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Linux On Netbooks — a Complicated Story 833

Posted by Soulskill
from the comfort-zone dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Keir Thomas has responded to the recent raft of news stories pointing out that Linux's share of the netbook market isn't as rosy as it used to be. Thomas thinks the problem boils down to a combination of unfamiliar software and unfamiliar hardware, which can 'push users over the edge.' This accounts for the allegedly high return rates of Linux netbooks. In contrast, although far from superior, Windows provides a more familiar environment, making the hardware issues (irritatingly small keyboard, screen etc.) seem less insurmountable; users are less likely to walk away. 'Once again Microsoft's monopoly means Windows is swallowing up another market.'"
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Linux On Netbooks — a Complicated Story

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  • Performance (Score:5, Interesting)

    by basementman (1475159) on Friday April 10, 2009 @10:15PM (#27538653) Homepage

    The problem for me is performance. XP runs significantly faster and has significantly better battery life than Ubuntu. Assuming your hardware is compatible Linux isn't_terribly_difficult to get running. It's hard to justify open source when propriety software just runs better though.

    I am holding out hope that 9.04 will work to improve battery life and speed, and not just give me more features I don't need. Like what Windows 7 has done after Vista.

  • by Jafafa Hots (580169) on Friday April 10, 2009 @10:19PM (#27538681) Homepage Journal

    I bought an eee pc 901, linux (for the larger SSD on that model) with the intent of installing an nlited copy of WinXp on it instead of the stock asus linux. Instead I ended up installing eeebuntu and love it... although I still have the nlited XP as a second boot option in case I need it.

  • by pimpimpim (811140) on Friday April 10, 2009 @10:20PM (#27538695)
    Really, try buying a linux netbook in the average computer store, there is none. At least in Germany you can get them at the smaller specialized computer stores. Also, the models you can get with linux are often not the ones with the best outfit, low RAM, slow SSD, etc. The reason behind this is, if you ask me, a matter of economics. Linux was convenient to get netbook pioneer Asus in the position to get the better deal out of Microsoft. E.g., not having to buy Vista. They will pull it out of the closet again when Windows has their netbook-optimized windows 7 ready (as if!).

    I myself am at my second factory-preinstalled linux-based netbook (first Asus, now Dell), and my experiences are nothing but positive, The specially created interface on the asus was practical, the one on the Dell is fantastic and even stylish. I wouldn't want to have to navigate the miniature start menu of XP on my netbook. But then again I was already ready for Linux anyway. Let's see if Android will get new Linux users into the mobile devices market.

  • by rolfwind (528248) on Friday April 10, 2009 @10:27PM (#27538735)

    I can't get Linux easily:(

    I want a decent netbook but can't get the model I want. I don't want an eeePC 1000HA, which is slightly dated, I want the upgraded chipsets in the 1000HE or 1004DN that allow smooth HD playback, but right now both only come with Windows. One nice thing the 1000HA did was if you went with Linux, they upgraded your harddrive from a mechanical 80GB to a 64GB SSD. Not too bad.

    As it stands, I would almost have gone with a Windows netbook simply for the hardware I want and be forced to install linux on it. But I decided on the ARM based Always Innovating when it comes out:
    http://www.engadget.com/2009/03/02/touch-book-from-always-innovating-harbors-removable-tablet-netb/ [engadget.com] [engadget.com]

    It has a really nice 15 hour battery life, which for a true portable is one of the top considerations.

  • by Clarious (1177725) on Friday April 10, 2009 @10:42PM (#27538821)

    Just the same old story, bad hardware driver.

    There is a significal different between 'work out of the box'(barely working), 'work with all the feature enabled' and 'work best'.

    Most Linux distros now can do 'work out of the box', but with several crippled functions, and you will need several small tweaks to solve them. But it is not over yet, if you want to take the best of your hardware then you will have to do serious tweaking. Only after that you will have a fully functional system that is better than windows.

    So in short, Linux is better than windows, but you will have tinker a lot with it. After 2 months of googling/fixing, now I have a laptop that can run on battery longer than it does on windows, cooler, faster, and I can use my GPU to decode video (with VDPAU) that I can't do the same on windows. Yes, I still have some problems, but generally, Linux runs better than windows on my laptop.

    (my problems is that the monitor won't turn off if I close the lid, and some stupid IO problem, Firefox take 2 mins to start if I do some heavy file transfering in the background, and ionice doesn't help)

  • the Linux desktop on the Asus Eee PC 900 out of the box is an abomination for anyone who qualifies as a power user on ANY OS. It's a dumbed down older version of Xandros modified for a tab-based UI.

    Basically, it's a locked down net appliance UI... the only programs you can install without drastically modifying or replacing the OS that will show up on any desktop tab are the handful of programs available on the Asus repository site. Running nxclient required me opening a terminal window and using the CLI to manually enter /path-to/nxclient . Note that nxclient has a perfectly good desktop icon and is happy to install itself to a menu if given the chance, i.e. on any normal Linux OS.

    I turned myself from a pissed off Eee PC Linux user to a happy one by replacing the OEM desktop with a standard Ubuntu desktop plus hardware drivers from the Ubuntu-eee project, you can find out how I did it here [informit.com].

