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Should Being Competitive With Windows Matter For Linux? 645

Posted by Soulskill
from the reply-hazy-ask-again dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Is Linux being held back by distributions bent on competing with Microsoft Windows? This article argues that it's a real possibility. Quoting: '... what was apparent early on during my Linux adoption was my motivation for making the switch in the first place — no longer wanting to use Windows. This is where I think the confusion begins for most new Linux adopters. As we make the switch, we must fight the inherent urge to automatically begin comparing the new desktop experience to our previous experiences with Windows. It's a completely different set of circumstances, folks. ... The fact that one platform can support a specific device while the other platform cannot (and so on) doesn't really solve the problem of getting said device working. You can see where this dysfunction of thought can become a big problem, fast."
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Should Being Competitive With Windows Matter For Linux?

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  • by gman003 (1693318) on Monday November 08, 2010 @11:07PM (#34169564)
    Linux has a 90% share in supercomputers, a 50% share in servers (+/- 10%), and a pretty good share of cell phones and other mobiles, if you include Android and other semi-proprietary systems. The only place to expand into it the desktop, where the market share is at most 5%. So, why not?
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by falckon (1015637)
      I half agree. Linux does not have to be "like Windows" to be suitable as a Desktop OS. It does however help people make the transition, and it could certainly use the market share in order to influence driver developers and video game developers to think of Linux. There is something to be said for keeping the things that make Linux lovers love it, but this is the beauty of having hundreds of distributions.
      • by Fluffeh (1273756) on Monday November 08, 2010 @11:48PM (#34169862)
        While I am more techy than most of the people I worky with (Hence I am sitting here reading this at work) most of the folks around me look at PCs simply as a tool. Can't teach them new tricks? Bollocks. A lot of my time is spent working with business teams who are looking to improve their way of doing business and teaching them about how different programs can be used to get the information they want.

        Want to find your current sales trends in a way that you haven't been able to before? Okay, well, we have the data in this thing called Datawarehouse. Our reporting team will be able to provide you a set of reports, but they take a long time to develop and check. If you want to do some quick nasty analysis to fend off a crisis, there is a program called TOAD that will let you directly query your data. Look difficult? Lets go through how it works and how you write a SQL query.

        Result: In the last Two years, I have introduced around 100 users who are NOT tech savvy at all to the wonders of SQL queries. They are now in various stages of competence, but they are using new things.

        My (belated) point here is that while something like Toad (or now replace with Linux) isn't something that they can just pick up and run with, if people see a benefit to it, they WILL make the effort to learn how to use it.

        In my mind, Linux really needs to advertise the benefits it has to the ordinary person so that they are enticed to make the effort to learn how to use it. Having said that, the easier it makes this learning process, the less advertising it has to do.
    • by mirix (1649853)

      It's huge in embedded things as well.

    • Why not? (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Petersko (564140)
      "The only place to expand into it the desktop, where the market share is at most 5%. So, why not?"

      Because it requires linux development to embrace the following:

      - Interface design that specifically and completely bars programmers from participating
      - Abandonment of 99% of the distros
      - Acceptance of proprietary drivers when offered (normal people don't give a damn about open source philosophy)
      - Provision of real, available, phone-based technical support
      - Real, complete documentation

      I have seen s
      • Re:Why not? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Nursie (632944) on Tuesday November 09, 2010 @12:00AM (#34169948)

        Wait, so a distro should do things your way, and everyone else should shut up shop?

        I think you'll find that's the beauty of open source, everyone can do it the way they want to. If you can persuade people that your way is the best way then some may join you.

        Abandoning 99% of the distros would piss off a large portion of users. Why abandon any of them? If you come up with the perfect interface (TM) then they can all ship it, if it's right for them?

        Or are you trying on that old argument that the very concept of a distro is confusing to people who just want the linux on their computers?

        Well good luck with that.

      • Re:Why not? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by gman003 (1693318) on Tuesday November 09, 2010 @12:54AM (#34170232)

        - Interface design that specifically and completely bars programmers from participating

        Uh, what? If the GUI is just a fancy, specialized program for editing the various dotfiles and stuff crammed in /etc, then it does no harm to the person who actually likes messing around with baretext config files.

