I could go through a litany of complaints I have about Linux. I could
complain about the confusing number of distributions. I could complain
about the propensity of Linux proponents to cause unnecessary confusion
by abbreviating or using acronyms for Linux-only functions. I could
complain about the silly confusing names they give applications.
How come Linux gets berated for this?
There’s a plethora, a confusing plethora, of Microsoft products, since, compared to Linux, that world is unbundled.
But Microsoft aside, look at the auto industry; it was once said that you could order over a quarter of a million different variations given the options on some Chrysler models. There are still many distributor/vendors, and different dealers/outlets offer different deals, trade-ins, offers and options. The auto industry has more acronyms than the computer industry and lots of special functions and tools.
For example, the spring inside my seat-belt buckle slipped out of place so that the buckle wont lock the clip in place. The way the buckle is built you can’t take it apart, so the whole assembly has to be replaced. The bolt that fastens it into the seat assembly (remember, the seat has to be able to gyre and gymble without altering the tension of the belt, so the belt is bolted to the seat, not the frame of the car) is a special one, the only one (except for the other seat belt) in the car. Of course it take a special tool. As it turns out, the tool costs more than the over-priced replacement seat-belt assembly. And since it is for that purpose only on that model series (apparently it was changed for another equally unique bolt and matching tool in later models) my mechanic did not have that tool in in his toolbox. He tells me that this is normal, that the auto manufacturers have any twists and turns like this that serve to lock out the independent mechanic by forcing up the cost of operations.
I look at the computer industry and think how easy it actually is to move between vendors of hardware and software. I really can’t see why if you are an office worker familiar with MS-Word you will be unable to do any work if faced with OpenOffice – or WordPerfect or WordPro. Once upon a time both Apple and Microsoft “sold” the GUI interface as being something that was “obvious” and wouldn’t need training and thick documentation. Whether or not that’s so, moving from one word processor to another, one mail user interface to another, has nothing to do with the underlying OS or the names and acronyms used.
As the article says:
An operating system exists only to create an environment for
applications; nothing more, nothing less. Most people sit down at a
computer and just start using it without worrying about what operating
system it is running.
So why the fuss? Gnome and KDE have “skins” that can make them look like OSX or any of the Microsoft Operating systems. The various distributions of Linux are more like the various offerings of the auto industry, they mostly resemble each other and copy ideas from one another. If you can drive a Ford – sorry, SUSE – you can drive a Chrysler – sorry, Mandriva. Or even a Volvo/BSD. And since I’ve seen Americans cope in England after just a few minutes, I’ll add MGB/LinOS.
So Why Linux?
The article has a theme about moving from Windows to Linux. What it doesn’t touch on is why one might want to move.
The reason for most people is that they get a new computer. They are probably going to have to change OS – from W/95 or W/XP to Vista. This is likely to be even more traumatic than if they changed to Linux with an appropriate skin. I’ve certainly seen many reports of application-only users who had their system “regressed” from a Vista they didn’t like to to their “old” system which was actually Linux looking like XP. The reality is that most users see the applications and neither see nor want to see the OS. The same applies for most car drivers. They just want to drive.
When Mark Kaelin says that John Sheesley can crash Linux over and over – so what? The issue isn’t that someone with John’s background and expertise can crash Linux, its how stable Linux is for an ordinary user. And compared to Windows, it seems to be about 15 years further down the road. Windows seems to emphasise ‘dressing’. Perhaps that’s why Mark Shuttleworth wants to address the image of the desktop.
Its worth reading some of John’s articles – he’s not rabidly anti-Linux. Or rabidly anti-Microsoft.
When Mark points out that viruses and malware exist for Linux he omits to note that these are ‘proof of concept’ things that neither exist nor could exist in the wild. The underlying architecture of Linux makes it more resilient to whole classes of malware. The idea that its ‘immune’ because it doesn’t have the market share is a myth.
I’ve asked many people in the business world why they don’t use Linux, and all in all their reasons tend to be emotional not logical.
But to be fair, if security and reliability and security are deciding issues, as many Linux enthusiast claim, then why aren’t they using BSD? I ask that of them and I get an emotional response similar to the one I see when I ask Windows enthusiasts about Linux.