You know what else? If youre a Linux developer and youve been spending time on, say, porting Linux to the prehistoric z80 processor or writing device drivers for the long obsolete ESDI (Enhanced Small Device Interface), maybe you should consider spending your time on something thats more productive.
Im not the only one to make that argument. Ulrich Drepper, a Red Hat developer, makes the same argument in his blog. The only difference between us is that I believe refocusing the Linux communitys energy is critical.
Now Linux desktop developers do hold a few cards in their hands.
For starters, Linux has a lot more drivers for the x86 platform than Apple and friends have. But I wouldnt count on that ace too much. The part of Mac OS X that talks to drivers is based on FreeBSD. No, the BSD operating systems dont have as many developers as Linux, but their best people are the equal of Linuxs best.
Now, more then ever, the major Linux distributors—Novell/SuSE and Red Hat—need to talk to the hardware vendors. If they cant get them to build Linux drivers, they need to give them a full-court press to at least open their APIs so that the Linux open-source community can do what it does best and develop the drivers themselves.
The Linux desktop also has more desktop applications for the x86 platform than Mac OS does. OK, so you will be able to run legacy PowerPC applications on x86 PCs with "dynamic binary translation." Ive seen this kind of emulation many times before. Even the best—Digitals FX!32 translator for the Alpha a few years back for my money—doesnt give you much bang for your processor buck.
On the other hand, if Apple, with some help from Intel, manages to get Mac OS X running with VT (Virtualization Technology), all bets on performance are off.
VT is still a work in progress, but its built on technology from VMWare, and that company has already shown with products like VM Workstation 5 that it knows how to build virtual machines that dont sacrifice performance for compatibility.
If I sound a little harsh, well, tough. The Linux desktop community has to make a decision—and has to make it now. Do you want to become a fanboy operating system like AmigaOS on the desktop, or do you want to fight it out with Apple and Microsoft for control of the desktop?
Its your decision now. Choose wisely.
eWEEK.com Senior Editor Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols has been using and writing about operating systems since the late 80s and thinks he may just have learned something about them along the way.
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