My Blue Status Quo

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My Blue Status Quo

Dear Ubuntu User Reader,

If you're new to Ubuntu User , welcome (if not, welcome back, y'all). And, if you're new to Ubuntu and the Linux scene in general, you are doubly welcome. Maybe you're here because of all the XP hoo-ha and have decided to give this Open Source/Free Software stuff a go and see what the fuss is about.

First, a warning: You're going to be confused. Linux does things differently from Windows. Not radically different, mind. An operating system is an operating system, and they all have files, directories, and applications that do more or less the same things. But, Linux is different enough to be unsettling and make you feel that you're productivity is being undermined. You might think, why can't Linux be more like Windows, because the Windows way is the tried, tested, and trusted way of doing things, right? Well, no. *NIX type operating systems existed much before Windows, so it is Microsoft that decided to diverge from the norm. But, before you give up, consider this: People like things they're used to. So do you. It's not that Linux makes things difficult, it is that you're not used to how Linux does things. Stick with it, you'll figure it out. And, you'll like it when you do.

Second, kind of related to the first: You're going to wonder why you can't run your Windows stuff on Linux (okay, maybe you can, but it is not all that straightforward, and I would advise against it). The answer is: You're not meant to. Linux has plenty of perfectly adequate applications that can stand in for whatever you used under Windows and then some.

Despite the above, you may think that not being able to run Microsoft products is a hurdle, a major stumbling block in the way of a larger Linux adoption. If Linux were "Windows-compliant," so to speak, it would make usage easier for all those Windows refugees, and there can't be anything wrong with that, can there? But, what if I told you getting more users to use Linux is not ultimately the aim of the game? At least not at any price. But, you may argue, more users will put more pressure on manufacturers to build more and better software for Linux, like drivers for video cards and printers and such. Which would make life easier for users, which in turn would attract more adopters, right?

Unfortunately, as Android (a massively used Linux) has taught us, having more users does not subvert the status quo, and the status quo is in desperate need of being subverted.

This needs some explaining.

I'm not going to disparage Microsoft today. I have disparaged them elsewhere far too much. Let's talk about Adobe instead. Adobe is best known for being the developers of Photoshop, one of the programs most required by new Linux users. If that's all you know about Adobe, allow me to fill you in. You may be aware that Adobe produces Flash. Flash (old-timers will remember this) was originally invented by a company called Macromedia. Flash was acquired by Adobe when they absorbed Macromedia in 2005. Before that, Adobe had weakened Macromedia with several spurious lawsuits. One of them was because Macromedia had dared to use a tabbed interface in Fireworks, an application for creating web-oriented graphics. Adobe's aim was to push Macromedia to bankruptcy because of FreeHand, a competitor of Adobe's Illustrator. When rumors of a takeover on behalf of Microsoft started circulating, Adobe didn't waste any time swooping in and buying Macromedia and immediately killing Freehand.

They also more or less killed Quark (although Quark is still around, it is a shadow of its former self) by bundling their own layout application, InDesign, with the rest of their software, creating to all practical effects a designer's operating system within an operating system. For the record, Quark Xpress was, up until Adobe used dumping tactics to corner the market, the gold standard for layout. Never heard of it? See how well Adobe's strategy worked?

Whether or not you agree with my appreciation that these sort of tactics are bad for consumers, the empirical truth is that Adobe has used them to exterminate all competition – something that opens users to all sorts of abuse because now there's only one provider you can go to for enterprise-grade design applications. Or, so they would have you believe. These types of practices are commonplace within the proprietary software industry and, therefore, going from Windows to Linux and ending up using the same closed software achieves nothing – in no way are users empowered, nor are dirty, uncompetitive policies that lead to de facto monopolies curtailed.

You may counter with the adage that competition is a good thing, that maybe Free Software app developers should try competing and quit whining. Yes, competition is great, but only on a level playing field. Small teams of voluntary developers can't leverage patent lawyers or lobby governments.

Adobe has proven that they can and will. What would happen if Adobe set its sights on Linux? They'd use their market share might to stomp all over free design programs, that's what. Linux has GIMP, Krita, Inkscape, Blender, Scribus, and a few other excellent design programs. These applications more than make up for the lack of support of Adobe products on Linux. If Adobe decided they were a threat, without user support, they'd be doomed.

So, again, if you're new, enjoy your stay, but before you air your views on what you consider is best for Linux, give Free Software applications a chance, and then we'll talk.

Disagree? Do you think Linux should be able to run more proprietary Software? Send me your views and reasoning on the matter to

Paul C. Brown,

Editor in Chief

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