Canonical pretends Mir never existed, bloggers jump on cue

The Implications of Feigned Ignorance Go far Beyond the Server Protocol's Development

Attila Orosz
Canonical pretends Mir never existed, bloggers jump on cue

Ubuntu had announced that the next LTS release will revert to use Xorg as default (as 17.10 already defaulted to Wayland). While newsworthy on its own, we are yet to see anyone discuss this beyond company PR.

This must be a sad time for tech journalism. Either tech sites and blogs are really desperate to find anything worthy of reporting or nobody really likes to do more than rephrasing press releases. Beyond the factual reporting that does indeed make sense, and feels like some real journalism, most tech blogs mention the issue with a "yeah we now, but it's alright" attitude.

Of course, Canonical's reasons are absolutely sound, and it's perfectly understandable that they would not want to build an LTS release on a buggy base. It's also fine that they did say this might happen, and that the point releases between two LTS versions are sort of a testing ground for the next LTS release. This actually makes it really "not such a big deal". But apparently everybody either forgets or disregards the fact that Canonical is partly responsible for Wayland being nowhere near production grade after 10 years.

Do you remember Mir? Or did the latest hype erase its memory as soon as it was discontinued? Once Canonical's focus, along with the similarly-fated Unity Desktop, Mir is part of the reason why Wayland is not stable yet. Since its inception in 2013, until Canonical officially dropped it late last year, Mir (and Unity) had syphoned away thousands, if not tens of thousands of valuable development hours along with all sorts of other resources that could have been spent supporting the common effort. And yes, with Canonical being quite a significant player in the Linux scene, this is kind of a big deal.

Sure, the decision to drop these ill-fated projects and stop pretending that Canonical alone can shape the way we use the Linux desktop was a welcome one, but think about it: If a company behaves like a pre-school kid with severe ADHD, taking up something then dropping it at the whim of its leaders' fancy, should everyone scramble to report their latest PR in a hype-crazed frenzy? Or should someone at least try to ask the right questions for a change, like e.g. where have you guys been for the last half a decade or so?

Of course Canonical is not alone to get the silk-glove treatment. Surely, Intel had been facing some backlash after its CPU flaws could no longer be kept a secret, and deservedly so, but a similar trend is noticeable in the reporting of the Meltdown/Spectre scandal: Everyone focusing on the overhyped aspect of personal computing, and leaving the more difficult questions of cloud security largely unanswered.

Sure, cheap news is easier to make, and eyeballs are more important in generating ad-revenue than informing readers or trying to make people stop and think for a moment. The recipe is really simple: Report on press releases, say what everyone else is saying, ride the hype-train, and be as mainstream as you get. You cannot go wrong like that. Or can you? Normally harmless, the lack of real reporting can easily turn into a risk, as evidenced by the artificially maintained public ignorance about the true implications of the infamous CPU design flaws.

Disregarding cause and effect in its simplest form can not only become a habit but might as well shape the way readers think about these issues. While it might seem an odd one out to rant about Canonical's decision, but the damage is in the detail here: This way of thinking, and operating, where one company's decisions can affect a whole market, can have a lot of impact on technology as a whole (Intel comes to mind, once again), and while everybody pretends that nothing's wrong with that, they will continue to feel entitled to play any way they like.

There are of course exceptions, real reporting can still find its way into the newsfeed. Apparently, when a site is large enough, it can afford to stay real. Let's just hope the hype will not completely drown their voices. Big media might still come to the rescue, and continue to do its job by holding responsible those who are responsible, not allowing responsibility to be downnplayed in important questions, while small sites (like this one) will never take off for obvious reasons. But that's fine. If that was the goal, I'd be writing about the latest trending topic right now...


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