Friday, 8 February 2008

Is Linus irrelevant for Linux?

A brief break from the shopping and other TGirl pursuits; I was just reading this article:

Is Linus Torvalds even speaking for Linux anymore?

The article seems confused; on one hand the author is saying that Linux is moving far ahead of Linus's limited vision and on the other he says, pointing to NetApp stats (which is meaningless really) that it is such a niche OS that it doesn't matter.

The star quote that is used as the main thrust of the authors argument is this from Linus

"An OS should never have been something that people (in general) really care about: it should be completely invisible and nobody should give a flying [expletive] about it except the technical people."

The author says that this "makes some sense" and then goes on to say that, in actual fact OS X and Windows have been successful because the customers DO care about the OS and thus Linus is no longer in touch with what the users want and is irrelevant.

The problem here is that the author clearly doesn't understand the subject he is talking about and is drawing conclusions from incorrect assumptions. The OS that he sees is all the flashy graphics and cool animations and features which is what the marketing types want you to see, this sells, this *is* relevant to end users.

In reality the *real* operating system is the stuff in the background that does all the boring work of, essentially, moving bits and bytes around the computer. This is what Linus means by the "operating system", not the marketing version of this term used to sell Vista, OS X and even Linux distros based on flashy features.

So the article is really trying to highlight an issue that isn't there; everyone knows that what users see as an "operating system" *is* important because it has been marketed to be, and yes Linus is not really involved with a great many aspects of what makes up such a product.

However, Linus still does have alot to do with the real OS and his opinion and voice on these aspects DOES matter.

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