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Why Do Commercial Offerings Use Linux, But Not Support Linux Users? 414

Posted by Zonk
from the seems-like-a-fairly-easy-step dept.
Michele Alessandrini writes "Having bought several TomTom One navigation systems at work, I was browsing their web site to find information about maps. There are several pages of documentation about their devices. In one of them, they proudly inform you that their devices use Linux, as a warranty of power and stability. They even prominently display their GPL compatibility. But, when you come to the software (the one used to manage updates, set locations, etc), they only support Windows and Mac OS. Not that surprising, and not a real necessity. Just the same, they probably saved millions of dollars using a free kernel and didn't think to support Linux users. As Linux gains ground in commercial applications like this, how often are we going to see actual users of the OS left out in the cold? Why don't more Linux-using shops reach out to the Linux-using community?"
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Why Do Commercial Offerings Use Linux, But Not Support Linux Users?

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  • Easy Answer (Score:4, Insightful)

    by c0d3h4x0r (604141) on Thursday September 27, 2007 @02:45PM (#20772033) Homepage Journal

    Why don't more Linux-using shops reach out to the Linux-using community?
    Because the Linux-using community represents such a small percentage of their customer base that it doesn't make financial sense for them to spend the resources to specifically cater to it.

    • by gfxguy (98788)
      I just found out Canon uses Linux to run some of their products, but they don't directly support Linux printing.

      Now, keep in mind there are third party drivers, but you'd think that those Linux developers they have need to print occasionally.

      Just venting...
      • Re:Easy Answer (Score:4, Insightful)

        by everphilski (877346) on Thursday September 27, 2007 @02:52PM (#20772157) Journal
        Now, keep in mind there are third party drivers, but you'd think that those Linux developers they have need to print occasionally.

        Internal devs can put up with a beta print driver. Cannon will not support a beta print driver. Make sense now?
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by Jimmy King (828214)
          Why do the linux devs necessarily need to be printing from linux? I develop software that runs on linux, but I print from windows. All of my development is done on a remote server via ssh while my workstation (unfortunately) runs XP.
      • Re:Easy Answer (Score:5, Insightful)

        by SparkleMotion88 (1013083) on Thursday September 27, 2007 @02:57PM (#20772243)
        But why should a company support linux just because their gadget has linux running inside it? The group that writes the software for the gadget is probably a totally different group than the one that writes the desktop interface software. And an even more different group is responsible for answering the phone and supporting users.

        The software that runs in the device specifies an interface. The software that runs on the desktop makes use of the interface to interact with the device. How the device implements the interface is completely irrelevant. So the fact that the device uses linux has absolutely no bearing on whether the desktop software supports linux.
        • Re:Easy Answer (Score:5, Informative)

          by Applekid (993327) on Thursday September 27, 2007 @03:19PM (#20772597)

          But why should a company support linux just because their gadget has linux running inside it?
          Because they are benefiting from a mature, open source, and well understood pre-established operating system. If there was no Linux they would have to spend much more development costs in building their own OS for their devices.

          I liked the prayer on top of SQLite, actually, for this very reason. Here it is:

          ** May you do good and not evil.
          ** May you find forgiveness for yourself and forgive others.
          ** May you share freely, never taking more than you give.
          Emphasis mine.
          • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

            by Anonymous Coward

            Because they are benefiting from a mature, open source, and well understood pre-established operating system. If there was no Linux they would have to spend much more development costs in building their own OS for their devices.
            Enter the GPLv4... if you ever uses GPL licensed software, anything you produce must work out of the box with GPL licensed software.
            • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

              by Random832 (694525)
              I'll write a GPL-licensed piece of software that doesn't work at all, thereby forbidding everyone from using GPL licensed software (because it doesn't work with my software)
              • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

                by SEWilco (27983)
                If you intend to write a piece of software that doesn't work at all, then when it doesn't work it will be working. So in order for it to not work at all it will have to work.
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by kelnos (564113)

            But why should a company support linux just because their gadget has linux running inside it?

            Because they are benefiting from a mature, open source, and well understood pre-established operating system. If there was no Linux they would have to spend much more development costs in building their own OS for their devices.

            You're assuming that corporations, in general, exist to "do good" and aren't generally motivated solely by the desire to generate a profit. Using OSS in their product is great for them; they get to avoid a large amount of development costs. Supporting Linux users is completely orthogonal; some companies may decide that supporting Linux users generates them a net profit they wouldn't otherwise have, and some won't.

