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Linus on SCO, and the Desktop Being 10 Years Away 827

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the stuff-to-read dept.
An anonymous reader writes "In this interview from last week's Linux.conf.au in Australia, Linus Torvalds talks about how the SCO lawsuit 'riled' him and led him to spend a week writing an application to archive his email, and how he think Linux will take 5 to 10 years to become mainstream on the desktop."
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Linus on SCO, and the Desktop Being 10 Years Away

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  • I agree (Score:3, Insightful)

    by PatrickThomson (712694) on Sunday January 18, 2004 @12:54PM (#8013621)
    Linux on the desktop is a long long way off from being as easy to use for beginners as windows is. I think we need to just grit our teeth, clench our buttocks, swallow our pride and set out to emulate windows's simplicity.
    • Re:I agree (Score:3, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward
      I think we need to just grit our teeth, clench our buttocks [...]

      Uh, I'll leave that one to you, champ.
    • Re:I agree (Score:5, Insightful)

      by vpscolo (737900) on Sunday January 18, 2004 @01:07PM (#8013711) Homepage
      At the end of the days users want something that works with their existing apps and documents. They don't care whats going on underneath as long as it works

      Rus
      • Re:I agree (Score:4, Insightful)

        by chunkwhite86 (593696) on Sunday January 18, 2004 @03:49PM (#8014735)
        At the end of the days users want something that works with their existing apps and documents. They don't care whats going on underneath as long as it works

        I agree, however it has to work for it's target audience. Most Linux distros are trying too hard to be all things to all people. They end up becoming what the Toyota Camry or Honda Accord is to the car market - a bland, boring, transportation appliance, which may be "good" for a great many things, it is not "excellent" at anything.

        Another automotive analogy might be to compare your average slashdot Linux geek's computer to a Ferrari. Joe Geek has an overclocked Athlon and the latest -pre kernel compiled with optimization flags out the wazoo. The Ferrari is similarly tweaked to it's maximum potential, is designed to be screaming fast and handle like it's on rails - but unlike the Honda or Toyota, the Ferrari requires more maintenance, a skilled Ferrari specialist to work on it, and is more demanding of the driver. It also provides a much more rewarding experience than than Honda - this is what makes the Ferrari so desireable - but it's also what gives it such a limited market share (besides the price tag).

        For Linux to be sucessful on the desktop, there needs to be a clear line between what is a corporate desktop distro, and what is a home desktop distro. This is exactly what RedHat is attempting with their new "Advanced Workstation" product, versus the Fedora Core.
      • Re:I agree (Score:5, Interesting)

        by ma_sivakumar (325903) <siva@leatherlink.net> on Monday January 19, 2004 @01:32AM (#8018114) Homepage Journal
        Linus says that on the technical side, Linux is ready. Only the commercial space has to be created. That might happen sooner than what he predicts.

        If you look outside the English speaking world Linux has a greater chance of reaching the desktops within next couple of years.

        I am involved in a project to bring out a Tamil desktop for tamil speakers (Zhakanini [zhakanini.org]. Only less than 5% of the population has access to computers now. One of the main reasons the majority do not use computer is the lack of tamil interface. Microsoft is not going to support Tamil interface anytime soon (for an unknown market demand) and the open source applications provide great support for localisation.

        Combining these two factors this project aims to bring out a desktop for firts time computer users. they are not bothered about existing applications and we will be selling them pre-installed systems. Once we make the usage rate to say 20% of population with zhakanini, Linux desktop will be the default for tamil speakers (about 80 million).

        I am sure there are many more communities like this in the world.
    • Re:I agree (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 18, 2004 @01:07PM (#8013714)
      There are many definitions of "The Desktop"

      For many, it doesn't necessarily mean anything to do with beginners, or home users, or kiddie-eyecandy.

      Personally, i see it as being a strength on the desktop in a business sense, where an organisation like IBM or Telstra or NTT has 50,000 workers all needing a desktop computer to easily email, browse, collaborate with users, plan their day, type documents, organise stuff etc.

      For those users, the whole setup and install thing is irrelevant, and that's the hardest part at the moment. When it comes to actually using say, a good KDE install set up by a company for its own users, Linux is ready for the desktop in the middle of last year.
      • Re:I agree (Score:5, Insightful)

        by westlake (615356) on Sunday January 18, 2004 @01:44PM (#8013935)
        When you have 50,000 users at all skill levels and none of them geeks, designing a Linux desktop that "just works" for everyone is a difficult problem and by no means solved.
        • Re:I agree (Score:5, Insightful)

          by damiam (409504) on Sunday January 18, 2004 @02:47PM (#8014332)
          Windows doesn't "just work" for everyone either. That hasn't kept people from using it.
          • Re:I agree (Score:5, Insightful)

            by Bloater (12932) on Sunday January 18, 2004 @03:11PM (#8014496) Homepage Journal
            My dad hasn't been able to use a computer effectively since we replaced our old Amstrad 1512 complete with command line and text-mode, key-combination operated word processor with a more modern PC with windows and mouse.

            He could remember the keys to press, but for the icons and GUI he must refer to the picture instructions I printed out. That means changing his glasses every 10 seconds. Imagine taking longer to do your work on a top-of-the-range PC than on an ancient rust-bucket :/

            But hey, he thinks clippy is fun! :)

            If Linux desktops mimic Windows, then not only will *I* find it harder to work effectively, so will my dad - For me, the argument is over. Especially that for the last 5 years or so, tech-support to my dad has been provided over the phone.
        • I will disagree. (Score:5, Insightful)

          by khasim (1285) <brandioch.conner@gmail.com> on Sunday January 18, 2004 @03:49PM (#8014736)
          It would be simple.

          Put all the apps that they would use for work in a folder on their desktop.

          Also, have all those apps open when they first log in.

          When they log out, save all the information about those apps so they will appear EXACTLY THE SAME when the user logs in again.

          Then, have the items that the user is ALLOWED to change in a different folder. Like backgrounds and themes and sounds and junk like that.

          Everything else is locked down.

