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The Linux Desktop Obituary 553

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the naysayers-and-doompreachers dept.
rcriii writes: "Kevin Reichard is announcing the end of Linux on the desktop over at Linux Planet . Having spent the past couple of weeks fighting with Star Office and Netscape, I'd say that he has a point. Let the flame wars begin." I'm still not sure it was ever born in the first place ... although I happily run Linux on all of my desktops. But I'm not exactly the desktop of corporate America either.
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The Linux Desktop Obituary

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  • by Anonymous Coward
    Alas, we hardly knew ye...

    I guess we just have to admit it, this guy is right. As a server Linux is awesome, no doubt. As a desktop, it is plagued by many problems. Will I still use it after this? Yes, but can I ever see my mom using it, nope. That's not such a bad thing though. It should probably be only used by the tech elite IMHO.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 22, 2001 @08:10AM (#205736)
    For someone that runs Linux on all their desktops, you certainly seem to be playing a lot of Windows only games every time a story gets posted.
  • What about:
    1. Mark URL in whatever is showing it.
    2. Switch to Netscape (or Mozilla).
    3. Press middle button.
    ?
  • This is not a problem - it's a design. In that particular case you don't even have to paste into the input filed -- middle button over _any_ part of the browser window except that field causes the browser to go to the URL.
  • Nonsense. Both are dead or dying and we have a standard desktop: Motif. Don't you read Slashdot? ;)
  • by Have Blue (616) on Tuesday May 22, 2001 @09:07AM (#205740) Homepage
    Many people have commented that the arrival of Mac OS X will make it easier to to port Mac apps to any Unix, since "developers will be forced to port [apps] to Unix". This is totally inaccurate. Mac OS X doesn't have anything approaching a Unix API (although it is Posix-compliant, that only consists of the BSD layer. All the fun stuff that makes the computer usable, like the GUI, is Apple-prorietary). One of the main APIs, Carbon, is a slightly altered version of the traditional Mac OS APIs. The other, Cocoa, is basically NeXTStep's OOP frameworks. A program from either of them is just as hard to port to Unix as before; cocoa programs are probably harder.

  • Interesting. *17* moderation points wasted on this parent post so far.

    If Microsoft wanted to muddy the waters, wouldn't they have a bunch of people sign up for Slashdot, post lots of innocuous posts until the got moderation privs, then send in a agent provocateur, and the hell out of him?

    This is similar to the astroturf campaign Microsoft did against OS/2 8 years ago. Very sneaky, don'tcha think?

  • The same was said about Word Perfect back in the WP5.1 days. It took Microsoft less than 2 years to kill Word Perfect, with bundling deals and choking the distribution channels with pre-installs.

    Microsoft Word was not superior to Word Perfect for many years after. Granted WP committed suicide by *not* fixing the codebase and releasing a good update-- WP5.1 was *it*. MS-Word didn't catch up to WP5.1 until Office97. (Don't believe me? Try editing tables-- specifically, merging two cells horizontally (or is it vertically?), in anything prior to Word97. This is only one example. There are others.)

    MS-Office is *not* the ultimate killer application. It's a matter of distribution and acceptance; and if Microsoft keeps using old-time Mafia tactics to keep the profits rolling in, it won't be long before businesses start looking at non-licensed software. Once OpenOffice (or LyX, or Koffice) is accepted as an alternative, acceptance as a standard will shortly follow.
  • The author seems a little over-focused on the business aspects of "the Linux desktop". He believes that because Eazel died and Mandrake is having financial difficulties, the sky is falling in. Well, color me unconvinced.

    Eazel died because it had no way to make money. Mandrake is having problems because it has never really managed to claw it's way out of Red Hat's shadow. Tough, but have you looked at the number of Linux distributions out there? Can you say market glut?

    But these things aren't really relevant. All that these events prove, is that businesses which receive a lot of venture capital funding and don't have any revenue projections will go away. We've seen a lot of non-linux businesses with the same problem suffer the same fate recently.

    The fact is that Linux isn't going anywhere. A lot of people use it, as servers, as workstations, and yes, as desktops. And there will always be a community of developers who will add to the body of work that's out there. Whether it's AbiWord or KOffice or GNUMeric or whatever, those applications aren't going to suddenly wink out of existence because some startups' funding dried up. That is exactly the beauty of Open Source -- when the product is free and the source is free, abandonware is an obsolete concept.

    And with these desktop projects, as with all other open source projects, people will take up the reins, ant the evolution will continue.
  • by Tim Macinta (1052) <twm@alum.mit.edu> on Tuesday May 22, 2001 @08:36AM (#205749) Homepage
    I just ran across this Tech Review article [techreview.com] today which says pretty much the same thing you wrote, except in a more generalized form. It gives several examples of technologies in the past which were extensively hyped and then pronounced dead when the public's short attention span waned, but which eventually went on to achieve their original revolutionary promises (just on a longer timeframe).

    I say give Linux on the desktop time - I switched to a 100% Linux desktop about two years ago and I love it. The important thing is that there are people who have switched more recently that wouldn't have bothered two years ago. Every day all the new functionality and useability which is added to Linux makes it a viable desktop for a few more people who have slightly less of a geek threshold than the adopters the day before. Linux on the desktop may be a niche today, but that niche is growing and given time it will eventually be more than a niche. Once it hits critical mass, expect things to explode as the Microsoft tax will no longer buy anything useful (it buys compatibility with other MS users today).

  • by defile (1059) on Tuesday May 22, 2001 @08:53AM (#205750) Homepage Journal

    ..install their own systems? Outside of the IT departments, almost no one does anything on their machines other than point, click, and print.

    Don't try to use Linux as if it were Windows. Windows does that better. The fact that most companies have (or should have) a pervasive network by now, coupled with the fact that each end-user workstation probably needs to perform at most one or two tasks, makes Linux perfect.

    One appropriately skilled Linux hacker could probably run an entire small/medium-sized company (about 100 employees) if you left all of the software/hardware decisions up to her. And I don't mean by having her install crap like StarOffice on 100 Red Hat boxes. I mean by asking her to analyze your business and having them suggest the way to make it all come together, with modern technology. If you step back far enough, every system is an embedded system.

    The fact that you can totally control Linux means that you can design a more efficient end user experience. If the Linux hacker is appropriately skilled, you needn't even employ them fulltime, ie -- they're a consultant!

    This is what Linux companies should (and do) focus on. It is total silliness to try to provide something that looks and acts like Windows, when realistically, Windows is totally ill-suited to a lot of these tasks. Copying Windows means you're just doomed to fail. They do it better, and they have a monopoly. Instead, do something innovative

    Windows has it's places, but Linux has so many more.

  • FVWM was good enough. Instead of pouring all those spring breaks and dead weeks into window manager/desktop environment/object brokerage/meaning of life environments the hackers of the world should have focused on writing applications for FVWM. The reason I got into UNIX was how little the large applications of the time were hindered by clumsy window managers.
  • The real goal would be to produce a replacement for X that allowed the use of drivers much like Windows does. This way the environment could be recompiled for any platform, and contributers would only need to install (or create) drivers for the specific hardware they have. (Kind of like how X has different X servers for each video chipset.)

    Okay, so you've described XFree86 version 4. 4.0 was released over a year ago now and while there may have been driver availability problems back then, there should now be support for all current graphics cards as loadable modules. There is a single X server binary, which loads things like graphics drivers, font engines, 3D acceleration support, monitor power management, and most other non-core features as cross-OS (hardware platform specific, so you can't use an x85 Matrox driver on an Alpha machine, but you can use it in Linux, *BSD, Solaris...) loadable modules.

    As for the rest of your comments - repeat after me: X11 IS NOT A GUI. X11 is a network-transparent windowing system, which has GUIs implemented on top of it in the form of window managers, 'panels', 'pagers', and so on. You can do some quite amazing things with the flexability of X11+a window manager, including making copies of other GUIs (like Windows, MacOS, BeOS, etc.), at least at the window decorations, mouse behaviour and 'desktop' level, such that it's pretty hard to tell (excepting the apps) what you're using.

    The downside of that, of course, is the complete lack of coherence between different apps and the desktop. Personally, the only X apps I run are Netscape/Mozilla (depending on the quality of recent Mozilla builds), XMMS and gvim - everything else runs in an xterm - so I don't worry about consistancy between apps. That, however, is the main problem the two desktop projects (KDE, GNOME) are trying to solve - by producing a load of programs (most of which already exist separately) using a coherent toolkit and (hopefully) design guide, you can produce a coherent desktop.

  • If you want intuitive check out Mac OS.

    Ah yes, the OS where you inuitively drag everything to the trash when you never want it to be used again, except for removable media, where dragging it to the trash means "pop it out so I can use it later". And using the "Eject disk" menu item means "pop it out, but then nag me about it not being in the drive incessantly until I put it back in". Yeah, that's intuitive all right.
  • You forgot about the "Close gadget that might mean close, or it might mean 'hide this application so I can't find it again'" [...] Turns out that when you "close" IE or Netscape, it doesn't really close [...] The Mac is anything BUT intuitive..

    Well, my dear friend, you're not in Kansas anymore.

    The Mac OS is not intuitive, but it's d*mned f*cking 100% consistent. On the Mac you CLOSE windows and QUIT applications. Every time, all the time. There's no way you can quit a normal modeless application by closing all the windows.

    This fact is stated in no uncertain terms in the "getting started" manual. As is the infamous ejecting-disks-by-dragging-them-to-the-trash idiosyncrasy.

    I understand that you're scared of the thought that you might have chosen a less consistent OS for your workstation, but hey, you can always bitch about it and spread FUD on Slashdot.

    --Bud

  • Remember the fun of typing DISKCOPY A: B: on a DOS system that only had one floppy drive? Same deal.
    It would only be the "same deal" if the way you ejected a disk in DOS would be to type "del a:*.*". Face it, the Macintosh required you do something not just unituitive, but totally antithetical to your instincts that are screaming "if you do this, it will delete all your files!".

    Well, in my opinion "file" and "disk" are two different things. Your perception of reality may of course differ.

    On the Mac, all mounted disks will have a corresponding icon on the desktop. Insert a disk, and an icon appears. Remove the icon, and the disk will be ejected. Where's the inconsistency in this?

    --Bud

  • /dev/fd0

    It's a file. It's even a file on Macs nowadays.

    That one refers to the disk DRIVE and is in no way indicative of the DISK or the FILES on it.

    -Bud

  • by Malc (1751) on Tuesday May 22, 2001 @09:25AM (#205774)
    The following isn't intended as flamebait, although my tone might suggest it ;)... Having killer apps under Linux isn't going to make it anymore appealing as a desktop. I don't know whether it's the flexibility of X or just plain incompetence by the applications programmers for X, but the UIs (including when running KDE) really suck. It's as if the applications programmers are completely clueless about these things. Don't knock Windows (or Mac OS) for how generic or inflexible their UI is... it works, it's consistent and it's far less quirky. It's the quirkiness that really causes problems: for every application you have to learn how it behaves, and how it differs from others (even though it looks the same). And for crying out loud... test the tabbing order in dialogs!