            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              by ClosedSource (238333)
              Right! Even if developers license their code under the GPL, they should realize that people are going to take advantage of them to a certain extent while giving nothing in return. If that's a problem, they should keep their software closed.
          • by AHumbleOpinion (546848) on Thursday September 27, 2007 @06:21PM (#20775403) Homepage
            "But why should a company support linux just because their gadget has linux running inside it?"

            Because they are benefiting from a mature, open source, and well understood pre-established operating system. If there was no Linux they would have to spend much more development costs in building their own OS for their devices.


            I am sensing some hypocracy here, not with respect to this poster but Linux/GPL advocates in general. When BSD folks complain about GPL folks not respecting the spirit of FOSS and "giving back"(1) there is a strong sentiment from the GPL advocates of "too bad, the letter of your license allow us to take and not give back". However when corporation comply with the letter of the GPL and do not "give back" beyond source code GPL advocates complain.

            (1) For example in a scenario where a GPL developer takes BSD code, incorporates it into a GPL based project, makes minor fixes or improvements, but does not update the original BSD code with these fixes or minor improvements. Absolutely legal with respect to the BSD license but against the FOSS spirit of giving back to those whose shoulders you stand upon.
      • by ryanov (193048)
        Ah, but they do their homework and buy Linux compatible office printers!
        • by gfxguy (98788)
          See, I'm getting all these serious answers, but you seem to get it.

          So these developers at Canon go out and buy HPs to use while they're developing their embedded Linux products.

          No, not really, but it seems silly to me.
    • Re:Easy Answer (Score:4, Informative)

      by tholomyes (610627) on Thursday September 27, 2007 @02:47PM (#20772075) Homepage
      Well, that's a chicken-and-egg problem, then. One of the reasons most often cited for the prevalence of Windows is the availability of software. Your user base is never going to consider moving to Linux if they can't do x, y, or z with it.
      • by dirk (87083)
        It may be a chicken and egg problem from your perspective, as someone who wants more software and users for Linux, but it's no problem at all from their perspective at all. Their goal is to sell their product and make money. They don't care if more companies having software for Linux will get more people to use Linux, they care that most people use Windows/OSX, so that is where they target their software.
      • Chicken / Egg (Score:5, Insightful)

        by walt-sjc (145127) on Thursday September 27, 2007 @04:50PM (#20774173)
        It's amazing how well Linux works on the desktop despite so many manufacturers REFUSING to support Linux for one reason or another.

        The over all Linux market share for the desktop is low, but it's not zero. In terms of sheer unit numbers, it's still a lot. As more and more embedded devices use Linux (as well as other platforms (mobile) that are not Windows / IE centric,) the demand will grow for more compatibility / open protocols / etc. and manufacturers / sites / etc. will have to support it. Us Linux users are a patient bunch.
    • Yep. They would have to spend an additional X dollars to support linux and that decision would only net them an additional Y dollars in income. They had some (presumably competent) business analyst folks make a prediction that Y is less than X. These things really are quite simple when you look at them objectively.

      That was easy. Next question.
      • Re:Easy Answer (Score:4, Interesting)

        by harrkev (623093) <[gro.ylimafnoslerrah] [ta] [dsmfk]> on Thursday September 27, 2007 @03:10PM (#20772481) Homepage
        What you say is true, but consider the "family geek" effect.

        Brand Z starts to ship decent linux drivers, or at least offers up datasheets.

        Geek "Y" decides that he loves this company, and recommends them to all of his friends and family, who trust him because he is the family geek. Suddenly, company "B's" sales increase even with non-geeks.
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          That's becoming know as the Ubuntu Effect. My mother actually asked be about "On Blue Two", took me a moment but I figured it out (they really do need a better name). She'd heard of it through a coworker, who'd heard of it from her 17 year old geek of a son. You're absolutely right, people will trust technology when they believe that someone will be around to help them when it breaks. The problem with Linux is that it's not easy to find somebody to help fix it - with Windows you can go to a number of local
    • Re:Easy Answer (Score:5, Insightful)

      by anagama (611277) <obamaisaneocon@nothingchanged.org> on Thursday September 27, 2007 @02:54PM (#20772189) Homepage

      Because the Linux-using community represents such a small percentage of their customer base ...

