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Walt Mossberg Reviews Ubuntu 642

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the helluva-lot-closer dept.
sciurus0 writes "Mainstream technology journalist Walt Mossberg recently reviewed an Inspiron 1420N with Ubuntu installed by Dell. Citing problems such as an oversensitive touchpad and poor multimedia support, he suggests that 'from the point of view of an average user, someone who wouldn't want to enter text commands, hunt the Web for drivers and enabling software, or learn a whole new user interface' Ubuntu isn't a good choice compared to Windows or OS X."
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Walt Mossberg Reviews Ubuntu

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  • by garcia (6573) on Monday September 17, 2007 @12:52PM (#20638407) Homepage
    Citing problems such as an oversensitive touchpad and poor multimedia support, he suggests that 'from the point of view of an average user, someone who wouldn't want to enter text commands, hunt the Web for drivers and enabling software, or learn a whole new user interface' Ubuntu isn't a good choice compared to Windows or OS X.

    My wife has a Dell laptop and while the touchpad isn't sensitive the little nodule in the middle of the keyboard is while running XP! She doesn't use either of those though, she uses an external mouse so I guess neither matters to her.

    Everyone with any sense knows that Linux isn't a great choice compared to Windows or OS X for those that don't want to learn a new UI (or anything else he said) as I've discussed here numerous times before to the pro-Linux troll mods' joy. Linux is a great option if you're not interested in additional cost, vendor lock-in, and attempts by a corporation to invade your personal privacy and choice due to their licensing allowances while covering it up with vague non-sense.

    I will continue to run Windows and OS X on my desktop machines until any of the Linux distributions mature enough to match what's available on the Windows platform (which will probably never come unfortunately) and I will continue to trust Linux as my network server -- happily chugging along for years at a clip without as much as a hiccup.
  • by saterdaies (842986) on Monday September 17, 2007 @12:53PM (#20638433)
    Linux (Xorg, really) does configure touchpads to be too sensitive and some things still can't be configured graphically, but the fact that Dell is willing to sell a computer with Linux is a big step. It isn't perfect, but it is getting there. Frankly, reviews like his are what Linux really needs. Linux isn't deficient, but when people point out these things, it tells us "oh, maybe we can set more user-friendly defaults for touchpads in the xorg.conf - or create a small front end to edit them".

    These reviews will only make Linux stronger.
  • by Dekortage (697532) on Monday September 17, 2007 @12:53PM (#20638435) Homepage

    Mossberg isn't just dumping on Linux or open source. He generally likes the idea of OSS:

    Ubuntu and other versions of Linux have several advantages. Unlike Windows and OS X, they're free. Unlike Mac OS X, they can be run on the least-expensive popular hardware configurations. Unlike Windows, but like the Mac, they are essentially free of viruses and spyware. And unlike Windows and Mac OS X, they are built and constantly improved by a world-wide network of developers, professional and amateur -- the so-called open-source concept that produced the excellent Firefox Web browser.

    It makes sense that all the best software brains can't be located in just two places: Redmond, Wash., where Microsoft is based, and Cupertino, Calif., Apple's base. And plenty of people reading this have had lots of frustrations with the two better-known operating systems, especially Windows, whose latest iteration, Vista, is disappointing in many ways.

    Rather, he notes some average-user-level problems with Ubuntu (simple things like video, audio, and mouse issues). He's talking about usability by people who don't read Slashdot and are not related to (or dating) someone who DOES read Slashdot.

    Of course, he still thinks that "the Apple iMac as the best consumer desktop computer on the market." And we all know the iMac is horrible to use and support!

  • by kithchung (1116051) on Monday September 17, 2007 @12:53PM (#20638441)
    He may be a Windows user, but he's also a much respected reviewer. Let's stop the attack and look carefully at his points and address them if necessary. How about a 'Getting Started' tutorial for new users to learn the UI and differences between Windows and Gnome?
  • by DogDude (805747) on Monday September 17, 2007 @12:56PM (#20638487) Homepage
    I'd say for hardware support Ubuntu is way ahead of where Win2k was in 2000 or 2001.

    That's great, but it's 2007 now.
  • Fair enough. (Score:1, Insightful)

    by DoofusOfDeath (636671) on Monday September 17, 2007 @12:56PM (#20638499)
    His article was pretty well balanced and calm.

    My brother is a semi-techie who's always been interested in Linux. I realized that for the past few years, I've always been pretty sure that the *next* release of Ubuntu would be just what he's looking for. But...

    The ACPI and driver issues just never seem to really go away. Doing an "apt-get upgrade" doesn't always leave the system in a 100% functional state. Etc. So I'm starting to think that Linux distros will rarely or never have the same degree of polish that Apple, and in some ways M$, achieve.

    Will I ever be able to recommend Linux to a semi-/non-techie without reservation? I'm starting to wonder.
  • by cs02rm0 (654673) on Monday September 17, 2007 @12:56PM (#20638503)
    System / Preferences / Mouse

    There's no helping people who can't figure that out.
  • You can't deny it (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Guspaz (556486) on Monday September 17, 2007 @12:57PM (#20638505)
    The hardcore Linux proponents can deny it all they want, the simple fact of the matter is that when the average user sits down with a Linux box, there are still numerous shortcomings that may make it unacceptable.

    I've said it elsewhere, I've said it here; licensing MP3 would be a good start for Ubuntu. They can certainly afford it, and the US MP3 patents are only valid until 2012, so it'd cost at most $250,000 to essentially get permanent MP3 support.
  • by DoofusOfDeath (636671) on Monday September 17, 2007 @12:58PM (#20638557)

    He didn't even mention Automatix or Easy Ubuntu at all.

    I think his point is that he shouldn't have had to.

  • by cs02rm0 (654673) on Monday September 17, 2007 @01:00PM (#20638595)
    They're not configured to be sensitive enough for me. It's a preference and as long as you can configure it simply I don't see the problem if it's still useable enough to get to System / Preferences / Mouse.

    Whilst reviews are great, it would have been nice if he could've asked a simple question about this on the ubuntu forum - I guess Windows users aren't used to the option of doing that.
  • A good sign. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by delire (809063) on Monday September 17, 2007 @01:00PM (#20638607)
    Dell needs to take these things in steed. If Mossberg's criticisms are valid - which they seem to be - then Dell isn't far off from having a system perfectly reccomendable to 'non-techies'. Perhaps then Dell can compete with those preinstalled Ubuntu laptops [system76.com] non-techies do seem to find great out-of-the-box.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday September 17, 2007 @01:01PM (#20638615)
    He is right on the money for main stream usage. As much as linux has improved, it still has a lot of uphill lifting to do.

    Keep working on that install, and perhaps instead of having to type in the command for something. Distribute an ICON ON THE DESKTOP that installs the media copy righted stuff so newbie users can watch CNN etc...

    He is correct. Linux is still too hard for say your 50+ year old mother to install. Not impossible, but people are like water, they take the path of least resistance every time.
  • by camusflage (65105) on Monday September 17, 2007 @01:02PM (#20638655)
    Rather, he notes some average-user-level problems with Ubuntu (simple things like video, audio, and mouse issues). He's talking about usability by people who don't read Slashdot and are not related to (or dating) someone who DOES read Slashdot.

    That is something that anyone looking at this article needs to consider. What Robert X. Cringely is to geeks, this guy is to the MBA crew. Consider the audience when considering the work.
  • Re:To be fair ... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by AnotherShep (599837) on Monday September 17, 2007 @01:05PM (#20638719)
    Anything not working is a legitimate complaint. Period.

    It doesn't matter if the issues are legal or technological; if something doesn't work, it's an issue.
  • by phoenixwade (997892) on Monday September 17, 2007 @01:06PM (#20638725)

    What does Walt Mossberg know about Linux? He's a Windoze writer.
    For the purposes of the Article, not knowing Ubuntu or any Linux distro is a plus. Remember the point of the Article was whether or not Ubuntu was ready for release to the "masses." The simple answer is, it's not.

