2x54: Well Baffled

Stuart Langridge, Jono Bacon, and Jeremy Garcia present Bad Voltage, in which we only get the bad bits of Neuromancer, apparently “stank” is a noun, and:

  • [00:01:13] More and more companies are going for some sort of "open core" business model approach to software distribution: parts of the software are open and parts are closed, or there's a licence which prohibits its use by cloud providers without paying, or you have to pay for the branded version. We take a look into the different approaches here, and what it means for open source in general and the direction of the industry
  • [00:27:50] This past weekend has seen a bit of dancing about whether Ubuntu will drop 32-bit libraries from the archive, ending up with a statement from Canonical about it saying they aren't going to (and Valve have responded saying that they'll continue to support Steam on Ubuntu, although that was after we recorded the show)
  • [00:44:17] Facebook have released a cryptocurrency, Libra. What's the deal here? We have some thoughts, not surprisingly

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In response to one of the questions we brought up during the show (from the Steam link above):

The Linux landscape has changed dramatically since we released the initial version of Steam for Linux, and as such, we are re-thinking how we want to approach distribution support going forward. There are several distributions on the market today that offer a great gaming desktop experience such as Arch Linux, Manjaro, Pop!_OS, Fedora, and many others. We’ll be working closer with many more distribution maintainers in the future. If you’re working on such a distribution and don’t feel your project has a direct line of contact with us, by all means, have a representative reach out directly.

That all being said, we don’t have anything specific to announce at this time regarding what distribution(s) will be supported in the future; expect more news on that front in the coming months. We remain committed to supporting Linux as a gaming platform, and are continuing to drive numerous driver and feature development efforts that we expect will help improve the gaming and desktop experience across all distributions; we’ll talk more about some examples of that soon.

The word that Aq didn’t know was “stank”? Obviously I know it as the past tense of “stink” - eg. “Yesterday the toilet stank.”

But the phrase “Facebook’s stank is xyz” makes no sense to me. Did I mishear?

see? SEE?!

Admittedly, popular culture and me have mostly been on nodding terms for the best part of two decades …

I really like the new/old format for this episode.

Unfortunately I can not publicly comment on the first topic. So much I’d like to add. But you all covered it pretty well.

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During the discussion of the “open core” topic, there was a bit about projects going commercial and changing names, losing the advantage of recognition for the product. I apologize if it was mentioned and I missed it but I think Red Hat recognized that as a potential problem and was smart enough to rename the open source project to Fedora and keep the recognized name associated with the commercial product.

I hadn’t listened to the show in ages, and was very please to load up this episode in my headphones last night!

My two Taiwan dollars on these topics:

Open core

More and more, I tend to drift towards a pure free/libre approach to the problem. Companies who use open source (always using a permissive license, of course) to get a good aura, then have to start responding to the pressure of investors… meh.

I follow a bit the 3D/graphics industry, and recently Ton Roosendaal, creator and founder of Blender, posted an interesting article on the Blender blog to explain why Blender was free software (GPL) and what it meant. I believe he wrote that post because of the numerous add-ons for Blender that don’t provide their source code. It actually sparkled a very interesting debate in the comments, for those interested.

A few days later, I read a summary (in French, sorry!) about the Annecy Animation Festival round table between different actors of this domain: Autodesk, Sony, as well as smaller animation studios. It is obviously clear that the big actors want to squeeze out as much cash as possible using open source technologies, but they do not want to share anything themselves, merely participate in open source projects that would ease the animation studios workflow. Basically, they understand that if they refuse to be part of the open source initiative, the ship will sail without them and soon enough their proprietary “bricks” (as they define it themselves in the round table discussion) will not fit anywhere in the animation studios’ workflow.

I digress, but I feel like if you release your project under a permissive license, it might be good in the beginning to attract bigger actors or companies (cause apparently they are afraid of the GPL), but in the mid-to-long term this decision will bite you in the ass.

Canonical / Valve thing

I still don’t understand Valve’s communication on what happened. There was that Pierre-Loup’s tweet, and, a few days later, a message by him on the Valve forums. Doesn’t Valve have a PR department? It felt extremely amateurish to do that, especially since message that sparked all the controversy mentioned that Canonical had been discussing with Valve before announcing this (so Valve was aware of what was going on).

From what I understand, Valve recently launched Proton, a technology that allows you to run non-Linux games on Linux, and some famous Youtubers started to talk about gaming on Linux. For a lot of gamers who were like “Argh, Windows SUCKS! but I need it to run my games”, this was the last straw and shortly after the video was released, the Linux and Gaming on Linux subreddits started to be flooded with questions on what Linux distro was best for gaming. Oddly enough, it’s not Ubuntu that was mentioned, but either Mint (based on Ubuntu) or Manjaro (based on Arch) because they included newer graphics drivers and/or mechanisms to enable video drivers easily, which apparently Ubuntu is not so good at.

The thing is, most of these gamers are not really Linux users. They left Windows because they dislike Windows, not because they wanted to embrace free and open source softwares. I don’t know how this will pay off in the long term… I am not a gamer, but I actually left Windows (back in 2004!) because of a growing discomfort with the lack of customization that Windows was back then. I end up, 15 years later, being very attached to the philosophy of free software, so I guess there is hope! :wink:

Libra / Facebook / Cashless payments

You guys seem to think Facebook is hard at work to remove fake news and stuff like that, I’m much more pessimistic on that stance. Not only because I think it’s technically extremely difficult, but also because I think Facebook has too much money tied up to having their user base captive (dopamine shots, attractive headlines, emotional reactions, etc.)

A good example that happened where I live was the election, in November last year, of a pro-Beijing politician as the mayor of a city in the South of Taiwan. Taiwan, and especially the South of Taiwan, is very wary of the Authoritarian Communist Party of China, and yet they elected this populist guy… There is a good article on Foreign Policy that shows how Facebook (which is massively used here) influenced people into voting for a populist moron, more than 2 years after the US populist moron :slight_smile: In essence, some Chinese groups related to the Communist Party of China set up a lot of Facebook groups in support for this guy as soon as one day after he said he would run for the mayor office, and started pushing very questionnable content that was then massively shared not only on Facebook but also on Line (the Japanese version of WeChat/Whatsapp, massively used in Taiwan).

The irony of all this is that Facebook is not officially available in China… :slight_smile:

As for WeChat, as @jonobacon mentioned, it’s ubiquitous in China. Even street food stalls start refusing cash and only accept WeChat payments… It allows a tight control of the population, since the company behind WeChat is hands in hands with the CCP. But that’s another story :slight_smile:


I think Jono seriously underestimates just by how much Canonical has cut back their Desktop team. It’s just 13 people anymore, most of them not working on the desktop full-time. Since swapping Unity for GNOME Shell their job has become so much easier. The default Ubuntu GNOME session is just a bit of configuration and a forked shell extension. I doubt the Ubuntu packaging differs significantly from what’s already in upstream and Debian. The most important job the Desktop team has nowadays is deciding which versions of GNOME Shell, the GNOME applications and X.Org binaries go into the next release. They did fix some annoying bugs in GNOME Shell, but things are definitely not moving at the same speed as back in the Unity days.

On the Snap side its even much worse. Desktop snaps are just a free-time side project. Basic stuff is broken all the time and then doesn’t get fixed for an eternity.