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Another Linux Nut Gets It Wrong

January 22nd, 2007 Leave a comment Go to comments

When will people learn. You can’t just prattle on about how good Linux is without backing up your argument.

This article on openaddict.com (titled “Five Reasons Why Linux Will Eventually Rule The World”) is just a stupid piece of ranting without justification included. Unfortunately, the author doesn’t provide his name on the article, so they will have to stay anonymous for now.

It also suffers from the same failing that most of these opinion pieces suffer from – it only compares Linux to Microsoft Windows, and neglects to mention any other OS in it’s comparisons.

So here goes my list of rants against this rant…

Introduction Linux is an unstoppable force? No, no it’s not. Nothing is unstoppable. Lack of interest, removal of intellectual property, etc, etc, etc can all be big show stoppers. It’s only (in theory) unstoppable until some else “better” (in whatever context that may mean) comes along.

#5 – The best keeps getting better. This claims that Linux has a pace that no other operating system can match (but then only compares that to Microsoft’s army of programmers). Lets not forget the developers at Apple – in the time that it has taken Microsoft to develop Vista from the XP starting point, Apple have released several revisions of Mac OS X, including porting the entire operating system flawlessly across to a completely different architecture. Not to mention that have created a somewhat “cut-down version” (gross exaggeration, I know) to put into the new iPhone (called simply “OS X”). Surely, if Linux is to be compared to another OS vendor, it should be Apple, not Microsoft.

I’d also question how you would quantify “pace”. It seems to be that the author relates this to the number of applications available, the ease of using them. I would state that this is not an incomplete list, and would include “stability” in that list too. The experience that I have with Linux software (particularly in KDE) is that it often appears unfinished, and more time seems to be spent on adding new features rather than fixing the bugs that cause the old features to crash the application.

#4 – Linux doesn’t restrict what you can do with the hardware you’ve paid for. I quite agree, Linux doesn’t (when the hardware driver is fully implemented that is), but the rest of this section appears to be your rant against Microsoft, and the MPAA. In fact, all this section does is state what you can’t do on Linux.

#3 – 30+ years of research can’t be wrong Erm, yes it can. Look at the hundreds of years of research into the solar system when it was believed that earth was at the centre of it. Wrong, all wrong. But that is another matter. Just because something has existed for a long time, doesn’t mean it’s the right way to do things.

Whilst Linux may have been built to resemble Minix, which in turn resembled UNIX, they are all different designs. They are built by different people, at different times, for different purposes. This is like saying “My Ford car is amazing (in fact some people say that it is the best car ever). It has 4 wheels, seats and a steering wheel. Therefore, any other car with 4 wheels, seats and a steering wheel is just as good”.

The author, in his rant about things that go on at Microsoft, obviously hasn’t subscribed to the excellent “The Old New Thing” by Raymond Chen, of Microsoft (he works on the Windows Shell team, in case you’re wondering). In it he explains the reasons why many of the features of Windows are still there after all these years. It’s simply compatibility – there are millions of PCs out there with software that works. If they change the OS, the software stops working and people get upset. Windows has a reputation of running most software made for previous versions, and Microsoft want to keep it that way.

The final paragraph in this section confuses two important ideas. It confuses the Applications with the Operating System itself. To state that The melissa virus would not have happened if we were all running Linux, FreeBSD or any other Unix-like system. is a massive mis-direction of the truth. In fact, even if the whole world used Microsoft Windows, the Melissa Virus would not have happened if no one used Microsoft Outlook. It was Outlook that was the security risk, not Windows itself (in the case of the Melissa Virus). This type of infection could quite easily occur on Linux, FreeBSD, Mac OS X, Haiku, BeOS, Plan 9, UNIX, Solaris, plus any other operating system, if the people which wrote the email clients let this type of behaviour happen.

To state that In fact, and you can quote me on this, the computing world will be a safer place when everyone uses Linux. is a slightly silly thing to say. One of the things that makes Microsoft Windows a target for hackers is the size of the user base. I’m not saying that it is as secure as Linux, but the problem is has is that is a much larger target to hit.

#2 – There is strength in flexibility Whilst it is true that Linux can contort itself into all the varients the author lists, my answer to this is Why would most people want to do that?. For Linux to gain the largest footprint in the market, it needs to gain the “simple user desktop market” – and this is not something that Linux pulls off just yet. As I said earlier, the problem that I have with Linux is that applications that crash. I find that “server” software (to use some artistic license to group software like that) on Linux is wonderfully stable and well built. But it’s the user applications that crash the most. I’m willing to say that there are a few exceptions to that (namely Firefox and Konqueror, and a handful more). Plus you have the added problems with hardware not working to it’s full capacity. This alone will stop basic computer users from migrating.

