Every year, near this day (July 4), I do a blog post on the independence Linux has brought me and the community at large. But this time around, I want to take a bit of a different approach. This approach was inspired by an outpouring, of late, by other media types, about how Ubuntu is slipping in the ranks at Distrowatch. Their assumptions are all centered around Unity and how Canonical has doomed the perennial user-friendly distribution in one fell swoop. Although not really related to this column today, I have also been watching the rank and file at Distrowatch, and Ubuntu still remains at the top. Possible premature speculation? Maybe — but, on a side note, I will say that the over all opinion about Unity is still very strongly against this desktop remaining as the default Ubuntu desktop. We’ll see if Ubuntu can’t gain some independence from that awkward, buggy desktop.

What I want to bring up today is how the Linux operating system, and the community around it, is now enjoying an independence from its past. Thinking about the outpouring of speculation about Ubuntu’s ranking on Distrowatch, I wondered about the true relevancy of sites like it. Does a site that ranks the popularity (in downloads only)  of a distribution really have any bearing on how much Linux is used today? To that I would answer, “Not in the slightest”.

Why would I answer so strongly? Simple. Distrowatch was created well before the enterprise Linux distribution was created, during a time when CD burners were not nearly as common as they are now, and at a time when it really was important to be able to show how many people had downloaded a particular distribution; strength in numbers was tantamount to the success of Linux. World domination was the war cry and anyone using Linux was seen as nothing more than a heady fan-boy, doomed to live in their parents basement and never have a significant other.

Those days are all gone. The strengths of Linux now speak for themselves and do not depend upon a website to bean-count the amount of times each distribution has been downloaded, just as Linux has finally gained independence from that reputation of being a distribution for fan-boys and geeks alone. Linux is now widely accepted as both a home and business-ready distribution that can do anything other operating systems can do and (in some cases, much more).

What else does Linux enjoy an independence from? What about:

  • Having to defend my choice of using Linux as my only operating system.
  • Klunky configuration tools.
  • Lack of hardware support.
  • Enterprise support.
  • Second-rate office tools.
  • Inferior desktops.
  • Challenging installations.

This list could go on and on. But ultimately, what this shows is that Linux has escaped a past plagued by more grandstanding than anything else. Linux has proved itself worthy of everything the open source community professed it could and would do.

Independence day means so much to so many. And I understand that the true meaning of the holiday means far more than what an operating system could stand for.  But for some — such as small businesses that couldn’t continue on if it weren’t for the cost savings of Linux — Linux does offer a similar independence and freedom. To the regular user, Linux brings an independence from:

  • High cost of software and support.
  • Viruses and other malicious software.
  • Lack of productivity.
  • Corporate tyranny.

I would like to think that Linux has brought to every reader of my column some form of independence. I would love for each and every one of you to share your story of independence brought about by Linux. Share those stories in the comments here.

And to all of my readers, especially those that have been on this hayride for the many years I’ve been writing, I would like to extend a heart-felt thank you and a wish for a happy, healthy L’Independence day!