#2: Granny’s new camera

Wednesday, January 10th, 2007

This is one post in a series, describing challenges we need to overcome to make free software ubiquitous on the desktop.

Power users love Linux.  It’s fast, customizable, personal, tweakable, and they can make just about anything work. Most peripherals can be made to work with Linux, it’s just that you normally need to wait a little while or know how to write the appropriate drivers or glue.

Office productivity workers love Linux too if all they do is web, email and a bit of office. They love it because it doesn’t go down for maintenance, it’s not subject to the same barrage of viruses and other defects for which Windows is sadly notorious. You can configure it as a thin client system and greatly reduce the total cost of ownership in these scenarios.

So the ends of the spectrum – the power users and the don’t-mess-with-my-system users, are already well serviced by Linux, and it’s getting better for them every six months. It’s the middle crowd – the guys who have a computer which they personally modify, attach new hardware to, and expect to interact with a variety of gadgets – that struggle. The problem, in a nutshell, is Granny’s new camera.

You gave Granny the PC last Christmas and set it up with Ubuntu because it Just Works. Everything’s peachy, no viruses or spyware, you can administer it remotely whenever you think it needs a bit of polish, and as far as you’re concerned it’s great. But then your brother gives Granny a new digital camera… and it only has drivers for Windows.

Solving this requires work at two levels – first there are possibly some drivers, and second there need to be relevant applications to manage the gadget’s content (music, photos, videos, GPS tracks, etc) and administer the gadget (firmware updates etc).  As Eric Raymond has said – kid’s just want their iPod to work.

My own feeling here is that it’s all about critical mass. Once 5-10% of the people who buy these gadgets are running Linux (actually, a single brand of Linux), only then will the gadget manufacturers themselves start to care about it as a consumer platform for which their stuff should work. That goes for everything from cell phones, PDA’s, and smart phones to some of the more weird and wonderful things that people like to drive from a PC, like laser cutters and 3D printing machines. It’s partly just a matter of time, but then it’s also partly a question of how we communicate the state of Linux today (just like the issues in “pervasive support” (challenge #9).

The situation is definitely improving. To the extent that Apple continues to use free software components like CUPS, we benefit in the Linux world because printers that want to Just Work with MacOS will also Just Work with Linux. That’s a nice boost.

64 Responses to “#2: Granny’s new camera”

  1. Mo Says:

    I honestly agree that encouraging manufacturer support for a single brand of Linux is the way to go. Not in order to lock out other distros/trees, but for precisely the opposite.

    If *all* Linux distros co-operated competitively (I know that sounds wrong), then the sort of aggressiveness that builds will lead to an ever improving core, and whatever specification set a single brand of Linux manages to woo a manufacturer, that specification will be unequivocally adopted by the others. This is open source/free software of course!

    Holding the door open arguing “after you sir” “no, after you sir” all day will do nothing. Ubuntu wants to be THE Linux, no other distro has made it so clear. And it likely will as it is the most powerful distro out there, on many levels (arguably). I would love to see hardware with ‘Ubuntu [Hardware Specification Set Name Here] Compatible stickers as that really is the start to making a physically visible dent.

    When I see the Ubuntu logo on hardware in Dixons and PC World, then I’m certain that Linux is ready to put on the boxing gloves.

  2. Ubuntu-blogi » Arkisto » Uutisia ja lainauksia, viikko 2/2007 Says:

    […] “So the ends of the spectrum – the power users and the don’t-mess-with-my-system users, are already well serviced by Linux, and it’s getting better for them every six months. It’s the middle crowd – the guys who have a computer which they personally modify, attach new hardware to, and expect to interact with a variety of gadgets – that struggle. The problem, in a nutshell, is Granny’s new camera.” – Ubuntun kehittäjä Mark Shuttleworth arvioi Linuxia eri käyttäjäryhmien kannalta. http://www.markshuttleworth.com/archives/76 […]

  3. its about time» Blog Archive » links for 2007-01-11 Says:

    […] Mark Shuttleworth » Blog Archive » #2: Granny’s new camera “This is one post in a series, describing challenges we need to overcome to make free software ubiquitous on the desktop.” (tags: opensource linux ubuntu hardware compatible challenge) […]

  4. Its not all Sunshine and roses. Says:

    […] It was on the third hour of reading forums and checking configurations and checking settings that I realised that in many ways we in the community we call open can sell our selves short. We underestimate the willingness of the end user to prevail and learn about their technology and we undersell the value of the support community we have established. Given the recent Mark Shuttleworth posting regarding grannies new camera I felt my experiences  on a purely windows basis alone were worth sharing with the open source community. Reading the forums and investigating this problem leads me to believe that it may be time to revisit some of our “established” prejuidices and beliefs about users and operating systems.The evidence would  suggests that the sun isnt shining any brighter on the other side of the fence. […]

  5. Lesley Clayton Says:

    Yip it would be great to see more linux for the gadget world

  6. Fern Rimbaud-Molini Says:

    Mark: Agreed, we need to continue to put pressure on the manufacturers to support platforms that are important to their customer base.

    That said, it is an uphill fight similar to the one we have with browser support and other technologies. Most of us don’t use IE or Office and we need to be very vocal about what we as consumers need whether it is the OS, the web interface or an open file format in which to save documents.

  7. stefan.waidele.info » Blog Archive » Shuttleworth: Challenges for Free Software Says:

    […] #2: Granny’s new camera – Vendor-support for the latest, cool gadgets. […]

  8. Chin Wong Says:

    Hi Mark,

    I’ve enjoyed your posts on the challenges we need to overcome so much I wrote about it in an article called “Almost famous” for one of the national dailies here in the Philippines. I’ve also posted the story on my blog:

    http://www.chinwong.com/index.php/site/comments/almost_famous/

    Ubuntu has come a long way in a really short time, but you are right when you say we need to 1) make it even easier to use, even for Granny, and 2) spread the word, not only about its benefits but also about how many people are really using it–as a way to encourage more hardware manufacturers to support Linux.

  9. Brad Whittington Says:

    I was thinking about grannies camera, and spec’d up this feature for launchpad: https://blueprints.launchpad.net/launchpad/+spec/hardware-compatibility

    I would appreciate some thoughts and insights?

  10. nasrullah chinnarassen Says:

    i want to know if printer f380 Hp is compatible with ubuntu

  11. Mighty Linuxz » Granny’s new camera: Shuttleworth calls for wider hardware support Says:

    […] read more | digg story […]

  12. Hardly Any Hardware Works on Ubuntu Linux! | Ubuntu Linux Help Says:

    […] “…it’s all about critical mass. Once 5-10% of the people who buy these gadgets are running Linux (actually, a single brand of Linux), only then will the gadget manufacturers themselves start to care about it as a consumer platform for which their stuff should work. That goes for everything from cell phones, PDA’s, and smart phones to some of the more weird and wonderful things that people like to drive from a PC, like laser cutters and 3D printing machines. It’s partly just a matter of time, but then it’s also partly a question of how we communicate the state of Linux today…” You can read his full post here: http://www.markshuttleworth.com/archives/76 […]

  13. 451 CAOS Theory » 451 CAOS Links - 2007.01.10 Says:

    […] Granny’s new camera, here be dragons, Mark Shuttleworth (Blog) […]

  14. hardware » Blog Archive » Granny’s new camera: Shuttleworth calls for wider hardware support Says:

    […] read more | digg story […]