        - Abandonment of 99% of the distros

        Why abandon them? Call Ubuntu "Linux Home", Debian "Linux Professional", and "[favorite distro here]" "Linux Ultimate". There's no need to eliminate pro-friendly distros - that's the beauty of it. You just make a new one that caters to the beginners, and let it take care of that market. The Roadrunner doesn't run the same distro as the Droid, to put it poetically.

        - Acceptance of proprietary drivers when offered (normal people don't give a damn about open source philosophy)

        I believe in open-source, not because it is ethically mandated, but because it produces better results. As such, I expect that, eventually, open-source drivers will be better than the proprietary ones, at which point the natural choice would be to use them. Whether the manufacturers choose to assist the open-source team is up to them.

        - Provision of real, available, phone-based technical support

        I fail to see how this is a negative. At the very least, we get a scapegoat to point the boss at while we go fix the actual problem.

        - Real, complete documentation

        Again, how the hell is that a bad thing? I have NEVER heard someone say, "This is great and all, but I really wish the documentation was shoddy, incomplete and half written in Spanish." I mean, look at OpenBSD - plenty of detailed man pages, yet it's a very pro-oriented OS.

        I have seen someone mocked for buying one package when some pinhead thought another would be more appropriate for the application. It was something like, "Well, what did you expect picking that? It's like you wanted to fail." Most people here have seen PLENTY of derision of new users.

        Open-source is actually quite newb-friendly. I, being a fool, started my open-source experience with OpenBSD. I couldn't figure out how to mount my USB drive - a quick email, and I got a kind response from Theo de Raadt, the "benevolent dictator" of OpenBSD, telling me what I needed to do. Despite the Weird Al song, it is completely impossible to phone Bill Gates up at home and make him do your tech support.

        Why not? Because a lot of the community is poison for end users. That's why not.

        You see it as poison, I see it as potential. There's things you can learn from closed-source people. Game developers know quite a lot about squeezing performance out of hardware - that would be beneficial. Windows application developers are used to following a standardized interface - that would be nice, as well. There is always something to be learned from everyone.

        Consolidate, standardize, and corporatize. Staff and support. Advertise. Court developers. In other words, build a better Microsoft.

        I see nothing wrong with being a better Microsoft. Arguably, Linux is the Microsoft of the open-source world - you can't get anywhere with your project unless it runs on Linux, it's squeezed out a good chunk of the other open-source OSes, and it's pretty much mandatory for open-source admins to know Linux.

        Or, remain "pure", disjointed, and niche on the desktop. Rule the world from the server. Personally I think linux should abandon the desktop. By the time they get there, technology will have made the point moot.

        If we don't spread Linux to the desktop, we'll be supporting Windows clients until we do spread Linux to the desktop. Is that really what you want?

        • Re:Why not? (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Pentium100 (1240090) on Tuesday November 09, 2010 @05:27AM (#34171410)

          Uh, what? If the GUI is just a fancy, specialized program for editing the various dotfiles and stuff crammed in /etc, then it does no harm to the person who actually likes messing around with baretext config files.

          Programmers usually make bad GUI designers.

          Usually, the interface should depend on what type of user it is targeted at. If the intended user is a professional, the interface should allow him to customize the program as much as possible. If the intended user is a regular user, the interface should be simpler and more explained. Compare a tape deck made for studio use and one made for home use. The studio one has much more functions and capabilities that a professional can use, but they would just confuse home users. The home user usually would not care about bias, eq, tape tension and stuff like that, they would just want to put on the tape and play/record it.

          Another example would be the BIOS setup - what does "Gate A20 - Slow|Fast" mean and why would I ever want to set it to slow? But that setup is intended for those who know what they are doing and not a regular user.

          Programmers make interfaces for themselves and other programmers, which means that they suck for regular users.

          I believe in open-source, not because it is ethically mandated, but because it produces better results. As such, I expect that, eventually, open-source drivers will be better than the proprietary ones, at which point the natural choice would be to use them.

          And if/when the open source drivers are created and are better than the proprietary drivers, I'll use them. For now it boils down to "use proprietary drivers" or "not use the device".

