Linux on the down low - Your responses

Updated: November 7, 2014

Several weeks back, I wrote a possibly worrying article about the lack of enthusiasm and activity in the Linux community in the past few months, reflected in reduced chatter and passion in the forums, fewer news, Linux-oriented sites closing down, and a general attitude of meh. The responses were many and varied.

I was surprised by the number of people who mailed in their opinion, showing that not all is lost, and that there is still hope. More importantly, the range of ideas and theories you offered is quite astonishing. It's always interesting to learn how people think, and delightful to be amazed by someone's thoughts. Ergo, this article.


What you had to say

Here's, almost word for word, some of the best responses I got from my readers. You may see your name down here and go yay. Perhaps. P.S. There have been more mails coming in since this article was written, so I had to stop updating the article and just publish the content. Anyhow, what these responses give us - you and me - a better understanding of what is happening in the community. The truth is probably somewhere in the middle. So let's see.

Cheer up mate! Linux should be quiet. Everything works. No serious debate exists because there is nothing to debate. Systemd is a done deal until a new challenger appears, Steam goes great and has a very active Linux community. Only Linus talked about how things should work and I think he is right. Also I noticed that a lot of Ubuntu sites closed but this is to be expected, they were too many with the same subjects.

So Linux is getting better and better and I see it on my workstations. I don't have problems for so long that I forget what was like a few years back. I even have games. As I work only with opensource I focus more to find guides and articles about applications. It might be that people focus on that. And it is encouraging that even small projects have people post in forums.

And I think that is the way it should be. OS works and I focus on applications. So cheer up mate, the train goes on track, fast or slow does not matter, all Linux needs is a downhill. -- George

I think there are several reasons for the lull in Linuxland. One is that
for all practical purposes it's done, and we're there. For the majority of
us installing something like Ubuntu or Mint is a non-event and when it's
all done everything works. We no longer have to do anything to get sound,
X, wireless or printing working. We're no longer excited by this hot new OS
that's almost there and just needs another six months of polish. We just
want to get back to work or browsing porn.

We can choose from several usable DEs. There are good applications for all
the common tasks. We have MS Office. We no longer have to look up how to
configure XF86. We got there without realising it had happened. We don't
get excited about the possibility of using Linux as our everyday desktop
anymore, we're there already. And because it's so trivially easy to do we
no longer feel like we are members of an exclusive club; we're just
computer users.

Another possibility is that Linux is over 20 years old now; several
centuries in internet time. A lot of young geeks aren't as old as Linux.
It's not new and fresh rebellious anymore, it's establishment now. Hell,
it's entrenched in supercomputing, in devices and all sorts of embedded
applications and billions of servers. It's hardly fringe or alternative,
now it's positively mainstream.

Microsoft might be another factor. Ten years ago they were easy to hate and
as a common enemy they united us in anti-MS zealotry. It's different now
though; MS aren't seen as the only game in town and PCs are only a part of
the landscape. And realistically, most versions of Windows since XP aren't
that bad anyway. MS themselves have accepted Linux is here to stay and the
inflammatory attacks have ceased - remember Ballmer's "Linux is a cancer"
and the Halloween documents? A less-repugnant enemy means that the Linux
devotees are no longer as focussed and passionate about the good fight.
Most probably couldn't care less about MS.

I'm sure there are other reasons but basically I think the need for the
Linux sites is no longer there. They served their purpose (when they had a
purpose) but now I think Linux and Linux users can get along just fine
without them. -- John

My reaction - just the usual. Any innovations in Linux apps quickly get
translated for Windows. But Adobe and Microsoft products never will. If
there were Linux apps that truly functioned as replacements for MS Word, MS
Word, and MS Word (and Outlook), I might use Linux more. But doc compare in
Open/Libre is a complete disaster, garbles corrections with old text; slows
a 2.4Ghz quad-core PC to a crawl after 6-7 page of heavy editing. -- Another George

Yes, I think you're right about the Linux press being quiet. The unpopularity of Windows 8 should have given Linux the best opportunity for "the year of the Linux desktop" (again, after Vista). I think some of the reasons for Linux not taking off in the consumer space include:

The desktop itself is becoming less relevant. Most consumers use computers mainly for internet-related activities. They can now do most of this on tablets and smart phones. The press, and technology in general, seems to be more focused on mobile. I guess that's where the growth is.

