Originally Published: Friday, 27 August 1999 Author: Luke Groeninger
Published to: featured_articles/Featured Articles Page: 1/1 - [Printable]

The Road Ahead

In the past three years, many things have changed with Linux. It has gone from running on a handful of platforms to running on systems from palmtops to high-end supercomputers. Other things have changed as well. Instead of being maintained by a relatively small group of code hackers, Linux now has official backing from such companies as SGI and IBM; it also has inspired famed individuals such as John Carmack to help out with the coding efforts. In terms of progress, this last year has been one of monumental changes....

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In the past three years, many things have changed with Linux. It has gone from running on a handful of platforms to running on systems from palmtops to high-end supercomputers. Other things have changed as well. Instead of being maintained by a relatively small group of code hackers, Linux now has official backing from such companies as SGI and IBM; it also has inspired famed individuals such as John Carmack to help out with the coding efforts. In terms of progress, this last year has been one of monumental changes.

But the road ahead for the Linux community is a long, hard road. Several things need to be improved upon. Usability has come a long way, with much help from the KDE and GNOME folks--but some areas, especially PPP, are still lacking (go into #linuxhelp on irc.linux.com to see what i mean). Multimedia is another area where Linux is lacking. But this is not a fault of the coders -- some hardware vendors have yet to open up to the whole idea of open source. Companies such as Matrox Graphics have welcomed open source, where as companies such as Creative Labs have been generally unsupportive of the open source movement -- often not returning e-mail and other requests for assistance in developing device drivers. And when they finally do release device drivers, they are closed-source and the their quality is inferior to open source solutions.

What is the solution to this problem? Help the community as much as possible. If you are a code hacker, pick up some software and hack away at it. If you are a writer, write about it. Take what you are good at, and use it to help the community. But do be careful when you try to help out.

Don't flame a company for speaking against Linux, I may not like Mindcraft, but they have a point with several of the e-mails they received during the benchmarking fiasco. Flaming makes the Linux community look bad. Proper advocacy is the key to gaining acceptance; a bad impression of the Linux community will steer someone away from it just as quickly as anything else. Read the Linux Advocacy mini-HOWTO -- it is definatly worth reading. Use common sense; don't say that it can do things it can't, don't give uninformed statements about it. As an example, I heard a Technician at Best Buy say that Linux is superior because "It offers a level of flexibility that no other operating system available does." That is not an answer - that is a nonsense statement. A real answer would have been "Linux offers better performance and stability, can be used free of charge, and can easily be customized." Don't blow smoke -- it just makes us look bad.

The next year or two will bring significant changes to Linux, but the real challenges are just beginning, and we can use all the help we can get!





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