Why Linux Won't Ever Be Mainstream

from the damn-I-wish-my-hewlett-packard-scanner-worked dept.

By CmdrTaco [ http://cmdrtaco.net/ ]

July 18, 2001

Linux won't ever be accepted as a truly mainstream OS by most vendors. The reason for this is quite simply the users. And I'm not talking about everyone, I'm talking about the 31337 h4x0r kids with the bad attitude. They're posting right here on this system, intermixed with others who often share the attitude, but also have a bit more civility. I saw this once again while learning about the Hewlett Packard 3300C flatbad scanner ... which has zippo Linux support from HP. And I don't see that changing. Keep reading and maybe I can explain why.

So I collect anime cels. I have a fairly nice collection now. Cels from Tenchi [ http://www.animefu.com/index.pl/index.pl?node_id=369 ], Trigun [ http://www.animefu.com/index.pl/index.pl?node_id=369 ], Ranma 1/2 [ http://www.animefu.com/index.pl?node_id=5179 ] among others. It's a fun hobby that I find gets me a little more involved with some of my favorite shows to have a little piece of them. Sometimes it can be horribly expensive, but often really nice cels for just a few bucks can be found.

But what do you do with these cels? Well, I framed several. Museum-quality glass ensures that they'll stick around for awhile. But I have dozens of cels, and I travel a lot ... so scanning them in and making nice wallpaper images for my desktop sure will make KDE [ http://www.kde.org/ ] look nice. So with that in mind I began hopping around looking for an inexpensive flatbed scanner. And I thought I had found it in the HP 3300C. At only $80, it seemed like a great deal: I didn't need 2400x2400 scans or anything, I just wanted to get 1280x1024 images off 8.5x11 cels. A quick glance through /etc/usbmgr/usbmgr.conf revealed a line for it, so I figured I was all set. OK, that was a major mistake on my part -- I should have looked a little harder, I just made the ill-fated assumption that a line in this file meant someone had made the 3300C work under Linux.

I was wrong. I've set up USB devices before. I've set up scanners before. And this one bugger wasn't about to work. So I figured I'd hop over to google [ http://www.google.com/ ] and search around and see if I was missing something. After browsing around a few sites that provided me with no information whatsoever, I stumbled upon Linux-USB [ http://www.linux-usb.org/ ]. Duh, the source, right? Probably should have looked there in the first place, but hey, I never claimed to be a genius. My heart sunk when I found the supported scanners list [ http://www.qbik.ch/usb/devices/showdevices.php3?id=5 ] and found my cheapy HP 3300C, conveniently listed with an icon so obvious that even a moron could clearly see that his quest to scan in cels was going to be fruitless: The Red X of failure.

The site helpfully provides a little more info [ http://www.qbik.ch/usb/devices/showdv.php3?id=155 ] link with a discussion board that I figured I would read to see if perhaps work was underway. And this is where I made a shocking discovery. And if I was HP, I sure wouldn't be taking the abuse that so many people are dishing out. The discussion starts off fine. An email address to someone at HP to ask for specs. A comment about how HP should make their specs available since they are supposedly an Open Source company (even having gone so far as hiring Bruce Perens to do ... something. Well nobody is really sure what, but he does something for Linux at HP ;). The next comment was a user who returned his scanner. Another user glad that he found this page before he bought the scanner. Lucky bastard. I wish I had.

But this is where things turned sour. The messages turn from disappointed to just plain mean. HP employees are called bastards and assholes. Threats are made. They are referred to as lots of words that I would happily use in friendly conversation with a friend, but never post in a public forum read by strangers.

And thats where all of this is leading. Intermixed with this embarassing dialogue is legitimite stuff. One guy wants to write a driver. Others provide links to various support channels at HP where perhaps a request for the scanner specs might not come up empty.

But somehow I can't get the bad taste out of my mouth. I see it on Slashdot all the time, and I find it really disheartening. Its an attitude that many people have: The "You Owe Me" attitude. Certainly I'm not exempt from this attitude. If I pay for a device, dammit I want specs. But that doesn't mean that I'm going to call a company with thousands of employees "cockmasters" just because they don't want to support my operating system.

I've met a lot of people who've written a lot of open source code. Window Managers. Ethernet Drivers. X extensions. GUI Toolkits. And these people are almost always totally cool. Sure they have attitudes. They are pompous. They are proud of their work. And in most cases they deserve many more accolades then they get. But I think most of them wouldn't say something like "HP seems to be still smeeling Gates' asshole rather than coming out of it. Beware Hp, Linux is going strong and unless you recognize that and properly support your hardware under Linux, you are going to Piss in your pants one day." I'm embarassed to run the same OS as 'Casablanca' who provided Linux-USB with that choice quote. No doubt that Linux is going strong. But what does that have to do with the offensive statement that leads off? How does saying that advance anything?

This is at its worst in public forums. Mailing lists are often much more civil. I'm not saying always because every mailing list with more then a few people explodes into flames every now and then. But at least then you're talking about a private forum. There's just something about a public web board that brings the worst out in some people. Its unfortunate that because you don't sign your name, some people interpret that as a license to be a jerk.

I'm not saying drop the attitude. Linux is a superior operating system to the one that HP usually supports. But that attitude is a double edged sword. If welded childishly, it will hurt us all. I don't care if 'Casablanca' chops off his own leg, but damn it sucks that his attitude might hurt the dozens of other posters on that forum who all paid cash money for their HP 3300C scanner and may never see it supported.

The reality is that HP sells scanners and printers almost entirely to users of that "Other" OS. Writing a driver probably won't make them much money: especially not for a scanner that is going for less then a hundred bucks. Of course, releasing their specs costs them next to nothing, and for a company that has been working hard to embrace Open Source and Linux, it certainly is something cool that they could do.

In conclusion, I had to boot up windows to use my scanner. The Diablo 2 Expansion is the only other software on the partition. I scanned in a half dozens cels, rebooted, and did the rest of my work in The GIMP [ http://www.gimp.org/ ]. It took me much much longer to get things done then I would have liked and it definitely detracts from the usability of the scanner. The scans were fine, but the overhead it required forces me not to recommend the scanner to anyone. But if HP would release the specs to this thing, I know there would be a lot of happy people besides me. HP makes quality hardware and the price is definitely right on this one.

If they don't, I have a hard time blaming them. I know that the bitchers and moaners that are so loud in random forums throughout the net (and yes, even here on Slashdot. Maybe especially here) are actually a minority. The vast majority of Linux Developers and Users are sane and calm. Sure, we have that inner glow of satisfaction that comes from knowing we have uptimes of 200+ days and we only reboot to try out newer devel kernels. But we don't feel the need to call people names because we don't get our way. I admit that I've stepped over the line more times then I should, but I try to be cool about it. And I hope others do to.


Copyright 2001