This is it. It’s now. Like it or not, you can quiver in your boots and moan about this driver or that hardware or the other usability feature, but I have two, solid irrefutable signs of the apocalypse. And both together are undeniable proof that the apocalypse is now showing on the big screen, all around you, in Technicolor.
Proof number one: This site. Oh joy, you say. Wow. Some sort of VIA download site. Amazing. No, friends, that’s not “just” a download site. It’s a crack in the dam. It’s a leak in the impenetrable wall of denial. That, my fellow Ubuntunuts, is the first baby step by the VIA corporation to make good on a promise to open-source their drivers — starting with one, teeny little driver for one teeny little graphics card. Small, but significant: Even an avalanche has to start with a sneeze.
Of course, they’re not doing it out of the goodness of their corporate hearts. No, of course not. Like all good corporations, they’re bowing to pressure from their customers — the resellers. Dell, et al., told them point blank last month, in no uncertain terms, that they want hardware that plays nice with Linux. No more pretend compatibility. No more whining about niche user markets. Show us the code. And so, VIA says it will.
And of course, the resellers aren’t doing that out of the goodness of their corporate hearts either. They saw the tidal wave that accompanied the eeePCs, the OLPC XO-1s, the gOS Walmart computers and realized there was a market for those things. Corporations are unseeing, unfeeling creatures, but they can smell money in the wind like a shark smells blood in the water — and if the prevailing current says Linux-based PCs at affordable prices, their lifeless eyes (black eyes — like a doll’s eyes ) start seeing dollar signs.
So the wind has finally shifted. The customers want cheap and easy Linux machines. The resellers want machines that can satisfy the demand. And the hardware manufacturers are acquiescing. The dominoes begin to fall.
And proof number two, you ask? Very simple: Mom’s picking out a new laptop from Dell, and it’s going to run Linux only. She wants an Ubuntu machine, start to finish — no Windows, at all, ever. It’s a pure and pristine box never sullied by demonic end-user licensing agreements, DRM or preprogrammed obsolescence. This is a machine that will continue to run until it’s little silicon heart finally stops beating, and in its dying breath it will never have known a single line of Redmond code.
It’s not her first Ubuntu experience — she’s been using Ubuntu since Dapper, on two different machines, as dual boots or sometimes as dedicated systems. She knows how the Gnome interface works. She can install a program or two, or print a letter or connect to a public wireless connection.
But when mom — who doesn’t know anything about computers, who can’t install Linux or Windows or anything else, who just wants easy Internet access and a decent photo management application, who likes downloading music from Jamendo and chatting in Google chat, who might want to rip a CD she got in a thrift shop or play mahjongg — looks at all the choices on the Dell home page and says she wants the one that runs Ubuntu only, there can be only one conclusion.
It’s the year of the Linux desktop.