Commentary: Linux everywhere, but in the right place the right time

By Marco Alvarado

Awhile back, I replied to a ZD Anchor Desk discussion about Mac OSX and Linux desktops. My impression is the issue of an alternative desktop to Windows is working toward a war, and like all wars in this world, without a clear winner.
What we need is not a war to obtain “the winner,” “the best desktop” or whatever name we like to use to qualify a user environment. How many devices do we have today in our offices or our homes? The computer is present in almost any device in our living environment. Really, we don’t need one computer to contain all we do, but to control all the devices.

Bluetooth and company are the right path. It’s not the only path, but Bluetooth has the right intentions. Each device must interact in some way with the other one, and we could mix them with X10, Bluetooth, infrared and any wired or wireless technology to develop a “friendly operating environment.”

Then we could have the desktop, or the “control center” for all them. From it, we could run a visual interface to write a letter contained within a “storage device” and served by a “running environment” through a Web service, all them being low priced devices.

Thinking in this way, Windows and OSX aren’t alternatives, but old -rule expensive application environments. Linux, being a 100% open platform, is an ideal base to build little embedded applications and specialized visual environments. Our problem is the conception of the environment.

We don’t need a full Unix clone 100% of the time. We can create something for beginners with a small number of all the Unix (in this sense the GNU) set of programs, and we can build independent sets of locally specialized devices with different subsets of the GNU. If you don’t believe me, how many times a secretary could use the cc compiler or the basilisk emulator? We need very little distributions with only a few parts of the broad spectrum of applications, oriented toward specific tasks. These would be distributions we can install almost without knowledge of the tricks of X Windows or without a lot of disk space, memory and so on.

Then, in your company, the Secretarial Distribution on the secretary’s machine interacts with the Manager Distribution on the manager’s machine and the Support Distribution on the support desk’s machine. All them would be crafted to work in the best way for the specific type of work.

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