      But wasn't that part of the point of the summary -- they saved a ton by using a premade OS rather than building their own. What's so hard about giving back to the community a tiny little something. After all, it is that very community that made their profits possible in the first place. It's about good citizenship, not an extra two cents profit per device.

      Plus, it really is true that linux users probably affect more sales than just the machines we buy for ourselves. I know I have personally influenced the buying habits 5 other users in the last 24 months (all non-linux users). Get the geeks excited about your product, you'll sell to them and everyone they know. So that two cent loss caused by giving back, might turn into an extra dime profit over all.
      • Re:Easy Answer (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Hijacked Public (999535) * on Thursday September 27, 2007 @02:56PM (#20772229)

        What's so hard about giving back to the community a tiny little something.
        It isn't that it is hard, it's just that there is no money in it. They call them for-profit corporations for a reason.
      • by metlin (258108)
        There is a difference between using Linux at the backend versus targeting Linux end users.

        A lot of places use Linux at the back end or at the device level (for which it works well), but front end, desktop applications? Not so much.

        This is mostly because of the fact that despite everything, Windows won the desktop war. They literally own it. There are no two ways about it. So, until that changes, you are going to find companies not particularly targeting Linux desktops.
      • Re:Easy Answer (Score:5, Insightful)

        by glindsey (73730) on Thursday September 27, 2007 @03:04PM (#20772389)

        they saved a ton by using a premade OS rather than building their own
        Not to disagree with you, but for an embedded application as sophisticated as TomTom it would be rare (and foolish) to build your own embedded OS when there are options like VxWorks, Nucleus, QNX, etc. out there. Having said that, yes, they probably went with embedded Linux to save money over licensing one of those OSes.

        But as I pointed out in my other comment, it is very likely that the folks that developed the firmware have little or nothing to do with those who developed the support drivers and applications, save for a few architecture/API/integration meetings.

        I'm not saying the company as a whole shouldn't be trying to give back to the Linux community, just that you may be talking apples and oranges here when it comes to the software developers involved.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by im_thatoneguy (819432)
        Ahhhh the gift of giving with expectation of return. The philanthropic spirit of open source.
      • by paiute (550198) on Thursday September 27, 2007 @03:13PM (#20772523)
        It's about good citizenship, not an extra two cents profit per device.

        Actually, business are run by MBAs. It is about the extra two cents profit per device.
      • But wasn't that part of the point of the summary -- they saved a ton by using a premade OS rather than building their own. What's so hard about giving back to the community a tiny little something. After all, it is that very community that made their profits possible in the first place. It's about good citizenship, not an extra two cents profit per device.

        In general, a for-profit company is only interested in "giving back" to the community if they can get a tax deduction for it. Unfortunately, geeks are not a recognized non-profit organization so "giving back" to them doesn't constitute a charitable donation for tax purposes. There are definitely exceptions to this rule, but that is how most companies work.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Stefanwulf (1032430)
        If they're fully GPL-compliant, then they _are_ giving back to the community by opening up the source that they develop using GPL'd code. The tweaks, improvements, and extensions that they make to the OS and other applications become available, and that helps make the software that we all use better in the long run. Free software isn't about making people write certain programs or support certain platforms in order to offset the benefit they derive from not having to reinvent the wheel. It's about the wa
        • by Altus (1034)

          This is a big issue for open source. No matter what you do with it, somebody is going to be bitching that your not doing enough. These guys are doing what they are supposed to do (I assume, I don't actually keep track of such things) and they get people in the community bitching that they don't support linux as a desktop system. So lets say the decide to go the extra mile and support linux with a nice, closed source application that does what its supposed to do. Well thats not good, they should make that
      • but linux desktop is ... way too many configurations/mixes of libraries/etc. Getting it right is much harder than doing the same thing for Windows/Mac.
    • Re:Easy Answer (Score:5, Informative)

      by bmsleight (710084) on Thursday September 27, 2007 @03:05PM (#20772397) Homepage
      I have a Tom-Tom and only have GNU/Linux machines at home. The Tom-Tom via USB will act as a mass-storage device so you can no most things - heck there are just files on the Tom-Tom. I even have my wife's voice giving me directions. The only thing that is not possible is downloading extra maps. But this can be done via a mobile device paired with the Tom-Tom
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by wulfbyte (722147)
      I don't like easy answers because they all too often gloss over issues and make things seem so simple.

      I am thinking that the OP wanted to highlight that a company that goes out of its way to show that is uses Linux on the back end, still doesn't support Linux users on the front end. Once the stage is set he then asks is this usual and when if ever is this likely to change?

