Linux.conf.au – Day 1 – Keynote

The Future of the Linux Desktop – Bdale Garbee

General career update, retired from HP
Doing rocket electronics business – Altus Metrum
Involved with Freedom Box

Is 2013 finally the year of the Linux Desktop?

Percentage of people whose main desktop is on a desk is dropping (although desks more common a LCA that possibly elsewhere)

Not everything needs a “desktop” interface (eg fridges, TVs)
Desktop is interface to Universal computer environment

  • Email, web, design, software development, accounting, managing a small business, presentations
  • User is completely in charge

Will Linux ever displace Windows?

  • Some big deployments
  • Cost of change can be high , re-education of users, people know applications instead of concepts
  • OEMS have strong dis-incentives
    • Offering to “reduce their software expense” is a non starter
    • Pre-loaded Windows does not cost OEMs large money, can be net-revenue source
    • Joint marketing opportunities with software vendors

Will Linux ever displace Apple?

  • Wall Gardens can be very beautiful, alluring… captivating
  • Mac OS X
    • Credible technical base
    • Plausible additional target for free software applications
  • iOS
    • Oh please! World most proprietary operating environment
    • Hard to ship free software
    • Hostile to hardware devs

Many desktop devs have been lured to mobile

  • Core technology elements certainly relivant
  • So much effort applied to lot of things that didn’t make it
  • Android consumes open source, uses lot of open source but ecosystems arn’t really open
  • They are not a universal computing enviroments

Is this work on mobile useful to us?

  • Can one UI really span all things? The idea is certainly appealing…
  • Interface capabilities vary widely
    • keyboard centric vs touch centric
    • Screen size

Personal computers with Free Software were meant to empower!

  • Any user *can* become a developer, every dev is a user
  • Expanding the user base by reaching more people is laudable
    • Accessility, multi-lingual, appealing to non-geeks

Feeling abandoned by Linux desktop developers

  • Confusion over target audenience
  • Not eating their own dogfood
  • Huge piles of software that interfaces in complex ways makes it hard for users to become developers
  • Was with bunch of Gnome devs, none of them uses evolution to read email
  • Not scratching our own itches

Tradeoffs associated with encompassing apps, system functions

  • eg Gnome desktop relationship with network manager

XFCE4 as Debian Wheezy’s default

  • Gnome too big to fit on single OS install CD
  • Most distributed have moved to DVD image but Debian wants to stay with credible single CD option

Why can debian easy change desktop without hurting users
What really matters: Applications

  • Desktop doesn’t really matter, it just gets in the way
  • Want to use any application with any desktop
  • Linux gives us the ability to multitask, don’t take it away

What really matters: Efficiency

  • Buy a faster computer should mean applications run faster
  • For most modern computing, battery life is a really big deal
    • Composting is expensive
    • Shiny can be fun, but is all the “bling” really worth the cost?
    • Oh, and because my laptop is my desk, please don’t cook my legs

What really matters: Customizing

  • Users won’t to customise
    • Personalisation is part of taking ownership
    • Investing time is okay as the returned value persists
  • Ability to automate things that are repetitive
    • Scripting is valuable part of Unix heritage
    • Don’t hide access to text interfaces too deeply
  • Coping with the industry infatuation with 1366×768 displays
    • Waste as few pixels as possible on “decorations”
    • Vertical “panel” support

What really Matters: Hackable

  • The real reason I run free software
    • I’ve known since I was a kid I was a “tool maker”
    • Immense gratification from fixing and sharing the fixes
  • I want to be able to undertsand and fix the software I use
    • Gave up trying to get evolution to build
    • Complexity gets in the way of “casual contribution”, killing the long tail effect!
    • Linux kernel has many devs that just submit single patch
  • I want yo be able to share easily with others
    • Any app should work on any desktop
    • Ability to push patches upstream

What does all this mean?

  • Fell good about how Linux is winning in the mobile space!
  • Pick realistic goals.. can’t easily convert OEMs from Windows
  • We should build the kind of systems *we* want to use!
  • Collaborative development model is awesomely powerful
    • Differentiate in interoperable ways!
    • Empower users to be developers so we can get long tail effect