    I would love the average user to be technically savvy enough to install and use Linux, any distro. It would eliminate a lot of problems we all face. The technically savvy user would be able to keep their equipment cleaner from mal-ware and would be a lot more vocal about quality control of software products.

    These kind of articles are what the Linux community needs. We need to have non-enthusiasts evaluate the distro, and then correct the problems. It's amazingly easy to get into the habit of understanding that an issue, or a kludge exists, work around it, and have it become so ubiquitous that we forget it's even there.

    On the other hand, if we want to remain the elite minority, it's easy. Flame these kinds of articles and ignore the wants and needs of the non-elite majority. We'll stay Elite, holier than them, and a minority.

  • Re:To be fair ... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by DogDude (805747) on Monday September 17, 2007 @01:06PM (#20638731) Homepage
    #3. Playing mp3's - learn the legal issues, we've been harping on that for YEARS.

    You're missing the point. Average users shouldn't have to go to law school to figure out why their software doesn't work. Legal issues concerning codecs are irrelevant to users. Either the product works, or it doesn't. In this aspect, the product does not work.
  • by C10H14N2 (640033) on Monday September 17, 2007 @01:07PM (#20638747)
    Mark Shuttleworth, the South African-born founder of the Ubuntu project, told me this week that "it would be reasonable to say that this is not ready for the mass market." And Dell's Web site for its Ubuntu computers warns that these machines are for "for advanced users and tech enthusiasts."

    Armed with that knowledge, he goes out to write a column about:

    So, what do I mean when I say Ubuntu is too rough around the edges for average users?

    Apparently, though it is "too rough" it is not rough enough to keep the uninitiated away despite warnings precisely to that effect, which is a damned sight more interesting by itself than the litany of peeves he enumerates.
  • by GreyPoopon (411036) <gpoopon@@@gmail...com> on Monday September 17, 2007 @01:07PM (#20638757)

    It sounds like the man has forgotten what a problem it used to be to install Windows NT, 95, 98, 2000...hunting for drivers, reconfiguring everything, trying to get your desktop out of 640x480x8....

    None of which typically applied to a brand-new out of the box computer with Windows Pre-installed. What Walt was reviewing was a laptop provided by Dell with Ubuntu pre-installed by Dell. All of us Linux fans have been saying that the only fair comparison between Windows and Linux would be on machines with the OS pre-installed. We now have that situation, and Walt has some very valid criticism. Although I don't think the need to download new CODECs is all that severe, the poor video performance, problems with the touchpad and the crashing volume control applet are absolutely unacceptable for a pre-install.
  • by Spencerian (465343) on Monday September 17, 2007 @01:08PM (#20638765) Homepage Journal
    I tried Linux in several distros back in 2000 and was amused but not pleased. Driver support was crazy, the simple matter of changing screen resolutions was terrible, and useful applications (beyond games) made Linux a poor choice for the basics.

    Times change, however. Contrary to Mossburg, who, much of the time, is a very even-handed and well-informed tech columnist that really knows the ins and outs of Windows and OS X, I'd have to disagree with him here.

    I've installed Ubuntu client in my Parallels virtual environment on my OS X system. I like it over the past Linux distros for several key reasons:

    (1) Ubuntu (actually, GNOME) has greatly simplified its interface, "stealing" good elements from both OS X and Windows. From the Mac, a fixed menu bar at the top of the screen, and only four menus at that. Finding things is easy. From Windows, the notion of menu-launching key applications a'la the Start menu button (rather than mere commands found in OS X menus).

    (2) Ubuntu has very good hardware support, but always there will be a system that doesn't like it as well. This is because of the same problem that Windows has (although Microsoft has more money and clout to throw at this problem): Hardware quality and variations in the computer world are astronomically huge. Expecting any operating system to support the myriad of PC hardware variations is just near-impossible. Ubuntu does much better, in my experience in using it, than say another GNOME interfaced-Linux, Fedora. (In fact, Fedora is pretty awful in client form.)

    (3) Ubuntu has EVERYTHING that the average Joe Offthestreet needs for basic internet and home needs: A web browser (Firefox, arguably best in the biz), an office suite (OpenOffice, always trying to be something that MS Office thinks it is), a mail client (Thunderbird, a client so nice I've moved from Apple Mail to it on my OS X system) and lots of games and the like.

    Software update processes are now less crazy and propellerhead, again taking the ideas from the commercial camps. Security is as good as any Unix/Linux client, and since its not Windows, spyware and viruses are not generally present here.

    Ubuntu loses only in the specialized "gimme-gimme" internet needs of the youth and industry, like iTunes (doesn't exist, but good MP3 players and support for them are, although iTunes Music Store reins supreme, IMO), some specialty web features for audio or video, professional-level graphic and audio tools, and enterprise support (this problem is shared with OS X, despite my own personal and professional efforts to the opposite).

    Installing further applications outside of the bundled, however, needs work. GNOME needs to expand further with, say, Apple's "package" concept of a single app in a double-clickable folder that contains all the binaries and libraries for the app. For now, Ubuntu works like many Linux clients, so third-party apps are hellish to do for the average Joe Whodoesntdo-cmdlines.

    If I had a friend or family member that needed a computer (PC) but didn't want to fight the antiquation battles that MS wants to give its consumers, AND if my friend only needed to do web, email, and general office stuff, Ubuntu is a hands-down favorite.

    Mossburg and others, unfortunately, may have had too much exposure to other operating systems to see things more simply. Not everyone needs an enterprise-level operating system...just one that works for them for what they need, at home.
  • by DogDude (805747) on Monday September 17, 2007 @01:12PM (#20638851) Homepage
    Whilst reviews are great, it would have been nice if he could've asked a simple question about this on the ubuntu forum - I guess Windows users aren't used to the option of doing that.

    You're right. If I have to go to a forum to get basic functionality of a brand new product working right out of the box, that product gets returned. Having to get "support" for a new product means that that product is broken.
  • Re:To be fair ... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by nmb3000 (741169) <nmb3000@that-google-mail-site.com> on Monday September 17, 2007 @01:13PM (#20638869) Homepage Journal
    So he has TWO legitimate complaints and one minor problem. He's an idiot.

    Is this a fancy way of saying he's an average user? Your average user isn't going to know anything about the legal issues surrounding codecs on Linux. All they know is that on Windows and OSX their media files play fine right after installing the OS. The habit of calling new users idiots and blowing them off saying "RTFM" is one of the things that's stunted Linux adoption on the desktop.

    By his "logic", Windows is not ready for anyone. Try getting an iPod to work on it without installing software.