      I don't like to think that companies can court Linux users on the one hand by touting how much they use and understand Linux and then st
      • by markhb (11721)

        If they are only concerned with a non-technical, non-Linux using customer base, then why go to the trouble of advertising their use of Linux and GPL compliance?
        Obvious answer: because "Linux on the inside" is properly buzzword compliant, and the "GPL compliance" part boils down to "Moglen don't sue us."
    • I think the device OS is a niche that suits Linux perfectly, because it is (or can be) fast, secure, and stable in a controlled environment.
      On the desktop side, providing support for multiple GUI's, multiple distros would require almost as much in the way of resources as their existing Windows support structure, and as the parent stated, for a tiny percentage of users.
      Consider also that the average user of Linux on the desktop is at a level that transcends most of the support offered. Those who are in the
    • In fact, accessing the files on the TomTom itself is trivial under Linux. Just plug it in to a USB port and mount the filesystem (vfat).

      I was recently moving all my TomTom data to a new (larger) flash card and the Windows application kept hanging, so I just plugged it into my Linux box, mounted it and used "cp -a" -- problem solved.
    • by sloanster (213766)
      > Because the Linux-using community represents such a small percentage of their customer base that it doesn't make financial sense for them to spend the resources to specifically cater to it.

      The only problem with that smug little answer is that linux users have arguably a similar percentage to mac users, and they are not going away, but rather growing. Many vendors, the more clueful ones at any rate, know about and support the 3 major OS platforms: pc, mac and linux. The only explanation I can think of f
    • Re:Easy Answer (Score:5, Interesting)

      by arivanov (12034) on Thursday September 27, 2007 @04:03PM (#20773313) Homepage
      This reminds me of the joke that 2+2 is 5 for sufficiently high values of 4.

      I had a hilarious conversation with another geek recently (Mac and Linux using one).

      He buys wine on the Internet (can't be bothered to go to the shop). The wine shop recently "upgraded" their software and it stopped working for everything but Windows. He wrote to their tech support and asked why. He got the well known answer - that they do not have the resources to support the development and verification for 3% of the Internet user base.

      3 months later they called him with a prolonged and sincere apology and asked him to come back and that they have fixed the shop.

      Guess what - 97% of the population that buys wine on the Internet by the case at 20+ quid a pop does not run Windows. More likely - windows is under 40% and even that runs firefox or opera. Rest are MacOS and Linux users.

      The decision to cut off all non-Windows users was taken by some moron with an MBA who read some "industry press" and did not even bother asking the operations to run browser stats on the logs. As a result their revenue nosedived by 60%+.

      So when someone quotes me 97% numbers I usually ask "Which population"?

      If the population under discussion is "Buying luxury goods online" - bollocks.
      If the population under discussion is "Geeks buying the latest must-have gadget" - bollocks.
      Or even if the population is normalised by its buying power - still bollocks.
      • Guess what - 97% of the population that buys wine on the Internet by the case at 20+ quid a pop does not run Windows. More likely - windows is under 40% and even that runs firefox or opera. Rest are MacOS and Linux users.

        I have been trying to find - anything - on Google that backs this up.

        Personally, I'd chance a modest wager that anyone buying wine "by the case at 20 quid a pop" is running Windows.

  • by PlusFiveTroll (754249) on Thursday September 27, 2007 @02:46PM (#20772061) Homepage
    Because their web interface programmers are using Windows or Macs.
  • obviously (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Zashi (992673) on Thursday September 27, 2007 @02:46PM (#20772063) Homepage Journal
    It's the same reason they use linux in the first place that they don't support linux-desktop users.

    To save money.

    For most companies, linux is too small of market to be worth devoting development time to. As companies follow in IBM's and AMD's footsteps, though, I think linux support will continue to increase, but I doubt it will ever match Windows and OS X levels.
    • To save money. For most companies, linux is too small of market to be worth devoting development time to.

      They just wrote the interface in GPL'd code, so you know they already have devoted the development time and might be keeping someone on staff that knows what they are doing.

      Their GPL'd code is already "supporting" the user. Using reasonable interfaces and releasing specs is a good first step. Sooner or later this will make it's way to the distribution of your choice and your distribution will ha

  • Because.... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by llamalad (12917) on Thursday September 27, 2007 @02:46PM (#20772065)
    They have enough trouble supporting Windows users.

