inessential by Brent Simmons


Last night I installed Red Hat Linux 7 -- and was stunned by the improvements to the desktop. The last Linux desktop I'd used was GNOME on Red Hat 6 -- which, like all other Linux desktops I'd used, was just about unusably ugly. The big problem was the jaggy fonts; the second biggest problem was performance.

But now -- for the first time I'm using a Linux desktop that isn't a piece of shit. Wow! I suspect it's XFree86 4 that makes the difference. Fonts are readable; moving and re-sizing windows isn't totally slow. (Yes, I'm running on the same machine that used to run Red Hat 6, so it's a fair comparison.) I will no longer scoff when people say that the Linux desktop has a chance of becoming fairly widely used. It does have a chance. (By "widely used" I don't mean that I think it will threaten Windows.)

Maybe I'll try installing a modern version of Netscape -- the old version (4.76) that was pre-installed just plain sucks. What a total shame. But I don't want to go into that today.

Speaking of Linux -- here's a pet peeve. I often run across comments sort of like this: "Well, Open Source rulez, because we can just clone Microsoft app xyz in a couple days, no big deal."

The merits of Open Source as a development philosophy aside (it has its strengths and weaknesses) -- this is just brain-dead strategy. If the main or only benefit to Open Source is that you can clone Microsoft products on Linux, then screw it. I don't want Microsoft clones on Linux. People who make those comments either miss the point of Open Source entirely, or they get the point, and the point is petty and stupid. I don't know which.

In other words, hey Linux guys, hey, please don't think of Microsoft as your GUI design lab.

To be clear -- I'm talking about user interface. That GNOME, for instance, has a component architecture inspired by Microsoft is cool. SOAP is cool. Etc.

What I'm saying is, I don't want to use an IDE on Linux that's a clone of Visual Studio. I don't want to use an email app that looks like Outlook Express. No friggin' way. Spare me.

Do better.

David Brown writes: "If all that happens is that Open Source clones Microsoft, then Microsoft has already won."

A reader sent me email reminding me of the reason for doing clones of Microsoft apps -- the idea is to make Linux comfortable for people used to Windows. (The reader didn't agree with this sentiment, btw.) I've heard this argument many times. It's just depressing how with all this freedom and opportunity the first thing some people do is don the Microsoft hairshirt. With that attitude, failure is guaranteed.

New LinuxNewbies tip: Samba: Linux Plays Windows NT Server.