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Why Linux is About to Lose 654

mpawlo writes "Wired ran an interesting piece by Russ Mitchell in the latest issue of the magazine. Mitchell focus on the so called war between Microsoft and Linux and why Linux will have a hard time winning such a war, and especially in respect of the desktops. The article was only available in the paper issue, but is now also available online."
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Why Linux is About to Lose

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  • by night_flyer ( 453866 ) on Friday October 19, 2001 @10:39AM (#2451295) Homepage
    when Linus Torvalds says they arent even fighting them?
    • by ackthpt ( 218170 ) on Friday October 19, 2001 @10:52AM (#2451377) Homepage Journal
      Linus doesn't even have to be at war with Microsoft, since Microsoft by dint has declared a secret war (or sometimes not so secret in the case .. aha .. AOL) on anyone making any product which isn't in cahoots with them, and on occasion sqaushing their own business partners when it suits them. This would appear, IMHO, to be the foundation of everyone's bitch against Microsoft.

      I heartily advise anyone, who hasn't already, to listen to Bill Gates give a speech. He is a megalomaniac and a charismatic one, besides, buy you really have to pay attention to what he says between the lines. It is very intimidating to hear his version of the future, one in which there really is no competition, but a utopia run by your best and well meaning friends, microsoft.

      • by wirefarm ( 18470 ) <`jim' `at' `'> on Friday October 19, 2001 @12:04PM (#2451767) Homepage
        Go down to the seashore and declare a war against the sea. Bill did that just as the tide began to recede, so it looked as though he was winning. But after a while, you realize that how matter how much you kick at the waves, it has no effect.
        It's a waiting game and we don't have that long to wait...

        • by Gautama ( 153230 ) on Friday October 19, 2001 @12:47PM (#2451996)
          >Go down to the seashore and declare a war against the sea. Bill did that just as the tide began to recede, so it looked as though he was
          >winning. But after a while, you realize that how matter how much you kick at the waves, it has no effect.
          >It's a waiting game and we don't have that long to wait...

          Very nice. I have to admit that I like your metaphores.

          you really don't get it, do you?
          Applause for the form aside, you've missed a few key factors in your wishful thinking:

          Windows works. We may not like it, we may despise their business practices, and we may yearn for the desktop revolution, but the fact remains that Windows serves the purposes of the masses.

          Many of the more vocal Linux advocates are condecending and snotty. Not the majority, but by far, the all-to-yappy minority of Linux evangelists I've had to deal with did little more than alienate me.

          Yes, there are plenty of security problems with MS OS's; but remember, no OS is perfect. A system is only as secure as it's allowed to be, and exploits pop up quicker than boils on a whore's bum. If you do think your OS has no flaws, you most likely need to patch like crazy. Nothing with an OS is perfectly secure.

          Waiting game? What are you waiting for, exactly? Linux is not going to replace MS on the desktop ever. Don't get me wrong, I wouldn't mind it happening (I'm as disgusted by MS's heavy-handed strategies as the next guy around here.) but given their proprietary file formats and universal hardware support, it ain't gonna happen without some major paradigm shifts.

          Of course, these sentiments are going to get me modded down as "Troll", but I really don't care.
          As an IT worker that deals with both MS and *nix worksations and servers on a regular basis, I think my opinion counts for something.
    • Evangelism, etc. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Alien54 ( 180860 ) on Friday October 19, 2001 @11:19AM (#2451502) Journal
      The thing is that the most effective tool to promote Linux is stuff that works well and delivers the goods. Delivers the goods means delivering what people want. This may be very different from the needs of a programmer, for example.

      This is one thing that MS is still working on after 20 years, with occasional interferance from marketing, and which they occasionally get right. Of course, their marketing department has often shaped what people want, but that is another story.

      If Linux evangelists insult the people they are trying to convert, then people will not convert. If they ram it down the throat of someone, then they object, just like people object against MS.

      Remember, to do better than MS you do not have to be as good as MS. You have to be many times better.

    • It's important we do not participate in any techno wars. The time spent fighting can be used to enhance what we already have instead of competing with waste techonology like Windows. There's no desktop war, and there was none. There are _efforts_ to bring good desktop environments to _Unix_ instead of emulating Windows. Wars is MS' objective to eliminate other OS threats (Helloween documents?).
  • by Quazion ( 237706 ) on Friday October 19, 2001 @10:39AM (#2451297) Homepage
    No more MS Os's on the Desktop ?
    Or Linux Everywhere ?

    Both sound bad, what we want i guess is
    a competitive playing ground for OS designers.

    We dont want the best the greatest the fastest,
    we want something usefull and workable or atleast i do.

    Linux is usable for me at the moment,
    i dont care who wins or who is in war.

  • by JeremyYoung ( 226040 ) on Friday October 19, 2001 @10:40AM (#2451313) Homepage
    But he fails to acknowledge the reality that sometimes a linux desktop makes real business sense. Yes, that market is small, and yes if you're looking at it as a war, Microsoft has won. However, in the words of Phil Jackson, "You are only a success for the moment you achieve something."

    Users do want simplicity and ease of use. And it is also true that Linux can't give them this right now. But it's even more true that this can change.
    • by Yohahn ( 8680 ) on Friday October 19, 2001 @10:55AM (#2451395)
      I think that the press frequently misses on the point that Free software is glacial in how it is developed. It is huge and slow moving. To dismiss its effect because of how slow it moves is to miss the size.

      You can't bankrupt free software...

      The idea "information wants to be free" is more of a metaphor. Fact is, information tends to spread with little to no effort. This is what makes free software huge. It can slow down, it can stop for a bit, but.. if necessary, it can pick up again. So while it moves slowly, it never loses ground.

      This guy is impatient. Think more monk like. It may take a long time, but if we keep trying, we will eventually get there. Nothing can prevent that.
    • Right, particularly wrt change. There's been a lot of talk about this recently: "Linux will never succeed on the desktop" and so on. What happened? Did a project deadline just slip? Did someone call out "Time's up, keyboards down, please"? Did we cross some finish line and I missed it?

      The articles and analyses remind me of a couple of years ago, when the wonks were all chattering about "linux just isn't ready for the enterprise". Now, from the article:

      In other words, in the enterprise, Linux has a real shot.

      And now that has become current accepted wisdom, and doubtless everyone says they knew it all along. If you think "linux just isn't ready for the desktop" then don't use it. But is that grounds for calling the game over? Sheesh. Today, linux desktops are fairly usable and improving. Until they stop being usable and stop improving, don't talk to me about "over".

  • by egerlach ( 193811 ) on Friday October 19, 2001 @10:41AM (#2451319)
    ... but I think the 10- or 50-year outlook isn't so clear. Yes, for now Dell has dropped Linux from their computer line, but that may not stay that way. I personally think that the 'Ghandi-esqe' approach that open-source has (i.e. the passive resistance thing - not pushing to sell), not to mention the fact that there is no single company behind it, makes it an invincible force in the long run. Maybe Windows will stay ahead of Linux forever... but that will take a lot of running from a horse that will surely get tired.
    • by acroyear ( 5882 ) <> on Friday October 19, 2001 @10:55AM (#2451394) Homepage Journal
      Dell has not dropped Linux totally. Dell has dropped linux for their cheap, low-end systems, your standard home desktop (so, yes, GNU/Gnome|KDE/Linux isn't "ready" to be a home desktop system...but in my opinion it wasn't meant to be and shouldn't be force-fed into that environment).

      Dell DOES still support and distribute RH7.1 on their workstation and server lines, and states they will continue to do so in the foreseeable future.

      People don't just casually go "I wanna use linux" -- people pick Unix or Linux systems because they want to get something done and have decided that Microsoft products will cost too much and get in the way of actually getting things done. And if you have stuff you "have to get done", generally, you need a high-end workstation or server to do it.

    • by sterno ( 16320 ) on Friday October 19, 2001 @11:57AM (#2451706) Homepage
      There are far too many applications companies who have a vested interest in a vendor neutral operating system. They all know that Microsoft has totally taken over the desktop and that they are slowly infiltrating the server market. And since Microsoft likes to bundle applications together, they slowly drive companies like Oracle, Sun, and IBM to the periphery.

      I'm certain that if any of those companies could have Microsoft's dominance of the O/S, they'd jump at it in a heart beat. But since they know that won't happen, having a standard that nobody dominates is a far cry better.
    • If you're talking a 50 year outlook, then *surely* there will be something mucb better than Linux by then? Linux is and has never been the pinnacle of computing technology. Even Linus freely admits that.
      • If you're talking a 50 year outlook, then *surely* there will be something mucb better than Linux by then?

        I expect "Linux" will not be "Linux" in 50 years or at least not the OS we use today. Linux is an evolving OS. The kernel is becomming more robust and the applications on top of it are becomming much better. It also has something few other OS's have at the moment: A large *community* of developers and users who have a personal AND commercial interest in seeing it thrive. Remember that when MS was 10 - 11 years into the PC OS bussiness, they were still peddling DOS and windows 3.1. Linux has had a much better progression when looked at that way.

