October 4, 2007


The Next Leap for Linux (LARRY MAGID, 10/04/07, NY Times)

hy would anyone want to use Linux, an open-source operating system, to run a PC? “For a lot of people,” said Jim Zemlin, executive director of the Linux Foundation, “Linux is a political idea — an idea of freedom. They don’t want to be tied to Microsoft or Apple. They want choice. To them it’s a greater cause.”

That’s not the most compelling reason for consumers. There is the price: Linux is free, or nearly so. [...]

After using the operating system for writing, Web surfing, graphic editing, movie watching and a few other tasks, it is easy to conclude that Linux can be an alternative to the major operating systems. But since common tasks like watching a movie or syncing an iPod require hunting for and installing extra software, Linux is best for technically savvy users or for people whose needs are so basic that they will never need anything other than the bundled software.

However, trying Linux — especially if you boot it from a CD — is a great way to find out what a lot of open-source adherents are so excited about.

And with prices starting as low as free, you certainly cannot complain about the price.

Free is nice, but they'll be including premiums (like the PC itself) soon enough.

Posted by Orrin Judd at October 4, 2007 4:24 PM

I've been using Linux since the release of Fedora Core 6 and haven't looked back. Unlike Windows (98SE is the version I still have and run now only to use Lotus WordPro and my Cadd program) which regularly locked-up several times a day, requiring a reboot, I never have this problem with Linux, nor do I get the spam and virus attacks I used to. There is no doubt it is the most secure OS because of its file permission structure. The recent versions are as easy to install and use as Windows or OS X, and unlike MicroSquish, regular patches and updates are available as soon as any problem arises.

The actual usage of Linux is higher than the installed system count indicates (1-2% at BrothersJudd sitemeter): the majority of Internet severs run Linux Apache, Apple's OS X is a Linux variant, and it is being used as the invisible underlying OS in the newer cell phones

Posted by: jd watson at October 4, 2007 6:03 PM

OSX has nothing to do with Linux. It's based on BSD out of NextStep. And what you want in a server has nothing to do with what you want in a user/desktop environment or a device like a cellphone. (Last week one of my servers running on an ancient PowerPC Mac System 8.6 had to be shut down briefly after being up for 68 days. Run a Unix box that long, especially if the program has an actual UI, and usually it will slow to a crawl because of all the memory leaks causing continuous page faulting.)

Linux is used in things like cell phones because developing an OS from scratch costs real money, as does the licensing of OSes specifically for such uses. Having a fulll OS on such limited devices is overkill and will be a security nightmare in a few years. As for security in general, rootkits for Linux are already appearing since the Evil Software Empire has been forced to address the problem while Linux and OSX developers and users continue to believe they are immune, thus making themselves ripe targets.

(Actually, a friend of mine pointed out that the real reason why Macs had such good security was because the hardware cost so much more than your generic GatesBox running a stolen copy of Windows or Linux,. The gangs of Russia and Eastern Europe are not ones to waste money in that way until they are guaranteed a profit.)

Posted by: Raoul Ortega at October 4, 2007 7:53 PM


Eh? The shared UNIX boxes my GUIs run on all stay up for months at a time, usually rebooted only for prescheduled maintainance - a year isn't too unusual if it's that long between security-critical patches.

IMAO, the security on UNIXen like Linux and MacOSX (Darwin, whatever) are generally stronger than Windows - and it's pretty clear that the Vista codebase is a vast tarpit that may get usable but is nearly unmaintainable even given infinite resources.

The real scandal is how little progress there has been in real-world OSes. The whole hypervisor craze shows that not only have we not made any significant advances in 15 years, we're not even making headway on the OS's most basic tasks of program isolation and hardware abstraction.

Posted by: Mike Earl at October 4, 2007 10:46 PM

For most people, "free" is what comes with their computer (PC, Mac, cellphone, whatever...)

If everyone was forced to learn how to install and maintain Linux, the world would be a better place because we wouldn't have so many idiots allowing their PCs to become zombies. But that ain't free, baby!

Windows is dangerous because most people run it from an admin account, which allows any old virus to install itself behind your back. (Unless you're running gobs of anti-virus software that slows your system to a halt and costs more than the OS!) I had to jump through hoops to get all of my software running in a limited account. (Don't know about Vista, that's XP).

At least with a Mac the installers have to ask you to enter a password in the default account.

Posted by: Randall Voth at October 5, 2007 1:20 AM