    <current pet peeve with X applications>
    MAKE YOUR MODAL DIALOGS COME UP CENTRED OVER THE CORRECT APPLICATION WINDOW! I was playing around with Mandrake recently. I had my application window (Netscape or Mozilla, or something) in the lower left of the screen... every dialog appeared in the top-right (which is a long way away at hi-res). In fact, the dialog placement seemed almost random. What with the other Windows on the screen, it's often hard to notice a dialog pop-up when it's so far away from the action.
    </current pet peeve with X applications>
  • Yes, and if XP Home Edition is priced competitively with Windows ME, it might even get installed. Otherwise Windows ME will live on. And while XP has addressed some of the security concerns with Windows, it has opened a whole new can of worms with its new draconian EULA and its adoption of anti-consumer technologies like Secure Audio Path.

    It will be interesting to see if Microsoft can actually sell Windows XP. If they price it competitively I think they have a chance. If they expect end users to pay the premium that they have been paying for Windows NT (and 2000) XP will be stillborn.

  • If all you are copying and pasting is text, then the easiest way to do this is with the middle mouse button. Simply highlight what you want to copy, and then place your mouse cursor where you would like it to go and press the middle mouse button. If you don't have a three button mouse then you have to press both the right and left buttons at the same time (this is why it is important to get a three button mouse).

    Once you get the hang of cutting and pasting without needing to keyboard you will find that you begin to wish Windows worked this way as well. It is much faster.

    Hope that helps.

  • I suppose that the difference is that I don't copy URLs into Netscape. If the URL is in my text editor (Emacs) I simply use the browse-url function and it opens it up in Mozilla for me. If it is in a gnome-terminal I right click on it and slide down to "open in browser."

    I can see what you mean, however, and in fact I vaguely remember having a similar problem. It just goes to show you how one becomes used to their preferred environment. I still like being able to cut and paste without touching the keyboard (otherwise I would simply use Emacs), but I can see your point.

  • by iabervon (1971) on Tuesday May 22, 2001 @09:20AM (#205778) Homepage Journal
    Software better than Office is essentially trivial: emacs has always been better than Office for actually getting things done. The interface is more straightforward, and it's easier to see what you're doing. If you use LaTeX, you don't need fix your document formatting every time you change anything. Office has enough fundamental design flaws that, on technical merit (including usability) it's not hard to compete.

    What Linux lacks is a program that is exactly like Office; this is the niche that StarOffice and such are trying to fill. Since business users want have generally gone through hell to learn how to deal with Office, they want to use this skill instead of learning even an easier and more efficient system. Crippled by trying to have the same functionality and file formats as Office, it's not surprising that Linux fails to have an acceptable program; Microsoft doesn't really have an acceptable version, and they control the standard.
  • by iabervon (1971) on Tuesday May 22, 2001 @01:48PM (#205779) Homepage Journal
    There are things that users want to do and ways they want their programs to behave. By and large, users want their programs to behave in ways that are similar to what they have, in the past, learned. There is no reason that the way they want their programs to behave would be good for accomplishing their tasks, compared to an alternative which they are not yet accustomed to.

    If their goals are to create and read documents, they would be better served by emacs and LaTeX, which are less work than Word if you ever modify the middle of a document (in my experience). What business users want, however, is to generate and read Word files, which is difficult both for programmers and for users.

    The basic task (creating documents) is easy to accomplish. The particular requirements that users have (creating Word documents, doing WYSIWYG) is very difficult. This is why Word is harder to use and more error-prone than, for example, WordPerfect 5.0; emacs does not have a particular edge over WP50 but has not gone down the unusability paths that Word has.

    MS makes so much money, in part, because they define, through their business relationships, how people have to accomplish the tasks they're trying to do. Users have to know how to use Office because it's in their job requirements and because that's the only way they can read the documents they have to read. To a certain extent, also, MS implements the software that people think will help them get their work done. There are a lot of features which are, at a first glance, attractive but which hide a lack of more effective functionality or get in the way most of the time.

    MS's success is in getting their formats adopted, not in technical merit.
  • No, I'm afraid you missed the point.

    Word and Excel might be the one suite of apps that all users have in common.

    But it is not the only app that all users need. There are the remaining 40,000 or whatever. You won't know about those apps until you talk to an individual user.
  • I guess it depends on what your goal is.

    If it's only 10% of the users you are seeking to gain, then maybe I can see your point.

    If it's 70%, 50% or even 30%... it will never happen because of those other 40,000 apps.(Actually it's a lot more than 40k)

    There is another platform out there already besides Windows which has Office, Quicken, even Internet Explorer and a whole slew of other very popular applications.

    And yet it barely has 10% of the market.

    The Macintosh.

  • by sheldon (2322) on Tuesday May 22, 2001 @09:56AM (#205782)
    Linux advocates always seem to get caught up in this "What one app do we need to make this popular?"

    The thing is, it isn't one app. It's 40,000 applications that make Microsoft Windows popular.

    You have to have an environment where anything that is needed, especially anything sent to you by partners or regulatory agencies... just runs.

    I used to run into this same issue back in the days supporting OS/2. At the time it meant we had many users with two desktops. One to run OS/2 and our "standard" apps, one to run all the other apps that didn't work under OS/2.

    This is expensive and a nightmare to maintain.

    Anyway, it's not just one app... It's everything.


  • This is so true! It's true because MS Office is primarily how MS has gained control of the desktop and kept control of it. Everyone made such a big deal about the integration of Internet Explorer with the OS. True, this was a big deal and brought about the downfall of Netscape. The real win for MS was creating Office. It became the standard office suite. It didn't run on any other platform. You had to run MS Windows to run Office. Ingenious!

    IMHO, the best punishment for MS would have been to make the make the source for Office available.

    Personally, I like KOffice, I love Konqueror. I just wish you could import documents from KOffice and StarOffice into MS Office. Can you imagine? You are using Linux in you workplace, because you to choose to, and you could send a co-worker a KOffice document and they could import it with no problem. That would be cool!

    I dual-boot Linux and Win 98 on my work laptop precisely so I can exchange documents with my co-workers, otherwise, I think I could stay in Linux all of the time. I'm away from the office right now doing contract work, but when I get back, one of the first things I'm going to look into is a Windows emulator like VM Ware or Wine so maybe I won't have to get out of Linux at all. Then MS Windows will merely be an application I run in Linux :) (Not really of course, but it will seem like it.)

    Also, I think Linux should forget about the desktop market and focus on the server market like the author of the article says. Linux is great for me. Most average users probably won't use it because they are not concerned about which OS the use or about the issues with Free Software. Who cares?!? I think Linux could be much more secure and rock solid if Linus and the other kernel hackers didn't have to worry about all of the desktop issues pulling them in so many directions. I say go for making Linux the most secure, stable, powerful, and fast SERVER OS available and forget about the desktop. Besides, I think it works great as it is.

    Just my .02 cents.




  • Darn, forgot all about that and considering OSX looks pretty sweet, I might have to get a Mac soon.

    By the way, since you brought it up, why do think MS doesn't port Office to Linux? I have my own opinion, but yours would be far more interesting.

    Thanks for the reply,
    Jason


  • by Adnans (2862) on Tuesday May 22, 2001 @08:56AM (#205785) Homepage Journal
    My Linux desktop has never been this usable, and it keeps improving by the day/week/month. The good folks at KDE have been doing wonderful work! And the XFree86 gurus have really picked up the ball the last couple of months. From my own experience I;d say we're only starting to compete. The fight is not over... and I'm confident Linux will be one of the last ones standing at the end of the battle.

    Concluding that the Linux desktop is a failure simply because a company that writes a silly Linux/Unix file manager for it fails is really, really stupid! Eazel's business plan was flawed beyond believe! They counted on revenues from "services". However, the services they provided were already commodity items (supposed proper package management, free internet disk space).

    And then there's this quote:

    Such is the way of all movements: either the professionals take over and the movement evolves, or the movement recedes.

    No shit! So the Linux desktop attracts some cheap money, but when that money fails, so does the Linux desktop? Give me a f*cking break :)

    The only thing that's dead or dying are companies with flawed business plans. And for the record, I don't hope the author of this articles tries to make a living by writing, he'll starve :)

    -adnans
  • by the red pen (3138) on Tuesday May 22, 2001 @10:15AM (#205786)
    Much of this discussion is missing two key points:
    1. The "Desktop" issue is, to some extent, just a popularity contest. If Linux had a larger desktop presence, then Linux Geeks would have more "cocktail-party credibility." Who cares?
    2. Linux is Open Source Software and Open Source Software is written by Geeks to solve the problems that Geeks have, not the problems that Joe Desktop has.
    Ideally, there should be roughly three kinds of computers: an engineering (geek) kind (e.g. Linux), a low-admin server kind (e.g. AS/400), and an appliance kind (e.g. Mac). What would really capture some desktop space would be something like a "Linux Install for Business and Interactive Desktop Operations" (LIBIDO?!). Not only would this thing not need a command line, but it would actually be hard to find it, if it had one at all. It would install with an office suite ready to go. Applications would have strict API and install guidelines. The goal would be to produce a machine with very few options so that it had a repeatable, bullet-proof operation across thousands of installations. Geeks would find this intensely dull and I don't know very many who would line up to donate their precious open-source development time to such a project.

    Linux is kicking ass in the server market because the people who define what it does (the Geeks) care about the server market. When a critical mass of suitably-motivated Geeks really wants to produce a system that will win the hearts of Corporate Goons and find a home on desktops everywhere, then it will be created.

    Until then... well, I'm going to spend the next 10 hours painstakingly customizing the appearance of my titlebars...

  • by SpiceWare (3438) on Tuesday May 22, 2001 @11:55AM (#205787)
    Both sets of my grandparents, as well as one of my aunts & uncles, are running Linux.

    They were using the Netpliance iopener [netpliance.com] for email to inexpensively keep in contact with family and friends. Netpliance had some major financial problems and discontinued the 800 number support, which left my relatives high-and-dry after they became hooked on email.

    I've modified [linux-hacker.net] their iopeners to run Linux. I set them up with Blackbox [alug.org] as the window manager because the iopener is rather underpowered. The iopener's function keys have iconic labels instead of F1-F12: a weather key with a cloud on it, a news key with a newspaper on it, etc, so I've configured bbkeys [thelinuxcommunity.org] to run Netscape and pass the appropriate command line arguements to display the correct URL or email option. (I would have used Mozilla, but it's email support was too slow - 20 seconds to display an email vs 2 seconds in netscape).

    Last year my mom traveled the country visiting relatives with her laptop and scanner and digitized all the family photos she could lay her hands on. So, as an added bonus, the iopener is also an electronic picture album and runs CHBG [sourceforge.net] as a screensaver when the system is idle. The grandparents really love this feature.

    Sure, I could have done this using Windows, but the non-upgrade price of Windows(since the iopener's originally ran QNX) would have been about twice the cost of the hardware I purchased to convert the iopeners.

  • A Desktop client should not take 3-4 days to set up(!). It should only take six to eight hours of semi-attended work. Assuming of course that all the media is at hand.

    If you properly script things or use Drive Image, you can fully automate the process and have the ability to recover the system in case of emergencies in a small fraction of the time.

