This is, of course, excellent. The biggest thing holding back Linux now is not technical issues but instead ignorance and apathy. Most computer users have never heard of Linux or even really understand what an Operating System is. Those that do generally accept the Microsoft tax, insecurity and vendor lock in with a ‘it does everything I need’ attitude. Of course it doesn’t do everything they need – a plain Windows install doesn’t come with office applications, such as a word processor, you generally have to mess about with a dozen different drivers from either a manufacturer cd or, worse, somewhere out on the Internet. Install a Linux machine and you get all this, for free, from the moment you first login (and a lot more decent software besides).
To solve these problems we need to get the word out there. Linux is open for business (in every sense) so give it a go. Now the news report in question doesn’t actually mention Linux at all. I’m not sure if that is a good thing or not. Obviously we want people to know that Ubuntu is Linux but do they actually care, especially at first introduction? Probably not. We don’t want to confuse people with Ubuntu is a distribution of Linux, not until they are ready.
As for Shuttleworth, he appears to be rapidly becoming a figurehead of the Linux movement. Having met him twice now, at both the LUGRadio Live events, it is very clear that he isn’t looking to create an Ubuntu monopoly in the Linux world. He is very community driven and a very savvy businessman – you don’t get £400million in your pocket without some business acumen. There have been a few Linux distros in the past that have attempted to package up a nice user friendly OS in a similar way to Ubuntu that have made the mistake of making their innovations proprietary. They have all failed to gain community and customer acceptance. One or two are still around and now trying to change their ways and release more liberal versions of their software but it is too late for them. Shuttleworth realised that first you need the buy in of the established Linux community and to do that you have to work with their terms – without Linux, Ubuntu is nothing but without Ubuntu, Linux will continue. Shuttleworth comes across as one of us, he’s a very approachable and knowledgeable man and can talk technical like the best of us. Perhaps deep down he really is one of us or maybe it is just a carefully calculated image. I don’t think it matters. What Linux needs is someone like him – the public face of Linux. Others have tried, or been hailed, as that figure but none have worked – RMS appears to be a frothing at the mouth extremist and even Linus Torvalds himself lacks the charm to really represent the community he helped build. Shuttleworth offers great promise for us, I think.
Ubuntu has also taught a lot of us what it really means to be accessible for the average user. For too long Linux has been a plaything for geeks. It has been ‘almost ready’ for prime time for probably half a decade or so. All it lacked was the impetuous to take it that last few percent of the way. The average end user shouldn’t need to go into a command line for anything, not ever. It will always be there for those of us who understand the power of command line shells, scripting languages, editing configuration files directly, etc. Your average Windows XP user will never have used the Command Prompt program, nor should they in Linux. That’s where Ubuntu and all those feeding work into Ubuntu are taking us (and there are a lot of people not directly involved in Ubuntu who are helping to bring about this new age of Linux). It will be an interesting few years.