    • > Maybe Windows will stay ahead of Linux forever... but that will take a lot of running from a horse that will surely get tired.

      And Microsoft has to run with a very heavy load on its back: profitability.

      MS has to develop and sell Windows in ways that maximize their share prices. Linux developers are bound only by what they actually want in an OS.

      Ultimately, profitability is in direct conflict with consumers' interests, so over the long haul the game would seem to be stacked against Microsoft.
  • by geschild ( 43455 ) on Friday October 19, 2001 @10:42AM (#2451324) Homepage
    To use the paltry 1.5% of shipments of Linux for desktop environments to disqualify Linux as a contender for the desktop shows how little the writer knows about Linux. And the writer worked for Red Hat? Please, somebody hit her with a clue-bat. The amount of shipments tells nothing about the installed base and for desktops you can rest assured that the number of shipments should be multiplied by a _much_ larger amount than with server-shipments exactly _because_ of the reduced licensing cost it can bring for workstations! Don't bother to read the piece, it's useless and shouldn't even have been posted here especially since it's a day old.

    Karma? What's that again?
    • Where does it say the writer worked for Red Hat?

      Russ Mitchell ( , a former managing editor at Wired,most recently was editor in chief of Business 2.0.

      And I've never met a female named "Russ."
      • by ichimunki ( 194887 ) on Friday October 19, 2001 @12:18PM (#2451852)
        The writer of the article was the boss of the woman with the laptop when they both worked at Red Hat's Wide Open News.

        The fact that they both worked at Red Hat means to me that she shouldn't have been running any Windows system to begin with. If she was having trouble with ApplixWare's spell-checker, maybe she should have investigated a Free Software solution or submitted it as a bug report to the development teams that work for the same company she does. Instead she uses (presumably) corporate funds to buy a competitors product instead of helping improve her own company's product?

        And the writer of this article sounds like he has an axe to grind... he stoops to insulting the offending tech based on his appearance, rather than his reluctance to support a major competitors' software. I'm surprised this woman even thought it was reasonable to expect tech support to work on her Windows machine. And her main argument for having a non-standard OS in the first place is spell-checking? Please.
  • by GreenCrackBaby ( 203293 ) on Friday October 19, 2001 @10:42AM (#2451325) Homepage
    Here's a comment from my tech-illiterate wife: "Get that damn Linux installed -- I'm sick of this s**t from Microsoft!"

    If my wife, of all people, is asking for an alternative to M$'s stuff, then there really is some hope. Linux may never get beyond a 10% desktop share, but just giving up because there's no good spell checker for Linux is silly.
    • by quartz ( 64169 ) <> on Friday October 19, 2001 @11:04AM (#2451438) Homepage

      Heh. I like chicks who dig Linux. That's why I married a physicist. :)

      About the "hope" that you speak about, well, yes and no. Yes, Linux on the desktop will never "lose" as such 'cause there's nothing to lose. We write desktop software for Linux because *we* need it. If I want a native KDE Gnutella client and there isn't one available, I code myself one. That's how Linux software gets built. And that's why stupid "what ifs" like the one in the article (What if the Linux community put an end to all the desktop nonsense right now and built on its strengths in global enterprise computing) are pure nonsense. If I want a gnutella client, I will damn well code a gnutella client, not frickin' enterprise software for which I have no use. And no, Linux will never outdo Microsoft on the desktop market, pretty much for the same reason. When I design a program, I design it to fit MY needs. If others find it useful, that's OK with me. But frankly, I couldn't care less about Joe AOL and what he expects from a software package, therefore my software will never work for him.

      So I guess if for some strange reason you want all the world to run Linux, you'd better write commercial software for it. Not necessarily proprietary, but commercial. When the world finds a way to really make open source commercially successful, that's when Microsoft should start worrying.

    • I'd love to see if your "tech-illiterate wife" is happy with her choice.

      So she's fed up with Microsoft, but why does she want Linux? Would she know Linux from *BSD from OS X?
    • by pmz ( 462998 )
      ...just giving up because there's no good spell checker for Linux is silly.

      I have had pretty good luck with ispell. It can quietly ignore LaTeX markup and can be invoked within Emacs. Most ftp sites that distribute Linux/BSD/etc. packages have it.

      If your definition of "good" is something that is GUIfied, then perhaps StarOffice could satisfy you?
    • by tenor ( 29482 ) on Friday October 19, 2001 @12:02PM (#2451747)
      That goes double for my wife. She uses her computer a lot more than I do, and I'm a programmer. She's an elementary school teacher with not enough time and too many students. Oh yeah, she's also a perfectionist.

      For her 12 classes (3yrs old to 8th grade), she needs to make lesson plans, test, quizzes, worksheets, handouts, study sheets, notes to parents, attendance rosters, gradebooks, etc.

      These documents are all done in Star Office with a lot of help from image manipulation tools.

      Linux supports all of her needs, has never crashed during any of her all-nighters, and networks well with all of the other machines in our SOHO.

      At school, however, she uses 98 and NT. NT she doesn't mind too much, except that she doesn't get to use the Gimp and Nautilus (which she adores). But 98 drives her insane.

      I have learned a lot about Linux by taking on administration of a busy woman's machine. Over the years I have had to do a lot of little hacks to get things just right. Now, however, I can take a default 7.1 install of RedHat and she is perfectly happy. All of the little workarounds I used to do myself are now part of a standard distrobution. This is immensely important. I used to worry that if I got hit by a truck my wife would not be able to find any of her files and would end up reverting to Windows in my absence. That is no longer true.

      She is now trying to find ways to introduce Linux to her students, as she thinks that Linux is a real choice for education. Considering that she works for a school that rations white chalk and pencils, the money to keep upgrading those Windows boxen is just getting too expensive. They have a nice computer lab at her school, but you can bet that the next upgrades of the hardware and software in that lab will coincide with Windows 2009.

      Linux has come a long way on the desktop, and that is fantastic. It has become a real server powerhouse, too, and that is fantastic. But for the author of that article to say that Linux should focus on the server is suicidal. We all know that a Sun server will beat the pants off a Windows server. Always has, most likely always will. So would a SCO, BSD, Linux, or any other *nix. But that has not saved their bacon. Why? Because nobody has the money to pay for a decent sys admin (as Microsoft even concedes). Command line tools and config files? Not for the average sys admin. Microsoft learned that it is easier to sell a lousy server machine running a nice desktop than it is to sell a nice server with a lousy/non-existant desktop.

      As programs like linuxconf evolve into highly usable administration tools, more people will give Linux the time of day.

      I personally look forward to a future with all-open source protocols and programs. Instead of trying to get the next version of SMBS to work with Linux, perhaps the open source community should put its energy into finishing promising alternatives like Coda, with both Linux and Windows clients (but only Linux servers - back at ya, Microsoft).

      I think that the war is over, but Microsoft just doesn't know it yet. Whether anybody buys Linux is irrelevant. So long as this mass of programmers continues to build better and better software, the user community can wait. And with all of the BS going on with the RIAA and MPAA getting in bed with Microsoft, it is only a matter of time before users are desperate for an alternative. By then Linux will be as good or better in the desktop realm as Microsoft.

      So hackers, keep working on those office suites, USB drivers and eye candy. The war IS over.
  • The technician who didn't bother to backup her
    data files should have been fired on the spot!
    This is totally unacceptable behavior.________
  • I don't see any reason to be concerned about what this individual is saying. We all know some people care about linux and some give it a bad name. Myself it is a great idea, a revolution if you will and I intend to use it regardless of the desktop numbers.
  • Easy. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by dave-fu ( 86011 ) on Friday October 19, 2001 @10:44AM (#2451335) Homepage Journal
    Linux is written by geeks, for geeks.
    MS/Windows is written by geeks and business types, for business types... and geeks. Who controls the pursestrings in the enterprise?
    Which OS spends millions on UI design? As long as Linux continues to move ahead with fragmented windowing systems, it'll continue to fail to compete with Windows on the desktop.
    If you've learned nothing else from models, it's that sometimes it's better to be pretty than smart.
    • Re:Easy. (Score:3, Informative)

      by spacefem ( 443435 )
      I disagree.

      Yes, it was written "for geeks by geeks", but the number of geeks who care about the rest of the world is growing every day. I use Linux as on my desktop, I'm an electrical engineering student, not a computer geek. I'm also urging girls who live with me to do the same, and for one or two of them it's working quite well. Yes, we have our problems, but overall we're really happy with what's going on and feel a lot more invited into the "geek world" by just running linux than we ever did with Windows. The future includes the general population, hackers know that, and we're really appreciative.
    • People say that Microsoft spends millions on UI but I don't believe that.

