Saturday, April 21, 2012

The Best Part of Linux: The Community

When I first started using Linux in 2002, hardware support was abysmal.  If you were running a server, you were golden. If you wanted to use the OS on the desktop, things could get a little troublesome.  Linux users didn't enjoy the same 'walk up to a shelf and buy anything' hardware support that our Windows and Mac brothers did and, even on hardware that was technically supported, it could be quite a chore getting things to run stably.

My, how things have changed in a decade!  These days, it's getting harder and harder to find hardware that doesn't work with Linux. Webcams, mics, drives, printers, and various internal cards, enjoy wide support under Linux not so much because hardware vendors are coming around (though many are) but because of the hard work of the community.

The amazingly open community surrounding Linux is one of the strongest points of the OS.  It's something that we Linux users enjoy that I think it unparalleled on any other platform. Sure, Windows and Mac have their rabidly passionate communities. But because the platforms are so locked down, there's little those communities can do to actually make their favorite systems better. Linux is different. Linux is paticapatory.  If something doesn't work right, you can make it work by putting in the work yourself. You don't have to wait for your vendor to fix it in the next release. And then you can take your work and contribute it back to the community to make things work right for other people too.  It's a great community that I consider myself blessed to be part of.

That's not to say everything is perfect in Linux-land. We still have a long way to go before we enjoy the near ubiquitous acceptance and support that Windows does. The 'year of the Linux desktop' might not ever arrive. But we're making strong progress and most of that progress is happening because of and within the community. People are out there advocating, teaching, writing software, fixing bugs, making things better, and that's making Linux stronger and stronger. Without the community, Linux would not be where it is today; it wouldn't even be close.  The community pushes the vendors to be better and, if they refuse to come along, it takes matters into its own hands.

In the end, I don't know if we're ever going to see the 'year of the Linux desktop'. But I do know that this has been the 'decade of the Linux community' and that community is one of the best things Linux has going for it.

Viva la community!

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