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A problem with PSI Browser - critical ideological error


Today it was the third time I tried to (unsuccessfully) take JSNAD exam. The exam itself doesn’t matter, it could have been LFCS, LFCE, CKA… whatever. I won’t go into technical details - to shortly resume - due to different technical issues I just couldn’t take the exam since December. I do not want to express my frustration of not being able to take the exam three times in a row either. I understand that technical issues can occur, anytime, anywhere. I’ve already opened yet another ticket with LF Customer Support team which has been very understanding and helpful so far.
I’ve still decided to post this on all the forums I participate in since I think this issue is more than just a simple technical issue and it concerns all of us. I apologize in advance if this is inappropriate and off-topic, but it is on my heart and I want to share it with all of you.

I love Linux. Since I started taking courses on Linux Foundation I got kind of addicted to learning everything I can about it and it brought me a lot of joy and (hopefully) some knowledge. I’ve already passed LFCS and LFCE exams last year. I have been granted a Linux Foundation scholarship and this year I was planning to take CKA and CKS exams. In the meantime I’ve also bought JSNAD exam and some other courses.
But my love for Linux is much older than my technical interest in it. I’ve started using it some 16 years ago out of revolt towards Microsoft’s monopoly. I was a teenager becoming aware of reality, social injustice, centers of power and rotten monetary system and all the other problems we, as society, are facing. Not to go too off-topic, I just want to say that for me Linux (and open source philosophy in general) is the living proof that people are not profit hungry animals and that another world is possible – the one where we do not compete but collaborate - and all that now, at the present moment, not in the future. It is a supreme ideology.

That brings me back to the reason why I am posting this today. I find it unacceptable that Linux foundation forces its candidates to install proprietary software (PSI Secure browser, which BTW doesn’t even work) on their systems, or even worse, to take their exams on Windows or MAC machines. Linux Foundation, the symbol of open source! We’re being trained to work on open source systems and solutions, in the open source community BUT we cannot take our exams without proprietary software! Am I the only one who finds this absurd, disturbing… even disgusting? Is it possible that there is no other way? This is a disgrace for Linux Foundation and everything it represents. Am I the only one who is bothered by all this?

Today it was the first time after 16 years that I’ve installed a piece of proprietary software (PSI Browser). Seeing their spooky disclaimer -

PSI browser will only collect data and monitor you during the exam and won’t share this data with anyone EXCEPT…

made me nauseous. Has Linux Foundation verified the source code of this software? What are we installing on our systems? And it doesn't even work. The solution technical support (of PSI) has is to use Windows or Mac. Maybe that was the drop that spilled the glass today and made me write all this.

Just to be clear, I’m not saying PSI Browser is dangerous or that people shouldn’t use Windows or Mac to take their exams. I’m saying that Linux Foundation should care more about its ideology and provide means for us to stay aligned with that ideology to the end.

I wrote to Customer support team today, saying that I have no intention of installing proprietary software on my system anymore and asking to be refunded for all the exams I have yet to take. Refunded or not, with heavy heart I decided not to take any more exams on Linux Foundation until there is a way to do so that goes in line with my principles and principles of free software.


  • cfuchs
    cfuchs Posts: 15
    edited February 2022

    Sorry to hear about your troubles.

    At the time when I started, it was in fashion to call the distros not just "Linux" but "GNU/Linux", because Linux provides only the core, while GNU provided most or all of the tools and ecosystem back then.

    These days, people mention GNU less and less (different topic); but when you speak about "ideology", it sounds like the GNU-kind of philosophy. While the Linux kernel is open source, it is free to be used in industry and to run proprietary solutions (eg. Android things).

    I don't know if Linux ever was that strongly committed to the GNU-kind of philosophy. They have been using Bitkeeper as a tool for some time, which was proprietary; they don't include but allow proprietary kernel modules; Linux is used in proprietary industrial applications; and so on.

    So I earn my salary and I get some equipment from industry (from my employer); I have to use proprietary products on a daily basis (with consideration; I could of course also always quit the job).


    In fact for me the only real point in taking the exam and getting the certificate is to impress my current or future employer -- the same that expects me to use/create/maintain this-and-that proprietary software on a daily basis. Certifications and proprietary software both are because of the software industry, I think.