      Perhaps I'm wrong and they do spend millions on UI but certainly none of that ever reaches their products.

      Take the "open file" applet for example.

      No one knows what all the little buttons do. People are constantly confused by where to find their files. From looking at the file applet you have no idea where in the filesystem a file is. The file applet hides most of the files in the directory anyways so that people always wonder, "HEY! WHO DELETED MY FILE!?!." Then you show them the little pull down menu and select to show "*.*" and they feel pretty stupid. But they're not stupid it's the monkeys at Microsoft who are on crack! And for experienced users it's just as bad. Openning any file seems to take an average of 8 different clicks and pull down menus to get to the @#$%@#%@# stupid directory where the file is.

      Perhaps that's your idea of user friendly but it's certainly not mine.

      (To be fair part of the problem is also the badly organized filesystem. Microsoft, for some reason, is completely opposed to planning and organization. I think they feel that planning things hurts their creativity).

      If you want to see a half decent user interface try OSX.

    • I use linux with KDE at home as my primary desktop. When I am using that computer I am not thinking about what the CFOs of America think.
  • by SmileyBen ( 56580 ) on Friday October 19, 2001 @10:44AM (#2451340) Homepage
    This was posted yesterday or the day before on Linuxtoday, and the thing I really didn't understand is not why people keep posting articles like this that claim to explain why Linux will never succeed, but why editors don't correct the headlines.

    Very, very little of this article is about why the author thinks linux won't succeed on the desktop - what it is about is why Linux isn't *currently* on the desktop.

    Sure, for example, we don't have an Office killer *currently*, but where exactly does he explain why we can never have one? Nobody can seriously be so conned by Microsoft as to believe that we'll always be playing catch-up. Obviously there will come a point (very soon, IMHO) when Linux word processors have every function most users could possibly want - just because Word adds new extraneous features every release doesn't mean those are necessary, and certainly doesn't mean people use them (or would miss them in a Linux equivalent).

    I'm just constantly bemused how people seem to make the inference from 'linux isn't currently on the desktop' to 'linux will never be on the desktop'. There may be some good reasons why this might be, but this article certainly doesn't offer any conclusive ones as far as I can see.

    Seems to me that there will come a point where a free operating system can do everything current OSes do, so the intuitive step is to ask 'Why when that happens will people pay for an OS instead?' - surely the burden is on people claiming linux will never win the desktop to answer that, even if that time is a year off or whatever.
    • by Azghoul ( 25786 ) on Friday October 19, 2001 @11:03AM (#2451435) Homepage
      The guy has no clue. On page 1 or 2, he says that you can't get drivers for linux. It's sooooo hard. (never mind the fact that any real distribution these days detects just about everything right on install).

      Then later (page 4) he says "Linux is effectively a commodity and can be made to work on any hardware system."

      Reconcile those two, if you can. I can't.
    • by Gaijin42 ( 317411 ) on Friday October 19, 2001 @11:08AM (#2451458)
      Actually, what I got out of the article on Wired (print version) is that he works extensively with Linux (he worked at RedHat), and thinks it is technically superior. But he thinks that OS wars and flames, and (he specifically mentions) /. Rage are counter productive to the movement.

      He says that if Linux slowly eroded the MS base, it would win. But instead you have guerilla IT departments go through and trash peoples computers, and make linux-ites look like a bunch of freaks.

      He specifically mentions an incident at RedHat where a biz. person had some Excel documents. The documents had some heavy duty macros and whatnot which would not work under any of the linux competitors. She installed Excel. She had an issue with her drivers or whatnot, and when she got the computer back from IT, excel was gone, along with her documents. The IT guy said it was her fault for being a traitor to linux.

      Summary of article : Linux is great, but the long haired freaks are gonna make it lose.
      • by Cato ( 8296 ) on Friday October 19, 2001 @12:26PM (#2451895)
        The Red Hat techie who erased her files was irresponsible and stupid - you don't win people over by switching them without consultation, and particularly not by erasing people's data. However, it's unlikely that this would ever happen outside a Linux-only culture, so it's hardly applicable to the rest of the world. One idiot does not make a trend...

        Linux evangelism needs a lot of work on subtle and effective techniques (as opposed to flaming), but this is not really a good example.

        The biggest stimulus to Linux on the desktop is Microsoft's recent squeezing of its installed based for more revenue through changes to its licensing model - there are several local government and police organisations in the UK that are going to save millions of pounds through switching to Linux.
    • Sure, for example, we don't have an Office killer *currently*,

      ...and they've been trying for years. Linux attempts to compete with Office have so far not given Microsoft any reason to take them seriously, but if the Linux apps ever did become a serious threat you shouldn't think for a moment that MS will continue to stand still (as I feel they've been doing since at least Office 97). Remember Netscape? MS is perfectly capable of ignoring something for a long time, then suddenly turning their massive firepower on it when they feel the time is ripe to do so. They just haven't felt that the so-called Linux alternatives to Word, Excel, etc. have been worth wasting bullets on...yet.

    • by zulux ( 112259 ) on Friday October 19, 2001 @11:52AM (#2451684) Homepage Journal
      Were alrady there for some userse - I'm a consultant for a bunch of small businesses, and have been replacing the "front desk" computer operating systems with Mandrake 8.0 in KDE mode and AbiWord. The secretary types love it becuse they can't "break the computer" and they don't loose work. Just make sure your printer is supported with CUPS and away you go. Granted, the Linux desktop can't replace the whole MS-Office desktop, but in actuall use (for the correct type of user) I've had great sucuess with the above.
  • Too bad... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by wrinkledshirt ( 228541 ) on Friday October 19, 2001 @10:44AM (#2451341) Homepage
    It seems that the article is motivated by an anger towards the fringe lunatics. This is too bad -- wiping a hard drive and installing linux on it isn't a linux problem, it's a stupid fucking employee problem.

    As for whether or not Linux is going to lose on the desktop, time will tell. It's staying on mine, but I don't do any word processing that other people need to see. I do find it funny that the writer considers the competition for the desktop a bad thing, and writes it off as duplication of effort. I suppose there's an argument for that, but you might as well say that Darwinism is a duplication of effort when it comes to evolution -- the only other recourse is to accept being stagnant or having your evolution determined for you. No thanks.
  • by karb ( 66692 ) on Friday October 19, 2001 @10:46AM (#2451350)
    So, basically

    1. Tech zealot linux-head deletes windows (tech zealot windows-head would do same thing to linux) and makes the author mad.
    2. Since the linux desktop is behind, it will always be behind.
    3. Since linux on the server is behind, more work should be exerted to catch up.

    Unfortunately, I think the desktop is the passenger train of the golden age of railroads. You don't do it because it brings in the cash money. It's a mindshare thing. How else can you explain microsoft's now-dominance in the server market? They didn't do it by ignoring user-friendliness, that's for sure.

  • by GunnarR ( 161157 )
    between the desktop and the server.

    The way open source development works you scratch
    you own itch. If you need better server support
    you do that, if you need better desktop clients
    you do that.

    This is no crusade against Microsoft. It is a better way of developing software.
  • So this means.... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by scorp1us ( 235526 ) on Friday October 19, 2001 @10:47AM (#2451358) Journal
    That since linux isn't there now, it can never be?

    If anything is to be learned from the last 5 years of OpenSource, is that it is very dynamic and can play catch-up very quickly, usually measured in weeks.

    We need an idiot version of linux. When you can fully run and configure a linux system without VI, Emacs, Pico, cat, grep - and do it all through a consistant well-thoughtout GUI will be the day that linux is ready for the corporate & home desktop.
  • by jshep ( 194929 ) on Friday October 19, 2001 @10:48AM (#2451360) Homepage
    Windows suffers in two areas: reliability and usability. Obviously, Linux is quite good w.r.t. the former, but not so good w.r.t. the latter. Windows seems to crash everytime I'm really doing something important. Linux has only crashed on me once in my entire life (remarkable, I'll admit).

    However, usability is king with users. Most users who have seen Windows for the first time simply can't figure it out because it doesn't map to their mental model of how the system should work. Double-clicking? Minimize a window? Right-click to bring up "hidden" actions? Click "Start" to find the "Shutdown" command? These things are counter-intuitive to any beginner, and even seasoned veterans are confused when a new version of Windows comes out due to MS's inability to adhear to their own standards. This is an area that Linux could have capitalized on, but unfortunately developers were too interested in developing GUI's for developers... not the average Joe.

    This is why Linux will "lose the battle." You can point to monopolies and such as long as you want, but in the end the user makes the decision what he or she wants, and the user will say that the switch to Linux doesn't offer enough benefits to justify a shift.
    • But its not to late for a develpoer to make a GUI for the Average Joe... Linux has recieved much press, its name is becoming more and more recognized... now is the time to develop such a GUI *if* that is the direction they want to take, if *not* then there isn't a war to begin with
    • Most people who hop on a motorcycle for the first time simply can't figure it out, either. That doesn't prevent anyone from learning how to operate it, even if they take it up at a late stage of life (like my 70+yr old neighbour did!)