          The user info is saved to a server so any machine that the user logs into will have the exact same desktop as the last machine.

          This is VERY hard with Windows (unless you're running a Citrix desktop). But it should be very easy with Linux (all apps served from the servers).

          I important part is getting them connected to the apps they need, seemlessly and reliably. Every time, every machine.

          All the end user should NEED to know about the computer is how to turn it on and where the blinken lights are that show that it IS turned on.

          Everything else should be covered by training on the applications that the company uses.
      • Re:I agree (Score:4, Insightful)

        by bangular (736791) on Sunday January 18, 2004 @03:15PM (#8014513)
        I too think a desktop isn't necessarly defined by kiddie-eyecandy and all that stuff. I think the defination of desktop is a little skewed too. We have a few office suites, we have many many email programs, fast reliable browsers, Instant Messaging,Calendars, etc. etc. What's the problem? You'd think if you told most people that they could have a desktop that didn't crash every 5 minutes and set them up with 5 desktop icons of the stuff they use the most they'd be more than happy to use it. Nope! The problem is people are so stubborn. I think if you did the same for someone on Mac OSX very few would switch even though the GUI is far superior to Windows. I don't think it's about usability and all that stuff, I think it's people are just too stubborn to use anything else.

        I think it's the fact people _think_ they know a lot about computers because they know a lot about windows. When they get onto anything else, they feel like an infant again and they hate it. They will spew out things like "it's too hard to use. It can't do this. It can't do that." etc. etc. You could take a windows user and put them on THE perfect operating system, and they probably wouldn't use it because it's different.

        I've personally been using linux on the desktop almost exclusivly for about 4 years now. I can't stand to go back onto windows computers. They are just so slow and crash way too much and why deal with all that when I can use something superior.

        I mean look at all the things Windows doesn't have. It doesn't even come with a ram disk driver!! And the one MS lets you download it utter crap. Let's see... no 64-bit chip support, no ability to run windows without a GUI (why should the whole OS crash if the GUI crashes), very weak ssl support (netbios stuff not encrypted), office can't export to PDF's, there's almost no basic scripting ability, updating your OS is a chore and much more complicated than emerge -U World, lack of a decent plain non formatted text editor. You get the picture. It's about perspective.
    • Re:I agree (Score:5, Insightful)

      by tomcrick (687765) <tomcrick@gmail.com> on Sunday January 18, 2004 @01:08PM (#8013716) Homepage
      I think with the lower end of Linus's statement (5 years), the use (and awareness) of Linux will become much more noticeable. I've noticed recently that the SCO lawsuit has made some waves in UK papers, where previously you'd be hard pushed to find a mention of Linux whenever a computer-related article is published (Microsoft, Microsoft, Microsoft!). Possibly something to do with the fact that the big name of IBM is involved, but surely this is a good thing - getting the Linux name actually recognised!

      It's still amazing to see the puzzled look on people's faces when they ask what 'Red Hat Linux' is and when did Microsoft release it.....
      • Re:I agree (Score:4, Informative)

        by Ralph Yarro (704772) on Sunday January 18, 2004 @02:23PM (#8014155) Homepage
        I've noticed recently that the SCO lawsuit has made some waves in UK papers, where previously you'd be hard pushed to find a mention of Linux whenever a computer-related article is published (Microsoft, Microsoft, Microsoft!).

        The BBC have picked up on the story [bbc.co.uk] now.
      • by IncohereD (513627) <<mmacleod> <at> <ieee.org>> on Sunday January 18, 2004 @03:14PM (#8014505) Homepage
        I think with the lower end of Linus's statement (5 years), the use (and awareness) of Linux will become much more noticeable. I've noticed recently that the SCO lawsuit has made some waves in UK papers, where previously you'd be hard pushed to find a mention of Linux whenever a computer-related article is published (Microsoft, Microsoft, Microsoft!). Possibly something to do with the fact that the big name of IBM is involved, but surely this is a good thing - getting the Linux name actually recognised!

        My roommate was working tech support in the summer, and when blaster hit he definitely started noticing angry people saying stuff like "Windows is bullshit!", who had probably never thought about it that way before (i.e. previously they just blamed computers in general, or themselves). People are starting to blame Microsoft for their failures. And that can only lead to them looking for another option.
    • Re:I agree (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Durin_Deathless (668544) on Sunday January 18, 2004 @01:10PM (#8013730) Homepage
      <rant>Why are we all so focused on cloning something we all agree is awful? Almost everyone I know agrees that overall OS X is a better interface(of those that know both, those that know one don't count here). So why not clone the best instead of cloning the worst?</rant>

      Seriously, the whole hiding the apps from the user thing ticks me off. I like the OS X solution better. You can have an optional start menu if you like, but make the apps as easy to add/remove as OS X and Be OS and NeXTstep. All GUI programs should be this way. None of this "Program Files" you're too stupid to look here, and don't mix the GUI apps into the same dir with the command line ones.

      OK. I'm done. Do I need to don a fireproof suit?
      • by Christian Engstrom (633834) <christian.engstr ... .piratpartiet.se> on Sunday January 18, 2004 @03:58PM (#8014808) Homepage

        Why are we all so focused on cloning something we all agree is awful?

        I actually belive that that is an excellent question, and I'll be happy to provide the answer:

        Because 90% of all computer users are used to Windows

        (The rest of the following rant is essentially a repost, so I apologize if you have already read it.)

        You can feel that it shouldn't be like that, and you can make hundreds of snide and clever remarks to the effect that Windows users are too stupid to recognize their own best interests, but you can't change the facts: at least 90% of the people who are using a computer today are using Windows.

        It is not every day that a court of law makes an official market survey [usdoj.gov] and releases it freely on the net, in line with the finest traditions of the Open Source movement. Yet it seems that the very people who really believe the most in the benefits of free and open information, are remarkably reluctant to use it when it's available. Think what you will in private, but please please listen to judge Jackson: if Linux is going to have any impact at all in the desktop market, it is Windows users that will have to be converted.

