"Linux Gazette...making Linux just a little more fun!"

The Linux User

By Bryan Patrick Coleman

Who uses Linux? This question has changed as Linux evolves. Originally none but the ultra hacker or the core developers of the OS were the ones to use it. As different functionality got added, more and more less technically oriented people began to use Linux.

Now the question is how far will Linux go toward being an OS for the end user. The response that is the healthiest for continued growth would be as far as one can go. What you say would you turn Linux into a next generation Windows. No, but there is more to it than that. nifty To effectively become an end user product and keep the hackable quality of Linux should be the new focus. That means when developing open source software you are developing for everyone from the ultimate power user / hacker to the less than average user that may have never used a computer before. Yes some people have never used computers before still in this day and age.

What does this mean for development? First and foremost make everything you possible can configurable. Not just different makes for different needs but truly extendable interfaces using guile or python for example. But also there need to be defaults. So after your application is installed a user can simply start your program and it look polished. As long as your source code is available the hard core hacker is happy. But for hacker wouldi-be's it is very important that source code is internally documented.

But wait we can go a step beyond simply creating fully configurable applications that are extendable and come with default settings. How about "smart" applications. Maybe you have installed application A on your system and application B comes along from the same people that brought you A. Wow you would love to have it so you install it and low and behold all of the little tweaks that you have made to A are already configured for application B. Since A and B are smart applications they have communicated and B now knows what you like. Of course not everyone likes there applications deciding what they like so all smart applications should be lobotomyzable.

Now for the real fire. How about all this plus the application is ready for immediately distributed computing, not only distributed but PVM aware so if you connect to a Beowulf cluster your application is ready to do some super computing. Groups can be formed across the web i.e. ready made intranet. Security is of course built in so you company or organization can just set up there own key and away they go.

Why stop at just X or the console or even Linux. I your application is completely system aware no matter where you are or what computer your using a person just has to start up there application and it does the rest going so far as trying to figure out which way you like your application and if your going to be doing distributed work.

In short the new wave of computing will be all things for all people. This new approach needs a new name I think. I prefer liquid or fluid UI or interfacing framework. Some might think of Java. Java however is slow, slow and in the end it is only one library. What I have in mind would be more of a set of wrapper classes one for each library used. And one wrapper that would handle all of the calls to the widget sets and do all of the AI work. This double wrapper approach would cut a lot of the time and effort of emulating multiple classes.

Copyright © 1999, Bryan Patrick Coleman
Published in Issue 36 of Linux Gazette, January 1999