Monday, September 24, 2007

What Direction Do You Take Linux?

Recently, without going into all the details, there has been a big debate about which direction to take Linux. (One article likened it to a civil war, another to Republican/Democrat gridlock, including all the big guns)

The debate is where to take Linux. On one hand, some like and Red Hat, want Linux to stay an "Enterprise OS" which appeals to businesses, server centers, and national labs. They point out that Linux controls the enterprise/server/supercomputer market: Linux is used by almost 80% of the top 500 supercomputers, at least 8 of the top 10 most reliable web hosting servers as well as the only mainstream OS that has the top government security rating. (Check out above. Google, uses Linux, Los Almos uses Linux, Yahoo uses Freebsd which is another open source version of UNIX and BYU ports Microsoft server to run on top of Linux?!?! What is going on there BYU?)

Linux dominates the enterprise market since Linux(or at least the right version) beats Windows and Mac OSX in three areas: stability, speed, and security. The enterprise side of the argument goes like this: Linux has found its niche and dominates in that niche. Desktop users want lots of the latest features and that's fine, but throwing all the latest features on an OS bloats it, slows it down, makes it less secure and stable. The reason is: it takes a long time for a piece of software to be well tested and mature enough to be highly stable, fast and secure. Let's focus on that, not adding a million buggy, immature and insecure features just because desktop users want them. They have Windows and Mac OSX for that.

The other side sits those of Ubuntu or other community distributions who want to provide everyone a Linux OS with all the latest features. Because of this, as I know from experience, these distros are more buggy and slow than what is running on your local supercomputer. However, these people have a good point: general people want lots of new features with some bugs over completely bug-free years old software. They point to the fact that Linux would be better off gaining the market share Microsoft has and using that market share to take Linux to heights it could not go. They say this will not only make the desktop better but the enterprise side of things better for Linux too.

The trouble is literally billions of dollars and tens of thousands of programmers are being used on Linux but in completely different directions. Red Hat spends hundreds of millions each year to go one way, and Novell and Ubuntu go off another, half the time duplicating a lot of work. All Microsoft's and Apple's money, time and energy go to their one OS. Furthermore, Linux doesn't get a lot of help from outside vendors and software writers since nobody knows which Linux distribution to support. Intel makes there compilers work with Red Hat and Novell, Dell supports Ubuntu, Levono now supports Novell and HP now is selling Red Hat!!! If you are a software programmer, which version do you write your application for?

Where do I stand? I would love to see the community distributions like Ubuntu take a huge mass of the market share, but perhaps Linux is best suited for the enterprise market and should stay that way. Trying to go in so many directions is pulling Linux apart. There is even been talk to fork the Linux kernel! Linux is in a state like unto Republican/Democrat gridlock. I only hope, unlike Washington, that Linux could come to a clear majority consensus about what to do. Until then it will be being pulled in too many directions.

(Let me be clear tough, open source will be the future of all markets. Linux is just is is going about it in a less consensus way than anybody would like.)


  1. I'd have to say that I favor the model where Linux stays in the enterprise/high-performance niche and Mac OS can take the care of the fancy do-dads. I've been working with my mac now for almost six months and aside from missing my second mouse button, it has completely won me over. Sure it's not as customizable as Linux, but it has the stability and it interfaces pretty seamlessly with Linux systems.

    So my opinion is keep Linux running on high-performance machines and servers. Mac OS will take up the slack among people that want all the latest flashy gizmos with as OS that actually works (as opposed to Windows).

  2. Oh my gosh, not having a second mouse is ***absolutely the dumbest idea to come from Apple***. Who is the person responsible? They should be held in a detention facility experiencing regular "alternative interrogation techniques" without any interference from the justice system. You already have my vote politician who writes such legislation.

    When I was at the lab I used a Mac and they gave me a one button mouse "Mighty Mouse" and I about committed suicide.(I got so frustrated I ended up stealing a mouse from another computer and switching them. :) )

    Well, there is a lot who agree with you Nick, and I partially do, but I really believe, as Firefox has shown, there can be more innovation being open sourced than not. Apple will probably never do this until forced.

    To be honest, so many people are open sourcing more and more (At least partially), even Microsoft, that I think the end state of all software development will be some hybrid of the two systems: open source vs. not.

    If I were a betting man I would say all successful software companies will be some sort of hybrid in the future. I just hope it maximizes innovation and security, something closed source models I really do not believe do.

    Novell and Microsoft have developed a Lab to make Microsoft and Open source projects like Novell Linux runs together in a way they maximizes revenue for both. Ideas like this may win. See,1895,2182211,00.asp

    Mac *definitely* dominates the "cool hardware" market. Except that dat gum mouse!!!!

  3. The worst part is that the only reason that Mac doesn't have a secong mouse button is pure stubbornness. Aside from people still living in 1984 and the insane, nobody honestly beleives a one-button mouse is easier to use than a two-button mouse.

    Apple is wrong and they are too stubborn to admit it.

    Luckily, there is hope. Recently Apple has admitted its past mistakes by adopting a Linux-based OS and by using Intel chips. Maybe someday the "Mighty Mouse" will quit being a weinie and get a second (or even third) button.


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