    However, I also have some serious doubts about the accuracy of the original "analyst" report. If Linux sucks so badly on netbooks, why are any netbook vendors still selling it to anybody? Note that by and large, computer retail stores have not exactly put any great effort into selling Linux netbooks, the only place it's easy to get them is via online ordering, so it can be assumed that people who buy the Linux netbooks thought they knew what they were getting in advance.
  • by actionbastard (1206160) on Friday April 10, 2009 @10:48PM (#27538865)
    I can't get Linux easily.
    Then buy the one with Windows installed on it, remove Windows and install Ubuntu. Then send Asus a refund request for the Windows Home license that you didn't use.
  • by Doctor_Jest (688315) on Friday April 10, 2009 @10:51PM (#27538891)
    My HP Mini 1000 worked flawlessly with Ubuntu (and the UNR menu add-on that maximizes the tiny screen space to its fullest potential), wireless and all. Sometimes it just takes one more step to get it working (in my case it was not one more step, but for other netbooks, it may be.) The payoff is immeasurable. My HP came with XP, and I was done with that after the first month. I put 1 more GB of RAM in it and never looked back.

    I don't get the sales-guy's attitude on the "cheap" subject. I can't believe in 2009 it's still prevalent. Most people in the past who weren't passionate about linux felt that "free is less than commercial" in terms of software. In some instances we know it was true, but for the most part that stigma sticks with Linux like gum on your shoe. It's a shame too, considering how completely seamless and wonderful running ubuntu on a netbook truly is. As for battery life, it's comparable on the Mini 1000 to running XP. And no conficker, antivirus 360 worms, or other assorted nonsense means a less headache-filled experience on the netbook.

    I guess some people are too forgiving of Microsoft's failings... And I'm really not sure what the prevailing reason is, other than the comfort level.
  • MOD PARENT UP (Score:3, Interesting)

    by mkcmkc (197982) on Friday April 10, 2009 @10:54PM (#27538907)

    ...because MS will use its desktop monopoly and control of protocols to limit the penetration of Linux servers.

    Believe it. And it's not just squeezing Linux out but eviscerating the web as we know it. Already I have to deal with web apps at work that are just a pile of obscured javascript (often plus activex). Something like this can't be programmed, it can't be interacted with, can't be reasoned with, and it will absolutely not stop until you have learned to be absolutely helpless at Microsoft's feet...

    (hat tip to The Terminator :-)

  • The author is crazy (Score:3, Interesting)

    by phantomfive (622387) on Friday April 10, 2009 @10:59PM (#27538947) Journal
    Starting out, he says,

    [Linux tutorials are] often deliberately [complicated], because some of the people who write them like to express their machismo by creating inordinately complicated tutorials. Recently I read a tutorial describing how to get a Wi-Fi card working on a notebook that recommended compiling new driver modules.

    Woah, Linux documentation is sometimes complicated, but no need to make accusations. But never fear, the author of the article has ALSO written a Linux book, designed to help with this very machismo problem. Conflict of interest here?

    Hardware problems were much more pronounced with the first wave of netbooks. I had one of the very first Asus Eee netbooks shortly after its release and it's hardware design meant it was borderline unusable. My hands ached if I typed for more than five minutes. In the end I sold it--I too rejected a Linux netbook.

    Oh, so it wasn't Linux, it was the hardware that was giving you problems. That makes sense, but what is the point of your article?

    What happens is that the software problems presented by Linux, combined with the hardware problems presented by smaller computers, push users over the edge.

    I see. Do you actually know any of these users, or were they just like you, annoyed by the hardware?

    What's the solution? To be honest, I don't think there is one.

    So your a 'glass all empty' type of guy? I mean, Linux has problems, sure, but the falling price of hardware is going to make it increasingly attractive as an option. To say there is absolutely no solution never is a bit extreme.

    And finally, this quote made me laugh

    [On linux], when the user starts the browser, things change. Nothing looks right. The fonts will probably look wrong, maybe causing the page layout to be skewed a little.

    Right. The only thing they will notice different about the fonts is that they aren't as ugly, especially if they are used to having clear type turned off, as is the default on Windows, and makes every font look like a harsh cactus in the eyes. Now Linux fonts aren't awesome, but they don't stoop to the default windows level of horribleness (note: I have no idea if cleartype is on by default in Vista).

    So what is this guy's point? I think that he needs to fill his page with words, since he is a columnist. And he does it with some rather inane and uninspiring words.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday April 10, 2009 @11:14PM (#27539049)

    Wow. I haven't seen someone as clueless as you in a long time.

    First, you missed the point *entirely*. It wasn't just that this one particular doesn't run natively, the point was people don't KNOW these things don't just run natively, on Windows, Macs, Linux and so on. They think it's a computer, and software would just run, like a car can drive on any road.

    Does it run on WINE? I couldn't care less. We have tons of other stuff that wouldn't work regardless. Let alone things like having a decent Exchange client, working with IE-only pages (which aren't uncommon unfortunately), and so on.

    Our app has been rock solid for 10+ years BTW (and we're not a software company, even). But that's OK, we understand you don't have a job. In fact, I just got a nice raise, especially considering the current economy.

  • by rolfwind (528248) on Friday April 10, 2009 @11:15PM (#27539051)

    Yes, but I was hoping for the SSD upgrade instead!

  • by idealego (32141) on Friday April 10, 2009 @11:15PM (#27539053)

    I'm surprised I haven't seen this mentioned yet, but one of the main reasons netbooks with Windows XP are doing so well is becuase Microsoft started offering netbook manufacturers lower prices on XP Home. I can't seem to find the article right now but XP Home may be offered to large ODMs for around $20-$30, with some claiming it's around the $20 mark. I think the cheapest it ever got before these new netbook-only prices was around $40.

  • by ChipMonk (711367) on Friday April 10, 2009 @11:16PM (#27539063) Journal
    The very clear-headed Carla Schroeder has a write-up [linuxtoday.com] at Linux Today. Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols also noticed the figures were bogus [computerworld.com].
  • by pwizard2 (920421) on Friday April 10, 2009 @11:18PM (#27539073)

    Linux's desktop is pretty good. The problem is, it's unfamiliar.

    This is definitely true.

