The Linux Desktop has a place

I’ve seen an article by Miguel de Icaza, a great developer oft criticised for his love of Microsoft technologies on Linux. His latest piece is about his love for Mac OS X as a desktop and how he used to feel guilty about it (given his very impressive open source credentials).

I used to feel the same also. Android even as a platform more closely follows my ideals, yet I am exclusively an avid iOS user at this point. But as I’ve learned more, the importance of pragmatism is clear. I use my personal iOS devices for countless hours a day and I really just want them to work. I want them to work in the way they were designed to do: quickly check email, browse the web, make calls, check messages and so forth.

That’s not the case in my professional life - developing software. We’re moving 100’s of people to Linux for development because it just works and it’s fast. We have an added advantage in the company I work for in that we can push the Linux distribution of our choice (previously Solaris) with our software product (we roll out the whole system from the hardware up). Our Linux desktops (SuSe) are remote and we’ll continue to have Windows laptops for Office and Email - not the most ideal situation.

The biggest surprise is how well Linux has been received even among ardent Windows developers (and we have a few). Our builds are faster, our environment can be easily scripted (which changes a new developers’ set-up time from days to hours) and because it’s remote, centrally managed and redundant - it’s easier to use all around. I’ve seen a lot of Windows rebuilds that require a total environment reset - this problem is solved now. The only issue for lost productivity is a network connection - but we’ve relied on that for server access, email, web and so forth.

My point here is the same point people have always made, Linux has a place and it’s mostly in business. Business is the web services people use every day, but it’s still Linux - just not the desktop layer (Gnome/KDE). Business is Android (we have an app just fir corporate customers where I work, not publicly released) but its not the Linux desktop.

In the meantime I’m considering Android devices (Nexus 7 looks good), a happy user if iOS devices (iPad/IPhone), a Windows laptop user for work, a Linux desktop/server user for work/personal use and I spend most of the remaining time on my MacBook Pro running OS X. There also trialling full Linux laptops where I work, so I may add that also!