    An iPod comes with software and instructions that make it ready and easy to install on Windows/OSX. I certainly doubt there are any instructions in an iPod box that deal with installing it on your favorite Linux distro. Which means of course that you end up online searching Google for how to use your iPod with Linux. This is one of his (legitimate) gripes. In fairness it's not a gripe with Linux so much as it is with the lack of manufacturer support, but for users this is one in the same.
  • Re:To be fair ... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by CastrTroy (595695) on Monday September 17, 2007 @01:16PM (#20638929) Homepage
    When you buy windows, you pay for licensing the required codecs to play MP3 and video files. If Dell thinks this is a big issue that customers can't play MP3 files (and I think it is), then they should work out some kind of deal whereby they pay for licensing for these codecs, so that people can play the files they want to play. Also, it seems that Dell has really bad execution of this product, and that it's not really Linux or Ubuntu's fault. The machine should come working, out of the box, and if it doesn't, then Dell shouldn't be selling it.
  • Re:Simple stuff (Score:2, Insightful)

    by insertwackynamehere (891357) on Monday September 17, 2007 @01:16PM (#20638937) Journal
    I bet Dell has some legal issue with installing an opensource DVD player, since aren't all opensource DVD players technically illegal ever since the DVD protection was cracked in 2001? Technically, DVD should only be proprietary, but it's WAY too late for that and no one really cares except possibly Dell since they're a large company who doesn't want to get sued. Or I could be completely wrong. Please correct me if I am.
  • Re:To be fair ... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by the_lesser_gatsby (449262) on Monday September 17, 2007 @01:17PM (#20638947) Homepage
    And this is because MP3 codecs can't be included in an OS without paying a bunch of money to Thomson (licensee of the MP3 patents). MS and Apple can pay this, Ubuntu can't. How could this ever be solved for free software until the patents run out?
  • Re:To be fair ... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by brunascle (994197) on Monday September 17, 2007 @01:19PM (#20638981)

    In this aspect, the product does not work.
    until you install the codec.

    does XP "not work" because it cant play h.264 out of the box?
  • by WombatControl (74685) on Monday September 17, 2007 @01:19PM (#20638993)

    The problem that Linux has is that it's written by wildly disparate groups of people with different ideas about how an OS should work from a user perspective. The strength of Linux is that it's written by wildly disparate groups of people with different ideas about how an OS should work from a technical perspective.

    It's perfectly possible to make a UNIX OS be usable by the masses -- Apple's done that with OS X. The difference is that Apple "cheats" -- they only support a certain range of hardware, all of which is a known quantity to them. They're not dealing with the issues of a Frankencomputer made from whatever bits of hardware happen to show up.

    The only way to get Linux as a mass-use OS is to user test the living hell out of it. That means a continual process of refactoring so that the user never has to view the command line unless they really want to. That means making sure that every application follows a consistent HIG. That means that the first person who says something along the lines of "RTFA" gets canned.

    What matters isn't technical excellence, but a culture of usability. The Linux subculture is still based around the hacker ethics -- and that's why Linux remains an OS primarily for people who enjoy compiling programs and manipulating settings. That has to change. The culture needs to be one of taking a critical look at every stage in the process and presenting the user with a set of simple and consistent choices that let people use their computers rather than worrying about getting their machine in a usable state. Ubuntu's leaning in that direction, but they still have a long way to go.

    The problem is that changing a culture is a hell of a lot harder than just writing software. A culture in which people are expected to navigate the Internet looking for answers will keep Linux marginalized. A culture that says "this problem is too complicated and needs to be simplified so that the average user gets it" is a culture that can take Linux to the mainstream. Not only that, but it encourages technical development as well -- a good number of the reasons for unnecessary complexity is because there are unnecessary complications in the way a piece of code works. At the end of the day, a solution that's simple for the user is often simple at the code level as well.

    I've been using Linux for a decade now, and Ubuntu is a great distro -- but it still isn't enough. The only way that Linux will get mainstream acceptance is when Linux developers start consciously thinking about the overall user experience. It isn't the code that's the problem, it's the culture, and looking for technological solutions to cultural problems doesn't work -- just look at what Microsoft is trying to do with its current strategy.

  • by gbulmash (688770) * <semi_famous@yahooBLUE.com minus berry> on Monday September 17, 2007 @01:19PM (#20638997) Homepage Journal
    Too true. A "yeah but" rebuttal means nothing. To be an attractive alternative to Windows, an OS has to be better than Windows is *now*, not better than Windows was when Windows was its age.

    Linux is really awesome for certain uses, but it lacks the fit and polish of an OS that's had hundreds and hundreds of millions of dollars spent on smoothing out rough edges and strongarming hardware makers.

    The sad thing is that Linux has been "almost there" for years, but the reasons why its not "there" yet is as much about the hardcore factions who do their damnedest to create a hostile environment for businesses and non-techies as it is about any minor technical rough edges.

    - Greg
  • by entgod (998805) on Monday September 17, 2007 @01:22PM (#20639045)
    So you returned windows?
  • Re:shocking!! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by apt142 (574425) on Monday September 17, 2007 @01:28PM (#20639141) Homepage Journal

    seriously, if you are a columnist who is supposed to act as the gatekeeper to new technologies for mainstream america and you can't make ubuntu work... then mainstream america needs a new gatekeeper.
    Normally, I'm all about the end user and understanding the plight of the non-computer literate. But seriously, just about every problem he's mentioned is fixable and just a Google search away.

    Computers are not a magic, mind reading, fix everything in one click device. This guy expects everything to work out of the box perfectly and to his specs.

    Not even windows machines do that. In comparison, it takes a fair bit of configuring out of the box to even get a windows machine ready for safe internet access.
  • by Dystopian Rebel (714995) * on Monday September 17, 2007 @01:29PM (#20639177) Journal
    Amusing. See the subsequent Slashdot article, http://it.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=07/09/17/1543208 [slashdot.org].

    It appears that the "vast majority of computer users" are the same ones who are so incompetent that they have surpassed viruses themselves as a source of affliction.

    The "vast majority of computer users" need to learn how to use these complicated machines.
  • by fahrbot-bot (874524) on Monday September 17, 2007 @01:31PM (#20639199)
    Perhaps Linux would make better progress with the unwashed masses if, instead of trashing a Linux-inept user/reviewer or "fossil" (as someone called Walt), the community simply "fixed" (for lack of a better word) the issue. If the mouse pad sensitivity can be changed easily in Windows, the same should be true for Linux, etc.. If the edges are rough for the "average user" - meaning average non-Linux proficient user - smooth them over.

    I'm not suggesting that the rank-and-file support the uninitiated, but perhaps Linux vendors can take these types of things as fielding notes to help them build a better product.

    Unless Linux geeks don't actually *want* Windows users to switch... :-)

  • by hackstraw (262471) on Monday September 17, 2007 @01:32PM (#20639221)
    Everyone with any sense knows that Linux isn't a great choice compared to Windows or OS X for those that don't want to learn a new UI

    OK, I'm going to be a little hard on Linux/*NIX here, but I'm not trolling. I love linux, I'm typing this from a Linux box, so here we go.

    All *NIX GUI is pretty bad (with the exception of OS X). From my opinion, there is no real difference between Gnome and KDE, and both are pretty much a combo of 80s and 90s UNIX X window managers with a strong Microsoft Windows influence. My favorite GUI environment from the late 90s was WindowMaker, which was a ripoff of NextStep.

    Linux is cool from the perspective of its openness and it being based on *NIX philosopies and style. But Even Linus will tell you that Linux is nothing new, and I believe that it would take something like a startup and a bunch of cash and forethought to make a good GUI for Linux or any other *NIX (again besides OS X).

    I've used FVWM, TWM, OL(V)WM, WindowMaker, Afterstep (which is how I found /.), CDE, KDE, and Gnome, and I guess a few other Windowing environments for *NIX, and sure they are usable, but none of them are great.

    It drives me up a wall that copy and paste is so inconsistant. I have to think, is it control-v, right click and use menu, middle click, shift-insert, and its common for me to get it wrong. Oh, to do page up/down, should I use page up or down keys, or shift and page up/down, or will page up and down even work? What about drag and drop? Will it work? Will it work between apps? What about a consistant Widget look and feel?

    These are common GUI things from the mid 80s, but as a rank ordering from best to worst, you have OS X, Windows, and others. Windows is not that great either. The look and feel has become about as segmented as *NIX. And OS X is not perfect, but it seems clear that they have spent more time and effort with attention to these design features than anybody else.

  • by EvanED (569694) <evaned@ g m a i l.com> on Monday September 17, 2007 @01:33PM (#20639241)
    How can he claim to be something he's not?

    He's not claiming to be an average user, he's attempting to evaluate it from their perspective.