    Imagine trying to deal with some bumbling idiot with an Ubuntu box?

    And then... Which distro(s) should they support?
    • Re:Because.... (Score:5, Interesting)

      by evanbd (210358) on Thursday September 27, 2007 @02:54PM (#20772203)

      Some of us would be quite happy with "Here's the linux binary; we won't help you with it, but we'll maintain a user support forum and pay attention to bug reports."

      Or, "Here's the Windows binary and source code; that should get you started. We won't help you with the Linux port, but we promise not to actively hinder it with malicious firmware updates." After all, for a company making a hardware device, the profit center is the device, not the computer-side software. Why not make it open?

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      The other problem is Linux users just plain love to bitch.

      You give it to them for free, and then they demand it be free as in speech

      You give them the source, and then they cry and moan that they need to be able to compile the firmware, for what reason who the fuck knows

      You give them an RPM and they get in a schoolgirl huff because they want a TCL installer

      You give them an X installer and they break into a full on cry because they only use KDE and they don't want to install the compatibility libraries

      You giv
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      I think your bang on here. Linux is just too hard, because in windows land you only have to worry about 2k, XP, and Vista, in linux land you have people with custom hacks to the kernel, not to mention the flavor of the month for installers, development environments, compilers etc. There is just too many choices to be made, and they'd rather come across as offering great support to 99% of their users, than fight to try and help the 1%, and then have the occasional screw up.

      Also, Linux users IMHO tend to be

    • "And then... Which distro(s) should they support?"

      That's easy: (K)Ubuntu
    • Re:Because.... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Lodragandraoidh (639696) on Thursday September 27, 2007 @03:46PM (#20773055) Journal
      This can be mitigated in several ways without having to break the business model:

      1. Expose the APIs used to access the device. This way the FOSS community can build an interface that will get the job done.

      2. Make the interface non-OS specific using standards. An http interface can be programmed once on the backend, and support multiple OSs via web browser (similar to how commodity IP router/switches are configured today).

      These are ways of providing value add for the user, while at the same time saving your company money by only having to maintain one code base. WIN-WIN!
  • Business Sense (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Necreia (954727)
    A business wants to make money.

    Using a secure and reliable O/S that's free to run your unit/server/whatever is a great business move.

    However: Most Linux users are used to 'free' software, in both cost and open sourced. Ones that are willing to pay for products will usually run dual boot with Windows or own a Mac. This being the case, it doesn't justify the resources (as a company) to create a client that must work on all or select distros and/or make the source code public.

    I would love Linux to get more d
  • Like the TFA says, they save millions by using free software. Showing that your hardware is stable also brings you extra cash. Recruiting extra specialists and devoting extra resources to help what's a tiny part of your user base is not financially profitable, so they don't.

    Sometimes things are that simple.
    • by Tackhead (54550)
      > Like the TFA says, they save millions by using free software. Showing that your hardware is stable also brings you extra cash. Recruiting extra specialists and devoting extra resources to help what's a tiny part of your user base is not financially profitable, so they don't.

      Speaking of extra resources and budgetary allocation...

      Embedded system: Free.
      Linux port of client software: Expensive.
      Sufficient web server CPU and bandwidth allocation: Priceless.

  • Because.. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Chineseyes (691744) on Thursday September 27, 2007 @02:50PM (#20772099)
    Because their job is to make money not support linux users. If you want to see a business that supports linux users start one.
  • So can you piggyback on their software to develop a Linux solution? I'm asking because I don't know enough about the GPL to know how much of the source gets distributed under a GPL (i.e., all of it or just what parts of it were GPL'ed before they wrote the software).
  • Cost (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Reality Master 201 (578873) on Thursday September 27, 2007 @02:50PM (#20772119) Journal
    Linux desktop users are a small segment of the market. Developing tools costs money, and there needs to be a large enough payoff for the development costs to make it worthwhile.

    And some things about development of commercial apps for Linux are bit of a pain. What widget set do you use? How do you determine if the appropriate libraries are installled, where does the OS mount devices, what device numbers do you get, etc. Nothing insurmountable, just more complexity than with Windows or OSX.
  • Why don't more Linux-using shops reach out to the Linux-using community?"

    Because linux users, as a general rule, have a strong aversion to paying for a commercial product. They're used to free software, and free software, service models excepted, is a very poor model for a company to earn with.

    Service models won't do for consumer products, either. They have to work, they have to be intuitive, etc. The optimum consumer product (like the GPS in my car, now that I think about it) has to "just work."

