Thursday, 23 January 2014

The Linux desktop doesn't matter any more, my bourgoise white derriere!

Every work morning, I make a fresh cup of coffee and jump-start the synapses as I fire up my Manjaro machine. One of the first sites I hit is Google News, where I search "Linux". Anyway, this afternoon I repeated the ritual and the top ranked piece had the following emphatic title:

Why The Linux Desktop Doesn't Matter Anymore.

(For those of you who would like to read the piece first, check it out here - Interestingly, the link is entitled, "Why the Linux desktop NEVER mattered. Ooh la la! More on that in a bit.)

I must confess at this point, I carried on reading not so much out of interest or curiosity - I find such fundamentalist speak, boring - but rather out of a growing sense of irritation. Here I am, a relative GnuLinux babe-in-the-woods of one year standing, being told that I am an enthusiastic & satisfied user of what is, and always has been, an irrelevance - for the record, there are more Apple products in our house than any other tech brand. But I digress. Irked, my eyes moved on to read these words:

"...the Linux desktop has lost whatever slim chance it once had to be relevant..."

Oh, okay. The Linux desktop is now irrelevant. Defunct. Dead on it's feet. I continue...

"'s equally true that Linux has completely failed as a desktop operating system."

Completely failed as a desktop OS eh? That implies, amongst other things, that it is insecure, unstable, slow, lacking applications to get things done and devoid of value for money. At this point, the all-to-familiar "Windows envy" that plagues Linux users started to raise it's head. I whispered to myself, "Damn it, this guy is right! What have I been thinking for the last 12 months. Lets dump this this piece of sh*t & fire up my old XP box in the corner."

Crying into my coffee upon realising that all my efforts as part of the Manjaro Linux support team & wider FLOSS community were an utter waste of sentient life, I continued reading in the pathetic hope that the writer would reveal the Forbidden Apple Of The One True OS.

Jokes aside, I wanted to puke. You see, I live in South Africa. The country that a few years back, overtook Brazil as the nation with the greatest disparity between rich and poor. Just down the road, people live in shacks, up to 10 or more in a space no bigger than our garage. The vast majority of them will never own a PC & have never heard of Linux.

Local visionaries like Mark Shuttleworth set out to challenge that - let us set aside any feelings about Unity/Canonical for a moment. He established a foundation that successfully brought computer training labs to over 80 schools across the country. A core driver was his desire to create a user-friendly Linux desktop for all. This is echoed in Bishop Tutu's description of the the word "ubuntu":

"One of the sayings in our country is Ubuntu - the essence of being human. Ubuntu speaks particularly about the fact that you can't exist as a human being in isolation. It speaks about our interconnectedness." 

This touches the heart of what I found most distasteful about this article. It was written from the limited point of view of someone who has the luxury of owning a combination of smart and desk/laptop devices. Also, how can one judge the GnuLinux desktop against the integration offered by the Apple product range - a company of singular focus and relatively immeasurable R&D budgets - and deem it to have failed, to have never mattered?

I find that point of view economically provincial and quite frankly, pathetic. As if your "average" user is a hairdresser, a new media kid or a hacker @ Google Inc. That demographic might have the money. However, they are NOT the mean. 

Right now, in developing nations across the globe, disadvantaged youth are firing up discarded Pentium notebooks and that irrelevant, failed open-source OS slash bastard Stallman-Torvalds love-child, that never mattered. These kids are learning. Exploring. Widening their horizons. Hacking their present in search of a better future.

Mac OSX is largely out-of-reach and therefore irrelevant to such as these. 

The Linux desktop doesn't matter any more, my bourgoise white derriere!



  1. Nice read! Just passing by. Enjoy Manjaro!

  2. Interesting perspective. My brother installed Puppy Linux on his old celeron for his helpers 6 year old girl to have a computer to watch YouTube with and play little games. She's never even experienced Windows, and she's happy as can be with her low resource resurrected celeron running Puppy. Thanks for the post.

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