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Opinion: Seeing Linux for the first time...

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I have been involved in computing in one capacity or another for some 20 years and decided recently to take a look at Linux. After sampling many flavours (Red Hat, Mandrake, FreeBSD, Knoppix, Suse and more), here are some of my thoughts.

Linux could very well be the next big thing, but I think the Linux community and Microsoft are over-stating the potential threat to the Microsoft's domination of the OS scene. MS is using Linux to claim it does not have a world monopoly, when in fact it does. When the US DOJ screams 'Monopoly!', MS says, 'But what about Linux - they scare us...'. Linux is not a viable threat to MS and if things continue as they are, never will be. Here's why:

Linux is an old-style OS. It reminds me of how things were when I first got into computing 20 years ago - you had to be a brain surgeon to get anything sensible out of a computer. It's all nuts and bolts, binary, command prompts, version numbers etc. No wizards, no 'smart' technologies, none of the hard work is being done by the computer. A modern OS should have moved beyond this. It makes intelligent decisions about the environment it is trying to deliver. From a network admin point of view, I need to understand DHCP, but I don't want to manually edit a text file to set it up. Yes, I know in some cases there are GUI based apps that do it for you - but not very well. The world is now full of users, in some cases super-users, but the focus has moved away from spending hours administering the PC, to spending hours being productive in doing your actual work. From a purely personal perspective - I don't want to have to devote another couple of years learning a new OS when (yes) MS 2000/2003/2020 does it for me (unreliably, insecurely and expensively).

On to my next point. The Linux community at large appears divided and directionless (sweeping statement). No single flavour of Linux, 20 ways of doing the same thing, individual apps in each derivative at different stages of development - all tweaked in some way to make them different from the others.

And, the most damaging part of all. No concensus about what is important within the community. You have 2000 text editors, 1 web server, 2 mail servers etc.

Developments in software appear to come about as a result of groups of programmers (as good and professional as they are) having a go at writing something. Which then becomes the most popular flavour. Why can't the entire community decide what would be desirable(ultimately) in a Mail Server/Web Server/Terminal Server and split that project amongst the community. That way you would (rather quickly) end up with a finished, viable Mail server which did everything people wanted. Instead, you have a number of obscurely titled, not quite finished, not quite secure applications which may or may not lead to a final finished product in about 5 years.

Final gripe and then I'll come to the point. You are not gaining any friends outside of Linux because the whole thing is too 'techy'. As an outsider, I can see the delight and pride the Linux community has in it's obscure binary-based over-complicated under-belly (I can't believe he just said that!). RPMs, tarballs et al. Would it kill you have an install program? Would it kill you to at least try and hide the scripts and conf files from us mere humans?

What would be wrong with something called the 'Linux Mail Server' - it does exactly what it says on the tin! Not, Postfix or Sendmail, or Linux Web Server etc. Would-be Linux users must spend half their time trying to establish what things are when they first dive in. They are some of the better ones - when I first looked at FreeBSD (a bad example, I know), all I remember was pages and pages of one, two and three digit application names(?????). I am never going to know that GCC, GTK or KDE have any significance or relevance to me, because I am going to die of alphabet overload or boredom before I find out.

In conclusion, you probably think I am very pro-Microsoft and very anti-Linux. Well, you could not be further from the truth. I enjoyed Linux and would love to see it run the world. I admire it's open-source approach, but was disappointed by what I discovered. I think we will live to regret allowing MS to monopolise the world, but time is running out for Linux. You see you don't have 5/10 years to develop a raft of viable alternative applications in a hotch-potch un-coordinated manner. People need robust, easy to use and finished alternatives now...

N.B. This was written as a constructive comment.
mail this link | score:8662 | -Seppo, May 14, 2004
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