        There are a number of good reasons to make the switch to Open Source --- open file formats, control over future license costs, etc., etc. --- but if it means that you have to spend six months cursing all the little things that are different, so that you can't focus on what you're supposed to be doing because you have to relearn all your automatic reflexes, how many people will decide that it's worth the effort?

        A lawyer might perhaps consider switching from MS Word to StarOffice simply to make sure that all the files that he creates today can be opened and read on another computer ten years from now, when the case has finally reached the Supreme Court or whatever. But how may chargeable hours is he prepared to let it cost him in the first six months?

        It somehow seems that a lot of the people who develop Open Source applications take a special pride in inventing amusing little pitfalls for the Windows user who might be prepared to switch camps. In StarOffice, the keyboard combination to insert a non-breaking space is "Ctrl-Space", rather than Word's "Ctrl-Shift-Space". Please, somebody, why? Of course this is something that one can relearn if one has to, but what's the point of it? The first time a would-be convert, who has been using non-breaking spaces in Word, tries to insert one in a text in StarOffice, it won't work. Whether he decides that non-breaking spaces are not available and that the product does not fulfill his needs, or interrupts what he was originally trying to achieve and starts exploring the help system to find out what it is that he has to do, he will not feel more favorably disposed towards Open Source programs for having tried one. And so unnecessarily.

        I could recite any number of examples: if you type "Ctrl-A Ctrl-Return" to mark all posts in a newsgroup as read, Mozilla will instead choose to open a couple of hundred windows (one for each post in the newsgroup), which will cause the system to freeze, so that it has to be rebooted. Excellent marketing ploy.

        To change some settings in Mozilla you should of course look under "Edit" in the menu system, and not under "Tools" like in all other programs in the Windows world. Brilliant. How could you possibly fail when you make it so convenient for the user?

        And please, don't come and say "RTFM" now. Why the **** should someone who has been using a computer for years have to consult the FM (provided there actually is one, of course, but that's a separate issue in its own right) to perform a so completely trivial standard task as the ones mentioned here?

        And please don't come and say "but you can change that if you spend a couple of days learning how to reconfigure the program from the bottom up" either. Pe

    • Re:I agree (Score:3, Insightful)

      by CaptnMArk (9003)
      Windows simplicity? LOL

    • Re:I agree (Score:5, Insightful)

      by starseeker (141897) on Sunday January 18, 2004 @01:28PM (#8013842) Homepage
      Well, yes and no. Two things to remember when considering how to get Windows users over to Linux:

      1) most of them don't care what OS they're running
      as long as it works

      IP issues don't matter, freedom doesn't matter. What matters is things working, being straightforward, and being able to do what other users are doing. Computing is a social activity - people don't use them in isolation anymore. (Insert ironic geek social misfit comment here.) So falling down in any of these camps is enough to prevent people from switching.

      2) Inertia is the most power force in the desktop
      computer world.

      Ordinary users Don't Like Change. If they take the time to relearn something, it has to be because it's so much better than what they have they can't live without it. That's a very rare condition. OSX is better than Windows, but not enough better that everyone is willing to abandon Windows. A few do, but inertia in computerland is a group effect, and as long as the group inertia is strong in one direction everyone goes that way. This is why Microsoft has a natural monopoly, much more so that telephones or power lines. Technology was able to find new ways to provide telephone service, and things like solar and wind power can generate power independant of power lines. But if people need to expend a lot of effort to learn a tool, THEY WILL NOT THROW AWAY THAT EFFORT. The software market, particularly the OS market, must face this. Change can occur, but very, very slowly. Which leads us to our first two guiding principles:

      Taking over the World - Rule #1

      Patience is not a virtue - it is a necessity

      Taking over the World - Rule #2

      There will never be a "Year of the Desktop"

      Media and fans like explosive, dramatic changes. But that is not how things happen on a large scale. This is more like a river cutting through rock. So don't build up Linux as "about to take over the world/desktop/White House/whatever" because it won't be so dramatic. Particularly in light of

      Taking over the World - Rule #3

      "Desktop Ready" is not a well defined target,
      and as such "making it" is like chasing a
      mirage.

      Each person has their own definition of ready for the desktop. Linux met mine years ago, and it's doubtful Windows could meet mine now. But I don't worry about what most users worry about - consistent look and feel aren't an issue for me. So who defines "ready"? For me, ready was a while back. But I'm clearly a geek. For my Dad, it might be close. For my Mom, I doubt it's close. It's a fuzzy thing.

      With SCO making as much trouble as humanly possible for Linux and open source, and Microsoft lurking in the background, I know it's hard to remember this last rule. But do try, because it's the only reason we got as far as we have, and it's the only reason we'll go anywhere in the future.

      Taking over the World - Rule #4 (The important one)

      Have fun!
      • Re:I agree (Score:3, Informative)

        by chunkwhite86 (593696)
        1) most of them don't care what OS they're running as long as it works

        This is absolutely key here. My Father is a perfect example of this. His skills with a PC are about what the average /. geek's skills are with women. As soon as a dialog box pops up that he doesn't recognize, he immediately calls me. He doesn't even read it, he just calls me and asks "What do I do". You get the picture.

        Anyhow, over the past year, I've slowly migrated his apps to OSS products. For example, I switched him over
    • Nonsense (Score:5, Insightful)

      by RoLi (141856) on Sunday January 18, 2004 @01:35PM (#8013877)
      Technically, KDE/Linux has been good enough for the desktop for 1 or 2 years already.

      What is missing is applications (especially games) and to a lesser extent drivers.

      The 3d-modelling niche is a very good example on how fast Linux can take over a market when the apps are there.

      In the next years, expect other niches to go to Linux, the next being non-US government desktops. When Munich migrates and ports their apps, it gets easier, cheaper and faster for other cities with similar application-needs to follow.

      The only problem is that such migrations take a lot of time, that's why it is taking a decade (and it already started).

      • Re:Nonsense (Score:4, Interesting)

        by ceejayoz (567949) <cj@ceejayoz.com> on Sunday January 18, 2004 @02:08PM (#8014065) Homepage Journal
        Technically, KDE/Linux has been good enough for the desktop for 1 or 2 years already.

