Wednesday, August 10, 2011

The Linux Debates

There is a debate within the Linux community concerning which office suite is better?  OpenOffice or LibreOffice? There is another debate about desktops. Which one is better?  GNOME or KDE? How about XFCE? Who cares?

I'm really quite oblivious to the debate and have been for the four years I've been on Linux. What matters to me is the incredible variety and number of applications to choose from. And I'm not just talking about what you see on the desktop.

Let me give you an example. I got curious about the QR code, a barcode that most modern smartphones can read, and wanted to learn more.  With a little digging, I found a nifty little utility, QRencode for Linux in the package manager. In a few minutes I had it installed, with web pages on how to use it in front of me.  In a few more minutes, I had created my first QR code and tested it on my phone to be sure that it worked as promised. It did.

While I happen to prefer GNOME, the experience I shared above was possible irrespective of the desktop used. That experience didn't tell me whether or not one desktop is superior to another. But it does tell me that Linux is a hell of a lot more excitement for me than Windows or Mac. Discoveries like QRencode are priceless and they just don't happen on Windows or Mac as easy as they do on Linux.

Whether I use GNOME, Unity or KDE, or some Office suite we haven't heard of yet, those itty-bitty utilities are what make Linux so exciting to use. QRencode is just one example of the UNIX philosophy of programming which is to make small programs that do their job really well. These little programs are what makes Linux so much fun to use because they can be combined in very powerful ways. This is a feature missing from Windows and hidden to most users in Macs, yet it has been here all along since the beginning of UNIX.