          I, as a non-programmer do not care about openness of the source, since I would not be able to modify and recompile the driver even i the source was available. I can get the same result if I modified the binary using a hex editor - that is - a no longer working program. I don't care if the source is open, closed or the company makes electricity by burning penguins - if the end product is good and I like the price I'll use it.

      • Re:Why not? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by wvmarle (1070040) on Tuesday November 09, 2010 @12:57AM (#34170244)

        Because we are comparing Windows to Linux:

        - Provision of real, available, phone-based technical support

        And who is to do this? Can you call Microsoft to get help with your problems, without being IT head of a big company having big contracts? I have never heard of anyone being able to do so. Support always comes from the community: friends, family, and even the shop they bought the computer from. But not from the maker.

        - Real, complete documentation

        Admittedly I have never really dived into Windows documentation, but the "trouble shooting" wizards have never been helpful for me.

        And if you're thinking of documentation of applications... I bet it's as bad for Windows as it is for Linux as it's the developer (person or company) that has to make it!

    • Yup, as more businesses install Linux desktops it will become more widespread in that market segment. It will be a slow process, but each time MS stumbles, Linux will be there.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Pharmboy (216950)

      The problem I have with comparing Linux to Windows on the desktop is that I think Windows stinks on the desktop. I may be in the minority, but I want an operating system that is lean and mean, with no zooming windows, special effects, cute audio cues, or glassy curved "kewl" surfaces. I want an operating system to run applications.

      I have become frustrated with Linux on the desktop because there is a rush to beat Windows at what it is best at: bloat . The average Windows or Linux install starts with all

  • linux (Score:5, Insightful)

    by wizardforce (1005805) on Monday November 08, 2010 @11:08PM (#34169578) Journal

    can be anything we want it to be. It is, after all, open source and can be modified to suit many different purposes. Should Linux compete directly with Windows? That's a stupid question. Linux should do what the user wants and if that happens to put it on a collision course with Windows then so be it.

    • Agreed, but not every user has the time to spend customizing every aspect of the OS and each application. I share the author's frustration at a "Linux experience" that keeps trying to be Windows-like and ends up feeling like a cheap knockoff. Windows sucks, and most applications written for Windows suck, and everyone knows it; it's the search for a better alternative that drives most users away from Microsoft's smothering embrace out into the wild world of F/OSS in the first place. So why is it so damned

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by ewieling (90662)
        "not every user has the time to spend customizing every aspect of the OS and each application."

        You have just described one of the primary reasons I've not switched to Windows 7. I am an XP user with all the stupid eye candy turned off so it has a mostly Win2k UI.

        I don't want to spend a week learning a new OS. At some point I'm sure that I will have to, but not yet.
      • by Nursie (632944)

        "I share the author's frustration at a "Linux experience" that keeps trying to be Windows-like and ends up feeling like a cheap knockoff."

        Funny, I haven't noticed that since the early days of fvwm95 and really early KDE versions.

        If anything Ubuntu is trying very hard to emulate the MacOS look and feel, and other distros are doing their own thing.

  • by codepunk (167897) on Monday November 08, 2010 @11:10PM (#34169592)

    There is hardly a soul on this planet who's life is not touched by linux in some fashion every single day. Windows has another chunk taken out of it every day it is death by a thousand cuts. If things continue on the path they currently are nearly everyone is going to be running around with linux in their pocket and soon. I saw a guy today with a droid in one hand and a kindle in the other, now that brought a smile to my face.

    • You're so right. The desktop is moving towards being obsolete -- a work thing. Why should Linux care with the juggernaut Android crushing MS in the real world? Developers, don't even think about the desktop, focus on the phone and the coming andro-pad.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        Obsolete? Yeah, maybe when smartphones start coming with a 19" screen. Maybe when net/notebooks get a keyboard that's not like typing on chicklets and add a side-tray for a mouse. Maybe when I can upgrade most of the parts in either rather than having to buy a new one.

        Desktops may not be the only option anymore but they're a hell of a long way from obsolete.

  • by RocketRabbit (830691) on Monday November 08, 2010 @11:13PM (#34169606)

    Linux must compete with Windows if there is ever going to be a "year of Linux on the desktop."

    That would force manufacturers to release more compatible products, perhaps even contributing drivers to the kernel. It would spur the release of more commercial software, and gather more interest in the open source software that already exists as well as fostering new growth there.

