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:
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.