    At the risk of coming across as self-endorsing, I'm currently writing a book that thoroughly covers the process of migrating from Windows to Linux for new users. I plan to cover at least 5 distros in detail, (Ubuntu, Mandriva, Arch, OpenSUSE, Fedora, and maybe CentOS as a server-oriented bonus) in addition to the basic fundamental concepts and the various desktop environments. I'm going out of my way to address how each aspect of Linux compares to Windows (similarities and differences) and I'm doing my best to make everything as easy to understand as possible without being patronizing or overly technical. I've also planned an introduction-to-the-terminal chapter in addition to a comprehensive troubleshooting chapter for most problems I can think of. Basically, I'm writing the guide I wish I had back when I first got into Linux.

  • by RiotingPacifist (1228016) on Friday April 10, 2009 @11:21PM (#27539091)

    netbooks have changed from a nerds' thing into a mainstream thing.

    I mean that as an open question. Why the hell, as a linux user, should i care if my neighbor is using windows or Linux? While more geeks defiantly help improve things and report bugs, how does it help if there are more ex-windows newbs on ubuntu?
    There is the hardware support, but even there I'm gradually seeing even supported hardware (atheros and flgrx) get nudged out by community drivers.

    All i can think of are games, is that the main advantage of having more users?

  • by gnatware (138810) <peter@zGIRAFFEingg.name minus herbivore> on Friday April 10, 2009 @11:24PM (#27539105)

    Just got a 10.5 inch Acer Aspire one D150. The sales guy said they were no longer shipping a Linux version. I have a strong educational as well as political commitment to Linux. The custom 3rd party Linux4one Ubuntu distro had terrible wifi throughput (and en0 just wasn't even there) when I installed it, so I tried again with openSUSE 11.1. This time the networking was ok, but the webcam and sound were non functional. No driver support from Acer so it's all word of mouth. Very disappointing. I'll keep trying though.

  • Posting from a Eeepc (Score:2, Interesting)

    by BigDXLT (1218924) on Friday April 10, 2009 @11:33PM (#27539145)
    First time using this thing extensively, and when I get home after this trip, I'll be putting easypeasy or eeebuntu on it. Asus's Xandros, while having some nice ideas, just isn't well implemented. It feels cheap. I know other distro's do better, but joe blow won't. I *would not* put windows on here. Navigating a tiny menu is not what will work on this thing. I haven't seen a better use case for Opera's speedial (and the firefox plugin's that emulate it). Whatever I do, I'm gonna try to lighten it up, this little thing doesn't have a lot horses under the hood!
  • by Mal-2 (675116) on Friday April 10, 2009 @11:36PM (#27539167) Homepage Journal

    Note: I am writing this post from a Windows XP Acer Aspire One.

    Ultimately, it's all down to what you need to do with the computer, no matter what size it is. I need to be able to operate on MS Office 2007 documents with zero compatibility issues. This means I have to run MS Office 2007. I have to run other software used in our office, which (outside of the server room) is 100% Windows XP. To use the management system, I must have IE7. While I put this netbook to a lot of other uses that do not require Windows, all the business-related purposes really DO require it. Now that netbooks are seen as an alternative to lugging around a 15" laptop rather than a toy or an "internet appliance", of course people are going to buy them with Windows on them. I have a nice 15" HP laptop, and I still went and bought the Aspire One because it was a better balance between portability and functionality.

    Today, I used Word, Excel, and Powerpoint all within the span of one two-hour meeting. Netbooks are no longer the domain of the gadget freak and early adopter, they are increasingly becoming an alternative to aging (and much bulkier) laptops for business use.

    Mal-2

  • by goombah99 (560566) on Friday April 10, 2009 @11:40PM (#27539187)

    As long as linux advocates curse the foolish choices of the enduser they will never succeed in increasing market share. One can ask, well is market share the goal? If not then don't begrudge windows for providing an end user experience that is preferred. Sure in your view it's a lesser ecperience, but people want comfort. More people like cheeseburgers than tofu even if tofu is better for them. Does that make cheesburger's bad or good?

  • by coryking (104614) * on Saturday April 11, 2009 @12:14AM (#27539365) Homepage Journal

    To be honest, I haven't played with it enough to tell you. But I can say that PostgreSQL is great up to a point, at which time you pretty much need to go with the big-boy databases.

  • by Darkk (1296127) on Saturday April 11, 2009 @12:22AM (#27539411)

    - There are too many distros with too many proprietary ways of doing things. Too many proprietary repositories, too many proprietary package systems, to many proprietary filesystem layouts.

    You're right about that point. I think we reached to a point that standardization is needed to make things seamless as possible when installing or adding codecs to any flavor of Linux.

    This is something Mac OS-X and Windows excel at. Mac OS-X isn't bad but it's not free nor is Windows. I want free software knowing I can install it on a million PCs without digging up a friggin license key.

    I've donated money to opensource software before and will continue to do so long as they continue to give me the freedom I enjoy having.

  • by coryking (104614) * on Saturday April 11, 2009 @01:11AM (#27539663) Homepage Journal

    Heard of apt or yum? Both are far superior that the "Windows Way".

    Why? They essentially require access to proprietary repositories that do nothing but compile and repackage original software. Windows and OSX have none of this. You download the software directly from the vendor and go.

    Going through "Bobs Rad Repository" sounds great until they take a month to finally support PostgreSQL 8.3.7 (I'm looking at you, Gentoo). "Bobs Rad Repository" also usually only has binaries for the latest and greatest version of "Bobs Rad Distro". Once a couple years go by, you can forget downloading binaries that work on your two-year-old version of Bobs Rad Distro.

    I'll take the Windows Way, or failing that, the FreeBSD/BSD way where I can at least edit a damn Makefile in the portstree and submit a diff to the port maintainer when crap isn't up to date.

