *real* problem, I wouldn't have blinked an eye. But Mr. Ramel chose to publish an immature article with a suggestive title. I just hope that blogs like mine keep journalists on their toes and improve the quality of their work. I agree with you there, that quality is an issue of concern.

Anonymous said...

There is an obvious explanation. People would clearly *want* to uninstall Windows...

Anonymous said...

You said "Yes he is ignorant about Linux. But he admits this, and demonstrates both an ability and readiness to learn, a willingness to persist in the face of obstacles, and a readiness to bring along a newbie readership which is generally at about the same degree of Linux expertise as the typical Windows-user."

Ok, thats fine. But then what the hell is he doing posting articles about it if that is the case? If he is supposed to be a journalist, what worth has a few moody lines and a complaint about uninstalling have to anyone?

If I want to watch the baffled or inexperienced mess on with an OS, Ill watch one of the new Microsoft adverts featuring children.

You went on to say "Mr. Ramel far ahead of the typical "mainstream" tech-journalist. Call me naive, if you will, but I think that Mr Ramel should be encouraged, rather than lambasted."

So do you think its worth be putting my young lad in front of Gentoo and reporting his experiences? Of course not!

If this Mr Ramel wants to learn Linux great. If he wants to write an article about his voyage into the world of Linux thats great aswell, but shouldnt he wait until he actually has the understanding, then he can report more accurately on his experiences and misconceptions, instead of plodding along in the dark, inexperienced and expecting us to follow his "first steps" as they happen?

Just an idea, but hey what would I know. Maybe Mr Ramel is a pioneer and this type of article is what everyone wants to read.