It seems fair to say that the FOSS community sees its ranks expand just about every day, as new fans of free and open source software join the fold. Just look at the fledgling Linux Advocates site for a shining example.
What’s much less common, however, is to see former advocates of Linux and FOSS change their minds and depart.
Sure enough, though, that’s pretty much what happened last week, when GNOME cofounder Miguel de Icaza announced that he had abandoned desktop Linux in favor of Apple’s Mac platform.
‘My Three Mile Island/Chernobyl’
“I purchased a Mac laptop and, while I fully intended to keep using Linux, the dogfooding driver was no longer there,” de Icaza explained in a blog post last Tuesday.
“To me, the fragmentation of Linux as a platform, the multiple incompatible distros, and the incompatibilities across versions of the same distro were my Three Mile Island/Chernobyl,” he went on.
“Without noticing, I stopped turning on the screen for my Linux machine during 2012,” de Icaza recounted. “By the time I moved to a new apartment in October of 2012, I did not even bother plugging the machine back and to this date, I have yet to turn it on.”
‘Apple Killed the Linux Desktop’
Now, dedicated readers may recall that it was none other than de Icaza who made the infamous “Apple killed the Linux desktop” claim last fall.
De Icaza is also known for his past association with Microsoft via the CodePlex Foundation, of course. Then, too, there’s the fact that Free Software Foundation founder Richard Stallman has called de Icaza a “traitor to the free software community.”
But don’t let any of those pesky details prevent you from mourning the loss of this onetime FOSS champion, dear readers! Unless, of course, you’re among the many who would rather not.
“Miguel de Icaza is gone and I celebrate,” blogger Robert Pogson told Linux Girl.
“The guy apparently did some good work for FLOSS and the world years ago, but lately has been sabotaging GNU/Linux at every opportunity,” Pogson explained. “Good riddance.
“The Free Software movement is the world cooperatively making software for its own purposes,” he added. “Icaza is free to choose Apple’s walled garden instead, but he should not expect us to miss him or toss Care packages over the wall.”
‘We’re All Probably Better Off’
Similarly, “meh” was how Linux Rants blogger Mike Stone summed up his own reaction.
“As de Icaza said in his blog post, he’s been recommending people get Macs for years,” Stone explained. “The fact that he eventually decided to move to one full time is about as surprising as the sun rising in the East and setting in the West.”
In fact, de Icaza’s projects have also hinted at this end, Stone pointed out.
“Seriously, Mono? He’s been trying to make Linux into either Apple or Microsoft for years,” Stone said. “We’re all probably better off if he just uses the platforms he’s been trying to emulate and leave Linux to the people who don’t want to use those platforms.”
‘He Was a Large Part of the Problem’
Indeed, “What Miguel doesn’t seem to get is that he was a very large part of the problem with desktop libraries that just kept changing,” consultant and Slashdot blogger Gerhard Mack opined.
“Sure the video drivers had growing pains, and I’m still not sure what the deal with pulse audio was (at least it has been stable for over a year now), but the vast majority of the problems I’ve had were related to GNOME libraries and a desktop that wanted to be more than it needed to be,” Mack said.
De Icaza’s problem “is that he’s addicted to ‘new’ and ‘flashy,’ and pays no attention whatsoever to words like ‘productivity’ or ‘compatibility,'” Mack asserted. “He completely forgot that the OS job is to let you do other things.”
Mack now uses Xfce instead, and “the vast majority of my Linux annoyances have gone away,” he told Linux Girl. “My desktop environment helps me load apps and then just stays out of the way.”
In short, “I don’t think Miguel ever understood Linux, and I think both sides would be better off if he went his own way and never mentioned Linux again,” Mack concluded.
‘I Had No Respect for Him’
Google+ blogger Kevin O’Brien saw it similarly.
“De Icaza is not exactly a supporter of freedom, and has shown over the years that he really doesn’t care about the Linux community or our goals,” O’Brien suggested.
“As a result, I found I had no respect for him some years back, and nothing since has changed my mind,” he added.
“Once I saw a lecture from Mr. de Icaza in one of the technical meetings from Microsoft,” Google+ blogger Alessandro Ebersol offered. “And in the lecture, he stated: ‘For the persons who have a family to support, just working for Free Software is not enough. We need sales and to make money to guarantee that we’ll not be in financial problems and will keep the work.'”
De Icaza was “spreading FUD about the Free Software business model, that is,” Ebersol asserted. “Miguel was in Free Software, but thinking with a proprietary software mind. I hope for him the best and that he finds his way where he judges best.”
‘That Education Carries Dividends’
Slashdot blogger yagu also uses a Mac, but he saw no reason for worry or fuss, he told Linux Girl.
“That doesn’t mean I’ve given up or lost interest in Linux,” yagu explained. “I just don’t have the time any more. Applying patches, downloading dependencies, even re-compiling kernels — those take time and I don’t have that. But I do still have Linux servers that are stable and useful.”
It’s similar to the world of cars, yagu pointed out.
“I used to do all of my car maintenance and tinkered to tweak and tune my cars,” he explained. “I did my time. I LEARNED! And that education carries dividends — it’s good to have deep understanding of things: cars, computers, watches, treadmills — whatever.
“Now I mostly want to hop into the car and know that turning the key brings predictable results (yes, it should start!),” yagu added. “I like climate control — no twiddling and messing with dials to optimize the temp in my car.”
Besides, “there are still many who are working nuts and bolts,” yagu concluded. “Eventually they’ll move on — it’s part of the ecosystem. But Linux will continue to have contributors. It’s one of the few remaining things out there one actually *can* do hands-on.”
‘I Guess That Makes Me a Heretic’
Slashdot blogger hairyfeet took exception to what he called “the religious overtones” used by those who disagreed with de Icaza.
“Traitor, really? Why not call him a witch while you are at it? And why would you care, if you are comfortable with where Linux is now?” hairyfeet asked.
“Methinks they doth protest too much; somebody saying the emperor is starkers hits a little too close to home,” he suggested.
Hairyfeet has also “completely given up on Linux for home use,” he told Linux Girl. “It’s great for servers, but since I no longer work corporate there is just no point in beating my head against the wall.”
So, “I really don’t blame Mr. de Icaza for wanting something hassle-free when he comes home from a hard day of work,” hairyfeet concluded. “I guess that makes me a heretic for daring not to pay penance to the great GNU.”
‘Let’s Keep Moving’
Last but not least, “people are free to come and go,” Google+ blogger Gonzalo Velasco C. pointed out. “I should thank him, as a GNU/Linux and GNOME user, for everything.”
At the same time, however, it’s not really fair to compare the self-contained Apple ecosystem, which includes both hardware and software, while “GNU/Linux is made for ‘any hardware,'” he noted. “Rough edges are expected, and every day this is getting smoother, I think.”
Also, if de Icaza “had focused his work, let’s say, in the .rpm or the .deb family, and thought of it as a subsystem, he could be happy building things that worked in a whole particular distributions family!” Gonzalo Velasco C. added.
In any case, “the bottom line is: farewell, Miguel. Godspeed,” he concluded. “GNU/Linux guys, let’s keep moving. We have plenty of devoted programmers and we are looking good, better than ever.”