Thursday, December 18, 2008

The Year of Linux

I find it hard to believe that you have spent more than a few months with Linux to not find many things radically different. A PART of Linux that tries to make itself compatible with people is give them ways to use their old knowledge to do the same old tasks on Linux that they did on windows. To say that Linux is only playing a catch up game tells me you should probably stick with Windows. IMO, I think Macs take the most common thing people want to do and put it into a one-click application. What you can do is REALLY awsome. Just check out youtube to see what people have done with iMovie. In business, the best thing you can do is take one thing and do it REALLY WELL. Try to expand too much, and you will just be beaten out by a large number of specialists. Linux doesn't NEED to attract or prove anything to anybody. It is awesome that people are starting companies and making big money off of Linux directly or indirectly, but that is not the core of what Linux has ever been about, at least for Linus Torvalds as I understand from a number of interviews I have read.

One thing to love and hate about design principles in Linux / FOSS is that it is based on creating the most productive software, not necessarily the most easy to understand or get started with software. Blender I think is the best example of this. There is a LOT to learn before you can do much of ANYTHING in blender. It is confusing and every button and modifier key does something different. The interface is ... well atrocious in many ways. Until you "get it". Once you painfully climb that seemingly never ending vertical learning curve, you are FREE. Forget the mouse and just imagine what you want to see and type it out in a few bizarre incantations on your keyboard. IF you can remember all the crazy commands, Blender is FAST. If you can't remember, or simple don't like working that way, then Blender is not for you. What will not happen is Blender changing its interface to attract a greater number of people. Take it or leave it.

There is also the issue that at the heart, Linux is Free. Many great Windows apps are developed under Linux, or for Linux, then easily ported to Windows. Write an app for Windows, and it works on Windows. Write an app for Linux, and it will work on anything with a microprocessor with the right simple planning or forethought.

My killer, can not live without, Linux application is BASH. I get strange problems in my head where I want to look something up in a way that a regular search engine simply won't do. or some stat problem I want to double check via brute force (cause why not, it is another way to confirm an answer), a method that can not always be done mentally. This is where I jump on the computer, and in a few strange incantations in a terminal, I have just what I wanted.

Yes, we can do that too will always be a catchup came cause who knows what Microsoft will convince people they need next. That can't ever change unless Microsoft stops being main stream. This will be a cultural change. Linux is about the bringing the power of the computer to the users fingertips. Windows is more about meeting the needs of "Ohh, Internet, I want to do that!". We are just in a time where there are still so many people in that latter category. Linux is just a kernel, but it is also just a tool. There will always be new things added to Linux that people need for themselves that others will join in and contribute to, but gearing itself towards "sacrifice anything and everything to get the maximum number of people to use it" will, I pray, NEVER be the heart of Linux.

Specialist circumstances need specialized software. Web Server, embedded systems, data centers. Linux provides the tweakability to do killer things REALLY well. You just can't do that in Windows, certainly not in the way that a trained Linux specialist can really make things work.

The Year of Linux was 1996.

Just read the Halloween Documents to confirm that BY MICROSOFT! At this point in time Microsoft identified Linux as an undefeatable adversary due to the NATURE of its distributed and community development in addition to the well made tools available for the system. It was an expert system for expert people that Microsoft would never be able to get rid of in any legal or moral way. Linux took over in the above named markets and have never fell.

The one thing that was argued was that Linux could never be a viable Desktop solution. Microsoft has powerful ground here, but OpenSuse introduced a great desktop system that showed that the FOSS community could reach out beyond people that could make contributions. That was in 2004.

So with those milestones long behind us, what do you want? What is this Year of Linux? Mass use? Well, the Internet is built on Linux / BSD, so everyone that uses the Internet is using Linux, strictly speaking. The LAST place for Linux to have a "take over" is on those nodes, the workstations, the home computer, something the complete novice can "do the Internet on". So at LEAST call that the Year of the Linux Desktop.

Microsoft has a plan to stay in business. It is called FUD. Microsoft is in large part successful for the same reason 23% of Texans think Obama is Muslim. In this case, it doesn't matter. I have Linux, and Linux does everything I need. I discourage many people from using Linux because Linux will present their computer to them as a tool to extend their mind and express themselves in new, powerful ways that may have been previously unimaginable. Most people DON'T WANT THAT. I'd argue that it is because most people don't understand that it is a possibility. As I said before, they just want to do the Internet and the email. For them the computer does things (hopefully) that you tell it to do. It is not an extension of their mind, not in the way that an ">expert would harness their computer skills.

People won't change, but society will change as new generations of computer users are born into it. As this takes place, as it obviously has been, the software will be there, and it will be Linux.

By this measure, the Year of Linux will be when general education teachers in public schools assign FOSS development as a part of every regular class. When C (or whatever language of your choice it) will be considered as equally important to teach along side English.

This is realistic, but no less than 30 years away because most teachers over 30 these days hardly know how to turn their computer on. It will take the children born in the last 10 years that grew up in todays technologies to be the majority of teachers in schools and administers on the Board of Education.

So to see that end, all we need to do is keep doing what we are doing now. It will always be transitional. Microsoft will always make Linux out to be insignificant. The only difference in the future will be the number of people still listening.

What do you listen to?

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