How Would You Fix the Linux Desktop?
The culture of Linux remains the culture of 1993 mid-range computing—but we no longer live in a world in which CS students can’t afford the hardware/software they use at school and mainstream OSes can’t do the fun stuff. Quite the opposite. It’s funny to think back at how thrilled I was to have X11 on the desktop (compared to Windows 3.1) versus how I feel now, twenty years on, comparing KDE or GNOME on Fedora or Ubuntu to OS X 10.8. The tables have been exactly turned. Linux is still essentially the same in architecture and philosophy, while the rest of the world has moved to a completely different paradigm in which computing is essentially appliance-driven. In 1993 Linux was ahead of its time. In 2013 Linux is a decade behind.
These days, I want an complete, polished, turnkey appliance at low cost and with no labor time investment, not a set of building block. Today’s appliances are fast, intuitive, stable, durable, powerful, and integrated like the iPad (which I do, yes, use for serious work about 5-6 hours a day). For most users (which is where I have always ultimately fallen), Linux is solution in search of a problem that no longer exists.
Ask Slashdot has an interesting discussion about current state of the linux desktop, which has become (again) a heated debate after Miguel de Icaza’s blogpost and Linus Torvalds’ reply. There are some very insightful comments, like the one by aussersterne above, but more importantly the discussion gives a good picture of the linux/FLOSS community, with different views on what linux desktop is or should be, different backgrounds, ideas and problems. The first comment sums up the problem, or meta-problem to me:
I’ve been using Linux on my desktop for 13 years now. It works just fine for me.