Perceptions of the Linux OS Among Undergraduate System Administrators
There's not much to say by way of commentary here, as these statements speak for themselves.
Clanger #1: “Linux will never threaten Windows on the desktop because it is command line driven and doesn't even have a GUI”. What can I say?
Clanger #2: “Linux has poor device-driver support and doesn't even support USB”. Not so, officially, as of the 2.4 kernel (regarding USB). And driver support with Linux gets better every single day.
Clanger #3: “Linux lacks good software development tools, unlike Windows which has plenty.” It's hard to comment on this without imagining the good folk at the Free Software Foundation blowing their collective tops at the very idea that someone could think (let alone say or print) such a thing. Also, despite the fact that Visual C++ is the “industry leader” when it comes to C++ development on PCs, my experience with final year software engineering undergraduates indicates that Visual C++ is a dog of an environment to work with.
And the final clanger was that many of my students thought Linux was a company!
Now, I'm the first to admit that my informal survey of these 31 students may be flawed (from a statistical sampling point-of-view). However, I'd bet that the views and opinions expressed by my students are typical and representative. My original goal in setting the assignment was realized: my students now have a better understanding and appreciation of what Linux is.
Of course, I was shocked by some of the views of my students. However, on reflection, I'm not surprised that some of the views were voiced. Microsoft can afford to throw a lot of money into its “Linux Myth Campaign”. And, as everyone knows, if you throw enough of something, some of it is bound to stick. Education is a, if not the, key defense mechanism.
And, what about my own view? I feel that although Linux may never threaten Windows as a desktop OS, increasingly it is becoming a viable alternative.
Paul Barry lectures at the Institute of Technology, Carlow in Ireland. He is the author of Programming the Network with Perl, to be published by John Wiley and Sons in early 2002. He thanks the 2001/2002 students of CW084-4 for inadvertently providing the raw material for this article.
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