Community: A Rebuttal to SJVN on Forks and Desktop Linux DirectionMar 17, 2006, 17:30 (15 Talkback[s])
[ Thanks to Zeek Greko for this article. ]
Pardon me Steven, but I must have missed your article of equal "forking" outrage.
"MS/Linux" (Mark Shuttleworth/Ubuntu Linux) effectively forked from the Debian proper, core distribution by breaking binary compatibility with them. As you must know, there are now third-string distros promising binary compatibility with Ubuntu instead of Debian.
These disparate cores are what is holding desktop Linux back. The desktop GUIs that you seem so worried about are, to the technical observer, just the veneer.
In order for Linux to become fully accepted as a viable replacement to Microsoft as a desktop for the masses, all of the system configuration tools and installers will need be graphical and the same--regardless of the end product distribution. That makes the next logical step a GNU/Linux-wide standardization the "widget" cores: GTK and Qt.
This would leave us with two core distros "GNU/Qt/Linux" and "GNU/GTK/Linux" that anyone could easily build upon and configure, regardless of the desktop veneer. A GNU/Qt/Linux core distribution would have configuration tools and an installer based on the Qt widgets, but one could still run all GNU/Linux software simply by adding the GTK libraries later, and vice-versa.
Community-owned GTK and Qt cores are the right direction to move Linux in, and right well you know it. You have probably thought of it yourself already. The commercial Linux interests are actually slowing desktop Linux's growth. They won't willingly go down this path because of the "Linux-end-game," which is an end-run around the GPL for not "actual" but "effective" ownership and control of GNU/Linux through market momentum and tipping point market share.
Microsoft does not "actually" own the desktop market, but they have oh-so "effective" ownership and control of the desktop market through market momentum and a tipping-point market share they achieved long ago.
My white box builder/system admin friends and acquaintances continue to sit on the fence where GNU/Linux is concerned because of the disparate core distributions that they don't have time to support. Or are unwilling to make the time to support. They also don't like the fact that GNU/Linux desktop distros don't have a universal/general purpose installer for third-party software. And that the only unassisted "end user easy" way to install third party GNU/Linux software is by turning what any four-year old can do for free on Windows with a couple of clicks, into a vendor locked-in, anti-competitive paid-for subscription service like Click-and Run.
The general package repository model common with all GNU distributions is also "broken" because it is untenable. Debian's last release was delayed, and is good proof of this fact.
If all Windows-compatible software had to be packaged, maintained, and distributed by Microsoft--besides being an anti-competitive nightmare controlled by those maniacal brown shirts--those repositories would be so staggeringly huge that they simply could not be maintained. Distributions need to become a distributed effort. Let the third-party software vendors package their own products and deal directly with their clients by standardizing the installers. In this case, using two core binaries "dot Qt" (.qt) and "dotGTK" (.gtk) packages.
You are a recognized and respected pundit in the computing industry, Steven, with a voice that will be heard. Why not be an elder statesman and rise above the commercial pressures? Represent everyone in the community by publishing a manifesto of where GNU/Linux really needs to go to be successful on the desktop!