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Linux Business

Where is Largest Linux Desktop Install? 606

jackb_guppy asks: "Talking with Managers about Linux Training for staff. One asked a simple question: 'Where is the largest installed base of Linux desktops?' My guess the question was asked prove that there is no market, and I am unable to find an answer. I am guessing the next question will be: 'Largest site using Linux to replace MS desktops?' Anyone have a suggestion?" Just for fun, if any of you have Linux Desktops deployed in your department, can you give us some numbers?
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Where is Largest Linux Desktop Install?

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  • by FortKnox ( 169099 ) on Monday October 01, 2001 @12:54PM (#2373982) Homepage Journal
    This isn't something you should use to determine Linux's strengths. I've contracted for a company that makes a cross-platform program. We all used windows, but had exceed for a solaris box and a linux box to make those ports.

    Why? Because its easier for the IT managers to buy a bunch of windows boxes they are familiar with, and dump exceed on them, than having a buncha linux boxes with some type of windows viewer.
  • Dumb question? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Tin Weasil ( 246885 ) on Monday October 01, 2001 @12:56PM (#2374002) Homepage Journal
    And what is the world's largest installed base of Windows computers? This isn't an easily answered question for any operating system.

    Tell the manager that finding a definitive answer to his question is beyond the scope of your abilities. It's an unanswerable question because there aren't licensing issues with Linux, so tracking that number by per-seat licenses as is done with Windows and other non-free operating systems is not possible.

    Then answer his question with some of the many sucessful linux conversions that HAVE taken place. Burlington coat factory, General Motors, City Governments, China.

    Talk about the NSA developing security for Linux.

    You aren't going to win a numbers game because the free availability of Linux means that it can be installed many times over without a distributor being able to track the numbers.

    I can download my favorite Linux distro and install it to hundreds of PCs without anyone outside the company knowing those figures. With MS products, they can track the licensing down to every copy in use at any business. Therefore, MS will always win the numbers game.
  • Re:Dumb question? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by mobiGeek ( 201274 ) on Monday October 01, 2001 @01:10PM (#2374110)
    Also try returning a follow-up question:
    What is the world's highest/average licensing arrangement for a Windows install base?
    Its an equally moot question, but it should send back the original message he/she was trying to give you.
  • Odd Question... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by BMazurek ( 137285 ) on Monday October 01, 2001 @01:16PM (#2374141)
    Doesn't this seem like an odd premise for the question? Training people on the Linux desktop. What does that mean exactly? You're trying to make Linux a viable alternative to Windows. A reasonable, commendable to some, desire.

    Except, what does Linux training mean within that context? You're likely not teaching people about bourne shell. Or how to use tar, mv, etc. Oh, you're going to teach them about the GUIs. Okay, KDE, Gnome? Application software like Star Office?

    But none of those are Linux-specific, either. They could apply equally well to a host of other UN*X-like OSs....

    I think at the "desktop" level it's not Windows versus Linux. That's the problem with OSs where you can customize and change the desktop to such an extent that it is totally foreign to someone who is supposedly trained under the "Linux desktop".
  • by Junta ( 36770 ) on Monday October 01, 2001 @01:19PM (#2374158)
    As much as many of us love Linux, a lot of people are so used to Windows, or even so fond of it that they may not do well in a Linux enviornment. Imagine if someone came up to you running a Linux desktop, not even doing very hard work, at least nothin beyond the capabilities of Windows, and told you you were moving to windows, and you would at least have to try it. You would make such a fuss, and even in cases when you *know* you could do something and how you would do it, you will tend to say that the task is as feasible under Windows, even when you know this fact may not be true. Same is true of Windows users. Most don't want to learn anything else. And technical users that prefer Windows can be as fanatical as most of the Slashdot community is about Unix. You have to make sure that the costs do not exceed the benefits..
  • Re:Dumb question? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by brennan73 ( 94035 ) on Monday October 01, 2001 @01:19PM (#2374160)
    But it's possible that the person isn't asking to *win* a numbers game, per se; rather, I get the impression that they want to prove that Linux can be deployed on the desktop in largish enterprises. In other words, they want to be able to show numerous examples of large enterprises using Linux on the dekstop (the larger the better, the more like theirs the better), as opposed to showing that there are more organizations with MS than Linux.

  • Re:Dumb question? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by hey! ( 33014 ) on Monday October 01, 2001 @01:46PM (#2374319) Homepage Journal
    It isn't that the question is dumb. The people who think this way have what I describe as a schooling instinct -- there's safety in numbers.

    There's good reason for some folks to think this way, although some of them don't apply to open source. To them the idea that they can just pick up maintenance of a software project themselves is as meaningless as if you told them they could start maintaining jet aircraft if they needed to. It's strictly speaking true, but it's not the business they're in.

    The numbers question is more of a proxy for questions like the following: (1) Are new applications being developed for this platform? (2) Will support for this platform and products on this platform be withdrawn? (3) Will I be able to hire people who can work in this platform? (4) Will future hardware be supported on this platform?