Linux is way too fragmented. Some people call all this "choice" a benefit. I think it's a mess. With a hundred or so distributions and many desktop environments, the decision making gets overwhelming. I hate to say this, but for Linux to succeed on the desktop, it needs a boss. Like Google is to Android (and Android still has fragmentation issues). For Linux to register with consumers, I think it would have to be distilled to a single distro/desktop environment. Google Chrome may be as close as we get.

This is all a bit of a shame. I really wish there was a well know alternative to MS Windows. I tend to collect the recycled computers from work, and I like to donate them or give them away. With all the licensing costs and issues related to Windows it is hardly worth the bother. -- Gary

I completely agree with the disappearance of passionate web content with regards to linux (yourself excluded).

It seems YouTube channels that were a huge source of knowledge and enthusiasm have dried up. I won't name names but my usual 'hit-list' of YouTubers now seem more bothered with startups, fundraising, Windows and general gaming than even mentioning the 'L' word. Some channels have simply ceased to produce content. Very sad.

My journey into Linux was not just about getting to grips with terminals, desktop environments, kernel panics and whatnot. It was about meeting a whole new culture, interesting people that were always willing to help, a true sense of community and some great humour thrown in too to help the medicine go down.

Personally, I loved my time with Linux. But It simply can't power my audio hardware or software (I won't go further into that). I'll always have a soft spot for linux and I hope the community thrives once more. but from where we are now, it looks very bleak.

Thank you for your contribution though Dedoimedo, yours was one of the first site's that got me interested in Linux and proved to be a great source of knowledge and many a chortle too! -- Rob

Hey, I have always loved reading your reviews as your thoughts tend to
mirror my own in many distributions. it is funny you have mentioned about
things being slow in Linux lately, oddly enough I had thought the same
about your site when concerning Linux. I had been waiting a while to see
your thoughts on some of the distributions that have been released, however
there has been nothing posted or very little. One main distro is PCLinuxOS,
only reason is that they have released a newer version and I have found it
to be the best experience I have had in Linux in 10 years lol! But I really
wanted to see if the experience was just with me or if they had indeed made
a release that really worked so well and easily. It does not seem like
there has been much going on anywhere tho, reviews are harder to find as
well as general excitement about anything Linux related so I do not think
it is just your experience that things are just in a slump at the moment.
Things will pick up at some point I am sure ... they always do :D. Thanks for
all your great reviews and articles, look forward to reading more! -- Greg

It's the economy stupid! (just joking) I have noticed a general trend, since the economy here in the US collapsed, a gradual decrease in open source projects. I assume it is caused by fewer people willing to donate money or time. I think that the result will be a melding of the best projects into one unified package. --wb

I've read your article entitled "Linux on the down low" and I have the same
impression. Things seem a little bit too calm (even boring) in the Linux
world these days. In my opinion, it's one of two things: the calm that
precedes the storm or the serious silent work that follows the prattle. I
am inclined towards the second. -- Abdelkader

There was Ubuntu's Unity, Windows 8. The explosion of Mint Cinnamon and Mate. The rebirth of KDE with Plasma and the latest Plasma 5.0 unstable. A dabble of XFCE and a pinch of Enlightenment. They all work well enough so its a matter of preference. I do miss the days of eagerly unwrapping a shiny new Linux distro to explore what's new. When something unique and amazing comes out the Internet will surely light up with the buzz.  --wdp

