tux-10409From about 1998 to 2007 I was a Linux fanboy.  Always praising the positive aspects, ignoring the negative, trashing Windows, saying “…desktop Linux is only a couple of years away..”, and running Linux on very computer I had (but using VMware to run Windows, or dual booting).  I used Gentoo four about 5 years and became an advanced user, even going so far as to write a how-to on embedded Linux for the x86 (that page makes up about 90% of traffic on my website and even got me mentioned in an article in Linux Journal). I eventfully got tired of the constant attention Gentoo required and moved to Ubuntu; a much more polished distro.

I am no longer a Linux fanboy, thus changing my philosophy on Linux and operating systems in general. I changed because I really asked a fundamental question about operating systems, “What should an desktop OS do?”. Here is the answer :

  • boot the computer to nice easy to use GUI
  • provide multitasking, preemption, filesystem, memory management, interrupts, device drivers, and networking
  • provide a standard GUI toolkit for software
  • provide a stable API for software
  • provide hardware abstraction for software

After that is done then the OS should get out of the way and allow the user to use his/her software.

Linux does most of the things very very well, but one it does not really kills it. Linux does not run most of the software out there. Granted it written for Windows and not really Linux’s fault, but users don’t care. For me it is the following software : Altium Designer (electronics engineering software), iTunes, AnyDVD, games (currently that’s Team Fortress), Autocad. I run a lot of other software, but those have Linux ports or alternatives that work as good or better in Linux. If the Linux guys (Linus, Ubuntu, Redhat, Suse, etc..) really want Linux to work on the desktop then they should speed most of there time on Wine. Wine allows Windows software to run under Linux, but it only works on a small selection of software.

I still think Linux is a great OS, and superior at some tasks then other OS’s such has servers, supercomputers, and embedded hardware.  Actually in the embedded market (smartphones, GPS satnav, cable/video boxes) Linux will most likely dominate the market in the next few years.  I still run Linux on my home server, dual boot on my desktop (just to check out Ubuntu), and run Linux on all work servers (file and web server) but on my desktop I run Windows XP.

For the desktop Windows and Mac OS X will continue to the only real choice for the majority of the computer users.  For some users that only use a computer for e-mail and internet access then Linux might work for them.  But as soon as they want anything else (iTunes, videos, games), then they will have problems.  Actually the next computer I purchase will be a Mac, and I can’t wait!

UPDATE

Now with fewer misspelled words.

I need to add that this is not a knock of opensource. I actually prefer open source when it is possible (Firefox, Thunderbird, Openoffice, Miro, VLC).

I consider myself an advanced user, but not a programmer.

Even with Mac, I will have to dual boot with Windows for games and other applications. Macs are generally more restrictive than PCs, I just want to learn the “other” major computer system (Windows, Linux, Mac).