Can Linux survive its unreasonable defenders?
We expected letters from Linux devotees responding to John Williams'
October tale about his difficulties in installing Linux on his small home
network. We were hoping we could start a debate among readers on Linux's
place in the IT organization of the new millennium. Many letter writers
did present thoughtful arguments for and against the place of Linux in
IT. But too many others lashed out with personal attacks against the writer.
Contributing Editor Williams is the manager of the Application Development
Technologies unit at Carolina Power & Light. His job is to evaluate
new and emerging technologies for CP&L's IT operation. He brought
the first Linux machines into the utility. John has been at that job for
several years, and he has articulated his challenges in ADT and previously
as editor of Object Magazine/Component Strategies. In other words, this
is a guy who knows technology and business.
For those of you who missed it, Williams'
column recounted the difficulties he faced in installing and setting
up the Linux network and in getting help from his vendor, Red Hat Software.
His conclusion: if these problems are fixed -- and there's no reason to
think they can't -- Linux has a real opportunity to be a platform for
Apparently, there are Linux devotees out there who are fighting any
criticism of the operating system. Many chastised the knowledge and expertise
of an experienced IT professional -- experienced in Unix and Linux --
taking on how he undertook what he described as a typical IT skunk works
project simply because of the result of that effort. The project was what
it was. The results were what they were. Unless Linux backers can accept
that work still needs to be done to make the software ready for the enterprise,
they are simply hurting their cause. Linux isn't perfect. There are issues
that need to be resolved before it can become mainstream. But the problems
can't be fixed unless they are acknowledged.
And criticizing, make that condemning, the messenger could lead buyers
to dismiss Linux as a technology fad, which would be a mistake. Linux
has the chance to deliver on the promises of an "open" Unix. It can be
an ideal platform for corporate Web apps. Williams says as much in his
Blindness to Linux's limitations could prove fatal to efforts to expand
its reach beyond niche status. The former Open Software Foundation (OSF)
used to regularly lash out at critics of its Unix standard and its plan
to extend its reach. And where is OSF/1 today?
Linux isn't a religion. It's not a philosophy. It's a technology that
can help IT folks do their job better. Don't fall into the "us vs. them"
trap. John Williams isn't an enemy of Linux. I can't say the same about
some of his critics. Let us know what you think.
Mike Bucken is former Editor-in-Chief of Application Development Trends magazine.