    • by Cal Paterson (881180) * on Thursday September 27, 2007 @02:55PM (#20772219)

      Because linux users, as a general rule, have a strong aversion to paying for a commercial product. They're used to free software, and free software, service models excepted, is a very poor model for a company to earn with.
      This is nonsensical crap. Everyone pays for hardware. Tom Tom is a hardware company.
    • by tepples (727027)

      and even the LGPL can be a problem (see section 4d, which specifies that either source code sufficient to recompile and relink, or a shared library already present on the user's computer must be used.)

      As I understand the LGPL [gnu.org], you have to give the source code of the LGPL covered parts and the object code of any proprietary parts, which are called "Corresponding Application Code". So the other libraries don't have to be already present on the user's computer if they are designated as "Corresponding Application Code".

      • by fyngyrz (762201) *

        So the other libraries don't have to be already present on the user's computer if they are designated as "Corresponding Application Code".

        That's not how our IP lawyers see it; may I ask who did the analysis of the LGPL for you?

  • by l33t-gu3lph1t3 (567059) <arch_angel16@nOspam.hotmail.com> on Thursday September 27, 2007 @02:51PM (#20772141) Homepage
    Submitter's logic is fuzzy. Tomtom runs on linux because Linux is a good candidate for an embedded operating system. From a technical and business standpoint, it makes sense to use linux here: no license fees to a proprietary vendor, greater control over the OS, etc. From a business standpoint, supporting Windows clients makes sense as well. It's a question of numbers: There are more Windows desktop users than Linux desktop users. The right tool for the right job. Making your own standardized device run on Linux is a lot easier than making software that supports an entire ecosystem of OSes.
  • answer (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Lord Ender (156273) on Thursday September 27, 2007 @02:51PM (#20772143) Homepage
    They think supporting linux desktops is too expensive to be profitable.

    End of discussion.

    Next question!
  • Not surprising (Score:2, Informative)

    by Goofy73 (1075725)
    While I too find that a bit disturbing, it doesn't surprise me.

    1) There isn't enough people using linux to really hurt them dollar wise by not supporting it.

    2) They probably saved a lot of money by not licensing an os or trying to develop one on their own.

    3) There is nothing really preventing them from doing so as long as they abide by the GPL etc...

    As I said, I'm not saying it's right but it is what I would expect at this point.
  • Percentage is one reason, but a big one (if not the main one) is that supporting Linux is expensive. Technically, the platform isn't that hard to support, but there are *many* distros out there.
    Many companies are waiting for one or a couple of distros to become dominant enough. Ubuntu, Fedora, Suse, Debian, Redhat are potential candidates. It is also very important to rule out setups with modified kernel, since they can have unpredicatable side-effects. In fact, this rule extends to all software packages wh
  • by 7-Vodka (195504) on Thursday September 27, 2007 @02:54PM (#20772191) Journal
    Don't forget the numerous companies who release linux server versions of their application and completely ignore linux when it comes to releasing a client. It irks. I want to use the software or play the game myself, not host lame windows clients so they can play on my server.

    Also, companies which promise a linux client is "coming soon!" and then years later still haven't delivered a damn thing. (I'm looking at you ventrilo on both counts).

  • One guess is that the TomTom firmware was developed by their embedded engineering team (or outsourced), while their drivers and applications are developed by their (non-embedded) programming team. This is not uncommon; at the place I work we often design and/or develop the firmware for a company, while the company develops supporting applications in-house.
  • I just recently got a tomtom, and I'm very impressed with the actual unit. It's highly functional and useful and the menu system (while sometimes cumbersome) is generally really good. The only thing I find its missing is trip time and average speed (something I have on another portable GPS, so I don't miss it much)

    The Windows software though, blows.

    It's super super super awful. Some of the things they could've done (contact list synchronization, or just a csv based import of addresses for favorites aren'
  • by PFI_Optix (936301) on Thursday September 27, 2007 @03:03PM (#20772355) Journal
    I'd have to say the biggest barrier (aside from the relatively tiny potential market) is the lack of standardization in Linux. Dozens of distros with multiple shells and several desktop environments and a lack of a unified standard on libraries and...well, you get the point. It all adds up to a support nightmare with Linux User #32,469 calls because his customized DSLinux USB key won't properly sync with their device.