  • by electrosoccertux (874415) on Saturday April 11, 2009 @01:15AM (#27539679)

    There's still plenty reason to blame monopoly. Check out this thread [anandtech.com] on the AT forums, user VinDSL comes up with some interesting facts + sources about these supposed "Higher return rates" with Linux. Apparently it's all FUD marketing from MS:

    Some netbook retailers are slamming Linux for boosting their product-return rates. Here's why you should take their protests with a grain of salt.

    Lately, quite a few netbook makers and resellers are saying that buyers return Linux machines far more often than identical models running Windows XP. Last year, for example, the director of U.S. sales for MSI told Laptop Magazine that customers return Linux netbooks four times as often as Windows netbooks.

    As Computerworld.com contributor Eric Lai pointed out, however, such claims can be misleading.

    According to Lai, MSI's numbers weren't based on the company's actual netbook return rates.

    In fact, at the time, MSI wasn't even shipping a Linux-powered netbook model.

    Source [bmighty.com].

  • by rnswebx (473058) on Saturday April 11, 2009 @01:24AM (#27539731)

    Have a look at Ubuntu Netbook Remix [canonical.com] which is a new UI developed by Canonical especially for netbooks.

    I first saw this a few weeks ago while attending a computer training class. One of my classmates had it, and I was quite impressed.

  • by coryking (104614) * on Saturday April 11, 2009 @01:28AM (#27539749) Homepage Journal

    I love how you so narrowly define it as a "raster editor". Almost as if you are waiting for me to bite and ask you how to draw lines, circles and maybe even easy-to-resize test. Have these gotten better since when I last tried using it?

    and the most common ones that people use are catered for

    But everybody wants to use the product that has them all "just in case". The idea of software bloat is something dreamed up by grey-beards who used to do work on punch cards. As long as they are properly presented and organized in the program, the more features the merrier.

    My favorite "useless feature" is track changes in Word. Do you have any idea how surprised people get when they send me a Word document and I send them back all my edits with cute little bubble comments next them? Does OO support track changes? Cause if they dont, that is a shame... it is a damn useful feature once somebody drops change-tracked document on your lap and you go "wow, I never knew this existed!". But I can only imagine the number of 37-signals followers who sit around and call it "useless bloat!!! off with its head!!"

  • OS X on Netbooks (Score:2, Interesting)

    by gluefish (899099) on Saturday April 11, 2009 @01:41AM (#27539823)
    One of the untold stories here is that there is a small but growing contingent of people loading OS X onto their netbooks. Apple doesn't like it much but the legality is uncharted territory. OS X is built on BSD which is open source, and it may be difficult for Apple to pursue users for modifying it to use anywhere they want. OS X Leopard runs very nicely on my Acer Aspire One. Better than on my older (2006) Mac Mini...
  • by spasm (79260) on Saturday April 11, 2009 @01:48AM (#27539853) Homepage

    Gimp vs Photoshop: intended end-use is everything. Gimp saves a lot of people the bother of either paying money or committing copyright infringement to do 97% of image manipulation. Photoshop is an indispensable tool for a professional operating in a world geared around that tool and/or the 3% of end-users who are actually doing something that Gimp can't do and Photoshop can. That's not most of us.

    Blender vs unnamed "big-boys stuff": You tried a complex piece of software for "30 seconds" and expected, I don't know, what? The software to read your mind and render amazing 3-d porn on the fly? We'll skip the Freudian analysis of what's going on for you around "the big-boys stuff". But in short, your "30 second" comparison is irrelevant.

    Postgres vs Oracle: the two main comparison points between these two these days seem to be 'we've built an infrastructure around Oracle and switching is dangerous/a huge waste of time' (an attitude I completely support); and Oracle's putative 'richer feature set'. Some people also say that for really huge databases (hundreds of millions of rows), Oracle is superior. Once again, it's what your end-use is that decides whether you want a multi-thousand dollar Oracle seats vs free Postgres seats. You'll note that slashdot (between 10,000 and 40,000 hits per second) uses *mysql* - it fits their fairly specific needs. I work with behavioral data from thousands of respondents at the University of California, San Francisco, and I use postgres and mysql because it suits my very specific needs just fine (and I would happily use Oracle if that was what was needed to manage and analyze my data, but it'd be expensive overkill, so I don't).

    Apache vs IIS. Well, whatever. You're comparing a webserver which serves 106 million sites vs IIS's 67 million (http://netcraft.com [netcraft.com], accessed April 10, 2009); once again, if you need something tightly integrated with Windows servers, IIS is a decent product and possibly even worth paying money for. For the other 106 million of us, Apache is a more apt product.

    I'll stop there. It's my bedtime, and I'm sure someone else will take you to task on the rest of your list.

    Regards, Pete

  • by Skapare (16644) on Saturday April 11, 2009 @01:49AM (#27539861) Homepage

    ... even though I fully intend to wipe Windows off (after making 3 backups of it) and replace it with Ubuntu Linux. The reason is this gives me the ability to cheaply run Windows in case I might ever need to do so (happens about every 2 or 3 years). If I were to buy a netbook with just Linux on it, most likely I've be replacing that Linux with Ubuntu Linux, anyway. But that other Linux wouldn't really be giving me something extra. With these netbooks in the $250 price range with XP or Linux, it's really like getting one Windows usage license nearly for free (for that machine).

  • by kervaw (917164) on Saturday April 11, 2009 @01:49AM (#27539863) Homepage
    It was cheaper than one with Linux preloaded on it. Never booted XP. Installed Fedora XFCE. The tweaking wasn't a big deal and everything works. Webcam and wireless. My Verizon AirCard recognized and works. Maybe MS should take a look at how many of the XP netbooks sold phone home for an update.
  • by Spy Handler (822350) on Saturday April 11, 2009 @01:58AM (#27539901) Homepage Journal

    Actually no, XP license costs ASUS/Acer/HP only about $25 a pop.

