Desktop Linux's Future

Larry Grover lgrover at
Tue Jul 19 18:00:49 UTC 2005

Lee Braiden wrote:
> On Tuesday 19 July 2005 15:05, Larry Grover wrote:
>>Lee Braiden wrote:
>>>There are quite a few nasty things that would happen if Linux went
>>Nasty things?  Like what?
> Like all the things that happen on Windows:
> * commercial software that's full of spyware and backdoors

That could happen. :(

I hope the openness of the OS will mitigate this.

> * commercial interests taking the distros and desktops off in directions they 
> didn't mean to go by listing their software in menus by their company name 
> rather than the software's purpose, etc.

As long as they stick to the GPL, BSD, etc licenses, that is their right.

I hope that the quality of competing distros that are more community 
oriented (like Ubuntu) or community based (like Debian) will offer a 
more attractive alternative.

> * users demanding simpler distros that have less security

It's the distibutor's responsibility to release a secure OS.

It's possible to have a secure OS which is still reasonably easy to 
use.  OS X is a good example of this.

> * misinformation from users who don't really know what they're doing
> * etc.

Users need education.  One of the best things a distro can do is 
sponsor an open mailing list, like this one, and point new users 
towards it.

> These are just minor annoyances of course, but they're definitely not 
> something I'm waiting with baited breath to see happen.

I agree. But if the distros do their job and free software developers 
stick to the ideals that got them where they are today -- like freedom 
and openness -- then things should not get this bad.

Now let's look at the positives that will come if desktop linux gets 
popular.  With even 10-20% share on the desktop, we could look forward to:

* Better support from hardware manufacturers: modems, printers, 
scanners, etc that work (I know, most of them work already, but there 
is room for improvement).

* More and better resources for free software developers and distros.

* More resources and a better living for people with linux skills. 
There are quite a few people who make a living supporting (cleaning 
up) home windows systems, or supporting mac users.  Millions and 
millions of home/desktop linux users will create additional 
opportunities for linux professionals to sell their services

* Commerical software for niche applications.  The free software 
development model works great when the talent pool is large, 
interested and motivated.  For some niche applications there simply 
aren't enough people with the skills and time to develop the needed 

* More games, if you care (I don't).

> More importantly, most average folks who hear of linux right now hear of it as 
> Open Source, which it isn't.  The FSF started Free Software to help people 
> attain software Freedom, and if they all jump on board linux now as just a 
> watered-down "open source" alternative to windows rather than a Free Software 
> solution to people infringing on their rights, they'll completely miss the 
> point, misunderstand what Free Software is all about, and turn it into just 
> the next non-free system by not rejecting commercial attempts to steer it 
> into patent minefields etc.

Looks like an opportunity to educate. ;)

You make good points, and we should always be prepared for potential 
problems.  I guess I'm just more optimistic than you seem to be.


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