    Of course these advanced imaging techniques are not covered by the OEM license of your Windows machines. You need to subscribe to a MS Select or Enterprise license for your corporation, else you must purchase a new full license for your OEM machines:

    http://www.microsoft.com/business/downloads/lice ns ing/reimaging.doc

    I suggest you spend some time (and perhaps a few dollars on a lawyer) to review the Microsoft corporate licensing briefs which may or may not apply to your company. If you're spending as long as you say you are configuring machines, it may save money in the long run to explore your options.

    http://www.microsoft.com/business/licensing/volume /briefs.asp [microsoft.com]

    A skilled Linux admin should be able to set up a bare-bones Linux system in little more time than it takes to get the machine off the loading dock and onto the user's desk. All the apps can run remotely without much pain. No local data, smooth backups... it's a tradeoff though, your Network will take a beating and your servers will be big.

    Of course, the same argument could be made for Terminal Server, with a multi-k$ price tag thrown atop per workstation.

    Alas, as long as MS holds their proprietary document formats, such an option is not at all practical.

    Pesky innovators.

  • I agree that X needs to go!

    It should not be exceptionally difficult to make old X programs work anyway, by making an Xlib replacement that translates the calls and throws away things that cannot be done on the new system. The only X programs that would not work would be window managers. This should be vastly easier than making WINE work. You could also make an "X server" that uses this library so remote X applications work.

    There are about a dozen viable replacements (I like the look of DirectFB, but Atheos looks pretty good too though it may have the toolkit problem described below).

    There are a few problems with the replacements, though. First is that they often throw out the client/server model and rely on shared memory. In my opinion this eliminates the one good thing about X, which is that programs from many sources can share the screen. I also think client/server can be far faster than shared memory, due to the triviality of making it multithreaded. The problem with X that causes these shared memory ideas is that X has far too many "synchronous" calls, where the call has a return value. The interface needs to be designed to by almost entirely asynchronous, so that thousands of calls can be batched together into a single context switch.

    The other problem is too many of the replacements try to force a "toolkit" on the programmer. This is like trying to make a file system that requires you to use MySQL to do all possible manipulations of the files. It is too high level, complex and thus potentially buggy, and it forces you to use current-day designs and precludes any innovation.

  • I think you missed the point of the letter. He is well aware that there are 40,000 applications that don't work on Linux, but the claim is that there is only one that is important, which is MS Office.

    Yea you can worry about those apps being sent to you by regulatory agencies, but for the vast majority of people, the only thing they are sent that does not work on Linux is MS Word documents and Excel spreadsheets.

  • No I got the point exactly. The claim is that of those 40,000 applications, exactly one (MS Office) could allow perhaps 10-20% people to use Linux instead, versus the perhaps 5% now. It may allow almost 100% of normal office workers to use Linux. Such percentage gains would perhaps encourage the porting of other programs and snowball into getting the vast majority of programs to work on Linux (or at least encourage them to test it under Wine).

    The point is that the weight of importance of the applications is not equal. The importance is so unequal that you might as well ignore all those other 39,999 applications!

    PS: I would also add Quicken to the necessary list. People seem to ignore this because it is not "evil MicroSoft" and it is believed it would be trivial to port it if they ever decided to.

  • how the fuck can you claim "The Linux Desktop is dead" when everyone already knows that it hasn't been born yet.

    I guess it is something like a premature baby (I am going to go out on a limb here and say 1 month old in the birth calendar) coming out and not surviving.

    get real pal.
  • by cluening (6626)
    The desktop is dead because it is in development? Sounds to me like it is alive and kicking away at what needs to be done. Perhaps the author runs in a reverse-time mode or something, but I keep looking at true desktop Linux (Gnome/KDE/XFCE/etc) and keep seeing more and more good things. For example, I just got a little handspring visor (which I went on to name "Manos", the Handspring of Fate) that I rather easily set up to sync with a bunch of Gnome tools, AvantGo, and some other stuff. That there is _real_ desktop material, not serving web pages and/or email. So I wouldn't pronounce it dead before it stops being developed. The BeOS desktop may (sadly) be pretty dead, the NeXT desktop may be dead/mutated, and so on, but the Linux desktop is nowhere near dead...
  • All I have to say is that in order to SHUTDOWN the computer I click on the START menu. um, hello?

    That's only for the people who aren't smart enough to hit Control-Alt-Delete, then Alt-S.

    Or you could think of it as starting the routine which shuts the system down.

    My personal biggest gripe about Linux as a desktop OS is how hard it can be to simply change your resolution or color depth. Try any recent distribution, using either KDE or Gnome, and try to find a shortcut in the menu system for changing your resolution. Doing it via a GUI method takes a lot of hunting around, if it's even possible at all...
    ---
  • by RayChuang (10181) on Tuesday May 22, 2001 @08:22AM (#205805)
    I am not surprised that Linux is not exactly doing well with desktop installations.

    The big problem is that Linux still doesn't have the completely seamless support for hot-docked USB and IEEE-1394 devices, which can cause installation problems for many novice users.

    Despite what everyone things about Windows 9x/ME/2000 here, you have to admit that having single unified UI and API makes for a lot easier programming when it comes to writing applications. Besides the issue of seamless automatic configuration, Linux has to contend with two different GUI environments, KDE and GNOME. The question is what company is willing to spend the money to write applications for both GUI's?

    And with the arrival of Windows XP Home Edition this fall, many of the issues Linux users have been complaining about are being addressed. With tightened compatibility requirements for full WinXP compatibility certification, every program running in its own distinct memory space, and incorporation of firewall capability, Windows XP will have far highly levels of stability than now and customers will complain far less about system crashes caused by memory leaks.

    Linux, in my opinion, is already perfect for the server environment, where kernel-level stability is very important and interface issues are not so important. With the 2.4.3 kernel, Linux now can do the extremely high-volume applications that was once the province of Solaris and OpenBSD boxes, as the recent success of the TPC benchmarks with the 16-CPU SGI server machine shows.

    But there is hope for Linux, though. The Linux Standard Base (LSB) project will likely become a central clearinghouse for all kernel and API issues, so everyone will more or less be on the same page when it comes to writing Linux applications. This will dramatically simplify programming issues, and eventually will allow Linux to evolve to the point it can have the same ease of automatic configuration that Windows 9x/ME/2000 now enjoys (for the most part).
  • But Star Office was just a copy of Word. The question is if an original word processor could be developed open source.

    In any event, StarOffice is an open-sourced version of a commercial product that was sold to Sun. Could open source duplicate that? I doubt it; it would have been too mind-numbingly boring.

    But perhaps Koffice will prove me wrong; I haven't checked it out yet, most likely because I'm an Emacs hound from way back and find office software sluggish to use compared to the old style control keystrokes of emacs.

    If anyone can show me an office suite that wouldn't slow me down in that respect, I might well give it a try. Since that might well be built off of emacs, it wouldn't surprise me if my best shot for something like that might be an open sourced project.

    D

    ----
  • When I visited the Grand Opening of the Apple Store in Glendale [see my report at http://www.amazing.com/applestore/ ], I saw a great many Digital8 and MiniDV camcorders in the audience. So at least in the Apple market, I can confirm that video editing is catching on.

    Of course I have about $ 8k worth of equipment to make videos (Canon XL1 MiniDV camcorder, dual processor PowerMac running Final Cut Pro 2.0, etc). Video definitely attracts free-spending enthusiasts like me. The question is whether you can lure folks like me from Apple; my guess is that it would be tough.

    (I use a Macintosh desktop at home and a Linux desktop at work; in my view, Linux is not nearly as nice, but I'd still rather use it than Windows).

    D

    ----
  • I used to run Linux and MacOS 9 at home, Linux to do text editing on emacs and MacOS 9 to do graphics.

    Now MacOS X serves both purposes perfectly and I don't need two computers anymore.

    I'm happy as a clam and would recommend it to anyone geeky. The sheer beauty of the interface appeals enormously; nobody does details like Steve Jobs, just go to one of the new Apple stores and you'll see that.

    D

    ----
  • The cheapest Mercedes-Benz ($25,000) available costs about triple what a Hyundai Accent ($8,500) does.

    The most expensive Hyundai costs about 20% as much ($25k) as the most expensive Mercedes ($121,000).

    A shirt from Target costs $12; a shirt from Barney's New York in Beverly Hills costs $ 165.

    The cheapest Macintosh ($899 with monitor) costs about ... well, actually, there's very little difference. The cheapest PC is about $600, throw in $100 for a monitor and you have $ 700. So the actual spread is only about 30%.

    The most expensive packaged system in the Macintosh line costs about $3,500. I'm sure if I wandered around dell.com or compaq.com long enough, I could find comparably expensive systems.

    The new iBook is regularly compared favourably with systems costing about 70% more than it, so we can't even make a case for it being that expensive.

    The new Titanium iBook is very comparable in cost to similar machines.

    In the end, then, Apple is a premium desktop brand that's selling at a price somewhat higher than a "normal" machine, but not consistently so. For notebooks, it's right in the middle of the pack.

    Certainly we do not have the wide price spread of cars or houses. (Cheapest house in Key West, Florida: $99,000. Most expensive: $ 6,000,000; cheapest house in Malibu, CA: $400,000; most expensive $15 million).

    If you're a smart shopper, you can avoid Apple's worst sins. For instance, if you can spare $2,600, about the price of an average notebook, you can get the gorgeous Titanium PowerBook, a technical tour de force. But don't buy memory from Apple; you'll pay about four times what it's worth. Not even I can defend stunts like that.

    But can I defend Apple as being fair value for money, being priced as a premium brand, but a far from outrageous one? Sure.

    D

    ----
  • A copy of WordPerfect?

    You obviously never saw the DOS version of Word. It was extraordinarily quirky. WordPerfect was a crude reproduction of a Wang word processor; Word was ... was ... something completely alien and strange. I both liked it and hated it, all at once.

    Word for Windows, on the other hand, was, well, Windows incarnate.

    D

    ----
  • Word for Windows was radically different from WordPerfect or even Word for DOS. As I remember, WordPerfect's problem was that it didn't have a Windows version for a long, long time, so when Windows became popular, Word for Windows killed off WP.

    Wordperfect had a blue screen and the whole thing was driven through function keys - you had to take your hands off the home keys and hit F1-F10 all the time.

    Word for DOS had a black screen, operated in what passed for a high-resolution graphics mode at the time, used its own character set which was oddly different from anything else, and you had to hit and a letter to run commands.

    Word for Windows had the ugly, toylike look you saw on all Windows 3.x programs.

    I don't think there was any question about them being very distinct products. In fact, in those days, I preferred Word even before there was Windows. In those days, I quite liked Microsoft and their products; it took the flakiness of Windows to change my mind. Windows and I were pretty much hate at first sight :-(.

    D

    ----
  • I just got Applixware [vistasource.com] 5 in the mail yesterday. It's on sale pretty much everywhere for $49.95 and I must say, it is a welcome replacment for StarOffice.


  • IMO, the focus issues and the lack of a working hourglass cursor (and other basic feedback issues such as this) are the #1 problem of the X11 desktop.

    It seems as if development has leaned towards pretty pictures and not towards basic usability issues. Stuff like letting the user know an app is launching is really kindergarten material in GUI design (See MacOS 1.0), and it's still not there yet.