      I don't think it's accurate to say that Windows suffers a usability problem.

      And with the advent of Windows 2000 and, so I hear, Windows XP, the reliability is pretty good, too. Speaking for myself, my Win2K has never blue-screened, and has been seized-up-tight only by beta versions of Xxxxx.

      Linux loses the battle for my dollar in two areas:
      1) Applications -- it simply *does not* have the applications I use to make money. Period.
      2) Ease of Use -- I'm not going to dedicate days of hurdle-jumping to set up the damn system. Give me an easy, complete install and sensible, safe defaults. I've grown out of tweaking and geeking, having come to realize the importance in spending my time productively (ie. making money using my system).
    • I agree with you - until the end of your second paragraph:

      due to MS's inability to adhear to their own standards. This is an area that Linux could have capitalized on, but unfortunately developers were too interested in developing GUI's for developers... not the average Joe.

      This quite simply misses the point of the way OSS GUI development has gone. Yes - in the beginning, it was all about the developers. Then, as more users came in, they started having individual itches to scratch, and due to the open nature of OSS, those with the programming skill to do so, could scratch their itch, and come out with a GUI of their own, that fixes their own problem. Then, by releasing it to the world, either in the form of a patch (for small itches) or a full-fledged fork of the source code (for broader-ranging itches), other users could benefit.

      As this process goes on, the GUIs become more and more usable and intuitive - not just for the people who have been using them - but for new users as well. Believe it or not, there are some developers who make changes to GUIs in the interest of making them "easier to use".

      Sure - there are about 40-50 different window managers out there - and some would say that "fragments" the linux "desktop experience". I disagree - I think it give the user *choice* of how they want their system to look/work/run. Maybe I don't want all those toolbars and taskbars and such that KDE/Gnome offers. I can run Blackbox or WindowMaker. Maybe I want a COMPLETELY customizable GUI. I can run Enlightenment. Maybe I want a UI very similar to one from Redmond. I can run FVWM95, or more realistically, KDE. Maybe I want the bare minimum. There's PWM, TWM, and a multitude of super-lightweight window managers out there to fit the bill. You can work in an environment that suits your productivity - without someone else dictating your interface to you. That's the key. Sure, it may take you a while to try out a few different ones to find one that fits you, but once you do, you won't want to go back to the strictly-enforced-by-someone-elses-idea-of-what-is -usable interface offered to you by MS.

      in the end the user makes the decision what he or she wants, and the user will say that the switch to Linux doesn't offer enough benefits to justify a shift.

      I disagree here as well. Often, the user is *not* given a choice - because of MS's marketing strategies, pretty much any home user desktop (or standard office desktop) will come with the latest version of Windows on it - whether you want it to or not. (This is part and parcel of the DoJ's conviction of MS for illegally leveraging their monopoly) Try ordering a laptop with Linux or FreeBSD from Dell or Gateway. Try picking one up at CompUSA loaded with *your* choice of OS. You won't be given that option. You're forced to buy a machine with WIndows, whether you will replace it with Linux/BSD/whatever or not. That sale will count towards the number of WIndows systems shipped - regardless of what OS you end up running on it.

      If you want the latest games, you have to run Windows, because hardware vendors don't release open specs to their hardware, and it takes the linux driver hackers time to reverse-engineer the interfaces. Game developers can't wait for 3rd parties to hack drivers together that probably won't perform as well as the ones written by the vendor (who has unfettered access to the specs) - and thus they develop their games for Windows. Places like Loki are trying to fill the void, but their choice of which games to port is rather lacking, IMHO.

      If you want to have full access to various multimedia files, you have to run Windows (or MacOS, but they're not in the x86 OS market). Most Quicktime formatted .mov files won't play under linux (or any other free OS) because the Sorenson codec is used, which is unavailable due to licensing. This is a key reason why my fiancee won't switch from Windows. She downloads and watches many videos from the 'net (we are blessed with a wonderful DSL connection, at least for the time being) - and is unable to watch them under linux due to the lack of codec support. To her, this is a fault of the OS, when in reality it's the fault of proprietary codecs.

      Want to play store-bought DVDs on your DVD-drive equipped linux system? Not withgout breaking US law! Windows 2000 (and thus I'm assuming XP as well) comes equipped with a software DVD player that plays *most* commercial DVDs (although it refuses to play my copy of "Storm Riders" which my component DVD player plays just fine) - and because you're forced to take Windows with most new systems, most users think the DVD player is "free". With linux, you have to find a copy of the CSS libs (which have been outlawed under the DMCA) and hook them up to one of the DVD-capable players out there. To many, this will seem a fault of the OS.

      I'm convinced that users would like to have choice, and they would like things to work. They don't care about who owns the copyright, or what codec things are encoded with. They want to play a movie file, or a dvd, or play a game. RIght now, they can have one, but not both. With WIndows, you can have these things work - but you give up choice. With linux, you get choice, but some things don't work. Of course, the other issue is stability - MS is admittedly working on it, but they're not there yet.

      As the linux desktop environments mature, they will get better and better. That's not the issue, and that's not why users are going with MS. They're going with MS because they're either not given a choice, or they want compatibility with proprietary standards.

      OK, rant mode off - I need caffeine!
  • Everyone talks about this supposed 'war' on the desktop. I don't really believe that a 'war' has started ... much less been won or lost.

    Sounds like this guy is just upset because some holier-than-thou tech deleted his data and rightfully so. The guy has a bitter taste in his mouth, thus the article

  • Development Rate. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by kkirk007 ( 304967 ) <kkirk007 AT yahoo DOT com> on Friday October 19, 2001 @10:50AM (#2451370)
    But what that article fails to take into account is the very rapid rate of development happening in the Linux desktop community. Very soon Gnome 2.0 and KDE 3.0 will be released, which are both major steps in their respective projects. What has Microsoft put out lately? Windows XP with the Luna interface, which after having played with, I can definitely say I'm not impressed (Mac OSX is still the best eye-candy).
    The point is, Linux is usable, but still in development. At the rate that support for linux is snowballing and more and more people get onboard, Linux will be as good or better than M$ in, I'd guess, about two years.
  • I do not understand this "war" for supremacy in the OS world. If Linux users are concentrated on winning, they should direct their energy on writing good, bug-free code, not only on the OS, but the apps as well!

    Address the complaint. Speedie's complaint was about the apps. The Linux kernel is relatively stable. Let's create some stuff to go with it.

    The way to win a thorugh a superior product, not saber-rattling.
  • ...and we should immediately conclude with the question are we lacking in any way from a server operating system perspective?

    Linux as a server remains very strong; Samba can emulate a PDC, free Sybase is an MS-SQL Server 6.5 lookalike, complete replacements for an Exchange server are available, and Linux supports the whole family of UNIX server protocols. There is simply no excuse for Windows in the datacenter from a basic OS-functionality perspective.

    True, there have been significant weaknesses. ext2 has been a problem for some time, but this is (close to) getting fixed (it would really help if the distributions would coordinate some of their work). I wish ipfwadm/ipchains/iptables would stop changing. We still suffer from significant fragmentation, which is most dangerous, for it is fragmentation that severely damaged commercial UNIX.

    So is fragmentation the biggest danger in the server space? Are there even greater risks?

    As far as the desktop market goes, no one in Linux is serious about desktop market share unless and until a major distribution releases a "Win32" edition with layered WINE optimized for running Windows binaries.

    I do wish that we could get serious.

  • Speedie needed to use Microsoft Word because the Linux word processors at her disposal were saddled with spellcheckers so abysmal they caused more problems than they solved, skipping over misspelled words and offering bizarre alternatives for words spelled correctly.

    Strange...that's my experience with the Microsoft spell checker. Or with any other spell checker. None of them are perfect; nor are they intended to be a crutch. They're just tools to help find typos.

    A decade later, Linux is lauded as a technical success. But as a business, it's a flop.

    Why do we insist on measuring everything by the dollar value?

    What if all the mental energy, the rage on Slashdot message boards had been concentrated on building solid business models in enterprise computing?

    That's strange; the impression I got from the whole article was that of some junkie posting a rant on a bulletin board. I don't see him out developing the next greatest platform, and yet he pans others for doing exactly what he does.
  • M$ Shite (Score:4, Insightful)

    by tonywestonuk ( 261622 ) on Friday October 19, 2001 @10:55AM (#2451393)

    Microsoft will beat Linux on the desktop because they control the way PC's are installed at the manufacturer. Linux will Never surpass Microsoft, unless their grip over the Major manufactures, with the secret OEM licence, is broken.

