Disruptive Technologies that Affect Desktop Linux

A number of applications, both emerging and established, are playing a role in the development of the open source desktop.
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Perhaps what has given desktop Linux its biggest shot in the arm is the evolution of various disruptive technologies that have, by design, made desktop Linux adoption just that much easier.

The following are some of the most disruptive examples of disruptive technology on the Linux platform – including current technologies and those whose adoption is coming just around the corner:

WINE - Using Windows applications without needing to fall into the Windows licensing trap. Thanks to WINE, end users on the Linux platform are able to run a number of Windows applications without needing to utilize any sort of Windows emulators of any kind.

How is it disruptive? WINE's very mission of allowing users to run software on their terms, regardless of the license that the software happens to use is particularly disruptive. Closed source, open source, whatever – it just works. What makes WINE such a killer app is allowing Linux users to use their existing Windows software without needing to purchase a copy of Windows to be run inside some sort of virtual machine.

There’s no question that this disruptive technology has been a boon to desktop Linux adoption.

NDISWrapper - I appreciate and admire the hard work in the NDISWrapper project's attempt to support made-for-Windows wireless adapters. Unfortunately, NDISWrapper is also lending support to the enemy – by supporting made-for-Windows wireless devices. These wireless devices are produced by vendors who have worked very hard at being as uncooperative with the Linux community as possible.

Using ever-changing chipset revision numbers for the same device models, refusing to release any code to the community for Linux development, I am astonished by anyone foolish enough to further enable this kind of behavior.

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How is it disruptive? NDISWrapper as a project, provides a means of making incompatible wireless cards compatible with Linux, albeit with mixed results. I have used the NDISWrapper utility both successfully and unsuccessfully in the past. It has allowed a fair percentage of desktop Linux users to use their existing wireless hardware in lieu of supporting the few wireless vendors that actually provide made-for-Linux wireless cards. I do not support NDISWrapper in any way, even considering the honorable intentions of its developers.

Virtual Machines – VMWare, Parallels, etc. Today's OS emulation tools have truly picked up on instances where access to another OS is a must. For Both OS X and Linux users, being able to emulate a Windows desktop from within the host OS environment is of huge benefit to the end user.

Speaking for myself, having access to the Windows desktop without needing to create a separate partition for it in a literal sense on my existing hard drive means I’m not jeopardizing an existing boot record should something go wrong during my partitioning or installation of the second OS.

How is it disruptive? Having the ability to run an operating system from within another one is quite powerful. When executed right, it allows the end user to break free of any platform restriction issues they may have faced previously.

Unlike WINE listed above, using a guest OS means there are almost no restrictions set forth due to compatibility with the software being used. While some applications, such as those requiring DirectX, might not work well in a emulation environment, generally speaking this is not the case when using software run with a virtual machine.

Fluendo restricted codecs - Up until recently, most users were really left to their own devices when it came to finding and installing what is referred to as "restricted codecs" on the desktop Linux platform. Here in the U.S., certain codecs, such as various Windows Media codecs, MP3, and other formats created a lot of problems from a distribution angle, since it’s widely perceived that a fee must be paid ahead of time.

Thanks to Fluendo's Web store, desktop Linux users have a choice if using restricted codecs is something they wish to pay for.

How is this disruptive? By providing users a choice of purchasing a license to use these restricted codecs in a way that’s safe for U.S. distribution, everyone wins. The disruption begins when users find they have a means of using restricted codecs that are Linux-compatible and don’t present any licensing/legal concerns.

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Tags: open source, Linux, desktop linux, VMware, moonlight

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