Thursday, July 26, 2007

We Suck Less Than Our Competition!

My head is a cloud from the latest plague that I caught, so I'll make this disjointed and brief.

Everyone (myself included) has been caught up in the Linux for the desktop craze. I do use Linux as my primary desktop 95% of the day, and the other 5% is either a) scanning b) iTunes or c) gaming.

However there are several things that I have grown... calloused... towards. Audio can be wonky at times, with either devices being exclusively reserved. Things will become completely unresponsive during high I/O loads. Still, it's a developer's panacea... things work sensically, have an easy interface and are interoperable.

Still, I can understand why Con Kolivas was frustrated. He did his best to fix up CPU scheduling, make things more desktop-friendly, and in the end his kernel patches were nibbled on and digested into someone else's mainline patch. I can see both sides of the story at times... but I think advocates like Kolivas are desperately needed in the Linux desktop world. Especially when it comes to speed. His argument that our gajillion-gigawatt processors should be cutting through our daily chores like cake... but instead we're dealing with the same lag time as the "desktop search engine" indexes every freakin' file on our 1 TB hard drive.

A familiar notion nowadays is that of the early zygote of a hacker... addicted to the Amiga 500 or Commodore64. Kolivas brings an interesting perspective on why: hardware no longer sells. We're dealing with the same scraps as we had before, just with increasing amperage. Hardware is sold because of the OS, where the hardware was pushing the OS in the late 80's. And so it has been ever since.

Or maybe not. Take a look at the XO Laptop from the One Laptop Per Child project. Do you care what operating system it runs? Nope, the hardware is the thing that drives the device. The OS reflects the hardware's abilities and limitations, but in this instance "operating system" is an abstract notion. You don't care that it's running Linux, or Windows, or OS X... just that it's linking together a mesh network of 50 kids over 20 square miles.

Notice it has a "view source" key? Kids can evidently take a look at the current running program's source code on-the-fly, in hopes that they'll want to peek under the hood and maybe hack a little.

Sounds like OLPC is spawning a new generation of Amiga 500 hackers, doesn't it? Both stood to be inspired by "cheap, cheerful, unique" computers that spawned their interest as kids. Here's to hoping that we're encouraging another generation of Kolivas'.

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