I read your article Linux on the down low this afternoon and it really hit home for me. It just so happens that I visited Distrowatch yesterday for the first time in a long time (well ... a couple of months anyway). It was the weirdest sensation to look at the distro rankings! It was as if I was one of the last men left on earth when I saw the top spots such as Mint, Ubuntu, Debian etc. falling while most of the others just held their spot where they lay. I felt as if I was walking through a graveyard or something. There are a lot of earth changes going on and much more to come, but what could possibly explain these kinds of things that have been going on recently, at least in the world of Linux? At any rate, your articles are very enjoyable and informative. Keep up the good work and thank you.  -- Denis

Hi Dedo, just read your article. I will blame three entities as the main responsible people for taking the penguin to the ground.

The first entity is Mark Shutterworth. The protagonist for bringing the linux community together around the most successful distribution ever made, but also the antagonist for idealizing the most alien desktop ever thought: Unity. To implement his ideals, made use of true dictatorial ways that displeased and orphaned hundreds, if not millions of users.

The second entity is the GNOME developers community. It all started with GNOME 3. The group of people who envisioned "that" silly desktop were set to disrupt and shatter the foundations of a good well thought graphic user interface that was GNOME 2. Not that we don't have MATE now, but well ... it shouldn't have happened this way.

The third entity is Windows 7, which was a fast response to what was happening to Microsoft at the time. Millions abandoning old fashioned Windows XP in favor of Ubuntu and sticking with it. The company learned all mistakes from Vista and saw the enemy gaining further ground. Coincidence or not, Windows 7 started to gain momentum while Mr. Shutterworth and GNOME guys were thinking on how they could make computing different. The rest of the story we know ... the Linux community had become such a mess that even a mistake like Windows 8 survived (not without pain though) all the way through (thanks to Classic Shell or Start8). -- Djeizon

I read your article about Linux on the low, and I would like to write down my opinion. So, generally I see it the same way as you do. If you have a closer look at everything, what happened in the last year:

1. Upstart vs Systemd: fell asleep, after Shuttleworth said, that they will give up Upstart. So, you can say, that either all the people who discussed about that, were there just for the sake of a good rant and nobody really cared about this, or everyone said: "okay, thats it, Mark has spoken up". I for one, don't know. I think, it is because somehow, people have found
that they can not really influence things in Linux anymore. All is done by the companies and Debian and all the small community-driven Distros don't have that much power anymore.

2. Ubuntu Trusty: was released and no-one really cared. Thats right. And even with the fact that Trusty has so much more and better features than Precise. This is really sad, but maybe it shows that Ubuntu has arrived in mainstream? That a lot of people just did the upgrade, it runs like a charm and so nobody has a reason to talk about it. Seems like it's the same as with new releases of Mac OS X. They announce it, release it, that's it.

3. Mir vs. Wayland: both are developed more or less behind closed doors and I mean ... its just a stupid graphics server. Yeah, it's important but there are a lot of users who don't care, but they need it anyway. But the important thing about it, is: there are not a lot of people who can program such a beast. So, if you don't have a clue about it, you shut up and wait for the result. This is what the users do, I think. The developers just did their complaining about Mir and the other way
around and after they got stuck with their discussion, work went on (or not). Thats it.

4. Generally I think, Linux is loosing drive. There's nothing really new. Because you don't need so much really new. Red Hat always re-invents the wheel (systemd, for example ... who gives a fuck?) and this strategy will have its own end in the future, because no-one really cares about something, which does the same as the old one did but its new ... heeeeyyy ... cooool ... and? How is the new iPhone? This is reality. If you wanna have drive, do something new. The same goes for KDE. They do now KDE5, but to be honest: there is nothing really new, nothing really exciting. Just a stupid desktop ... yeah, everything is better ... but why didn't they do it right at first trial in KDE4? So, if someone had KDE4 and it just broke over time, he said: "Fuck it, I'll go for {enter DE here}" and then ... KDE5 comes out. This guy, someone, will give a fuck about it, because he is now on this other DE. So, in summary, I see two issues there: no innovation anymore is the first one.

