Why did I know it would happen? I got some of my views on rolling release published on a webzine. Immediately, comments began to appear, as I had hoped. That means people are reading it and thinking about it.
Except, they aren’t really thinking about what I said. There is this mental block in the mass of hobby users who just assume everyone in the world will want improvements, and improvement can only mean more features. They are utterly cut off from the world of everyday folks who use computers, even use them a great deal, but don’t want changes in the underlying operating system. They want to use it, not play with it all the time. For the hobby folks, there can be no using it without playing with it.
So ingrained are these differences, I am not surprised to see the comments from the hobbyists who just cannot understand the point I was making. Let’s assume for a moment there was no Microsoft, and just to be fair, no Mac. All computers are limited to the Open Source operating systems like Linux and BSD. Let me assure you there would be far fewer computers in the world, and they would be a darn sight more expensive. However, let’s start from where we are, and MS and Apple just evaporate, along with every copy of their products. The world is forced to turn to Linux, BSD, etc.
Very quickly, after a the first couple of months, you would have angry users seeking to choke some developers to death. They would be yelling, screaming and rioting. They would tell anyone they could catch: “Stop changing it! Leave it alone, and just make it work!” After just two to three months of automatic updates, and the gentle nagging this or that is insecure or broken, but the only fix offered is a newer version which, in the eyes of the user, is significantly different and requires running through the setup process again — you would have people throwing their computers away.
For the average user, constant change is not fun. For the hobby user, lack of change is no fun. If the Open Source community only reaches out to the hobby users, they will have nothing to offer the average user. It’s not a matter of which user type is right or wrong, but whether we can accommodate both.
Addenda: I don’t take myself too seriously, but I know what I like. The last time I really enjoyed using KDE was 3.1.5. It was stable, everything worked, and it needed no improvement. The last time I really liked GNOME was 1.x with Enlightenment. The one best release of RedHat in terms of how well it actually worked underneath was 7.3. For FreeBSD it was around 4.8, and SuSE around 8.2. The best word processor was WordPerfect 8. The best X server release in terms of snappy response on current hardware and stable operations was around XFree86 4.2.
In general, I haven’t been too happy with Open Source as a whole since those experiences. What I have now is pretty good, but it could be better. It could be simpler. As a philosophical statement, I would say we have gone past the point of diminishing returns in computers, both hardware and software. It won’t die for a very long time, but it will never be that good again.