        For someone already computer savvy, perhaps.

        For your average non-techie, it's not. Hell, even I had issues with Mandrake 8.0 - and I'm doing PHP coding for a living at the moment.

        The 3d-modelling niche is a very good example on how fast Linux can take over a market when the apps are there.

        The 3d-modeling niche is a very good example of Linux running not on the desktop but as a processing cluster (in this case, rendering graphics).
    • by mwdib (56263) on Sunday January 18, 2004 @02:16PM (#8014113)
      You write: Linux on the desktop is a long long way off from being as easy to use for beginners as windows is.

      I've done more than my share of teaching total newbies how to use Windows. There's nothing intrinsically logical or sensible about the Windows desktop (95, 2K, XP), Windows' naming schemes, etc. It's extraordinarily difficult for an adult newbie to pick up. -- We tend to think of Windows as "easier-to-use" simply, I think, because of familiarity. Ditto with the Mac interface -- it's easy to use once you've learned how to use it. Come to Mac from a pure Windows or pure newbie background and there's still a learning curve.

      Frankly, I don't think there will ever be a desktop that is "simple to use" from a newbie standpoint (at least until the computers can engage in an intelligent dialogue with the user and actually figure out what the user wants to do).

      Consequently, I don't think any great re-imaging of the Linux (or any other) desktop is particularly required. Rather, I think the greater value will be in continuing to support a diversity of desktops with some focusing on new-user needs as much as others focus on the needs of sophisticated users.

      After wading through four levels of menus on a default KDE install, I wish I had the skills to do some interface design myself. Grin.

  • by LibrePensador (668335) on Sunday January 18, 2004 @12:54PM (#8013627) Journal
    I don't know about you folks, but for me, when it comes to Desktop Linux, the journey really is much more rewarding and interesting than the destination.

    I guess, to some degree that is because I started using Linux as my main desktop close to five years ago, but also because I am aware that profound social changes take time.

    I think the key to the desktop is preloaded machines by big-vendor being available at retail stores. Only when the vendors have a stake in the success of Linux will they make sure that the peripherals state on the box that "it runs on Linux".

    • by cerberusss (660701) on Sunday January 18, 2004 @01:07PM (#8013710) Homepage Journal
      I think the key to the desktop is preloaded machines by big-vendor being available at retail stores

      I think the key to the desktop is preloaded machines that can flawlessly interoperate with the existing Windows monopoly. If it would include the ability to run MS Office for instance (free CrossoverOffice included, or a better Wine), that would be good. That way, it would run most things that Windows can, and then some more.

      Another interoperability issue would be internet-connection. The various ISPs should support Linux as well.

    • by Microlith (54737) on Sunday January 18, 2004 @01:07PM (#8013713)
      And for some of us the journey, while interesting, is not nearly as good as the end result.

      I'd love to have an easy to use system that I could handle without much difficulty while still having the power of Unix at hand should I want it.

      This is not Linux.

      Apple has it down pat, but that requires an investment in their hardware. Mandrake, Redhat, and SUSE have the install process down pat. The issue comes in just general responsiveness (behavior with hardware, plug & play, getting software installed/uninstalled.)

      The question is when we will see something like this for the PC. Who will create the PC equivalent of MacOS X?
      • Have to disagree (Score:5, Insightful)

        by bogie (31020) on Sunday January 18, 2004 @02:54PM (#8014374) Journal
        "I'd love to have an easy to use system that I could handle without much difficulty while still having the power of Unix at hand should I want it.

        This is not Linux."

        But it IS Linux. I know this will come as a shock to Apple fans, but OS X isn't the be all end all of Unix desktops. I like many Linux users don't want a pc equiv of OS X. OS X does many things right, but it also does a lot wrong. OS X for x86 would be a real threat to Microsoft and would no doubt get more users using a semi-Unix but it's not what I'm looking for.

        The only thing missing from Mandrake, Red Hat etc is real support from software and hardware makers. Documented hardware IS truly plug and play. Getting software installed/uninstalled IS moron proof provided that its packaged correctly. Like you said installation is easy as pie.

        Imagine a distro running the 2.6 kernel with full oem hardware support, KDE 3.2, and the support of all the big software ISV's. At this point you have an OS that is easily as good as OS X and XP. So your right that we are indeed waiting, but not for OS X to come to the PC. We are in fact just waiting for Hardware and Software OEM's to fully support Linux. Maybe that won't ever happen, but if it does then you can rest assured that there will be no reason to pine for OS X on the PC.

        The way I see it you have 3 options. 1) Buy an expensive Mac, thus putting yourself under the thumb of Apple and in a situation which is NOT an improvement over running XP. 2) Wait for OS X to come to the PC. 3) Wait for hardware and software makers to get off their asses and finally support Linux. It has been a long road, but I'm sticking with number 3. Number 1 is not and never will be an appealing option to me and most others.

    • by po8 (187055) on Sunday January 18, 2004 @01:21PM (#8013803)

      For me, the journey has been more like 20 years. I was running a desktop window system on a UNIX-like OS at home before there was such a thing as X (Smalltalk on LynxOS on a Tektronix Pegasus box).

      I have to say that I think the folks who are all over the deficiencies of the Linux Desktop, and how we have to emulate the Windows/Mac/BeOS/Xbox/Sinclair/whatever desktop experience to have a usable desktop are mistaken. I think they underestimate the ability of users to adapt, and overestimate the degree to which familiar = better. For many years I had a PC or Mac sitting on my desktop next to a UNIX/X box. Now I have a Windows box and a Linux box at home. I have always found that I almost exclusively use the UNIX/X box. The monopoly (at best duopoly) is real, and most folks haven't had my experience. I think it's clear that they're going to, and I think it's going to be enlightening for them when they do.

      I'm working hard to make the Linux desktop experience better for everyone. But it's pretty darn good now. So good that I finally threw away twm a couple of years ago. :-)

      Let's enjoy the ride.

