[lug] Why use a Linux desktop? Was: Re: (Virtual)

Maxwell Spangler lists at maxwellspangler.com
Mon Apr 13 11:39:31 MDT 2020

On Mon, 2020-04-13 at 05:08 -0400, Steve Litt wrote:
> I'm not sure how you can read my explicit list of benefits and
> thensummarize it as staying with Linux for comfort. As a matter of
> fact, myfirst bullet point mentioned that I immediately fell in love
> withLinux' DIYability very soon after using it. That means it's not
> aboutcomfort, it's about benefits.

My original email (not clearly worded enough, it seems) was about
appreciating the fact that commercial companies still support Linux
even when the Linux market share appears (to me) flat and not growing.

My original comment of 'Other than politics, I don't see a reason to
use Linux' perhaps should have been worded as:

"Other than politics (where Linux is excels), I don't see any
mainstream 'killer apps' that would cause someone to choose to use
Linux over Windows or Mac.  Because of this I would understand if a
commercial software company declined to support Linux because of its
small and not growing market share.  It doesn't make sense to me to
hire 3-4 people at a company to maintain a high quality Linux port of
an app if very few people will actually use it.  So I'm happy we can
argue about Zoom now because its an option but if we lose more
marketshare it and others may disappear.  This would cause people like
me to *have* to leave Linux."

That's my concern, right there ^.  My statement wasn't about dismissing
Linux or dissing anyone here for continuing to use it, but I think
that's how some took it.  It was me being very realistic and saying: if
our market share shrinks far enough, instead of choosing whether or not
to use something like Zoom, we may not have the choice.

You know, like FreeBSD users.  Like OpenBSD users.  Like Haiku
users.   Etc, etc.  I'm sure users who use these systems have a lot of
personal comforts that make it right for them with things like
political alignment and security being easy guesses. But if they're in
my position of wanting to integrate with a team easily they may need
virtual machines or a second computer or have to hack at shims to do

To me, your list is your personal set of reasons to use Linux and they
objectively look like comforts.  Not dismissing that, those are
important.  But they're different from someone saying "I love my MacOS
system at home, but I use Linux in the office because of engineering
app X or scientific app Y and after trying Linux I really enjoy it."

They might meet you at a LUG meeting and start using dmenu and other
customizations users have shared.  But it'll be the app that keeps them
on Linux, not dmenu.

Users having a killer app, to me, is very important because it keeps a
platform's market share steady and worth supporting.  Hiring people,
getting them proficient in a Linux environment using an app to be
productive takes a lot of time and effort.  If an organization is
productive using Linux (plus the app) in this way they're likely to
stay with t for many years beause it is productive more than it is
comfortable.  If all the things on your list make individuals and
organizations more comfortable while they're being productive, that's
even better but secondary in my opinion.

Circle back to why this is important to me.  Several hundred thousand
or more people using Scientific App Y at various organizations and who
are expected to use it for years is a solid Linux market share.  These
may be a small fraction or an organization's overall staff but they may
be key people that an org wants to keep happy and on an equal footing
when it comes to access to organization wide services.  

It's great for them to have a choice like Zoom so they can have
something for Windows, Mac, Linux, iOS and Android.  A single company
licence, users and departments pick their platform.

* * *

Finally, I'm really, truly not looking to argue here. I'm writing this
long email because I think this is an important issue for the Linux
community.  I'm partly saying: I don't want us to shrink and become a
fringe community of super technical specialized people who won't use
anything but Linux.  I think this discussion is good for our community
and keeps us aware of issues for the community as a whole not just as

Also, Please, everyone: Don't confuse my talk of Zoom here for some
bias towards commerical software. It's just an example of a current
need well met by a particular app I'm appreciative to have.  I won't
make the same argument that we should all stop using Firefox and
purchase some boutique commercial browser when open standards for
browsers are well suported and I won't make the same argument five
years from now if open standards allow users to pick any client and
video conference using open standards based connection methods.

Whew, points to anyone who read this far.

> > I'm actually in the same situation although our Linux
> > environmentsmight different on implementation a bit.This is what I
> > was trying to communicate with my original comment:1. I've seen a
> > large exodus of Linux advocate-users away from Linuxdesktops in
> > favor of Mac (and perhaps some Windows?).
> That's probably true, but it in no way means there's no reason to
> useLinux on the desktop.

I think this comment from you helped me understand how you were
interpreting my original statement. I wasn't saying there  are *no
reasons* to use Linux, I was saying that when presenting an unbiased
person with no established preferences with a choice between Windows,
Mac and Linux, there is no reason to choose Linux.  Introduce a killer
app that only runs on Linux and is required for them to pass a college
course or get paid for work and suddenly you've got a compelling reason
and the marketshare just grew by one person.

> > 2. I don't see the Linux desktop market share as growing
> > significantly.  It has no killer app on the desktop.
> Obviously Linux hasn't grown on the desktop, so you're right
> aboutthat. But that doesn't mean there's no reason to use Linux on
> thedesktop.
See above. Thanks for commenting this, it clarifies your perspective.

Maxwell Spangler

Denver, Colorado, USA

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