Unpopular Opinion Penguin #2: Radio Silence

Continuing with this new section called Unpopular Opinion Penguin, I think it’s a good day to talk about another unpopular opinion. This time it’s the turn of something that I mentioned in the past entry that has had a considerable adverse effect on what we had hoped would be a support gesture for our work.

When Nitrux was initially featured in the Distrowatch Linux distribution database on the 19th of June, 2017 we were overboard with excitement. Finally, we were getting acknowledgment about our work; however, since July 2019, that excitement has worn. 

Today, I’m going to talk about that.


Enjoy

Distrowatch is considered to be a central hub for information about Linux distributions within the FOSS community. To many, it is the place to find information about a distribution. A place where users can read the news regarding new releases, search for Linux distributions, BSD distributions, and other Unices, add reviews (really, comments), and read other misc. Information. The website has been active since 2001, which is nineteen years of continuous service to the community, which is impressive. Most notably, it is their ranking that some people (mistakenly) use to determine the popularity of a distribution.

That means that whatever distribution is included in their database, and that is visible in their ranking receives an enormous amount of attention, and when you’re making the things that we do, that’s a good thing.

Suffice to say, the day that Nitrux was featured merely as a footnote in their weekly issue #717, we saw a spike of almost 2,000 single visitors to our website. That is laughable to anybody (I assume), but back then, our website averaged 150 visitors daily. So you can imagine our excitement.

Nitrux. Nitrux is a Linux distribution featuring the Plasma-based Nomad desktop environment. Nitrux features a graphical application, called NX Software Center, for managing Snap packages.”

I’m quoting the description that was used initially for posterity.

For Distrowatch to include a new distribution in their database, someone involved with the distribution must submit a request by email (arguably the lead). We did so on the 13th of June, 2017. After a few emails back and forth, it was added to their waiting list, and just a few days later added to their database officially. We celebrated the process as it was very expedited. There’s not a form to fill per se. However, we sent the information displayed on the page (basically, a profile) at Distrowatch because that made sense to us.

That included the following:

  • Name of the distribution and a description.
  • Origin.
  • Screenshots.
  • Links to the website, bug tracker, GitHub organization, documentation, etc.
  • Logos and screenshots.
  • Package list.

.

It was all going well for us. But just like last time, little did we know what was coming.

On the 4th of September 2017, Distrowatch reviewed Nitrux 1.0.2 in their weekly issue #728; this was a huge milestone even though the review wasn’t kind to us. Nonetheless, we decided to take the feedback and used this occasion as an opportunity to make improvements to the distribution.

On the 27th of November 2017, Distrowatch picked up the news that we were moving away from Snaps to AppImages in their weekly issue #740.

On the 19th of February 2018, Distrowatch picked up the news that we included an AppImage by default for the first time in their weekly issue #751. Do note the description that they use here for Nitrux:

Nitrux is an Ubuntu-based Linux distribution which is focusing on supplying packages in portable, universal application formats such as AppImage.[…]”

On the 15th of October 2018, Distrowatch reviewed Nitrux 1.0.15 in their weekly issue #785.

I will say that this review happened because we sent an email to Distrowatch on the 4th of September, 2018 detailing that we had fixed many of the concerns that were raised on their first review and also to make corrections to the Nitrux page on their website.

Anyhow, our wish was granted, and a new review was done. That did not go well, again.

The review was harsh, many of the “problems” steemed from not following our development closely, that’s understandable in a way, but I also must say that many of these “problems” weren’t problems, even worse is that there were omissions and assumptions about a lot of things in that review. This time it didn’t feel as feedback, it felt different, so much so that on the 15th of October, 2018 we had to publish a post answering and, most importantly, clearing many of these omissions.

They, of course, ignore our response and didn’t bother to update their review.

For example, seemingly, a significant issue of the review was a bug with the Plasma panel. The review made it seemed as if the behavior introduced by the bug was something that was done on purpose.

By the time this review had been published, seventeen days had passed since Nitrux 1.0.16 was released, this version was released on the 28th of September, 2018 and it had the bug fixed, but this was not acknowledged in the review.

Let’s continue.

On the 4th of February, 2019, Distrowatch picked up the news about znx in their weekly issue #800.

On the 25th of February 2019, Distrowatch picked up the news about the development of VMetal in their weekly issue #803.

