A Linux Hate List (Not Mine)

Matt Hartley lists five things he hates about Linux over at Mad Penguin. Most of it has to do with the nature of open and closed source worlds and trying to have the best of both.

The first thing he writes that he hates about Linux is lack of driver support. This isn’t a Linux issue, it’s a hardware manufacturer issue. This is one of the things that’s at issue with GPL3. Where I disagree with Hartley is in the approach to the solution: don’t buy hardware from people who don’t support the operating system you choose to run. Why should “AAA Amazing Video Card Company” limit the choices of their end customers to one or two operating systems and close off all the others? Take it back, find something from a company with a better policy and wider support.

Hartley calls his second grievance “Half-Done, Poorly Supported Open Source Projects.” I don’t know what he expects considering how much of the work in the open source community isn’t supported by the sale of software or even by employers. Several companies are generous in contributing manpower, hardware, and financial support for open source development. Much, if not most, of development work is done on personal time. And what’s the comparison? Is Windows fully secure or is its security half-done and poorly supported? How many security-related software companies — never mind the boom of “geek” companies that make home visits — exist because Microsoft hasn’t provided the best support for their own products?

I agree to some extent with Hartley’s next point, the politics of GPL licensing. I think GPL2 is adequate, and that license language shouldn’t be dictated by ideologues. I disagree with Hartley, though, that the license has slowed development or adoption — compared to what’s allowed under a BSD license? No, I don’t think so. The licensing has worked and kept Linux on a stable path of rapid development. I think the licensing issue is why Linux development is robust and BSD development is much slower. Linux developers know how their code can be used and that everyone plays by the same rules.

Hartley then moves on to the issue of community “hatred” for proprietary applications. I don’t know what his gripe is since anyone is free to add whatever he or she wants to a system. Want Opera? Download and install it. Want to run proprietary Windows applications? Install WINE and run your old apps. Distros are also increasingly adding proprietary apps and drivers to their releases. Mint Linux doesn’t beat around the bush about this.

Finally, Hartley hates how Linux users don’t seem to like Ubuntu’s hardware detection or Linspire’s CNR, which goes back to the issue of closed versus open source. I don’t share the seemingly widespread contempt for Ubuntu in the Linux community. It’s just another distro. They do things differently, they have their niche. I don’t use Ubuntu. I used Kubuntu for a while. It was a little too “heavy” for my lightweight hardware. I’m not going to discourage Windows users, though, from slowly testing the waters of the Linux world with something like Ubuntu or Linspire that’s easier for them to use and configure. They can move to geekier distros once they’re over the “OMG, it’s Linux” fears and understand the basics enough to feel comfortable and reasonably competent.

So in a nutshell, Hartley just wants the best of both worlds — taking advantage of the free (as in beer: “simply looking for a cost effective alternative to Windows”) while remaining prisoner to hardware companies that refuse to support more than one or two operating systems. I make my hardware choices on the basis of my operating system. If it won’t work in Linux, I’m not buying it.

And this is where I have my strongest disagreement with Hartley’s list, especially as it relates to open versus closed source: it’s a hardware problem, not a software problem. Hardware manufacturers and retailers make money from the sale of their work. Linux developers generally don’t — at least not directly. I’m not going to blame the guys whose work I’m using for free (Linux developers) for the chief mistake made by the guys who do make money (from hardware sales) of having hitched their wagons to one or two operating systems.

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