Saturday, May 26, 2007

Does Open Source move fast enough ?

I ve decided to keep away from very controversial issues so this time i am going to ask another question that has been in my mind for a long time.Does FOSS software move fast enough ?

This is obviously a very ambiguous question so let me clarify.When i say move i mean evolve , progress , adapt to new needs and new technologies.And when i am saying fast enough i mean compared to its greatest opponents , namely ms windows and apple osx and their respective available software.

For a long time i ve been reading in articles and listening to podcasts that open source is moving much faster than closed source and that soon (or perhaps already) it will be open source thats doing the innovation and closed source that will be doing the catching up (talking about desktop computing of course).

Even though there is alot of truth to that (since the time i tried linux for the fisrt time , almost 10 years ago until now theres has been a huge progress and its silly denying that) , i believe this views are exaggerated.Sure configuring hadware , installing codecs and drivers for ntfs , connecting to wireless netowrs and all that have become much easier , but is that all ?Take beryl/compiz for instance.Many people are claiming that the linux 3d desktop is superior to that of vista or osx and takes up fewer resources as well.Even though it definetly uses fewer resources and it can definetly look very fancy i cant agree with that view.Why ? heres why:

Beryl can be extremely problematic

Heres a list of most (but not all) the the problems that i am facing with beryl under feisty:

  1. I cant view videos while beryl is running !
  2. I cant run 3d applications (eg games) while beryl is running
  3. I cant run some 2d applications while beryl is running !! (amaya,mathematica)
  4. Sometimes when i rotate the cube all my windows dissapear completely

Needless to say i am not using beryl very often...If having a 3d desktop under linux can cause all or some of these problems can we honestly say that the linux 3d desktop is better than vista or osx ? I dont think we can.The real problem though to me isnt beryl.The problem is that beryl (compiz to be exact , which causes similar problems) has been around for almost 1.5 years and its offering effects very similar to osx which has been doing that for along time.Is that progress ? I guess it is since at the beggining it was even worse but is it satisfying ?Not to me.By the time beryl is stable enough to be included by default its gonna be old news and the competition may have come up with something better.Shuttleworth said that maybe it will be included by default on gutsy but what if it doesnt ? Then it will take one whole year for Gutsy+1.By then leopard and vista sp1 will already be old.

Again , beryl is an example.Another one i think is indexing.Beagle has been giving me a very hard time and doesnt integrate with the desktop as well as google desktop does for xp.It has been decided that it wont be included by default in F7 (because its too buggy) which is a feature regression!The same goes for distros.What new feature did feisty include that i would find usefull ?Sure it added several features that help new users but there are seasoned users too who have needs as well.

I dont want to sound negative so thats why i want to close with a positive comment.KDE 4 is at the moment my best hope that open source can innovate and produce a piece of software that can add the wow factor to linux.If KDE 4 is close to what the developers are claiming (and i dont see why it wont be) then i am definetly switching and hopefully many windows users are too.KDE 4 to me sounds like the promise of open source progress and innovation coming true.It seems to me that KDE 4 is the only product that contains true innovation and features that can be usefull to all users (not just newbies).Judging by what i know so far its the only thing in the linux world that has the potential of winning people over to the linux side(even though i am wondering how win and osx versions of kde4 will affect that).So , i am looking forward to it !

Do you think that open source is moving fast enough ?