    Computers would be cheaper, as there wouldn't be a Windows tax, and additionally there would be more form factors available. How about ARM laptops with 30-40 hour battery life? Oh, sorry, that's not really happening now because manufacturers are afraid their customers will be confused, and they are afraid of losing their partnering bribes - I mean "incentives" with Microsoft.

    Linux on the desktop, from the store, for average people, with first-party support, is extremely desirable for the future of computing. One thing that would be nice is to see some Linux games. Oh sure, you can run Wine or one of the commercial variants of Wine, but most people are just going to stick with Windows.

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by whiteboy86 (1930018)
      @manufacturers contributing drivers to the kernel


      OK, why then Linux doesn't provide the same driver interface as Windows? I believe similar goal has that ReactOS Windows clone.
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by phek (791955)

      you do realize that switching to ARM laptops would fuck up a lot more software than the OS right? also the laptop would be fucking expensive because the ARM architecture doesn't have a shitload of manufacturers developing pc peripherals for it (there's a reason apple switch away from ppc).

      also a good majority of manufacturers are contributing to linux drivers, whether it's actual drivers or just specs so someone else can write the drivers.

  • then buy Windows.

  • Uhhh... Well... Ya (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Sycraft-fu (314770) on Monday November 08, 2010 @11:21PM (#34169658)

    If the objective is to be a desktop OS that everyone can use then yes you are defacto competing with Windows. That doesn't mean doing everything just like Windows does but it does mean competing.

    Also if you want to compete EFFECTIVELY it does mean trying to do the things that Windows can do. That doesn't mean looking or acting precisely the same, but it means being able to handle the same kinds of tasks with the same (or better yet less) effort.

    Remember that to most people computers are tools. They have various things they want to accomplish with them, and they want the tool to be easy and helpful in doing that. As such, to win them over you need to be able to accomplish their tasks, and to do so with a minimum of fuss.

    Expecting people to be willing to troubleshoot and learn more about Linux is complete bullshit. It is effectively being lazy, it is saying "We can't make our shit work right or be easy to use, so we expect you to pick up the slack and learn to deal with it." That is NOT an acceptable solution, because the response from people will be "Fuck you, I'm not using it then." They don't want to become experts in computers, they just want to use them to accomplish whatever it is they are after.

    It is no coincidence that as computers have gotten easier to use, more people use them. Back when computers were first invented not only were they expensive, but you practically needed an advanced degree to operate them. You had to program them in raw machine code, every program was something newly created, you had to solve electrical problems, etc, etc. There were just few people that could deal with that. As things got successively easier, more friendly, the world of computing was opened to more people.

    Now it is fine to feel Linux shouldn't go the desktop route, that it should be a server/embedded OS and desktop use should be primarily incidental. However if you want it to flourish in the desktop market then that means it does have to compete with Windows and it does have to get easy to use. "Recompile your kernel," are words that must utterly vanish from any normal kind of support, source code is something a user can't be aware of needing, the command line should be for experts only, and so on.

    To try and think otherwise is not only arrogant, but myopic. You only have to look at the world to realize the vast complexities of things out there, and how much we must all specialize. To decide that computers are the one special thing that everyone should want to become interested and expert in is silly.

    • by Daniel Dvorkin (106857) * on Monday November 08, 2010 @11:44PM (#34169822) Homepage Journal

      Also if you want to compete EFFECTIVELY it does mean trying to do the things that Windows can do.

      "The things Windows can do" are things that pretty much every OS+UI been able to do for damn near twenty years. There's nothing magical there, and yes, obviously any desktop OS needs to be able to do those things. The problem is that a lot of people working on Linux distros and software seem to have the idea that "competing effectively" means copying, rather than trying to find a better way to do things.

      Look, nobody will ever be as good (or bad) at being Microsoft as Microsoft is. Try to make your UI look like Windows, or your word processor look like Word, and you're not going to fool anyone. Most users aren't going to be impressed at what a great job you've done reverse-engineering Microsoft's crappy standards. They're just going to say, "Why should I go with a knockoff when the original comes free* with my computer?" Chasing anyone's tail, in any industry, is usually a losing proposition. Chasing the tail of a lame, half-blind, diarrhetic horse just means you don't get anywhere very fast and end up covered in shit.