    Eg, hypothetically, Microsoft could just about to release a new OS, called M$ Shite - This will be worse than MSDOS, Take ages to boot, be non-gui, bugger up the HD's boot patition table so that only a Low Level format will put things right, and only run MS branded crippleware, and not allow any other software installs. Unfortunetely, they are also strongarming the Manufactures to preinstall this next generation software, so that every PC sold from BESTBUY, or PCWORLD, without exception, will come with it pre-installed.

    I wonder how many people will still stick with the OS their PC came with, in this situation regardless, 30%? 40%, maybe even 50%. Many people do not know the difference between the OS and the Computer, and don't even realise that they can change, and wouldn't even know if they would want to.

  • It is simply idiotic to call this a "war" between linux and windows. Like Linus said in his recent interview, he doesn't really care about the competing OS's.... Linux is not about taking over the competition. Linux is in essence, a hobby, although it's proving itself to be quite strong in certain areas...

    Linux will most likely never die, because it is an excellent platform for development, and it makes a killer server box :)

    The desktop 'scene' will be mixed and quite possibly dominated by Windows products for a while, but as people become more aware of Linux and its advantages, and more developers choose to
    write code for Linux and other *nix clones, this situation might change.

    Yes, it's true that M$ officials bash Linux and free software in general every chance they get, but that just means that _they_ see it as a threat, esp. as more and more folks lose interest in MS software due to MS's inability to provide well-tested and secure software for mission-critical apps, such as web servers, etc..


  • Think long-term (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Stiletto ( 12066 ) on Friday October 19, 2001 @11:00AM (#2451418)
    Ten, twenty years?

    In the future when we think ``computer'' we won't picture a big beige box under the desk with wires running all over the place, and another big box with a beam scanning back and forth across a piece of glass.

    If Linux lost the desktop PC, that's fine, 'cause the days of the desktop PC dinosaurs are numbered.

    The computers of the future are smaller, faster, and cheaper--Three words NOT in Microsoft's vocabulary.
    • by knobmaker ( 523595 ) on Friday October 19, 2001 @12:57PM (#2452047) Homepage Journal
      Another point to bear in mind is that although Microsoft controls the American desktop market and to a large extent the market in other western democracies, most of the people in the world do not live here.

      That leaves a very large market unexploited. While it may be difficult to imagine your average camel driver as a computer owner, it was even harder 30 years ago to imagine the average American as a computer owner.

      At some point, international aid agencies are going to start distributing simple inexpensive computers to thirdworld villages. If the Linux community is alert, they'll see that these machines are running Linux, and it shouldn't be a hard sell. Linux will run on very inexpensive hardware, is free, and even more important, Linux users are not charged for upgrading their systems in the way that Windows users are.

      The consequences of developing a base of users several billion strong could be enormous. Bright kids are just as likely to be found living in mud huts as in gated communities, and if Linux recruits these kids into the Linux development fold, they will vastly outnumber the developers in the Microsoft camp. The most important asset in the OS wars is sheer brainpower. Microsoft may soon be overwhelmed by a tide of thirdworld coding geniuses.

      So, Linux zealots... join the Peace Corps and spread the Linux meme to the world.
  • War? What, I thought this was a relatively free market? Aren't we allowed to continue competing even if Microsoft has over 90% marketshare?

    This is utterly stupid, of course Microsoft has "won" any supposed war, they have a friggin monopoly. By this logic of there being a "war", Microsoft had already won before Linux was even written.

    The point of Linux, however, isn't to break Microsoft's monopoly, it is to simply be a good operating system. IMO, it is that.

    Unlike a war, there is no beginning and there is no end. We can all keep trying as long as we want... barring some serious draconian legislation that makes open source software illegal.
  • by jonabbey ( 2498 ) <> on Friday October 19, 2001 @11:06AM (#2451449) Homepage

    If we Linux folks give up on the desktop, we will eventually have to give up on the server, unless the states and the DOJ get really wise about remedies.

    As it stands now, the biggest single factor, by far, driving Microsoft server technology into the enterprise is the fact that Microsoft desktops want to talk to Microsoft servers. Jeremy Allison made this point on the LinuxToday talkbacks for this article, that the reason Exchange gets pulled into companies is because Outlook (part of office, and so bundled everywhere) has to talk to Exchange to do calendaring and scheduling. Exchange 2000, at least, needs to talk to ActiveDirectory. ActiveDirectory and Windows 2000 really, really want to absorb the DNS function (or else you're stuck with either a lot of manual overhead to manage the SRV records, or else you have to enable Dynamic DNS updates with a total lack of security because Microsoft doesn't support any open DDNS standards, they simply use the ActiveDirectory ACL's for security..)

    See how that works? It's like dominoes, and Microsoft is supremely willing to set them up and knock them down.

    Even though we spent 5+ years developing Ganymede, we're getting massive pressure on us to adopt ActiveDirectory because that's what Microsoft says Windows 2000 really needs, and because the protocols that Windows 2000 uses to talk to its directory services are proprietary and non-documented.

    Microsoft is like a cuckoo bird, that lays its eggs in the nests of other birds. The eggs hatch, and out pop the baby cuckoos, who then proceed to shove all the other eggs out of the nest.

  • If only he'd deleted her Microsoft applications, Windows, given her the $$$ cost of the apps and OS back, and most importantly NOT DELETED HER WORK FILES!!!

    Did she have a backup?

  • this is not war (Score:3, Insightful)

    by evenprime ( 324363 ) on Friday October 19, 2001 @11:12AM (#2451471) Homepage Journal
    open source is an alternative that gives users more power to control their computing environment than closed source software does, but it is *NOT* a war!

    We need to stop describing stuff in such combative terms. That's part of what turns businesses off and prevents them from trying open source software. Businesses view people who talk about software choices as war as a bunch of loons. If you want to get linux on the desktop, point out that it is a high quality, low cost alternative to the software they are currently using. Give specific examples that match their current products.

    Remember, this is not war, noone will die over this.
  • Why a war? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Snjit ( 18259 )
    Why is the desktop and what's running on it always referred to as a "war"? And what does "Microsoft has won." mean? Does it mean that right at this point in time they dominate? Yes. Does it mean they will dominate next year? Maybe. 5 years? 10 years? It certainly doesn't mean that we've quit and gone home because there are still desktop environments that are being developed and improved continuously that Microsoft doesn't own or contribute to.

    To make broad statements like this seems a little silly to me when its applied to things like technology and open source. Technology (and the desktop) is always evolving and evolution implies a change both in what is dominating and how.

    Wars and battles are discrete things that refer to a point in time and imply that once its over its over. Technology wars can only be fought between corporations and are only won when one corporation gives up or goes under. When applied to open source that comparison just doesn't work. Stop equating the changes in desktop technology to a battle and lets discuss it in terms of where it should be going and how we're going to meet the needs of people using them tommorrow. Evolution will take over.

  • Some friends here run a server farm for a school district. They switched to Linux on ALL their servers. They say that the maintenance required with Linux is far less. And, of course, there is no software upgrade cost. A Microsoft sales person called and asked why they had not done any business recently.

    It seems to me that the reason for Microsoft's increased abusiveness is that every top Microsoft executive has plenty of experience seeing 5 years ahead. They know they don't have long. So, they want to gouge everyone as much as possible now.

    The referenced article says that Linux can compete in the server market. You can be sure that, if there are people on staff that know Linux, there will be constant attempts to put Linux on desks.

    The article said, Linux boosters insist that if free downloads and pass-arounds were counted, that figure would be even higher; and they're probably right.

    Probably??? Certainly.

    Conversely, Linux managed only 1.5 percent of shipments in the desktop market in 2000. And that sliver is unlikely to grow in 2001.

    Except, of course, the Chinese and Thai and maybe Indian governments are switching to open source software, partly because they are afraid of possible back doors in U.S. software. Only the governments of 2 billion people. And some state and city governments in the United States. And... And...

    Desktop computer users care about what they can do on their machines. They want reliability, simplicity, access to popular software, and the ability to communicate easily with other users.

    More nonsense. Many work users have computers dedicated to one task. If they don't want that one task to crash, if they don't want Bill Gates coming around and deciding on new ways of abusing them, they can do what?

    As for its programs, Windows and Word sometimes drive me nuts.

    Is that because they are buggy and quirky, and have numerous security risks due to low-quality source code?

    Secret U.S. hostile action tries to enhance oil profits. See the new section, "Avoid the common mistakes" in What should be the Response to Violence? []
  • No Choice (Score:2, Interesting)

    by _johnnyc ( 111627 )
    I read the print version of this article, and while I enjoyed it, it has serious problems.

    First, he suggests that everyone would be better off if Linux (or any other open-source alternative) just gave up on trying to create a competitive desktop to Windows. The situation with BE makes it clear that there can be no commerical alternative to Windows that can succeed because of the MS monopoly, so open source solutions are IMHO the only choice. He suggests that Microsoft's Windows is and will always be the only choice on the desktop for consumers, and that trying to work on alternatives is a waste of time. In other words, let's just accept that MS are a monopolist and not try anymore. Having seen where KDE has come from in the last 3 years, I beg to differ.

