An Open Letter to Linux Developers

Posted by helios on Apr 29, 2005 12:52 PM EDT
LXer; By Ken Starks aka helios
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Girding himself in asbestos, the author makes a plea to the developers of Linux.

First things first. I don't know perl from python. I keep a cheat sheet taped to the side of my monitor with the simplest shell commands. I am not a Linux Expert...I am a Linux Consumer. Having come to the world of Linux rather abruptly, actually as a matter of survival, I did not have the luxury of time. A nasty variant of bagle destroyed my network and shoddy backup practices almost took me into bankruptcy. So here I am, a tad over a year of Linux experience and some deep concerns. You see, I know some of you. Two of you talked with me at that little sidewalk coffee cafe' in Seattle. I know some of your frustrations and worries. I know how little recognition you receive for your work, and I agree, that stinks. I also know what is needed “out here”, and that is what I want to talk to you about.

I know a better alternative when I see one and I see one in Linux. I personally hold no grudge against Microsoft, I simply believe that Linux could be a superior product. From a consumer's point of view, we are not far from that status. I say “we”, and some of you may ask yourself “so what do you contribute?” Money. I donate money to my distro development teams and software authors, that's what I contribute. I have also taken on the task of Linux Ambassador. In my business, I have the opportunity to hand out self-burned live-cds and I do so to the tune of about 15 a week. I also volunteer my time in helping my customers install and set up their systems and I do so without charge. Now here is what We need from you.

I will begin by operating under the common assumption that Microsoft XP has set the standard. Now a month ago, I would begin this by asking for point and click installation of software. I have since changed my mind on this. Double-click software installation is part of the problem in Windows. Under certain circumstances it will let you proceed with a software installation without telling you that it is going to ruin your system. A centralized software center such as Synaptic is good. Microsoft assumes that their customers are ill-informed and lazy, they may be correct in some aspects of that assumption. There is nothing wrong with asking the computer user to take a bit of responsibility for their actions, as long as it only goes so far.

Give us a desktop search tool as functional as Yahoo desktop Search. OS X will feature “spotlight” which does an amazing job of interior search. Now I have read and studied tools for Linux such as “kat” and “beagle” and they seem to be heading in the right direction. Unfortunately, with such distribution fragmentation these tools, even when fully developed, will not be universally available to all Linux users. Such a tool needs to be uniformly developed for us. Yahoo is talking about making their Yahoo Desktop Search available for Linux in the near future. It is a shame that an outside entity would beat our own developers to that punch, however; we'll take what we can get at this point.

Please for the Love Of All Who Use Linux...develop for us a comparable program to Intuit Quicken/Quickbooks. I can honestly name 40 people who would drop their Microsoft operating system tomorrow if you could provide such a tool. My company personally runs QuickBooks via Crossover Office and it works fairly well, but some function and form is crippled. Trust me, there is nothing on the market for Linux, neither open source or proprietary that can rival Intuit's software and that is holding us back.

Reduce the user's dependency upon the command line. It scares most potential converts away. Now I mentioned the two gentlemen I spoke with for hours in Seattle. While I promised I would not divulge their identities, I will talk about some of the things we discussed. Both of these guys were guru's and volunteered their spare time to a particularly well known Linux project. I sat in awe of these people for they have provided us with an undeniably important part of Linux, but one thing disturbed me, and still does. There seems to be no concern for The New User. Both guys seemed to be more concerned with recognition from their peers than they were with innovating the product. The consensus was “learn the shell or leave.” Here is the news flash...people are leaving. I personally have found the command line useful and even fun at times, but my Mom or my Sister do not. Write Linux software for our Moms and Sisters. I challenge you to sit a New User down and have them open image magick...yeah, see? Where is it in the menu? How can my Sister find it? That's a damn shame.

I cannot conclude my letter to you without pointing out the “right” things that have been done in Linux and I am gonna name names. Let's start with Texstar and Tom Kelly...jrangels, teacher, Ivan, Sal, Yama, thedarb, johncoom...I'm leaving lots of people out but not on purpose. This is the DevTeam and support team for PCLinuxOS, and guys, they are working to get it right but they need your help. This distribution has pre-configured video cards, pre-configured streaming...for most of us it works fresh out of the chute. I have no doubt that this effort will be named Linux Distribution of 2005 but only because these folks work so hard. Now I know you do too, and most of us will never know your names. I want to personally thank you for your selfless efforts and hard work. You have brought us so far. You have forgotten more about Linux than I will ever know, and for that I salute you. I also ask you look beyond the here-and-now. Your work can be legendary if only a few things are improved. We are waiting...and hoping.

Sincerely

Ken Starks (aka helios) Austin, TX

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