    Maybe this is because it's easier for developers to tack things onto Gnome or KDE and not fix lower-level issues in X11, but building a successful GUI on Unix (ie one that works for more than launching xterms) demands systematic approach that fixes ALL of the problems, not just the easy ones.
    --
  • Well, there's a gaziilion unresolved usability bugs in Windows like your example.

    For example, during the W95 beta period we filed a bug that if you created a shortcut to a folder and then tried to navigate through that shortcut in the standard Save As dialog, your file was saved as "Shortcut.lnk.doc" or whatever. This was a normal user opertion discovered within a day or two of beta testing, not some deep bug, and the response we got was that it was serious issue and would be fixed before release.

    Turns out it wasn't fixed until Win2000 shipped, 5 years later. Leads one to believe that UI issues aren't exactly top priority over at MS.

    The problem at hand is that the Unix desktop community's slogan is apparently "Aim Low" (copy Windows), when usablity flukes should really be the top priority. But 95% of users can't be wrong.
    --
  • Any post that starts with "I'm an RHCE" and ends with the conclusion that Linux is ready for the desktop has got to be given very little credence.

    Maybe you meant to say "Linux is ready for the desktop, if you happen to have a RHCE or other Unix guru in the house willing to donate services".

    (BTW, I don't really consider Windows "Ready for the desktop" either. Ever installed a driver on MacOS? You literally drag the thingy into the thingy.)
    --
  • Laptop support is problematic even on Windows because laptop hardware sucks. Ever notice how IBM and Dell can charge a sigificant premium for their gear just because it "works as advertised"?

    I was a little dismayed about Alan Cox's recent comments about ACPI, namely that he doesn't care. That's all fine and good until systems drop APM and 'PnP BIOS' support and Linux needs to start spending a year catching up. (And ACPI isn't just about power management -- it's the whole device discovery routine.)

    But it's understandable. Apparently Win98 shipped using a subset of ACPI which lead the BIOS folks to not produce compatible implementations. Win98SE installed with ACPI disabled, so nobody worked on improving it. When Windows 2000 shipped, lots of folks were caught with their pants down -- I still see posts about people complaining about ACPI issues on Via boards for example.
    --
  • Quite interesting, There must be a huge shortage of competent It people in your area, or you are related to the owner. Only a best-buy employee or a boob would need to take that long to install W2K. Cripes it took me 2 days to configure the network unattended installer for W2k,O2K,Mcaffee,and 5 other apps for 6 different hardware platforms. (Note this is a Helluva job to do, the brainturds at microsoft decided that how things were done before needto be changed drastically for no good reason.)

    a monkey can install W2k in 3 hours, 5 if drivers need to be downloaded.

    you sir need to resign from your job, as you are obviously fudging your way through life.
  • That, um, wasn't his point. His point was that doing it one way for networking, and another for disks, is not *consistent*. And stuff that isn't consistent doesn't lend itself to intuitiveness. And I don't see the word Linux in his post at all, though he does promote MacOS. So to flame him for 1/2 of his example, and using Linux as a "counterexample" is fairly blatantly stupid.

    Have a nice day.

    (BTW: to whomever mod'ed this up as "insightful", lay off the bad drugs. Sheesh.)
  • Apple and Microsoft don't seem to be investing many developer resources in their desktops, either. Yes, they're adding chrome, but it seems like desktop usability and learnability haven't improved much in the past five years.

    And why should it? The PC has become so firmly entrenched in corporate America that a large number of people have to learn the interface as it stands, and their feelings about the desktop do not drive OS sales. There are machines being marketed to people who find PCs too hard to learn, but as far as I can tell, those machines have a simplified version of the standard GUI, not a radically new interface.

    So the stalwarts who are still working on KDE, GNOME, and GUI apps for Linux have one consolation: an almost stationary target.
    --

  • According to the article World Domination by any one OS is impossible, but lets face it MS got damn close and it is almost certainly a good thing that Linux is there to stop it. Lets face it, nothing else seems likely to.

    Linux does currently have its problems on the desktop, but whilst Word/Excel is my document/spreadsheet of choice, I don't expect the situation to stay that way. If/when KOffice is mature enough to read/write Word documents then I will move over. Then all I have to do is get all my games to run in Linux.
  • When you say, "one Windows 'distribution", which one are you referring to: Windows 95, Windows 98, Windows ME, Windows 2000 Professional, Windows 2000 Server, or Windows XP? :) Sorry, couldn't resist.

    Upgrades are less frequent, but there's two caveats to that:

    1) you can only upgrade when microsoft deems it is okay to upgrade. So, if you want to add some new functionality they haven't made official yet, tough luck. Or if some exploit has been found that they don't have a patch for yet, too bad.

    2) when the upgrades do come along, they make an effort to break things to force you to upgrade so you can pay them more money.

    Frankly, except for the occasional security patch, old versions of Linux work just fine. My server at home runs Redhat 6.1, and it's pretty stock except for security patches. And really it worked fine when I had RedHat 5.2. I upgraded because I wanted some of the new features, but I was by no means obligated to do so.

    ---

  • So it's not quite there yet, therefore it's dead? Bollocks.
    We all agree that linux makes a great server; but was it a great server from the day Linus first made the code available? Nah.
    The desktop is far from dead. It may take a little longer, but one pronouncement is not going make all those people working on the various desktops say "well, that's it. Back to windows." They'll continue to work, and some day we'll have a desktop non pareil.

    Open Source doesn't adhere to timetables. We'll have a desktop when we have a desktop. Declaring its demise may put that date back a month or two, but it's not going to kill it.
  • I'm afraid you've answered your own question.

    Those that want to use Linux, use Linux. Those that don't, don't.


    So, you've just stated that Linux needs a user base to survive. What if the userbase dwidled to but a handful? How much support/development would Linux get then?
    There is no war to win. Linux cannot die as long as there's someone interested in keeping it alive. There's no reason we have to 'win the war for the desktop' today or next week, or next year. There's no endgame where all the scores are tallied and a victor is announced.

    You seem to be assuming that the GPL is bulletproof armour for Free Software. It sure seems to be, but what pray tell is protecting the GPL? Without a very substantial userbase, as well as the Buzz that comes by being "the Next Big Thing (TM)", lawmakers may actually start listening to the [slashdot.org] GPLs [slashdot.org] detractors [slashdot.org]. Without the GPL having some weight [ibm.com] behind it, it could be easily short circuited - as in "Yes Mr. Stallman, they used GPL code and didn't re-release it. You get $500.00. Next case!" See what I mean?

    (++Linux_users) == (++people_dependant_on_GPL)>(--FUD_directed_at_Fre e _Software)

    I for one hope that Linux does become a ubiqitous desktop OS - that will entrench the GPL into the everyday lives of netizens everywhere. That will make it good for business. Good for business means more resources for Free Software. Free Software means the Internet can still be safe for free Speech. Free Speech means the world is better for my children.

  • People constantly make arguments about the superior reliability of the Linux OS, especially when compared to NT. Linux has a more reliable _kernel_, but it unquestionably does not have a more reliable gui, or more reliable desktop apps. Gnome with enlightenment has constant glitches, and crashes regularly. My new Red Hat 7.1 installation (Gnome/Sawfish) hangs the entire box within 3 days no matter what box I install it on. Even the Linux mail clients, which are comparatively simple pieces of software, are very much in beta (Balsa & Evolution, for example). The desktop software (diagramming tools, documentation tools, etc) are in an extremely primitive state: development on AbiWord appears to have ceased, and Dia is not even in beta.

    The sole redeeming feature is the newest release of Mozilla (0.9), which _is nice._ It has gotten dramatically better. However, this is no vindication of the Open Source development model: Mozilla development is done in a traditional "cathedral" way with a paid, professional development staff.

    Aside from that one exception, the Linux desktop environment is vastly inferior to its commercial alternatives (OS X & Windows 2000).


  • Yes, I saw it coming earlier this year. With IBM pumping (quite literally) billions of dollars into Linux development, and putting "Linux everywhere". What with RedHat turning a profit, and of course what with companies such as Sun and HP promising GNOME on the next major release of their OS. Of course don't forget Loki Entertainment staying alive through the worst of it - and gaining the support of Nokia...

    Yes I saw it, the end is coming. There is no economy for Linux on the desktop. Just billions and billions of dollars floating around from corporate giants.

    Why do we say this each and every time that something bad happens? It's like chicken little "oh the sky is falling oh the sky is falling". It's not the end, there is too much invested in it now. In fact the number of people I know who run Linux as the desktop of choice has easily doubled since early this year.

    Is it the end? Hell no...

  • by warpeightbot (19472) on Tuesday May 22, 2001 @09:14AM (#205855) Homepage
    just to reinforce the previous poster....

    I'm an RHCE. I was down at SSC (the Linux Journal guys) filling out some paperwork, and I needed to pull an IRS form off the web (I had forgotten my copy). So I'm telling the secretary the website, and we get the form, and Netscape cranks up Adobe Acrobat Reaer, and now we go to print, and... oh, RIGHT, of COURSE it's a Linux box, this is SSC!

    I had made the mistake of thinking "secretary == Windows box" and had not twigged to the "K" on her toolbar until the print box said "lpr".

    Now, remember, I've been running Linux since 1995, I'm supposed to know what an X desktop looks like. I couldn't tell the difference until it hit me in the face.

    Linux not ready for the desktop. Feh. My wife has run Linux on her desktop for three years now. Word Perfect, Netscape, Solitare, Free Cell, Minesweeper, now Hearts is out, Quake, Civ, Gnucash, GIMP, and Samba if you must talk to the EE... she demanded Linux after Windows 95 ate the registry twice in as many weeks. She hasn't missed a thing.

    The ONLY thing Linux needs is shelf space at Comp*USA for preinstalled machines. Other than that, we are SO ready for the desktop. Anyone who says otherwise is a liar or a wuss. I count Microsoft marketroids in the former category.

    --
    Software is like sex.
    It's better when it's free.
    -- Linus

  • > I also contend your implications that Win2k is more stable than Linux. Back that fact up with some hard data;

    Check out this post on comp.os.linux.advocacy [google.com], which calculated the uptimes of OSes in the Hot 100 Web sites back in January. The impatient may want to skip to the bottom, where they'll find something like this:
    Using Linux as the benchmark (simply because it's the median), you get:

    Solaris - 1.65
    Linux - 1.00
    W2K - 0.54 (State-of-the-art Unix killer, tee hee.)
    The patient could use the article's links to produce a current version of the same stats, and let us know whether anything has changed.

    --
  • > You're citing C.O.L.A. (or any Usenet advocacy group, for that matter) as a credible source? Gack!

    The link that I cited has its own links to where you can find the raw data and do your own analysis. (Actually, I get bogged down in Nocookieland at the Hot 100 site, but I suppose someone who thought the report didn't jibe with their personal observations could poke around and find the list, given sufficient motivation.)

    Other than that, I agree with your sentiment. How does the old saying go?
    Believe half of what you read,

    None of what you hear,
    And the opposite of anything you read on Usenet.

