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The StartX Files: Kick Butt and Take Names, Young Grasshopper

Fire in the Hole

June 11, 2001

Let the word go forth: I hate bullies.

Right away, this puts a lot of people on my list. The kid down the street who picked on my daughter until he found out the hard way she has a blue belt in Taekwondo; most (if not all) political action groups; and the current government of the People's Republic of China.

It stands to reason, of course, that Microsoft is on this list as well. But this is not an anti-Microsoft article. I agree with Linux Today editor Michael Hall that we have spent far too much effort worrying about what Microsoft is going to do next and not enough on improving the operating system we have. A few weeks ago, I wrote that we should not be holding ourselves up to their standards anyway. Right now, if GNU/Linux tries to take Windows on head-to-head, customer-to-customer, it will surely lose.

This last statement, I am sure, ticks more than a few people off. It makes me pretty upset, too. I think that the advocates of GNU/Linux are trying way too hard to replace Windows on the desktop instead of building a better operating system. By constantly fending off FUD attacks from all sides, we are diverted from what should be our true mission: improving on GNU/Linux.

To this end, I would like to address an issue that has consistently popped up from the very first day I became involved with the Linux operating system: the notion that GNU/Linux is not popular on the desktop because it has few desktop applications for people to use. Most recently, the comment that Linux is dead on the desktop has helped make this argument seemingly even more valid. And it is a very compelling argument, because when you look at the entire GNU/Linux set of applications and compare it to the Windows set of applications, then yes, X-based applications (the ones we most assume consumer users will want to use) are not as numerous and not as robust as Windows.

By now, the clubs and knives are likely out, and the more vocal advocates among you are likely looking in your thesauruses for synonyms for "spineless, backstabbing, weasel." I will save you the trouble, because I think Linux can succeed on the desktop.

Yes, you read that right, a pundit is rooting for Linux on the desktop. And I think I have some pretty good reasons for doing so. This isn't just blind faith, either--this is based on some solid business practices.

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