Open Letter to Software/Game/Hardware Makers - Be Linux Compatible

Evolution of Technology is truly amazing.
In my previous open letter to computer video game makers entitled "Investigate the niche of GNU/Linux compatibility", I wrote about how game makers should investigate the GNU/Linux niche market for computer-based video games.

In the letter, I made a prediction that GNU/Linux would become the predominant platform of choice for computers everywhere within the next couple of years. For this reason, I suggested that computer video game makers port their games to GNU/Linux, or at least take steps to define the demand for games on GNU/Linux and ensure they were prepared to embrace the opportunity of GNU/Linux as the Universal Operating System.

While I still fully stand behind the idea of porting software and games directly over to GNU/Linux, I now realize things are happening faster than I originally predicted. A few examples are: the movement of Linux into netbooks(no this has not failed, despite all the marketing from from the tech-media-puppets), and the announcement of the Google Chrome OS.

So now I'd like to update my message to also include the entire spectrum of computer software applications, computer games, computer peripherals, and of course computer hardware in general. The message is this: Now is the time for you to make your products work well with GNU/Linux! Now is also the time to show that you support GNU/Linux!

As for how to add GNU/Linux support to your product, here are some of the ways that it can be done effectively:
  • Hardware/Peripherals - Get Free Linux Driver Development for your devices, or you can create your own open source driver initiative (e.g., the Hewlett Packard Open Source page on Also, you should proudly display on your hardware packaging that your equipment works with Linux!
  • Games - port your games to GNU/Linux, or at the very least - make your games work well with WINE. Also, consider using/improving an Open Source game engine and building your games in cross-platform friendly 3d technologies (e.g., OpenGL). At the
  • Software Applications - When building your software, think of the bigger picture. Design your software to be cross-platform capable from the start. This will give your software the capability to scale across more platforms and devices. Help to build and maintain the giant upon whose shoulders we ride. Build your software using Open and Interoperable Standards. Also, if your program uses fonts, consider using Open Source Fonts to make porting the software to different platforms less painful. At the very least - make your applications work well with WINE. While some software companies have made massive profits on purposely working against Open Standards. These companies tirelessly weild vendor-lockin, predatory, and destructive practices on computer technology, which are the same actions, along with the willingness of other companies to embrace Open Standards, that will spell defeat and extinction these companies (Good Riddens). Technology is meant to enable humans, people increasingly will not accept companies who destroy innovation, and our technological future. We have arrived at the day when purposley destroying technological interoperability is considered Bad Corporate Citizenship!
Note on Software Applications: Porting everything over to GNU/Linux on the drop of a hat can be difficult or impossible for some companies. So at the very least, make your programs work well with the WINE software. WINE is translation software that enables Windows software to be run on GNU/Linux, MAC OSX, and Solaris. There are many popular games and software that already work well with WINE (78 pages worth of entries), but there's always room for improvement.

Here's looking forward to the exciting future of enabling humans with technology and GNU/Linux!

If you have any questions or suggestions, feel free to leave a comment below.

Shannon VanWagner
humans enabled


  1. Games are about making money. They are expensive to create and distributors want to get them on platforms people have for sales potential. While I sort of agree with your general premise, games are not about openness.

    A games business would go under quickly if they targeted Linux / Unix flavors.

  2. Are you serious? :) Compared to console market share, Windows PC gaming is dying hard, and you're expecting a resurgence on an entirely new platform? The point of ChromeOS is to run fast on minimal hardware and have the cloud do the heavy lifting.

    You should be praying for the success of platforms such as OnLive and hope that your minimally functional Linux OS can be a client.

  3. What nice, fluffy reading this is.

    For the practical guide to implementing linux games read this:

    Summary: a freelance developer asks technical questions about linux development, noobs answer with inappropriate (inadequate) responses and when their crappy technologies are questioned they answer with flames.

    I love linux and what it stands for but there is too much advocating of simply BAD technology.

  4. It would be great if more companies would support Linux. I might be running Linux exclusively right now, except for the fact that there are some software programs that I like to use that are only available for Windows (games, financial software, and others). Also, even if a software equivalent is available for Linux, it often seems to lack features compared to a similar program for Windows or Macintosh.

    I agree that Linux is growing, but I think it may still be a while before Linux becomes the predominant operating system - especially considering all the hype surrounding Windows 7 right now. Microsoft still has a strong hold in the consumer marketplace, and Apple has good brand-name recognition as well.

    Linux distributions have made impressive progress in ease of use over the last 10 years or so, but there are two things I see that are probably factors in hindering Linux's popularity with consumers:
    - Often, you still have to go to the command line to perform some administration tasks. Some people are afraid of this or just don't want to do this.
    - With so many different Linux distributions, the software they include for configuration & administration tasks is inconsistent. And, different distributions provide varying levels of ease of use.
    If Linux had even more GUI config/admin programs, and more standard ones at that, I think it would have an even better chance at capturing the home computer market.