      *Yeah, I know. From a marketing perspective, the "Windows tax" makes no difference at all to the vast majority of computer buyers. Deal with it.

    • by jenningsthecat (1525947) on Tuesday November 09, 2010 @01:24AM (#34170406)

      Right on brother! I've just spent about 18 months using Linux almost exclusively, (there are a few things that I can't run even under Wine or VirtualBox), and I'm now preparing to return to Windows. I hate Micro$oft, I love the idea of Linux and FOSS, and yet I'm going back to the evil empire. Why?

      First I should explain that I'm quite capable of using the CLI to issue commands, configure stuff, etc. And I've successfully edited more config files than I really wanted to, (often piecing together bits of info from the web because I couldn't find all the relevant info in one place). The point being that I'm not a technophobe or a dufus. I'm primarily a hardware designer, but I've written some software, I've used computers heavily since DOS 3.0, and I'm a fairly sophisticated user. But, I really DON'T WANT TO SPEND MY LIFE figuring out why Wine doesn't work any more, or figuring out a workaround for the fact that the structure of CUPS doesn't allow cups-pdf to give me the opportunity to specify my own filename and destination directory on-the-fly. I don't want to waste my time launching a separate app to search for files because Nautilus doesn't have an integrated search function, only to find that the search program doesn't allow me to change file properties. I don't want to waste time installing Dolphin with all its aesthetic ugliness and K-bloat in order to have a decent file manager, only to discover that Dolphin doesn't do partial filename searches and doesn't TELL me that it can't do them. I don't want to have to chase around my system trying to find icons to reassociate with binaries because an update broke the associations somehow.

      And I could go on and on in this vein, but I think I've made my point. I use my computer largely for work, and the more time I spend trying to make it functional, the less time I have for either work or recreation. A little bit of dicking around with my computer is fun and educational, (and in fact I did a lot more than 'a little bit' when I first adopted Linux), but beyond that it just gets tiresome and frustrating. I'm much more interested in doing things WITH my computer than I am in doing things TO my computer. When I first started using computers, they were fascinating in and of themselves. Now I want them to be like my car; know a little bit about how they work and how to fix them, expect to do some maintenance and repairs occasionally, but mostly just hop in and drive without a second thought. And as frustrating and far-from-perfect as I've found Windows to be, in my experience it's a lot closer to that ideal than Linux is.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Linux didn't kill Windows, it killed commercial unix.

  • by mr_mischief (456295) on Monday November 08, 2010 @11:30PM (#34169736) Journal

    Competing with Windows for customers ranges somewhere between silly and stupid. If you want more Linux on the desktop, you need to court developers and software vendors.

    Linux works great as an OS. It has penetrated servers well because the server software (both new and inherited from other Unixes) is great. It has penetrated the embedded market largely because new apps were written for it and the new devices. It has penetrated embedded markets because they write everything they need anyway, except the kernel and maybe the C libraries give them a head start.

    What you need to break into the desktop market with established applications from established application providers is applications as good or better. If you give gamers the chance to install games from EA, Valve, Blizzard, Bioware, and id on launch day, they will come. If you get Photoshop or some absolutely full-featured replacement for it on Linux, you'll get many of those users from Windows or Mac. If you get a true replacement for Peachtree and Quickbooks, you'll get more small businesses using Linux as their accounting desktops.

    People who seem to understand network effects when it comes to social networking sites, instant messengers, P2P, etc. seem to forget all about them when it comes to desktop platforms. The more classes of application in which your platform is the leading installation target for the best apps, the more valuable your platform is. Linux has this for servers, embedded devices, and to some degree mobiles. If you want it to be a major desktop player, it needs this for desktops, too.

    Personally, I use Linux on the desktop far more than Windows and I have for years. I still need some Windows or Mac systems around for the applications I just can't run well on Linux. I say "Windows or Mac" because most of the applications I can't run on Linux properly have versions for both of those platforms.

    Linux doesn't even need to take developers from Windows to become much bigger on the desktop. It could become a third platform for companies supporting Win and OS X. It could become a second platform for companies doing Win or Mac. It could even replace OS X as the second platform for some software companies that do windows and Mac now. Adobe comes to mind, as they are practically at war with Apple right now anyway.

