August 20, 2018

.comment: Be Careful What You Wish For - page 4

Two Weeks Do Not a Linux Tryout Make

  • January 5, 2001
  • By Dennis E. Powell

On the face of it, no one who makes decisions based on a two-week trial by a writer from the Los Angeles times is going to succeed at Linux anyway. Mr. Kellner was right in telling Windows users to stick with Windows, because anybody who would follow his advice, based on his experience, isn't quite bright. Better to foist them off on Microsoft tech support than on our mailing lists.

Still, the question is raised, but not answered. There are a lot of us who use Linux, who poke around and build stuff, or grab RPMs, who use Linux on single machines or on little networks. We're heartened, in a kind of cheering on the home team way, to see wider interest in our operating system of choice. But at bottom we're still facing the same old problems. We perhaps selfishly want the things we need to make Linux work irrespective of hardware, feature-rich application, or file format, yet we paradoxically don't want it transformed into moron chow. We want the user base of Windows, but we don't want Windows users, and with good reason: they're too frigging annoying. They want everything done for them. They think that a two-week investment is enough.

We want Quicken for Linux, though we're not eager to pay for it. So we turn forever to open source.

Mark my words: there is a point at which open source ceases to be the answer for the same reason that there comes a point at which anarchy is not the answer. The open source model, in which everyone can pitch in, can carry things to a certain level, but that level cannot be exceeded. As systems become more complicated, it becomes necessary for a little authoritarianism of one sort or another, an organization with at its top someone empowered to say "no." I take that back. Someone empowered to say "NO!" Can you imagine what the Linux kernel would be without the control of Linus? (Yes, someone named Steve could grab the source and fork it and throw in all kinds of stuff and release it, and maybe it would be better but probably it wouldn't, and the odds are that Sux would be aptly named.)

The big guys are here, and they're not here to help us. We, meanwhile, have vast quantities of the software equivalent of the Tower of Babel--lots of people dashing around scratching their own itches, doing their own thing, proving that a six-sided wheel is stable on a steeper hill than an eight-sided one is. But a lot of the stuff that we could really use, the things that would make Linux an obviously unsurpassed operating system on a single machine or a 20-node network--those just don't exist. We need to achieve some standards, a fundamental base distribution that offers all the basics in a way that isn't effortless but that is accessible. Whether we do it will determine whether Linux becomes an attractive desktop operating system for not just anyone but for anyone who wants it and is willing to learn a little in order to have it.

By which time Mr. Kellner may have moved on to two-week pilot training, followed immediately by five-minute parachute school.

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