We've come a long way

If you subscribe to the same RSS feeds I do, you've probably come across this ZDnet blog by now. It was plastered all over the net a couple of days ago.

I don't know why everyone picked it up. It's really not that interesting or insightful. It's not blindingly stupid, but it doesn't say anything that hasn't been well known for years.

What I find interesting is that, for 90% of the desktop Linux problems the author mentions, there's not a damned thing anybody in the community can do to solve them. Believe it or not, this is actually a very, very good thing. Why? Because it means desktop Linux has come so far that we've solved all of the big problems that we can.

Just consider the big three problems Kingsley-Hughes mentions: software, hardware, and games. Aside from half-solutions like emulation and virtualization, there's not a thing we in the community can do about support for proprietary software and games. If the vendors don't want to support Linux, we're out of luck.

This is less true of hardware, as we can always write our own drivers. However, there's no way the community can keep up with every exotic, no-name device on the market (though we're doing a good job on the more common devices). The vendors are the ones with all the knowledge of these devices, and if we don't have their support, we can't help but spend our time playing catch-up.

Of course, the lack of hardware support extends to the point about hardware being difficult to install. I'm sure configuring hardware could be easier, but when it comes to devices that are only experimentally supported, what can you expect? When the device itself is just barely working, it's not reasonable to expect that the developers will have a nice, polished, newbie-friendly configuration GUI. Again, this wouldn't be a problem if we had vendor support.

The last two "problems" listed are simply "grin and bear it" type problems. You can't shut up the zealots and you can't make everyone agree on a single distribution (nor can you make people stop coming out with new ones, what with that whole "free software" thing). It's the price of freedom. It's unfortunate that some people find that a turn-off, but we'll just have to show them other reasons to join the community. If we keep making progress like we have been since I started using Linux about seven years ago, that shouldn't be hard.

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