    The answers to these are all favorable under Windows. I think the answers are becoming more favorable for Linux, but they aren't on par with Windows from the standpoint of people making desktop acquisition decisions.

    I think desktop Linux is ready for those who might want to take a chance. These will be people on a restricted budget (like schools), and startups with minimal legacy stuff installed (nobody likes supporting multiple platforms). But for your typical MIS shop, even the enormous projected increases in MS licensing costs is not going to dissuade them until Linux has established a number of unassailable beacheads on the desktop front. They'd rather tell management to pay MS up front than have to go back a year from now with their tail between their legs and an even larger bill to pay.

    This isn't a question of good or evil, its just the way things are in MIS-land. Conservatism and safety rule. Linux will not take the desktop by storm the way it has taken the server market as much as I or you might wish it to. The Largos of thw world are exceptions, although strategically important ones. At best Linux going to advance slowly until it reaches a critical mass. The earliest I see this happening is several years out -- say 2004 -- provided there's steady growth in users and maturity, and that promising early indications are not seriously set back. If and when it does reach critical mass it will crush the opposition with unbeatable pricing, but that may never happen. It also is very possible that destop Linux will never take off in a big way, and remains a server OS and hobbyist desktop.

    I'm basically optimistic, but I think that it will be several years before you can satisfy the kind of viewpoint that needs the answer to the numbers question.

  • by tmark ( 230091 ) on Monday October 01, 2001 @02:01PM (#2374424)
    I'm not really sure if this use constitutes what one would normally consider a 'desktop'. The issues you would consider for specialized, turn-key applications are quite different that the issues you would consider for picking a desktop for the everyday user. There are tons of ATMs and POS machines out there that run OS/2, and some are probably still being deployed, but I doubt many today or then would still recommend OS/2 for the desktop (and I was a rabid OS/2 fan).
  • by Eric Green ( 627 ) on Monday October 01, 2001 @02:02PM (#2374430) Homepage
    For example, my employer standardized on Netscape close to 5 years ago, and it is still corporate policy that the default browser on all installs shall be Netscape. This is on *WINDOWS*, BTW.


  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 01, 2001 @02:14PM (#2374513)
    IIRC, largo switched from an older Solaris/Xterminal system to Linux. The users were probably happy with the speedups and better desktop.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 01, 2001 @02:29PM (#2374640)

    The only desktop markets Linux has penetrated have been all around, over, and under the Consumer PC and business Desktop markets.

    In order to break the egg shell (of steel) and storm these markets, Linux needs one major manufacturer to produce and market a Linux Consumer PC. That is, pre-installed systems at CompUSA, BestBuy, Office Max, Office Depo, etc.

    In order to convince a major manufacturer to produce and market a Linux Consumer PC, we need to present a desktop with:

    o Good Demo Software..
    o Simple, 100% GUI usability for desktop uses
    o A lighter-weight StarOffice or MS Office compatible KOffice..
    o Layman capable system for software installation/uninstallation
    o Layman capable system for hardware detection with driver installation/uninstallation

    In order to get all these features we need:
    o A desktop API that holds still longer enough for programmers to write apps for it. GNOME and KDE teams are ASCII Holes in this respect.
    o A solid BASIC language interpreter or compiler with good database, network, and GUI componant connectivity. Python will not suffice.

    In order to modify this for the business desktop market, we simply need the addition of an Access-like database... That is, visual forms, reports, queries, tables, and BASIC language scriptability--though I think allowing any language of choice would be preferable.

    Do all of the above and a quick victory will be assured.... 100% guaranteed.

  • by Vaystrem ( 761 ) on Monday October 01, 2001 @02:33PM (#2374672)
    A company addressing the needs of its non-technical employees and discovering they weren't up to the task of a more complicated environment than Windows is a reasonable post, there is nothing flamebait'ish about it.

    That usability survey that was up on /. a few months back illustrates the same thing, that many many people are not ready for Linux. Linux is not for the massess yet, and when it directly impedes productivity in a certain area of the business because the users are unable to use it it should be removed because productivity is the key to any business.

    Someone else posted that these non-technical people should be fired? Just because someone can't grok linux doesn't make them a useless employee.

  • by the_2nd_coming ( 444906 ) on Monday October 01, 2001 @02:35PM (#2374697) Homepage
    IBM wants to sell your business solutions, so just call a sales rep and pose this question to them. then you can take this answer to your boss, look like you did great leg work, give him the card of the IBM guy and let IBM take it from there.
  • by charon_on_acheron ( 519983 ) on Monday October 01, 2001 @02:48PM (#2374782) Homepage
    Quoted for those who can't see 0 scores. Leif_Bloomquist wrote "Our operation runs completely on Windows 2000. However, I have set up one old PC with Linux (Redhat 7.1) so that everyone who wants to can give it a spin. "

    For this he was modded down to 0, and tagged Redundant. How can it be redundant if noone else has ever posted how many computer Leif_Bloomquist has running Windows and Linux? It might not directly answer the posted question, which wants the most Linux desktops, but at least let the guy have a voice.

