About Linux and Why Nobody Seems to Care

by Aayush Arya May 19, 2008

To start off, let me assure you that this article is not about bashing Linux or its users or the community centered around it. It's not written out of spite or hatred. It certainly doesn't have anything to do with my being an Apple fanboy and, given that it is being published on Apple Matters, you should know that none of us here hold any grudge against platforms other than the Mac.

With that disclaimer out of the way, let me state my case. I've recently come to the realization that most Windows and Mac users neither hate Linux nor do they want to get into any debates involving it just so that they can attempt to humiliate their Linux using counterparts. I've seen many an OS war and there has always been one common thread--Linux is ignored.

In this article, I want to discuss why that is so. One of my friends, who is an ardent Linux user, was recently discussing this with me and as I was reading his glowing descriptions of the open source Linux distributions and how they have various feature better than both Mac OS X and Windows, I found myself zoning out and skimming over the words. That's exactly what most Windows and Mac users do when some Linux user decides to stage an intervention during an ongoing OS war.

The sole reason, I think, is that no one really cares about what's happening in the world of Linux. If you watch ‘Get a Mac' ad spoofs on YouTube, you'll see that the ones that feature Linux almost always portray it as the dorky nerd who's ragged on by the Mac and PC guys in unison when he stumbles onto the scene. It's not so much an issue with Linux itself as much as it is a mentality issue.

It's got to do with this modern age perception that the nerdy computer geeks are the uncool ones that no one should be hanging out with, a stereotype that's easy to imagine a Linux user as. It's about the rich not wanting to bother with people below the poverty line in the real world. It's about people's perception of those who use Linux.

The general consensus seems to be that Mac users are the sort who want the best in quality, no expenses spared; Windows users are those who're looking for the best bang for their buck (generally in the short term); and Linux users are the ones who want everything for free, particularly software.

Now, I wouldn't condone having stereotypical opinions about any individual or anyone part of a group, but Linux users don't exactly help their reputation either. They seem to actually believe that all software should be free. Of course, if you ask any Linux user outright about it, they'll tell you they don't and will cite the fact that there exist iterations of Linux distributions that you have to pay for.

But pick any number of Linux users at random and ask them whether they've ever paid for any piece of software in their Linux setup and the answer will almost certainly be in the negative. But why is that a bad thing? Isn't it good that they get everything for free? Isn't that what's best for everyone? No, it isn't. Since Linux users get all their software without having to pay a single buck, the perceived value of software (as a whole) becomes zero, or very close to it, in their opinion.

They won't admit it, but it's a fact that most of them think that way. Add to that the fact that Linux users generally tend to have two extreme and conflicting viewpoints about what software should be like. Some users are easily dazzled by superfluous and completely useless effects (wobbly windows, blatant overuse of transparency, etc.) and assume that it must be better than Mac OS X because it's so cosmetically made-up and then there are others who only need the Terminal and can keep typing on it whole day long.

The problem with the Linux community is that, like any community, it has members with widely varying interests and preferences and the open source developers are developing hundreds of distributions to try and cater to every single whim and fancy of these members. The result is a cornucopia of free software, software that has been developed at the expense of the hard work and time of some of the most skilled developers on the planet, and yet does not have a single product that is complete in and of itself and is generating any profit at all.

Since open source developers cannot feed themselves through sales of their software, their only recourse is to devote themselves to another full time job and contribute to the open source community in their free time. This brings me to the crust of my article: There is no way whatsoever that thousands of developers sitting in front of their computers in different corners of the world and spending only their non-working hours trying to develop something that they know isn't going to make them any money, are ever going to come up with anything good enough to seriously challenge software from companies like Microsoft and Apple. There is just no chance at all.

Linux has been around for more than a decade now and it's nowhere near challenging either Mac OS X or Windows. The vast majority of hardware and software makers around the world are still shipping products that are incompatible with Linux. Linux distributions get major updates in spans of six months to less than a year. There's no guarantee that the camera you bought today and is compatible with your Ubuntu installation will work with Fedora Core too should you change your mind in a few days, as is a common practice among the Linux enthusiasts.

All of this and more are reasons enough to ignore Linux. Linux users are never quite sure which one is the best distribution around. They have debates in their own community with twenty different users vouching for twenty different variations. They constantly have to keep figuring out workarounds to make all their software and hardware work together. They can't just go out and buy a new accessory, assured in the knowledge that it will work. They are afraid to upgrade, lest things go wrong.

I've tried several Linux distributions myself in the past and have seen a few of my friends try them too. To date, the only success stories I've heard of people switching to Linux have been on the Internet and the user narrating it almost always switches from pirated versions of Windows, which means that Microsoft does not lose a customer by their switching-and a lot of them just get bored and switch back after a couple of weeks anyway.

Maybe I'm just not far-sighted or knowledgeable enough but, from where I stand and from what I've seen and known so far, I cannot see a bright future for Linux. I suspect that it will always be a loud movement with the paltry market share, which itself is divided among hundreds of distributions. It has been so far and will probably forever be the domain of the computer nerds and server administrators. The problem may be with me, but I don't see any progress in the near or distant future. I guess time will tell.

Again, please view this as an individual's opinion and summation of the scenario through his own eyes. I'm not being judgmental or critical about anything, nor am I lambasting the open source movement. I acknowledge and accept the fact that everyone has different needs and opinions and they're entitled to their own decisions and choices. I'm just stating my own here. So, all of you, just calm down, put those flamethrowers away and let's have a friendly discussion, shall we?


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    john had this to say on Aug 26, 2011 Posts: 22
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