Friday, October 12, 2007

Why Linux is Ready, Not Ready for the Desktop and Why we Care in the Wrong Way.

Ok, for starters, I'm not going to enumerate on linux's weaknesses and strengths and talk about why it is or is not ready for the desktop. I know, I know my title would make it seem like that was going to be my focus, but it is not. Instead I'm going to talk about the community's idiotic (yeah you heard me bring the flames, go ahead my e-mail is treatment of this subject. Too many other people have talked about what the problems are, and why they do or do not matter, to discuss that would be a waste of my time. I'm going to discuss why those people are all focusing on the WRONG thing.

The Linux Isn't Ready Argument and the Flame Responses

We've all read these articles, and most of us have written angry responses. Listing flaws that either we all know about, or flaws we have no control over. These articles get it wrong because Linux is indeed ready for OUR desktops, and obviously ready for the desktops of certain professional developers, and public library and education stations. Well you know why it's ready for those desktops? Because either they are being maintained by someone who is doing hardware research and only purchasing hardware that will just work when plugged in, or it's in the hands of techies who care enough to look up tutorials and dig into the terminal and hack away at ndiswrapper to get things to work. I am one of those people. Linux is ready more or less for my desktop, and it is totally ready for many other people's desktop. Every time there is an improvement in a new release it becomes ready for a few more desktops. Now here is the point that all the responses miss. We should be leveraging Linux at these people. Do we see marketing campaigns? Well do we? NO, we don't. There is no bloody marketing, except for the occasional ad for major server linux products from IBM, and I haven't even seen that in a while. Because the one flaw we have very little control over, third party app development and hardware support is best changed through getting a larger audience. We should be pushing Linux hard at the people it's ready for. Which also means ACCEPTING WHO IT'S NOT READY FOR!

2 The Linux is Too Ready Articles and Flame Responses

Now come the responses that make me even more crazy that the ignorarant Linux isn't ready articles. They miss the point in an even more painful way because they are from people inside the community. Linux isn't perfect people. It has flaws, just like Windows and Mac. We need to be adult enough to look at those flaws and see what we can do to change them. We cannot stick our heads in the ground. Again I'm not going to waste my time listing those flaws many other people have done that for me. Linux is not ready for the desktop of your average facebook obsessed, web camming, newest version of Photoshop/Flash/proprietary Cannon printer using gaming consumer. The same way Windows isn't ready for our desktop. That's right Windows isn't READY for our desktop. If we can look at those flaws, and ask ourselves, what can we do to fix that. Can we push the big distributors towards collaborating more closely with the LSB to get a more stably API to make development easier. Can we really talk at these various distro developer conferences about usability issues, and working webcam support into Pidgin, and working on the JRE so it works more similarly to the Windows and Mac version. We need to stand up and work on making the product better. Accept our responsibility, while calling people to task who claim Linux is "Not Ready" instead of just writing off their criticism.

There are some good signs, GIMP is accepting major usability suggestions from the community for the next version (THANK GOD). Pidgin is finally moving forward after all that stupid legal bog down. Ubuntu is introducing all sorts of usability advancements. They could use some speed and performance help, but there is still good innovation happening there. We need to push those innovations forward, while taking criticism professionally. That is productive. If we can start doing that, we can begin to significantly increase how many desktops we are ready for. Linux will never be ready for everyone. We are a community that embraces choice, and choice means someone will want something different. That's OK, the joy of distros is we can have one distro for the hard core tech and one distro where you never see the terminal. I am all for this. I approve of it. We have gotten our choice, we got it a while ago. It's time to give the average consumer their choice, and that means making the desktop ready for them to help them. Not to shove Microsoft off their throne. Because when we start doing things for positive instead of negative reasons we will be a lot more willing to actually listen to the needs of the people who's desktop Linux isn't ready for.