posted by John Munsch on Mon 30th Dec 2002 19:05 UTC
IconWhy do it? I am asked this question more often than I expected, even by existing Linux users who I expected to know as well as I the reasons for building a next-generation desktop Linux for the home user. So here are some of my reasons for thinking that we must spend the effort to create a better desktop on Linux than any existing version now has. Editor's Note: Due to a technical glitch, the first segment of this article was ommitted for some readers. If you missed the "why" section, before, you can read it now.


  1. Microsoft has a virtual monopoly in the desktop operating system market and has famously abused that advantage. I don't think paying $150-200 (US) for an operating system upgrade every couple of years or paying an effective "tax" on the purchase of a new computer to buy the operating system to go with it is acceptable. Especially when the available alternative needs only a little work to be just as valuable to the home user.
  2. The security and stability of Windows have been less than what we want for the mass of home machines currently connected to the Internet. Any time a large number of PCs can be attacked and potentially taken over, they represent a huge distributed denial of service (DDOS) weapon. Currently Windows is a vulnerable target which updates slowly. Linux is a harder target and can be made even more so to better protect not only the home user but also other users and businesses from those machines being taken over and used as a weapon.
  3. If you are already a Linux user, you want to attract the body of commercial software vendors to develop for your platform and developers follow the platform with the users. If you are a Linux user, why would you not want access to the tens of thousands of software packages available to Windows users now (i.e. Adobe Photoshop, games like Morrowind and Battlefield 1942, KidPix, and QuickBooks Pro)?
  4. In reality, the differences between the capabilities of the latest versions of Linux and Windows XP are far, far less than their similarities. A couple of years worth of work, if it is focused in the right areas, could close the gap and give users more choices.
  5. The cost of the operating system is an additional barrier to the availability of machines to low income people. Every small amount that can be removed from the overall price makes it available to more who could benefit from having a computer. Also, older machines are often still perfectly useful for many purposes but they need up-to-date operating systems rather than the aging copies of Windows 95 or 98 that came with the hardware. If the updated operating system is free and appeals to end users, that hardware becomes more appealing because it doesn't require an investment of additional cash to bring it up to date.
  6. It upsets me to even have to address these issues but they are definitely out there. Some of the Linux population is composed of people who are simply bigoted and selfish. These two excerpts from online discussions about a tool to ease Linux configuration say a lot:

    Make it easy for lazy people? Nahhh!

    Use FreeBSD as an example and take it from there. This is for people who know the insides of their systems and not for superficial types who just want a slam-bang-thank-you-ma'am OS. FreeBSD requires a "relationship", a commitment, and not just a one night stand. This is not for lazy asses. The market wants people who know what they are doing, not people who know how to use a GUI. If you want dancing clips, Einstein and doggies, stick to XP! Guess that's what all the envy is about.

    Ok, this is justified elitism if you ask me.

    Ever since the lamers have come to discover us Linux/BSD users having fun in the corner, there have been many attempts to send our communities down the drain. I learned how to use Linux and BSD, the MAIN APPEAL of these operating systems is that they are 100% customizable! That includes the implications that MY SYSTEM IS MINE, and very little like the next guys! So, I had to adapt to this philosophy so can YOU! Don't tell a thirty year old technology it needs to change because all of your loser buddies coming from windows do not realize if you bring over that crap from Windows, then Linux WILL no longer be better than Microsoft Windows!! You people are just stupid, and pissed that you cannot understand the material so you and some of your MCSE buddies or your lame CS degree figures you have clout in this market arena and start throwing ideas to corrupt a working system. Why the hell [from one of the BSD mailing lists] FreeBSD/OpenBSD needs a GUI based installer would be totally degrading the quality and functionality of the current installer. Some friggin newbie was crying because RedHat had a GNOME installer and some flavour of BSD didn't. The GUI, ease of use does not, never has and never will equate to "better" or "advanced". The functionality of the working code is what constitutes what is better. Not "How stupid a person can be, and still use this device". Frankly, I don't give a damn about the stupid people, you all can rot in hell and suffer the restraints of Microsoft Windows for all I care. Don't come here dragging your Microsoft problems with you, remember why you converted in the first place.

    These two geniuses are referring to making a system easier to use for technical users, we didn't get to hear their open-minded opinions about how making Linux easier to use for non-technical users would eternally destroy it but I can assure you that they (and others like them) believe that very thing. Making Linux more accessible has not destroyed it yet and it's not going to. It started out as a better operating system and it's going to stay better, the addition of additional layers of GUI which can be turned off or never installed in the first place for power users doesn't damage Linux. On the other hand, if your only goal is to make sure that Linux stays a private club and you don't want "just anybody" to be able to be a member, you don't want to hear my opinion of your motives.

Table of contents
  1. "Why?"
  2. "How?"
  3. "Pretty Does Count"
  4. "What Brand?"
  5. "Conclusion"
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