    I hope it turns out well for you, and with no further frustration. If you don't need the certification and get refunded, everybody might be happy (or at least content) in the end.

  • coop
    coop Posts: 915

    I am agnostic about the PSI browser issue and being on the training end of things, not the exam and cert things (we maintain firewalls between them) don't know the issue and cannot resolve it.

    there is a wide range of attitudes in the open source communities, ranging from total purism (which tends to make it impossible to get actual work done to a high degree of excellence and being up to date) and total blindness to licensing and properly rewarding the work done by open source contributors. there are a lot of holy wars and dogmatic fights which may excite the combatants, but do little to advance anything.

    The Linux Foundation has never been an ideological organization and to the extent possible stays out of all holy wars. It works with any OSS project to facilitate and improve it without declaring winners and losers. It doesn't look down on people who use proprietary software or hardware, such as virtually any usable mobile phone.

    I'm sorry you feel the hurdles are too high to get certification because it offends your sense of values. Plenty of students have obtained certifications using Linux systems as you seem to well know. IF there is a particular problem in your case please work with the tech support people to solve it if possible.

  • k0dard
    k0dard Posts: 115

    Thanks for your replies.

    I've realized that my initial post wasn't clear and precise enough in terminology used and can cause some ambiguity. While I completely agree with you that we should correctly name the whole system GNU/Linux, that is, indeed, another topic and it was not my intention to go in that direction, although personally I do stand for free software.

    If I understood well, Linux Foundation is advocating open source software, which has less to do with freedom and more to do with code transparency. Although sometimes these two terms overlap and can practically mean the same thing, the idea behind is not the same. Hence, some open source software can be proprietary. I inattentively miss-used the term "proprietary" to designate closed source software, which is AFAIK the case with PSI Browser.

    The point of my OP was to draw attention to the fact that HUGE open source organization such as Linux Foundation, who is supposed to advocate OSS (or not?) is forcing its students to install closed source software on their systems. The PSI platform, your partner, goes even further, suggesting to take the test on Windows or Mac. For me this is plain absurd.

    And I'm not saying LF should go into "holly wars" and maybe even the word ideology is too much (to my disappointment, because GNU ideology has indeed allowed for Linux to become what it is today, but as we can all agree it is another topic). And I don't look down on proprietary software, but I do look down on closed source software. Let's replace ideology by common sense. If you're an OSS organization, a foundation, you should IMO provide us with OSS solution for taking the exams. That's all. It's common sense.

    In the end, even if you don't see an ethical problem of forcing students to install closed source software and at the same time being one of the biggest OSS organizations in the world, the fact that I couldn't take the exam 3 times in a row still proves a point, at least about horrible HORRIBLE user experience with PSI platform. So, open or closed source and "ideology aside", you can look at the problem from the practical point of view also: not being able to download this browser until the exam launch time (why?), download button not doing anything on some browsers (Vivaldi and Chromium), CPU load going to 200(!) and than "stabilizing" at 3-4 (on 4 core processor), PSI tech support sending me links that I cannot click or copy-paste or open in any other app because "secure" browser is blocking everything, asking me to call overseas numbers, suggesting that I close an re-open the browser (after which I've had to do the whole check-in process again), then suggesting that I re-install the browser (wonder when will they suggest me to hit my PC?) and rather suspicious disclaimer about our privacy... and all that at the time a candidate is supposed to be relaxed and concentrated on the exam - is just WRONG and dreadful user experience. With time, more and more people will be frustrated and unsatisfied and it will be bad for the business. Take a look around the forum a bit and you'll find other posts about people complaining about PSI, for one reason or another. And those people complaining are the ones that didn't go directly to Customer support but mistakenly posted on the forum. Isn't it clear that things with PSI are not working out? And then while looking for a new partner, you might as well put in just a grain of ideology, or if it is too much then plain common sense, and find an OSS solution that would make everyone, (even radical, foolish ideologist like me) happy :smile:

    Just to be clear, this is all expression of my opinion based on the experience I've had with Linux Foundation and PSI, so far. And if I put my time into writing all this, it is because I'd like to make future experience better for everyone. No one called me to do this, but I felt the need myself to share my point of view. And I'm not addressing @coop but anyone who may be concerned by this.


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