    Isn't this Dell's issue? Even under Windows, Dell tunes their OEM install.
    Well, what does Free mean to you Walt?
    And if there were, then it would be in violation of MPEG licensing. Good call Walt.

    All red herrings.

    He's not evaluating Linux, or even Ubuntu, in some abstract sense to see if it's "ready for the desktop". He's trying to determine whether Joe Schmoe could go out and buy one of these computers instead of the version with Windows.

    So it doesn't matter why something doesn't work, whether it's because Dell set it up wrong, or there's an issue of Free software, or whatever, the point is it doesn't work. (Or works poorly.)

    "The Ubuntu-equipped Inspiron 1420N starts at $744, but the configuration that Dell lent me for testing sells for $1,415. The same unit equipped with Windows Vista costs $1,524. The Ubuntu version includes OpenOffice, the free office suite that competes with Microsoft Office. Dell charges an added $149 for Microsoft Office."

    So what is your point? That people that don't want to run Microsoft products really should because its almost the same price for the hardware?


    I suspect his points are that the machine he tested costs $1415, there's a version with Windows and Office for $109 more, and you could pay another $149 for Office if you wanted.

    Do you always assume people have an agenda when they write something?
  • by Rogerborg (306625) on Monday September 17, 2007 @01:35PM (#20639287) Homepage

    Typical Computer User: What's that you jabbering, son? Gyro-what? Is y'all from the future?

    The point remains that a windowing GUI that doesn't ship with built-in support for what's rapidly becoming the most common consumer input device is fundamentally lacking. In mid September 2007, you shouldn't have to google anything or install anything to be able to fiddle with your touchpad settings.

  • by Frumious Wombat (845680) on Monday September 17, 2007 @01:36PM (#20639291)
    If the computer isn't running, it's awfully hard to Google anything. Mossberg's column is for end-users, not techies. It's for harried businessmen who are thinking, "should i jump to this Ubuntu thing my geeks keep telling me about, or wait another six months?"

    Complain to Dell about the Automatix oversight, as he took what he would have bought from Dell and tried to use it, without having to become a guru first.
  • by athloi (1075845) on Monday September 17, 2007 @01:41PM (#20639401) Homepage Journal
    Any moron can see that Linux isn't ready for the desktop, like Windows isn't ready for the server market. This is because most people want technology to just work. They are not technology workers and they don't care how it works because they have their own fields to learn, or are unskilled labor and can't learn.

    I think what we as those who produce code should focus on is the generally low quality of software and hardware. In efficiency, capabilities and interface, our software and hardware today generally is mediocre but rarely better.

    If Linux improves in these areas, it will be adopted, because the price is right and its hipness factor is higher than that of Windows or Mac OS (Windows is corporate, and the Mac is associated with smug trendsters talking loudly at Starbucks).

    Let's be honest about the issues facing Linux.

    1. Installation sucks. Hardware support is lacking, the process is ambiguous and confusing for most users. Included in this is "Your documentation generally sucks because it's done by non-professionals."

    2. Much familiar, high quality Windows software is missing. Yes, Photoshop really is better than GIMP. And Office is better than OpenOffice. Quark is better than Scribus (or inDesign).

    3. People want clear, simple, fast answers to common problems, not a "fiddle with it and come back to our mailing list so we can call you stupid again."

    4. Someone to call in case of emergency who can give definite answers. It's 3 AM and your taxes are due, and there's some odd problem you don't understand. You can call Microsoft and for $200 they'll fix it. For Linux?

    Knowing that software generally sucks helps us stop resting on our (or Linus's) laurels and lets us realize we have a lot to do. Software is still in its infancy. It is bloated and inefficient, it often lacks capabilities for common tasks and is unreliable, and its interfaces are generally awkward and seemingly created with no understanding of how the end user works. And interoperability is still in its infancy.

    What I'm saying here is that to beat Windows, you have to be better at the game of being an operating system for people who are not obsessed with computers. Tech geeks don't understand that there are other ways of earning a living that are equally as if not more legitimate (and difficult) than typing in code patterns. These people want to focus on their specialty, not yours.

    As long as we are content to scorn others for not being geeks, we will not meet their needs, and so Windows will continue to triumph over us as it is doing now. We need to stop thinking everyone out there is a tech geek. Think outside of the box? Think outside of your solipsistic skulls, and realize you haven't met the needs of the average or exceptional person out there.
  • So... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Compuser (14899) on Monday September 17, 2007 @01:42PM (#20639417)
    What he seems to be saying is that Ubuntu is ready for corporate desktop. The minor driver issues can be dealt with by
    support guys but otherwise the polish is there. It may not be ready for the grandma but his review makes it sound like
    Ubuntu is ready for desktop (if there is someone to custom configure it upfront).
    Is there anyone working on the complete client-server install distro of Linux (something that would install a complete
    Linux groupware solution on the server and Linux clients ready to talk to said server)? A complete end-to-end install
    where there is no need for things like Exchange on either end.
  • by yo_tuco (795102) on Monday September 17, 2007 @01:47PM (#20639519)
    I think the GP post point is that Win2k was good enough for the "average user" back then. In the year 2026, we'll all be calling Vista of 2007 a POS.
  • by electricalen (623623) on Monday September 17, 2007 @01:47PM (#20639523)
    Also, everyone always says these features for the non-techie and we need to do this so my 50+ grandmother can use it. I think that we forget that even long time Linux users don't want to deal with spending hours getting their own systems to work.

    My primary job at work is to maintain Linux servers and development machines. I also have a few Linux PCs and servers at home. I hate it as much as the average non-techie when I try to boot up my nice shiny new Ubuntu CD and it locks up on bootup everytime. Or when I finally get it installed and the screen is all screwed up and there are major soundcard issues and I have to debug it or search forums.

    Even if we didn't care about non-tech users, who here on Slashdot enjoys dealing with problems that could have been fixed by good autodetection and clear easy configuration choices.
  • Re:To be fair ... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by DogDude (805747) on Monday September 17, 2007 @01:48PM (#20639541) Homepage
    How could this ever be solved for free software until the patents run out?

    That's a good question. I have no idea. Regardless of what the solution is, it's still not the consumer's problem. The consumer is buying the end product, just like anything else.

    If Bic can't sell you ball point pens with ink because they're having trouble with their ink suppliers, who's going to buy Bic pens, with the idea that "It's not their fault they can't get ink. I'll just buy some empty, non-functioning ball point pens, and work around the "no ink" problem myself."? Any sane consumer will assume that the Bic product is faulty (which it is), and buy a competitor's product that does function properly.

    During the pet food recalls, nobody continued to buy potentially tainted food because the manufacturer made a good faith effort to provide a good product. The reason the products were defective is irrelevant. The products were defective, and no consumer in his/her right mind is going to buy a defective product unless there is absolutely no alternative.

    In 2007, an OS that doesn't play MP3 files out of the box is going to be considered by most end users as defective.
  • by swordgeek (112599) on Monday September 17, 2007 @01:49PM (#20639563) Journal
    While what you say is correct, the truth of the matter is that from a computer-literate point of view, many end-users (probably the majority of them) completely refuse to read, think for themselves, or even lift a finger to accomplish simple tasks.

    For most people, computers are a magic box that should 'just work.' With Windows being invasive and ubiquitous, that ideal _appears_ to be achieved for most people, for a while, regardless of how broken and smelly the guts of the system are. After three years or so, viruses, bugs, and bloat lead to unstable Windows installations so people dump their systems and get new ones. This isn't how things should be, it's how they are.

    In that sense, Walt's review was right on the money.
  • by Telvin_3d (855514) on Monday September 17, 2007 @01:50PM (#20639583)
    Yes, it is a killer app because it falls under the heading of Assumed Feature. It is one f those things that everyone assumes will be present. It is notable only by its absence. When people load their new OS and find that their MP3s don't play, they aren't going to say 'Wow, it was so easy adding MP3 support myself". They are going to say "What type of cheap piece of shit doesn't play MP3s?"