    With Windows, you can specify "requires Windows XP with SP2 and .Net Framework 3.0". But if you specified a handful of Linux distros and library sets and everything else necessary to ensure it can be supported, you'd only be getting a fraction of the Linux market, which is but a fraction of the PC user market.

    The most I could ask of any company in the way of Linux support is a solid driver with good documentation, a wiki to allow the Linux community to fill in the blanks when unexpected problems crop up, and a web forum to facilitate the community and allow developer to monitor/communicate with the users.
  • At my workplace, we have client software used by our players that is Java based. All of our developers use Linux, so it is well tested on that platform. However our two supported platforms are Windows and OS X. Why? Those are the platforms that our support staff actually know something about. And even then, their OS X knowledge is pretty marginal. We do however provide a "use at your own risk" type installer for Linux, though the link to it is buried on our forums. It's kind of a "if it works for you
  • by Locutus (9039) on Thursday September 27, 2007 @03:11PM (#20772489)
    Having Linux on the device saves them tons on support by using a reliable system, saves them tons in licensing fees by using GPL'ed software, and saves them tons on development time by leveraging many API's available and again, due to the GPL.

    When it comes to providing software for users to load to interface a computer with that device, most are still using Microsoft Windows and far far fewer using Mac. IMO, the Mac gets support because it has a long history in the industry and not supporting it pisses of some vocal users( media, etc ).

    With this in mind, do you now understand why Microsoft went all out to destroy the C++ frameworks businesses in the 90s? Why they have done the same when any cross platform development tool gains acceptance in the community? If they were using Qt for their desktop app development then it would be one thing but IIRC, Qt 3.0(2001) was the first time it supported Mac and so many companies were/are still tied to other development platforms. Ones which don't easily port to Linux.

    BTW, this was the same thing happening when Sharp release the Linux based Zaurus but it was worst there. Sharp wanted developers to help with application and the dev env was Linux but the QtopiaDesktop PIM/syncing application was only for Windows. How stupid is that? Trolltech did release some version of the QtopiaDesktop for Linux but there wasn't a whole lot of activity and eventually, it became outdated and unable to sync with the newer Sharp ROMs.

    Hopefully, as OEMs around the world start providing Linux pre-loaded, vendors like those behind the TomTom will start porting their desktop apps to cross platform frameworks and tools so they can support Linux desktop users. Too bad they don't learn from the router companies and put a web server in the device so any browser can work with it using standard protocols.

    LoB
  • Work it into GPLv4!

    "Any use of GPL'd code for profit requires commercial support interfacing the device to GNU operating systems."

    Okay, that's a horrible idea. Microsoft would just write a thousand GNU operating systems, and then demand support and put the company in question out of business.

    Reid
  • Is the documentation sufficient to write your own interfacing software? If yes, then this is just whining.

    Having businesses using linux server-side (or embedded-side) means more job for linux developper. Which means a larger pool of said developper, more hands with larger variety of approaches mucking linux source code, and a more robust kernel in the end. It also makes open-source a thriving industry caught is a spiraling virtuous circle. I think they are already giving a lot indirectly, would you rather t
  • No company wants to provide free support. So if a company can get away with not supporting some customers, it'll do it.
  • by CompMD (522020) on Thursday September 27, 2007 @03:19PM (#20772591)
    I am a major user of software from UGS Corp (now owned by Siemens), in particular, I use their NX CAD/CAM/CAE software, which is heavily used in large scale engineering and manufacturing firms (General Motors is their biggest client I believe). Last year UGS released a Linux port of the NX software, and offered support. Looking at the pricing, both the Linux media kit and Linux support are noticeably cheaper than the Windows version of the software and support. I have used the support and never had a problem with the support techs, in fact, they've been great.
  • Why do I smell a GPL4 around the corner?
  • I think it was in a Robert Heinlein novel that one of the characters said that the answer to the question "Why don't they . . ." is always "Money". There may be exceptions to that, but when dealing with companies you won't often be wrong if you assume that answer to that question.

    You might ask for suggestions on finding Linux compatible devices or strategies for advocating Linux, but asking "why don't they" or "why do they" is pretty much a waste of everyone's time. The answer is quite simply that the peopl
  • "Consumer" seems very misleading to me.

    This seems really like comparing apples and oranges. Clearly embedded application of Linux is different from the desktop application. Just because Linux seemed ideal for one purpose it does not automatically make it great for something else. I would not be surprised if the developers who provide the PC update software for the device know little or nothing about the internal workings of the device.

