Press "Enter" to skip to content

Top Four Takaways From My Appearance on Doc Searls’ ‘FLOSS Weekly’ Podcast

In January, FOSS Force’s Christine Hall was the guest on Doc Searls’ FLOSS Weekly podcast. Here’s what she learned from that appearance.

Doc Searls and Christine Hall on the FLOSS Weekly podcast
Doc Searls (left) and Christine Hall on the FLOSS Weekly podcast.

In case you don’t know, about a month ago I was on FLOSS Weekly, a weekly podcast hosted by Doc Searls, which was really a lot of fun. I’d never met Searls, virtually or otherwise, but it turns out that we have a scary number of things in common. The co-host for the show was Simon Phipps, who I’ve known virtually for a while.

Neither Searls nor Phipps should need any introduction to followers of Linux and open-source. Among other things, Phipps is currently standards and policy director at Open Source Initiative, where he’s also served as president, and is also a board member at AlmaLinux.

Searls, besides having a cool first name, is known for his long association with Linux Journal, where among other things he spent a couple of years as editor-in-chief. He’s still involved, according to his LinkedIn page, as “emeritus editor in chief,” which evidently means he keeps “its archives permanently alive at”

Anyway, I had loads of fun as a guest on the show, and I’ve come up with a shortlist of takeaways from that hour or so of Zoomtime.

I should probably warn you going in that I’m not completely serious about any of these takeaways, but nor am I completely not serious either.

  1. Linux advocates who don’t use Linux aren’t confined to the Linux Foundation: One thing that’s griped me like forever is that fact that hardly anyone at the Linux Foundation runs Linux on their laptops or desktops. I say “almost,” because I did meet one person, one time in a VIP lounge at an open source conference, who was not only running Linux, he was running it on a machine from Purism, which makes pricey machines with Linux preinstalled, and which use open source drivers.

    That meeting was something like five years ago, and I haven’t met anyone from LF since who was running Linux, which is something I’ve always thought strange. I would think an organization with “Linux” in its name would require or at least encourage Linux use, but they proudly don’t.

    The folks at LF aren’t the only Linux advocates that don’t actually use Linux to meet their everyday desktop needs. That list would include even the co-hosts on FLOSS Weekly.

    About 10 minutes into Searls’ show, Phipps offered that he doesn’t run Linux directly on metal, but runs in on a container in his Chromebook, which in my opinion is akin to washing your feet with your socks on, to use an old analogy.

    “I found that I was trying to use those distros and they would inevitably corrode on me and I’d find myself having to go and fix something at the command line,” he said. “Then you get all the tech bro stuff, where everyone looks down at you for not knowing the right command to give. I finally got tired of all of that and switched to ChromeOS about a decade ago, and now I do all of my Linux in a container on top of my Chrome desktop.”

    I completely got it about the “tech bro” stuff; I don’t think there’s any of us Linux users who haven’t been on the wrong end of that. My reaction to the rest, however, was to think, never mind that 10 years is like a couple of lifetimes when it comes to tech advancement, because even 10 years ago Linux ran pretty damn good on a desktop, even at the newbie level.

    During the same discussion, Searls chimed in to offer that he pretty much doesn’t use Linux anymore either. Boggles the mind.

  2. Nobody but me thinks the Linux Foundation should support desktop Linux: It will surprise no one who knows me one whit that at some point during my hour or so on the air, I found an opportunity to turn my soapbox over, stand on it, and rail about the Linux Foundation’s total lack of support for desktop Linux (see takeaway 1). This time was no different, and at the first opportunity that presented itself in the conversation, I was working to gather an angry mob over how easy it would be for the Linux Foundation to start a baby Desktop Linux Foundation.

    After a couple of minutes I paused to take a breath, hoping Searls or Phipps (you know, the guys who no longer use desktop Linux) would pick up the ball and continue the conversation. Didn’t happen. Searls went straight to commercial.

    Pretty much normal for me. Whenever I start railing about the Linux Foundation and desktop support, people’s eyes start to glaze over and the sound of yawns starts to fill the room. I’m beginning to think that my insistence that LF support desktop Linux is my version of RMS’s insistence on GNU/Linux.

  3. Hardcore open-source fanatics are still shooting themselves in the foot: Now that I’ve proven myself to be a fanatic, I’ll complain about other fanatics, the people who turn snarky and accuse you of being a counter-revolutionary reactionary if you even hint that you’ve ever considered using something other than free software on your computer (see takeaways 1, 2, and 4).

    A lot of people are surprised to find that person isn’t me. Yes, I use Linux on all of my computers, because it’s free and open, but just as importantly, because it’s the best operating system going. Likewise, I use LibreOffice, Audacity, Gimp (despite its name), Joplin, Thunderbird, and other open source applications, again because they’re free and open, and because they work as well, if not better, than anything the proprietary world has to offer.

