Comments have been awfully quiet lately. I’m guilty of talking too much about work-related stuff and not enough about iPhones and Twitter.
My bad. Let’s remedy that.
Rich asked me recently how my move to Ubuntu was going. It’s been almost a month, and he says he has a vested interest in keeping me happy with it. I’m not sure why, but I use this as leverage for tech support, e.g. when I upgraded the Linux kernel, the Cisco VPN client stopped working.
Of course, Rich knew what I didn’t; you have to reinstall the VPN client when you upgrade the kernel. I’m sure this is obvious to some, but not to all, e.g. me and a whole mess of other people. Coincidentally, I had also blown several hours the night before trying to get Avant Window Navigator to work. I wanted to test out some of the sweet visual effects you can use in Linux, specifically the Leopard-like dock, as seen here:
Yes, that’s Ubuntu, not OS X, and there’s a laundry list of steps you can take to customize your Hardy install to look and feel just like Leopard, if you so desire. Pretty cool.
Anyway, turns out my video card won’t do anything cool like that, or at least, I can’t make it do anything cool like that. I came to this realization after about three hours lost. Linux truly is a hobbist O/S, meaning you really have to have the time and desire to make it work. This fits Rich to a tee.
But then Rich dropped a bomb I wasn’t expecting.
He said that after moving to a Mac as his primary machine, he realized how much time he spent on hardware and software troubleshooting in Ubuntu. And here I am thinking he liked all that hacking stuff.
Don’t get me wrong; I like Ubuntu overall, and I know Rich does too. It’s a viable alternative to Windoze, and some stuff just works (a la Mac). But that’s highly hit and miss though because other stuff you may need like video cards, multiple displays, Cisco VPN, etc. works only with a lot of invested effort, if at all.
I can hear the uber-geeks in the Open Source community sniggering that I should stick to Windoze, calling me a n00b, etc. But Rich ain’t a n00b, so to hear him say this surprised me.
All this is interesting in juxtaposition with Mark Shuttleworth‘s keynote at OSCON last week. Shuttleworth, not surprisingly, sees Linux as the O/S of the future, but definitely surprising was his calling out of Apple as the bar for usability and attractiveness that should be the new standard for Linux.
And he’s right, if Linux hopes to emerge out of the hobbist/developer niche into a full-blown consumer alternative.
With OS X, Apple has managed to woo both ends of the user spectrum, including super n00bs who are brand new to computers and hardcore developers who like the combination of power (bash shell) and usability (stuff just works). Even despite Apple’s closed nature, Mac is the O/S and development platform of choice for many web developers who write in open languages like Rails, ironic no?
Both Mac and Linux continue to make headway in overall market share compared to Windows, with Apple nearing 8% and all Linux distros around 0.8%, they will inevitably draw comparisons among this hardcore crowd.
However, if Shuttleworth’s vision is to become reality, Linux needs to get further into the “just works” territory. This should be attainable, considering how large and motivated the Open Source community is. I’d love to see a Linux flavor push Apple and Microsoft in mainstream adoption, like Firefox has.
And of course, Microsoft is a huge wild card; does anyone really think Redmond will sit still while both O/S market share and browser market share drop below continue to decline? Seems unlikely.
So, have you changed your O/S lately? Do you want to, but can’t make the leap? Do you love OS X and Apple, and if so, why? What do you think of Open Source? Can Linux challenge OS X in usability and attractiveness?
Find the comments, you’ll be glad you did.