    These days, having no native MP3 support is on the level of having no native mouse support. A computer that won't run basic, standard format multimedia out of the box is about as useful and relevant as one that doesn't support a mouse out of the box.
  • by DogDude (805747) on Monday September 17, 2007 @01:55PM (#20639657) Homepage
    We should be talking about Vista not XP.

    You can talk about whatever you want. Vista's hardware support is pretty rotten at this point, which is why sales are relatively low. XP is still the gold standard for consumer desktop OS's. In 2007, I can buy a copy of Windows XP, or a computer with Windows XP, and it works. Why anybody would want to subject themselves to extra headache when acceptable alternatives are available is beyond me. I dealt with hardware issues in Windows in the 90's because there were no other good alternatives. Today, you can either use Windows XP, and start *using* your computer right out of the box, you can buy an Apple and deal with relatively extreme vendor lock-in, or you can buy a Linux or Vista box and deal with hardware headaches, a la 1996.
  • by newgalactic (840363) on Monday September 17, 2007 @01:56PM (#20639673)
    Why is it that we're saying "Hay Free OS, why aren't you as good as this one that costs money?" Shouldn't we be saying, "Hay expensive OS's, why is this Free OS almost as good as you?"
  • by GeckoX (259575) on Monday September 17, 2007 @01:57PM (#20639681)

    My counterpoint is that ANY correctly configured Linux distribution for the hardware can rival commercial operating systems for the average user.
    It's a red herring because this is NOT 'Any correctly configured Linux distribution'.
    This is a Dell laptop shipped with Ubuntu. And it was reviewed As Shipped..as in exactly how your Average User would receive it.

    Your zealotism is doing no favors for the Linux community. This attitude does nothing but damage the reputation and adoptability of Linux.

    Let me give you just a wee bit of proof that hopefully you'll understand: What market share of Average Users are running something other than Windows or OSX?

    Ahh, but you MUST be right...

    (I'll leave it to you to figure out why you're not...and to hopefully see how articles like this are actually HELPING linux)
  • by Telvin_3d (855514) on Monday September 17, 2007 @01:57PM (#20639687)
    Sure he can. He (and 99% of the world) does not care about OSS. He loaded what was billed as a fully featured OS. These days, what part of what a fully featured OS is assumed to provide is default support for a wide range of multimedia. If it doesn't work out of the box, it should be seamless. If Windows or OSX is fed a video or audio file it doesn't support, it goes looking for a codec and often has it installed before you know anything it wrong. If Linux doesn't do this, should he care why?

    Does Linux need any of this? Only if it wants to come out of the server room.
  • by AnotherShep (599837) on Monday September 17, 2007 @01:58PM (#20639705)
    There's a difference between "You need to install software" and "Legally, you can't do this", you fucktard.
  • by ctishman (545856) <ctishman@nOspAM.mac.com> on Monday September 17, 2007 @02:00PM (#20639741)
    See, that's still a problem. He doesn't care that it's Free or not, just that it doesn't work as it should out of the box. Much in the way that democracy (or communism, or whatever) is both a political ideology and a form of government, Linux is both a social movement and a family of Operating System products. The thing is, he's taking the position not of the marching, banner-waving revolutionary in the street, but of the average citizen who doesn't care what that ruckus is, just that the busses run and his water's on. It's a sad fact, but that's all the vast, vast majority of people want.
  • Re:MBAs (Score:3, Insightful)

    by compro01 (777531) on Monday September 17, 2007 @02:00PM (#20639747)
    Why should anyone believe a guy who cant even find the freaking mouse control panel? Is he really so stupid he can't figure out the mouse panel just might fix the touchpad settings on his mouse-less laptop?

    the setting he needs to adjust isn't in the usual mouse control panel. you need some extra stuff (gsynaptic, i believe) to make the setting available, which dell really should have included, but didn't for whatever reason.
  • I just used a friend's Vista laptop, and I also had problems with the touchpad doing stupid things to me. I understand that many other people are also having problems with it's sound support, and it takes a $45 software add-on for people to view commercial DVDs on XP (haven't tried on Vista) -- which is more expensive than a low-end set-top hardware DVD player.

    But open source is a two-edged sword. While it draws on smart developers from many places, nobody is ultimately responsible for the quality of the product, . . . [[TFA]]
    and he has obviously never read Microsoft's EULAs.
  • Unless Linux geeks don't actually *want* Windows users to switch...

    You hit the nail on the head. Linux geeks actually do NOT want that. They still see themselves as the "computer wizards" and want to be worshipped for their magic powers. And yet, they fear a million joe users bothering them to fix their PCs. Linux geeks want everybody to be as smart as they are so Linux can be run on every computer in the world. They're OS-centric instead of being user-centric. That's their problem.

    I don't care if i have to wait for the Duke Nukem Forever release date, I'd rather wait for ReactOS v1.0 (an open source WinXP clone) than switch to Linux.
  • by samkass (174571) on Monday September 17, 2007 @02:05PM (#20639827) Homepage Journal
    Linux is a great option if you're not interested in additional cost

    Only if "cost" is counted in money. I think we need a third "Free as in..." category. Linux is free if your time is worthless, but otherwise seems to incur significant "additional" costs beyond MacOS X (and to a lesser degree Windows). At some point in your career/life you reach a point where you have and are willing to pay the money for someone else to deal with all the random whack-a-mole problems.
  • by khasim (1285) <brandioch.conner@gmail.com> on Monday September 17, 2007 @02:07PM (#20639869)

    See, that's still a problem. He doesn't care that it's Free or not, just that it doesn't work as it should out of the box.

    And he is defining "work" as "being exactly like Microsoft Windows".

    No, Ubuntu is NOT "free Microsoft Windows". And there is no reason other than him being an idiot to expect it to be.

    So Ubuntu doesn't play mp3's out of the box. It DOES play .ogg files.

    Does Windows play .ogg files out of the box? No. Nor do the most common versions play mp3's out of the box. And he kind of skips over that.

    Ubuntu is NOT "free Microsoft Windows". Do not expect it to be. Do not complain when it is not.

    Understand WHY Ubuntu was written.

    Can I legally give Ubuntu to 100 people without anyone being charged for it? Yes.

    Can I do that with Microsoft Windows? No.
  • by wanderingknight (1103573) on Monday September 17, 2007 @02:08PM (#20639885)
    Oh, pray do tell me, what does Automatix provide you that the little program under Applications called "Add/Remove" does not?

    Automatix is a third-party script that can screw up your system pretty badly, and can even leave your system unbootable. The Ubuntu team in charge of the repositories has analyzed the script and found a huge number of rough measures taken by the authors (like killing dpkg), and thus it has stopped its support. Automatix is bad and does nothing Add/Remove or Synaptic can't do.

    What *I* found funny is that Mossberg didn't even mention the tons of free applications that are available via Add/Remove or Synaptic... Many of the answers he was looking for (like the codecs needed to play mp3 files) are available a couple of clicks away via an idiotproof GUI.
  • by GeckoX (259575) on Monday September 17, 2007 @02:19PM (#20640073)
    You most certainly poised yourself as a linux zealot, so don't get all defensive now.
    And you still don't get it, or at least, refuse to admit it.

    Sabotage? You are really insisting on that? You're really going to call what he reviewed an untuned version of linux and claim that as sabotage?

    Ok, you tell me then. From the POV of the Average User, just what Linux pre-install SHOULD be reviewed if not a Dell laptop pre-installed with Ubuntu?

    What, should he have come to you? And that would have been representative of your Average User's experience how?

    Not sure what your agenda is, but whatever it is, it doesn't make sense at all.
  • by Leftist Troll (825839) on Monday September 17, 2007 @02:21PM (#20640119)
    Walt is right, Dell's Ubuntu offering is not ready for the masses. However, I see this largely as Dell's fuckup.

