Follow-up to “Why Linux on the Desktop is Alive”
Wow. What a few days it has been. I have to say that I certainly did not expect the reaction that my previous post generated! Call me naive (and that’s not the worst thing I’ve been called over the past few days), but I genuinely didn’t anticipate the amount of views, comments, and discussions on other forums that my opinion would cause.
This blog normally trundles along, receiving between 500 to 1,000 views per day, but the “Linux is alive” article spiked at twenty times that on the first day! I don’t want to thrash this subject to death, and I’m neither apologising nor backtracking on my views, but I want to address just a few of the points that were raised.
1. “He is a typical Linux apologist, who treats problems with the operating system as if they don’t exist”
Well, since an apologist is someone who argues in defense or justification of something, then I don’t mind being that! Yes, I use Ubuntu out of choice on my laptop, my media centre, my servers, and my wife’s netbook; however in my work, I also support Windows, and Mac environments. I am not saying Microsoft/Apple/Google/You (delete as applicable) are evil, but after frustrating times with every version of Windows up to 7, I’m very happy using Linux.
I don’t deny that there are issues with the operating system. I just find the attitude that people have towards Linux quite surprising and, I suppose, a little hypocritical. If your new iThing doesn’t work with Windows, then that’s Apple’s fault. If it doesn’t work with Linux, then that’s because Linux is not geared for the desktop. Huh? Feel free to point out Microsoft’s dominant market share here (more on that later), but I think that user outrage needs to be pointed in the right direction. In other words, if some vendors were more supportive, this would lead to a smoother Linux experience with their products. A few years ago, however, while my company was negotiating the Irish distributorship of the now-defunct HP OpenMail-based Samsung Contact, I saw how the large, established software companies viewed enterprise Linux – and experienced some of their strong arm tactics myself.
Every time I read something about “Linux must do this because Windows does”, I get this image of Linux as a cringing, doe-eyed puppy, nipping the heels of Windows users and promising to leap backwards through flaming hoops for them if they’ll just please stop kicking me. We don’t need to have this “forgotten child” syndrome. Linux is a mature platform, with great support. We don’t need to apologise for that.
2. My personal favourite – “The article was just for page-views – he probably made a fortune from the advertising.”
The advertising on this site makes just about enough to cover the cost of hosting (about €40 per year). The “Donate” button has been clicked three times since its inception. Over the period of time in question, I made €2.63 from the Google Ads, €0.10 from the Project Wonderful ad, and zero from the Amazon ad or “Donate” button.
At exactly 1,200 words, I reckon I made the princely sum of €0.002 per word from the article. You’re all too smart to click on adverts, you see!
3. Various ad hominem arguments.
After mentioning the “calm and elegance” of my Ubuntu installation, there was an animated little discussion saying that I probably use the ugliest theme. Yes- fine, but it doesn’t matter if I use a lurid, pink, 1970′s Barbie-in-spandex theme, because I’m not talking about appearance. I’m talking about the continual pop-up nags that still appear on Windows – even though they’re now aggregated behind an equally irritating speech bubble. I was talking about the ease with which my software is updated through the repositories, and the general speed and lack of fuss with which Linux does its job.
I maintain that if an operating system does its job properly, then you don’t notice it. My wife never gives thought to what operating system she’s using…she just trusts it to do what she wants.
I was also accused of hypocrisy because my comment about the success of Linux not being about the size of its market segment, was twisted together with a sentence in the post that said that Linux on the desktop has millions of users.
I don’t think the two are mutually incompatible, and the comments were taken out of context. Linux on the desktop will live as long as millions of people use it. It doesn’t depend on a large market segment, because it’s not a commercial project. Equally the fact that the majority can be sincerely and deeply wrong is a lesson we still don’t appear to have learned from history.
The only reason I address these is that I think it’s easy to miss the point – and ad hominem attacks just add to the FUD that’s out there. Like ants crawling on the surface of the Mona Lisa, they can see every tiny imperfection, but miss the beautiful big picture.
4. “You shouldn’t criticise a new user’s opinion”
I agree with this…to a point. I wasn’t trying to criticise Mr Bradley’s experience with Ubuntu. In fact, his 30 Days with Ubuntu Linux article finished quite positively. I like to think I’m sympathetic to any problems that a new user has, but I took issue with his follow-up article. In this, his stance seemed to have hardened against Linux on the desktop, and he quoted his 9-month old data as proof.
Things move fast in the Linux world – and IT in general. Unity has also matured a lot – my 12.04 beta install has proved very robust so far. Additionally, my iPhone syncs with Rhythmbox and updates over the air, so some of the issues he raised 9 months ago are no longer valid. Ubuntu 11.10 was released since his original test, and 12.04 is about to be. Just because Windows Vista might have been woeful, it doesn’t mean that Windows 7 isn’t desktop-ready.
Having said that, I’ve also learned that it’s easy to get your fingers burned when handling a subject as hot as Linux on the desktop vs Windows! So, in summary:
- Use whatever operating system makes you happy, and don’t stress about it; however the “my distro is better than yours” arguments don’t help. Instead they fragment the community and alienate potential new users.
- If you’re going to say that Linux/Windows/Mac OS/Whatever (delete as appropriate) isn’t ready for the desktop, then at least base your comments on the most recent version.
- I welcome discussion about this, but please try to leave emotion at the door. It just adds to the FUD that’s already out there.