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Joe Liau: It Just Works!

Published Jan 19 2013 via RSS

[EDIT] I wasn’t finished writing this, and pushed “Publish” by mistake, and then went to eat cake! Here’s the improved (but not perfect) story. Sorry.

1337 Would Be N337

I’ll always remember that what initially attracted me to Ubuntu is also what initially turned me away from it as well. Back in the good old days, I would spend my free time installing, what I then knew as, different “Linux distros”.  Yes, that’s what got me excited (don’t judge!). The reason why I kept trying new things was because I could never quite reach the functionality that I wanted… until I met Ubuntu. On first install (even back in 2005), it just worked. However, at the time, it was too easy. I was so used to the pain of getting my mouse to work that I actually missed it. I had come from a world where this thing that started with an L was supposed to be difficult to setup, and if I could do it, then I would be 1337!

After promptly formatting my hard drive, I went back to the usual masochistic distro hopping. A year or so went by, but I was continually drawn back to Ubuntu (obviously…here I am). It was different. There was something attractive about the community, the ethos, and the name (for which I researched the pronunciation), but that’s not what this story is about. As the year went by, I also realized that I clearly have issues about needing things to fix… but that’s not really the story either.

What the Heck is the Story?!

Here I am, eight years later in the good new days, and I’m happily doing my best to “fix” things in Ubuntu. And, it also kind of just works. This oxymoronical situation keeps me satisfied, but I’m also still concerned by the “it just works” idea.

Maybe it’s my condition that causes me make problems out of nothing, or maybe there is something to be considered, but we must be wary of becoming complacent. “It just works,” is a phrase commonly used by people who are patrons to over-priced devices that don’t allow you to do anything outside of what the producers what you do to with them. Understandably, the masses really don’t want to spend their free time trying to get things to work. So, in order to make Ubuntu attractive, it has to be approachable.

It Still Works!

The problem is that when there is so much focus on making things “just work,” sometimes we are afraid to change things once they do work. This often leads to stagnation. I believe that some projects have hindered innovation by not allowing the community to interact with the development process, and trying to promote the image of perfection. However, it’s important that we (everyone) be open to the idea that things are not perfect, which is, in fact, the reality regardless of how polished things are on the outside, and be willing to participate in making them better. “If it ain’t broke, then we’re not trying hard enough.” This doesn’t mean that we become lazy and unrefined with our creation, but rather, we develop a culture in which it is safe to make mistakes, explore our human side and learn something.

So, rather that just working, I like the idea that things can do more than work. They can still work and be solid at the core, but also be free-flowing, organic, and always new. This is what Ubuntu is to me.

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