Issue 214, November 21, 2000  

Despite Moral High Ground, Linux Still Needs Help

By Stephen M. Lawton

      In 409 A.D., Honorius, ruler of Rome and the Western Empire, refused to negotiate with his brother Alaric, who then led the Visigoths in a siege and eventual occupation of Rome. Honorius' lack of vision eventually led to Rome's downfall, as Alaric and his forces took what they needed and burned what stood in their way.
      What have we learned from history? Aside from realizing that nothing lasts forever, it seems that the Boys of Redmond finally learned what everyone else has seen for some time — that the penguin is more than just a flightless bird.
      Linux, of course, has been dubbed by many in the press (but not MicroTimes) as the heir-apparent to Windows. While it conceivably could be a significant contender, it has yet to garner the critical mass of applications it needs to be a first-tier competitor.
      Rumors have been running rampant for more than a year about a Linux version of Microsoft Office, and Microsoft insiders have confirmed those rumors to MicroTimes. But where is it? Inquiring minds want to know.
      Microsoft's $135 million investment in Corel Corp. is interesting, but not because Corel publishes WordPerfect. Rather, Corel has been one of the most vocal formerly PC-centric companies that have embraced Linux.
      Apple Computer already took the Linux plunge. MKLinux, an Apple portfolio company, has an offering that looks and feels a great deal like Linux, but it does not contain all of the "guts" of Linux. Personally, I think it's about time Apple made strides outside of its traditional base (OSX is based on FreeBSD.)
      By keeping its operating system and hardware proprietary, Apple has failed to live up to its potential in the business market. Linux could be a significant weapon in Apple's arsenal to regain its former glory. But please, Steve, if you decided to jump into Linux with both feet, don't add "Apple extensions" to make the resulting OS proprietary. An Apple-only version of Linux will keep lots of applications from your users — programs you certainly don't want to recreate. Be smart. Be humble. If you plan to run Linux, make it a true Linux.
      There is a proverb that states, "Rome wasn't built in a day." For supporters of Linux, even if you have the moral high ground, as many open-source supporters maintain, that does not mean you will have the final victory at the end of the day.
      Remember, before Alaric sacked Rome, he lost several battles. And even after successfully defeating Rome, he only survived one year.


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