    --
  • by GroundBounce (20126) on Tuesday May 22, 2001 @09:19AM (#205859)
    It is a fact that Linux faces many obsticles on the desktop. Although it is catching up fast, there is still a gap in productivity and end user applications, it is still harder to setup and use for non-technical users, and it still lacks certain functional consistency (look at font handling, for example, and I'm not talking about anti-aliasing, but consistency across screen, printing, and applications).

    I am 43 years old and work for a company run by 50 year olds. I'm one of only a couple of Linux users around here, and certainly the oldest one. It will be a long time before I can convince the company management to switch desktops to Linux, expecially since there are still perceived and real shortcomings.

    But Linux is very popular among technical college and university students. What will happen in another few years when tens of thousands of college students who have grown up on Linux go into the workforce. Certainly some of them will either start their own companies or move into decision making positions in existing ones. You will begin to see Linux on the desktop, and increased demand for Linux applications. The timing will be very good for this because by that time, most of Linux's desktop shortcomings will have been addressed.

    Success (if not dominance) on the desktop will take the longest of any area, but it will eventually happen.
  • by meldroc (21783) <`meldroc' `at' `frii.com'> on Tuesday May 22, 2001 @10:25AM (#205863) Homepage Journal

    AOL!!!

    I agree that Linux on the desktop isn't dead, it just needs more time to catch on. Look at DOS & Windows. When Windows 1.0 first came out, it was incredibly limited and clumsy. Everybody wrote it off as a poor Macintosh clone. It took several more years before Windows matured into version 3.0. Compared to the Mac, it was still clumsy, slow and limited, but more people noticed it. Windows only really took off with the masses when Win 95 was released. It took Microsoft about a decade to get Windows to sell.

    And people call Linux dead because people didn't suddenly drop everything and install Red Hat two years after the first useful desktop environments appeared. Bah! Linux on the desktop can be successful, but it takes persistence. It will take a lot more than two years for this to happen.

  • The clipboard in Linux sucks incredibly. It is nice to be able to select and middle-click to paste when you're in a console, but doing something as simple as copying and pasting a URL into the browser is difficult.

    I agree that the clipboard in Linux sucks incredibly, but this isn't why - in at least Netscape 4.x, Mozilla, and Konqueror, you can just middle-click on the HTML display area and it'll paste whatever's in your clipboard into the URL bar and go there.

    Middle-click paste is one of the nicest things about X apps, IMHO. It's right up there with sloppy focus and virtual desktops (yeah, you can get the last 2 in Windows, but they always seem to have issues.)
    --
  • > The problem is when you have to install and
    > upgrade programs.

    It's not as though this is any easier in the windoze world though - and you have to reboot just for things to take effect there, too!

    > DEB isn't much better - from my experience,
    > it'll b0rk completely if it can't find some
    > mythical lib like libpakistanicalender.so.1.2.

    Now that's just too much. Debian has no aspirations to be one thing (server) or another (desktop) orientated. Of course there are more-"together" offerings around there, like the *BSDs, of course - their ports system rocks - but frankly you sound like you've been tracking unstable and couldn't quite keep up, because I know that in a couple of years' solid use as a desktop system here, tracking unstable, there's never yet been a Debian-specific glitch I couldn't solve.
    That said, bear in mind that my idea of desktop use is that I really don't give a fig about 3D-FX cards and the latest wizzo-graphics game, although I know life can be fun when you start trying to work around Mesa and all the assorted OpenGL packages. Feel free to go work on this :8]

    > I wouldn't recommend Linux to a newbie for
    > anything more advanced than

    I wouldn't recommend Linux to a newbie, full-stop.

    Face it, guys, sometimes to be a user you have to have a clue. And I'd much rather say `you're an idiot, forget it' than water-down something good and geeky to fit the thickest moron on the planet, any day.

    ~Tim
    --
    .|` Clouds cross the black moonlight,
  • by Shelrem (34273) on Tuesday May 22, 2001 @11:06AM (#205884)
    Okay. Start with this: why the hell does kwrite automatically copy selections into the clipboard whether I want it to or not? (Did that on RH6.0, anyway; I haven't really paid attention to whether it's been fixed since).

    This is a feature in X, not a bug. If you don't like it, you can turn it off. Well, unless KWrite does it explicitly (as opposed to the general way most apps use). Now, the real question is why Redhat doesn't make this easily configurable.

    Why are we letting politics dominate our desktop decisions? And why the hell isn't the Linux community trying to forge alliances with the Mac community?

    Some might argue that those politics are why we're here. Now, I agree that you can (and people do) go too far with it, but the reason that Microsoft and others can't just assimilate GNU/Linux is because of things like the GPL and decentralization. As for alliances with the Mac community, I think there are hurt feelings on both sides. Plus many developers think Apple has a rather one sided view of sharing. I can't speak on this myself, but i do know that Apple is rather trigger-happy with the lawyers which does keep me the hell away, both from anger and fear of litigation.

    Still, i think you have a point about forming alliances. I think first we should look to the other UNIX's, where most any software can be ported with a minimum of effort. Then look towards the BeOS's, Macs, QNX's, etc. The problem, of course, is that all these OS's are competing for a lot of the same users, so there's bound to be some friction.

    When the Mac came out, Apple put out the Mac Human Interface guidelines. Microsoft has its own rules for Windows. We have no such thing for either of the significant Linux desktops. Believe it or not, this is a bad thing. For this to work we need some interface guidelines, preferably written by someone using both MacOS and Linux (since Mac users as a general rule are more sensitive to clumsy interface design)

    I agree for the most part, but I will say that I've been really unimpressed by Apple type designs (Nautilus, for example). That's not to say that there's nothing to be learned from Mac users, but I'd like to see some of the UNIX spirit in the GUI. Small, powerful apps (or pieces, ala CORBA) that can be linked together with scripts (read "high level languages." Whoops! There's your RAD) rather than these monolithic monstrosities. Power should NOT be sacrificed for simplicity. If there's no way to make something both usable for the average layman and powerful for those of us who're interested, then make to versions that are as compatable as possible. There does not need to be one answer to everything, there should just be one default. We'll get nowhere by copying other desktops. We have to go with what works, and scrap the rest.

    As for the matter of open source desktop apps, we only have ourselves to blame. Browser?

    Hey, I hear great things about Konq.

    If you have nothing at all to contribute to OpenOffice or any of its competitors, you have no
    right whatsoever to bitch about articles like this.


    Yeah! Anyone who's working on GNOME and KDE but not an office suite should shut their yaps! Wait, no. I think anyone who's happily using Linux as a desktop enviroment has a right to disagree with articles like this. That's not to say there aren't valid points, but there are plenty of problems in the arguements, too. Everyone who wants Linux on the desktop seems to be saying, "Come on! We need to clone these other desktops. Forget what got us this far, let's get in shape and do what Apple/Windows did!" But as I said earlier, we have to use our strengths, and improve where these other GUIs didn't. I don't think choice has to be a bad thing if we also have good standards.

    Why can't [g]vim and [x]emacs live side by side? How about a CORBA object for displaying/editing text, and let the user choose vim, or nedit, or kwrite, or emacs, or whatever? Choice doesn't have to be bad.

    The Linux world needs to swallow its pride and accept that some decisions do need to be made from above, or at least proposed from above and accepted by a critical mass.

    Like the Linux kernel and Linus Torvalds? Or like Perl and Larry Wall? Maybe more like Python and Guido van Rossum? Or GNOME and Migel de Icaza? Granted, there's still room for inter-project cooperation, but with the exception of a few feuding factions, I think we're pretty good about that. Even GNOME and KDE are getting along better these days.

    Our desktop flagship programs are huge. Mozilla is about a 20MB source tarball IIRC, and I believe OpenOffice is well over 300MB. This is IMHO unacceptable in a Unix-based community; monolithic office suites are a Bad Thing to begin with, and given that there hasn't been a really core-type feature invented since the multidimensional spreadsheet I have to wonder where all this bloat is coming from (since I don't use it I could be off-base).

    My guess is that a lot of it is coming from the feature-cloning with regards to MSWord, though I couldn't say definitely, since I don't use OpenOffice. My point is that for the media to say, "oh, Linux is becoming a viable desktop OS" we need all that bloat. They want to see the "Linux version of/counterpart to" MSWord, Excel, and all those other ones. If you're really just looking for functionality, pick up emacs and LaTeX. If you want all the razzle-dazzle of MSWord, you're going to have to take the bloat that comes with it too.

    We need more than developers in the Open Source community, you see. What's missing from the Open Source equation is support personnel like tech writers and creative people.

    I couldn't agree more! So much of the current work towards UI design is being put towards making stuff pretty, when what people really want is making the GUI usable. Even some of the people doing GUI design at Redhat make dumb mistakes, such as asking for data that could've been inferred, or making a window pop up in front of the information to enter into the window... In GNOME (last i used it, at least), there's plenty of pretty stuff, but why can't i set up the working directory for a program I launch off the bar? Why can't i easily make global revisions to my application menu without su'ing to root? It almost makes me want to fix these things myself.

    Of course, then i found WindowMaker.

    -ben.c
  • by mpe (36238) on Tuesday May 22, 2001 @12:21PM (#205894)
    Simple things like when you put a CD in your CD drive it automatically pops up a window asking you if you wish to install the piece of software.

    Or maybe simple things like asking them what they think they are doing and if they still want their job?

    What users want is the ability to easily setup their internet connection.

    Given a system which is easy for the system administrator there is absolutly no "Internet connection setting up" to be done in the first place. Unlike certain systems which expect the end user to do all sorts of techie things.

    What users want is the ability to easily change the date and time in an intuitive manner.

    Why? Any half decent computer system only needs to know the timezone (or failing that the longitude) do get the time and date correct all by itself. Remember the point of computers is to make things easier for the human...

    What users want is the ability to get a piece of software that advertises linux support, install it with just a few clicks of the mouse buttons and have it work with no further hassles

    Should these same people be customing their company vehicles, remodeling the desks in their workplace or school? ("I don't like my office wall, so I can just knock it down.")
    If people want to mess around then they can stick to their own computers. Rather than trying to drive others into becoming the BOfH.

    Users don't want 6 text editors, 4 e-mail readers, 3 web browsers, and 2 GUI's installed. They just want one of each that is easy and intuitive to use and offers all the basic functionality.

    Guess what, people differ, one person's "intuitive" is another person's nightmare.
  • by macpeep (36699) on Tuesday May 22, 2001 @09:01AM (#205895)
    I'm not going to argue things one way or another but I have to comment about Windows stability. I used to run Windows 98 at home and I rebooted the machine about once in two weeks or so.. Stability was never an issue.

    Now I run Windows 2000 on two machines (a laptop and a desktop) and not ONCE has the OS crashed in the about 6 months I've had them.

    At my old job, I had an NT 4 workstation and when I left, I checked the uptime - roughly 6 months. It had never even occured to me to reboot, and I had never any problems with that machine even though I developed software on it and the software in development (obviously) crashes all the time.

    In my new job, it's all Win2k for desktops and I've seen no crashes on any of the machines yet.

