Editor's Note: The Four L's
Oct 20, 2006, 22:30 (18 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Brian Proffitt)
Re-Imagining Linux Platforms to Meet the Needs of Cloud Service Providers
By Brian Proffitt
I am, for the most part, an only child. So it used to puzzle me
greatly when my two daughters would fight over the most trivial of
issues. At one point years ago, I swear they were arguing about air
and who was breathing more.
I have come to learn to expect such behavior, even though I may
not understand it. Such are my feelings regarding the current rash
of KDE/GNOME bashing going on in various blogs and forums. It seems
that you can't post an article about either desktop, however
benign, without some yokel using the opportunity to flame the other
Let's face facts: unless one desktop or another comes up with
some radical innovation that blows away its competitor, there are
no clear advantages for the end-user to choosing KDE over GNOME.
Any statement to the contrary is either coming from a troll or
someone who is trying to limit choice based on his personal
On the development side, I will admit that the distinction may
be less clear. Libraries, languages, look and feel, and
licensing--these are the four L's that make choosing one
environment over another rather difficult for a developer. This is
not just the direct environment developers, either--the dilemma
applies to anyone who has to choose which environment to which they
want to code his application. I don't pretend to understand the
complexities of it all, as I am no coder. But as time goes on, and
these arguments still keep cropping up, I am beginning to wonder if
the real reason there is so much competition between these two
environments is not just general hostility.
I am beginning to believe the real reason is fear.
Fear of commitment on the part of the applications developers:
If I code my app for GNOME, will all of those KDE user not use my
Fear of obscurity on the part of the environment developers: If
KDE "wins" the desktop wars, what happens to all of my work as a
Simplistic arguments, I admit, but fundamentally I think this
fear is at the core of every single argument held against GNOME or
KDE that goes beyond personal choice.
There's some blame to toss out to the commercial vendors, too.
Novell has invested heavily in GNOME--through its acquisition of
Ximian--and Trolltech and Linspire have a pretty solid stake
invested in KDE, just to name a few of the players. Here, the fear
is more base: money, and the potential loss thereof.
I could try to play the peacemaker here and offer solutions to
the situation. But that's been tried before, by people better than
I. And frankly, as an observer of the community, I am starting not
to care. This argument marginalizes all of the good works done by
both camps. If the flamefest continually pops up, then it simply
proves the point of any FUDslinger who maintains that working with
the Linux crowd is a painful experience. You can try to deny it,
but it's true.
And eventually that perception is going to bite the Linux
community on the ass.
Sun, for example, is taking full advantage of all of this
contentiousness, promoting their own OpenSolaris with a community
that listens to customers' needs, because all of the requests are
relayed by a single messenger: Sun.
Be aware: this is not the advocacy of "single desktop" or any
similar nonsense. I do not want choice to be eliminated. But there
is a growing sense of polarization in the Linux community, and it
needs to stop.
There are developers on both sides of the desktop fracas, who
genuinely try to understand where the other side is coming from and
have been willing to reach out and work with their opposites. It is
their example that should be followed. Otherwise, there is a good
chance the desktop environments will argue themselves to death.