    • by jmorris42 (1458) * <`jmorris' `at' `beau.org'> on Monday November 08, 2010 @11:52PM (#34169894)

      > Competing with Windows for customers ranges somewhere between silly and stupid. If
      > you want more Linux on the desktop, you need to court developers and software vendors.

      Nope. If you want more users you need preloads. 90% of people would never survive a Windows install if it didn't come preloaded by an OEM who did all the twiddling to have the hardware mostly work out of the box. Anaconda actually does a better job compared to the Windows installer as far as leaving you a working machine when it finishes. Doesn't matter because end users can't use either one and refuse to even consider the possibility.

      And that isn't a matter of techinical excellence, software availability or anything competition can address. It all about illegal monopolistic action. Microsoft signs consent decree after consent decree and over a decade after their first one you still can't buy a desktop PC without Windows proloaded except for a couple of bland Dell N series machines that are usually priced higher than the same machine preloaded with Windows.

      The netbook revolution almost opened up the market but Microsoft just dumped XP into the hole until they could convince the manufactures to kill em off in favor of small notebooks running Win7. Go ahead, try to find a small flash drive based cheap netbook. All you find is three pounders with hard drives, crappy battery life and screens just a smidge smaller than a small notebook... and all running WIndows.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Myopic (18616)

        You think? I think about 30% of people would never install their own OS. I think if it's easy (and it is), then about two thirds or so of people would be willing to install an OS.

        I heard arguments like yours about browsers, too, but here we are looking at usage for non-preloaded browsers of around 50%.

        Besides, I don't think your point retorts the OP's point. If Linux had lots of developers (and, actually, it does) then its software would become "good enough" (and, actually, it pretty much is) and then there

  • I think it's a mistake to pigeon hole Linux specifically for this type of question. A more pertinent question should be more about having an open source operating system alternative to Windows. There's no reason to use generic Linux for that specifically. There is definitely a reason to replace Windows with open source though.

  • Competition (Score:3, Insightful)

    by codepunk (167897) on Monday November 08, 2010 @11:36PM (#34169766)

    If I am competing, I sure hope my opponent is running Windows.

  • Linux vs Windows (Score:2, Interesting)

    by jkeelsnc (1102563)
    Very interesting discussion. For a time I used Ubuntu 10.04 and finally I think there is a version for the average person. However, there is a problem. Myself and a bunch of other people have quite a bit of money and time sunk into windows programs. I've heard all the arguments and have used openoffice myself. It is pretty good! But it doesn't have absolutely 100% compatability with office and I don't have time to play around with that unless it works right with word, excel, etc formats perfectly ever
  • /me ducks (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Jon Abbott (723) on Monday November 08, 2010 @11:46PM (#34169848) Homepage

    Making Linux competitive with Windows? I thought that's what FVWM-95 [sourceforge.net] was for! :^)

  • by houghi (78078) on Monday November 08, 2010 @11:47PM (#34169856)

    Why do people keep thinking that Linux a a cheap, or free or open or whatever replacement of Windows. It isn't.
    And you can't copy Windows. That would mean that you have to wait till Windows does something.
    http://linux.oneandoneis2.org/LNW.htm [oneandoneis2.org]

    Linux should go its own way and if that takes down Windows, it is a nice plus. Competing with Windows should not be a direction, bceause that will be a fight that you can only loose.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Doc Ruby (173196)

      It competes with Windows. It replaced Windows for me, and for everyone in my family who wants computer "advice" from me. Whenever Linux does something really bad it's Windows I consider shifting to - then reconsider when I try Windows again. It's the only alternative to Windows in any business I've ever worked with or for (and that's a lot, all serious businesses, usually Fortune 500 or their ilk).

      I agree that Linux should "go its own way". Linux has the zeitgeist, the momentum, the developers, the real wor

  • When I got as far as "forcing users to go without a valuable learning experience" I began to wonder if this article is some kind of elaborate joke played on its readers.

