[CS-FSLUG] Linux Today - Is desktop Linux too fragmented to succeed? A friend tells it like it is!!

Jon Glass jonglass at usa.net
Tue May 5 05:49:48 CDT 2009

On Thu, Apr 30, 2009 at 4:55 AM, Fred A. Miller <fmiller at lightlink.com> wrote:
> http://www.linuxtoday.com/news_story.php3?ltsn=2009-04-28-009-35-OP-SW-0005

I've been thinking about this conversation a bit. And of course, in my
case, I will be comparing it to the situation for the MacOS (my
primary OS). In many ways, they are similar. They are both extreme
minority operating systems with rather rabid followers. Of course,
they are also polar opposites in some other, substantive ways. Apple
tends towards the "whole widget", with deep, system-level integration
of apps, and integrated applications to make the seemingly difficult
normal, everyday--iLife, of course. On the one hand, it makes creative
work easier, while on the other hand, seeming to tie the hands of
those who like to tinker and customize their system to their heart's
content. While there are Mac geeks (among whom I guess, I number), it
is not a 'geeky' operating system. It is a monolith or hegemony of the
system. Yes, it does allow a certain level of customization, but its
need to integrate reduces severely the options, as does Apple's
desire/need to control the whole widget.

To describe it as an organizational chart, it's a top-down
environment. Apple decrees, and you use what they decree.

On the other hand, Linux is a bottom-up organizational chart. It is
democratic to the extreme--some would say anarchic. It is that way by
design and purpose. It is the de-centralization of Linux that is its
strength that has gotten it this far. There is no central
authority--none. There is no central plan--how could there be. OK,
some people think that world dominance is the central plan, but I know
just as many Linux users who are opposed to being a majority player.
They like their sandbox, and don't want anybody else playing, nor
their toys, thank you very much.

The main goal of Linux is that you make it whatever _you_ want it to
be! Not happy with any distro out there? Make your own! Not happy with
how Gnome does things? Try another DE or better yet, wm, and roll your
own desktop environment.

The problem is that, in order to go "mainstream" or to gain market
share, Linux would have to give up these very elements of its
character that are what Make Linux "Linux." I do not see that as
either wise, practical or even possible. It ain't gonna happen.

On the other hand, what I _do_ envision being possible is that one
distro will gain critical mass, and start to dwarf the other distros,
both in sheer number of users, and devs supporting that distro in
particular. This particular distro will have to focus on ease of use,
out of the box. It will have to focus on compatibility with the most
modern hardware, even at the risk of sacrificing backwards
compatibility with later versions. One other facet of its success is
that it must be possible to buy it pre-installed on computers.

I think everybody can see where this is going. The obvious answer is
Ubuntu. No, it's not the "best" distro, but it is the one best
positioned to push Linux into the mainstream market. It will never
completely eclipse the other distros--nor should it, but having one,
good-enough and beginner-friendly distro (with the emphasis on
beginner-friendly, not "user-friendly"), it can attract, and will
attract new Linux users.

Yes, there are still problems with Linux, and my list would be:

1. Lack of multi-media creation tools--video and audio. Sure there is
something, but you gotta compete with iMovie and GarageBand. There's
nothing close--and Windows is no better off, IMO.
2. Drivers--in particular, printer drivers. If there were a system set
up where a computer could jump to find drivers, and install them
automatically, without intervention from the user, when a printer was
plugged in the first time, this would go a loooong way toward easing
the pain of printing. I have had rotten luck with printers, and I
doubt I'm unique.
3. Interface inconsistencies and look/feel. Let's face it, for the
most part, Linux is ugly, and it takes lots of work and searching and
compiling to get it to begin to look proper. Why? Why does Ubuntu
insist on the ugly orange/brown look when it is universally panned by
just about everybody? Icons are the biggest problem, of course, but
some things, like drag and drop are inconsistent among programs and
the system. This is a rather difficult issue to deal with, but it's
important--the whole consistency issue is.
4. Games.... yeah, yeah... I know. Actually, I don't play games, so
it's not important to me, but it seems to be important to a lot of
people. Why? I do not know, but I am throwing it in here, because it
is a far-too-common complaint. :-)

I know there may be more, and will be dispute over my choices, but I
call 'em as I see 'em. ;-)

However, I conclude by saying that Those who chase the holy grail of
"market share" are chasing the wrong thing. Linux ought to be chasing
first of all excellence. Produce the best you can, and make it work.
Secondly, Linux ought not sacrifice its principles. Yes, by this, I
_do_ mean that people ought to come to Linux on Linux's terms, not
theirs. Mac users come to MacOS on its terms, and Windows users do as
well... Linux should be no different. Play to your strengths, I say.

There, I've said too much.

 -Jon Glass
Krakow, Poland
<jonglass at usa.net>

"I don't believe in philosophies. I believe in fundamentals." --Jack Nicklaus

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