  • by Mazzie (672533) on Sunday January 18, 2004 @12:55PM (#8013632)
    There seems to be a lot of different interpretations of Linus' views of the future of Linux floating around. There was a recent post on /. entitled "Linus says 2004 is the year of the Linux Desktop" or something like that. That seems to be a bit of a conflict with this article.

    Can someone clarify his view for me? I don't follow Linux very closely, but am genuinely curious what Linus' real thoughts on the future of Linux for the desktop are.
    • by 10Ghz (453478) on Sunday January 18, 2004 @01:06PM (#8013709)
      There seems to be a lot of different interpretations of Linus' views of the future of Linux floating around. There was a recent post on /. entitled "Linus says 2004 is the year of the Linux Desktop" or something like that. That seems to be a bit of a conflict with this article.


      Not at all. Basically, he thinks that in 2004 Linux will really take on in the desktop-market. But that wouldn't mean that Linux would be mainstream in the desktop-market. Let's assume that number of Linux-users doubles in 2004, and that's due to increase in desktop-use. That would give Linx a market-share of around 5%. If that happened, 2004 would be the "year of the desktop" for Linux, but being mainstream would still be several years in the future.
    • by ragingmime (636249) <ragingmime.yahoo@com> on Sunday January 18, 2004 @01:11PM (#8013734) Homepage
      Can someone clarify his view for me? I don't follow Linux very closely, but am genuinely curious what Linus' real thoughts on the future of Linux for the desktop are.

      He says in both articles that there have been a bunch of really good developments in making Linux user-friendly, but it'll be a while before Joe User feels comfortable sitting down in front of a Linux box. The earlier story [slashdot.org] but kind of a spin on it - it sounds like they took what Linus said a little bit too far. He didn't really say that 2004 would be the "year of Linux on the desktop"; he said that "This year there will be a lot of desktop users." That's it. Even if you did RTFA, it's still kinda confusing. That's the media for you. :)
    • There seems to be a lot of different interpretations of Linus' views of the future of Linux floating around. There was a recent post on /. entitled "Linus says 2004 is the year of the Linux Desktop" or something like that. That seems to be a bit of a conflict with this article. Can someone clarify his view for me?

      I'll try. The confusion is actually inherent in the contemporary meaning of the word "desktop". Sometimes this means "just any computer for a non-techie", sometimes "a machine for a home user".
    • 2004 is the year of the desktop as far as Linux people are concerned. IBM is reportedly pushing all their people to put Linux on their desktop by the end of the year and there are major governmental pushes all over the world to adopt Open Source (which in most places means Linux but in some means putting Open Office on Windoze).

      The point is these are somewhat captive and specific-use oriented desktops, not those of the great unwashed public which account for upwards of 90% of the market. I don't know that

  • by cervo (626632) on Sunday January 18, 2004 @12:58PM (#8013643) Journal
    I've never seen a lawsuit up this close and personal before

    This is what the "lucky" 300 must also be thinking. I don't think they will be spending their time writing an e-mail indexing program.

    Linus is the only person I've ever heard of taking a lawsuit as an opportunity to write some new code. The world needs more Linuses!!!
  • by anarchima (585853) on Sunday January 18, 2004 @12:58PM (#8013649) Homepage
    ...it's not organised in the commercial conference kind of sense. But that just means it's a lot more relaxed, the people just talk about technology, they don't try to sell stuff. And these days in the US it's unheard of, you can't make money with this kind of conference, so I go to the Australian one and I go to one in Canada (Ottowa Linux Symposium). So even Linus admits that the Linux "project" is moving away from its earlier, non-commercial roots. I wonder what effects the increasing commercialisation of Linux will have, through businesses like Red Hat trying to make a profit and so on. Hopefully it won't be all bad, but I'm worried that Linux will just turn into another Microsoft (obviously with open source, but still)...
    • by 10Ghz (453478) on Sunday January 18, 2004 @01:11PM (#8013736)
      Hopefully it won't be all bad, but I'm worried that Linux will just turn into another Microsoft (obviously with open source, but still)...


      Linux cannot become another Microsoft. Microsoft is about monopoly prices, lock-in, proprietary technologies etc. etc. None of those are possible with Linux. If Linux gained 100% market-share, there would still be several distros competing (and several free versions of Linux), the core-systems would be open and free, so moving between different vendors would be easy. And you could fork your own version from existing distros (for example Red Hat ==> Mandrake, Gentoo ==> Zynot)

      You mentioned Red Hat trying to make a profit. How would that affect Linux? Easy: Red Hat would have even more money to spend improving Linux.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 18, 2004 @12:59PM (#8013653)
    Lack of games. The odd FPS game crops up, but dual booting isnt an option for mot point and click users.
    • by edwdig (47888) on Sunday January 18, 2004 @01:34PM (#8013873)
      Games aren't a huge barrior. Particuarlly not FPS games, since those seem to be the type of game most likely to get ported to Linux. Most people play games on a console, not a PC. The most commonly used PC games are things like Solitare.

      How many business require the use of games? If anything they'd be happier with an OS without many games. How many of you have parents that play Quake? My mom never played anything more than simple card games on the computer.

      Really, the majority of the people who would care about the issue are the people who have nothing better to do than see how they can get an extra 1 frame per second out of Quake 3.

      Games go where the market is. Not the other way around.
      • by Reziac (43301) on Sunday January 18, 2004 @01:58PM (#8014012) Homepage Journal
        My mom is 74 and I just showed her DOOM, and she asked how she could get that on her computer too. I about fell off my chair!!

      • Most people play games on a console, not a PC.


        Come talk to me when you can play strategy-games on a console (like Combat Mission, Europa Universalis etc.). Or how about Flight-simulators (Falcon 4.0, Lock On, etc.)? Nowhere to be seen on consoles. Online games are only just now taking off on consoles, but PC's still dominate there.

        Consoles are great for some type of games, but they absolutely suck for other types of games.
      • So what if the most common games on computers are things like solitare? That wasn't the argument. Here are some general points you failed to address.