    It's hard to be more patronizing than the "Joe Sixpack", "Grandmom" or "Sh*eple" crap that pops up here, but the guy seems to be aiming to limbo under that very low bar.
  • Yes, since they're competing on a number of platform (desktops, servers, and in different guises mobile and embedded), so linux should definitely aim at windows.

    No, since linux is competing against a bunch of other OSes/environments (iOS, QNX, even BSD, Solaris...); and also since linux should not simply play catchup/imitate, but also innovate.

  • Only Phones Matter (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Doc Ruby (173196) on Tuesday November 09, 2010 @12:07AM (#34170000) Homepage Journal

    Desktops are stuck in a "desktop" paradigm, and so are going to be whatever they are now until they totally disappear sometime decades from now: Windows for most everyone, Macs for some specialties particularly in audiovisual production, and Linux for the very few in either the narrowest range of specialties or the narrowest band of all: those who use the best tool for the job at hand, regardless of what everyone else is using.

    But the desktop is disappearing. "Mobile" computing is computing you don't have to notice computing. Especially as input leaves behind keyboards, as all displays are networked and shareable, the GUI will detach from the hardware, to be put anywhere the users want it to be, including merged together. More and more people will do what they do helped by "computers", but they won't be Windows. They'll be Android, or some other Linux variant. Because Windows is like a desktop, and most work is better done without a desktop.

    It won't be Linux, either. Linux will have a place in the majority of servers, and there'll be a lot of them. But the "Internet of Things" needs something smaller than Windows, smaller than Linux. It's why even the Mac ditched the old MacOS and is now closely related to Linux, in that it's mostly a (mostly) open Unix variant.

    Android is closing in on a majority of smartphones. Around the time it's the majority, all phones that do more than just talk will be smartphones. It's the software and uses of smartphones, and their closely related tablets, that will be what most humans use "computers" for most of the time. Everyone in a developed economy will have their mobile device that's their key to accessing all the people, things and info in their world. Windows will be stuck on desktops, where the first small segment of humans started using them. The rest of the world, most of it, will be using the descendants of Android in ways that Windows can never approximate.

  • by failedlogic (627314) on Tuesday November 09, 2010 @12:32AM (#34170128)

    I've been using computers since the C64 as a kid. I'm geeky enough to use Slashdot. I've used Linux on and off since Slackware 7"ish" (w/ all the version # skipping). Dabbled with some CS classes. I've used MS Dos . through all versions of Windows and used OS X for 4 years. .... So I think I at least have some geek credentials to post this.

    I mostly stopped playing games so I don't have much use for Windows. I've preferred to use OS X but didn't want to keep my Mac. OS X is genius it really "just" works. And I've spent far less time troubleshooting and resolving issues than I ever have with Windows or Linux. I've been trying REALLY hard to move over to a PC-based 'Nix based OS for a few years now but I'm finding it a bit hard.

    I think I'm of the age, have the computer knowledge necessary and have the desire enough to switch that I'm a likely target user. You need some (somewhat)geeky people (like me :) ) for now to more readily adopt 'Nixes. Depending on what you do, Granny is probably ok to check e-mail with some KDE or Gnome based distro. I'm also finding it easier to automate and simplify some daily tasks with the command line (I use a lot of the reg-ex tools Sed, AWK and dabbling with Perl and Python - nothing fancy though. The Windows scripting and command line tools is an utterly and confusing mess, I won't touch it with a 10-foot pole. This *alone* has me as an easy convert.

    Here's my beefs over the years which has prevented me from switching. I note over the years as I've not tried recently to install Slackware, Ubuntu, SUSE or FreeBSD (yes, I've tried a few) or such that it might be fixed now. Some of this might not be technically accurate. So at least, try to understand that this is a general overview. I'm not asking how to fix it, but rather these are probably some of the problems people have.

    1) Drivers. Some things just don't work right out of the box. I haven't tried X.org in last year-or-so, but my ATI card has been a major PITA to get working. I've seen (too) many postings on "How do I get my trackpad working" or get this working. Recompiling the kernel is somewhat challenging if you have to get to that level. Choosing the wrong option or ommitting something can FOOBAR the kernel and you have to Google till you get it right. Every kernel is a walking target.

    At times, never the same result or problem from 2.4.15 to 2.4.16. That what was working on .15 for example might not work on .16 with the same options selected.