On the 18th of March 2019, Distrowatch reviewed znx in their weekly issue #806. As I mentioned in the previous Unpopular Opinion Penguin entry, we lacked proper documentation for znx, and this contributed to the review highlighting “problems” that weren’t problems in reality.

For instance, the review says, “[…] it allows the user to download multiple Linux distributions and write their ISO files to an external drive or a USB thumb drive. […]” that would imply that internal drives weren’t supported, which wasn’t right.

Or where the review says, “[…]I discovered a few interesting things early on, and one of them is the image name we provide (“nitrux/stable” in this case) must be in the format “distro/branch.” […]” which is wrong, it’s not that the format has to be distro/branch, the image name can be abc/123, that is irrelevant to znx. The format is like that because when the user enters abc/123, a directory structure is created, i.e., /STORE/abc/123.

And finally, where the reviewer tries unsuccessfully to boot generic ISO images using znx, “[…]The znx tool is off to a good start, and I suspect I will be using it more in the coming years once other distributions work seamlessly with it. […]”.

Once again, this lack of familiarity with znx is understandable. It would have been quite quickly resolved by asking us, for example, to find out why generic ISO files wouldn’t work to provide readers an informed experience.

(The initramfs has to be modified to include the mount points for the OverlayFS mounts to be detected by znx, and add an INFO file detailing the update URL pointing to the new ISO files and zsync file something that is not part of generic ISO files because they’re not meant to be used like that. Instead, they’re intended to be used as Live systems).

That marks the last time Distrowatch mentions Nitrux in their weekly issue. Which honestly came as a surprise. But then came the real problems.

The silence

It’s not a coincidence that Distrowatch does not talk about Nitrux anymore, like at all. There is a reason, and it’s quite dumb and petty.

You see, on the 2nd of July 2019, I retweeted two images. One of them displays Nitrux using systemd and one without, the latter using SysV successfully for the first time, and I added the following commentary.

“So let me see.

Is APT central in Nitrux? No. ☑

Does Nitrux use the same shell as Ubuntu? No. ☑

Does Nitrux use the same init as Ubuntu? Not for long, no. ☑

Does Nitrux (a 64-bit only OS) include Wine (a 32-bit software)? Yes. ☑

Does Nitrux rely on a PKG Mngr.? No. ☑”

Then, in a second tweet, I add, “If you ask me, I think that description in @DistroWatch of @Nitrux_NX is kind of outdated, isn’t it?.”

What was the description you ask?. (I underlined was, you’ll see why).

“Nitrux is an Ubuntu-based Linux distribution suitable for laptops and desktop computers. Its main desktop environment is Nomad, a KDE Plasma desktop enhanced with “plasmoids” to create a special blend of aesthetics and functionality. The project also focuses on using redistributable, portable applications using the AppImage format.”

The person managing the Distrowatch account replies to me, “In what way, specifically?”, which I go on to explain.

There’s no mention of znx, Mauikit or the apps, AppImages are implied to be an afterthought, and NX Desktop is not a desktop environment.

Afterward, the person managing the account replies to me, “It is based on Ubuntu, it still uses APT, it still uses systemd, and Nomad was presented as a DE. znx isn’t really ready yet (we’ve covered it). The RSS feed we used to track releases hasn’t mentioned 1.1.8 yet and I can’t find a working download link for it.”, which I go on to explain one more time why that was not right (including showing to this person that NX Desktop was never presented, or referred to as a desktop environment, as they claim).

There was no reply.

And that’s it. From that moment forward, Distrowatch completely shunned Nitrux and anything related to us because of a simple question. Things could’ve ended there, but no, they took it even further.

Unpopular Opinion

Now comes the good bits.

While every other reviewer and user would have words of encouragement for what we did, Distrowatch always had nothing but animosity towards Nitrux, why? I have no idea. They were undoubtedly doing us a favor by putting us on their website, even if it was on occasion and to talk wrong about our work; it’s publicity (I guess), I shouldn’t complain—l told myself.

Everything, from the beginning, was just wrong. Almost as if we were like a nuisance to Distrowatch. Whenever someone has a dislike for what we do is like, I’ve always said, it’s okay, you don’t have to like Nitrux, we’re not forcing you, it would be great if you did though.

But when you’re presented with things like “[…]The RSS feed we used to track releases hasn’t mentioned 1.1.8 yet, and I can’t find a working download link for it.” It’s just like, oh really, is that so?. Before we started publishing the changelogs on the Nitrux blog, we used Sourceforge, and I’m sorry but, Sourceforge does have an RSS feed. So, you’re saying that you preferred to ignore it and pretend that it doesn’t exist; that we don’t exist, right, okay. And the server where the ISO files are stored was (and still is) open, as a matter of fact, you literally could access it using the URL for the development ISO, but arguably, that was irrelevant, because “they couldn’t find a working link”.

