I just read a rather muddled blog from CNET.com about the author's thoughts on the "Linux community." He's generally striking a positive note about all the good things about open source alternatives, but sprinkled in are some odd comments that made me wonder what he was really getting at:
Which brings me to another issue — what is up with this community? At times, it can be the best of communities and at others, it's simply the worst. With dozens of distributions to choose from, why would this community stand by as crapware impugns the viability of its better operating system?
He seems to be blaming the Linux community for everything out there not being as good as Mandriva, say, or Ubuntu, and asking why such things are allowed to exist. Huh? Reviewers for Consumer Reports might review 10 toasters and four of them are really crappy — they burn your toast, they emit a funny smell, the slots aren't wide enough for your bread, etc. But the reviewers don't generally advocate throwing all those toasters in a pile and lighting a match or propose legislation to make those manufacturers cease and desist. They don't blame the other six perfectly good toasters for all the bad ones either. They just suggest that you might not want to buy that toaster.
Okay, I'm probably belaboring the point in this case and I don't really think it's the intent of the author of the above-mentioned piece, but it just reminded me of one of my pet peeves, which is the way that a lot of people use this kind of false logic when talking about the relative merits of Microsoft vs. Mac vs. Linux. Read any discussion on the subject and you'll see exactly what I mean. It's as if one really bad software application or one goofy distro somehow makes the whole idea of open source a flawed concept, in spite of the fact that some people live their lives quite fully and happily depending on their own little stable of open source products that they've tried and tested. The other revolutionary thought is that some people are perfectly happy only dealing with proprietary software and its limitations. They've put a price tag on the amount of effort they're willing to expend, and they're prepared to pay it.
It doesn't mean you're a bad Linux geek if you run across an app or new distro that stinks, and you say it really stinks. That kind of commentary is exactly what people need to hear, just like Jack was pointing out about the lack of a flexible POS for Linux. Conversely, just because some open source stuff is buggy, poorly supported, or just plain lame, doesn't mean the answer is to give up and choose only proprietary software (that means you, microsofties). The world of open source is just too big to stick a label on. The "you're either with us or against us" philosophy isn't generally very fruitful in the real world; why is it that we so often abandon our powers of critical thinking when trying to persuade people to our point of view?
That's my rant for the day — feel free to indulge in your own!
Selena has been at TechRepublic since 2002. She is currently a Senior Editor with a background in technical writing, editing, and research. She edits Data Center, Linux and Open Source, Apple in the Enterprise, The Enterprise Cloud, Web Designer, and IT Security blogs.