I am a huge fan of Linux. On most counts: code quality, cultural/social, stability, performance and security, I think it is superb. There is no other operating system that I would like to see on my servers. However, there is a huge issue with Linux as a desktop operating system. And it has little to do with programmers, to be honest and fair.

The issue is the look-and-feel of Linux and other free software that come with it. The dreadful graphics a-la Windows 3.0 from two decades ago is not just a minor nuisance but effectively daunts and depresses to the extent of making user less productive. Especially when you have the polished perfection of OS-X interface to compare with. Even Mac’s inferior copycat - Windows looks much better than most of the Linux software. If they can’t create, in Redmond, at least they try to copy.

Why are things so bad? It’s hard to buy the argument that Free/Open-Source Software is created by geeks with degenerated sense of aesthetics. A lot of free software is backed by big companies like IBM, Suse, RedHat, HP, Oracle and others, or resourceful organizations like Apache Foundation. So, what’s the deal? For instance, why does GIMP, a major graphics suite on Linux, look like an early experiment in GUI design from ’80s, when calendar shows 2007? Why is even Ubuntu, a wonderful Linux distribution striving to make Linux as user-friendly as possible, still so far behind OS X and Windows, even if far ahead other Linux distributions vis-à-vis user-interface?

Linux and Free/Open-Source Software have always been about community much more than anything else. Main driving force is social and it seems the social component is missing in the graphical design part. Does anybody know of any sizable open-source designer community? If not - why does not one exist? It’s not like graphical design is more creative than programming and therefore designers are not inclined to share. They are. CSS Zen Garden is one of the prominent proofs. However, there is an apparent disconnect between open-source programmer and designer community, with very little invested in the latter.

I hope somebody finds an innovative business model to fix the issue. Obviously, I am not talking about employing some hot-shot designer and creating a decent KDE or Gnome skin, for the first time. The issue seems to be much deeper, and the solution must be more fundamental.