    The same XP software costs them 2 times as much if they install it on a slightly bigger laptop or a desktop.

    Reason? Linux on netbooks scared the bejeesus out of Microsoft, they didn't want the Netbook market dominated by Linux. (BTW the whole thing caught MS completely by surprise)

    So, even though most netbooks are probably gonna be sold with Windows on them in the future, we the consumers have the FOSS community to thank for saving us $$

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday April 11, 2009 @02:17AM (#27539949)

    I am used to GIMP and paint.net is really a pain in the ass to use for me...

    It all boils down to what you are used to do..

  • Shrug. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by SmallFurryCreature (593017) on Saturday April 11, 2009 @02:24AM (#27539971) Journal

    Linux is linux because it is linux. CHange it and it won't be linux anymore.

    What is Linux anyway? Is it Linux from scratch or Ubuntu or Linpus (the Linux Acer used to put on its netbooks).

    They are all linux but radically different products. Some distro's go for cutting edge, compiling straight from Linus keyboard, others present a product as unchangebale as your VCR "OS".

    The linux that most geeks use is probably the cutting edge stuff, we can deal with the problems it gives because, well we grew up on it and we accept that it is the price to pay for having the features we require. I KNOW my linux desktop is not as smooth as Vista's is (firefox especially is a bitch) but I have become so accustomed to the X way of presenting a desktop I would quit any job that told me to use windows.

    This however makes it hard for linux to ever kill windows which is what some seem to desire. Linux but its nature is a niche market. How can you sell a product that is free and where the users have no need of tech support or even worse, give said tech support for free? Oh and are also high resistant to adds being displayed. So, you can't sell a boxed product, can't sell support and can't run it add supported.

    That is why there is no linux desktop startup.

    As for mass market, support is expensive. Sell a $50 profit product, get one support call and watch your profit fly away. How does MS do it? Simple, they don't. MS does NOT give consumer support, that they leave up to dell.

    Since linux is not yet capable of being 100% windows (and its current niche market audience has no desire for it to be windows) you can count on any boxed product customer generating at least one support call to find out why their windows software don't run on it.

    Simple put, linux is linux because it is a product by nerds for nerds. It can't go mainstream in a similar way that kit-planes can't. Not everyone has the knowledge to build their own plane and if it became so easy any idiot could, one of the kit-plane fans would buy it and the idiots don't have the pilot license needed anyway.

    Some things are just meant to be niche.

    What would help Linux far more if the world came to accept that windows is not the only OS. I therefor like Apple (despite hating almost everything about them) as any Mac sold means 1 more PC that ain't windows, doesn't do windows and won't do windows. 1 more user wanting opensource or at least portable apps. 1 more user against windows only "standards". 1 more twit railing against wind-mills.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday April 11, 2009 @03:39AM (#27540239)

    I just installed the beta of ubuntu jaunty (it'll be released this month), I highly suggest you give it a try. I have an aspire one with 8gb of ssd and 512mb of ram. Switching to ubuntu from linpus makes for a HUGE improvement in the interface. Pretty much everything works out of the box, I'd suggest reading the ubuntu wiki (search for aspire one) for specific details and possible workarounds.

  • by perryizgr8 (1370173) on Saturday April 11, 2009 @03:52AM (#27540283)

    Right... so how do you propose remoting wirelessly into a box 1200km away using hf data communications where you can only get 1200 BAUD and get the crazy likely minutes per frame lag of using vlc or the like?

    It's not something a typical end-user would do, but it's a prime example how on linux, you can do anything you want, if you know how to

    see that? a person who needs to do that sort of thing is in a very tiny minority. especially in the netbook market. so let me correct myself:
    gui is very important thing in software, but even more important for netbooks.

    wait wait wait.... you are proposing that there were no external forces here? so you don't consider the fact that almost everyone knows how yo use windows and very few know how to use linux an external force? come on. A completely level playing field would have someone who has never use both of them decide, which frankly, won't happen, and we don't expect it to but saying it is level is a bit of a farce. The odds were against, lucky to have gotten as much share as it had considering most places stopped stocking linux versions and those of us who wanted had to buy windows.

    the playing fields were level. the ordinary user had a differentiation in his mind between a regular full featured pc and a netbook. he knew that his new netbook was supposed to do only a few things like browsing, music, etc. these things are basically identical in both linux and windows, once you are in a browser (firefox), there is no difference between linux and windows. when you double click on an mp3, you hear your music, both in windows and linux. ditto for video.
    is this not level? if linux was unable to hold its ground at these basic things, it means the os intruded on user experience. it must have frozen or acted wierdly.
    on the inferiority comment, i was trying to point out that instead of finding any faults in linux, we immediately jump on to the blame microsoft bandwagon. other possibilities like inferiority (in some areas) must be considered before delivering a verdict.
    also, i said the stability thing to show that no os is inherently, absolutely superior than others. you can find a stable platform for linux, i can find one for windows, someone else can find one where both run well. so again, windows isn't inherently bad, we should consider the possibility that it was better than linux in specific things netbooks required.

  • lousy installations (Score:3, Interesting)

    by speedtux (1307149) on Saturday April 11, 2009 @03:56AM (#27540305)

    I bought two netbooks with Linux preinstalled, an HP2133 and an Asus Eee PC. The pre-installed versions of Linux (SuSE and Xandros) had serious problems: bad fonts, bad desktop setup, misconfigured update sources, bad drivers, etc.

    But the problem wasn't a problem with Linux--with stock Ubuntu installed, both of them are great machines. The problem was incompetent and overly zealous customization and installation by the vendors.

