A rant about “year of Linux on the desktop” from a tired old man. I’ve been part of the Linux community since before Linux was called Linux. Over the years there’s been many people telling me directly that Linux is silly or wrong or imperfect, or that free and open source software is foolish or pointless. A lot more people have, of course, pontificated along those lines in public, and not directed it at me. I’m not claiming to be targeted at that, but I’ve been around and active for long enough that things accumulate. It’s the end of a long year for me, and I though I’d let off some steam myself. Hence this rant.

Over time, the goal posts of success keep being moved by the naysayers. I’m too tired to dig up all important milestones and dates, or references, but here’s highlights of the timeline as I have experienced it (years may be a little off):

  • 1991: It’s not possible for a hobbyist to write their own operating system kernel.
  • 1992: Well OK, you have a kernel, but there’s no networking or a graphical desktop, so it’s not actually useful. Anyway, ain’t nobody got time to compile all their software.
  • 1993: Fine, there’s some kind of desktop, but it doesn’t support drag and drop so it’s a toy. Also, it won’t go anywhere unless it fully and equally supports every graphics card ever made for the PC. Oh, and these pre-build distributions are insecure. Don’t download code from the Internet and run that, that’s just stupid.
  • 1994: Linux is pointless, since it only runs on the PC and not on any other kind of computer.
  • 1997: All these Linux users are just hobbyists, nobody will use it for anything important.
  • 1998: Corporations will never put money into developing this free software thing.
  • 2000: Linux and free software are a cancer on the IT industry.
  • 2001: The dotcom bubble burst, so Linux will now die, since nobody can afford to continue to develop it, as there’s no profit in free software.
  • 2003: Uh, okay, Linux didn’t die. But it’s too hard to install.
  • 2005: Ubuntu is just a toy.
  • 2006: So Linux is used a lot, but only on servers. It will never work on phones or embedded devices.

(skipping ahead so I don’t drag up too many bad memories)

  • 2022: Linux runs all top 500 super computers, billions of personal devices, most servers on the Internet, on all continents, on all oceans, in the air, in orbit, and on Mars. Oh, and in the air on Mars. All big corporations use open source in some form.
  • Also 2022: Linux will always be a hobbyist toy, unless solves all these new problems we’ve just thought about.

Next year, 2023, will be my thirtieth year of Linux on the desktop, and the thirtieth year of being told it’s not possible to use Linux on the desktop, or to only use Linux on the desktop. Some of the people telling me this weren’t born when I started using Linux on the desktop.

Despite everything, it’s been fun. I’ve been lucky to have been able to take part of this journey.