April 18, 2014

gnotebook: The Desktop War: A Separate Peace - page 3

Killing Emacs, Progeny Gives the Gift of GNOME 1.4

  • June 1, 2001
  • By Michael Hall

I've read a lot of assertions that without the desktop market, those hopes are in trouble, and that given a generally homogenized client space there's little chance Microsoft will remain in check when it comes to the slow crush of "embrace and extend." This is a forward-thinking argument that's a reasonable one to make. I once bought it, in fact, to the extent that I spent a little time helping out as best a non-coder can. Over the past few years, as I said in my last column, things have gotten better and better on this front, enough so that arguments regarding Linux's genetic inability to ever serve Joe Enduser well can be written off: it's obvious that the building blocks are present, and the potential to take things home is there. I like to believe, though, that even without a major share of the desktop market, the Free Software community possesses the will and talent to keep computing open and free. Apache certainly provides an example of this strength, as do several other well-established and vibrant projects. Given the ability to participate in the 'net community with any open-standards-compliant software, people can have as much choice as they want, even if that means making tradeoffs that come at the expense of the Linux desktop's market share. If I have faith in anything where Linux and Free Software in general are concerned, its in their ability to assure this future. Thinking so, the war for the desktop becomes more of a skirmish for a hill in a broader battle that's being fought in the valleys, out of sight of end users but every bit as critical to the campaign.

So, limiting writing about the Linux world to what's happening in GNOME is ignoring my own happiness with a rich variety of tools that aren't tied to the rubric of a unified desktop and my own curiosity with the wider world of computing. Consequently, it's time to close down gnotebook. Though GNOME will be a project I'll continue to follow with interest, and report on when appropriate, I hope to diversify a little over the coming months, out from under the limitations reporting solely on a single project can impose.

Beyond that, I hope to focus on the issues surrounding open and free standards as they play out in broader contexts. These things have a direct impact on the Linux desktop, even if they aren't as easy to grasp or as apparently glamorous as the rapid improvements in user interface and ease of use we continue to see coming out of GNOME and KDE. It's all still about a future where computing remains free and open.

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