    My point? Linux may be stable but stability is definitely not an issue on the Windows side either, except on the Windows 9x machines. However, even for Windows 9x's, it's nowhere near the problem some Slashdot posters make it out to be. Of course there will be people who have had Windows 9x (or even NT) installations that crashed once an hour, but for some odd reason, it usually always seems to happen to those people who are the most fanatic anti Microsofters.

    "All strongly held opinions should be strongly opposed."
  • by deacon (40533) on Tuesday May 22, 2001 @08:36AM (#205897) Journal
    Linux on the desktop is not dead.

    It's Resting.

    Pining for the fiords.

  • by r_newman (40868) on Tuesday May 22, 2001 @08:09AM (#205898)
    Linux on the desktop is great for those of us who use the full functionality it has to offer, or at least a subset of it.

    Your average office user though WANTS Windows. Okay, it may crash quite frequently, but let's face it; it's intuitive, and well-designed aesthetically.

    Lets keep working on the desktop for ourselves and if others want to use it, great... But lets not forget where our true strength lies: In the Server market.
  • by hattig (47930) on Tuesday May 22, 2001 @08:22AM (#205909) Journal

    I have been fighting Gnome, Mozilla and KDE for a week. This resulted in 20 crashes in a morning, followed by a swift reinstall of the OS, no more Mozilla, and sticking with a simple KDE and Konqueror (which is quite a good browser actually, much better than Mozilla).

    Now, it makes a killer programming box. emacs, kwrite, etc are great editors for Perl and Java amongst others, and I even got anti-aliasing working on the Voodoo 4500 at home (but not on the ATI at work). KWord and co. still crash far too often. Kmail doesn't grok IMAP. Mozilla is a slug on dope. How can I guarantee a good Word format conversion?

    However it is improving. Many Linux distros can install a reasonable desktop from scratch. However, for a lot of things, where are the GUI interfaces? If they exist, they suck in many cases.

    Microsoft know about making an easy to use system. Apple moreso. I have no objections to text files for configuration (in fact I encourage it for the obvious reasons), however software installation on Unix is a mess - splattering files all over the place, urgh. Software should install in a single location, in a chroot jail if possible, by default. Think Apple OS X bundles.

    The Unix file system is a horror for most non-unix people. /usr? /etc? you what? Apple have hidden this away from the user in Max OS X, and this needs to be done in Unix (or more to the point, KDE and Gnome).

    Also, OS updates need to be better and easier for the average user. To update FreeBSD requires that you write a cvsup configuration file, and run cvsup! Don't make a mistake though, or your computer will get knackered.

    Still, I remember the days of the Amiga. That was a sensible computer in terms of user friendliness, GUI features, file system and configuration. QNX has also impressed me recently, but it needs to support more hardware.

    Final point: As the Unix desktop improves, so does Windows. However, Microsoft may finally shoot themselves in the foot with their licensing. If you don't need to mess with the internals of a Unix system (you get someone else to set it up for you), then things are straightforward (until you buy new hardware) for most people. Click on the pretty icon to run the work processor.

    Second Final Word: printing.
  • by Colm@TCD (61960) on Tuesday May 22, 2001 @08:21AM (#205927) Homepage
    Let's face it: at the present time there's nothing under Linux that works as well as Microsoft Office. Period.

    Ignoring for a moment the intensely irritating "Period", this is by far the most important point made. But even this misses the mark; the problem isn't that "there's nothing as good as Microsoft Office", the problem is that "Microsoft Office doesn't work on Linux". This is the one and only killer application - now and probably for the next five years, only environments which run MS Office have a chance to survive. It doesn't matter that StarOffice and Applix and KOffice are every bit as useful for the majority of users; it doesn't matter that users' attachment to Office is largely irrational (the UI differences between different versions of MS Office are often greater than those between MS Office and StarOffice), and it doesn't matter that MS Office is bloated almost to the point of unusability. The only thing that matters is the perennial question : "Does it run Word?" and until this question can be answered "Yes!" (which presumably means a radically different Microsoft to the one we have now), the gloom will persist.

    That said, the sensationalism of the article is completely wrong; there's no "end" in sight, and an actual look-at-the-figures will probably reveal the same slow but steady gains for Linux on the desktop that we've seen over the past eight years. Editorials don't kill operating systems, so everyone just relax...

  • by ryarger (69279) on Tuesday May 22, 2001 @08:09AM (#205933) Homepage
    Let's see:
    Linux on the desktop is dead because the desktop applications, in development for 3 years or so, are incomplete and immature.

    Linux on the server is alive because the server applications, in development for 6+ years or so, are complete and mature.

    So, linux on the desktop is dead. As in, incapabable of life. As in, permanently deceased.

    In a couple of years, these applications will still be incomplete and immature... um... why?

    Personally, I think Linux on the desktop is in it's infancy, rather than it's deathbed.
  • by jason_z28 (73458) on Tuesday May 22, 2001 @08:12AM (#205942)
    I am a software developer and I tried to push Java as the multi-platform solution. Moving away from the windows C++ world. So I convinced my company to use J2EE. We use EJB on the server side with JSP and Javascript front end. Our goal was to have a multi-platform server side solution and and multi-platform web based client. As we move along, we have to drop more and more Netscape browser versions. They are absolutely horrible to support. They don't respond correctly to a lot of our standard stuff. Has anyone tried version 6? Jeez! We had to drop everything netscape except the 4.7X versions. And we've had to bend to make it work in those versions as well. How are we supposed to make a multiplatform web based client without a decent browser on a Linux\Unix machine? Browser support is lagging.
  • by pete-classic (75983) <hutnick@gmail.com> on Tuesday May 22, 2001 @11:02AM (#205947) Homepage Journal
    Obviously she can't call the guys at GNOME for customer support, or the guys at KDE to ask why Konqueror isn't rending a webpage properly. It these things that are preventing it from being a true workstation for the masses.

    When is the last time you called MS for support? If you are like most users, the answer is "never."

    I think that this argument is functionally equivalent to the "who are you going to sue" argument. There is no real safety (or in this case support) there, but there is a psychological difference in running software "backed" (read any MS EULA to see why I put the word backed in quotes) by a multi-billion dollar company.

    MS pushes most of the support out to OEMs. The question, I suppose, is when is the advantage of having "the standard" (what I bastardization of the word) OS/Office/etc out weighed by the ridiculousness of paying for the privilege of supporting MS stuff vs. supporting Free stuff.

    This point is being passed in the Intel based server market right now.

    Or, are you talking about paid support? There is plenty of that for Linux, and is, in my experience, of better quality. Again, when is the last time you called MS support?

    Then the common answer for people that are struggling with Linux and always asking questions is "RTFM", well guess what, there are people out there that don't want to learn about a computer, but just use it. And futher more, I doubt this person has a book on GNOME, and people trying to learn GNOME aren't going to know GNOME has built in documentation

    This argument is hollow. The GNOME help system is functionally identical to the windows help system, as is the KDE help system. If there is any difference here it is in third party products (video professor, teach yourself MS office in 28 days, etc.)

    Not only that, Linux tries to mix Server and Workstation too much.. Once again, the average geek will like this, but most people don't care if they have a telnet server running, in fact its a huge security risk for the average home user.

    This is a problem in general, but try an "all defaults" install of Redhat 7.1. It is easily as secure as a "windows power user's" box with black ice or whatever, and is easier to install. (given like installs. Installing RH 7.1 in a single boot, stock install is no harder than the Win98 equivalent. Much easier than the original Win95 on a system with PIXII and USB.)

    -Peter


  • by Lxy (80823) on Tuesday May 22, 2001 @08:52AM (#205953) Journal
    legally required rant:
    Ok, moderators, are you smoking crack? This is the first post to point out the painfully obvious, moderate him up!

    On the serious note, this article fails to support its own title. "Death of the linux desktop" it says, but where was there evidence that it's alive? The beauty of open source is that things don't die. Ever. If someone stops developemnt (Eazel being the obvious), so what? those who use it and want it, keep developing! Where's the problem here?
    The other thing that just burned me about the article is the mention of Corel linux failing. First of all, Corel linux was a POS to begin with. I couldn't get the POS installed on 3 different machines. There's no options, so I know I didn't screw anything up. My first install attempt, it didn't even unmount the partitions after install! It fsck'd on my first boot, most of the daemons wouldn't start, the OS was UNUSABLE. I tried installing on a laptop, the res was messed up and it put the "Continue" button off the screen. I couldn't even click the Continue button! I never got past the first screen! Corel linux blew chunks. Lots of them. Take them OUT of the equation!
    Linux on the desktop is alive and kicking. This article is just blowing senseless smoke. Mozilla is really starting to look good, Evolution beats the crap out of OutHouse, and Open Office is getting there. Wiritng an article like this is poiintless, you've just reconfirmed what we already know.. the linux desktop needs work. Saying that it's dead... STFU. It's not there yet. Development will continue, and I'm reminded every time I sit at a Windoze machine how truly superior it is.

  • by supabeast! (84658) on Tuesday May 22, 2001 @08:25AM (#205959)
    "it's intuitive, and well-designed aesthetically."

    Intuitive? Not really. In Windows 2000 professional, to change network properties, I just click control panel, then network, and select a connection to edit. To alter properties of a disk, I must go into control panel, then administrative tools, then disk management. Such inconsistencies abound in Windows, and are far from intuitive. If you want intuitive check out Mac OS.

    As for aesthetics, aesthetics vary wildly. Most Linux distributions come with hundreds of desktop themes, offering a far greater chance that a user will be able to find a pleasing aethetic right out of the box, as compared to Windows where only a few generic options are provided.

    Windows has users because of all the software available, which is written for Windows because it is a much more standardized OS (Only one Windows "distribution.") and upgrades are far less frequent than they are for Linux. Only once a standard Linux distro champions itself on the desktop, with only infrequent major changes, can Linux hope to be as viable to an end user as Windows.
  • by kevin@ank.com (87560) on Tuesday May 22, 2001 @08:41PM (#205967) Homepage

    This presumes that you know what the next desktop OS will look like. If instead the industry completely misses the boat, heads off in one direction and interest of the public runs off in another then Linux could very easily cross the finish line first.

    Consider TIVO for example. I'm not a big fan of the device, but suppose it caught the imagination of the american public in a major way; it could easily result in a complete displacement of Windows on the consumer desktop.

    There are other examples, but that isn't the point. Open source also means that a thousand companies, without any significant value or staff size, are able to innovate however the mood strikes them. And that, I claim, is the very core of invention.

    Microsoft's can be displaced just as easily as Nokia surprised and overwhelmed the cell-phone market; all it takes is a blind spot. And right now that blind spot (for Microsoft is in recognizing the value of open source. (Who knows what it will be next year.)

  • by kevin@ank.com (87560) on Tuesday May 22, 2001 @09:17AM (#205968) Homepage

    Especially true when you compare where Linux was two years ago and where it is today.

    By my recollection about two years ago XFree86 was just starting on 4.0, performance and video card support were so slow to arrive that almost everyone running X had to buy either Metro-X or Accellerated-X to get good performance and reasonable hardware support.

    Two years ago Motif was still the only complete and standard toolkit for X11 based software development, it looked like crap, had infinitely many bugs, and added another $100 to the cost of a system.