  5. Anonymous said "A games business would go under quickly if they targeted Linux / Unix flavors." I think he has a point. Not too long ago, maybe 5-6 years ago, there was a game publisher called Loki that ported popular games to Linux. They went out of business.

    Hopefully, times will change.

  6. I agree Games are for profit,in a limited format(windows).If ported,the ever growing Linux users would add to customer base.If you mean Linux users would "hack" there games, thats what they do now."WoW" makes money on there online play. If company's think a bit more, trust the real consumers ,and build future oriented biz models,we all would find computer "bliss"

  7. @Anonymous - I never said that games should stop making money, nor did I say that all games should be made to be free or even open source.

    The premise of my article is simply that games/software/hardware-peripherals be made to work with GNU/Linux as the platform because the popularity of this "Universal" operating system is set to skyrocket.

    Some of the more important reasons I mention that game companies should build their games on Open Source gaming engines are:
    a.)using an open engine allows for greatest interoperability amongst platforms
    b.)using open gaming engines can help to create the most cutting edge gaming platform ever - imagine if instead of just one company working on a gaming engine for their personal use, all the game companies contributed to the same gaming multi-faceted gaming platform to make it the best it could possibly be. Then each separate company would make their games to load into the gaming engine - these parts would not be free and/or open source. The whole idea is that programmers are not reinventing the wheel by making a new gaming engine all the time. The gaming engine is the software that does the work, the game itself is the art that would be sold.

  8. @Anonymous, yes I am serious - that's why I wrote the article.

    Linux can do so much more than you're making it sound like...

    Linux not only runs native Linux software, but also runs Windows software in WINE.. checkout this page to see the stuff that I've personally installed and am running in Linux (others out there have
    installed even more):

    It's amazing (and sad or funny) for me to hear people speak of Linux as if it's not an advanced platform. Especially when Linux is actually far more advanced than Windows in terms of the capability for it to adapt to just about any hardware.

    Have a look at Keith Curtis' book (ex MSFT employee - left to do better things, on Linux) to learn more:

    Have you ever tried Linux.. No actually, have you ever tried using Linux and have you given it a chance long enough to see what's available to you and what it's really about?

    In my opinion, anyone that gets a true glimpse of what Linux is really about by using it and learning about it, will never use Mac or Windows again.

    Linux is the gift of computer science to the planet. Linux is the only true "Universal Operating System".

    If you need some help, checkout some of these links: | | | | |

  9. I applaud you for being a producer rather than a consumer on the internet, but you are way out of touch. The idea of a one-size-fits-all game engine doesn't work for most games. Even middleware is bent beyond belief, and integrating your changes back into a master game engine (or even a set of them) to suit all needs is just not a reality. If it worked that way, believe me, you'd see a whole lot more Unreal engine games. There's a reason games from Shadow of the Colossus to MotoGP to Red Faction Guerilla are built from the ground up. Otherwise, believe me, game developers would be buying the Unreal engine every time or using whatever they could

    You are neglecting the fact that game developers and publishers historically want to protect their own intellectual property as a competitive edge, as least for a short while until it's old hat - then they open source it.

    These are nice ideas of yours, but it's just not realistic in my view. It really would be nice if game developers could focus more time and effort on making every game great rather than making sure it's built on a solid foundation and bug-free. But that's what sequels are for :)

  10. I'm sure your blog post will make these game companies wake up!

  11. amaranthisasin7/12/09, 4:07 PM

    I've had the linux conversation with all of my friends. Almost all of them would switch to linux in a heart beat if they could game on it.

    Making software cross platform creates competition and that's a good thing for everyone. If this doesn't happen it'll be a windows world forever and we'll only be able to take advantage of what they give us. When there is true competition real innovations can happen.

  12. @Syzygy -"...there are some software programs that... are only available for Windows (games, financial software, and others)"

    Please provide specific names of programs you are looking to have working on Linux. This will give me some company names to notify and perhaps we can get their programs to at least work well with WINE.

    As for software equivalents, I agree that they don't always cut it.. That's one of the reasons I created this article - and that's another reason I want those companies to know that their software should work with Linux.

    @Syzygy -"...Often, you still have to go to the command line to perform some administration tasks."

    I've found that using Linux and installing software, admin tasks, etc. is actually easier in some cases on Linux(and in some cases not). But check this out, Ubuntu has a new version every 6 months, this means it will continue to get easier and easer very quickly (it's very exciting actually). Also, how many people do you know that use Windows actually perform administration tasks on their computers? You're making a comparison of being able to do administration tasks on Windows vs. Linux - normal users don't do administration tasks. Using something like Ubuntu is actually very graphical and very easy from a user standpoint. And as the demand grows for Linux-Desktop-capable admins, more technology providers will rise to provide the supply. In the meantime, new Linux users can get plenty of free help from sites like,,, etc.

