Linux on the Desktop

I am in the midst of doing a review of RealBasic 2005, a Visual Basic look-alike, that now runs on Mac and Linux as well as Windows. The GUI interface is uncannily like say Visual Basic 4 or 5 – with visual drag and drop design using a rich set of components many of which are database aware. So it is all that Delphi wanted to be but could not get enough developers to convert to.

But of course RealBasic 2005 is being aided mightily by Microsoft which has yet again thumbed its nose at VB developers (all those who remember suffering through VB1, VB3 and VB5s RDO raise your hands)with VB.NET which is such a departure from VB6 of old and so close to C# it might as well be called C# without braces. Oh and the conversion of VB6 projects to VB.NET – you guessed it – nightmare city.

So VB6 developers are looking for a place to go as its popularity in the TEOBE ratings start to plummet along with Kylix/Delphi and Pascal (three months running VB has had 2 or more down arrows in its ratings trend). meanwhile RealBasic is available and looks and acts a lot like VB but runs on Mac and now Linux as well as Windows (and all versions including ME, 98, 95 unlike VB.NET)with almost identically the same development environ and GUI components.

Now why is this important to the Linux desktop ? Because Linux is fast becoming the place to be for development tools and languages. Java on Linux has Eclipse, NetBeans, and JDeveloper – all superb IDEs. Macromedia is porting Flash/Flex to Zorn which will be an Eclipse interface for visual database development with Flash. C/C++ has a number of very good implementations from Trolltech, Eclipse, and Watcom. PHP has a number of very nice development tools from Zend, Activestate, and others. Perl, Python, Ruby, Jython, and 3 or 4 other scripting tools got their start in Linux and branched to Windows, Mac, and embedded processing.

The bottom line is that developers can now target for Windows and take their chances that Redmond wont eat them alive if they have any success; but at the same time also have code that runs in Linux and Mac and possibly mobile phones and PDA-like devices as in the case of Flex/Flash, PHP, Perl, etc. The inevitable result – desktop applications start to show steady growth on Linux. And suddenly IBMs Steve Mills projections that Linux Desktops will grow only because of PCs devoted to specific tasks such as order entry, inventory monitoring or call center operation. Steve is saying these low breadth application will sustainat least a larger linux desktop presence than now. But this vision is short sighted.

I suspect the RealBasic 2005 and Flex/Zorn and Java apps will also being growing and attracting new users to the Linux desktop. For example, just doing this review has forced me to make the final Linux desktop plunge and in a big way. Fedora Core, Suse Linux and Debian Linux machines are now up and running. And as a developer this gives me direct connect to my many LAMP websites and a growing number of client Linux installations. As a writer, with OpenOffice, GIMP, and Firefox I have all the basic components needed to churn out reviews and tutorials. In sum developers like me will help lead the way back to a PC that will no longer be synonmous with Windows.

(c)JBSurveyer 2005