An Idea And A Vision
You have to hand it to Linus Torvalds, the creator of the Linux operating system. The man had an idea, pushed himself to the edge and realized a dream. Wow, thatís pretty gutsy stuff - no kidding. I admire people like that, and applaud his efforts.
For those who donít know, the man found that he did not like some of the limitations in the Unix marketplace, particularly when it came to Intel x86 platforms, so he set about writing a Unix derivative and before you know it, he had a hit on his hands. Open Source, free for the masses, and it ran on just about every Intel box out there, with a few adjustments here and there.
Oh sure, it was hardcore into the command line side of things, but it was fast, stable and flexible. The fact that it was free was also a nice touch. People sent it to their buddies and it expanded rapidly. Users flocked together to form support groups and write detailed articles on how to get things done with Linux. It was all good back in the day...
Trouble In Paradise
Well, a lot of people jumped on the bandwagon and rode the wave for all it was worth. Linux lacked a Graphical User Interface (GUI), so some folks got together to help rectify that. However, over the years, a rift developed between the two big GUI guns - KDE and Gnome. A standardized user interface would greatly help in the adoption process and having all those resources on the same page would surely help speed development. Unfortunately there are egos involved, and the ongoing battle for the hearts and minds has taken a toll on Linux as a whole.
Some used the KDE v Gnome battle as an example of what is wrong with the open source movement. Too many cooks spoiling the soup. Infighting, a lack of a firm and cohesive vision, and the appearance of a splintered product base has not helped the cause in the slightest. Add to that the fact that due to these tough times, some Linux companies are taking advantage of loopholes in the open source licensing agreements to begin charging for distributions. Including proprietary software in the bundle and charging excessive amounts for the ďbasicĒ distribution is just one of the tactics used. Some companies donít provide free downloads of the basic edition at all, even though it is supposed to be part of the deal. The problem is, people get greedy, and when that happens, things deteriorate.
Frankly, another problem with the Linux movement is that users are notoriously cheap. Iím not flogging insults here, just trying to speak the truth. Letís take the example of Loki, the only real game developer for Linux. They would create native ports of popular games for the Linux operating system and charge a modest 30 dollars or so for each copy sold. Unfortunately, Loki is going out of business. Why? Because the Linux community does not want to pay $30 for something. They want it for free. Why? Perhaps because the operating system was free and it set a precedent. Regardless, the simple fact is that one of the best intentioned Linux companies out there is going bust because of a lack of community support.
Add to that the fact that the Linux community has a history of being rude to newbies, and you have a problem. The elitist ďtechno-geekĒ attitude that serves them well in the established community does not go over well for people who are new to the software and are simply asking for help.
As a result of all of these issues, Linux has lost a lot of momentum, particularly in the desktop market, where they have been trying to make inroads. Linus Torvalds himself has said the future of Linux is on the desktop, but unfortunately, the way things are working out, it doesnít look good for desktop market penetration. As big of a Linux fan that I am, I have to admit, the fact that the community is so factionalized is a real concern to me. Why put up with all of the headaches and the egos when you have alternatives?