An article by Graham Morrison for Tech Radar UK this past week struck a bit of a raw nerve for me. It was one of a type we see periodically in the tech press and the title pretty much tells the story: The trouble with Linux: there's too much choice. To Mr. Morrison and all the others who have written articles like this one I say: Hogwash!
I pose the following questions to Mr. Morrison and to all the others who share his views. Are you intimidated by the breakfast cereal aisle in his supermarket? After all, there are so many choices. Isn't it confusing? Should we all just eat corn flakes? Would you like to go back to the days when Henry Ford famously said, "Any customer can have a car painted any colour that he wants so long as it is black"? After all, wouldn't buying a car be easier if there were fewer makes, models and colors available? How about clothing? Wouldn't life be simpler if we all had to wear the same uniform?
Mr. Morrison went on:
Recently, the Fedora distribution decided to dump its long-standing photo manager application, F-Spot, in favour of an upstart called Shotwell. Shotwell doesn't have anywhere near the features, stability or stature of its precursor. But it doesn't use Mono either - the .NET-inspired framework that many people love to hate thanks to its third-party association with Microsoft. As a result, thousands of new Fedora users are going to think that the best photo management application on Linux has about as much functionality as Microsoft's image preview.
Fedora didn't drop F-Spot. It is still in the repository. The fact that they chose Shotwell as their default for the iso doesn't mean that F-Spot has been somehow banned or that users will assume it is the best photo application for Linux. Windows users know about having application software choices so why would they think Linux is any different? Mr. Morrison's claim about what thousands of Fedora users will think assumes that they are all dim bulbs. Maybe he should just speak for himself and not project onto a large user community. OTOH, since Fedora has millions of users perhaps a few thousand will be confused.
Fedora wasn't alone in its decision to switch to Shotwell. Ubuntu has done the same. Adam Williamson of Red Hat explained the reasons for the change in his response to Mr. Morrison's article:
...we'd contest your characterization of F-Spot and Shotwell. We switched to Shotwell because we think it's a better project, simple as. We found F-Spot was very slow and buggy when dealing with large collections of images, and Shotwell handled this much better. We also preferred Shotwell's interface.Part of the arrogance inherent in articles like Mr. Morrison's is the assumption that the author knows what is best for the Linux community as a whole and that the author's preference should be the universal choice.
Mr. Morrison says he is confused and after 12 years he still doesn't understand how software is installed in Linux. All major distros have graphical package managers that work essentially the same way and all have a search feature built in. He says "many of us are utterly confused by the choice." Please speak for yourself. I am very comfortable with installing software in Linux and most people I introduce to Linux are as well within days. It doesn't take 12 years! I've always thought the ability to find most anything you need in the repository of a better distribution and the lack of a need to search the web or stores for software is one aspect of Linux that is actually easier and more user friendly than Windows. I suppose having all those choices in one place is what Mr. Morrison finds confusing.
Choice is one of the greatest strengths of Linux. It is not a weakness. The fact that we can choose from a selection of desktop environments, for example, and tailor them to suit our needs rather than the Windows one size fits all approach is something we should be touting, not wishing the choices away. Besides, there is nothing preventing any user from sticking with the default desktop of their chosen distribution. I, for one, am glad I don't have to eat corn flakes for breakfast every morning. As the French say, "Vive le différence!"