February 20, 2019

.comment: Be Careful What You Wish For - page 3

Two Weeks Do Not a Linux Tryout Make

  • January 5, 2001
  • By Dennis E. Powell

As a confirmed contrarian, I've embraced in turn Geoworks, DR-DOS, OS/2, and Linux. I've found them all superior to the equivalent products from the Great Father in Redmond. And, like all of my ilk, I've grown accustomed to being denied: no, I don't get to run this game, or that application, or that piece of hardware. (I've also been denied the joys of having my system trashed by viruses and macros that exploit Microsoft application "features.") It gets a little tiresome.

It is also, I think, the underlying reason that a lot of us hope for much wider use of Linux: then the vendors would have to give us the respect that we so richly deserve. (Actually, for my part, I'll get by without the respect as long as they cough up the drivers and the applications.) In this regard, I'm probably in the majority of current Linux users. Yes, there are those who would like to have their friends use Linux, and certainly there are those who would like to be able to exchange complex documents with business associates with some certainty that the documents wouldn't get mangled. But there are also those who with equal justification would just as soon that me and thee return whence we came, so that they can code for themselves and each other without being bothered by--us, and our notions of world domination.

Then there are the distributors, at least some of whom have a financial stake in the widespread acceptance of Linux. Some make an effort towards its becoming a desktop operating system, some aim at hackers, and some eye the enterprise. These goals are not mutually exclusive--the enterprise, after all, is more than an Apache server. It can contain a great many desktops. So a comfortable, sensible user interface is a worthwhile thing. But a lot of things that I would find useful--easily configured printing, (here I go again) easy and uniform typeface handling, a whole range of really cool applications--are not necessary for business. The business has an IT department, or consultants, who set things up and there they are. In many businesses, people deal with one or two applications. That's all. Maybe just one form in a database, with email to prevent any real human contact. So when we hear that IBM and the other big guys are taking an interest in Linux, what we're hearing is that IBM will probably offer some Linux consultancy, and will contribute some things of use in the enterprise. We are not hearing that IBM will promote Linux as a general consumer operating system. IBM learned with OS/2 Warp 3 that it didn't want to deal with individuals.

Nor can it be denied that Linux is just about perfect for business. Its networking is robust, its server applications are excellent, and you can't beat the price. You're going to have to pay somebody to oversee it anyway--why not pay somebody who actually knows something, instead of someone who has been certified chiefly in the sale of Microsoft products and support?

In that area, Linux shows tremendous potential. In that area, buyers do not make decisions based on two-week trials by writers for the Los Angeles Times.

But what about the rest of us?

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