February 17, 2019

From the Desktop: F Stands for FVWM2 and Free Market - page 2

Read My Lips

  • November 7, 2000
  • By Brian Proffitt

When Linux-Mandrake was released for download last week, it contained, among other things, a full final version of KDE 2.0. Love it or hate it, this desktop environment is one of the most eagerly awaited applications of recent days.

What many folks did not know was this: a few days earlier, MandrakeSoft had released boxed sets of the Complete and PowerPack Deluxe versions of the software to be sold in the Wal-Mart retail chain. This boxed set was different in a few ways from the download version that was to come, too. The most important one being that KDE 2.0 in the box was actually KDE 1.99, or Release Candidate 1.

Now, to be very, very clear: at no time did MandrakeSoft or their distributors Macmillan Software ever say on the boxes of these products that KDE 2 final was inside. On the Deluxe box, it just says "KDE 2.0 Beta." There is no mention of KDE at all on the Complete version.

Yet, upon discovering the disparity, take a guess what the Linux-Mandrake users did. If you said something with the word "ballistic" in it, you win!

Here's why this happened. Wal-Mart, in its usual high-handed way, dictated to the execs at Macmillan that unless the product got on the shelves at their stores by October 31, the Mandrake penguin would not see the inside of a Wal-Mart store until January 15. So, weeks ago, everyone involved with Linux-Mandrake decided to make 20,000 copies of L-M 7.2 for sale in this retail channel, and a few others. And, since KDE 2 was not released as a final version yet, there was no way it could be included within this early run off.

It should be noted, by the way, that the MandrakeSoft programmers, many of whom work on KDE, did a pretty good job of tightening up the rather unstable RC1 of KDE 2.0 into something that was certainly ready for an official release. No, it's not KDE 2.0, but it's a near thing.

For the record, I understand and agree with what MandrakeSoft had to do. Watching the process of getting my books published, I understand the sometimes capricious whims of retail outlets. I wish it did not have to happen, but I also wish Bill Gates would suddenly denounce Windows and go find inner peace at a Washington monastery, so you see how far wishes can get you.

The Mandrake community was not so forgiving. They thought MandrakeSoft and Macmillan were trying to pull a fast one and had misrepresented the release sent out to the early retail outlets. And, boy, did they let MandrakeSoft and Macmillan have it. Given the emotional content of the e-mails that were fired off at these two companies, it was clear that betrayal was the major emotion being felt.

Did these companies misrepresent L-M 7.2? I don't think so. But they came very, very close. In the press release that went out about the release of L-M, it said quite clearly:

"Linux-Mandrake 7.2 exemplifies this commitment by providing a comprehensive suite of graphical interfaces including KDE 2.0 (*): the new version of the well-known graphical environment."

Oh, and that little asterisk? It was for a little footnote waaaaay down at the bottom of the release:

"(*) If not included in your product, the final version of KDE 2.0 is available through MandrakeUpdate."

So, the truth was certainly told. But in my opinion, whoever wrote this press release was playing with fire. Imagine thinking that Linux-Mandrake users (or any Linux user) would not feel anything less than outrage at getting strung along like this. Tossing little legal disclaimers out to us is rather insulting. Better that other features of L-M 7.2 get highlighted than making users read the fine print.

When I first came over from the Dark Side, a good friend of mine told me that Linux-Mandrake users were among the most loyal distro-fans in the community. If this is true, then MandrakeSoft and Macmillan are doubly thoughtless for toying with the affections of their loyal customer base.

Unlike the average voter, the Linux community pays a lot of attention to the words and intentions of the movers and shakers. It therefore falls upon those same large influences in the Linux world to take care how they treat their customers. We are not like Microsoft customers who think they have to roll over and accept Redmond's nonsense because there's nowhere else to go.

Linux customers have a vote on which will be their distribution of choice.

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