Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Matt Kohut. A man in need of an education

A scathing title? I know. And to be honest I don't really care. Matt Kohut is Lenovo’s Worldwide Competitive Analyst, and he is sorely in need of an education in operating systems and specifically Linux. In a recent blog on tech.blorge, Mr Kohut is quoted as saying a few hilarious things. Blatantly incorrect statements and remarks about the state of Linux development that is about 5 years behind the times makes for some entertaining reading. The reason I am upset by this, and not just amused, is that it was said by a high level representative for a major player in the hardware industry, someone that the average user looks up to, listens to. Someone in that position shouldn't be allowed to spout his mouth off without at least verifying the most basic of facts. Lets go through a few.
“There were a lot of netbooks loaded with Linux, which saves $50 or $100 or whatever, but from an industry standpoint, there were a lot of returns because people didn’t know what to do with it,” he said.
There is no way to verify whether this is true or not but lets assume it is. The simple reason why no one knows what to do with it is because the world is so ingrained into using Windows that they have no idea that there is something else. They see something different and they think it is immediatly inferior just because it is not familiar. This is, of course, speculation on my part so lets move on for now.

“Linux, even if you’ve got a great distribution and you can argue which one is better or not, still requires a lot more hands-on than somebody who is using Windows.

“You have to know how to decompile codes and upload data, stuff that the average person, well, they just want a computer.

“So, we’ve seen overwhelmingly people wanting to stay with Windows because it just makes more sense: you just take it out of the box and it’s ready to go.”

4 months ago my fiance moved in with me. Her computer was flaky as hell because Windows XP did not like her hardware for whatever reason. The problem is that because no one except Microsoft can see source code there were no guides to help fix her problem on the web so it was either spend a ton of cash or try another Operating System.

She did still want Windows for the familiarity and a "safety net" so we started off by reformatting her drive into two chucks for a dual boot configuration. We installed Windows. Four hours and three restarts later, Windows was up. But this was a pre-SP1 disk she had with her machine so we had to install our own firewall, antivirus and a trove of other "security software" before we went online to install Windows Updates.

Whew! That done we decided to install Ubuntu on the other partition. 45 minutes later she was looking at her Gnome desktop. Her 4 year old printer worked out the box, scanner, the lot.

Then the other day she wanted to get her favourite old game Dungeon Keeper 2 installed so that she could play for a bit. I suggested she just boot into Windows XP cos it was more likely to run. I suggested this simply because I was busy at the time and didn't want to have to go through the hassle of trying to make a game designed for Windows ONLY to run on Linux.

She pouted at me. She actually dropped her lip in a sullen pout and then, and I will never forget, uttered the words "I don't like Windows". I felt so elatedly happy that I got up and got Dungeon Keeper 2 working. And as a side note, there was no problem getting it working. It installed and ran with no fuss whatsoever.

My point? My fiance uses a PC in her job. She is by no means a computer geek or ultra-savvy. She had to ask how to watch a DVD in Ubuntu. I told her to put the disk in. It loaded and she watched with no problem. Decompile codes (whatever that means anyway) and upload files? I beg your pardon?
Kohut argues that for Linux to be successful on netbooks (or notebooks or desktops for that matter), the open source operating system needs to catch up with where Windows is now.

“Linus needs to get to the point where if you want to plug something in, Linux loads the driver and it just works.

“If I need to go to a website and download another piece of code or if I need to reconfigure it for internet, it’s just too hard.

“I’ve played around with Linux enough to know that there are some that are better at this than others. But, there are some that are just plain difficult.”

Ubuntu, as far as an interface goes, exceeded Windows XP and Vista even a year before Vista was released. The combination of Gnome and Compiz or KDE 4.2 blows away anything Microsoft has been able to get Windows to do visually. Stability? Linux has been the predominant server technology keeping hugely complicated web presences and sites running for decades now, so stability is not something to worry about.

A few years ago I tried running a Fedora desktop but I struggled to get my USB DSL modem working to get online. These days? I plug it in. It asks me for username and password, I am online. Thats it. Could it get any easier, Mr Kohut?

“From a vendor perspective, Linux is very hard to support because there are so many different versions out there: do we have Eudora, do we have SUSE, do we have Turbo Max?
This is just evidence of Mr Kohut's lack of expertise in the field. Eudora is a mail client (you know, like Outlook?), Turbo Max has nothing to do with software as far as Google tells me. And no .. you don't have to support every distribution of Linux. Pick one or two (Ubuntu and Fedora are two good ones) and support only them. In fact, charge for Ubuntu and Fedora like you do for Windows installations but instead of it being payment for the software make it payment for support that people can actually get. They get the OS for free, you charge for support, and customers actually do get support on their OS.

I am shocked, angry and a little sad too that someone in that position of influence and power can be so dense, clueless and down-right imbecilic. How can you make remarks on a topic that you obviously know nothing about? What also saddens me is that these comments, my own and those of all the other outraged Linux users, will not by read by the majority of users.


  1. Well done, I was waiting for someone to say this

  2. "You have to know how to decompile codes and upload data..."

    Hilarious stuff.

  3. An excellent article. If only Mr Kohut knew how to work his web browser to see it...