The second one is: user satisfaction. In the past, you had really awesome desktops (I'll stick with the desktops as examples, but the same goes for applications and so on) and you easily could excite users, because of really awesome stuff. Now, you still have awesome stuff, but it sometimes is so bug-ridden, that you can not excite anyone about it anymore. The user takes it for a while, but after some time, he will search for other exciting stuff. Mobile, Tablet, Smartphone. Raspberry Pi's and all these small boards ... Banana Pi, Cubiboard and so on. This is awesome. But a Linuxdesktop: no. And I see that Unity and XFCE are the DEs which are cool and they have a drive behind their development. But all the others? Just plain boring. In my opinion.

Also the applications. Mozilla is just a bunch of clerks who just administer their heritage. Firefox just sucks and they gave up Thunderbird. They could fill the gap which is left-over by Opera after they disappeared, but? Heyyyy, they have now the same stupid menu as Chrome has! heyyy ... coooool. How about a new Thunderbird? Errrmmm no. Okay. Or a what about a new internet suite as Seamonkey was? Errrrmmm no. Okay, but a Smartphone OS and a Firefox for Android which is just embarrassing. So, here is the same: the user takes it for a while and then just looks for other exciting stuff.

Its not that the user doesn't use all that boring, un-exciting stuff anymore. He does, he uses it. But he uses it without any excitement and he doesn't admire it anymore, because there is nothing to admire anymore.

And because there is no real excitement anymore, the news sites don't report it, because they need clicks and need to thrill their readers. So they bring up some exciting stuff: bendable smartphones. 3d-printers, Raspberry Pi, Wandboard, Cubiboard. Smartphones, Tablets, Games. Games are on Steam. Everyone knows that. So, Steam ... yeah it's there but who cares? I wanna game ... I would rant if it wasn't there anymore, but it is there so ... yeah ... allright. -- Steffen

I guess you are right. And I do not know whats happens or happened. I am first installed GNU/Linux distro in 2008 or 2009 and since then, as I think, activity within blogsphere has decreased & some sites that I visited on regularly basis about GNU/Linux and stuff have become rather quiet. -- Bogdan

Regarding your article, Linux on the down low, no it's not just you. Linux
community has gone quiet and even dormant. I blame it on the lack of creativity. Just take a look at distributions. They have offered virtually nothing in  recent years,  other than packaging latest GNOME and KDE.

The reason the community is quiet is that there is nothing sexy to talk about. Do you remember the last time an all new, groundbreaking app was made? And no serious device running linux was ever released. The community needs to stop re-inventing the wheel, and make something real and useful. Apps and devices that people can actually use. -- Mehdi

IMHO, in the Linux world, Gnome 3 and/or Unity has been a disaster. It has disappointed and disillusioned many people leaving them in a situation where they have to seek workarounds to make the OS usable. But even with these workarounds it's still not a pleasant experience. The only bright spot, at least for me, has been Cinnamon (my main DE). It has made using Ubuntu enjoyable again. -- Bob

You make a good point, maybe you could do a follow up based on peoples feedback/opinions. Maybe we are all busy being productive instead of trying new shiny things. -- Nick


And there we are. Vox Populi. You hath spoken, and I've copypasta your responses. If this little selection of opinions is representative of the Internet as a whole, then we see that Linux has reached a saturation point, unkindly helped by extra fragmentation. Fingers point at Ubuntu, Gnome, Mir, Mark, Wayland, and systemd. Some of these are people, some are technologies.

On the far end of the spectrum, there's hope and real productivity. People are being busy, Linux has crested the hill of no return, and we're now in the boring plug-n-play state, it seems. Well if so, that's a good reason to be happy. But still I am not. So let's see what happens come the autumn fever of fresh new distros, that is, right now. Thank you all for your contributions, keep rocking.


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