  • When you design a product, you have a target market you are going to support. Generally, that decision is independent of the engineering decision as to what technology to use when subsequently building the product.
  • They probably saved millions of dollars using a free kernel and didn't think to support Linux users.

    That's because they saved millions more dollars not developing and testing a whole different set of end user software that only a handful of customers were going to use.

  • 1. They don't have to. They wouldn't offer you the source if the GPL wouldn't require them. The GPL doesn't require support for Linux, so it's their choice. Now let's see...

    2. Supporters for Windows are cheap. Supporters for Linux are not. Simply by supply and demand. There's a ton of people who "sorta-kinda" can do Windows "somehow", or at least learn your standard interface quickly. Smaller userbase==smaller amount of people with experience==smaller amount of people with the needed experience looking for
  • One of the companies I work with develops code on Windows machines that is supported to run in production on UNIX servers only. Despite the code actually running fine on windows boxes, they do not want the (at least perceived) burden, overhead, and reliability issues of supporting Windows servers. I believe they are fully in their right to do so - but that makes the moral stance of forcing people who use Linux in their products to support Linux desktop clients a bit awkward.

    Reality is that support of Linux
  • by zogger (617870) on Thursday September 27, 2007 @03:32PM (#20772825) Homepage Journal
    1)try to milk out existing markets

    2)develop new markets that look to have some potential down the road, where there is little or no competition right now

    We have corporations fixated on the next quarter profits,all the way to the point of abandoning R&D and selling off assets, etc, and those looking for the long haul. Sure, you get a fast fat city bottom line that way, but it's *stoopid*

      Detroit in the early 70s vs. Japan, Inc. Who was actually smarter, which set of execs was actually looking out for their investors the best, the old "bottom line"? *Which* bottom line is more important, who's kicking ass now and who keeps having to dodge bankruptcy and junk bond status and so on?

    FOSS-you either get it, or you don't, and it really is that simple, and to this day a lot of people even on this site just do not "get it". If you play act at "getting it", you won't receive all the benefits possible. Just try to milk it out short term with no sharing or thought to the users or taking a peek at the long view, again, it proves you don't get it or don't want to get it and in the long run you won't be as successful.

    So, to all those folks saying the corporations are only interested in money, sure, I'd agree, but for how long? Do you want to make money for a long time, and just cede potential up and coming markets to squeeze out or cheap out a few extra nickles now in the short run? Is that really all you care about? Is it a good idea to cheap out on R&D, after all, right this quarter it's not "making you any money", now is it? Cheap out on embracing new customers? Slam up a website that bogues out decent double digits of the folks who use "alternative browsers" or OSes besides IE and windows out there, just tell those people to get stuffed?

    Choices, business decisions, short range versus long range versus looking at ALL the ranges. Invest in your real business, invest in finding new customers instead of just milking the ones you have now, invest in research and share back because the more who do that the more "you" get back as well. That just seems to be a much better idea than cheaping out for the short run.
  • It's the hardware (Score:5, Interesting)

    by melonman (608440) on Thursday September 27, 2007 @03:32PM (#20772837) Journal

    Because supporting your own embedded version of Linux that no-one outside one small room in the basement of your offices is going to modify, on your own hardware, the spec of which isn't going to change, is relatively easy once you've got the thing working - in fact it's probably easier than supporting a proprietary embedded system. On the other hand, supporting any of a dozen major linux distros running on a thousand different hardware setups, using different sets of drivers for each and every peripheral, with the choice of at least two desktops and millions of permutations of modules, before the user started customising and recompiling, and no standard way to distribute your software to all distros apart from a tarball'd set of source files, isn't easier than supporting Windows or Mac end users. Especially given that at least some linux users are going to be more interested in proving they are smarter than the helpdesk team than in getting the product to work, and that a lot of linux fans will use a OSX or Windows when they have to.

    And, as others have said, why would you expect one to follow the other anyway? If my company was making money from using an embedded OSS system, I might be inclined to put $$$ or developer hours into helping the OSS development community, but I really cannot see why I would be under any moral obligation to help the distributors of non-embedded distros I don't use or the desktop users who are consumers just like me.

  • by Builder (103701) on Friday September 28, 2007 @04:55AM (#20779739)
    If you want to manage tomtom maps under linux, have a look at my brief howto at
    http://www.penguinpowered.org/documentation/tomtom_maps.html [penguinpowered.org]

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