This morning I came across an interesting post by Dwight Silverman (TechBlog). Here Dwight is thoughts related to the trouble he encountered trying to get VMware Tools to run on Ubuntu loaded into a Fusion virtual machine on a Mac.
Here's the background:
In Windows, this process is automatic -- an installer drops VMware Tools into place, you reboot the virtual machine, and you're done. It also works that way in some versions of Linux.
But not in Ubuntu. Despite the fact that this is a very popular Linux distribution, the Tools installer won't run. You must open a terminal window and, using a command line, unpack the Tools package, find the install script, invoke it via another text command, then hit Enter through more than a dozen prompts. This ends in a recompiling of the Linux kernel and, finally, a reboot.
But the interesting stuff comes later when Dwight posts a twitter exchange between himself and Jim Thompson, an occasional guest blogger on TechBlog:
dsilverman @jimthompson - in 2007, you should NEVER have to drop to a terminal to install drivers. about 19 hours ago from twitterrific in reply to jimthompson
jimthompson @dsilverman: That's exactly what I said! I don't want it to be ready from Grandma. I've seen glimmers of that kind of linux and me no like. about 18 hours ago from web in reply to dsilverman
The part that I find interesting is the "Grandma's linux is called Mac OS X" bit. Not because it's likely to be controversial but because I've come to the same conclusion over the past few months too.
I have the belief that there's no such thing as a one-size-fits-all OS. For the most part Windows continues to dominate, although it's hard to say how much of that is due to the fact that it fits most of the people most of the time and how much of it is down to people assuming that Windows is something that comes with a PC. I also worry that Windows is becoming too Mac-like and that will mean that power-users could be alienated and turn elsewhere. Over the past 12 months Mac OS has seen a significant upturn in users while we're now seeing Linux distros shipped on OEM PCs. A real choice now exists, and that's a good thing. But there's a deeper issue here, and these are marketing and the communities behind the operating systems.
When you consider Mac and Windows, the incentive for Microsoft and Apple to get as many platforms running their respective operating systems is clear enough - The Mighty Dollar. But for Linux platforms the incentive to push the platform isn't as clear cut. While distros such as Ubuntu try to make the Linux experience as easy and as pain-free as possible, this view isn't shared across the whole community. Many believe that in order to make Linux ready for prime time distros will have to become more like Windows and Mac OS, and that is seen as a bad thing. I agree, it would be a bad thing; fortunately there is a distro to suit all tastes. Linux could well be the one-size-fits-all OS, with different distros serving different needs.
But what about Jim's feeling that "Grandma's linux is called Mac OS X?" You know, I think he has a point. For too long Linux has been branded as very little more than an alternative to Windows and a way to get out from under the thumb of the man. That might be the case, but it's hardly a selling point. Also, as Mac hardware has become cheaper and is now enjoying greater popularity, a more mainstream alternative to Windows is now available. When I ask people why they bought their first Mac, invariably the main reason stated is ease of use. This tells me that it's now power users or those who like delving deep into an OS who are buying into the Mac ecosystem, it's the basic users with more disposable cash who are making the switch. Mac OS is Grandma's Linux, as long as Grandma has that kind of money to spend. In a way Apple has stolen the Linux battle cries ("It's simple to use," "It's not made by Microsoft" and "It's more secure than Windows") and thrown millions of dollars in ad money to get the message out there than the only real alternative to Windows is Mac. The main barrier to Linux becoming mainstream is no longer Microsoft, it's Apple.