  • by ardor (673957) on Saturday April 11, 2009 @04:10AM (#27540343)

    These points are relevant, but the problem no.1 simply is the user. The user is accustomed to Windows, plain and simple. For many people, Windows equals "the PC". Anything else than a Windows GUI feels unfamiliar, and broken.

    This cannot be fixed with technology. This is the area of salesmen, of PR, marketing. OSX is wildly different from Windows, yet it sells. Why? Not because of the tech (which is partially very good), but because Jobs knows how to sell.

  • by Ash-Fox (726320) on Saturday April 11, 2009 @05:59AM (#27540719)

    I work on a servicedesk. If a linux netbook is brought to us we don't even bother trying to set up WiFi anymore. Just get them to install Windows. Any of our staff can set up/debug a laptop on WiFi in a few minutes if its Windows/Mac. We're not idiots - we just haven't seen a single netbook with a consistent and reliable setup procedure that works.

    I'm going to call you an idiot because the setup procedure on a EeePC to restore factory settings is so brain dead (just choosing the recovery option on boot), it's not even funny. This gets a broken system working within seconds.

    We don't want to compile code or edit source code.

    Taking the EeePC as a example again... Why would you need to do that? Infact, any netbook that comes with Linux won't require you to do that to get Wi-Fi working, what are you talking about?

    Why the hell weren't the manufacturer supplied drivers built with WPA support?

    To my knowledge, there is no netbook out there that doesn't have WPA support and I have seen quite a few. Even the earliest Linux netbooks have WPA support.

  • Seems simple enough! (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday April 11, 2009 @06:21AM (#27540781)

    I bought a Samsung NC10 that came with windows XP. I installed Ubuntu really easily and have never looked back.

    It was easy to do and the software you get "out of the can" is all I need for my daily tasks as a very busy student.

    The entire process was simple and easy and worked. I do not think too many Windows users would have too many problems if they went through the same process.

    In short, installing and using, seems simple enough! (to me?)

  • by alizard (107678) <alizard@noSpAM.ecis.com> on Saturday April 11, 2009 @06:58AM (#27540917) Homepage
    First, who the hell is going to do serious graphics design on a 9" netbook screen, on a computer with a CPU in the 900 Mhz range with 1G DRAM? That's the Eee PC 900 and similar models. You're going to run a high-end webserver or a gigantic DB on a netbook? Doesn't matter whether it's XP, Win7, or Linux, it's A Bad Idea regardless.

    Second, the Linux UI on the Eee PC is a dumbed down, locked down older version of Xandros modified to provide a tabbed interface designed as a Net appliance whose program selection for ordinary installation is limited to a handful of programs), and a response to another post of mine downthread says that Acer's Linux UI is similar. If you install anything that is not in the Asus repository (presumably via binaries) it will not show up in any of the UI tabs. To run that installed program, one will have to open a terminal and invoke it via CLI.

    So your whines about the differences between Linux software and XP are completely irrelevant to any recognizable netbook reality. The current and last generations of netbooks are too underpowered to run large-scale Linux apps with large datasets, and the screen size is really too small to make that class of work comfortable. I deal with the CPU power problem when need be by running a remote control connection to my far more powerful desktop from anywhere around a wireless AP.

    The real problems with Linux sales on netbooks are:
    • that you won't find them at ordinary computer stores
    • the people who know that Linux netbooks exist and order one on purpose are going to be seriously disappointed that we bought netbook appliances
    • it takes some research to find out how to replace the OS with something that's actually functional for a power user. Unless you follow this [informit.com] link and read how I installed Ubuntu with a slightly modified standard desktop UI (turnes out I hate tabbed UIs on netbooks even if they're Open Source, too) on my Eee PC.

    Any problem with Linux on netbooks comes down to the manufacturers using Linux to deliver a net appliance experience. Remember the companies that used to sell net appliances? The ones that still exist don't sell them anymore. Not to say that for the few people left who are still unfamiliar with computers, a net appliance is necessarily a bad idea, I think I could hand a Linux netbook to the proverbial computer-illiterate grandmother and get her websurfing in a few minutes. But these people are increasingly rare, everyone else expects a computer to have a recognizable desktop with icons that do things and a bottom panel with a start menu and some apps that can be selected from it.

    Manufacturers can do different things with a smartphone UI because we don't have fixed expectations of what a phone UI is going to look like other than we expect some way to enter phone numbers and a button to push to accept a call when the phone rings.

  • by sensei moreh (868829) on Saturday April 11, 2009 @07:14AM (#27540987)
    I think we have the wrong perspective here. The term "Linux" (and "GNU/Linux", for that matter), as commonly used isn't a single OS, it refers to hundreds, or even thousands of operating systems that share a common codebase. If I buy a netbook loaded with Windows XP Home, it's the same operating system, whether I buy an Acer, Asus, Dell, HP, or other netbook. If I buy a netbook with "Linux" on it, it may be Xandros, Linpus Lite, or Ubuntu; and when I install "Linux" on my netbook, it may be any of the three Linux distros mentioned here or Fedora, Crunchbang, Moblin, Puppy, Kuki, Suse, Mandriva, etc... Each of these is a different operating system; they have their own unique way of doing things. The principal failing of netbook manufacturers has been pre-installing versions of "Linux" that don't allow their customers to do what those customers expect to be able to do with their netbooks. If the expectation is that a netbook should be able to browse the web, play videos, do email and video chat, read and store data on a variety of flash media using built-in card readers, etc..., then it's up to the manufacturers to ensure that they install the software required to do this. Given the current situation, where no two netbook manufacturers offer the same version of "Linux" (whereas they offer identical versions of WinXP) just tells me that there is no one Linux distribution that clearly meets the needs of the manufacturers.
  • Re:Which is why.... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by abigsmurf (919188) on Saturday April 11, 2009 @07:26AM (#27541029)

    Thank you internet lawyer! I'm sure the EU will be right on the case!

