A Little Bit of Linux Advocacy.

October 12th, 1998


In late September, 1998 I was contacted by a member of the press, looking for some answers to general Linux culture and the phenomenon. Being a Linux evangelist and strong advocator I readily agreed to answer his questions.

The paper that printed the story is the Guardian, Britain's second oldest daily newspaper. What follows below are his questions and my answers to those questions. As it turns out, in the article that was written, I was quoted for a grand total of four words. There is also an error - I do not "maintain the online resource Linux Center" but rather, I am the author and Webmaster of Everything Linux! thank you.

Go check out the online article here.

Also, at the bottom of this page I've provided several important links that all Linux folks should read. One such link is the Linux Advocacy FAQ that explains all about it. One should keep in mind certain things, not only when the press is around but even in your day to day conversations about Linux. No, this isn't a government project but you should still give people the right and perhaps more importantly, a positive impression of Linux and its users. We're not all hackers, some of us are one of them. We don't want them thinking this is some elitist club of adolescent, pimply-faced, nacho-eatin' gang of hackers and crackers.

So, without further ado, here is the Q&A session...

The Q&A

1) When did you set up your Linux pages and why?

I initially setup my Web site in November, 1995. I've been using Linux since early 1994. I setup my Web site because at that time, there wasn't very much information concerning Linux on the Internet, at least not in the form of easily digested and easy to read Web sites. I wanted to share and return to the community that has given me so much.

With knowledge comes power. What you do with that power is up to you.

2) Obviously you're using Linux yourself -- what's most compelling about it as an OS? What are you running it for (work/personal)?

In a nutshell? I use Linux for everything. For the past few years, I have used Linux almost exclusively for everything that I do in both my personal and professional life. The first thing I do when I get a new computer is format my drive and install Linux. I'm more productive that way.

A major part of the appeal of Linux (besides "being free" as is oft quoted) is that your typical Linux distribution (e.g. Red Hat or Slackware) comes with an incredible amount of tools in the form of OpenSource software. Many might take the term "free software" to mean bad, unreliable or poorly designed. This is a big misconception in the mind of many. There is no difference between OpenSource software and commercial software except that commercial software costs money and you don't get the source code. With the open model that Linux thrives under, many programmers, college students and others the world over have a fully capable system to unleash their dreams. That's what I think Linux is really about.

It's also a slap in the face, what Microsoft is doing to everyone with Windows. Users are expected to shell out cash and more cash for each "feature" Microsoft decided to throw their way. Having spent your hard earned money on these programs doesn't even ensure that they will function as advertised. Ask ten people on the street what a "blue screen of death" is or if their Windows PC has ever crashed. I'll bet you that most people will answer to the affirmative.

3) Is the movement of Linux into the mainstream a good or bad thing? (e.g. some people on UseNet and Slashdot, for example, worry that it could go too commercial or will lose what makes it Linux...

Linux moving into the mainstream is a great thing. People that get fed up with Windows have a completely viable alternative that has never existed before. Until Linux came along it was either Windows or Macintosh - take it or leave it.

Linux will never be "too commercial" - it just can't. That's part of its inherent design, known as the General Public License (GPL). While there are and will be more commercial applications for Linux, as I'm fond of saying, Linux is about freedom. If you don't want to pay for your software, there's more than enough OpenSource software that can do the job. You are not forced into any path you do not choose to follow.

The benefit of the commercialism of Linux in the application arena is that when people see "real companies" making "real products" for Linux, it can only bring more respect for the platform. People will stand up and take notice and realize that Linux is not now, nor has it ever been, a "hacker toy."

Another benefit of the Linux model is that it allows you to follow both mantras. You can code one version of your software and give it away freely, yet still maintain a commercial version with enhanced features. Or, you can make a profit on support and ancillary sales on things like manuals, mouse pads or whatever suits your fancy. Look at Red Hat, for example. They make money on support and paraphernalia.

4) For a long time, it's been a hacker, insider thing to run Linux -- do you think a kind of "Linux culture" will be lost (or maybe you don't think such a thing existed or should exist)?

There will always be at least two kinds of computer users out there, regardless of the platform they choose to run. They will be the "power users" and the "average Joe."

In the case of Linux and Windows, Linux welcomes and enccourages the power user whereas Windows does not. It hampers more than helps the user customize their system and "tweak" it for performance or design.

With each passing day, Linux gains more users and becomes much more user friendly. Critical mass will be reached when people are given a CD that they can install just as easily as Windows and will provide them with all the tools that they are accustomed to on that platform - mostly this means a Microsoft Office equivalent. There are already four complete office packages available and many more individual programs such as editors, spreadsheets and graphics programs that you can plug and play as you wish. It's also about freedom. Freedom to choose. Freedom not to have to pay $300 or $400 for making your computer even useful, for something other than a calculator.

This is the age of critical mass. Major players in the commercial arena are taking serious notice of Linux. Look at Oracle, Sybase, Intel, Netscape and Corel to name a few - all of which are contributing to Linux in some way, either through investments, products, publicity or otherwise.

There is also a devout following of Linux. Look at anyone that runs a Linux-based Web site out on the Internet. They'll tell you in a heartbeat, often with great pride about Linux. But to be fair, every platform has its own evangelists.

5) Is world domination a possibility [grin]?

Oh, absolutely. :)

Microsoft finally admits that Linux gives NT a run for its money. Of course, we knew that all along. Linux can do everything NT does, usually faster, definately more stable and at a fraction of the cost. UNIX has been around for almost 30 years now, and NT only a handful. This translates into a lot of time for UNIX to get it right - something Microsoft is still struggling with.

Seriously though, it's not really about that. I think Linux is more a state of mind. People will enjoy not having to shell out hundreds of dollars for restrictive, bug-ridden and bloated software in exchange for a solid platform that is much more capable, powerful and infinitely customizable. But rather than bad-mouth Windows too much, I'll say that Linux is mostly about freedom. If people use Windows and like it, then by all means continue to do so, if it suits their needs. Linux isn't about OS holy wars.

If people give Linux a chance, I believe that they'll see that it's a superior platform, but of course it depends on what they do with a computer. It's been said that Linux isn't as user-friendly as Windows, which to a degree may be true - but that's changing daily. I could configure a system and set it in front of an average user and they'll be able to use it just as well and perhaps even better than a similar Windows setup. We have icons too, you know.

6) What do you work at besides overseeing these pages?

I do much more than simply oversee my Web site. I maintain the system(s) involved, write the content, design the graphics and continually improve the site overall. Basically I do everything, from soup to nuts.

Professionally, I'm a Web site administrator and all around hacker. I develop Web sites, do custom CGI programming, train people and offer technical assistance where needed.

I write software for the Linux community for the sheer joy of the experience. To be able to contribute and give back to the community is half the fun - the other half is in developing code.

7) Why the interest in getting Linux onto a PalmPilot?

Why? Just like everything else in Linux - because we CAN!

All images are (C) 1994-2005 by Michael Holve