DSC Tech Library
This section of our technical library presents information and documentation relating to the Linux operating system especially as it relates to the telecommunications and Linux CRM Software marketplace.
Since the Company's inception in 1978, DSC has specialized in the development of software productivity tools, call center applications, computer telephony integration software, and PC based phone systems. These products have been developed to run on a wide variety of computer systems and have been tested and operational on LINUX servers and systems. The following are articles and information regarding Linux and its applications in the telecom and business environments.
The Future of the Linux Desktop
Jul. 21, 2003
By Binh Nguyen
Steve Ballmer once said that "innovation is not something that is easy to do in the kind of distributed environment that the open-source/Linux world works in". He argued that Microsoft's customers "have seen a lot more innovation from us than they have seen from that community" and that "Linux itself is a clone of an operating system that is 20-plus years old...." (http://rss.com.com/2008-1082-998297.html).
Indeed, I must agree with most of what he says. However, it is not without some derision that I do so. After all, if we were to examine the core of the Microsoft Operating System we could also come to the same conclusion. For example, the basis for the latest and greatest iteration of the Microsoft Operating System, 'Windows XP' is itself based on the Windows NT kernel which was conceived some 20-25 years ago. The GUI (Graphical User Interface) that has become so ubiquotous and at times beguiled is nothing more than an evolution of what was created at XEROX Parc Laboratories some 30 years ago and TCP/IP? Well, we all know about that....
Nevertheless, the topic of this article is not about historial or semantic issues. It is about the future of Linux desktop itself.
Currently, tens of thousands of open source projects are occuring worldwide claiming to be latest and greatest innovation in computer software. This is probably best exemplified by 'sourceforge.net'. A repository of open-source software projects. At last count, (as of 4 June 2003) there were 62,947 projects hosted there. Many of these projects are of an exceptional quality but there also exist a group of projects that are not of such a high calibre.
Such quality control problems and proliferation of similar projects can be attributed to a number of problems through lack of experience, motivation.... but most of important of all 'ego'. Developers are becoming more enchanted with stardom and are starting projects on a whim making searches for what would be considered viable alternatives increasingly difficult. After all, there comes a time in one's life when one internet browser instead of five are enough.
Although, projects for Linux do exist that are truly original, innovative as well as being free of catastrophic bugs in the vast majority of cases the focus of current programs seems to be on emulating Windows/UNIX progam functionality. Such 'evolutions' as Microsoft would put it are perfectly understandable as they provide a user friendly environment through which new users from other platforms (as well as new users of computers themselves) are able to navigate their Linux system.
However, you must say that there exists a fundamental problem when developers attempt to find out who can best replicate certain competing products. For example, there exist a great number of truly masterful themes/clones of the MacOS X and Microsoft desktop environments for the two major Linux enquivalents of GNOME and KDE. One need only to take a look at www.kde-look.org and www.sunshineinabag.org in order to realise that there must be a group of people who are truly delusional.
Such misguided people are probably best represented by the makers of 'Lindows'. When I first saw it I must admit that I was stunned, flabbergasted even horrified into submission as I saw what was originally a gorgeous KDE desktop mutate into the behemoth that is the Microsoft Windows XP desktop. I must confess that I felt as though I had suddenly entered 'bullet-time', where time
seemed to come to a standstill. The only thing that kept me going was the fact that I knew that behind the scenes the Linux kernel would be it's heart otherwise I surely would have remained glued to that spot for the rest of eternity.
This is Linux after all. We chose it because it is different!
I'm not saying that such variety and choice are bad. Its just that when what are obviously complete clones appear I fail to see their relevance. This situation also makes it far more difficult for busy and/or new users to select which product they should choose. As such, efforts by companies such as Red Hat and Mandrake to streamline Linux should be applauded and not lambasted. Were it not for their efforts the number of people who have migrated to the Linux desktop would obviously have been far less and Linux would be considered nothing more than a server platform for business enterprises and whose other user base would eventually amount to nothing more than a group of academics, research scientists and computer enthusiasts.
Nonetheless, Linux's unprecedented success on server systems has led to global companies such as IBM, SGI, and Novell taking an active, vested interest in developing the operating system for our mutual benefit. Its ascendancy has led to high profile documents/court cases as well as unheralded tails and threats of avengance. The most infamous of these being the 'Halloween Documents' fiasco at Microsoft and without doubt one of the most bizarre trial cases of late between SCO, IBM and general linux users.
Moreover, its becoming inherently clear that Microsoft and it's allies will attempt to cling on to their philosophy of building proprietry software based on closed standards and adopt an 'at all costs' attitude toward stamping out the phenomenon known as Linux. Linux developers will eventually have to expend increasingly greater amounts of time and effort in an attempt to reverse engineer the mechanisms though which documents are stored and manipulated.
Through many painful years of experience military officers have come to the conclusion that the best method of defense is attack. Ultimately, I believe that Linux has matured enough (hardware compatibility problems notwithstanding, although that will come with time) and all the obvious deficiencies (an office suite of applications, a stable and clean desktop, internet browser....) have been fulfilled.
As such, I think that its about time we spent less time concentrating on what we should copy and more time on what we can develop. No, let me amend that. Only copy things or features that are worth the effort. After all, it doesn't take Einstein to realise that many large software firms have managed to survive and even flourish simply by fostering such an attitude (ie. copy the best, leave out the rest).
Furthermore, development should be more concentrated with potential software engineers taking the time to investigate whether a similar project may be underway so that not only do they not have to start from scratch but so that we also don't have to suffer the situation of having to wade through twenty word processors and finding that only five of them are up to scratch.
Perhaps, there should be an international Linux software database of sorts with products being split up into various tiers based on their popularity (on-line voting system) and maturity. Maybe even, sourceforge.net could become this repository with regular purges of redundant projects. As an added benefit such innovation could also help to alleviate the possibility of any further frivolous litigation.
About the author: Binh Nguyen is currently a university undergraduate studying Computer Science and
Physics in Australia. I also work part-time as a (commercial) researcher/developer on Linux related projects. I first became hooked on computers during the early to mid 90s and the first computer that I had ever truly owned was a humble Cyrix with Windows 95 (smirk/grin). At the time, I thought that all of my dreams had come true. The rash of service packs/bugs and remarketing of the same product did little to enhance my
enthusiasm though. I then discovered Linux and my fascination and respect for computing was restored.