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.comment: Your Friendly Neighborhood Linux Salesman

Preaching to the Choir

September 5, 2001

It has become a familiar refrain: In order to gain all the clout it so richly deserves, Linux needs more users. All the petition campaigns in the world for hardware makers to provide Linux support for their scanners or video cards disappear into insignificance when compared to sales figures demonstrating that the gadget that has Linux support sells better than the one that doesn't. And to gain those figures, users are needed.

That is, of course, just one of the perpetual discussions that take place in the online fora where Linux is discussed. Linux adherents engage in more discussions, debates, and feuds over doctrine than you'd find at a school of comparative religions. This is great, and great fun; I enjoy it as do many others. Thing is, as compelling as a flamewar over the number of angels that can dance on the head of a Gnome might be, it doesn't really move things very far along. ("OH!" thinks a certain part of the always contentious Linux crowd at this point. "He used the word 'Gnome.' How can I construe that to be a slam? Well, he uses KDE and likes it, so that must mean that any mention of 'Gnome' is a slam. I'll just add gratuitous and ad hominem -- got to remember to find out some time what ad hominem means -- as modifiers and post it all over the place.")

Meanwhile, in case you hadn't noticed, Microsoft Corporation is showing signs of coming a little bit unglued. They've shipped off to OEMs a version of Windows, the question about which is not whether it will be liked but whether it will be tolerated. Steve Ballmer has taken to appearing onstage and jumping around and screeching like some sort of hairless, out-of-shape King Kong, his bulging midsection rolling in waves that under the right harmonic conditions could trigger an earthquake. (Watching him, it's not clear whether he has taken the Caligula route or is hedging his bets and preparing for a second career in arena evangelism or the senior division of the WWF.) The Justice Department, contrary to predictions, is still all over Microsoft as if it were a Colombian drug cartel (as opposed to a Columbia River bad software cartel). People still use Microsoft software -- it's what came on their machines -- but an increasing number of them have come to mistrust, and rightfully, the Borg of Redmond. And those ads, which were designed to put a human face on Microsoft's server products, instead announced to the world that Microsoft software keeps track of what you buy. Then there were those little SirCam and Code Red problems -- which is worse? An infection that sends your private documents to addresses all over the Internet, or an infection that does its best to keep anything from being sent over the Internet? -- and those are just this summer alone.

In short, Microsoft Corporation is as vulnerable as the biggest corporation in the world is ever likely to become.

Point is, if we spend our time sitting around and bitching and moaning to each other about how things ought to be, while failing to notice that we're at a unique place, maybe never to come again, when we can do something to change the status quo, then we have no one but ourselves to blame.

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