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.comment: We're Getting There! - page 3

Discombobulation

  • August 15, 2001
  • By Dennis E. Powell

At about the same time all of the above was unfolding, I had brief -- there will be more extensive, and when there is I'll write about it here -- communication with a fellow named James Bryant, who proposes to undertake a grand master code and package manager for KDE. (Doing the same in Gnome would certainly be possible, and in any case, the majority of distributions make it easy, almost seamless, to run apps from one under the other.) I've rattled on about the need for such a thing for quite awhile. The idea is for those who are afraid of the command prompt to be able to compile from source; I think that added to it should be reconciliation of the database for whatever package manager is native to the distribution, and perhaps transparent importation of alien packages as well. Such a thing need be no more complicated than using any of the several easy-to-use CD burning frontends.

This would be a Very Good Thing.

Here's why:

I've written before that there's no such thing as "the Linux community," because people's motivations and methods differ widely. Nor is there the possibility of anything called "the Linux community" -- by its very definition, everyone is welcome. The reasons for a rabid conservative such as myself to use Linux are every bit as strong as those of the raging collectivist. The rugged individual ethic finds as cozy a home here as does the mutual effort ethic. That's a great strength, though it sure does make for a lot of noise, doesn't it?

There are a world of ways to slice and dice that body of people who have in common only that they use Linux. Some, as noted, are philosophical and political. Some involve methodology. (And let it be understood that nothing will ever make everybody happy and that the loudest voices often are given undue weight.) But one way is the heavily technical crowd, the real hackers, who reject the very idea of package management, versus the group to whom source code is as garlic to Dracula. James Bryant's proposed application will go a long way toward reconciling that particular division, especially for those of us who, though perhaps extreme in other ways, are right down the middle, objecting to neither, in this division of Linux users.

Something that makes compiling from source easier for those who fear it (and who don't delight in source RPMs) is good for everyone who uses Linux.

The Plot Thickens

There is, actually, a common thread in all of this (well, except for the tornado part, but hey -- how often do you get to survive a tornado? Damn straight I'm going to talk about it): Linux is ready. More than ready.

Microsoft Corporation is fixing to release a new version of Windows, called Windows XP. It builds upon and extends Microsoft Corporation's tradition of deciding what's good for you. This includes occasional communication with the mother ship in Redmond, Washington. Anyone with a brain equal to or greater than the size of a pea recognizes the potential for abuse this entails, and anyone who has been paying the slightest bit of attention has no doubt that Microsoft Corporation will capitalize on it. They are very bad guys.

This fact, along with the .NET crap, will not go unnoticed. People will be looking for alternatives. (Well, the sheeplike dimwits won't, but sheep are meant to be fleeced, no?) (And until AbiWord admits "dimwits" into its dictionary, it KWord will remain my Linux word processor of choice. Then again, AbiWord thinks "AbiWord" is a misspelling.)

My experience with installing and playing around with multiple distributions over the last few months has demonstrated to my satisfaction that no one can argue effectively that Linux is not a perfectly viable alternative. It has become easy to install and configure. No, we don't have an equivalent to Microsoft Corporation's "Word" product. This is a good thing. There is all too much of this foolishness of multicolored markups. I know of people who have actually objected to the color assigned to them. And soon Microsoft Corporation will have assigned itself its own color, because they'll be in on all the documents written in their word processor. But I think the MSCE is about to be devalued. Fealty to Redmond will no longer put bread on the table. There has been one too many Web disruptions, one too many Outlook Express macro infections (I received what may be a brand new one tonight). The people who pay attention, to whom computers are more than appliances, are already taking a dim view of the world being controlled by a Woody Allen seemalike and his evil, bald-headed hitman. This view is growing, and will continue to grow.

The alternative exists, from desktop to enterprise, and Linux is it. This is an opportunity for distributions unlike any that has come before or will come again.

Let's hope they recognize it.

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