    He also states that "The Linux desktop offers very little that could be considered plug-and-play.". He goes on to talk about the lack of drivers for scanners and digital cameras, not exactly the kind of peripherals everyone has with their PC. At any rate, I've installed hundreds of Windows and Linux PCs, and I can say with confidence that Linux is in fact more plug and play on hardware it supports than Windows is. With the 2.4 kernel, this situation is improved.

    With Windows, I install the hardware, boot the machine, install the driver, reboot the machine. Hopefully it'll work, and to be fair usually does. With Linux, I install the hardware, boot the machine. No fiddling with obnoxious drivers, no reboots.

    I've been very impressed with a distro like RH 7.1 in this regard. In my experience, a standard networked office PC is far easier to install with RH 7.1 than any Windows PC. Less time less hassle. As for digital cameras, I know a few who would beg to differ on their ease of installation in an OS like Win 98.

    Anyway, the article hasn't convinced me it's time to cede to Windows. Since I've used and supported both, I'd say that Microsoft's success will continue depend on the bundling of software like Windows Media and IE, not on its superior hardware support.

    To all you desktop developers out there - keep up the great work!
  • by iomud ( 241310 ) on Friday October 19, 2001 @11:22AM (#2451517) Homepage Journal
    In the end there will be a great battle between good and evil, and evil will probably win.
  • Dow 25,000 (Score:2, Funny)

    by W.B. Yeats ( 236617 )
    Yeah, a couple of years ago Wired crowed about the soaring stock market and how it would never end because things were "different now." I think you can almost take Wired pronouncements, reverse thm, and have a pretty good look at the future.
  • Here here!! (Score:2, Interesting)

    by OMrsirhal ( 529037 )
    "You are only a success for the moment you achieve something."
    Phil Jackson

    "Seems to me that there will come a point where a free operating system can do everything current OSes do, so the intuitive step is to ask 'Why when that happens will people pay for an OS instead?' - surely the burden is on people claiming linux will never win the desktop to answer that, even if that time is a year off or whatever."

    Most people don't now what success entails!
    no word processor = rubish operating system
    • Re:Here here!! (Score:2, Insightful)

      by W.B. Yeats ( 236617 )
      The only problem with your argument lies in this question:

      Why do people by Rolex instead of Timex?

      Our society is almost entirely based on branding. Why do people by Tide instead of Cheer? It's the same stuff!

      Buckminster Fuller had a lot to say about the loss of innovation to marketing -- I think things have only gotten worse since he died.


  • Basically he says that people should stop working on the Linux desktop because it has no hope of replacing windoze. As a Linux desktop user, sure i'd like to see everyone switch, but even if they don't i still want a good high quality desktop on a real O/S. Just because we may never make windows go away, is no reason to stop working on alternative packages.
  • I don't like this statement one bit. An analogy I would present is PalmOS vs. WindowsCE. Palm clearly had "won this war", but it clearly wasn't "OVER." WindowsCE is making slow progress in market share, and will probably overtake PalmOS eventually (opinion! I own a Palm, love it)

    I think the Desktop fight is a good fight and can be won by Linux. Everyone loves an underdog, but not everyone will fund one.

  • Then his grin would have been answered with "Hit the street right now. You're FIRED."

    Issues of OS "treason" or "loyalty" are secondary to getting one's job done in ANY company, and vaping a user's OS and legitimate data files without authorization is NEVER an appropriate action for an IT support person. This isn't an example of Linux fascism, but rather one of a loose cannon of a technician who is a danger to the company.

    Any info on how that scene actually played out?
  • We're at war with Microsoft?! Holy cow, no-one ever tells me anything!

    Free clue to all would-be Web journos: when Linux made that comment about "world domination" all those years ago: he was joking. Really. He was pulling your wire. Jerking your chain. Taking the Michael. Extracting the urine.

    'Kay? 'Kay.

    No doubt it's a waste of brains and time to even bother refuting this windy gibberish, I'd like to make a few points.

    No-one has made money out of Linux and everyone who tries goes to the wall. To paraphrase Bill Hicks: non-Linux businesses go to the wall every day. Bob Cringely has reckoned that 90% of all businesses fail. The Linux has no innate monopoly on business smarts.

    A sizeable population of Linux advocates are foul-mouthed social inadequates. Again, so what? I had invective-laden ZX Spectrum/ C64 flamewars with my mates when I was eight years old. While there is a human race, there will always be bigots. Is it impolite? Yes. Is it unprofessional? Surely. Does it amount to two tugs of a dead dog's mickey in the long run? Nope.

    It's a war between Microsoft and Linux out there. Oh get a grip, you solipsistic little nonentity. Try to see beyond the VDU on your desk for a minute; in the light of recent events, your inflation of a trend within the IT sector to the status of a war are laughable and tasteless. Sure, there are the windbags on both sides of this MS-vs-Linux thing who read earth-shattering importance into everything, who think installing Linux on their PCs is some sort of subversive act. Nonsense.

    I use Linux because it suits my needs. I also use Windows and MacOS. I don't feel any desire to conquer the world. I don't feel like I'm part of some "war for the desktop". No sane person does.

    One wonders why WiReD bothered printing this giddy nonsense in the first place. Could it be that no self-respecting techie reads WiReD even though it likes to think of itself as the official organ of tech culture? Is that acid green they favour in their layouts really the colour of sour grapes?

  • Regarding the Spell Checker comment, I can remember the days before the spell checker, when you either learned to spell, or learned to 'grep dict' and find the correct spelling yourself. I hope Linux Desktop tools don't get hurt trying to kow-tow to user weeknesses produced by Microsoft Tools. Maybe there's a better way.

    I'm not saying a spell checker is an unnecessary crutch, just that in general too much emphesis is being placed on MS features, without understanding their real need. "Becuase MS has it" is not a need.

    [Whiney Voice]Oh! Oh! Where are the nested queries! This tool SUX because there are no nested queries![/Whiney Voice]


  • I'm so glad that this has been posted to Slashdot! I'd been meaning to write a letter to Wired about this but was too lazy to get it done before the next issue came out....

    The article has the Open Source movement all wrong. The author treats the Linux desktop issue as if it were IBM versus Microsoft, not Open Source versus Microsoft.The author spends most of the article lamenting that the Open Source movement is wasting its energies worrying about the desktop, when Microsoft owns it.

    To put things in more pompous terms, the author spends a lot of time bemoaning the opportunity cost of spending time on the Linux desktop, and claiming that this time should all be spent on the server market.

    This shows a total failure to understand the Open Source movement. The Open Source movement is not Open Source, Inc. Linus, Eric, RMS, or whoever is your pick for Open Source, Inc. CEO can't just say "yo! KDE-boy, toss in the towel on this desktop thing and spend more time on the server!" or "yo! I know you want to make a totally excellent system for tracking your MP3's, but you should be improving Apache, instead!"

    People write Open Source software because they want to improve the tools that they use all the time. People who use desktops will want to improve the desktops and people who use servers will want to improve servers. And those people are not fungible --- they can't just be reassigned. And I think ESR's spot-on in the book when he talks about the fact that a lot of the quality of good Open Source software comes from the fact that people can't be reassigned to projects they don't give a rip about. People are passionate about the software they write, so they try to make it good.

    The author's failure to understand this key fact about Open Source makes his whole perspective into nonsense.

    The article might make sense as an argument about what Open Source packagers should be doing, but even there, the packagers are largely driven by software producers.

  • All this work, and ... it doesn't matter. Desktop computer users care about what they can do on their machines. They want reliability,
    getting a heck of a lot better---linux is worlds simpler than it used to be
    access to popular software,
    This seems extremely short-sighted to me. How can linux desktop software become "popular" until linux desktops become more popular? cygwin, maybe?
    and the ability to communicate easily with other users.
  • by pubjames ( 468013 ) on Friday October 19, 2001 @11:47AM (#2451653)
    I read the original article (bigger than the online version) and I can only say it was a very flawed piece.

    He started of recounting the story of some jerk tech. admin that deleted Windows and all other files off one of his companies staff laptops and installed linux. He then used this as one of his arguments as to why Linux wasn't going to succeed. How clever is that?

    These are the facts as far as I can see them:

    A new process has come in to the world. That process is called the open source development model. This allows commercial quality software to be developed by diverse entities around the world. These entities can be individuals, public bodies and governments or companies with an interest in the particular piece of software. Each can make a small contribution to a larger project. The software created is often distributed for free.

    Because of this, it is very unlikely that there will ever be an Open Source software company with Microsoft's level of turnover. However, Open Source Software is not dependent upon any particular company for its success and is not reliant on anyone making a particularly great profit from it. More important are the savings that people can make from it.