    But, if you want to run Windows, I’m fine with that. I’m also fine with folks who pay to use proprietary software on their machines (I have proprietary software on my machines as well, I just don’t pay for any of it). I get the point the “nothing but free software” people are making, but I think that they’re missing the biggest point of software freedom, which is the freedom of the user to us whatever the user wants or needs.

    After I made this point on FLOSS Weekly, Searls told the story of some folks advocating and evangelizing their nothing-but-free software view, who won’t go on his show because some non-free software is used to produce it.

    It occurs to me this might help explain why not a heck of a lot of people are even aware of their message. I mean, if you can’t tell your story to a FOSS audience because some non-free software is used to transmit your message, how the heck are you every going to get your message to non-FOSS folks running Windows who have no idea what free software is?

  4. Everybody has an RMS story: One thing I quickly learned many years back when I first started covering the open-source beat is that everybody who’s ever come close to covering free software or open source has some kind of story to tell about Richard Stallman, the eccentric founder of Free Software Foundation and the GNU project, and every one of those stories are much better than the two or three that I have to tell.

    Turns out that Doc Searls has at least one to tell too. About 45 minutes into our talk, when I was explaining my take on GNU/Linux versus just-plain-Linux (see takeaway 2), I closed with an encounter I had over the issue with RMS many years ago, which prompted Searls to tell a very funny personal story about RMS that sounded like it came straight from Inspector Clouseau.

A few days before we recorded the show, I sent Searls a bullet list of things I thought we could talk about. The list was quite long, because I have an opinion on almost everything. One of the items we didn’t get to before time ran out was, “Why I think FLOSS Weekly should change its name to FOSS Weekly.” I’m pretty sure that if that had been discussed, I’d have another takeaway on this list.

Maybe next time.


  1. Matt Matt February 23, 2023

    I think for most Linux desktop users it’s often more of a freedom of choice and control over hardware that is so enticing. What brought me to use Linux over other systems was seeing railroad tycoon from Loki and the dd command was just too cool to not use. But I wasn’t aware of gnu until 5 or 6 years after being a Linux user. In fact, I don’t know of any users who started using Linux or GNU because of the ideology of user freedoms. However, it’s certainly become very important to me as well. I believe in the ideology of free software but it’s not possible to make that important to someone else using negatives over positives, in my experience. I think it would be very interesting to see a GNU message that was a positive only message. Only the pros of freedom rather than sold as an alternative to nom-freedom.

  2. Brett Brett February 23, 2023

    Hi Christine, I’ve always loved your writing!

    I’ve used Linux on my desktop for 20+ years. It does everything I need it to do, and although I will admit to some technical literacy, I’m not a guru. I agree with you that there’s no reason why especially Linux advocates shouldn’t be running it on their desktops. A few times a year, I pop a drive with Windows on it into my computer so I can use TurboTax or something similar. There’s no harm in that either.

    I *agree* the Linux Foundation should be supporting desktop Linux. It seems all of their efforts are on crap that runs on the cloud for the benefit of their sponsors. Couldn’t they at least do a 90%/10% split and show the desktop some love? Speaking of Desktop, I love both KDE and Cinnamon and am disappointed that the “corporate” Linux Desktop (from RHEL and Ubuntu) is Gnome.

    I have had no interactions with RMS but I can say as the creator of the GPL and founder of GNU the man has left an indelible positive footprint that has benefited (whether they know it or not) literally everyone on earth. And the man’s a genius. Does that mean I think he walks on water? Of course not. He has some ideas with which I disagree. And maybe, sometimes, he hasn’t behaved very well either. But I look in the mirror and see an imperfect person too.

    Great interview, and great article. Keep up the good fight!

  3. Paul Sams Paul Sams March 7, 2023

    It just dawned on me that I have been using Linux since the latter part of 2003. My first successful install was Mandrake Linux, it was still called Mandrake at the time. The first distro I read about was Debian. I used Mepis as I considered it debian, but, I was so proud when I made my first successful install of Debian Sarge. I love Debian! It is now what I am familiar with. In my opinion, the Linux Desktop with the Mate Desktop, with XFCE4 a very close 2nd. I can’t think of any other Desktops that are as user friendly for the masses. I know a lot of folks who held on to W#n!! 8.1 which now is no longer supported. They will get rid of prefectley good computers because they will have to buy a new computer with version11 of that other OS. That is such a waste. Some will continue to use 8.1 with no more security support. Even though they have used my computers before when they needed to do something while their windows laptop was “messed up.” Their eyes still glaze over when I mention Linux. “They guy at Best Buy” told them it was no good. “sigh”

Comments are closed.

Breaking News: