Linux Lunatics Are Annoying, but So Is Misinformation About Linux

Don Tennant

I have no patience for zealots of any kind, but over the years I've found Linux zealots to be especially annoying. They just get way too emotional over the Linux vs. Windows battle, occasionally approaching lunacy in their hysterical defense of what is, no matter how you slice it, just another piece of software. That said, to the extent that zealotry is borne of frustration with mainstream injustice, I'm beginning to understand why they can get so carried away.


This is coming to you from the Midmarket CIO forum in Orlando, where I was reminiscing over dinner last night with fellow IT Business Edge blogger Rob Enderle about our run-ins with the Linux fringe. It seems we've both written plenty over the years that has sent the Loonux crowd over the edge.


I recounted the time I was labeled a "Bill Gates love slave" after I wrote a tongue-in-cheek column in which I made fun of the stupid penguin. And then there was my interview with Jack Messman, who was the CEO of Novell back in 2003 when Novell announced its big NetWare-to-Linux migration plan. In what was probably the biggest faux pas I've ever heard uttered by any CEO, Messman made this statement:

Linux is an immature operating system right now. It hasn't had somebody like Novell worrying about making it robust, reliable and scalable for very much time. We think we can bring that to the Linux kernel. So in the short term, the advantage to CIOs is with NetWare, they have a more mature and robust operating system. Over time, that gap will diminish.

As you might imagine, the Linux crazies went even crazier. Messman was bombarded with so much threatening hate mail that he was compelled to write a letter of apology that was published on Linux Weekly News.


Now, while I still find them a little annoying, I have to say I'm beginning to feel some compassion for these people. There's a lot of misinformation and disinformation about Linux that's fed through the media, and I can appreciate that there's a frustration factor at play here.


Last month, for example, IDC released the results of its Worldwide Quarterly Survey Tracker for the fourth quarter of 2009. Among the findings:


  • Microsoft Windows server demand was positively impacted by the accelerating x86 server market as hardware revenue increased 13.7 percent and unit shipments increased 5.5 percent year over year. Quarterly revenue of $5.4 billion for Windows servers represented 41.6 percent of overall quarterly factory revenue. This is the highest Windows server hardware revenue in two years.


  • Linux server demand also improved in 4Q09 with revenue growing 6.1percent to $1.9 billion when compared with the fourth quarter of 2008. Linux servers now represent 14.7 percent of all server revenue, up 1.4 points over 4Q08.


Obviously, those findings don't mean much in terms of dominance of one operating system over the other, because we all know that there's a huge number of servers that aren't purchased as Linux servers but that end up running Linux. IDC isn't doing a satisfactory job of clarifying that point, and the media isn't doing a satisfactory job of reporting it.


Preston Gralla of Computerworld, for example, referred to the IDC report as "a report about worldwide server use" in a blog post titled, "IDC: Windows dominates Linux in servers, not just the desktop." A reader who commented on the post made the crucial clarification (thankfully, without flying off the handle):

IDC did not issue "a report about worldwide server use." They issued a report on worldwide server SALES. There is a big difference. I bought my Dell laptop with Windows (forced to pay for something I wasn't going to use) and had to format it to install Linux. This is an example of how Microsoft made a SALE but it is not in USE. What IDC's report doesn't include is the servers sold without operating systems already installed as well as the servers that are purchased with Windows, then formatted and then installed with Linux.

So I suppose the Linux zealots can be forgiven for the occasional outburst. I'd be happy if they contributed rational, unemotional commentary instead of crazed rants in direct proportion to the number of servers that they think really run Linux instead of Windows.

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Mar 23, 2010 11:33 AM Joel WItherspoon Joel WItherspoon  says:

"I'd be happy if they contributed rational, unemotional commentary instead of crazed rants in direct proportion to the number of servers that they think really run Linux instead of Windows."

Me too. I'm a huge fan of Linux; it has saved me time and dollars at the edge of my systems. It works solidly where it's placed. I have no complaints.

With the CIOs I've spoken to, the lunacy and outright unprofessionalism of the fanboys make Linux a "five-letter word" in IT departments. CIOs do not want a social malcontent running around the IT department. Yet that is the face of Linux popularized by the Media: Poor grooming habits, poor discipline, poor dietary habits and poor social strictures. It's a peculiar issue that the social graces of a particular group can drive IT toward or against adoption of a technology.

However, there are moderate, rational Linux users and developers that drive the platform forward. The people at RedHat and CentOS are some of the most even keeled I've seen (Google CentOS and Tuttle, Oklahoma for an example) and they are the reason Linux is moving forward. The fanboys are just a clown act.

Mar 23, 2010 11:59 AM Nick67 Nick67  says:

I don't know about other server vendors, because I deal only with Dell, but you can order a server with no OS, SUSE Linux or a Windows flavor.  I seriously doubt anyone is ponying up the $900 for Server 2008 R2 with 5 CAL's and then formatting the box.  There was a day when an x86 server can with a Windows OS whether you liked it or not.  That day is gone, I think.  For Dell at least, Windows Server OS SALES = USE.  Whether HP and Lenovo/IBM are the same, I don't know.


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