Linux's chance has gone

For the last few years I had been hoping that Linux would finally end up on the desktop as a rival to the closed source universes of Microsoft and Apple.

There was an opportunity for it to happen. Canonical had got its Ubuntu Operating System up to speed and Redmond was still shipping its piss poor Vista Operating System. Even Apple’s Leopard was nothing to write home about.

But it didn’t happen and now it is unlikely to do so. While Linux will rule supreme on the server it will never make it to the desktop.

Now it is time for the Open Source industry to look closely at itself as to why it failed. There are lessons here, but I have grave doubts as to whether they will be learned.

The biggest killer of putting penguin software on the desktop was the Linux community. If you think the Apple fanboys are completely barking, they are role models of sanity to the loudmouthed Open Sauce religious loonies who are out there.

Like many fundamentalists they are totally inflexible – waving a GNU as if it were handed down by God to Richard Stallman.

While Ubuntu had received high marks for usability from every player in the technology press and was completely accessible, these Open Source fan boys were doing their best to undermine it. They complained that it made too many concessions to closed source by daring to run programs which were closed.

However these programs were the very things that desktop users actually wanted.

DVD playback and video streaming from Netflix are now basic for PC users. But the whining of these Open Source fundamentalists make it hopeless for Linux. Streaming technologies such as Flash do not run as well on Linux machines. Linux Video drivers, which are better than they used to be, are not as hot as they are on a Windows machine.

For a while installing “proprietary drivers” on even Ubuntu required you to “do something”. Only in Linux la-la land would you be required to install different “proprietary depositories” to get minimum modern functionality from your PC. The feeling you got from doing it, if you know how, was that somehow you were tainting your PC with something viral and nasty.

While this was a sop for the Open Source fundamentalists it did nothing for the great unwashed that actually wanted to use the software.

The deeper, and darker, aspects of this fundamentalism came in a letter I got about a year ago from a Linux fanboy who insisted that it was wrong for me to encourage the operating system to be installed on the desktop.

“Linux was not designed for idoits (sic) like you. People who do not know what they are doing should not be allowed near a computer,” he wrote.

Linux on a Desktop was effectively sabotaged by people like him who believe that computing is something too pure to be handled by the profane. It is a psychological insecurity which means that their sense of identity is threatened if ordinary people can do what they do.

Now Windows 7 is back so all those who would have tried Linux  instead of Vista are buying Redmond’s finest instead.

To be fair it is looking like Linux on a Desktop is going to be a dead issue soon anyway. With computing on a cloud, and mobile applications, it looks like the closest Linux will get to being a pervasive OS is through the Google Chrome variant.

Google Chrome will have no problems with providing users with what they want and therefore it will succeed where Ubuntu has failed. Google has a nice habit of ignoring those religious fundamentalists within the Open Source community and will press ahead with a distribution that will not be a sop to the loonies.