    Dell is shipping vanilla Ubuntu on these things. No media codecs, no accelerated drivers for nvidia cards, not even a properly configured X server. Can you imagine them doing the same with Windows? It would be a disaster.
  • Re:To not admit... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by kwandar (733439) on Monday September 17, 2007 @02:30PM (#20640293)

    "To not admit that Windows and OSX are easier to operate, far more user friendly is just ignorant."

    Well, I've only been using Ubuntu (and linux) for a few weeks, but I find it FAR EASIER than XP (I haven't used OXS, or Vista) in most respects. I can look up new software and install at a few clicks. When one beta I installed screwed up, it didn't kill the whole system. It un-installed as easily as it installed.

    Most importantly, Ubuntu seems to be have a more intuitive and better organised desktop, was much faster than Windows which seems to get slower and sloooooowwwwer (thought time will tell) and I have to say, a lot easier overall which is surprising given how much more familiar I am with XP. Compatibility is still an issue, but to say Windows is easier? Maybe in some areas, but certainly not from what I've seen so far.

  • by stewbacca (1033764) on Monday September 17, 2007 @02:41PM (#20640505)
    Nope, no "magic box" theory here. Computers have been given a pass for far too long. We expect our cars to work without any knowledge of mechanics on the drivers' parts. We turn a tv on expecting to get our digital cable HD content, without having any idea of how that works. Humans have been soaking in RF over AM and FM bands for what, a hundred years or so, yet less than 5% of the population can even tell you how a radio works. It is time for the computer industry to be held to the same standard as everything else.
  • by djones101 (1021277) on Monday September 17, 2007 @02:42PM (#20640517)

    idiotproof GUI.
    You obviously have not worked with people before. There is no such thing as idiotproof. You show me an idiotproof anything, and I will find you a dozen idiots to prove you wrong. My fellow software developers out there will easily vouch for that.
  • by randomjohndoe (618905) on Monday September 17, 2007 @02:59PM (#20640823)
    Just the fact that Walt Mossberg reviewed Ubuntu is a huge win for Ubuntu.
  • by Leftist Troll (825839) on Monday September 17, 2007 @03:01PM (#20640847)
    what is Dell supposed to do?

    Pay for the codecs. There are legal [fluendo.com] options [cnr.com].
  • by yuna49 (905461) on Monday September 17, 2007 @03:25PM (#20641267)
    Why? Are licenses for the codecs going to cost Dell more for a Linux machine than a Windows one?

    Somebody (meaning you) still has to pay for the license in that copy of PowerDVD after all. Windows machines don't support a lot of standard codecs out-of-the-box either. Just try playing a XviD movie on a stock PC with Windows Media Player. Oh, yeah, I remember, Windows tells me it needs to find the codec, then it fails to do so. And this is easier for a novice user because....?

    I've bought a lot of Dell hardware in my career, and in general I'm pretty happy with Dell. But I agree with others here who say they just haven't done the job with their new Linux lines. Why GNOME and not KDE, a much more Windows-like desktop? Why no codecs and other multimedia support? Why no fine-tuning of the touchpad driver if that's an issue? You don't think Dell ignores issues like that when they configure their standard XP or Vista images, do you?

    And, yes, if they're going to sell Linux machines then they damn well need to support them. Does that mean they may not make as much on Linux machines in the short term? Perhaps, since they'll need to build a support staff. In the longer run, they'll discover they're getting a lot fewer support calls per Linux machine than they do for Windows.

    I'm not saying it'll be easy to sell Linux machines to a mass audience, but it's not impossible. It does require that the OEM put a little effort into it. If Walt there is having troubles with his trackpad, whose fault is that? Hint, it's not Canonical's.

    Oh, and it wouldn't hurt to bundle Firefox, Thunderbird, and OpenOffice on those Windows machines you sell either, Mr. Dell.

  • by hobo sapiens (893427) on Monday September 17, 2007 @03:27PM (#20641345) Journal
    "So Ubuntu doesn't play mp3's out of the box. It DOES play .ogg files."
    Sorry, but if someone is coming from Windows and wants to try Linux, what on earth does .ogg do for them and their 30GB library of mp3 or .aac files? What, you seriously expect someone to convert their entire music library? Get real. Whether you want to accept reality or not, that alone is a HUGE barrier to adopting a new OS for the vast majority of people. Now, if you want to look down your nose at people for having the "unreasonable" expectation that they should be able to migrate to Linux without a huge headache, then go ahead.

    As has been said in other posts, you have absolutely missed the point.
  • Seems OK to me (Score:3, Insightful)

    by JoeCommodore (567479) <larry@portcommodore.com> on Monday September 17, 2007 @03:52PM (#20641753) Homepage
    He stated the facts as a person who does not live for computer use. He had problems and pointed out some problems that may seem trivial to us but to others they can be pretty big.

    I'd rather see the mass public have something with those features taken care of than to keep answering the same questions regarding codecs, etc.

    Some people posted on the list about various useful websites for documentation or utilities like Automatcix for installing stuff, the only problem is those things are not in the standard install so if Linux was suddenly 'general public popular' (be scared) we would be having to post again and again all these things because they are not something that is easy for the average user to figure out or find.

    Recently I was looking for a good noob guide to Linux and the various OSS licenses (up to date and no really big long winded paragraphs with legal talk or platform bashing) and didn't really find any good ones. A lot of this is the 'well we already know that stuff already' mentality that is throughout the entire computer industry (i.e. "How do I take a snapshot of a Mac screen?" everyone who's been with a Mac for a decade knows but there is no easy guide for the new Mac people.)

    I for one don't mind the situation as it is - cause once the 'AOL nation' moves to Linux we have the same problems MS has with Windows, "consumer lock-in", a lot of people keeping you from getting new/necessary work done because of fear that their old Apps don't start up any more (either rightly so or not). I figure there are are probably still some adjustments coming down the pipe before we want EVERYONE to depend on Linux to have it in wide use - too early makes fixing some problems a lot more difficult.
  • by Chandon Seldon (43083) on Monday September 17, 2007 @03:57PM (#20641857) Homepage

    You (and many others) are overstating the problem.

    There is no significant gap in practical usability between Windows Vista, Mac OS X, and Ubuntu. There are some specific sore points (oh noes, you have to click "Ok" twice to play an MP3 the first time) and a hell of a lot of resistance to change.

    Any person or company who wants to run Ubuntu on their desktop(s) can do so today - with almost exactly as much effort as it takes to switch from Windows to a Mac. Some hardware and peripherals may be unsupported and need to be replaced with supported hardware (which is readily available). The user may need to learn some new applications and/or work flows. That's basically it.

    The only real problem with Ubuntu is this: People overestimate the conversion and retraining costs and underestimate the benefits because they personally don't want to have to learn anything new or change any business processes that seem to work.

  • by Guspaz (556486) on Monday September 17, 2007 @04:12PM (#20642089)
    These complaints only apply in the "average super market PC buying home user", though. If it's not used in that marketspace, then it doesn't matter.

    But because it IS being pushed there, and reviewed there, and compared there, you're entirely wrong; it's not an apples to oranges comparison.

    The user buys a computer. It has Linux on it. Or it has Windows on it. Or it has OSX on it. They don't know the difference, they don't know where it came from, they probably don't know what open source is, they probably don't know how much the OS costs. They bought the PC and they expect it to do what they want.

    It's all well and good to talk about free versus giant corporation, but when your average joe buys a PC, they don't know or care about any of that. This is what makes it a fair comparison. As long as they're being sold in the same manner to the same market, they must be compared by the same standards.
  • by plague3106 (71849) on Monday September 17, 2007 @04:42PM (#20642573)
    Why? Are licenses for the codecs going to cost Dell more for a Linux machine than a Windows one?

