Linux Blog Safari: Waxing Philosophic on a New Linux Year

It’s 2008, and that means the year of Linux on the desktop is finally here! According to some, that is. As 2007 drew to a close and the new year dawned, the mood has waxed somewhat more philosophical and contemplative than usual on the Linux blogs.

Discussion was understandably more subdued over the holidays, generally creating less controversy and focusing on a more limited set of topics. One of the hottest exchanges on Slashdot, in fact, arose when Zonk posted a link to a PC Magazine review just before New Year’s that gave Wal-Mart’s much-discussed Linux PC a rating of just 1.5.

More than 650 comments ensued as to whether the review was fair (“The review actually recommends someone spend a little extra and get a Vista system. That’s when you know something is wrong,” wrote bchernicoff) and what a better alternative might be.

Gaining Ground?

On a more philosophical note, a post by timothy on New Year’s Day called attention to a Roy Schestowitz article in Datamation titled, “Signposts of GNU/Linux Growth in 2007, Part 1.” Schestowitz’s article chronicles the many places in which Linux gained ground in 2007, including gaming, and drew forth a detailed exchange on the nuances of Linux gaming as well as the state of Linux on the desktop today.

“I haven’t run Windows on my PC in over six years, so clearly Linux has been capable of meeting my desktop needs … but the fact of the matter is that there’s _PLENTY_ of problems that just aren’t being addressed, that could solidify Linux as a real desktop computer competitor,” wrote Anonymous Coward.

“The biggest drawback for Linux isn’t the platform or OS, it’s all those dumbass Klingon sounding names for the applications,” countered Divebus. “Fix that — and for god sake don’t make people use a perl script to install it — and you might be able to claim more inroads into general public market share. People don’t WANT to use Linux, more people just don’t want to use Windows because they’ve realized how treacherous it is. The iron is hot.”

Top Wishes for 2008

The Slashdot discussion of the state of Linux had much in common with a post on the Linux Loop summing up what participants said they most wished for Linux in 2008.

The top 7 such wishes, as summarized by blogger Thomas Teisberg, were as follows:

  1. Better hardware support and certification for Linux
  2. A standardized and easy to use system for installing/uninstalling software
  3. Get rid of the terminal and editing of text config files — perhaps “get rid of” is too strong, but make it hidden
  4. A consistent and pleasing look and feel across the entire distro
  5. An easy-to-use and powerful video editing application for Linux
  6. More commercial games available for Linux
  7. Every program ported to Linux

Picking up on that dawn-of-a-new-year theme, LinuxInsider couldn’t resist conducting a small poll of its own, asking a few select bloggers what they most wished to see for Linux in 2008.

More Choices for the People

“Interestingly, when asked what I fervently wish for Linux, I realize how full-featured a system it has finally become,” Slashdot blogger yagu told LinuxInsider. “I’m writing this reply in Firefox, on a Linux machine which has been my exclusive working environment for the last year. I have a full office suite of software (Open Office); a powerful, standards-compliant browser (Firefox); a full e-mail client (Thunderbird); and thousands of free programs and commands to monitor, tune, configure my environment.”

What’s missing, yagu added, is a bridge from the community of technical workers to the everyday world of computer users. How to make that happen?

First, “I wish in 2008 that we see another ‘for the people’ machine, this time not listed as a cheap toaster model like the Wal-Mart offering but instead a full-fledged alternative machine that competes with Vista or Mac,” yagu said. “Any of the vendors out there are capable of this, I toss this out as a challenge to them. The wind is out of the Vista sails — and sales — use this as the opportunity! Make it a machine people will want.”

Increased Support

Also to be wished for is that Adobe would release Linux versions of all of its products — “especially Photoshop,” yagu added. “For many, it’s the missing few key products that keep them leery of really trying Linux.” Same goes for full driver support among wireless and graphics cards vendors, he said.

“Linux has arrived after a fashion,” yagu concluded. “Now it’s time for some of the third parties to carry the baton the last few paces.”

What’s most important for Linux in the upcoming year is not anything technical but rather a social change, blogger Kevin Dean told LinuxInsider. Specifically, the community needs to encourage more respect toward the history and purpose of GNU/Linux, he said.

Back to Freedom

“GNU/Linux is too often referred to as a ‘product’ — something that needs to be marketed or sold, with its failure or success based on how many SKUs it ships,” Dean explained.

“The problem with that is that GNU/Linux is, itself, the result of numerous people solving their own problems and giving to the community their solutions,” he added. “It is this kind of community involvement that both scares people away AND simultaneously makes GNU/Linux the most ‘personal,’ the best documented, and one of the most secure operating system in the world.”

Software freedom lies at the heart of GNU/Linux’s value, Dean asserted, and most problems in the GNU/Linux landscape exist because of software that is not free. “If GNU/Linux users demanded free software,” he concluded, “market forces would force the liberation of many things that are currently issues.”

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