    Two years ago was when I really despaired of Linux ever finding success on the Desktop, but not today. I finally gave in a month ago and installed GNOME (replacing fvwm as my favorite desktop), and while the keyboard accellerators aren't all quite the same it is a much better environment overall.

    The architecture of XFree86 now allows new video hardware to be added much more quickly. Motif is dead and unmourned; even Mozilla has moved on. Speaking of which Mozilla has finally become usable to my level of tolerance, meaning it has fewer annoyances than Netscape does now.

    Linux on the desktop has never looked as good before as it does today.

    Maybe it is dead according to someone's expectations, but it looks like it is on an exponential growth curve to me.

  • by MattW (97290) <matt@ender.com> on Tuesday May 22, 2001 @09:24AM (#205978) Homepage
    That's not nearly as subtle of a troll as you think, but I may as well respond, since I've had a burgeoning feeling of joy lately over how much progress linux has made.

    Microsoft Windows always has been, and always will be holed up in the desktop market. It's stupid for Linux to even think of competing there.

    That's the statement of a troll, I think, but I'll pretend otherwise. 5 years ago, I had to compile everything for linux. I didn't even try to get X running. There was no office software, at all, that I knew of. Mail was text only. Fast forward to today: several office packages, 2 of which are free, to choose from. I enjoy having mutt as a mailreader, so I read from a shell, but it has both inline pgp and can spawn up attachments into StarOffice right from the mail client. Oh, and I don't have to worry that every attachment I'm getting (or every email, for that matter) is some VBScript laden bomb waiting to infect my system with a virus and wipe out all my files.

    When I need to set up a new desktop client, it typically takes 3-4 days, using Windows 2000.

    About 6 months ago, I needed to update my Linux box (well, wanted to, anyhow, but that's such a fine line for a computer geek ;)), so I decided to try out the prebuilt market. I ordered a box from penguin computing. It came pretty decently installed, but I decided to go ahead and run through myself, because I didn't like their partitioning. So, installing from scratch, I installed RHat6.2 with RAID 5 across a bunch of SCSI drives (in software), in about 45 minutes. Gnome: already running. Enlightenment: had to pick it from a list. Staroffice I had to download, although I think it was on one of the CDs. The latest stuff is even better. Now, when you install the right gnome packages, practically all the gnome software works without any further changes, including stuff like the Gimp. That means you spent 2-3 days and about 6 hours more installing win2k that I needed for linux. Downloading source? Nonsense. Buy or burn a copy of a distro. And guess what? If you don't need support, you only need to buy one, no risk of Red Hat storming your office to check for illegal copies of your OS. Problem hardware? Nonsense. RedHat has a nice HCL now you can check against. My _wireless ethernet_ worked out of the box on my laptop in 7.1. Yes, you can't necessarily buy anything out there, but since when did corporations buy things willy-nilly? IS departments can spend a few hours checking an HCL to get a standard hardware setup -- or find a vendor, like Penguin, that can do it for them.

    An inferior operating system, matched by shoddy programs that don't work

    I've spent months now using netscape and staroffice every single day. Netscape is utterly stable, when you discount Java, which I have off on ALL platforms due to that instability. Try comparing the resources used by the latest linux netscape to those used by IE. Mozilla isn't a 1.0 version yet, but I tried out 0.9, and it seems like its well on its way to being nice.

    That said, let's look at what I get that you don't:

    I get built-in firewalling/packet-filtering capability, and RedHat 7.1 will even build access lists for me.

    I get a variety of mail clients, graphical or shell, which are faster and more robust than garbage like exchange (ever try to close a multi-thousand message box? Better have something else to do for a while), as well as not being easy victims for every virus writer on the planet.

    I get system monitors, media players, development tools, games, graphics programs, irc clients, a palm-sync package, cd ripping/burning software, newsreaders, as well as a desktop that is so customizable it makes the pathetic attempts under windows ("Oh, your mouse pointer is now really a mouse, how cute *gag*") worthy of tears. And of course, I get to choose from a variety of office suites that are free, never mind the commercial ones.

    Meanwhile, Linux as a server has grown from fun to just amazing. With a vastly improved kernel, now offering fast context switching, and speedy multithreaded I/O, you get software like Apache, PHP, MySql/Postgres/Oracle, sendmail, BIND, etc, all of which put their Win2k equivalents utterly to shame (with the possible exception that MS SQL Server is pretty decent). Want an incredibly fast webserver? TUX in the kernel and you're beating the pants off anything.

    This is to say nothing of the true cost of ownership. Imagine an IT world based on linux: you can export X displays without expensive add-ons, you can ssh safely and securely into your client machines, you get built-in packet filtering with logs you can easily transfer and audit, which your users can't override at their whim, AND is fast and free. Linux really COULD be a desktop now. I shudder to think how amazing it will be with some market share. Add to this the incredible stability -- I'd like to see you put a windows box at a colo provider 1500 miles away and feel safe when you walked away!

    CompUSA cheap... nice troll, or nice setup, but give me a break -- IT people spend 10x as much time just repairing virus damage on windows garbage than they would converting their whole company to Linux. Games under linux are coming, and when they do, Windows is finished.

  • by Deadbolt (102078) on Tuesday May 22, 2001 @08:20AM (#205983)

    Your average office user though WANTS Windows.

    Office users - the ones I work with and don't know their asses from a hole in the ground - don't *want* Windows. They just want to read their email and surf the Web. They get mad when it breaks, but they could personally care less. They use Windows because it's what tech support will help them with and because they need to read Word docs. If the directive came from on high that we'd migrate to KDE by the end of third quarter, no one would stand up and vigorously fight the loss of his beloved Windows.

    Okay, it may crash quite frequently, but let's face it; it's intuitive, and well-designed aesthetically.

    Well, um, yes and no. See, if you use the same thing for long enough, your brain adapts to its features, bugs, and quirks, be it software, a car, or a favorite pen. After a month of using a particular GUI, it becomes intuitive to you since you've changed your thought process to better use it. As for aesthetics, try to imagine how many users use the default Windows theme and compare that number with the ones who customize.

    Put someone in front of KDE or Ximian and force them to use only it for a month. They'll be as proficient with it as they are currently with Windows. And when they see the power and the non-crash feature, they'll never want to use Windows again.

    Oh, and releasing the newest games for GNU/Linux couldn't hurt either.

  • by The_Messenger (110966) on Tuesday May 22, 2001 @08:27AM (#205998) Homepage Journal
    I'm still not sure it was ever born in the first place ... although I happily run Linux on all of my desktops.
    Except, of course, for the Windows box that enables you to play the games (The Sims, Diablo 2) you so dearly love.

    --

  • by Isldeur (125133) on Tuesday May 22, 2001 @10:47AM (#206018)


    How many times can that guy say "not ready yet" and then also state that it's already dead?

  • by antis0c (133550) on Tuesday May 22, 2001 @08:24AM (#206026)
    Unfortunately due to the /. effect I can't read the article.. But I've always had discussions with coworkers on this topic.. Linux has yet to be a user-friendly desktop. And it probably won't be for at least another year. Sure its the desktop of choice for geeks and techheads alike, but imagine installing a fresh copy of Debian on a Pentium, and giving it to your grandmother? Unless you've done a really good job of making sure everything is working, and you show her how to use things, where is she going to start?

    Obviously she can't call the guys at GNOME for customer support, or the guys at KDE to ask why Konqueror isn't rending a webpage properly. It these things that are preventing it from being a true workstation for the masses.

    Not only that, Linux tries to mix Server and Workstation too much.. Once again, the average geek will like this, but most people don't care if they have a telnet server running, in fact its a huge security risk for the average home user.. Considering he'll probably be storing webpage passwords on his machine.. Then there is lack of a good Web Browser, although this will soon be a thing of the past, as I've been using Konqueror myself for months without a problem.. But Netscape bundled by default is horrible.. And then the one topic that is keeping it from being on every machine, is games.. Loki is doing a good job trying to fix that, but even I had trouble getting Quake 3 running properly with a PII 450 and a Voodoo3, It was slow as hell, despite talking with reps at Loki on which Mesa libraries to use and install, only to get a "Well we don't really know" answer.

    Then the common answer for people that are struggling with Linux and always asking questions is "RTFM", well guess what, there are people out there that don't want to learn about a computer, but just use it. And futher more, I doubt this person has a book on GNOME, and people trying to learn GNOME aren't going to know GNOME has built in documentation, or what the f*ck is a manpage. I can say the same thing, I don't care about how my Microwave or Toaster works internally, but when I put in leftovers or bread, I expect them to be heated and toasted..

    Thats the only thing I give Windows, I can install it for my parents, show them the icon for IE, put a few games on for my Dad, show him the icons, show my mom the "Word" icon, and how to print, and they're set, happy and have little problems.. I only need to teach them when blue screens pop up, or things lock up, press the reset button and start over. .. and don't get me started in printing in Linux.. sigh.
  • --I have Linux on almost all of my machines. I have one purely WIN box in my house and my wife uses that.

    --It started with, "I don't care if it's better, I can't run Quicken. I don't want to run something as good as Quicken I want to run Quicken. I can barely see the words in Netscape. Why can't I play The Sims on it? Nothing works. I want Office, I hate Star Office it is ugly. Dell says they can't help me becuase the machine came with Windows 98."

    --I gave up after that. She's not a stupid user either. She's a power user for the NT set. She just wants things to work as expected. tar -xvf doesn't make her happy. She like to click on .zip files and have them do their job.

    --I love Linux and tweaking and such but guess what I can't play NASCAR 4 on it.

    --Linux never stood much of a chance


    ---
  • by Drone-X (148724) on Tuesday May 22, 2001 @11:43AM (#206053)
    MAKE YOUR MODAL DIALOGS COME UP CENTRED OVER THE CORRECT APPLICATION WINDOW!
    That's actually a feauture in most window managers. In fact, I wasn't aware that wasn't set up as default in Mandrake. It should be.
  • by connorbd (151811) on Tuesday May 22, 2001 @09:44AM (#206058) Homepage
    Just my thoughts, but...

    Okay. Start with this: why the hell does kwrite automatically copy selections into the clipboard whether I want it to or not? (Did that on RH6.0, anyway; I haven't really paid attention to whether it's been fixed since).

    I agree with those who say the Linux community is too insular. We sit here and bitch and whine that the world isn't taking us quite as seriously as we'd like, but who's out there hacking OpenOffice to help make a workable MSOffice replacement? Why are we letting politics dominate our desktop decisions? And why the hell isn't the Linux community trying to forge alliances with the Mac community?

    I'll start with the last point first and get the flamebaiting out of the way. When the Mac came out, Apple put out the Mac Human Interface guidelines. Microsoft has its own rules for Windows. We have no such thing for either of the significant Linux desktops. Believe it or not, this is a bad thing.

    For this to work we need some interface guidelines, preferably written by someone using both MacOS and Linux (since Mac users as a general rule are more sensitive to clumsy interface design) (ducking flames, please hold). Specs like this are not amenable to committee design, so they should be handed down from on high by the toolkit developers for public comment rather than designed by committee. That's one.

