I just read an article at Linux.com about the OS habits of Linux users. The author of the article asked Linux Torvalds about his habits and found he exclusively used Linux. Torvalds said, “I don’t use either [Windows or Mac OS X]. OS X is kind of pointless (pretty much anything it has, Linux can do better) and Windows offers stuff that I don’t much care about (mainly games — and I’ve got games machines for those).” Before I comment on this any more than I have, let me just say that I have been a near-exclusive Linux desktop user since 2001. I love Linux and I still think there are some areas where Linux dominates. However, to Torvalds, I say, “hogwash”. He can get around careful scrutiny by his choice of words “pretty much anything it has” and “Windows offeres stuff that I don’t much care about”.
But the spirit of what he’s saying seems just dead wrong. And it’s an attitude that’s pervasive among many Linux enthusiasts. Whether Torvalds has the zealotry I’m about to discuss is irrelevant. It’s just a launch pad for me to address this attitude. The attitude goes something like this. “Linux is an awesome OS. We’ve come so far in a short amount of time. We have everything anyone would need. And bling to boot. Linux is ready for the desktop. In fact, it’s ready to take over the desktop.” There is a lot of truth in what both Linus said and my characterization of the Linux zealot.
Truth 1: Anything that Windows and Mac can do, Linux could do. Notice my choice of words. I said that Linux could do anything that Mac and Windows can do. But the sad story is that Linux is not currently doing a lot of what Mac and Windows is doing. Please, please, please someone show me wrong on this! Please show me a DVD authoring application on Linux that is as easy as iDVD is on Mac. Or a video editing application as easy as iMovie. Please! Yes, I know that there is wine and you can often get Windows apps running on Linux. But 1) it’s hit or miss and 2) most of the apps that I’ve gotten to run in wine look…..let’s just say “bad” to sound polite.
Truth 2: Linux has made considerable strides in the past few years. The desktop looks spectacular (both kde and gnome). There are tons of top notch applications available for free download. Hardware recognition and support works better than it ever has. I don’t think this one needs to be shot down, so I’ll leave it as it is.
Truth 3: Linux has the bling. In my opinion, Linux is actually winning the bling war. Just check out Beryl/Compiz/Fusion. It rocks. For bling, it is (my opinion, again) unrivaled. And there are some pretty cool productivity enhancements, too. But let’s not confuse bling and even cool productivity enhancements with a usable desktop (not that Linux has an unusable desktop). They aren’t necessarily the same thing. Just because Linux has bling doesn’t mean that its applications are well integrated with one another. Or that the applications work well on their own.
The point of this rambling is that all three of Mac, Linux, and Windows do some things well and other things not so well. Personally, I don’t like getting on Windows. It feels square and wooden. But it does some things pretty well. And I just bought a Mac a few weeks ago and I’m really enjoying it. I’m not at all ready to say that neither Windows nor Mac is really competitive with Linux. Conversely, I’d say that each of them spank the other two in some areas and don’t do so well in other areas. So, can we please let the zealotry die? Please?
Update: I’m closing the comments on this blog post because of recurring blog spam. If you want to carry the discussion on, please email me and I’ll post a new entry.