    Don't you think with the huge volume discounts Dell gets that this may very well be what is happening?

    Somebody (meaning you) still has to pay for the license in that copy of PowerDVD after all.

    Dell resells PowerDVD, making a profit. Linux though has nothing to resell, so it would either have to eat the cost, or raise the price (and then hear complaints from Linux zealots that because Linux is free, it should be cheaper than Windows).

    Windows machines don't support a lot of standard codecs out-of-the-box either. Just try playing a XviD movie on a stock PC with Windows Media Player. Oh, yeah, I remember, Windows tells me it needs to find the codec, then it fails to do so. And this is easier for a novice user because....?

    They support MP3, WMA, WMV, AVI, MPG, etc. though, which hits most I would say. I never said getting the xvid codec would be something an end user would do. I'm not convienced its something an end user would even know about though, because I've only ever seen it for videos which may not be licensed properly.

    I've bought a lot of Dell hardware in my career, and in general I'm pretty happy with Dell. But I agree with others here who say they just haven't done the job with their new Linux lines. Why GNOME and not KDE, a much more Windows-like desktop? Why no codecs and other multimedia support? Why no fine-tuning of the touchpad driver if that's an issue? You don't think Dell ignores issues like that when they configure their standard XP or Vista images, do you?

    Perhaps because their cost analysis says it would be more than could be recovered. No one has to configure extra codecs for Windows, most of the ones users needs are there. I don't know why they didn't choose KDE, perhaps the distro is a GNOME one? I don't know. As for the touch pad sensitivity, well that is just one guy's opinion. It may be just fine for most.

    And, yes, if they're going to sell Linux machines then they damn well need to support them. Does that mean they may not make as much on Linux machines in the short term? Perhaps, since they'll need to build a support staff. In the longer run, they'll discover they're getting a lot fewer support calls per Linux machine than they do for Windows.

    You're only guessing about the long term. I'm sure if you had some Linux machines to your typical user they'll have issues with it. I'm also sure they're not going to tell people how to get the codecs "for free" to avoid legal issues.

    I'm not saying it'll be easy to sell Linux machines to a mass audience, but it's not impossible. It does require that the OEM put a little effort into it. If Walt there is having troubles with his trackpad, whose fault is that? Hint, it's not Canonical's.

    Maybe the cost of said effort outweighs other factors. I don't think they care to start selling Linux at a loss and hope that sales eventually recover those costs. And again, this guy didn't like how the trackpad worked, but its just his opinion.

    Oh, and it wouldn't hurt to bundle Firefox, Thunderbird, and OpenOffice on those Windows machines you sell either, Mr. Dell.

    It seems they don't think it would help though, either.
  • by webmaster404 (1148909) on Monday September 17, 2007 @05:24PM (#20643261)
    Yes Linux is ready for the desktop. No Linux isn't quite ready for those who have only known Windows with a GUI. Linux has been much much more stable then my Windows XP computer has ever been. No matter what I try to do to mess it up, all my applications load fast and stable. As for Codecs how much easier can it be?!?!? You click install codecs and it installs them! And you can even start using them without a reboot, and best of all you won't have to worry about some company making sure they are not "pirated" Also the GUI for Linux has been much much consistent then Windows, so yes the learning curve is steeper to begin with but you are guaranteed that you can either use the same GUI, use a CLI (if you want) unlike Vista or Office 2007. Thats whats going to be the "killer feature" for Linux and open source.
  • by Anarke_Incarnate (733529) on Monday September 17, 2007 @05:30PM (#20643355)
    OpenSUSE 10.2 (10.3 is RIGHT around the corner)

    For everything else........there's the lesser Ubuntu. I actually LIKE Ubuntu, once I install KDE on it. But I prefer SUSE for getting things done easily (And I don't shy away from command line, I am a sysadmin. I love by CLI). For newbies, it is not bad. It sets most things up for you. You have YaST for getting things done quickly w/o the command line. Package management for an RPM based distro is a breeze. It is not as fast as apt-get but it is thorough and has nice features like "rpm provides" which help.
    I had issues where $somelib.so was not found and I went into Yast and typed somelib and checked rpm provides and voila, the package(s) that provide it were there, allowing me to check them. It solves deps for you as well. This is much easier than the missing dll hell from win9x days. People compare YaST to Synaptec or apt-get and don't realize it is MUCH MUCH MORE than a package manager. It is a command center.
    OpenSUSE Picked up my TV tuner by default as far back as 10.0, all I had to do was scan for channels.
    With the extra repositories (easy to configure) I have almost the same capabilities as apt-get (guru and such).

    Things just seamed to work.
  • by Chandon Seldon (43083) on Monday September 17, 2007 @05:34PM (#20643433) Homepage

    Ubuntu is a community developed, linux-based operating system that is perfect for laptops, desktops and servers.

    This doesn't mean that it runs perfectly on every laptop, desktop, and server ever produced.

    Are you REALLY stating that people should go look for a pc/laptop with a sticker that says "Designed for Linux/Ubuntu" in order to have a 100% working machine? M$ and Apple would love such kind of thinking from the FOSS user base.

    To get a fair comparison of hardware support, yes. Windows and Mac OS X almost always come pre-installed on hardware configurations specifically designed to run them. No-one holds Mac OS X responsible for the difficulties of installing it on a "Made for Windows" machine, nor does anyone say that Windows Vista sucks if it's hard to install it on a Mac (they'd say the Mac sucks - which also isn't entirely reasonable). Expecting Ubuntu to be magically able to do better than either of the others is silly.

    The fact of the matter is that 100% Ubuntu compatible hardware is widely available. That means that there's no excuse to make unfair comparisons between "Ubuntu on Random Hardware" and "Mac OS X on a Mac" or whatever.

  • by Risen888 (306092) on Monday September 17, 2007 @05:56PM (#20643735)
    Spreadsheets are not a basic windows function. That is MS Office - an advanced user's add-on.

    "Advanced user's add-on?" Hell, half the people I run into on a daily basis don't even know that MS Office is not, in fact, a component of Windows. As far as Joe Luser is concerned, if he buys a computer that doesn't make a spreadsheet, that fucker's broken, and I agree. Both you and GP are correct. Spreadsheets are not a "basic Windows function." Therefore, Windows is broken.

    Once again, we aren't talking about Outlook, which is an Office item.

    See above. If the computer doesn't do these things out of the box and without hassle, it is broken. Why Windows boosters see this clearly w/r/t (to pull an example from TFA) touchpad configuration or video acceleration, but not spreadsheets and email, is totally beyond me.
  • by jackspenn (682188) on Monday September 17, 2007 @07:25PM (#20644905)
    Can somebody explain to me what all the hype around Ubuntu is about?

    SuSE is much closer to being a desktop OS then Ubuntu and it has a centralized easy to follow point and click control panel with yast2 that is nice for people like my mom (who is exactly the type of user Linux needs to focus on to gain desktop share).

    Personally I think Fedora as well as RHEL/CentOS have much more intuitive commands than Debian based distros and while apt-get is nice, yum is also nice.

    Finally we need to think about who makes a distro before getting behind it. SuSE/Redhat write and contribute code back to the Open Source Community while Ubuntu just takes packages from Debian and slaps them together. Where will Linux be if Ubuntu gains such a big market share it puts Redhat, SuSE and/or Debian out of business? Nowhere, because without the big guns, Linux would start to die. But if Ubuntu just disappeared tomorrow these three core contributing groups would continue advancing Linux.

    I leave IBM out as IBM does not have it's own distribution, but do you think that IBM is more effective working along side partners like Novell and Red Hat or do you think IBM is better off going it alone as Ubuntu's code monkey?

