Don Marti

Wed 18 Feb 2009 01:59:08 PM PST

Counting Linux users

Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols asks, How Many Linux Users Are There (Really)? He's using numbers from a site called I just went to the site, and NoScript asked me if I trust the company. Heck, I don't know whether to trust them. And I don't have time to find out whether to trust them. I don't click through EULAs, and I run a pretty locked-down browser setup.

That seems pretty typical of Linux users. We're more like goats than sheep when it comes to web tracking. Rob Malda says of Alexa, "Alexa doesn't work because of who will install it, and perhaps more importantly, who won't.." Slashdotters are not willing to sign up for Alexa tracking, and the kind of people who want to Stick It To The Man enough to run Linux on the desktop are the same kind of people who want to run ad blockers and suppress the third-party JavaScript tracking code that every major media site seems to use now (can't anyone parse their own log files any more?), and make ourselves invisible. If you just want to build your k3wl application on a POSIX laptop, and The Man doesn't really bother you, you're probably already in line outside the Apple Store.

So how to count the Linux users? Depends why you need the answer. Do you want the number of people who will prefer to buy a hardware product if there's Linux support? The number of people qualified to take a job that requires Linux skills? The number of people for whom the inability to run non-Linux apps is not a deal-breaker for buying a new computer? The number you need might be different from the percentage of web users running Linux right now.

A few sort-of-related links.

Sampling Twitter raises the confidentiality question from the other side. Do you really want to expose the "id" field of your database's "users" table?

Want to keep a full copy of your wiki locally, but use someone else's bandwidth to host it? Now you can run a "static wiki" (no web form, git edits only) on github.

B&O Beomaster includes magnatune music—why don't more entertainment devices come preloaded with sample music?