I would agree with the statementOne of Linux’s greatest strengths is the Unix philosophy of using small programs that you can connect in various ways to accomplish complex tasks. But I also feel that this is one of the UNIX world’s biggest headaches as well. I find a lot of software relies on these tools, and you have to deal with the dependencies of each piece of software before I can use it successfully.

And the rant about Internet Explorer 6? Fine – don’t use it. Install Firefox, and set it as your default browser. And besides, normal users don’t really care what browser they are using – as long as they can search google with it, they they are happy. Anyway, Microsoft does the sensible things and tells you to check for security updates as soon as you’ve removed IE6 – contrast that to about 6 or 7 years ago, and it’s a breath of fresh air that Microsoft are so open about things; OK, so it’s not perfect that you have to do it, but it’s a better situation than Microsoft burying their head in the sands over security issues!

#1 – The operating system is becoming a commodity I don’t think it’s correct to sayOpen standards will always win out over closed, proprietary software. It’s such a subjective thing (and the author’s statement is far too general) for it to be an easy comparison. The author themself states several examples:OpenGL vs DirectX, OpenDocument Format vs Microsoft Office Open XML, Ogg vs Mp3, PNG vs JPG, ad nauseumOnly one of these (the OpenDocumentat vs Office Open XML) I would state as a general failure of a closed standard. Yes, I would agree that they are not open, and therefore different from their open rivals, but I couldn’t definitely sayHey, remember that JPEG format! That was a flash in the pan wasn’t it! Thank god all my digital cameras now only support PNG formats!I even have my reservations about the whole OGG vs MP3 line – none of my audio playing devices have ever played OGG formats (not that I have ever deliberately bought one solely because it plays one format). If OGG has won a format war against MP3, why doesn’t every device play the files? I mean, I’ve had mobile phones that play MP3 files, my home stereo plays them, my DVD player plays them, the stereo in my car plays them, my iPod plays them – so why do none of these commercial devices support OGG files, if OGG is going to win against MP3?

Again, this is not something that is actually related to Linux. Sure, you can group Linux into this group, but it’s not the case that Linux ≡ The whole Open Source movement.

The final paragraph in this section seems to conclude with the thought that [In the future] your computing experience won’t be about the operating system and that it will be more about the applications that you use. Well then, if it’s not about the operating system, then why not use Windows….. How many people do you think will reject Windows Vista? I mean, not many people buy an upgrade in the current climate – they prefer to buy new machines. And those machines will come with Vista. It’s easier to buy a machine with Vista and install Linux over the top (or on a dual boot) rather than to try to convince Dell or HP or any other big name manufacturer to sell you a PC with a Windows license.

Conclusion I fail to see how any conclusion can be reached given the lack of evidence, but anyway.

The author’s prediction in this section is just laughable. Look how many people have been wrong about predicting technology in the past. If they were right, I’d be flying my car to work, and microwave meals would taste great (God damn it! Where’s my jet pack!).

The author again appears to limit themselves only to Windows and Linux in this debate, and therefore has left no room for the others I mentioned previously. I don’t think that Microsoft would ever stop making Windows, and letting themselves get locked down to legacy hardware – they are just not that stupid. Will Linux be the Operating System of choice by then? No, I don’t think so. I think it’s market share will increase, and more people will be aware of it, but I don’t think that will be the case.

My Opinion I just want to make my views on this subject straight before I start some kind of war.

I am a fan of Linux, no doubt. I have several PCs at home that run it, and I use it at work all day. I’m just not sure that it is ready for everyone.

Sure, those people with technical knowledge love it (I certainly do), but there are too many caveats for it to be any use to people who just want to “use” Google. I’m talking about the group of people that can just about start Microsoft Word, get confused by double clicking or single clicking, and are baffled as to whether “memory” is RAM or Hard Disk space. They are going to panic if anyone ever told them to “change the name of your graphics driver in your X server configuration file”. It’s just not going to happen.

I don’t want to rain on the parade of all the amazing, hard working developers that simply make Linux exist. They effort, dedication and generosity is simply above and beyond everyone’s expectations, and they have built an amazing Operating System/Desktop Environment/Application/Server software/etc (delete as appropriate). It’s just that sometimes I wish you could finish what you started before implementing the next big feature, and stop giving your apps stupid names

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