    I am beginning to think ubuntu means "We take, others give and recent Linux converts love us for it." Or maybe it means "College kids us us because our name sounds like it we are anti-man and = anti-Western culture; plus we put naked chicks on our first release." or maybe it is "Use us to kill the distros that got Linux here, we're only in it for the quick buck anyways."

    - Eric
  • by benwaggoner (513209) <(moc.tfosorcim) (ta) (renoggaw.neb)> on Monday September 17, 2007 @07:42PM (#20645107) Homepage
    What versions of Windows don't include MP3? It's certainly been in Windows Media Player for many versions. Back to Win98?
  • by jesterzog (189797) on Monday September 17, 2007 @08:05PM (#20645383) Homepage Journal

    These are common GUI things from the mid 80s, but as a rank ordering from best to worst, you have OS X, Windows, and others. Windows is not that great either. The look and feel has become about as segmented as *NIX. And OS X is not perfect, but it seems clear that they have spent more time and effort with attention to these design features than anybody else.

    I take your points, and to me it just seems as if nobody knows how to make a great GUI, or at least, nobody is making a great GUI. If there really was a great GUI out there, I might use it, but as far as I can tell there simply isn't.

    I also think it's important to point out that it's completely possible to have a user friendly command line. I think command line interfaces get an unjustified reputation for new users. One of the most commonly used types of apps in the World -- the web search engine -- is based around command lines. Users type what they want, and the search engine tries to give it to them... often quite accurately. The Google command line is a great example of this. It's straightforward for new users to use quite effectively, and advanced users can customise their searches in lots of ways. It's not the type of precisely specified command line that would be associated with something like a bash session, but it's a well designed system appropriate for the task, intended to be quick to learn and easier to use.

    Getting back to your comments about GUIs, I have to admit that one of the main reasons I prefer Linux as a desktop OS (and I fully agree this isn't for anyone) is that in a world where no GUI is that great, it provides an excellent command line. I primarily use the GUI these days to do regular things like open a web browser or edit a spreadsheet. But when I get sick of trying to interact with the GUI for a slightly complex operation such as moving files around in a certain way, I can switch to a command line and do things very easily.

    Windows has a horrible command line as far as I've experienced. There are few consistent standards for how Windows command line tools should work together, and many Windows tools I've tried to use through a command line have been a secondary effort to an equivalent GUI tool. Often it's impossible to do simple things without invoking the GUI. The Windows Powershell stuff is quite nice for scipting functionality, but Windows still presents it through an awful interface for typing in.

    Just my thoughts, anyway.

  • by pushf popf (741049) on Monday September 17, 2007 @11:37PM (#20647173)
    And, yes, if they're going to sell Linux machines then they damn well need to support them. Does that mean they may not make as much on Linux machines in the short term? Perhaps, since they'll need to build a support staff. In the longer run, they'll discover they're getting a lot fewer support calls per Linux machine than they do for Windows.

    I think the real reason they don't sell much linux is because it will cut into sales.

    The real reason people upgrade is because their machines are too slow. Why are they too slow? Because the Windows registry has grown to 50M+, the machine is all crapped up with viruses and spyware and the half-dozen apps that are supposed to prevent all this are gumming up the works themselves.

    How would Dell stay in business selling machines where someone would buy it, and say "thanks, see you later" and not buy another one for 10 years.

    One of my customers runs a mixed shop (Windows & Linux). They can't buy the Windows servers fast enough to keep up with the ever-growing software requirements. I get the old machines, which are now handling things like running postfix on 20K inbound emails/day, and generally running at less than 2% utilization.

    Most of them don't even know that the reason the Exchange boxes haven't gone down in flames is because there's a 233Mhz P-III, loafing along, guarding the door.

    Running Linux on desktops and servers would eliminate the need to buy new machines on an almost annual cycle.
  • by Ayanami Rei (621112) * <rayanami@NospAm.gmail.com> on Tuesday September 18, 2007 @01:27AM (#20647915) Journal
    Because I see that a lot. You get an SSH login to your web presence and suddenly you're the "linux guru" at your place of work.

    And in that 14 years, you still haven't learned to check to see if your hardware is going to be supported in a recent kernel before you buy it? I guess you bought the wrong tablet PC, because we've deployed it quite successfully for use in idiot-proof AV systems, among other things.

    As a linux user of 8 years, I think desktop distributions have come a long way in that time period, and I don't find them any more or less difficult to get working than a Windows OS.

    I think the only reason that you were able to get Vista to work on your laptop is because it was supplied with an OEM support disk especially for your machine; they did all the hard work of getting it on there and correctly configured for you.

    There are vendors who do this for linux if you care to look for them and pay the premium.

  • by Technician (215283) on Tuesday September 18, 2007 @02:04AM (#20648127)
    The question that I have, are these things that a user can overcome?

    That was the problem with his review. He reviewed the product without understanding any of the policies regarding free to distribute software. His gripes included not playing DVD's (Licensing issue) MP3 playback (same) and some issues with dead sound after a hibernate (valid bug) and the touch pad sensitivity (hardware driver vendor issue).

    If you evaluate Ubuntu and know up front that the stuff requiring an extra royalty to package with the product (MP3) or the vendor won't provide a license (DVD Consortium, Apple iPod, MS MTP & MJB, and vendors who don't permit bundling but want the end user to download for free includes items such as Adobe flash, Sun Java, and other 3rd party software.

    Once you understand what is not in the package, but can be easly added, (some may be illegal in your country such as DVD playback of CSS protected region coded content) and evaluate the OS instead of the bundled applications not included, you will find Ubuntu stable and full of features with lots of bundled software that cost a bunch extra on Windows. The reviewer didn't address the number of BSOD's he got or the number of executible jpegs that the system couldn't run by default.

    He didn't cover multi-user advantages. In Windows for example, switch user logs me out and dumps my download so someone else can jump on and do a quick check of email. On Ubuntu, switch user leaves everything running while someone else can log in and check their email. My download, DVD rip, raytrace render, or video transcode job continues to run while they are logged in checking their email.

    He somehow pointed out the glass half empty pointing out that propritory 3rd party codecs and plug-in's are not included in the package. He does have a point as Dell is big enough to pay the MP3 codec lisence as a manufacture and include it in the build just like Apple and Microsoft. Naturally the EULA should point out the non-free codec is included with the laptop purchase and may not be duplicated.

    It should come with 2 recovery disks. On is the free software and the other is the EULA wrapped restricted use software to include codecs, flash, MTP and MJB libraries, DVD playback, and such.

    End user education is a big part of promoting Open Source Software. A line between the OS and 3rd party restrictions should be part of every commercial Linux install. The included OSS applications included without extra charge should be pointed out such as the scanner utility, photo editor, web server, office suite, etc.
  • by Allador (537449) on Tuesday September 18, 2007 @02:21AM (#20648231)

    Also Installing windows XP or vista is far more challenging that Ubuntu, but most users cant install any OS.
    I've got to strongly disagree with this.

    In the best case scenario, both are easy, and 'just work'.

    On windows, if none of the hardware is supported out of the box, the hardest thing you have to do is go download drivers, and then install them. Then you hit MS Update, and patch, with the firewall cranked up. Thats as bad as it gets. It may be slow (patching an xpsp2 windows, for example), but its easy and straightforward.

    The worst case scenaior on Linux is much, much worse. Situations where video doesnt work, at all, without grub changes, or finding an 'alternate' install disc. Where you have to poke through arcane 'blacklist' files to prefer one driver or another. Where you have to download the windows driver for the wifi for it to work with yet another piece of software. Where 3d hardware 'just wont work'. Where the laptop buttons and special features 'just dont work'. Same with hibernate/standby.

    So yeah, when Linux works, in the best-case scenario, its better than even the best case windows scenario, because apt-get update and apt-get upgrade are superior to MS Update. But in every situation below that, its much, much worse.

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