While there’s essentially a brain trust that guides the development of KDE in an overall way there are several smaller groups hard at work on minor issues. For instance, there’s a team dedicated entirely to making KDE work for people with handicaps of all kinds. They’re no doubt working for a tiny number of people but they’re so dedicated to it that they don’t care. They just want to make their software platform of choice as great as possible.
There’s an art team that works on making the graphical interface better and more appealing. They work on the websites too. There’s a team that keeps track of and attempts to squash any of the bugs in the software. There’s a team that works only on writing documentation for the software. KDE is a testament to what people can do when they share a common goal and have no ego about credit or no drive to get paid. They just want to make it good.
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An organization dedicated to the development of free software isn’t exactly a big money maker and it would be impossible for anyone to take the lead on it and have enough time to work a money making job too. That’s why KDE is run by a sizable group of individuals that have made significant contributions over the years. All discussions take place over a mailing list and it’s through those discussions that decisions are made about the direction of KDE.
Amazingly, they don’t even take votes in suggestions. They simply talk about it until a consensus is reached. It’s the kind of thing that would never happen in a government but the folks behind KDE are largely free of ego and dedicated to the cause of making Unix-based operating systems easier to use and appreciate. So far they’re doing a great job and will hopefully carry on long into the future.
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The idea for KDE came to student Matthias Ettrich in 1996 and was born out of his frustration with the Unix operating system. He was frustrated that none of the applications looked or behaved in similar ways. He was right to be concerned; that has always been a major hurdle to the acceptance of a Unix-based operating system on a wide scale. If it wants to get out of the land of servers and super nerds it needs to be easier to understand and use.
KDE aims to provide applications that look and feel the same across many platforms, thus making it easier to use a safer, faster operating system like Linux and not tie yourself down to something bloated and riddled with bugs like Windows. In 1998 the first KDE desktop environment was released and a group of programmers had sprung up working on applications for the concern.
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It’s hard to estimate how many computers around the world use Ubuntu since they don’t have sales numbers but it’s clear that it’s a popular piece of software. The highest estimate is more than 20 million users worldwide, an impressive number for Linux. The organization behind it and the frequency of updates combined with the excellence of the software makes it the fastest growing distribution of Linux in the world. Governments and large scale organizations around the world are making the switch to Ubuntu, including the Republic of Macedonia, which uses more than 180,000 Ubuntu-based classroom desktops and suggests every student in the country use an Ubuntu desktop. Governments around the world are shying away from bloated products like Microsoft Windows and drifting towards Linux distributions like Ubuntu increasingly.
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You might think a large company wouldn’t be behind the distribution and updating of a free piece of software but in the case of Ubuntu you’d be wrong. The company’s name is Canonical, Ltd and they’re owned by South African businessman Mark Shuttleworth. The company operates and updates Ubuntu while working with software developers around the world to improve and fix any issues. They generate their money by providing technical support and other services and they’re a terrifically successful company. Development on the software continues constantly and enough changes are made that they can release a new version every six months. Soon Canonical plans to release a version of Ubuntu that supports smartphone, tablets, and televisions. As they get better with the desktop interface and the software in general they hope that Ubuntu can eat into the market share of Microsoft and its Windows products. It might happen.
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Ubuntu is based on the Debian Linux distribution (a version of Linux, in other words) and is distributed entirely free of charge. It stands out from other versions of Linux because of its excellent desktop environment, something that has been sorely lacking in many Linux distributions over the years. The name of the operating system comes from the Southern African word that means “humanity towards others.”
Ubuntu was first released in October, 2004 and a new version is released every six months and is available free of charge. Each version is supported for 18 months with patches and security fixes and the team behind the software is excellent and always on top of issues. With recent releases they’ve extended the support time to five years to better accommodate the needs of corporate users of the software.
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It’s on servers and supercomputers that Linux really excels and will continue to do so in the future. As much as Microsoft would love to get their hands on that valuable business market there’s almost no chance their bug-riddled and security compromised software will be able to penetrate the market. As far back as 2006 eight out of ten of the top web hosting companies used Linux on their servers, showing you how dominant it was before it was improved the point it’s at today.
The other reason Microsoft is unlikely to penetrate the market is that Linux is free. You really can’t beat free. Plus, the open source nature of the project allows for programmers to make changes that fit a company’s specific needs while that could never be done with a proprietary operating system like Windows or Mac OS.
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There was a time when the idea of Linux on your desktop was thought of as the domain of the super nerds only. Nowadays that’s changing in part because those charged with the development of the widely distributed Linux versions have worked hard to make it more user friendly. The biggest step in that process was making use of a friendly graphical user interface. It’s a lot easier to look at pretty pictures, in other words. The desktop experience of Linux picked up after 2007 when a popular developer of the software quit and accused other developers of not caring about the desktop on his way out. Since then desktop support has increased greatly. As the years go by more software is becoming available for Linux so it’s becoming more reasonable to use it as an operation system, particularly if you want to make your machine a dual boot with both Windows and Linux as options.
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You might be surprised at how common Linux is in computers around the world. The government of Brazil, for instance, insists on using Linux wherever possible for its sophistication combined with simplicity. Plus, the fact that it can be changed with ease can’t be overstated as a positive feature. Apparently the Russian military has created its own version of Linux as well, which is pretty darn cool.
A state in India insists that all schools use Linux on its computer systems. Most supercomputers use Linux as an operating system. China uses Linux in the Loongson processors they produce as a way to free themselves of dependence on other companies for technology. Many European countries are working towards adopting Linux as a policy. It’s gaining greater use in personal computers too but it’s highly unlikely it will ever replace Windows due to the lack of software support.
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Linux was originally developed for Intel x86 personal computers and was free for anyone that wanted a copy. It was never popular on personal computers due to its technical nature and being user unfriendly but you’d be surprised at the reach it has in the world of supercomputing. In fact, the vast majority of the world’s supercomputer run a version of Linux, no doubt in part because it can be customized and is free of the security issues and bugs of something like Windows.
Linux is an entirely free and open source operating system so the code can be modified by anyone without fear of repercussions. If you’re a programmer and you want to try something out then get in there and have fun with it. It was born out of Unix, developed into what it is today, and then modified endlessly by various programmers to become an exceptionally useful piece of software.
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