    They're providing very strict licensing terms for what they can and can't put XP for netbooks on. It's no different from compared Office licence costs for business to the teacher and student edition. One costs about 1/4 of the other.

    Also, how on Earth can you call it predatory pricing when the competitor is free?

  • Re:Bad distros (Score:3, Interesting)

    by MtViewGuy (197597) on Saturday April 11, 2009 @08:16AM (#27541207)

    Then how come Canonical haven't been successful in putting in Ubuntu Linux on the netbooks from Acer, Asus and MSI? Imagine running a modern, relatively easy to use Linux distribution that has now taken a huge marketshare lately, probably one of the few Linux distros widely used enough that we could resolve a lot of the headaches in terms of hardware and software compatibility?

  • by Kirtlander (1359419) on Saturday April 11, 2009 @11:02AM (#27542037)

    Linux won't take off on the desktop until there until more familiar commercial software is available on that platform and better drivers support for gadgets like printers, cameras and scanners. What good is a free OS if I can't buy software for it or install the software that came with my new camera?

    The big difference between the Mac OS and Linux on the desktop is the availability (and choice) of purchasing commercial packages like Microsoft Office, iTunes, etc. Yes, Adobe Flash and Java are available for Linux distros, but many of these nice, free, plug ins like Flash aren't bundled with the netbooks sold these days. What precisely is the problem with vendors such as Dell or HP bundling commercial drivers or packages on Linux? Why can't these netbooks give users the full experience out of the box without the pain?

    I, for one, don't mind paying for and running commercial software on a free OS if this software was available (yes, I know I can purchase Oracle or DB2 for Linux, but what desktop users need them?). I don't have a problem with it it all. It certainly beats waiting for someone in the community to do it themselves.

  • Not true! (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Bones3D_mac (324952) on Saturday April 11, 2009 @12:52PM (#27542771)

    Microsoft doesn't have a monopoly on the netbook arena. They're just the only mainstream OS option available without resorting to breaking some EULAs and/or piracy. It's been quite clearly shown that there is a huge desire for Apple's Mac OS X to be made available to the netbook market. As it is, some people have gone to great lengths to install Mac OS X on the machines due to the underwhelming performance of Windows XP and the lack of commercial software support from the linux end.

    Getting Mac OS X into the netbook arena resolves both issues, you get a stable, responsive OS with support for commercial produced software, while still having access to most of the open source market as well.

    While the MacBook Air is arguably a "netbook", it lacks the size and form factor that has made actual "netbooks" like the Acer Aspire One, such a runaway success.

    If Apple ever plans to penetrate the PC market with Mac OS X world-wide, the netbook market would be the best place to start. Netbooks generally aren't modified by end users in the same way desktop computers are, so Apple could easily develop a standard for officially supporting Mac OS X on them.

    Once users have experienced Mac OS X on their netbook, they might even consider buying an actual Mac for their desktop machine.

    The netbook market is something Apple really should consider embracing while users are still up in the air over which OS they want.

  • by mauriceh (3721) <maurice@@@harddata...com> on Saturday April 11, 2009 @01:04PM (#27542851) Homepage

    The REAL reasons M$ is gaining ground in this is due to a combination of vendor ignorance, marketing pressure, and manufacturers with no clue how to prepare a Linux machine.

    If companies like Best Buy, etc. will not take the Linux versions, then the sales of Linux based netbooks is going to be weak.
    With no financial incentive, it is even worse.
    How do machines with a "free" OS happen to cost the same as ones with Windows?
    Let's see, if we make the Linux ones with smaller, but more expensive SSDs, and sell them at the same price as machine with a HDD that is 4 to 8 times the size?

    Hmm, what will the chains and consumers choose?

    Add to this distis and manufacturers offering less and less Linux models.
    Case in point:
    eeePC 1002.
    Specs show it comes in both Linux and M$ versions.
    In fact, in N. America,ASUS are not shipping the Linux version.

    Finally, calling Xandros "Linux" is a pretty sad situation.
    Ever try using it?

    Contrast this to eeeBuntu on the same hardware and the difference is astounding.

    In the end it boils down to 2 things:
    1) Vendor and manufacturer ignorance of how to prepare a Linux machine.
    2) Sales channel fear of anything "unusual"
    3) M$ marketing pressure and incentives.

  • by Yfrwlf (998822) on Saturday April 11, 2009 @04:53PM (#27544463)

    Look up packagekit, it hooks into rpm, apt, etc etc, and lets face it, all distros, more or less use apt or yum, two different things with nearly identical uses... yeah, so difficult. which brings us onto our next point

    You just made his point for him. There is no standard package management - there are dozens of tools, and dozens more repositories for them. And yes, it is difficult for the lay person - why do you think phishing and trojans are so common - people really don't understand this stuff, nor do they want to - they just want to use their computer.

    Being one of the most pissed Linux users about this issue, I have to chime in. =P

    The problem isn't so much different software. While you can either prefer yum or apt-get, the problem isn't that, it's standardizing the *interfaces*/APIs. You don't hear someone saying "OMG Linux sucks because I have a choice between KWord and OpenOffice!!!!" That's because those are easy to find and use even if you're switching between one and the other. As long as you save your docs in, say, ODF, things are cool, since both programs are compatible with ODF.

    The problem is there needs to be one or more types of packages that can be easily made compatible with ALL OF THE PACKAGE MANAGERS. Proprietary Linux packaging is shameful beyond belief, these distro companies have for far too long enjoyed making their Linux "version" be an island, forcing users to swim to it just because of this issue which causes developers to say oh fuck it, and just keep releasing source packages, forcing Linux users to have to know how to compile which is an instant and immediate FAIL for 99% of all computer users.

