Hey, Wired … 2001 Called …

July 25th, 2007  |  Published in etc  |  7 Comments

It wants its headline back:

Linux: It’s Not Just for Servers Anymore:

After years of being relegated to server racks and the desktops of ultrageeks, Linux is finally making some headway as a viable alternative to Windows on the consumer desktop.

*cackle*

Zemlin also sees web-based applications as more than just a path to greater adoption of Linux. Because of the hackability of free software, he explains, those who package Linux are in a unique position to improve their users’ experience out of the box. For example, there’s a free set of scripts for Firefox called Greasemonkey that improves the performance of Google’s web apps. By building those scripts into a default installation, Linux distributions can add a layer of polish to the platform’s basic level of usability.

I’ve spent the last two days in and out of a basement where I had to confront several boxes of pre-bust Linux detritus. Stuff that dates back to when the Linux world’s version of “usability” was providing X Window with a teal background and a penguin-branded start button. Stuff from before Rasterman, or the passage of time needed to make people nostalgic for CDE. From a time when people believed that one false step with XF86Config could explode your very monitor, and when it seemed like the most wonderful kind of magic to make a Soundblaster 16 Plug-N-Play croak “I pronounce Linux … Linux.”

Most people didn’t even think to dream of a day when Linux might have some sort of parity with Windows as a desktop platform. We were all too busy scratching our heads and following some HOWTO about how to force WordPerfect for SCO to run on our Linux machines:

“DO NOT VIOLATE SCO’s COPYRIGHTS! You should get a copy of SCO’s shared libraries and install them in /shlib.”

In the midst of that privation, you know which app we had that Windows had, too?

Netscape Navigator.

It’s 2007 and Linux has evolved into a platform to run Firefox, because after eight years of GNOME and KDE, the real answer to usability woes is pre-loaded Greasemonkey scripts to make Google Spreadsheets work better.

Responses

  1. slow’s blogged life II says:

    July 26th, 2007 at 5:51 pm (#)

    […] phrase appears: “This is the year of the Linux Desktop”. Unfortunately, it never is. But then you read something around and suddenly you realize the pace of the Linux Desktop: Stuff that dates back to when the Linux […]

  2. Evan says:

    July 26th, 2007 at 7:39 pm (#)

    “people believed that one false step with XF86Config could explode your very monitor” <<< No urban legend this one, I am the humbled owner of one such smoked monitor. The lesson of that mistake never ever try to overclock a monitor’s scan rates. :) It worked great for a little while till the magic smoke started to pour out the back.

  3. Ed says:

    July 26th, 2007 at 7:42 pm (#)

    The real secret lies in….widgets! or gadgets or whatever. Hey, Vista copied them off of OS X, which is deemed as the most user-friendly and all that, so we as Linux users need more widgets! Kdock is quite a good dock app, so we got that covered! Though….I wish we had those resizable text boxes like in Safari. THAT would make the difference, as writing comments to blogs would be so much easier! :D Nice post, by the way (before I forget this very important rule of comment etiquette)

  4. Adam Williamson says:

    July 26th, 2007 at 11:19 pm (#)

    Nice article up to here…

    “It’s 2007 and Linux has evolved into a platform to run Firefox, because after eight years of GNOME and KDE, the real answer to usability woes is pre-loaded Greasemonkey scripts to make Google Spreadsheets work better.”

    which is so wrong it’s funny. I had my first experience with Google Apps the other day and I’m hoping devoutly it’ll be my last. People can evangelize for Web 2.0 until they’re blue in the face but it doesn’t alter the inconvenient fact that Evolution kicks the living crap out of GMail and any one of three sets of office apps kicks the living crap out of Google Apps. Plus they work when your internet connection is on the fritz.

  5. mph says:

    July 27th, 2007 at 12:11 am (#)

    Thanks, Ed. :-)

    You were meant to think that was a terrible thing, Adam. :-)

  6. Bob Robertson says:

    July 27th, 2007 at 12:49 am (#)

    Funny thing, that headline. Yes, it’s been a loooong time reading “ready for the desktop” over and over. Netscape ran on Linux the first time I ran Linux, but so did everything else I was accustomed to using because I had been using SunOS at work. I wanted *NIX at home, and Linux provided everything I wanted in a “desktop”.

    But then someone mentions “Windows”, by which I must assume they mean Microsoft Windows. Well who defined MS-Win as the end-all be-all of usable?

  7. Adam Williamson says:

    July 27th, 2007 at 12:58 am (#)

    mph: oh, good. The “real answer to usability woes” threw me as it appeared to be seriously meant :)

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