Keir Thomas at Infoworld has raised the question of inward-looking and brittleness to criticism in the Linux Community. The article is titled Why Linux Needs Critics – and comments on the spirit and civility of Linux supporters across their various sites, blogs and forums. I added this largely supporting comment:

Keir –

I am writer and Open Source developer (see my tutorial site TheOpenSourcery “) and I am more than in partial agreement with you. If you go to SlashDot or some of the other Linux forums – group-think reigns. This means that no major questions about Linux development can be raised unless you rank among the anointed. Yes, you can question very local issues as to why Adobe Flash player does not work properly in a distro or what is the solution to a JavaScript error in Konqueror. But when speaking in general be positive – very positive. Apple and Microsoft observers have a derogatory name for these Linux users – Linux Fanboys – implicit is that Linux defenders are fanatic, immature,and prone to be uncivilly foul-mouthed to anyone that would dare question their OS.

Now this is not to say that there are not excellent, frank and balanced writers and Linux experts. All one has to do is go to read say Linux-Watch or Linux Journal to see major views that question the guts of Linux itself, its tools and some of its directions.

Yet there is one recent event that has gnawed at Linux users – the fact that Microsoft has put out on the market the worst major operating system in Vista a)among all the desktop OS currently available and b)the worst in an unfortunately long line of ungainly versions of Windows that include Windows ME, Windows 1, 2 , and 3.0 (but not 3.1) – yet Windows continues to dominate desktop OS market share losing 1-3% points to MacOS and none to Linux.

To add insult to injury, the Netbook marketplace which started with 100% Linux usage has this past Summer in 3 short months yielded back 80% market share to a resurrected and stripped down version of Windows XP on Netbooks. Now this is significant because Netbooks at 29 million units this year and growing at 60% rate stand to be the major desktop/client hardware by 2012-2014 depending on which research house you want to believe.

Now this is by no means that final word on Linux vs Windows on Netbooks as Google, Ubuntu with Remix and Intel MobLin have entered the fray – see here for the latest score sheet. However, if the Linux community and leadership is not able to be frank and honest about both the strengths and weaknesses, marshall their lean resources with some degree of priority, Microsoft will be able walk over the Linux community like Tom-Toms with divide and conquer tactics.It would be such a waste – so much good OS client software in Linux defeated by such a poor OS but backed by so much money and associated “monetary inducements and persuasions”.

Linux distros have to be ready, knowing their own strengths and weakneses well to take on Redmond that defeated Apple’s superior OS technology, DEC’s superior OS technology, IBM’s superior OS technology, Pen and Go’s superior PenOS technology, etc. And Linux distros have to be prepared to hold sway over a huge multi-billion dollar Redmond bankroll that will be unleashed in the form of co-marketing, legal challenges, and 3rd party development and support funds that will make the current billion dollar “I love my PC” campaign look like peanuts. If there is one thing that Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer knows and relishes it is street fighting over OS market share. Linux vendors, sponsors, suppliers, and supporters should be prepared for an all out attack from Redmond to wipe out any take-aways of their desktop OS market share (and Netbooks still represent that Redmond vulnerability) or they should plan to stay on the sidelines and watch a very good OS get bypassed again.

So the Linux community be at least civil to its many potential users is going to be as importants as the qiuality of the Linux software in meeting new-to-Linux users needs.

Jacques Surveyer

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