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Red Hat 9 Offers Continuity, Transparency for Users - page 2

One Distro, Many Users

  • April 1, 2003
  • By Brian Proffitt

Some have derided this trend--the desktop, the ease-of-use--as the "dumbing down" of Linux--taking out all of the cool features that appealed to so many geeks and making it more palatable for the ever-present Joe User.

I disagree strongly with this assessment. I think what is really going on is the smartening up of Linux.

After all, all of those "geek" features of Red Hat are still there. I can still grep with the best of them, and emacs is still my favorite text editor. I can still bypass Red Hat's rather limited sound configurator GUI and pop straight into my old compadr´┐Ż sndconfig to tweak the sound card configuration.

The core foundations of Red Hat, the myriad of utilities that warm a Tux geek's heart are still available. Don't like Bluecurve? Dump it for something you like better. That's still your privilege.

What has changed is the addition of features, not the taking away. Red Hat Linux (and many of the other Linux distros) have added these new interface-based tools that make the operating system more accessible to all types of users. In other words, the GUI has gotten good enough to become, dare I say, a window into the applications, instead of a barrier. Red Hat 9 is essentially getting out of the way and letting the user accomplish something.

In the non-geek world, an operating system is not supposed to be something users should think about, unless they really want to. It just should be there to let them get work done. No one cares about the mechanics underneath the desktop or even the desktop itself, as long as they can find the tools they want.

Sure, some non-geeks want a cool-looking desktop, but that's just window dressing that can easily be changed.

Geeks or no, that's what most of us just want to do with our computers--no tweaking, no fiddling, just getting our work done.

Red Hat 9 is a very mature Linux distro that has the latest productivity applications and gimcracks to let users from all backgrounds get their tasks accomplished.

I think this is the beginning of a trend with all distros, as each of them tries to hold onto its audience in the years ahead. Red Hat users, Mandrake users, SuSE users, and the rest will all begin to find their upgrade paths strenghtened more and more. This is, I believe, a direct result of where these companies want Linux to be: inside the corporate world.

In a hobbyists' world, a mature upgrade path was not quite such a high priority. These users seem to secretly love tweaking things when they go a bit awry.

In a corporate world, what matters most is a sense of continuity. IT managers want to know that if they commit to one OS, then that OS will serve them well down the road. That includes, it seems, individual distributions of Linux.

And it is this sense of continuity that Red Hat 9 most invokes in the user. Continuity with earlier versions of Red Hat, continuity with the hardware its installed upon, and continuity with many PC users' interface experience.

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