        - Home desktop users want to play 3d video games.
        - There is no 3D hardware drivers available for the Linux kernel or for XFree86 that performs within a marginal distance from windows/MacOS 3D hardware (except pre-beta quality nVidia drivers).
        - idsoftware FPS games + UT/UT2k3 is NOT by any means remotely close to any significant fraction of FPS games. Even id
    • by Tom (822)
      Depends on your target audience.

      Would Linux offer enough games for me now, if I were still in school or university? Definitely not, I was eating games for lunch at those times, and could hardly go a week without a new on.

      Does Linux offer enough games for me today, where I work fulltime and have a bunch of other things to do as well (including my own game, see below) ?
      Absolutely yes. In fact, I have quite a few Linux games on my shelf that I haven't played half as much as I'd like to. (Dominions 2, Terminu
    • by PetoskeyGuy (648788) on Sunday January 18, 2004 @04:46PM (#8015106)
      And the reason for Lack of games is lack of standard game development system. OpenGL is a good library, but to get a generic or high end 3D video card working smoothly on Linux is still something of a black art with drivers and X-Windows configurations from hell.

      Redhat, Debian, Gentoo? Which distribution to support? What pacakage manager? The market is too small, and the support costs too high. I've worked on video games where we've had to evaluate these things.

      Making a Bootable Linux Gaming CD was an option I've read before, but that just puts more of the setup and configuration steps into auto-detection where people can't get the full use of their hardware.

      Linux is wonderful for porting apps with source, but porting binaries can be a pain compared with making a single windows EXE.

  • Linus commenting (Score:5, Interesting)

    by xant (99438) on Sunday January 18, 2004 @12:59PM (#8013658) Homepage
    The interesting thing about his comments about desktop Linux are that he's making them at all. He used to have a position of "Linus is what it is, I don't care where it goes, it's just fun to watch." He's not doing that so much now that it appears to be actually getting the places people imagined it would go 5-10 years ago. To make a specific claim, even one as flexible as that, is out of character for him and shows that he's starting to become interested in seeing his work succeed commercially (other than in the areas he works on directly).
  • Bummer! (Score:5, Funny)

    by xankar (710025) on Sunday January 18, 2004 @01:03PM (#8013692) Journal
    Damn, and I thought it was this year [slashdot.org]
  • by McSnickered (67307) on Sunday January 18, 2004 @01:05PM (#8013698)
    That was "literally" a great interview. I spent, "literally", 5 minutes reading it. And "literally", I spent another 1 minute determining just "literally" how many times he used the word "literally" in the interview.

    The number is, "literally", 7.

  • by WormholeFiend (674934) on Sunday January 18, 2004 @01:05PM (#8013700)
    can't even spell the name of the capital of Canada!

    O T T A W A!

    Eh.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 18, 2004 @01:06PM (#8013705)
    Q: Do you think that's good, seeing Linux being used in little devices, Xboxes and all sorts of places it wasn't meant to be?

    A: One of the must fun things was I bought my wife one of those electronic picture frames... I didn't even know it - I just decided I wanted to buy it because we'd just bought a better camera, and we had some good pictures of the kids. So I went out and bought it, and only when I was uploading my pictures, the night before Mother's Day, I was uploading them and looked at the technical specifications and found out it ran Linux!

    That's much more fun than big machines.
  • by ttldkns (737309) on Sunday January 18, 2004 @01:09PM (#8013722) Homepage
    Alot depends on how secure m$ "secure computing" model is. If they do what theyre bragging about and allow pages of memory to go unchecked even by the OS itself i think u have the beginnings of the recipe for a super virus.

    The next version of windows and how they move to get it mainstream (new standards, no forward compatibility for older windows, whatever) will be a big factor in how the desktop 'game' plays out...

    Linux is developing for desktop with Lindows OS [lindows.com] , its M$ turn, we need to wait for their move.
  • The great dunking (Score:3, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 18, 2004 @01:12PM (#8013739)
    "Linus had once noted that he had never been in a dunk tank before, and noted that, without that experience, his life was not complete. He need wait no longer; at Linux.Conf.Au the lucky high bidder got to put Linus into the tank. Here's the photos:"

    http://lwn.net/Articles/66665/
  • by abde (136025) <apoonawa-blog&yahoo,com> on Sunday January 18, 2004 @01:13PM (#8013752) Homepage
    I hope it's open source. Maybe Linus will release it? I'm drowning under ten years of archives, spanning email clients from Eudora-Mac v1.0 to Thunderbird and almost everything in between. I'd love to have a cool program that could organizde my scatterred archives ...
  • Linus' point (Score:5, Interesting)

    by zr-rifle (677585) <zedr@ z e d r . com> on Sunday January 18, 2004 @01:15PM (#8013766) Homepage
    Linus is very coherent. He often says that the kernel isn't being developed as a competitor to Microsoft's own thing. That's why his typically relaxed, hackerish timetable is very extended, while most agree that _now_ is the time for the Linux desktop to emerge.

    That's why Redhat, IBM, SuSEa re investing in companies like Ximian who focus on the desktop dark-side of Linux.

    Longhorn won't be out till 2005 if I'm correct and many users are very insatisfied with Windows XP, from Sobig/Blaster outbreaks dragging down productivity levels to random annoyances like messenger popups and a full suite of internet blockers/virus stoppers/software firewalls needed to surf the web.

    Users are keeping an eye open for alternatives, that's why Linux desktop development needs to become desirable, marketable, usable and thus a replacement for the Windows desktop.
  • Desktop (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 18, 2004 @01:15PM (#8013772)
    Linux on the desktop will happen when businesses can switch all their machines to linux and not miss anything. When Jim-Bob and Betty-Sue are forced to use, and are taught how to use, linux at work they won't be afraid of it at home.

    I think everybody understands the lack of an exchange type collaboration server hurts business adoption, but it's not the only thing keeping people from switching.

    My business wants to go linux, but we can't. We use an ERP system called Macola. It makes heavy use of VBA and soon will support only MS SQL Server. There is nothing we can do short of writing our own manufacturing and accounting packages.

