Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, as the old saying goes, and it goes without saying that those of us in the Linux community see plenty of it in our favorite operating system.
Maybe that’s why it’s been so hard to wrap our brains around the topic of a recent poll on TuxRadar entitled, “What would you change about Linux?”
At first, Linux Girl’s mind drew a huge blank. Then she read on.
“If you had the resources, what single thing would you change?” the daring minds behind the site asked. “Would you merge KDE and Gnome? Would you introduce a new package manager? (eek!) Would you find all mentions of ‘Linux’ and replace it with GNU/Linux?”
Following that explanation, bloggers — as is their wont — had no shortage of thoughts to share.
‘Remember Those Monkeys’
“If I could change just one thing it would be to do away with all the petty bickering and in-fighting,” dazfuller wrote, for example. “For a community who values choice so highly we really do turn into a bunch of whiny gits when people do things a different way.
“Remember those monkeys at the beginning of 2001: A Space Odyssey,” dazfuller added. “That’s kind of what the mono debate feels like right now.”
Alternatively, “I would force all mainstream Linux distributions to use a GUI,” offered Xavier Sythe.
Then again: “There has to be a way to motivate game manufacturers to produce Linux versions of their products,” tarpan suggested. “I think this alone would immensely increase Linux’s popularity.”
Close to 100 comments, in fact, had been made by Wednesday, so Linux Girl knew it was worth bringing the topic to the beer-coated table down at the blogosphere’s seedy Broken Windows Lounge.
‘Become a Platform’
“One distro needs to step up and become a _platform_,” Slashdot blogger Daengbo told Linux Girl.
“New developers need support,” he explained. “Choose a language for them; choose a toolkit and an IDE; optimize the IDE for the chosen language and the standard distro components, which should be comprehensive by default.”
Similarly, “write comprehensive documentation (and create videos) using this tool chain and keep the documentation current,” Daengbo added. “Make publishing and charging for applications easy for developers without the need to learn a bunch of packaging formats or dependencies.”
In short, “the distro that does ‘platform’ well and which is merely competitive with other distros will rush to the front of the pack,” he predicted. “Compare the new developer pages of Windows, OS X and Ubuntu, and you’ll see a marked difference in friendliness for devs new to the platform.”
More Support for Linux
On the other hand, “there’s really nothing major I can think of that needs to be changed to Linux as a platform,” Foogazi blogger Adam Kane began. “The real changes need to happen at the hardware and software manufacturers’ level.”
Specifically, “if more ‘popular’ software was designed for or ported to Linux, there really would be no end to how much more Linux could grow,” Kane explained. “Sure, there are always alternatives, or emulations of software, but in the end, corporations and businesses want what ‘everyone else is using’ because of a proven track record.”
The same goes for hardware, he added.
“Linux is designed to support anything and everything,” Kane concluded. “It’s the ‘anythings’ and ‘everythings’ that need to support Linux.”
‘Full Support for Flash’
Similarly, “what would *I* change? Not much — I’m a happy user,” began Barbara Hudson, a blogger on Slashdot who goes by “Tom” on the site.
“Now, about what I would change that runs atop linux — that’s another story,” Hudson added.
“No. 1 would be full support for developing flash apps under linux,” she explained. “We have Apple to thank for showing us that. Yes, Actionscript sucks; yes, flash is an eyesore — but it’s cross-platform, it’s popular and it’s less hassle than Java.”
‘Native Screen Widgets, Please!’
No. 2 on Hudson’s list: “a port of the original BC++ 3.1 ide for developing console apps, and a true native (not that Kylix Krap) Borland c++/delphi IDE for gui development,” she said.
“No. 3 would be to fix openoffice and firefox so that they use the native ui, and not their own customized ‘one look for all platforms’ widgets,'” while No. 4 would be “to fix openoffice so it doesn’t take 30 seconds between the time I click on ‘Save As’ and when I can actually type a new file name in.”
Finally, “No. 5 would be to fix the gimp to get rid of the Win95 gray look,” Hudson concluded. “Again, use native screen widgets, please!”
‘A Help Me! Button’
Alternatively, “lose the CLI” was Slashdot blogger hairyfeet’s top suggestion. “It is 2010, not 1978 — entire generations have grown up NEVER touching CLI, and you know what? They will NOT change for you! Accept it!”
If nothing else, there should be a “Help Me!” button “where a Linux Guru can walk a new user through a problem,” hairyfeet added. “Until I see some real effort to fix this horrible mess, like a GUI-based way to deal with driver issues and a stable driver ABI that allows one to run updates without breaking half the hardware drivers, I stand by my assertion… Linux is great for servers and embedded devices and horrible for desktops!”
Then again, “I would change the software that tends to get left behind when interfaces change,” Montreal consultant and Slashdot blogger Gerhard Mack suggested. “We are great at creating new, better-performing interfaces but poor at making sure everything uses them.
“I can understand needing compat options enabled in the kernel for 3-year-old software, but I can’t understand why I need them for things actively maintained,” Mack explained.
‘GNU/Linux Is a Living Thing’
Blogger Robert Pogson took perhaps the most philosophical view of all.
“GNU/Linux is a living thing,” he asserted. “It grows, changes and adapts. I don’t need to do anything to keep that happening, but my life will be better and more satisfying if I contribute what I can to keep the fire going: teaching, installing, debugging, documenting and promoting.”
Change is good, Pogson added, “and I welcome it even as I near retirement.
“Being able to change keeps organizations relevant and enhances survivability,” he explained. “The rate of change being higher with FLOSS probably means FLOSS will outlive less vibrant systems of IT, like that other OS.”