Monday, September 3, 2012

Why Miguel de Icazza is wrong about the death of the Linux desktop

I have to say that I'm a bit put off by Miguel de Icaza and his statements about the death of the desktop. To be honest, his proclamation of the death of the desktop is so 'link baitish' that I have to wonder if he didn't do it just for that reason: publicity.

Miguel isn't an idiot and he's been around the Linux community long enough to know that 'Desktop Linux is Dead!' stories come out about once a year. They always cause a stir when they do and gets whoever said them a ton of publicity. With his star fading and nothing really exciting to keep it bright, is it so tough to believe that Miguel saw making a proclamation of his own an easy way to a little attention?

Don't get me wrong: he had good points. In fact, anyone who isn't an absolute rabid fanboy would admit that most of his points are valid. But Miguel misses the main reason people use Linux in the first place and _why_ they're willing to put up with the very annoyances he cited:

People love freedom.

People who use Linux realize that they'll have to make sacrifices. They realize that, sometimes, things break. They realize that, sometimes, hardware simply stops working after an upgrade. But they're willing to put up with it because Linux offers them freedom.  Of course, Windows and OS X suffer from these same issues but there's a major difference: users make the same sacrifices but get nothing in return. No freedom. No configurability. Nothing. Just a high priced piece of underpowered hardware.

I'm not trying to trash OS X here. For the crowd that uses it, it's probably fine. For people who value freedom, configuration, and control, it's not acceptable. Miguel has been using Mac for such a long time that I think he's forgotten why people love and use Linux in the first place. He's forgotten the passion of the community.  He's also probably not noticed how _good_ Linux is getting lately.

Distro's like Ubuntu are innovating at a much faster rate than OS X. They aren't' locking themselves down, they aren't putting all sorts of restrictions on their users. They're just working on making a killer desktop experience. And if you buy your system from a good vendor like , hardware compatibility issues are pretty much non-existent.

Miguel also talks about "switchers"; those coming from another OS like Windows.  Sure, Mac used to have the upper hand here. Less than two years ago, I would _never_ have recommended Linux to my newbie friends and family. I would have recommended OS X. But that's changed. Now, I routinely recommend Linux and you know what? For the most part, they _love it_. They love that they can set it up, learn at their own pace, configure it just to how they like it. They love how much software is available, how helpful the community is, and how beautiful the desktop has become. I haven't recommended OS X in months now and I don't see myself ever recommending it again unless companies like RedHat or Canonical really screw up and trash their systems.

Personally, I respect de Icazza but I think he's out of touch and not driven by the same values that a lot of people in the Linux community are. I'd challenge him to ditch his Mac for a month and work purely in something like Ubuntu Unity or even KDE then come back and tell us how he still prefers OS X. I suspect his view might change a little bit if he did.

Miguel does raise some interesting points that the community needs to address. We need to work harder, we need to constantly innovate, and we need to face the issues he brought up head on. If we do, desktop Linux will have a long and happy life and, who knows, we might even see de Icazza become a fan again.

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