The significance of this is Elon Musk, who is the self-driving Uber of dot.com billionaires and is the hero of our times.
Well, I knew Steve Jobs well enough, and have met a few civilian astronauts and a bunch of other rich people. None of the others seem to have done so much for the long-term future of the human race as Musk has in leading the path to more affordable spaceflight.
Well, it beats making them into the world's most complicated airplanes as with the space shuttle. SpaceX has proven that they can do vertical landings of the first stage intact onto both land and a seagoing barge; after a trip out of the atmosphere and to about 1/5 of orbital velocity but not into orbit. They plan to do a parachute-less vertical landing of the Dragon capsule after a heat-shield re-entry. That turns out to be far less expensive and complicated than a space plane. It does turn out we need a lifting body for much larger vehicles. It still doesn't have to be a plane, though.
We don't need wings.
I believe that's what I said.
The problem is the quasi-monopolies (i.e. industries with very few players but very high barriers to entry)—but in the other direction.
I'm a Google Fiber user, but in this area, the moment that Google Fiber announced, the two other providers both suddenly rolled out gigabit fiber plans at around $70/mo. after years of charging about that for 5-20 megabit plans. Their customers all switched to the new plans while waiting for Google Fiber to build out (took many months) and as a result didn't go through the hassle of switching to Google Fiber once it was available, since they already had an affordable gigabit plan with their current provider.
Basically, Google encountered the power of monopolies in exactly the classic sense. They found out that it was very difficult to enter an existing monopoly-served market because the large interests are able to instantly match whatever the new kid on the blog was offering.
It also demonstrates the power of competition—as soon as *someone* was offering $70/month gigabit fiber, all players in the area were. But sadly, it is the new kid on the block that suffered most by incurring the costs of trying to enter at a lower price point without realizing the expected benefits.
As an aside, I also imagine that were, hypothetically, to pull out of this area, those gigabit fiber plans from the others would suddenly and magically "disappear" again.
to the kinds of development that UX needs.
In the commercial world, there is a hierarchy whose basic job is to say "no" to everyone's pet idea. To refuse to adopt an initiative proposed by someone, and instead to allocate their resources, against their will, to the *single* direction that the team has been ordered to take. Good or bad. Because even if bad, a single bad direction properly executed by a sizable team with enough labor to complete it well is better than a thousand bad directions each executed by a single individual or a small handful of individuals who lack the resources to complete it, yet chuck it out there alongside all of the other 999 incomplete bad directions.
But the whole *point* of OSS *is exactly* that if you don't like what everyone else is doing, you can do your own thing. That is the basic philosophy. And that's why Linux UX never improves in the free and open space. Because there is nobody with the authority so say, "No, the product will *not* include that, and you *will* dedicate all of your labor to what it has been decided *will* be included."
So the bazaar happens. But the problem with the bazaar as opposed to the cathedral is that the bazaar is only a single story high. You can't build seriously tall stuff without an organized, managed collective of labor. Surge, you get lots of interesting stuff. But very little of it, if any of it, is epic. It's all the size that one single bazaar shopkeeper can build, to man their own little shop.
The Linux kernel avoided this problem because of the cult of personality (not meant in a bad way, but in the technical sense) surrounding Linus. People defer to him. He decides what's in and out, and he does a reasonable amount of labor allocation even if in an interesting, socially backhanded way that's not common. But it works—he is "in charge" enough in everyone's minds that there ends up being one kernel, with leadership.
Nobody similar has emerged in Linux userspace, and it would seem that Linus-like people are a rare enough phenomenon that it's unlikely that one will emerge at any point before the question is irrelevant. The pent-up demand just isn't there now for good Linux UX, like it was for a sound kernel and high-capability OS that didn't cost a fortune, as it was during the late '80s/early '90s boom. The social mechanics just aren't there to generate it.
The Linux desktop as a really sound piece of tech and UX engineering... will never happen. That era has passed, and the problems have been solved—by other platforms. And Android is a very good counterexample. There *was* enough emerging demand for a mobile operating system that wasn't iOS but that offered the same capabilities, and voila—Android. When there is enough demand, there is space for one shopkeeper at the bazaar to emerge as a champion for the needs of others, and to accumulate sufficient influence by acclamation that a cathedral structure can emerge organically.
The bazaar is merely an incubator of ideas. The cathedrals are the epic and actually useful accomplishments. It takes demand and allegiance-pledging at the bazaar from many attendees to lead in the end to a cathedral. This means that the bazaar has to be big, and that the shopkeeper in question has to have an idea that many, many are not just interested in, but willing to work toward—enough to sacrifice their own autonomy and submit to leadership. This just doesn't exist for desktop Linux any longer. It got close during the height of Windows dominance, but there was never quite enough demand to make it happen organically. And now the time has passed. The desktop Linux people are running little shops at the bazaar that don't get a lot of foot traffic, and nobody is seeking them out. They are the kings of very tiny, forgotten kingdoms without enough labor resources or wealth to even maintain their castles any longer—and as a result, there is nothing but infighting, strange hacks to maintain castles on the cheap, and lots of started-but-never-to-be-finished foundations of castles for historians to pick through (or, more likely, forget).
I predict that Linux will continue to be a significant part of whatever new "booms" in technology happen, so long as Linus is significantly involved in kernel development. But the window for desktop Linux has just plain passed.
I had this exact conversation with family and friends in the '90s. The answer was always "nothing."
Q: What do you see?
Q: I mean, what's on the screen?
Q: There is nothing at all on the screen?
Q: So the screen is entirely blank. No power?
A: Pretty much.
Q: Pretty much? Is there something on it or isn't there?
A: There's nothing on it.
I go over... And sometimes there would be words ("Operating system not found" or similar), sometimes even a complete desktop but hard-locked or similarly hung.
Me: That's not nothing (pointing).
Them: I don't see anything.
Me: Don't you see words? and/or Don't you see windows?
Them: Not any that mean anything.
Me: If they didn't mean anything, I wouldn't have asked you about them. If you'd told me, I wouldn't have had to drive all this way.
Them: What was I supposed to tell you?
Me: I asked for the words on the screen. Next time, read me the words on the screen!
Them: Okay. Sorry.
Q: What does the screen say?
In seeking the unattainable, simplicity only gets in the way. -- Epigrams in Programming, ACM SIGPLAN Sept. 1982