Which leads to me to this, Nitrux has had (drum rollthirty-seven releases since 2017, that is to put it lightly, a lot more than the three they list on their website, and only twice have they mentioned a new release on their front page.

But, not only that. Consistently Distrowatch has put for the past five months (at least) the wrong version number for each release. No, the new release is not a date; it is a number, clearly visible in System Settings. Why is it so hard to put the correct version number? Unless, of course, they don’t care. Well, they never did, so why am I even surprised.

If you go to the Nitrux page at Distrowatch, you will see the following description.

“Nitrux is a commercial, Ubuntu-based Linux distribution suitable for laptops and desktop computers. Its main desktop environment is Nomad, a KDE Plasma desktop enhanced with “plasmoids” to create a special blend of aesthetics and functionality. The project also focuses on using redistributable, portable applications using the AppImage format. Registration with an email address is required to download this distribution.”

They unilaterally changed the description in response to the tweet! Lol. This change happened somewhere between the 22nd and the 29th of July, 2019.

But let’s be fair, they changed it for a reason, no?.

  • Were we selling licenses? No.
  • Were we selling physical copies of the system? No.
  • Were we ‘selling’ tech-support? No.
  • Were we selling subscriptions? No.
  • Did users have to register? No, it wasn’t a store.
  • Did we ask them to change the description? No.

.

So what is that about? Well, for a few months, we added a pay box to access the download of the stable ISO file. The pay box would require an email (which was where the download link would be sent), and it would proceed to PayPal for the payment.

That’s it, plain and simple.

It wasn’t a store of any sort since we didn’t want to deal with setting up one, and also manage it.

What’s more, a second ISO was available for no cost, the development ISO. Did they link to that? Of course not. They’d instead alter the description of the distribution, without telling us, and omit that information.

I didn’t even notice until I visited the page out of curiosity. We weren’t notified, we weren’t told why (obviously), we weren’t contacted in any way. They changed it, out of animosity, and that’s just about the pettiest reason of all.

Unbelievable.

A month ago Microsoft decided to simply rob us of the name for the Maui Project, this bit of news made the headlines, except on one site. Not one mention, not a show of support even. Nothing.

That’s how much they don’t like Nitrux.

Would it be so difficult to let the actual developers manage their pages, like, you know, a modern website?. I suppose doing that removes the power from them for doing things like these.

Or what about, displaying RSS feeds automatically on your front page?, yeah I guess not, that would mean that projects that Distrowatch doesn’t like become popular (like us).

How about putting the top “Reviews” at the actual top? Hmm no, because that would mean that they would have to moderate them and not have people abuse their broken system (it’s quite a coincidence that only the bad reviews are displayed the most prominent, I’m sure).

But I digress; I can talk about that in another entry.

Conclusion

So you have a website that quite literally has the power to make you or break you, and we were from the beginning on their wrong side, what’s to do?

¯\_(ツ)_/¯

By the way, this is the email we sent them with our description of our distribution.


RE:Nitrux Page Revisions, Distrowatch
Fecha 2018-09-04 02:46

Hi there!

Thanks for the quick response to our email but we're afraid there has
been a great misunderstanding regarding Maui. Maui Linux
https://mauilinux.org is a different project altogether and has nothing
to do with our Maui Project. Maui Linux is a distribution (inactive) and
Nitrux is most definitely not based on it. As noted in our article here
https://medium.com/nitrux/maui-kit-921207e2d1a7 Maui stands for
Multi-purpose Application User Interface and it is a framework to create
convergent applications like we describe here https://maui-project.org/.


We think that the About paragraph can also be improved to better reflect
what Nitrux is, this would be more accurate: Nitrux is a Linux
distribution based on Ubuntu suitable for laptops and desktop computers.
Combined with a focus on portable, redistributable application formats
like AppImages uses KDE Plasma 5 and KDE Applications with Nomad Desktop
adding to the user experience.

Cheers,

-- 
Nitrux Latinoamericana S.C.
Vía José López Portillo No. 206 Col. Zacuautitla
Zacuauhtitla
55730 San Francisco Coacalco, Méx.
México
T: +52-5575982275