    The politics have got to go. Yeah, you've got your favorite features; I personally rather enjoy the look (though not the feel) of Athena widgets. Stuff 'em; you can add them later if you need them, but you need something to fit them in with. We have two desktops, which is one too many, and they will probably never be merged. Fine. Let's go with what we have and relegate the rest to the special-purpose bins where they belong; Motif is dying anyway, and it's the only other toolset that really counts. And if we must keep them, let's have XawGTK and QtLesstif around so we don't get confused and have to look at fruit-salad apps.

    As for the matter of open source desktop apps, we only have ourselves to blame. Browser? Okay, Galeon's halfway there, but you still need Mozilla. That's ridiculous; AOLTW/Netscape changed the licensing, so there's no reason for separate downloads. Desktop? Sorry, I have no sympathy when OpenOffice goes wanting for developers. You've got a rather useful package there -- huge, but it's got everything you need and an open file format to boot. If you have nothing at all to contribute to OpenOffice or any of its competitors, you have no right whatsoever to bitch about articles like this.

    The Linux world needs to swallow its pride and accept that some decisions do need to be made from above, or at least proposed from above and accepted by a critical mass. You fork, you're out. You've just created a new community, and the burden is on you to get it accepted, not to whine about why it isn't.

    There is another component to this. Our desktop flagship programs are huge. Mozilla is about a 20MB source tarball IIRC, and I believe OpenOffice is well over 300MB. This is IMHO unacceptable in a Unix-based community; monolithic office suites are a Bad Thing to begin with, and given that there hasn't been a really core-type feature invented since the multidimensional spreadsheet I have to wonder where all this bloat is coming from (since I don't use it I could be off-base). Same with wasting space on skinnable browsers when performance should be the big issue.

    We need more than developers in the Open Source community, you see. What's missing from the Open Source equation is support personnel like tech writers and creative people. We need more books like Coriolis Press' Lions-style source commentaries. We need interface designers willing to make stuff look pretty (something I'd love to help with, if anyone wants a Mac user's view, btw). We need Open Source RAD tools like VB or MacOS X Interface builder. It is very much time we reached out to the rest of the world to see what there is to be offered.

    Yes, there's the marketing problem as well. Don't expect Linux desktops everywhere next year. But how many people who know only the hype are aware that Linux is coming up on its tenth anniversary?

    /Brian
  • by MrBogus (173033) on Tuesday May 22, 2001 @12:28PM (#206079)
    Nautilus is based on a component-style design. Components are one very good way to achive the 'many small tools' rule that Unix users want out of a GUI system.

    Ironically, Microsoft understood this problem and achived a workable solution with COM around 10 years ago. Most VisualBasic programmers, for example, are just providing glue for other people's components.

    In the open source world, the idea has started to catch on. However, this has brought at least 4 different, incompatible component models (Gnome, KDE, Mozilla, and StarOffice). Unlike the aethetic or configuration issues with Unix Widget Wars, this is a *real* problem because it prevents interoperability between different component environments. And 90% of the problem is petty politics.

    (As for Nautilus - Unfortuately, despite early adverts that it would fit on a floppy disk, the Mozilla component ended up being a 10MB+ download. Meanwhile, MSHTML.DLL is 2.7MB.)
  • by Golias (176380) on Tuesday May 22, 2001 @08:13AM (#206082)
    A rising sun, a setting sun... either way, it's still dusk right now.

    This clown was utterly wrong to pronounce Linux on the desktop to be "dead", but he was clearly just trolling to sell more magazines and/or web hits. Let's move on, shall we?

  • by Golias (176380) on Tuesday May 22, 2001 @08:47AM (#206083)
    Perhaps you meant Linux needs more configuration tools and such with GUIs, which would reduce the amount of time spent at the command line.

    Personally, I've found that the Linux GUI's have lots of configuration options... it's just a royal pain in the ass to find them.

    It is a common site to see a rookie Linux admin sifting through menus looking for one config app or another, only to give up after 10 minutes and run the CLI version of it.

    Almost every aspect of Gnome or KDE can be tweaked to your taste, which is a good thing I guess, but the default layout of all the menus and tools is so bizzare and byzantine that it boggles the mind. It almost looks like it was designed by a huge assortment of different programmers... oh wait... it was, wasn't it? [ducks under the rotten cabbages]

    I don't think the Linux GUI is a lost cause. I'm sure that more logical structures will fall into place once the dust begins to settle. Besides, some people actually like it, just the way it is. Not me, but some people.

    Then there is the famous third-button pasting... Some geeks would die before giving that up.

    Personally, on the rare occations when I am actually sitting in front of a Linux box (instead of hitting it remotely), I tend to go to the command line and stay there.

  • by Alien54 (180860) on Tuesday May 22, 2001 @08:26AM (#206090) Journal
    What this means to me is that, in order for Linux to succeed on the desktop, there has to be the equivalent and appropriate amount of effort put into an Office slash productivity suite. Think of all of the man hours put into Linux. Now imagine an equivalent amount of time put into a linux productivity suite. (regardless of if it is KDE Office, Star Office, or whatever.)

    This is what is really needed. Unfortunately, the open source community has been diversified and splintered about this. And so this equivalent amount of effort, enough to match the results of something like a MS, has not taken place. This is observable even in projects that have a large amount of community support, such as Mozilla. The raw number of people has been one half or one third it could have been to really get it out in a "timely" manner, resulting in Netscape 6 being beta-ware in fact if not in name.

    I happen to think that Linux can make it to the desktop, but that the core applications need to get there too. Otherwise it remains a developers tool set.

    The amount of effort that has gone into the OS has to go into the productivity suite.

    Check out the Vinny the Vampire [eplugz.com] comic strip

  • by ichimunki (194887) on Tuesday May 22, 2001 @09:35AM (#206104)
    Have you ever used GNOME or KDE? That's the whole point of a graphics toolkit and the architecture-- consistent application appearance and cross-functionality (i.e. cut & paste or drag and drop). If you stick with GNOME or KDE apps within that framework, the consistency is amazing. Certainly Windows does not guarantee any kind of consistency-- just try using emacs for Windows. Works nothing like Word. Nothing like it at all! I have other applications that I use everyday that don't even minimize correctly under Windows. Or here's another example: I want to change options in Netscape, that's Edit... Preferences. But for Outlook that's Tools... Options. That's not consistency. The same functionality is under different labels in completely different menus.
  • by phaze3000 (204500) on Tuesday May 22, 2001 @08:27AM (#206122) Homepage
    Was KDE. [kde.org] Eazel may be dead, but KDE continues to get better and better. Konqueror is arguably the best browser on any platform (and is at least as good as MSIE), and yet is still a relativly new project. KOffice [koffice.org] is coming along in leaps and bounds, and given that the KDE team were able to make a Mozilla-beater in far less time, *from scratch* (Mozilla is based on pre-existing NS code remember), I have high hopes. It's already extremely useable for day-to-day tasks, and above all is quick.
    I continue to use AbiWord for its MS Word importing features.
    Linux isn't dead on the desktop, you just need to look in the right places.

    --
  • ...they just want to USE the computer. It's like with cars: The vast majority of people don't give a rat's ass how the engine works, they just want to get in and drive to the store. Filling up the gas tank is the most complicated maintenance they'll ever perform. (My informal polls lead me to believe the vast majority of drivers don't even bother to check easy stuff like tire pressure or oil quantity.)

    I had a conversation with my gf this morning that made me realize how geeks and "normal" users are different in this regard. I've been learning to fly a Cessna and I mentioned how when I first got into the cockpit I was sort of overwhelmed by all the dials and gauges and buttons and knobs but simultaneously thought "wow, this is *cool*, I can't wait to learn how it all works." She said "Ugh, I hate that stuff -- I can barely stand all the instruments in a car." And she's not tech-averse in general -- she just looks at technology as a tool she can use to get something done, rather than being enamored of it for its own sake.

    I really believe this is one of the reasons that it's so hard to build software that satisfies both geek and non-geek users. The geeks (and I include myself) want control, they want to get under the hood, they actually enjoy achieving competence and understanding why things work or don't work. The non-geeks want it to DWIM, to steal a term that's often used in the perl world: Do What I Mean. A truly effective computer for the masses would be so transparent that a user would never have to hear the term "device driver" or "operating system", let alone actually install one or, god forbid, understand what it's there for. Remember that most people can't be bothered to figure out how to eradicate the flashing 12:00 on their VCR. Telling them to read a manual or go to a newsgroup for help isn't going to cut it: They want someone they can call and say "It doesn't work, fix it."

    By the way, although I find this attitude alien to me personally, I don't think it does any good to dismiss such users as stupid or unmotivated. Most people have things they want to accomplish so they can get on with living their lives, and computers are only interesting to them insofar as they make it faster and easier to accomplish those goals. It's not a question of motivation or intelligence, it's a question of priorities. You and I may happen to value tackling challenges and achieving understanding, but lots of people just want to, say, pay the bills as quickly as possible so they can spend time hanging out with their kids. And that's not necessarily a bad thing.

  • by StarTux (230379) on Tuesday May 22, 2001 @08:16AM (#206152) Journal
    Been there, done that over on linuxtoday and linuxplanet.

    You will get this on slashdot tomorrow, so I am might as well post it now. Brian Proffit's rebuttal is here:

    http://linuxtoday.com/news_story.php3?ltsn=2001- 05 -22-006-20-OP-DT

    Original article is here:

    http://www.linuxplanet.com/linuxplanet/opinions/ 33 92/1/
    Sorry, could not be bothered with html.

    I believe Kevin did this about the desktop to rile people up and get them motivated. Whcih seems to be working...

    StarTux
  • by fmaxwell (249001) on Tuesday May 22, 2001 @10:45AM (#206180) Homepage Journal
    I can barely see the words in Netscape.

    Why is it that every distro of Linux I have ever installed has the ugliest, most unreadable fonts ever conceived by man? Why must Linux versions of Netscape default to Hideous Serif in 3pt size? It's like Microsoft and Apple share some kind of patent that give them exclusive rights to attractive, readable fonts that default to a normal size.

  • by teambpsi (307527) on Tuesday May 22, 2001 @08:07AM (#206216) Homepage
    "The" killer app ;)
  • by angry_android (320134) on Tuesday May 22, 2001 @08:50AM (#206230)
    3-4 days to set up a windows 2000 desktop at $20/hr?!?!?! God, they need to get rid of you and hire me. At my old company, I could take my time and have a win2000 machine up in 4 hrs, even given only adequate hardware. That includes office 2000, service pack 2 and setting up their mail etc.
    I got laid off last month, and here I am stuck at the fscking university making beans for pay. Seriously, your company needs to HIRE ME!!!
  • by archen (447353) on Tuesday May 22, 2001 @08:18AM (#206266)
    I'd have to say I agree. I mean sure the Linux desktop isn't perfect, but it already looks very good in my opinion. I think it just needs a bit more consistency in many areas. I've always had a problem with the focus behavior on pretty much every Linux desktop. I'd also like to see something like a consistent hour glass cursor so I know what in the hell is going on. And I'd still rather use any Linux desktop over Mac OS (even OS X) - and not just because of the one mouse button issue. Most of these issues just take time... and probably more time since the Linux community tends to have a hard time agreeing on certain things =) But usually in the end they evolve into pretty cool products.

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