dee. wrote:Kind of a dated article. It made some good points, but also some outright fallacies. Would be fun to know what the writer would think of the situation now, 6-7 years later.
Just out of interest, dee. What were the outdated fallacies?
Well firstly, the whole article seems to have this slightly elitistic tone, suggesting that "if you don't want to tinker with your operating system then linux is not for you and you should just use windows". I disagree with that idea. It has already been shown that it is entirely possible to make a Linux-based operating system that doesn't require tinkering, that works out of the box, that anyone can use just as easily as windows or mac os. There's Ubuntu, ChromeOS, Android... plus some other minor mobile operating systems. Those are all examples of Linux operating systems that indeed "just work". Ok, maybe you can say "but those are not the kind of Linux OS:s the article is talking about". Maybe you only want to limit this to the actual Linux distributions with GNU userland tools that run on desktop computers. Well, Ubuntu still applies to that restriction, Canonical certainly is trying to make their OS into something everyone and their grandmothers can use. The same can be said of many other Linux distros. Today, if you're an average user that only wants to watch videos and browse the web and maybe write some documents now and then and such, if you have a properly set up system, you don't necessarily have to ever use the command line at all.
So, that's one thing. Then, let's go over some specific points:
Linux users are in more of a community. They don't have to buy the software, they don't have to pay for technical support. They download software for free & use Instant Messaging and web-based forums to get help. They deal with people, not corporations.
So, to avoid problem #3a: Simply remember that you haven't paid the developer who wrote the software or the people online who provide the tech support. They don't owe you anything.
So, what's stopping the new Linux user from eg. buying RHEL and then getting paid tech support from Red Hat? Today, there are more and more Linux distributions that seek to sustain themselves financially, whether it be by donations, tech support, selling user data to Amazon... and this trend will only increase in the future, due to increasing interest in Linux and... well, economy.
Also, if you look at the Linux kernel, a large majority of submitted code is written by employers of various companies that use Linux in some way or other - ie. paid developers. It is a myth that Linux or FOSS software in general is written by hobbyists out of the kindness of their hearts - yes, some of it is, but not all.
The Linux kernel was not created by a company, and is not maintained by people out to make a profit with it.
So, to avoid problem #3b: Just remember that what Linux seems to be now is not what Linux was in the past. The largest and most necessary part of the Linux community, the hackers and the developers, like Linux because they can fit it together the way they like; they don't like it in spite of having to do all the assembly before they can use it.
So... this "doing the assembly before they can use it" apparently consists of inserting a CD/DVD, (maybe fiddling with the bios boot settings), rebooting and clicking through a couple of windows. Yes, we have Gentoo and Arch, but those are in the minority. These days, installing Linux is easy in most cases. Just look at the whole UEFI mess. The distros just saying "meh, Linux users know how to get past those kinds of problems, no worries here" - there's a huge uproar and lots of effort going into making sure that users can continue to install Linux as easily as inserting a CD/DVD and rebooting.
And anyway, are the hackers and developers really in the majority anymore? Linux is becoming mainstream, slowly but surely.
In an odd way, FOSS is actually a very selfish development method: People only work on what they want to work on, when they want to work on it. Most people don't see any need to make Linux more attractive to inexperienced end-users: It already does what they want it to do, why should they care if it doesn't work for other people?
They should care, because increased adoption brings benefits to everyone. With larger user base, there will be more interest from commercial developers and hardware vendors. If desktop Linux/GNU market share were to suddenly double or triple overnight, the effects would be dramatic: hardware vendors would start offering more preinstalled Linux machines, more games and other software being written for Linux, more hardware makers would work towards ensuring Linux compatibility... all kinds of benefits. And there are developers who really care about making Linux an operating system for everyone, one that is accessible to everyone, so that everyone can benefit from the fruits of FOSS. And that's a really good thing.
But, there's also a lot of good things in that article, and I don't disagree with it entirely. Only some parts of it. I really think the world will be a better place once every computer has a Linux or some other FOSS opertaing system. Linux can be an operating system for everyone - I think Google has already proven it with Android and ChromeOS. I don't like Google all that much - I think it's a mixed blessing, at best - but it has at least shown that it is possible to create a Linux-based OS that is acceptable for mainstream users.