  13. "Often, you still have to go to the command line to perform some administration tasks. Some people are afraid of this or just don't want to do this.'
    This would be most people's number 1 grip with linux and its mine as well. There should be no reason every to have to go into a dos box to type stuff in. This is the year 09 the dos box should be dead and buried.Until they get rid of that dos box like MS there going to have a tough time gaining any kind of market share. Netbooks are a good start now kill the dos box and get a gui for all the task in linux.

  14. Linux can tap into multi-billion dollar industry easily.

    Yes, they will have to look into this feature.


  15. please! make that happen!, need to play on linux already!,. it's what I use, but it's not in which I play, make it happen. :)

  16. @Shannon VanWagner -
    "Please provide specific names of programs you are looking to have working on Linux. This will give me some company names to notify and perhaps we can get their programs to at least work well with WINE."
    Well, some of those applications are Microsoft applications, such as Microsoft Money and Microsoft Flight Simulator. I doubt we could convince Microsoft to port or make it easier to run their Windows apps in Linux. :)
    Other games/apps are Command & Conquer 3 (Electronic Arts), Apple's Safari web browser (I mainly use Firefox, but it would be nice to see Safari available for Linux), and GetRight (download manager). For a CD/DVD burning application, I use Nero in Windows; It looks like the last version of Nero for Linux was version 3.

    "Also, how many people do you know that use Windows actually perform administration tasks on their computers?"
    I don't see how you can own a computer without ever needing to do any administration tasks with it. Occasionally you (or someone else) will need to check your hard drive for errors, check & configure network settings, manage your shortcuts/program links, configure software (default configurations aren't always best and sometimes don't even work for everyone), etc.

  17. Maybe Mono is the way to get this done? OK, Mono does get a bad press at times, but it's been popular and pretty successful. There are scores of great applications written in C# using Mono, such as Banshee and Tomboy.
    An equivalent to XNA for Mono would no doubt be a boon for easy cross-platform game development. I think probably the single biggest problem is the lack of a consistent cross-platform developer API.
    I looked and came acrossthis project but it appears to be dead, which is a shame.

  18. I was just doing some old school deathmatching - in original DooM. Not that I don't have any newer games, it's just that I still love DooM.

    Anyway, old games, new games, I'm a gamer and I only use Linux. I'm happy with it, it does not bother me too badly that I can't get every possible game to run in it, I can get more games on it than I can ever play anyway.
    BUT I would still love to see Linux gain the same status as gaming platform as Windows does today. As is stated here it already has all the potential.


    A foundation started to take care of the "linux needs game" plague.

    You can help out the cause too!


    A foundation started to take care of the "linux needs game" plague.

    You can help out the cause too!

  21. Coming from a windows background I tried Linux last week, and while the install was quick and painless, it didnt detect my wireless card so I couldnt get on the net and start loading apps. I search for hours for the right or possible driver and how to load it but to no avail. I was lost in Linux and gave up on it.
    I did like the extremely fast loading time, but there is a big learning and frustration curve. If they made it a little more user friendly for those coming from windows backgrounds I think it would be a bigger hit. Especially with the resource hogging vista as the alternative.

    But now theres windows seven and it works like a dream.

  22. @FloridaWebDesign:
    While I agree that everything should "just work" when installing Linux, the wireless problem you're having is likely very easy to fix. Please provide the make/model of your computer, terminal output from lspci / lsusb (especially where it names your wireless adapter) and what GNU/Linux distro you're using. We can get you up and running, no problem.

    Also, if you're running Ubuntu (, you may be able to simply plug the machine into a hard-wired network port and then run the System > Administration > Hardware Drivers utility to install the proprietary wireless network adapter driver.

    Here's a funny story... I have a USB wireless adapter that "just works" in Linux, but when I plug it into a Viista system - it doesn't work until I load the driver. The biggest difference here is that for this particular device, if I didn't have the driver disk - it would likely be very hard to find a win-driver for this device online. So exactly the same problem except the other way around.

    What GNU/Linux is already capable of..for it to be able to just recognize most of the hardware automatically in the first place - without using proprietary drivers at all.. is an incredible feat indeed.

    So if you could provide some more details... I can help get your GNU/Linux running smoothly for you.

    Did you know you can install Ubuntu inside Windoze as an add/remove programs entry? Simply insert the Ubuntu cd after you have booted into Windoze.

    Get your Freedom on! Use GNU/Linux!

    Shannon V.

  23. Not everything is going to "just work" in either Linux or Windows. There will more than likely be new devices created after the OS is released that the OS doesn't have a driver for. There's only so much they can do as far as driver inclusion, and honestly, I think trying to load the OS full of drivers for everything on the planet contributes to OS bloat.

    I do agree, though, that an OS needs to contain drivers for fairly common hardware.


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