Bill and Jerry, Chrome and the Next Linux Generation

Well, it was a comparatively quiet week on the Linux blogs last week, due at least in part, no doubt, to the Labor Day holiday.

Gustav could have been a factor too — dampening, so to speak, those conversational fires — but we here at LinuxInsider also have another small theory to explain some of the relative lack of discussion: Many normally active members of the blogosphere, we suspect, were stunned into a sort of dazed stupor by the first Jerry Seinfeld Microsoft ad.

Indeed, as soon as we began talking with bloggers about a variety of other topics for this week’s column, it quickly became clear that many were distracted. “I’m more than a bit puzzled by Microsoft’s new commercial,” Montreal-based consultant and Slashdot blogger Gerhard Mack confessed. “Looked more like a kiss up to Bill Gates than anything else.”

Gates… Seinfeld… shoes… delicious? Perhaps a kindly reader will clue us in, but we seem to be missing the joke.

Desperately Seeking Linux Chrome

There was also the debut of Google’s Chrome last week, of course — beginning with a version just for Windows.

“Let’s not lament the lack of a Linux build at this time given the practical expediency that Google have employed to make at least something accessible,” wrote David Williams in “A Linux User’s Guide to Google Chrome” on iTWire. “However, it also stands to reason there’s many a Linux user who won’t be content with just being told there’s no Chrome for them; as sure as day and night follow each other there are brains ticking over around the world trying to make a usable Linux Chrome build with what’s available now.”

With such geeks in mind, Williams outlines how to get and build the Linux source for the software.

Over at Red Hat, meanwhile, blogger Dan Walsh was speculating how SELinux and Chrome could work together, particularly from a security point of view.

Rendering OS Choice ‘Moot’

“I’ve used Chrome for three days so far, and find it excellent, especially considering this is their first release,” Slashdot blogger yagu told LinuxInsider on Friday.” I think one of the most important developments with Chrome and its meaning in the Linux world is that it increasingly renders OS choice moot.”

Once Chrome is available everywhere — “I’m assuming Google is sincere that they will provide Mac and Linux versions,” yagu said — we’ll all be one step closer to “Browser as a Platform Internet,” he explained. “That is, it isn’t going to matter whether you run XP, Vista, OS X, or Linux. We’re all going to be doing most of our work in a browser.”

That could be a boon for Linux, “because Microsoft increasingly loses leverage with its OS,” he added, but it also potentially poses a threat to Linux as a PC solution. “I can’t imagine that Google won’t eventually consider offering Chrome as ‘browser on boot up’ — that is, no intervening OS necessary to support Chrome. You just boot your PC and Chrome becomes the OS,” yagu said.

‘Good for Everybody’

“I don’t plan on using it except for testing any public-facing Web site I make, but the more browsers we have in use the better it is for everybody,” Slashdot blogger Mhall119 pointed out. “When a company can no longer work with just Internet Explorer’s quirks, they will start to use, and insist on, standards compatibility.”

There is also a benefit in Chrome’s different handling of tabs — “something you can’t exactly just drop into FF, IE or Opera without upsetting a bunch of people,” Mhall119 told LinuxInsider. “If their new methods prove to be useful, then the others can follow suit, and if they don’t, then nobody really gets burned. All browsers borrow ideas from the others, so if Google is going to introduce new ideas into the ecosystem, again, it’s good for everybody.”

Marketing to Schools

Speaking of what’s good for everybody — and especially the Linux community — David Lane raised an interesting question in Linux Journal recently that got picked up last week on the Linux blogs. Specifically, Lane asked, “How do we attract the next generation?”

Apple has been very good at getting Macs into schools, Lane noted, and countless schools already use Windows. What, then, could the Linux community do to compete?

As one might expect, bloggers on the Linux Loop and LXer, among others, had plenty to say on that question.

Developer Competition

“I propose a competition, sponsored by individual donations and contributions from as many Linux distributions as possible,” wrote Thomas Teisberg on the Linux Loop. “This competition could also be done in connection with college software development classes.”

To compete, “developers would have to create an open source application for Linux that targets any segment of education — particularly high school and college students,” Teisberg explained. “This would spur true innovation and, hopefully, turn out some incredible Linux applications for students.”

Whatever the tactic, “Getting schools to switch to GNU/Linux is the single most important way to break the M$opoly,” added Max on the site. “Not many people realize how vital this area is. These people could be the future kernel hackers, or the future M$ Executives, depending on how we treat them early on,” he wrote.

‘Linux Has an Edge’

“I think David Lane raises a good point,” Adam Kane, a blogger on Foogazi, told LinuxInsider. “It’s very important to attract the next generation to Linux.”

Accomplishing that goal, however, “is going to take a lot more than just having major distributions packaged and placed on store shelves,” Kane noted. “It takes a well-organized marketing effort in order to educate the masses about Linux. If we really want to grab the next generation we definitely should be starting with the schools.”

Indeed, “Linux has an edge that needs to be exploited when it comes to the education market,” Mack noted. “Aside from its low price, its open source architecture can provide students with room to explore the system’s inner workings. It’s also easier to manage large numbers of Linux machines than it is to manage Windows/OS X,” he added.

Joint Advertising

“What I would like to see is an industry advertising campaign, like we have for dairy and beef, which promotes a common product, not a single company,” Mhall119 said. “A cooperation between Red Hat, Novell, Canonical as well as hardware vendors like Dell and Asus, to promote generic Linux on the desktop.”

Novell has already made some Mac vs. PC spoofs for YouTube, he pointed out. “Tying it in with popular culture would also be good. I’ve seen Gnome or KDE desktops several times in movies and TV,” including KDE in the first season of NBC’s “Heroes.” “A joint ad starring some Heroes cast and Linux, aired during an episode of Heroes, would be a huge win.”

Aside from that, “how about giving free LiveCDs to public schools and libraries?” he suggested. “Once you get some kid running Compiz on their old PC that won’t run Vista, or even new games, and then their friends come over and see the eye candy, it’ll start to spread on its own.”

Not everyone, however, agreed on the relevance of the question.

Users ‘Don’t Really Care’

“The most important demographic is the developer community and, anecdotally at least, my experience is that anyone who is deep in that universe is well aware and involved in Linux,” yagu asserted. “Also, savvy companies are deeply vested in Linux solutions. In some ways, Linux is working its way into the universe from the inside out — that is, those who need good technology use Linux for their important work. Eventually, Linux shows up in unexpected places.”

Users, on the other hand, “don’t really care,” yagu added. “How many times have you heard anyone say, ‘I sure am glad my TiVo is running on Linux’?”

Nevertheless, “users are using Linux on a daily basis and don’t even know it,” he noted. “Eventually the buzz may push Linux to PCs on brick-and-mortar shelves. That will be a great day, and I hope it does happen.”

Meanwhile, “Linux is here, and those who need to know about it, do,” he concluded. “Those that will need to know about it, will.”

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