Microsoft Windows without updates. That's little more than a security vulnerability in the wings. It would only be a very short matter of time before each and every one of those machines came crashing down. Instead of letting that happen, it's a very seductive proposition to grab a Linux distribution and resurrect that old machine. Why not? It's been part of the war cry of Linux for the longest time.
Honestly, I'm all for keeping those millions of machines out of the scrap heaps, but I don't know how I feel about the Linux community crying out for everyone to use their out-of-date hardware for Linux. The success of Linux as a legitimate desktop operating system cannot, in any way, hinge on dumpster diving in Microsoft's garbage. In fact, winning the desktop war -- on any front -- cannot (and will not) be had by picking up any of the slack that smacks of the past. Success must begin in the present and quickly move into the future.
Consider this: The speed at which technology advances is now faster than ever. Yes, there's a large faction of people who hold onto the past (for various reasons, such as financial), but the vast majority of people who hold any influence over the world technology look to the future. This is also true of the mobile computing world -- it's all about the latest and greatest. The "what have you done for me lately" mindset is thick.
With this in mind, Linux needs to embrace the future in ways that no other platform can. But how? By leading the charge of evolution and breaking ground that has yet to be broken. Linux has always been in a very unique position as a platform -- the open source nature means it's not beholden to a corporate entity, nor does it have to follow the same “rules” that tend to shackle Windows and OS X. Linux is free to do and be what it wants. With that wind behind its sails, Linux can re-define how people think about and use their PCs.
Canonical is doing just that with Unity, Xmir, Touch, and more. Although a good percentage of the Linux community is barking up a rather angry tree about the change they're bringing about, it's time they all got over themselves. Linux needs change -- from top to bottom -- and the Linux community needs to let go of the old ideas and ways, because the “I've always done X and X should be the way it is” mindset only hamstrings the platform. Linux needs to be agile, and if it can reclaim its ability to dodge the punches and adapt with lightning-quick reflexes, then there's nothing it can't do in this over-clocked evolutionary society.
Yes, people may grouse about change, but most quickly get over it when they realize that change is for the better. When Linux developers honestly listen and take the suggestions from the community to heart, all those major changes to the desktop can evolve in such a way as to absolutely benefit the end user -- and that is advancement for the people that the masses can stand behind.
However, if Linux continues to hold on to the same dusty war cries it's espoused for years, it won't get anywhere. Sure, Linux can resurrect that old hardware. You can slap Puppy Linux on it, but all you'll get is a lightning-fast computer that can't interact with modern business in a satisfying way. Plus, you'll have an old-school interface and a cumbersome package management system. Don't take this the wrong way, I'm not dogging on Puppy. In fact, I like Puppy Linux... just not as much as I like the idea of Linux pushing the boundaries of modern modality and showing the computing world just what it's capable of.
Linux has more untapped potential than any other platform. It's time we all embrace a “Linux for the future” idealism and slough off the old “stuck in the past” platform. More than any other platform, Linux can boldly go where no OS has gone before and do so faster. Care to join me?
Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and Linux.com. He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website getjackd.net.