What’s holding Linux back?

FOR the last couple of years now, the job market for Linux talent has been red hot.

In March, Dice and the Linux Foundation released their 2015 Linux Jobs Report, which surveyed more than 1,000 hiring managers at corporations, small and medium business, government organizations, and staffing agencies across the globe and more than 3,400 Linux professionals worldwide.

Here’s what they found:

• Nearly all hiring managers were looking to recruit Linux professionals in the next six months. With new Linux-based systems, projects and products constantly emerging, hiring the right talent to support the growth continues to be a priority among employers. A high 97 percent of hiring managers reported that they would bring Linux skills on board in the next six months—and 50 percent said they would hire even more Linux talent this year than they did last year.

• Demand for Linux skills far outstrips supply. Hiring managers are still struggling to find professionals with Linux skills, with 88 percent reporting that it is “very difficult” or “somewhat difficult” to find these candidates. Moreover, 70 percent of the hiring managers said their companies have increased incentives to retain Linux talent, with 37 percent offering more flixible work hours and telecommuting, and 36 percent increasing salaries for Linux pros more than in other parts of the company. On the other hand, most or 55 percent of Linux professionals surveyed believed it would be “very easy” or “fairly easy” to land a new job in 2015.

• Linux-certified professionals will be especially well positioned in the job market this year, with 44 percent of hiring managers saying they’re more likely to hire a candidate with Linux certification, and 54 percent expecting either certification or formal training of their system administrator candidates.

Given these numbers, the utter lack of Linux knowledge—forget expertise—among computer retailers is breathtakingly stupid. Walk into any computer retail shop in any mall today and ask about Linux and all you’ll get is a puzzled—or a dismissive—look. All they want to push are Windows machines. The shiny new laptops on display—they’re all running Windows, even though manufacturers abroad are already shipping laptops with Linux already installed.

In the United States, Chromebooks –laptops running Chrome OS, an operating system based on the Linux kernel—are hot commodities. Here, not a single major computer retailer carries Chromebooks, a full four years after they were introduced.

As far as Linux is concerned, our retailers might as well be in the Stone Age.

Is this any way to grow and encourage Linux talent?

Part of the problem, too, are the myths that persist about Linux.

Writing in Tech Republic, Jack Wallen lists six. Here are four of the more pertinent ones:

1) Linux doesn’t have the apps I need. This has not been true for many years now. Most proprietary applications running on Windows already have equivalents that are free and open source and that run on multiple platforms, including Windows. LibreOffice is an excellent drop-in replacement for MS Office and will read any file created by Microsoft’s productivity suite. As a bonus (at least that’s the way I see it), it has not tried to mimic Microsoft’s awful ribbon interface and has stuck to the classic pre-MS Office 2007 menu. Besides, as Wallen points out, majority of users these days spend 90 percent of their time in a Web browser.

2) The Linux upgrade process is too challenging. Again, anyone who has done an upgrade on Ubuntu or other user-friendly Linux distributions in the last few years will know this is untrue.

3) The interface isn’t what I’m used to. These days, most people switch back and forth between multiple platforms on their mobile phones, tablets and laptops. The modern Linux desktop is no more complicated than any of the interfaces on these devices, so this is really a non-issue. Even my mom can get things done on her Ubuntu desktop—and she doesn’t do Windows.

4) New users aren’t smart enough for Linux. This myth is a throwback to the early days when Linux was limited to nerds. Users these days are a lot more tech-savvy, and Linux has become a lot easier to use. Chin Wong


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