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osOpinion: On the Ignorance of the IT Press and the Fragmentation of Linux

Apr 11, 2000, 04:15 (2 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Gareth Barnard)

[ Thanks to Kelly McNeill for this link. ]

"Linux is often equated with Unix. On the surface it is very similar to commercial Unices, but look "under the hood" and you will find it was coded from scratch. It has all the functionality of Unix but supports a much wider range of hardware and file systems. Many articles often give the impression that Linus is the sole author of Linux, but a typical Linux distro includes apps from thousands of programmers. Linux users are described as "fanatics" or "zealots" when the truth is that most of them (including me) are pragmatic enough to use Win98 sometimes. Linux can't do it all... not yet."

"Journalists know on which side their bread is buttered. Mainstream webzines get little advertising revenue from Apple Computer and Linux firms, so they can ridicule Macintosh and Linux with impunity. But if a journalist publishes an article critical of Microsoft software, he will receive a call from the editor. Witness the firewalk performed by Internet Week upon the release of Windows 2000. They found many problems installing Win2k, but still managed to wax rhapsodic about it. If it had been Linux they would have given up, saying, "It isn't worth the hassle...."

"Fragmentation" is Microspeak for "freedom of choice." When was the last time you heard a Penguinista wailing about the fragmentation of the Linux desktop? Am I bewildered by the variety of window managers? Linux WM's use the X Window System. Unlike the Windows WM (if there were such a thing), X does not prescribe the style of widgets, meaning "window gadgets." Those are frames, scrollbars, sliders, buttons and the like. Because the Linux GUI is separate from the Linux kernel, X binaries will work with any WM. If X starts acting strange, you can go to a terminal without rebooting. For the Linux GUI, fragmentation is a Good Thing(tm). Microsoft likes to trumpet "the tight integration between apps and the operating system" as the big advantage of Windows. Actually it's the biggest drawback."

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