The title of the article seems familiar to you? Naturally it would, when you read something like this. But I do state the corresponding sentence isn’t even grammatically correct, thereby making it difficult for me to parody. I am sure that Linux is not close to extinction but is rather gaining momentum or at least holding its ground.
Now the following stipulations stand. First, in this article I will address the topic of software freedom or openness; it would be impossible to discuss Linux without this. Second, I will weight the pros and cons of the Linux way, the Windows way, and other “ways” as I see fit. Third, everything concerning these issues will partially be influenced by my own beliefs (anyone that tells you they are just describing the situation objectively without expressing attitude needs to take at least the following courses: psychology, sociology, literature, and – if time permits – genetics.
Since you’re reading this article, I’ll assume that you frequent OSNews. The volume of recent articles chronicling the successes of Linux may have led you to believe that it has a lot of momentum. This is true. The data in that article shows that Microsoft’s Windows servers’ revenue grew by 4.6% this year, Linux’s by 5.4%, and Unix’s declined by 1.7%. This means that Linux servers are still a more popular choice than Windows servers while Unix servers are becoming less and less popular. This of course, is expected with companies such as SGI and Sun more-or-less switching from Unix to Linux. Now I believe through all of the circumlocution in the previous article’s conclusion that the author’s overall vision was that Unix would eventually replace Linux where Linux now dominates. This is all nice and theoretical, but all figures indicate otherwise. Things fall when they stagnate, not when they are moving with all deliberate momentum.
You may object right now – “The previous article wasn’t about servers! It was about desktop Linux!” And you would be correct. According to this article, Linux’s desktop market share is 2.8%, an order of magnitude smaller than its server market share of 28.3%. I believe you can reason which is its more important market. Since its clearly the server market, to base an article about the future of Linux on data from the desktop market renders his point, at the very least, invalid.
The matter of OS choice
Windows has a much easier to use graphical interface than Linux for novices. Even if you’re an ardent Linux aficionado, you’ve got to concede on this point. Think about it: how many times a session do you drop back to your terminal to perform simple administrative tasks, etc.? If you still don’t agree, you probably don’t want to read on.
Okay. Now we’ve got that Windows basically monopolizes the desktop market and has a much easier to use GUI than Linux for novices (I realize Linux doesn’t have a GUI – by this I’m referring to things such as GNOME or KDE). Great. It always was a system for geeks. Think about it: you frequent OSNews; tell me you’re not a geek. Okay, I also realize that many people are probably reading this on Windows or Mac right now, but a fair number of OSNewsers probably have Linux on some computer.
Additionally, Linux is not a company. With all of these recent news announcements concerning Novell or Red Hat or Oracle or Canonical, it’s easy to lose sight of this. Linux, in the common sense of the word, is a community – a community of geeks. And unless Microsoft coalesces some government into passing an anti-geek law, this community can’t die. Projects like Debian or Gentoo will always be around. In many ways you can think of this like V for Vendetta. Linux is an idea, and ideas never die. Hell, people still program in Fortran. Why? Because no matter how many companies out there release programming tools to compete with Fortran, it’s an idea that’ll never die.
Now to address the previous article, the author puts a tremendous amount of emphasis on the desktop, on WYSIWYG design (which really has nothing to do with the GUI but let’s bear with him). Now I would argue that the command line is usually far superior to using a GUI, as it allows you to work much faster and more flexibly. But for trivial tasks such as checking your mail or browsing the web, it’s often more convenient to have a GUI available. But think biology and evolution. A GUI is the natural result of a need to check mail. GUI’s are not Microsoft-invented concepts as the previous author implies; indeed many attribute the first GUI to Apple.
The previous author goes on to say that a GUI (or what he calls a WYSIWYG desktop) and the Unix way of accomplishing tasks on the command line are mutually exclusive. Next he mentions OSX, which is a GUI on top of a Unix system. I believe by what philosophers call a reductio ad absurdum, he’s just invalidated his own statement. But disregarding that, putting a simpler façade on top of a more complicated interior is commonplace. Think about your TV. Many remotes have a little slider that hides a set of fancy buttons. Now think about something like an IDE. It automates most tasks but lets you screw with the inner workings when you want to. So why shouldn’t we extend this metaphor to a whole system? We should, and we do.
The fair race
Now the author seems to think that Linux is simply copying Microsoft on everything. That’s not true. What Linux aims to implement on the desktop is simply the end of a rational series of progressions. Let’s say you have an error. How would you handle it? Now about telling the user and asking them what they want to do? Great. How do we do it? Dialog box! Great idea! That’s the human thought process. Drop a computer in the Garden of Eden during man’s golden age and Adam would’ve come to the same conclusion.
If the previous author had any further point in this section, it would be that Linux’s difficulty today is providing a Microsoft-like GUI on top of its traditional Unix-like system. What he really means to say is that Linux’s trouble is providing an efficient single-user experience on a system designed with a multi-user server-client model. I concede; this is why it’s taken so long for things such as Upstart to emerge. But simultaneously argue that this does not mean the Linux model is a failing system. Instead, it needs to update its traditional thinking, and this is absolutely beneficial to the community in general. However, the author seems to think that this would also incur a complication overhead due to more abstraction; this is simply not the case. Take a look at any of the new Sysvinit replacements; they’re all easier to use than the original.
I’m not even going to address this section. I’m just going to point out that this author thinks ReactOS will replace Linux and leave it for readers to draw their own conclusions. (Don’t get me wrong. I fully support the ReactOS project, but honestly…).
Anyways, my whole point in writing this article was to refute the previous author’s work. Linux is progressing strongly and is not going away in either mine nor your lifetimes.
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