Thursday, April 17, 2008

Linux obsession on the forums

Lately the usual PLC forums have been unusually chatty about Linux. Perhaps it's the recent Windows update that installed the new version of the .NET Frameworks 2.0, the trend toward Open Office and Star Office, or the successful home experimentation with Ubuntu and Fedora. There's also been more complaints than ever about the complicated and equally crappy DCOM basis of OPC, which gets (probably unfairly) pinned on Microsoft. The OPC Foundation gets to be the knight in shining armor with UA. General users are correctly getting the sense that configuration, specifically security, need not be complicated and that getting rid of the old also brings the freedom ditching the entire (Windows) platform.

The consensus seems to be that programming software will remain Windows based for some time. Until users put the pressure on - and they're complaining, but not applying diddly-squat, nothing will change in that area. So it's a 90% solution - control systems can be chosen on a platform independent decision, but integrators will still be running around with Windows laptops to program the PLCs. That doesn't bother me too much. First, they break the things every couple of years - about as often as Windows seems to fail. Second, there's always virtualization, which has been getting easier and cooler over time.

I welcome the simplicity of the newer Linux build frondends and their (always) powerful backend. I remember when the thrill of playing with a new Linux system came to an abrupt halt when you realized that your devices weren't supported and the user interface sucked! It's great to see "normal users" have such a positive experience with installing such a new, foreign, system. If only they knew the complexity of the innards! Thank god they don't - they're users.

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