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Editor's Note: What Linux Can Do That Those Big Proprietary Innovators Can't

Sep 19, 2008, 23:02 (43 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Carla Schroder)

by Carla Schroder
Managing Editor

I am bored. Bored of the word "innovation", and the way it is bandied about by every tech vendor. I don't know how they keep straight faces, maybe they actually believe their own bushwah. There are very few that demonstrate any actual innovation. I would say that Apple leads the industry; Intel, AMD, and Google are also on my "actually push the boundaries and do neat new things" list. Our favorite software monopolist innovates new extremes of bullying, thuggery, and extracting top dollar for overlapping licenses and pooware, so I don't think that rates inclusion.

I have another list, and this is a much more fun list. It is a large list that is always growing. We could also include the free BSDs- FreeBSD, NetBSD, and OpenBSD, whose contributions to Linux and FOSS are well-deserving of more recognition. This is "What Linux Can Do That Those Big Ole Proprietary Innovators Can't".

  • Improve with age. Any well-maintained Linux release improves with age- no need to do the silly periodic wipe-reformat-reinstall dance
  • Debian (and perhaps some other distributions) has a reliable upgrade path, so you can upgrade to new releases indefinitely without ever having to do a clean new installation
  • Supports more hardware than other operating system, except perhaps NetBSD, from tiny embedded devices to specialized kiosks to routers, network gateways, notebooks, desktops, workstations, servers of all sizes, mainframes and clusters
  • Sane, reliable, secure, flexible networking. Dozens of different tools for remote administration, filesharing, helpdesk, and mobile working
  • Can boot from anything: 3.5" diskette, CD, DVD, USB flash drives, USB hard drives, netboots
  • Bootable live media for portable Linux-ing, troubleshooting and repair, and new release previews. (I get a special kick out of repairing Windows with a SystemRescueCD- Windows' own repair tools are very inferior)
  • CLI and GUI live harmoniously side-by-side
  • Includes advanced block-device management such as software RAID and Linux Volume Manager
  • Variety of high-quality high-end filesystems
  • Variety of virtualizers that aren't crippleware
  • Good system and network administration utilities
  • One-click system updates and upgrades without fear
  • Customizable automated network installations
  • Secure-able all by itself- no guaranteed membership in the WorldWide Botnet, no need to lard down a perfectly good Linux system with anti-malware crud that's expensive, marginally effective and a drag on performance
  • Cool Compiz/Beryl blingy stuff
  • Advanced graphical desktops with multiple workspaces, multiple screens, control multiple PCs (including Windows) from a single keyboard and mouse,
  • All kinds of real cross-platform and interoperability tools, rather than the fake kind that exists only in press releases
  • Welcomes both beginning and advanced users
  • Doesn't cost billions more to develop with each release, while delivering less functionality, stability, and usefulness
  • Pixar
  • UCSD Star Cave

That's just off the top of my head. I've been administering mixed networks since I was a wee baby geek, and the longer I'm in this business the more I appreciate Linux, FOSS, the BSDs, and GNU. I think this demonstrates one of my favorite sayings (one of the perks of being a old coot is you get to go around spouting aphorisms): You don't get good results from bad values. There is a famous Charles Babbage quotation that expresses a similar idea, but more elegantly:

"On two occasions I have been asked, 'Pray, Mr. Babbage, if you put into the machine wrong figures, will the right answers come out?' I am not able rightly to apprehend the kind of confusion of ideas that could provoke such a question."