    Have the moderators gotten lousy in the last month, or is this a cyclical thing? (I've been reading and posting for about 4 months now.) Seems every topic lately has posts modded down to 0 and tagged either Flamebait or Redundant, when they don't deserve it. They may not be the most informative and in-depth posts, but they're not trashing anyone or pasting diatribes either.

    Hell, I'm glad this guy cares about Linux enough that he setup a Linux box for his Windows-only co-workers to tryout. Again, how is this information Redundant? Plus, it's not an Anonymous Coward posting, it's someone who is putting his name on his post, and possibly his real name at that. This kind of stuff makes me want to stop reading Slashdot and get back to work. A sentiment I have seen others mention several times in the last two weeks. Maybe it should be a topic in itself.

  • by JebOfTheForest ( 207893 ) on Monday October 01, 2001 @03:40PM (#2375136)
    This is one of the *worst* ease-of-use arguments I've ever heard. Assume a user with minimal knowledge of both windows and linux.

    The user sits down at windows machine and knows he has to change the ip's of his DNS servers, whatever that means. Hmm...well, on windows, one thing he could do is open the start menu, since most things go on there. What next, hmmm..maybe settings, I want to change a setting, okay control panel that sounds better than "printers, desktop, etc". "Network" since this is for my network. Then it gets bad. I don't see how he would guess that he needs to open TCP/IP over the proper adapter's properties, but there are a lot of clear things to try. There is some advice.

    Also, skipping that, he could have seen "network neighborhood" on the desktop and right-clicked it, getting to properties from the context menu.

    Barring all this reasoning, he could have gone to "Help", typed in "DNS", and the second option in the list would give him step by step instructions that sort of thing.

    On linux, he'd see:


    or something. He might know that there are a bunch of text files that he can poke around in in /etc that affect this kind of thing. Let's say he does. He cd's to /etc. Now what? "ls". Wow, lot of stuff. Why would he guess resolve.conf? The man pages are far from a generalized help facility. He'd be SOL.

  • by SLOGEN ( 165834 ) on Monday October 01, 2001 @05:27PM (#2375669) Homepage

    When one wishes to illustrate a missing point in a question, it's commonly known as rethorical trick to rephrase the answer as a "Counter-question" which will help "the other guy" see problems in the question.

    This rhetoric is related to the rhetoric of analogy, allowing you to "reason" about something without explicitly mentioning your arguments (which would be a long story about the value of Open-Source and stuff).

    The original question was (stated in the post) posed in a way that could be understood something along the line of "Well, if linux is so good, then point me to a place where they use it (seriously)", implying a lack of value to the "linux product".

    Since WinMe is not installed in corporate environt, chances are you will not be able to think of a "large installment" of WinME. But the person who posed the question will most likely hold that WinME has value! The "poser" of the question will now not be able to make the argument : "no large installment implies poor value" (without implicating WinME == poor value).

    Most of the time, discussions are not based on presenting arguments, but on pushing rhetoric against non-believers -- this is a tactic many people use when they don't agree with the other part of the discussion (Just look at GPL zealots vs. M$ zealots).

  • Re:Reality (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Jens ( 85040 ) <jens-slashdot@spamfreem a i l .de> on Monday October 01, 2001 @07:17PM (#2376176) Homepage
    The result? They hated it, and productivity went down fast ... as the Linux newbies got stuck trying to figure out why the KDE/Gnome desktops were so illogical.

    I.e. they didn't want to learn some new concepts because they (perhaps unconsciously) wanted to prove their older system was better, no matter what the 'techies' say.

    People would hit the reset button when X died or crashed ...

    I don't know why X died or crashed on yo so often, but

    • what does Windows do when you hit the reset button so often - do your users accept SCANDISK + data loss?
    • why didn't you use a journaling FS?
    • why didn't you educate your users about C-A-Backspace? Is that becaus they didn't want to be educated?

    Today ... There are crashes and annoyances on the Windows side but at least it's usable. Linux simply isn't up to the task yet

    What you perhaps should have done is provide your users with thin clients which they can reset and reboot all they want (if they want), but which would never damage any file systems or data. the City of Largo did this (see dot.kde.org report) and they are perfectly happy. The users. Not (only) the 'techies'.

    But nobody can force a new system down the throat of users who a) don't want it, b) think they still have a choice, c) think their opinion is more important / correct / better / ..., and d) want the 'I told you so' effect to go down on you. (Try giving me Windows. It's not gonna work.)

  • Mac OSX (Score:2, Insightful)

    by kryptik_79 ( 238375 ) on Monday October 01, 2001 @11:16PM (#2376898)
    Someone should point out here that many of the largest and smaller news paper chains in the world use macintosh computers... With the recent release of OSX10.1 and a little push for Adobe to get with the program (photoshop), those will likely be the largest networks of desktops running a *nix os.

Things equal to nothing else are equal to each other.