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Linux needs its eyes wide open

For Linux to continue to grow, its eyes need to be firmly open, and any hint of blinkers put away, argues Simon Brew…

For Linux to continue to grow, its eyes need to be firmly open, and any hint of blinkers put away, argues Simon Brew…

Linux, as I’ve been learning over the past few weeks, is an emotive subject, and something that people – with very good reason – tend to feel passionately about. That’s the joy of something born out of a philosophy rather than a committee meeting, of course, but it’s one of those things that very much has some cons to go with its pros.
I met one of those cons recently. And what set it off was me making the cardinal error of talking about both Windows and Mac OS in the same breath as Linux. For I was wittering on about something or other computing-related that involved these three names, and the person I was talking to turned and sneered to me, “Well can’t you tell that you’re living in a Windows world?”

I’ve genuinely wracked my brains for what statement I’d made to induce such a comment, but I’m fairly confident that it wasn’t something akin to “Windows, then. That’s the only operating system in the world, isn’t it?” If you think I’m overreacting, then you didn’t see the incandescent look on the person’s face. He’d have looked happier if I’d just dropped out of a dog’s bottom.

But it shouldn’t be like this (and arguably for the most part it isn’t). Until recently, it was the Windows mistake to try and go about its business with bare acknowledgement that any other product on the market existed. And while I can highlight many, many strengths of Linux, one that it would be remiss to overlook is its willingness to work alongside other operating systems. Because, like it or lump it (and while I’m no betting man, I’d safely have a wager on which of those two camps most people fall in to), it is a Windows world. It is a planet where one operating system is dominant on people’s desktops. And no amount of sticking fingers in ears and singing la-la-la can do anything about. I fully understand the valid argument of people getting stuck in a Windows ethos of doing things. But it’s still a fact that the majority of people do work in the way that Windows demands. To challenge that in any logical way, surely you have to embrace, or at least recognise, it a little.

For here’s the crucial thing – it’s not exclusively a Windows world, and the dominance of one operating system does not have be the status quo for all time. But, for Linux to continue making inroads, and to continue to tempt home users as well as large corporations into adopting it, there has to be realism involved.

There’s no need to be snobbish about Linux. After all, it is for everyone; it’s just that not everyone has found it yet. The trick is, I’d argue, to hold the door open for all those who are even mildly tempted to try, and to recognise that it might not be 100% straightforward to jump from one operating system to the other. And, ultimately, let’s not pretend we live in a world where it’s one or the other. It’s not a crime to use both. At least until the person I had my unfortunate conversation with gets into any position of power…

Simon Brew
Simon is a technology writer and editor, working across the Linux, Windows and Mac OS platforms

This article is a sample from issue 84 of Linux User & Developer.