February 16, 2019

The StartX Files: The Linux Uncertainty Principle - page 3

In Which The Author Tells Doomsayers To Go Jump in a Lake

  • May 22, 2001
  • By Brian Proffitt

Before we all pat ourselves on the collective backs, let's try to keep one thing in mind. Just because we can do a thing does not mean we should do a thing. This is a lesson that has apparently gone right over the heads the makers of the atomic bomb and Cheese Whiz, but the Linux community is clearly made of sterner stuff.

The question I put to you is this: should Linux try to make a move on the desktop?

If you want my answer, and I am assuming you do since you're reading this, I say let's go for it. With some caveats. The desktop in Linux is clearly the area of technology that most wants to be like Windows when it grows up. Gotta have a cool file manager, gotta get that office suite and integrated mail client. Don't get me wrong, these would be handy tools to have on my Linux machine. But perhaps we should not try to catch up with their Windows counterparts in one fell swoop. We should push functionality over aesthetics. Tools over interface.

I submit Opera 5 for Linux as a recent example. The interface did not significantly change during the beta trials and yet some of the functionality and stability was problematic right up to Beta 8. Actually past that. I had some issues getting my printer to work with a new Red Hat 7.1 installation when I reviewed Opera last week and so could not test the printer functions of that browser. I found out later that there were still--still!--printer problems from Opera.

KOffice is another question mark. One of my friends lamented to me recently that instead of the KOffice developers trying to completely emulate the entire Microsoft Office suite (otherwise known as the Most Bloated Application in the Universe) maybe they should try to emulate the functionality of something like Microsoft Works instead.

If development teams and their sponsors truly want to take on Windows in the desktop, I am all for it, 100%. But realistic goals and expectations need to be set. Take smaller steps instead of giant leaps. The open source creed of "release early, release often" works to our advantage. We can afford to start "behind" Windows in some areas, because their release cycles can never be as frequent as open source developers operating as full efficiency. .NET may free Microsoft from boxing and shipping (they hope), but they've still got a lot of internal bureaucratic inertia to overcome.

We are all, of course, still learning our lessons as we try to help Linux along. And when you find yourself straining against others, just remember that there is no single Linux to mismanage. There is room to grow Linux into anything we want it to be.

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