    Before you point me at compiere, let me inform you that I've done research into that. I'm not a big fan of the lead developer. He's dragging his feet on database independence (when few people want real independence, they just want an open database supported) because he wants to get paid for it. Many people have brought forth suggestions and were willing to get started only to get no response from him. Development companies were willing to put people on it and they get no feedback as to the status of the project. So still the whole system is tied to oracle and there's no feedback at all as to when that might change. For the lead developer of an open source project he is VERY stingy with the information. Let's not ignore the fact that there is no current manufacturing module. There are, however, 3 separate development projects that aren't working with each other because of petty pride issues. The lead dev does nothing to stop the pettyness. So fuck compiere. I'll check up on it next year. I don't expect it to be usable then either at the pace it's moving. You have no idea how many people hit their forum gung-ho ready to start working only to leave again after getting no answers to their questions.

    There is nothing else out there that is as close to production ready as compiere. There are erp systems that run on linux, but those are for the big boys. My company is very small, the cost of buying those erp systems would be more than the savings switching to linux would create.
  • Five to Ten (Score:5, Insightful)

    by DumbSwede (521261) <slashdotbin@hotmail.com> on Sunday January 18, 2004 @01:18PM (#8013788) Journal
    I have used UNIX the majority of my computing career and LINUX for over five. But at work we are still struggling to get to rh9.0 with many systems at 7.2 and 8.0 though the are now considered depricated. We recently had to reconfigure a machine back to 7.1 to regenerate data for a client who is still using 7.1. Not only this, but our code is notoriously unstable if not running on the OS revision and patch level it was compiled on. I'm sure some will flame about the skill of our sysadmins and make script maintainers, but I think that would be unfair. We produce a lot of floating point intensive code that depends critically on the underlining OS calls, and while the code may run, it becomes quite a chore to justify to the customer (government) why the results may differ from earlier versions. This tendency for code to be brittle with compiler and OS upgrades is not something we observe under IRIX and SunOS, the two other platforms we support, and have supported for longer than LINUX.

    I am not saying that SunOS or IRIX are superior, just that the upgrades come at a more manageable pace, and tend not to break our code base when upgrading compilers. I think the reason Linus thinks five to ten years before really conquering the desktop is based on two things. By then LINUX should have slowed down in its development and will be a beast you can run two to three years before upgrading. Secondly, Windows will probably sink under the weight of it is haphazard code base, which is guided not by what is best for users and cleanest in design, but what makes sense commercially to support and lock-in their other products in as covert way as possible to keep from running afoul of the antitrust laws.

    Looking forward to the day though!

    • Re:Five to Ten (Score:5, Interesting)

      by tjwhaynes (114792) on Sunday January 18, 2004 @02:00PM (#8014025)

      We produce a lot of floating point intensive code that depends critically on the underlining OS calls, and while the code may run, it becomes quite a chore to justify to the customer (government) why the results may differ from earlier versions. This tendency for code to be brittle with compiler and OS upgrades is not something we observe under IRIX and SunOS, the two other platforms we support, and have supported for longer than LINUX.

      Ahhh the joys of floating point. There are days when I wish that floating point was banned. Customers have a nasty tendency to assume that floating point means totally accurate. Very few really understand the limitations of floating point and comments along the lines of "what do you mean I can't store 20 significant figures in my database?", "I entered 1.10 and now it's 1.0999999", "I've been running my simulation through a billion iterations using a 'float' type and the answer is screwy" are not only common but rife.

      That said, within the limitations of the floating point code I've written, I've not observed changes on Linux between versions. I do observe differences between the results on Linux, Solaris, HPUX, AIX and Windows in the least significant digit, but that doesn't suprise me.

      I wonder therefore whether you are being burned by standard flags on the compiler with respect to mathematical optimisation. If you are suddenly using --fast-math that will definitely screw your results, as will any of the other flags turned on by that setting. Ditto check -m128bit-long-double -m96bit-long-double or similar settings that might alter your precision and throw new answers out.

      To be quite honest, if you are seeing changes in behaviour and you have test cases which demonstrate these changes, you should inform the GCC team via the mailing list and try and determine what has happened. GCC vies to be compliant (often more compliant than other compilers) with IEEE and ANSI standards, and useful bug reports can go a long way to maintaining that compliance.

      If you haven't logged such problems, well, nobody else knows that that problem exists.

      Cheers,

      Toby Haynes

    • I agree. Many post trolls claim that Linux is finally eating all the fragmented Unix's and creating a new fragmented standard. :-)

      I agree on Linux being unflexible in terms of upgrades.

      I switched to FreeBSd for this reason. I can run a FreeBSD 2.x app right out of the box without a problem on fbsd 4.9.

      They have their old kernel abi's, libs, and older tools, in /usr/compat/x, I think. I am not too sure how it works. Perhaps a linux distro should do this. But anyway old libraries, tools and abi's are suppo
  • Observations (Score:5, Insightful)

    by gone.fishing (213219) on Sunday January 18, 2004 @02:39PM (#8014267) Journal
    Microsoft has dominated the desktop for over a decade. Unless something drastic and unexpected happens, it will take a minimum of five years from now for it to lose dominance. Having said that, I do think that 2004 is a watershed year for Linux and for Microsoft. Years from now, we will look back and identify 2004 as the year where the tides bagan to change.

    Why do I feel this way? Very few companies in very few industries ever achieve the dominance that Microsoft has in the computing industry. Competition always keeps the underdogs going for the golden ring, and profits like Microsoft enjoys have other companies salivating. History shows us that very few companies can hold onto such an amazing lead over the competition.

    Linux and other "free" operating systems hold a unique advantage over Microsoft's offerings. They are free. Microsoft can not afford to compete on price alone. Every day that goes by, the gap between Microsoft's offerings and Linux's offerings narrows the gap in quality. With Novell and IBM in the fray, that gap is sure to close even further. At some point, Linux's offerings will become the most logical choice for everyone. Microsoft's grip will sliip and they will slide. It won't be fast, they will lose by percentage points.

