The 'Linuxification' of Windows has begun

How popular open source solutions are polluting and perverting the Microsoft OS experience

It's like a cancer: a creeping, deadly disease that slowly erodes all that's good and clean, replacing it with a swill of malignancy and decrepitude.

I'm speaking, of course, of the recent appearance of Linux UI conventions under Windows. From the simplest open source utilities to the most polished commercial offerings, the stench of Linux is now permeating many of my favorite programs.

Case in point: FileZilla. I live and die by this robust little FTP client. It's fast and flexible, and it simply gets the job done. However, each time I use it I'm reminded of its disease-ridden ancestry. FileZilla is, after all, a cross-platform program, one that has near-identical ports to Linux, Unix, and Mac OS X. This subtle malignancy rears its ugly head in a variety of places throughout the UI, and it irks me to no end.

[ See Randall C. Kennedy's top 10 picks for the best Windows open source software. ]

Then there is VirtualBox. I really want to love this program. It's carved a place in my heart as the only remaining David to VMware's Workstation Goliath. However, lately, David has been giving me heartburn. It has to do with those interminable error-handling dialog boxes. Each one is uglier than the last, sending me reaching for medicine cabinet. Pepcid, here I come!

Another example: the uncannily named GIMP, a travesty of camel engineering. How this freak of nature, with its disjointed UI and indecipherable iconography, managed to worm its way onto so many Windows-based PCs is beyond me. Must be a sympathy play, sort of like when you take pity on a deformed puppy. It's so unlovely you just want to snuggle it a bit before putting it to sleep.

Of course, the pièce de résistance has to be VMware Workstation 7.0. I've been experimenting with the private beta release, and one of the new features VMware is touting is the inclusion of the Linux version of the Virtual Network Editor dialog box. To the uninitiated, this is the part of VMware Workstation where you configure various virtual networks, including defining how the various virtual NICs map to physical or logical network connections.

Under VMware 6.x and earlier, this feature was implemented using a traditional Windows dialog box, with multiple tabs to separate major functions. However, starting with version 7.0, the Virtual Network Editor dialog has been flattened into a single, overly complex configuration panel. It's like someone lifted one of the worst examples of Linux GTK+ widget-itis and tacked it onto the otherwise well-designed and generally operator-friendly VMware Workstation.

Some may call this progress (apparently, the Linux implementation won VMware kudos among the Linux fan boys). I call it a malignancy that is wholly incompatible with all that's pure in the Windows world. It's bad enough that we have to suffer these abominations when dipping our toes into the open source swamps. But forcing such freakish UIs upon us, via the more respectable commercial software channel, is simply unforgivable.

The stench of Linux is upon VMware Workstation 7.0, and it smells just awful.

Copyright © 2009 IDG Communications, Inc.