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The Wrong Way To Sell Linux

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It seems that anymore all we hear about Linux and FOSS is it's free of cost, and that desktop Linux is just as good as Windows because it's all pointy-clicky and you don't have to touch the nasty command line which is frightening and must be avoided, and "just like Mac and Windows" you don't have to learn a thing because it's all magic. That software should be selected purely on its technical merits, and leave all that silly religious fanboy idealism out of it.

This is a weird and counter-productive way to promote Linux, because it treats all of its advantages as liabilities. It sets up new users for disappointment and failure, and it makes me wonder about the real motivations of everyone who is spreading this party line.

But let us not see malice or incompetence when it's probably no more than trying to make Linux more appealing to Mac and Windows users. I think it's sincere but misguided. Linux and FOSS succeed on their merits, and it's the differences from proprietary software that should be emphasized, rather than meekly excusing them, or pretending they don't exist.

Freedom

This is the biggie, though in these here modern times US citizens don't seem to care all that much for their liberties. Free is as in no cost is nice, though I believe that all FOSS users should give a little something back: money, bug reports, howtos, friendliness to noobs, code, whatever they can. Thanks to Linux and FOSS we have powerful alternatives to insane EULAs that somehow receive judicial blessings; freedom from vendor lock-in, freedom from corporate malware, freedom from vendors who seem to hate their own customers.

Linux and FOSS have restored competitive bidding to IT provisioning-- every time you see a story about a company that uses the threat of Linux to dicker Microsoft down, it's a small victory. Of course we would rather seem them dump Redmond, but nobody else has ever succeeded in forcing actual price concessions.

Along with all that great Free code is an ethos of openness in sharing information. Truly information is power, which is demonstrated every day by the extreme lengths that businesses go to to protect their precious trade secrets and "intellectual property." Which as often as not turns out to be something that is more embarrassing than wonderful and precious.

Hurrah For the Command Line!

Linux gives you the best of both worlds: powerful, flexible graphical desktops and window managers that make the Mac and Windows desktops look feeble and feature-poor. Which they are. You also get the full power of the command line.

I'm not real happy with Linux distributions that try to hide the CLI as though it were shameful, or dumb down their interfaces to an insulting level. Like start menu entries that don't use the program's real name. For one example, on my Kubuntu system GParted appears as "Partition Manager." Did someone think that "GParted" was too scary? What if I had more than one graphical partition manager installed? I think they should stick with the proper command name instead of adding layers of useless confusion. Not only is that consistent across all distributions, but then you don't have to hunt it down when you want to use fast Alt+F2 launching.

Purely Technical Decisions--Fooey

I'm sure you've heard this silliness too, that somehow a "purely technical decision" ignores issues such as lock-in, sustainability, unencumbered open standards, and customer-friendliness. Those should be paramount, rather than dismissed as zealotry.

Linux Desktops Are NOTHING Like Mac or Windows

They're hundreds of times better. (I'm referring to the actual desktop environments, such as Gnome, KDE, Fluxbox, IceWM, and so on, not desktop applications like OpenOffice and Firefox etc.) Oh sure, the poster child for Kewl Linux Stuff is Compiz/Beryl, or whatever it's called now. Which is nice, but in some ways it's a distraction from the giant, powerful feature set that puts those proprietary innovators to shame. Come back Thursday for my giant list of "what makes the Linux desktop massively superior to the Mac and Windows environments."


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