    2) Too many choices of distros. I fully agree choice tends to be a good thing. But the init scripts, directory structure, system management tools (SUSE, RH, Ubuntu) all different. On top of that, each app tends to work out of the box for only a few specific distros. If you want it to work with yours, you have to wait till someone puts it in the package manager. This is where Windows and OS X have a definite advantage.

    3) When X crashes or there's some problem with the xinitrc or adding an extra mouse button or adding pretty font support, its meant spending some time reading about how to install it. OS X kinda self repairs itself, and with Windows all else fails reinstall it. If there's a problem with X to begin with, reinstalling just means the same thing will be there after you reinstall. There's been more then a few times when I've just said "Screw that" and went back to using Windows.

    4) There's a bit too much Windows-like emulation with the apps in KDE, GNOME and such. Apple tends to think well .... this is ok but we should do this, this and this different. If some of the apps are 'cool' and do things just Neat enough it might entice people to think, Linux is cool, i should check this out.

    5) Partitioning / File management / permissions difficult. This has gotten better I think over the years with the file managers with KDE, GNOME, Xfce and such. I just find when you do ls -la on / that you get a confusing directory structure.

  • by corychristison (951993) on Tuesday November 09, 2010 @01:33AM (#34170462)

    As others have mentioned, Linux is such a configurable system it can be like windows if you so choose it to be. That's the point.

    Linux/GNU is one (many as a whole, I guess) of those things that it really is a "jack-of-all-trades" if it is understood how to do so. It is used in virtually every form of technology these days.

    I personally feel that today Linux is right where it needs to be.

    I use Linux on the desktop. I have for years (pushing 8 years now). I currently run Gentoo Linux with XFCE4 as my GUI. It just works for everything that I need to use it for. I have it installed this way on two desktops (my wife's, mine) and my MSI Wind netbook. I also have it installed on my Media Center PC running some custom software I've written myself (pending open source release).

    I gave up on Windows completely when Vista was released (by that I mean I've stopped supporting family's PC's with anything that isn't XP -- virtually all of them now).

    I run an install of XP under VirtualBox from time to time when I need to do some testing under IE 6 through 8. Although I think it's been a few months since I've done that.

    To me Apple is in the same boat as Windows, I just don't want it. I've found what I want on my desktop and it exists here today with very little effort.

    Linux is right where it needs to be.

  • by smash (1351) on Tuesday November 09, 2010 @04:56AM (#34171282) Homepage Journal

    On one hand, Linux should remain true to the principles that make unix so powerful in the first place, however if you're that worried about that type of thing, one of the BSDs is probably a better fit for you anyway.

    However, unless Linux is user friendly enough (via available add-ons, etc) then it will never get a large enough market share for manufacturers to give a shit enough to release drivers or programming specs.

    IMHO - add all the user friendly shit you like. Just ensure that it is up in user-space where those who don't care for all the windows-like crap can strip it out. Options are good. Being a good unix-like operating system and having a shiny Windows-like GUI *available* are not mutually exclusive options.

    For users who never need/want network transparency in X, etc (and simply want a free operating system that "just works") it is just another vector for their machine to be compromised via unforseen security vulnerabilities in such features. If auto configuration is done right and actually works, you shouldn't NEED to fuck around configuring things manually. Sure, you may lose nerd cred points, but those of us who have been doing that sort of shit for years most likely by now have better things to be doing than rooting around manually making something work.

    User/admin time spent configuring something that the computer can and should be able to do automagically is dead, wasted time that does nothing to help anyone get their job done or solve any of the world's problems. Some people (actually most who aren't in the hard core / look at me I' leet / unixnoob crowd) just want a tool to do a job, and un-necessary time spent rooting around trying to make the tool work is time that could be better spent actually doing something productive.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      User friendliness is about being simple, not having more colors or fancy widgets - see Windows Vista as an example.

      The way I see it, if Linux were to win in the consumer market, what it needs to do is not more, but less - and do those "less" things 100X better than Apple, Google or Microsoft.

      The mess with X is actually being addressed, with project Wayland [freedesktop.org]. The philosophy behind Wayland is exactly simplification - most people don't need that network transparency logic, so re-factor it out and keep the c

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