Originally Published: Wednesday, 1 December 1999 Author: Erik Severinghaus
Published to: featured_articles/Featured Articles Page: 1/1 - [Printable]

More Linux Users == Good Thing (tm)

Anyone who has used Linux for more than a year or two knows the change that has taken place. Linux has indisputably moved from a primarily console-based operating system for hackers and Free Software geeks to a mainstream phenomenon, taking with it all the pros and cons of success. One of the biggest changes to have taken place is the influx of new users, affectionately called newbies....

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Anyone who has used Linux for more than a year or two knows the change that has taken place. Linux has indisputably moved from a primarily console-based operating system for hackers and Free Software geeks to a mainstream phenomenon, taking with it all the pros and cons of success. One of the biggest changes to have taken place is the influx of new users, affectionately called newbies.

I remember when the Linux bug (penguin?) bit me and I began to read "Running Linux" by Matt Walsh, the definitive book to starting Linux. He said repeatedly that Linux was not recommended for anyone without *nix experience, and that one should learn Unix before Linux - not the other way around. At the time, everything was console-based, with the X Window System hardly mentioned, and a GUI (graphical user interface) install was too good even to be hoped for. It was a long, somewhat intimidating process. But when I booted Slackware my first time and saw the user prompt, I had the rush of climbing a mountain and looking at the scenery below. After much tinkering, I even got my XF86Config file working, done by hand in a console-based text editor (I don't need to get into the specifics).

But times have changed, and many of the old guard are frustrated. The crowding that has resulted from the hype has left some feeling like endangered animals without a habitat. Who, a few years ago, would have thought Slashdot would become so popular that moderators would be necessary? And then moderators for the moderators? The isolationist argument is beginning to gain momentum. "Let's try to cut immigration to our new land." "After all," the elites cry, "why do we need newbies complaining about the installs we scarcely dreamt of a couple years ago? Why should we surrender our developer mailing lists to the mail asking if this card or that board is supported, and complaining when the manufacturer won't release specs? Why move out of the way and allow our hangouts and IRC rooms to become so packed that we must move to less crowded pastures? And why should newgroups be clogged with requests, and we take our time to answer questions from those too lazy to RTFM or even do a search on Deja.com?"

My friends, the reason why is plain, simple, rectangular, green and has photos of dead presidents. Old school Linux users: raise your hand if you buy retail versions of distributions. Well, how do you think Alan Cox gets paid? Anyone here think Loki Entertainment Software would be porting games if there weren't enough people to buy them? How about video cards, modems, and other drivers? Like it or not, we are now in the big leagues. How many of you were tired of writing documents in the different text editors and were thrilled when Corel ported WordPerfect? Sure, Open Source will make just as good office suites that are free (as in free speech). But while KOffice is awesome (I'm writing this in KWord now), it's still early alpha and WordPerfect is here now.

Sure we've come a long, long way by ourselves. While corporate America ignored and scoffed at us, many brilliant people hacked out amazing improvements in the wee hours of the night working for nothing more than pride and love. Yes, it's tough to just open up the fruits of the labor to those who have no desire to code, document, or even report bugs. But let us remember the Good Things that come from the almighty dollar. And next time you get ready to flame that newbie remember that partly because of him and thousands of his friends bolstering the our market share, we are getting Quake III Arena released at the same time as the Windows version. Remember that their market share helped convince Corel to port WordPerfect to Linux, and pour money into WINE. And remember that while coding that GUI may seem to be a waste of time and resources to you, how nice DVD support, better hardware support, and more full-timers like Alan Cox would be.

Erik Severinghaus, erik@linux.com.





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