    Piracy helps Microsoft. They want you using their stuff for free if you don't want to use their stuff. Linux needs file sharing to become rampant as well in order to help spread it's adoption, and that won't happen until universal packaging is a reality. No more binaries with unresolved dependencies, no more proprietary packages, Linux shouldn't and doesn't have to put up with that shit. All it takes is communication, and that won't happen until more Linux users get pissed and push for it.

    Fuck proprietary distro packaging.

  • by jedidiah (1196) on Saturday April 11, 2009 @06:40PM (#27545055) Homepage

    Photoshop is a professional tool with a professional price tag.

    Professional tools in general are not meant for idiots too lazy to learn them.

    They are also largely irrelevant for that vast majority of users and
    pretty irrelevant in "platform wars". Anyone whining about them are
    bound to be total posers.

    Now, if it turns out that such "pro apps" are in common use because
    there aren't more appropriate tools out there then THAT is a problem.
    The home user should not have to worry about owning any "professional"
    app. This includes Microsoft Office.

    Data formats should be open enough that artificial need is not created
    for apps that were considered gross overkill 20 years ago.

  • by Geezle2 (541502) on Saturday April 11, 2009 @10:53PM (#27546043)
    "win"

    There you have it.

    This, folks, is what Microserfs are all about. They latch onto the coattails of the 'tough guy' thinking that this is some sort of fight to the death, and being weak themselves, they feel that they need to ride on a "winner". Pathetic...

    This is why Micro$oft (and their Microserf echo chamber) try to attack and label Mac users as elitist snobs, and Linux users as middle aged virgins with Asperger syndrome. It is just primitive tribalism. M$ just appeals to people's insecurities, weaknesses and fears and you end up with otherwise intelligent people like coryking above making the weak justifications like those he posted.

    Can coryking do his job with OO and also find features in it that will help him "Wow!" his customers (friends, relatives, whatever)? Of course, but that is not the point. Is he really concerned that 99.99% of the computer using population might not be able to achieve everything they do under Wondoze using a FOSS solution? Well, he is certainly concerned that THEY might realize that and leave him in the minority (ie: Windoze loses), but does he really care about those users? Of course not.

    These shrill Microsoft fanboys attacking everything non-M$, these Microserfs, are just sycophants and lapdogs that have attached their fate, their credibility, and their self respect to the "strong man"; to the bully; thinking that it will offer them protection and status. It is so pathetic and primitive...

    Threatening news like these new developments in Europe ALWAYS brings them out in droves: "No, FF can NEVER replace IE... don't even try!", and "OO can't replace Officide, it doesn't have [insert obscure 'feature' that no one uses here], and "Linux can never 'win' because it doesn't have Microsoft Bob!"

    Really, folks, pity these Microserf clowns like coryking. They have staked their manhood on the eternal supremacy of a fairly mundane corporation. How pathetic is that? Don't argue with them. Just reassure them that everything is OK, give them a cheerful smile and send them home.

  • by Moe1975 (885721) <mauriceroman@nosPam.gmail.com> on Sunday April 12, 2009 @12:03AM (#27546271)

    This has been bothering me for along time, I have begun to see people covering up their sheer, unforgivable incompetence by claiming that it is the Linux way. Hard to use? Makes no sense even to Linux users? Stupid little two bit bullshit fuckups (I mean, that's what pisses me off, it's a bunch of little things that do matter, but are not rocket science damnit) left and right? just plain sloppiness and neglect?

    "Oh, you should learn how to use it!"

    "it's the Linux way!"

    Makes me want to projectile vomit!

    I swear, if my stuff were as shoddy as some of the bs I have seen on this ubuntu install (just STUPID SHIT!!!) I would shoot myself, some people have no dignity, no pride, no BALLS to do shit RIGHT goddamnit! If you are going to build something and release it, be responsible and get your shit together!!!!!!

    The FLOSS/GNU/Linux way does NOT EQUAL INCOMPETENCE!!!! How come *BSD is fucking clean and tight and slick and stable and highly usable and beautiful!?!?!?!?!!?

    I find sloppiness and half-assness to be unnaceptable! I have seen worse fuckups in some FOSS GNU/Linux than I have seen in M$FT stuff! That is disgraceful! Dishonorable. A travesty.

    Someone, please enlighten me.

  • Many reasons (Score:2, Interesting)

    by dewatf (209360) on Sunday April 12, 2009 @04:31AM (#27547097)

    Unfamiliar software and hardware are just one reason.

    2. The main reason is there is no economic reason to install Linux. The cost of the OS and software are only a small fraction of the price and it's not worth the cost of having different models with another OS. Linux users will just install their favourite version anyway.

    3. There is no Linux desktop, there are hundreds of them.

    4. There is no performance gain. By the time you run Linux, X, KDE and GNOME and Open Office etc., XP with Chrome is faster.

    Note there is an advantage over Vista, which is why Microsoft kept and discounted XP for netbooks. You can't claim Microsoft are dumping and old OS when the competition is free.

    When Linux is useful is running a cut down system on low power devices, especially once XP is gone.

  • Real problem? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Aries-Belgium (1530499) on Sunday April 12, 2009 @10:31AM (#27548475)
    I think the real problem is the distribution the netbook manufacturers deliver with their netbooks. Like the ASUS EEE for example. It has a complete custom interface that people aren't familiar with on notebooks or PCs. Also every manufacturer delivers another distribution. Why don't they all deliver Ubuntu on their netbook? It is the most standard distro at the moment and it has a more familiar look and feel for most people.

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