April 12, 2003 by Allen George
Over and Over
As of today, IBM announced that they’ll be creating a Java Office suite for use with the Websphere series of apps. Uhuh. I wonder if they’ll succeed in decoding Microsoft’s archaic .doc/.xls/.ppt file formats. They’d have to have some pretty _large_ advantages for people to decide to switch over from Microsoft Office. Forgive me if I’m a bit sceptical.
Also, it seems like the split is worsening on the XFree86 list. David Dawes grows ever more critical and defensive and it seems from the transcripts (xwin.org) that the distance between the BOD and the developers is increasing. Very well. If it is to be like that then so be it. I have my list of concerns and arguments with X, but I still use it and I am _well_ aware, that as a projects, XFree86’s openness is somewhere at the bottom of the ladder.
I would like to see the following in the new X project, but I am unsure as to whether the developers would even consider this.
a) Most important – please split the video drivers out so that they can be maintained by a larger group of people and used by other, competing window servers.
b) Deprecation of extensions that are deemed as having been surpassed by others.
c) Removal of core X fonts, standardization around fontconfig.
d) Removal of old toolkits
I am sure there are other points. Howver, if even 1/2 of these could be carried out, I would be happy.
In the last few days, I’ve travelled over to Osnews. Many who have read my blog know that I dislike Eugina Loli-Qeuri based on her behavior. I used to be a regular reader of Osnews, but it has been waning of late. However, I was interested by an article about how ‘suitable’ Linux is for the desktop. There are many flames (directed by all sides) in the OS world about the suitability of Linux for the desktop.
Personally, I use Linux as my only OS and in my opinion, Linux is suitable for a desktop environment. Is it perfect? No. Can improvements be made? Yes, significant improvements can and should be made. However, the question that should be asked is “Is it good _enough_?” Many advocates of their individual OSes (OSi ;) ) have differing opinions. Mac advocates tout the usability of their platform (while detractors point to the high cost, low speed and total vendor lockin). BeOS advocates point to its legacy-free architectural design and responsiveness (while detractors point to the fact that its ‘dead’ – Zeta and all notwithstanding). Windows adovates point to its obiquity, simple installation procedure of 3rd-party apps as well as user comfort (while detractors point to Microsoft’s increasing and disturbing presence in every corner of the computing world, its instability and lack of security).
Often when people talk about Linux, they compare it to the incumbents Microsoft and Apple and point to how Linux desktops lack in those areas. What many forget however, was that even 3-5 years ago, comparing a Linux DE to a Windows environment was laughable to say the least. A lot has changed in that time. People forget that when personal computing was a glimmer in the eye of the average consumer, equivalent Apple models were much more versatile and better platforms than their competitors – the IBM PC. We all know how that slugfest ended up. Factors such as cost, generic hardware and more drove people to the Wintel platform.
I see the _possibilty_ of that happening again today, although this time, the Linux community is against an incumbent with the advantage of large pockets, a dominant marketing force, lock-in deals with major computer vendors and a commanding presence in every sphere of software development and management. The deck seems stacked. But, there are a few chinks in the armor. First – price. Microsoft’s products are overpriced, although I wonder if most home users actually ever realize that. Most people I know have pirated their copy of Windows XP/2000/9x. However, it may be that as Microsoft’s installation security improves  this will incresingly become harder to do. Secondly, Microsoft’s licensing policies are increasingly restrictive. An average home user may not have to be concered about this, but businesses _do_ care and some are taking a closer look at Linux. Stability and security have never been Microsoft’s strong suite, but it is one at which Linux in general has a much better track record. As a company, this is something that you should be very interested in for your core infrastructure. Finally, in this economy, many small businesses have been cutting whereever possible and some are questioning the need for a full blown Windows installation that costs several thousands of dollars in licenses as opposed to a Linux setup which would be a fraction of the cost.
What is interesting is that many have taken a look at the above points (and more) and have decided to make the switch simply because Linux is _good enough_. No, its not as featureful now as the latest version of Windows, no the video card drivers aren’t completely accelerated etc, but, for many positions and computer usage patterns, this is not required. However, this is an individual decision. No one can ever force you to switch operating systems. It is a choice you make (for one reason or another).
But why am I involved in the Linux community and am I going to change back?
Me – personally I’ve made a choice to stick to Linux. Some have questioned my behavior – “Why use Linux because Windows is getting better and better?”. To them, my response is “Because Linux distros have the capabilty and the potential to beat Microsoft and bring some much needed change”. Idealistic? Perhaps. But I would rather that I _tried_ to make a difference in some way, rather than simply capitulating. I’ll buy the distros, help anyone who needs it, evangilze Linux and I’ll try to change ( in my own tiny way ) how the computing world around me looks. Maybe it won’t work out – but this time, I’m not on the sidelines.
 I personally believe that Microsoft knows that creating a truly robust security scheme would be deadly for its home market and it ‘allows’ (or perhaps doesn’t guard its keys as well as it could) its keys to leak out. While it does lose some money this way, one should realize that Microsoft makes most of its money from OEM deals and businesses, which would rather be caught dead than using a cracked key. They know that piracy is one of the biggest things going for them in this market.