Linux is going all schizo on us!

This post is way out of date, but what the hell, I think it is still valid.

ZDNet has provided some wonderful troll fodder in the form of the article “Linux and its identity crisis“.

So, it seems that Don Reisinger ran off and read some pissing and moaning between the various scheduler viewpoints, and tried to make a mountain out of a molehill.

Here is my review of the article:

The Problem, in the real world
Con Kolivas, an anesthesiologist from Australia, had been writing patches for the Linux kernel concerning scheduling and other improvements for desktop performance. Although his work had fans, he did not have very concrete performance metrics for some of his work. Along with that, the Staircase Deadline scheduler he was working on, which did make improvements, did so at the cost of interactivity on some workloads. This culminated with Ingo Molnar going with the Completely Fair Scheduler instead.

The Problem, in ZDNet reality
Linux Torvalds and his minion are up against Con Kolivas and the mainstream Linux fanatics in a fight which could lead to “total Linux annihilation.”

My Response
What the hell? Are you, Don Reisinger, on drugs? Really.

The Real world
Linus Torvalds started Linux as a way of getting a Minix-like OS on his 386 computer, without the wads of cash that he did not have to blow on it.

ZDNet’s reality
Linus “never wanted it to go mainstream and be just another Windows or Mac box.”

My Response
What the hell? Are you, Don Reisinger, menstruating?

The real world
Various distributions of Linux or not as easy to use as Mac OS X.

ZDNet’s reality
Linux “sticks to its core values and doesn’t sacrifice usability to appeal to grandma.”

My Response
OK, let’s stop and ask ourselves, is the kernel in charge of the usability of the graphical environment, desktop applications, and configuration programs? The problem is not that the kernel is not being desktop friendly, it is that the various distributions are not yet “there” when it comes to making Linux fully usable to grandma. Mac OS X has come a long way, but then again, they control the hardware that goes into their machines with a maniacal fist-hold. Stop and look at all of the video cards that a particular Linux desktop can have, and it is a crap-load, while OS X will be running on a handful, all dictated by Apple. Windows? Look, vendors give preference to Microsoft because the last thing they want is the great beast of Redmond to swing it’s mighty club of incompatibility at them.

The real world
Developers and many core users want Linux to keep to it’s roots, realizing that it is the Open Source development environment that has made Linux the OS it is today. Others, usually vendors, want to add proprietary components, and non-free binaries to Linux to make it more appealing. This causes problems because developers can not find and fix errors in software they do not have the code to look at or debug. This introduces unfixable errors, and stagnates development and innovation.

ZDNet’s reality
“The conservatives want Linux to stay Linux and the liberals want to make money.”

My Response
The differing viewpoints have many proponents from all sides of the issues, ranging from the ‘live free or pry the keyboard from my cold dead hands’ viewpoint of Richard Stallman, to the ‘fuck free software, I want world domination’ views of Mark Shuttleworth. NOTE: these are not quotes from these two people, and should be taken with a truck-load of salt, and a metric ass-load of humor!

Well, that article starting a wonderful commentary thread on Slashdot which has snowballed into everyones most emotional arguments, but without all of the logic and rationality they use when normally posting about Linux.

There are some priceless ones, like this one from nojjynb:

I run both Vista and Linux (Ubuntu and PCLinuxOS), and I find I am more often asked for sudo permissions in LINUX than in Vista. It is funny how linux and mac people hammer on Vista’s Cancel or Allow, when in truth, the *nixes have been doing this for YEARS! Su this, sudo that, chmod 755 If you want to hammer on MS, hammer on the fact that it took them SOOOO long to implement this security feature!

Now, as for DRM nonsense, let me remind you that the libraries you install to allow DVD playback in linux are (arguably, of course) ILLEGAL in the US, unless you buy commercial ones. Vista has built in support for both MP3’s (most distros no longer have this by default) and DVD’s (at least, in any version with Media Center)!!

Let me start with my usual… so, you run everything with sudo? Why don’t you just login as root and get it over with? Folks, if you are going to go ahead and do it all as root, just using sudo, save yourself the headaches of having to re-type your root password over and over and over and over…. and just login as root. If you are doing that much stuff as sudo, you are still doing all of the silly, and arguably stupid, things that you are supposed to be NOT DOING by not logging in as root.