    At least this is what I hope. I have no crysal ball. They have quite a war chest and they have a lot of lawyers. Maybe one of these hair-brained lawsuits from the likes of SCO will work. I don't know, and I sure hope not.

    Linus is probably right but I hope that it is 5 years and not 10.
  • by NtroP (649992) on Sunday January 18, 2004 @02:45PM (#8014314)
    I, personally, think 2005/2005 will be critical for Linux on the desktop for serveral reasons.

    First, with Microsoft EOL'ing support and bugfixes this year for NT4 and 98/SE, I see many users and organizations casting about for alternatives. IIR, about 25% of the Internet-connected users are still using 98/NT. With XP being expensive and probably requiring new HW as well, they will be forced to consider Something New(tm). This may mean looking at OS X - since they need new hardware anyway. Or, more likely, they may consider "trying" Linux on their current equipment - especially if they have a friend, or know someone, who can install in for them for cheap or free.

    Second, and this ties in with the first, public schools and many businesses are really starting to feel the financial crunch of constant HW/Software/License upgrade. Many public schools (like ours) cannot lease equipment due to board policies against "incumbering subsequent administrations" (or some such nonsense) meaning that new equipment is cash out of pocket and old equipment, which can no longer be used/supported, is surplussed at a total loss. Businesses, as well, face the fact that upgrading older equipment in order to run the new OS from the Beast, simply to be able to have 10 more unused features added to Word, is stupid and wastefull.

    When you sit back and think about it, for most schools and businesses, 95% of computer use is for what? Email, Internet access, basic word processing/spreadsheets/"powerpoint" and maybe some IM or connectivity to a "mainframe" for financials, records, etc. which generally means some sort of TN5250/whatever emulation. ALL of this can be done with Linux as the desktop - with the added bonus(?) of increased productivity due to end users not being as able to install Webshots, Kazaa, Trojan-loaderPro, or VirusOfTheHour 6.0. This means work can be done.

    But there is still a huge hurdle. Most companies and schools don't necessarily have the technical know-how or confidence to roll out Linux on the desktop. I think this is a pretty big hurdle, but not a showstopper. First, I see a lot more advertising from big players ("no one ever got fired for recommending IBM") on prime-time TV for Linux. Second, I see that Sam's Club is selling a $300.00 Linux box with Linux pre-installed and (in our store) an entire row of monitors demoing it sitting next to the XP boxes selling for hundred$ more. This is bringing Linux into the conciousness of the public (although as geeks we seem wonder how anyone could have missed it for so long :-)

    Let me speak from personal experience for a second. Last week we had an engineer from a software vendor show up to install an expensive, high-end HW/SW solution. Unfortunately, it runs on windows only, so we had to buy several Win2k3 Servers and have their engineer set it up for us (lot's of custom tweaks, lots of $$$). I asked him if there were any plans for porting it to Linux, especially considering that he recommended checking with their company first before applying any MS patches to these bexes as some of them have broken their software in the past (eek!). He turned and looked at me and said that over 80% of the places he's been to have asked the same question. So they've begun porting. It should be available next year sometime. Score one for the good guys.

    Along those same lines, I took him around to some of our installations to test the new system on our workstations. Wanting to start with the possibility of having the greatest success, I sook him to one of our "newer" labs. His first comment was "You're using Dell GX110's still? Those are, like 4 years old!". I didn't bother to tell him that, as Systems Administrator, I'm still waiting for my GX110. In fact, we still have IBM 340 workstations deployed. Those are 6 or 7 years old.

    We are facing a huge budget crunch. Because of this, we are being forced to do a close eval of possible ways to cut costs and squeeze the most out of our current investments. Af

  • Interface testing (Score:5, Interesting)

    by aashenfe (558026) on Sunday January 18, 2004 @03:30PM (#8014606) Journal
    Here is an idea for your local LUG.

    Nothing to do on a weekend?

    Head down to a mall and set up a user interface test. Call the mall first and ask if they will donate an area to the activity. Take machines down and set up tables.

    Ask passers by to take a survey. Give them a task to complete. After they try it, have them fill out a survey about the experience. Collect the surveys on a website so open source developers can access the info.

    Sound like a good idea?
  • by smallpaul (65919) <paul.prescod@net> on Sunday January 18, 2004 @08:02PM (#8016347)

    But it has for example forced me to - they've subpoenaed me for a lot of emails, and I spent literally a week writing a tool to index all my emails, so that when they give a better criteria for me, what they really want, I can actually produce it.

    Of course it would take a kernel hacker a week to write a tool to index emails. He probably wrote it from scratch in ANSI C with dependencies only on stdio.h and string.h. I can just see him spending the first day writing a module to do fast pattern matching across character buffers. Don't get excited Linus worshippers: I'm half kidding. Half.

  • by thockin (514323) on Sunday January 18, 2004 @11:22PM (#8017479)
    I was at LCA, and saw a few interesting presentations on GNOME. Here's the revelation:

    THEY'RE RE-CREATING WINDOWS.

    No, really, they are. That's not necessarily bad, but it is a bit scary. Look:

    GConf == Registry
    Nautilus == Explorer shell
    Bonobo == DCOM
    GStreamer == Direct Show
    DBus == (something they do now) ...

    Much of the same duplications are being done for KDE, too. Re-inventing, re-inventing, re-inventing.

    Furthermore, they're doing it worse. Or at least more slowly. Nautilus is SLOW. GNOME is much slower on equivalent hardware than Windows XP is.

    I'm fine with re-implementing something that is the rigth answer. I'm not convinced all of these are, and I'm *know* we're not as fast or stable as XP in the GUI.

    I want to see Linux and free/open software succeed. I really really do. I don't particularly LIKE OS/X, but it is a better experience than GNOME is, still.

    I once more suggest that either the KDE team or the GNOME team concede to the other. Stop duplicating or triplicating efforts. We're still pretty far behind, and it doesn't seem to me that we're catching up (except on the simplest of desktop tasks).

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