    The Open Source Development model has only really gained momentum over the last few years. In that time, some projects have demonstrated an increadible rate of development. Although it is true to say that many Open Source project still lag behind their commercial equivalents, the rate of progress of these projects suggests that this won't be the case for long.

    Microsoft makes the majority of its profits selling an office suite and several operating systems.

    It is now trying to change its licensing model to one of rental, rather than one-off payment, because the software is just about mature and there is increasingly little incentive for most businesses and organisations to upgade. The change makes Microsoft software an on-going cost for businesses, even though new releases do not add much in terms of essential new functionality for most busnesses.

    Therefore, Microsoft's core business - the products that make most of its profits - are under threat from a new process. Just as new processes during the industrial revolution completely destroyed certain previously profitable businesses, so will new processes, such as the Open Source Development model, destroy certain types of buiness. Microsoft is likely to be one of those buinesss. In the long term, it is impossible for any business to seriously compete with free equivalent products.

    Arguments like "Linux isn't ready for the desktop", "Dell decided not to ship Linux on the desktop", "What about support?" are all short term issues. Think big picture. Think long term. Think worldwide. Think fundamentals.

    Microsoft is doomed unless it can radically change its business to something completely different, and maintain it current turnover levels, which from where I'm sitting looks like a practically impossible trick to pull off.

    And hey, I'm typing this in IE on Windows 2000, I'm not a Microsoft hater. It's just I think the world is changing and there's not much Microsoft can do about it.
  • My use and enjoyment of linux does not detract from the use and enjoyment of XP or OSX users. Linux developers are happily creating software for their own enjoyment - how is this enjoyment diminshed by someone else using another OS?

    I don't think anyone is disputing that Microsoft has won the majority of desktop users, but the issue is, who cares?

  • Lose what? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by jotaeleemeese ( 303437 ) on Friday October 19, 2001 @11:49AM (#2451666) Homepage Journal
    Some people just don't get it: Linux is not about market share, Linux is not about wining anything, Linux is not about profits.

    Linux is about choice.

    The day one gets tired of MS you can try something else: it can or can't be what you want or need (I don't need an spell checker for instance, you people can suffer my English ;-) ) but it is there for you to try.

    Does it work for you? Great, you are welcome. It does not? Bad luck, let us know and we will try to help. Can you program? Can you translate? Can you write documentation? Then would you like to help improve the thing?

    And what is the brilliant alternative? Do nothing? Is this person suggesting to abandon the project of desktop computing in the hands of a company that has been deemed acted ilegaly? Uh, no thanks. In particular poor countries can't afford this alternative.

    If there are companies and individuals out there trying to make a living out of Linux, great. If they can't make money that means their busniess models are flawed, not that Linux is flawed.

    It is really an insult to the intelligence of many brilliant people to assume that the Open Source programmers will never manage to produce something "user friendly" (like if Windows was, all those "Windows for Dummies" or "Learn Office in
    24 hours" books are telling the real history: MS products are also difficult to use).

    Dismiss this thing as mostly nonsense. It has some marginal value for any company that
    wishes to make money with Linux in the user's desktop. For anybody else it amounts to little more than a rant written by somebody that is angry at an incompetent IT person in its company.
  • by Junks Jerzey ( 54586 ) on Friday October 19, 2001 @11:53AM (#2451687)
    The simple, most basic fact of Linux on the desktop, is that that great majority of users fit a certain profile:

    1. College student or fairly recent college graduate.
    2. Strongly dislikes Microsoft.

    Now, now, this is a blatant stereotype, but there is truth to it (heck, I thought geeks would hate Star Trek and for being mass market, condescending, and that people _expect_ geeks to like it, but Star Trek threads on Slashdot can get more than a thousand postings).

    Students tend to use computers in fairly simple ways: browsing the web, playing MP3s, writing papers, doing programming assignments, playing games, exploring free software. Now keeping this in mind, when you see such a person zealously proclaim that The Gimp is superior to Photoshop for graphic arts work, you have to stop and wonder. So on the one side you have people with much passion but limited to no experience arguing that an open source program is just as good as a commercial offering. On the other side you have professional graphic artists who put The Gimp and Photoshop side by side and are stunned that they're even bothering which such a comparison.

    The bottom line, for me, is that we should be seeing much less Linux advocacy than we currently do. If I met someone who ran a small business and later found out he used Linux or some open source software for some tangible reasons, then this would be interesting food for thought. But when I see threads like this:

    A: I find it disturbing that a number of popular e-commerce sites don't work under Linux, either because Mozilla doesn't render them properly or because they require Windows-only tech, like ActiveX scripting.
    B: Bah! I don't _need_ to go to sites that that! F**k em!

    Then I realize that "B" isn't someone who uses computers. He's someone who dinks around and has a chip on his shoulder and shouldn't be listened to. Sadly, there's the impression that a majority of Linux users are like B.
    • Now keeping this in mind, when you see such a person zealously proclaim that The Gimp is superior to Photoshop for graphic arts work...

      First, I know a professional graphic artist, and the problem he has with the Gimp is mainly the UI. I'd imagine any "zealot" who recommends the Gimp is probably a fan of GTK and has no trouble getting around. Sorry, I don't use either program so I can't really can't elaborate. Second, how many people actually own Photoshop? Everyone recommending Photoshop is completely ignoring the fact that it costs hundreds of dollars. Maybe because no one pays for it? Hardly a fair comparison. It's funny how many people use Windows 2000 as their home desktop (and recommend it) yet did not pay for it. My theory is that it's a close second to Photoshop as the most pirated program. Folks, cost matters and should be part of your final decision. If someone can save hundreds of dollars by using the Gimp, then maybe they just might want to get used to the UI. Don't just toy with gimp for 30 seconds and say "ugh, I can't stand this. Time to reboot back to my pirated Win2k and Photoshop". Give it a chance.

      Phew. :) * End of rant *

      B: Bah! I don't _need_ to go to sites that that! F**k em!
      Then I realize that "B" isn't someone who uses computers.

      And what is a person supposed to do then? There are certain sites that you can't access if you're using a Mac. Should the person just throw the computer out and get a Windows box? People use what they use.
  • The last time anyone designed a board with the intention of supporting Linux drivers for it was 1998. There was a time we thought winmodems were bad. Not many slashdotters remember what a winmodem is but since 1998 every piece of hardware can be considered specifically designed for Windows. Not that not having desktops which can run Linux is bad. When was the last time anyone wrote a story about a desktop PC?

  • The undisputed masters of look and feel. I stopped reading their rag after about the third issue, but they still hurt my eyes when I spot them on the stands at the locak B&N.

    I've seen users use UNIX with a hell of a lot less desktop environment than you can get with Linux. Take away the nastiness of actually setting the system up and I find the level of Linux user friendliness to be about comparable to Windows. Given that, saving a couple of hundred million a year in Windows licensing fees should be pretty compelling to just about any CIO.

  • A Different View (Score:3, Interesting)

    by SomeOtherGuy ( 179082 ) on Friday October 19, 2001 @12:12PM (#2451813) Journal
    Saying that desktop installs (of Linux) will not grow in the future is a very big mistake. 1 Reason I will give is like this: More than 1/2 of "desktop" users are finding that most of their work is happening via a browser and email client. Up until recentlly it is a well known fact that linux lagged WAY behind in the Browser market....but anyone using Galeon, Konq, or even the commercial Opera....can see that the gap is closing FAST....It took a few years to get here...but in those few years the browser has taken over the the main (not only) thing Linux needs to compete is a simple browser...and the time of a level playing field in rendering HTML pages is drawing near.

  • by dcavanaugh ( 248349 ) on Friday October 19, 2001 @12:30PM (#2451916) Homepage
    Without Linux & OSS, just imagine how restricive M$ would be with their products and business practices. Some people think M$ can't get much worse, but I think it can. M$ would make XP a mandatory immediate upgrade AND enforce product registration COMBINED WITH the rentware provisions of "Software Assurance" were it not for the threat of Linux desktops.

    MS Office at $2000 per seat? Aside from Star Office and other OSS projects, what stops M$ from doing this?

    I think Linux/open source can dictate features that M$ must include to keep pace. In effect, Linux can prevent M$ from breaking out each "feature" into a distinct product and revenue stream. Example: If Linux was not already doing IP masquerade, you would not see "connection sharing" thrown in as a freebie with Windows.

    Linux & OSS do not have to "win" the game, they simply have to maintain pressure on M$.

    The article states that M$ has won the desktop battle. I see plenty of weakness in M$'s position. Consider their diminishing upgrade rate with each new product release. The XP licensing practices border on desperation to lock people into the upgrade treadmill. As I see it, XP is the beginning of the end for M$.