Next… I know that DVD playback on Linux is supposedly illegal, but then again there are provisions in the DMCA that allows reverse engineering for interoperability issues. Simply put, I can reverse engineer my DVD player, and even the encryption methods, as long as it is for a legitimate use. The reason that this action is not clear cut yet, is that there has been no court case over the matter. As for MP3 playback, go ahead and find a non-free version of Linux if that is your thing so you can listen to MP3 files, but don’t bust my balls because the patent system is screwed up.

There there is this gem from WED Fan:

I don’t understand why this was tagged as FUD. For those that can’t stand the light of truth, they may strike out with such a tag, but the truth remains.

The only way to take down Microsoft, or make them improve their ways is through serious competition. And, I means s e r i o u s.

In it’s current form, the geeky-nerdy-rebel OS that can’t decide if it wants to be a server or desktop or embedded or social change harbinger cannot be that serious competition.

Current legal action cannot change Microsoft. Nor should it. In a capitalist system, the market is going to have to do that. And that empowers people. Always has. But, first, you have to offer the alternative.

The efforts should be, and this could cause a certain amount of forking:

  • Mainstream a Linux desktop, and by mainstreaming, I mean make it commercial. Make it so Joe Notageek, and his grandmother, can install it with less clicks than it takes to install Windows. Provide apps for it.
  • Mainstream a Linux server. Yes, I know there a lots out there, but again, only a few companies are really commercial. This is probably where Linux is most strong.
  • Not a Linux problem, but a parallel issue: Mainstream Linux apps. The killers are office and games, then accounting, then graphics. Open Office is quaint, but users still want MS. If the new commercial Linux Desktop seriously competes with MS, MS will start an Office Linux version. AND, game developers will create games for it that don’t suck. Creating an auto-WINE that will allow a user to load existing Windows apps in Linux would help. Getting the industry to create a logo for Windows apps that are compatable under a WINE or other emu system would be great.

The point is, make the consumer, a.k.a. Joe Notageek feel comfortable that it is easy to use, that he can buy applications for it at Best Buy, Walmart, Target, or Amazon.

The current Linux culture responds with a few old gems:

  • Linux is a server and isn’t meant to be mainstream (if this is so, then you are already resigned to MS dominance).
  • We don’t want Joe Notageek to use it.
  • We don’t want it to be commercial, capitalism is evil.
  • But, if we beat MS, who will be rant and rave about?
  • If Joe Notageek is to use it, we’ll have to write better documentation that a consumer can read, and I may have to start using standards.

I feel that there are problems with WED Fan’s ideas. First, they center around the ideology that markets will effect change in Microsoft’s illegal actions. Commercial markets don’t give a damn about empowering people, they care about making money. Please, don’t get the two confused. Here is a nice mantra I have used for a while:

    Corporate profit does not equal the public good

Now, I want to look at the specific problems with WED Fan’s proposals.

Desktop Linux is going to be difficult. Not because it is impossible to create a good looking desktop environment around a *nix core, Apple proved that could be done, but because of the level of work needed to make it compatible with so many pieces of hardware. Hardware vendors bend over backwards to make their products compatible with Windows because that is where the market is right now. A vendor of Desktop Linux is going to have to do all of the development and driver work on their own, with little to no help from most hardware vendors. Then any software changes they make to GPL software has to be made available to everyone. They don’t get to lock it down and copyright it as their own, because they are using someone else’s work to begin with.

Server Linux is not as difficult, but it will require vendors to get off of their asses and write some good, and useful, configuration tools. Why, because if Linux is going to get into the small shops then the vendors have to acknowledge that they have to make configuration gui-friendly. Windows admins have been pampered with gui tools, that while being worthless when setting up large sites, gives the basic admin the coddling they need to setup a basic system. The hopes would be that the basic Linux system would not be a security sieve.

Finally, the idea of mainstream Linux apps. Well, there we get into the chicken and the egg issue. MS is not going to make a version of Office for Linux until there is a large installed base of Desktop Linux, that won’t happen until there are enough people willing to go with Desktop Linux. His argument even says that those people want MS and not Open Office. Well, unless they have SOMETHING to use, like Open Office, then there won’t be a reason for them to go with Desktop Linux, therefore removing the large numbers of users that would get Microsoft to port to it. As for WINE or an emulation system for games and a logo/certification for it, game companies want serious sales, and until there is a large Desktop Linux installed base, that will not happen.

As for WED Fan’s “few old gems,” all I can say is who pissed in his cheerios?


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