Thursday, March 27, 2008

Art and Science and Linuxville

Linux is not the focused product of one company, that much we know. Linux is the work of many people brought together on one platform. I remember my teenage days pouring over a catalog called Whitneys. It was an after-market car parts book. This was way before the pimp your ride movement, we called it hot rodding. You could build kit cars or transform your standard jalopy by customizing. Even back then we had the old school, new school thing going. Linux is an awful lot like that. You can have a standard like Gnome or KDE or any of the assorted desktops and you can tweak an pimp your settings to an outrageous range of styles and actions. I know there are many who say this is the reason Linux is not popular, too much tweakability, choice and not one desktop that everybody knows. You are familiar with the toy Bionical, we had Erector sets in my day, comes with snap together parts. If a kid opens the bubble pak to play with the pre-assembled form and never takes it apart to build something else, what fun is that, what kind of kid is that. I am finding that PC users are like that also. They want one form and feel more secure if it doesn't change. If you are this kind of Linux user, don't change it, but don't complain if it is unsatisfactory to your taste. I get ticked sometimes at screenshot comparisons of Linux (mostly Ubuntu) to MS Vista and Mac Leopard. Right out of the box looks are so misleading. Vista and Leopard have "polish and sophistication" you don't have to hunt for. You don't have to do a thing to get those looks, but with Linux you get a basic (not ugly) desktop. The Gnome group seems to stick close to the basic functional look (fresh and simple), KDE is reaching for "polish and sophistication". Personally, I like Xfce, it fits my way of how things should look. Most users settle on a desktop as a favorite and don't change after that. So having the ability and liberty to change is designed into Linux. There are the one size fits all favorites, MS and Mac, then the custom fit Linux. You really have to ask if mass marketing appeal is what you want. Look at Macs, they are kind of specialized to a particular niche market. Yet they are considered in the same vein as MS which is really a mass marketing effort. Linux can accommodate many types of users, because it can be customized to your needs. Linux really is a different platform. Now Linux, MS and Macs all have server OS's and applications. They all have desktop OS's and applications. Nobody is worried about Macs taking over the whole desktop kingdom, why do they think this about Linux? For certain Linux has a niche crowd too. I wonder if because Linux is not a company or a single organization or that it is free and open source it is being held as not being able to fairly compete with MS and Apple which are. This is so much like the car world. Sometimes innovation is forced upon the major car makers by the backyard hot rodders, the racetrackers, foreign cars and the oil crisis. People who are asking if Linux is ready for the desktop always discount the fact that there are folks who can deal with it just fine with no complaints, no hassles. They say over and over the average person (mom) can't use it and it will never take over MS's domination. So far I have not heard anyone ask Linus Torvalds why he didn't just use MS Windows instead of writing a free Unix style operating system from scratch. Then a guy by the name of Mark Shuttleworth, who is obviously familiar with making money like Jobs and Gates, decides to develop and support Linux and keep it free and open source. So, being free is suspect, the media is nay saying and critical and PC users are skeptical or uneducated when it comes to Linux. In a secret cove, deep in the heart of Linuxville, there is a ring of Tux clothed server monks surrounded by thousands of chanting users from every walk of life or is it like that old spy TV show "The Prisoner", the island is everywhere, you can't escape and you're not a number? Is it like "The Matrix", we live in a virtual world and one day wake up? Or like "Star Wars" or "Tron", that too is your choice.
Well I do have a prediction and a dream that one day somebody will put a virtual machine program in the boot rom (a flash drive). All OS's will be an iso file and personal settings and supplemental programs saved to disk. Data and OS's will never be put on the same disk and file formats will be open and usable between OS's. Your PDA will contain your personal settings and when in proximity to a computer transfers the settings, becomes your mouse, ethernet link and storage device. OS lapel pins will be worn like merit badges but it wouldn't matter because businesses and homes are well versed in open source software. Tux becomes a popular mascot at basketball games, learns a flying slam dunk. The total outcome is that Linux will continue to develop and grow as a OS, in spite of the inertia against it.

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