    Winning the battle and holding onto victory are two different concepts.
  • by LoudMusic ( 199347 ) on Friday October 19, 2001 @12:32PM (#2451920)
    I have to admit that about 2/3 through the article I stopped reading, because I've heard it all before, and it's all very true. If I look at my friends around me I see them doing the same thing. A couple of them have removed Windows and installed a sloppy install of Linux on their parents' computers, and a few sysadmin friends that I have have even done the same at work (resulting in nearly getting terminated).

    If the Linux community as a whole would like to see Linux succeed in more than small shop servers and geek workstations, someone is going to have to spread the word that Linux can't be forced on those that don't want it.

    Lets relate it to the Christian movement. What do we call Christians that won't leave us along in elevators and in lines at fast food? Turbo Christian Bible Thumbers. They irritate the crap out of me, AND I'M A CHRISTIAN! They're going about it wrong. Christ didn't bug the crap out of people about "Hey look at me, I'm the son of God, w00t!". No, he meerly lead by example. Geeks can do the same quite easily, and I've seen a few examples.

    Run Linux on your computer, make it rock solid and bad ass. People will notice and want to give it a try, even if it's just surfing the web on your Linux Mozilla browser. Help them, but don't trash talk Microsoft or Apple in the processes. If they ask what you like about Linux (and they will), tell them the possitive things about Linux, but don't *compare* it to anything else. Just say what you like without trash talking something else. You might even want to point out a few of the problems it has, but mention that Linus and Alan are working on those things, *with help from the ENTIRE LINUX COMMUNITY*. Maybe that will light a bulb in their brain that shows them the difference between open source and ... ahem ... other operating systems that we all know have problems, but we have to sit and wait for an individual group to fix (:

    And yes ... Linux in its current incarnation is for the geek community. My Mom and Dad would be so pissed if I took their Windows away. Just about everyone where I work would be outraged if I took Windows/Office away and replaced it with Linux/OpenOffice. Right now it just doesn't get the job done like Windows can. Give it time, all good things come to those who wait. The geek community needs to chill for a little while and let the OS and software get up to 'desktop snuff' before we take on giants like Microsoft.

  • by gdyas ( 240438 ) on Friday October 19, 2001 @01:06PM (#2452099) Homepage

    The perception of some silly "war" is in itself part of the problem.

    I like Torvalds' take on it. Just work on what you're working on -- make it better because then it'll be more useful to YOU, or your friends. They say in business that one of the surest ways to fail is to be always watching the competition. It turns you into a follower. A true leader, be it a CEO or an OS, works on making the best product possible. Though he's cognizant of the competition's moves, he doesn't make them his preoccupation, because then he'd be thinking about what THEY'RE doing, not what HE'S doing.

    Mr. Torvalds gets this. Most here don't.

  • 5 Minute Analysis (Score:3, Informative)

    by docwhat ( 3582 ) on Friday October 19, 2001 @03:05PM (#2452596) Homepage

    Okay, let's start with the beginning. Mr. Mitchell first (rightly) complains about someone at Red Hat wiping the contents of some worker's laptop to replace Windows with Linux. This is first, a straw-man argument (we can't argue against it, but it has nothing to do with linux, but with a stupid Tech).

    Likewise, his arguments about one peice of software (generalized into all Linux word processing software) at a point obviously somewhere in his past (but not current, he no longer works there) isn't terribly suprising, or valuable. It doesn't say anything except that some version of Applixware in the past, didn't do a great job of spell checking.

    Then Mr. Mitchell tries to gain our confidence in his ability to criticize all of linux by saying he appreciates Linux "Technically". The fact that Mr. Mitchell then says that the "Linux community is a muddled and unfocused lot" really shows that he doesn't understand how Linux is developed. This is an open source, anyone-can-play, large group of people who can (and usually) do what they want.

    Mr. Mitchell's claim that the "the war [for the desktop] is over" is also bizarre. This is something I have heard a lot, but it makes no sense. Was the "war" for department stores over after Sears? How about for the railroads? Nothing is over. The world keeps going. And, as I said above, people in the Linux Community can and will do what they want.

    The claim that one part of a community is distracting the community as a whole is also another fallacy. This is not provable and most likely doesn't reflect reality. People who work on the desktop do so because it's what they want to do. They may do desktop work elsewhere (maybe for Windows or Macs) if they didn't have Linux. You don't know.

    Of course, what Mr. Mitchell is really saying is that he doesn't think competition is worthwhile. Doing something for the thrill of doing it isn't worthwhile. I disagree. Every major advancement, and many minor ones had people who weren't motivated saying things like, "Who cares? Can't be done. No one will want it." and have been proven wrong.

    I'm going to wrap this up, because I got side tracked and have other things to do. But consider his final statements. Mr. Mitchell wants the Linux Community to give up because he wants Linux to succeed. This is defeatist and makes little sense. The Linux community should do what it wants to do.

    Finally, just because I have to say this. If you work for a company that sells an OS, you should make all efforts to use that OS. Period. The president of Ford does NOT drive a Toyota. The company cars are not Nissans.

    Well I don't know about you, but I feel beter.

  • by rickmoen ( 1322 ) <> on Friday October 19, 2001 @04:49PM (#2453029) Homepage
    [Cross-post from the LinuxToday thread:]

    Just mulling over Russ Mitchell's anecdote about his former employee, Anne Speedie. That description of her files being deliberately clobbered by a smarmy, scrawny, black-t-shirted Linux technician has such a conveniently mythic quality about it, doesn't it? We have the stereotyped Linux geek. We have the unrepentant and gleeful callousness. We have the outraged but helpless everyday office workers, persecuted by the former.

    Seems tailor-made for Mitchell, doesn't it?

    The more I think about it, the more I suspect that the story has, to quote Tolkien, "grown in the telling". Or, more specifically, that crucial parts of the story have been strategically omitted.

    For instance: Mitchell (then Speedie's boss) says he confronted the scrawny, black-t-shirted technician about the deliberate mass-deletion when he was just supposed to "get some dial-up software installed", and the latter just stared back and smiled. And...? At that point, Mitchell and Speedie just dropped it? Why on earth would they do that? Wouldn't the logical next step be to escalate up the IS Dept. organisational foodchain? The account as written more than strains credulity; it leaves credulity in a body-cast.

    Could it be that Mitchell's assertion about "getting some dial-up software installed" is a fabrication, and that Red Hat's IS Dept. has a firm, well-publicised policy that company-issued laptops will be reloaded with the supported Red Hat Linux load, when sent in for service, unless the user makes specific arrangements to the contrary? Could it be that Mitchell knew that Speedie had no cause for complaint, but is just incensed that his former employer didn't let him override software policy on company-owned machines?

    Could it be that Speedie ignored company directives about data-file backups, or that her files were in fact backed up for safekeeping, but she and Mitchell are just steamed about losing her unauthorised and possibly bootlegged modifications?

    We don't know any of this, because telling the latter half of the story doesn't help Mitchell's polemical stance. But it's not difficult to guess what he doesn't want to tell us.

    Rick Moen
  • Rambling drivel (Score:3, Insightful)

    by rickmoen ( 1322 ) <> on Friday October 19, 2001 @05:00PM (#2453091) Homepage
    [Cross-posted from the LinuxToday thread:]

    I strongly suspect that Russ Mitchell's whiney apologia for failure wouldn't have had a prayer of seeing print if he weren't -- let's see, isn't it brother-in-law of the managing editor?

    Anyhow: Mitchell was one of the lightweights brought aboard as part of the short-lived San Francisco Web operation. I suspect he was with Atomic Vision, the Web design house, when Red Hat acquired it and then tried and failed to get them to produce useful work: Wide Open News started out fairly pathetic, and never got better. And for that botched job, Mitchell got a hunk of San Francisco real estate? Hmmpf.

    Speedie needed to use Microsoft Word because the Linux word processors at her disposal were saddled with spellcheckers so abysmal they caused more problems than they solved, skipping over misspelled words and offering bizarre alternatives for words spelled correctly.

    Such drivel. Even the system's built-in ispell utility provides excellent spelling checking.

    Conversely, Linux managed only 1.5 percent of shipments in the desktop market in 2000.

    This is of course the time-honoured pastime of playing games with numbers. He's almost certainly quoting some uncredited source (if any) on preload sales, which tells you nothing at all about the amount of Linux actually in use on desktops.

    PC makers are concluding that consumer Linux is too small a market to mess with: Dell Computer recently dropped Linux from its desktops and notebooks.

    Actually, Dell never did support Linux in any meaningful way: You even had to pay a sizeable premium to get a Red Hat preload, compared to getting the much cheaper bundle with Win32 crud and then loading the Linux distribution of your choice. Smart people did the latter. All that's changed is that Dell dropped a basically worthless configuration option, and simplified the conversation scripts that their telephone support people are allowed to follow. And guess what? The number of Dells with Linux on them, despite vendor neglect, continues to climb.

    ...anti-Microsoft ranting...

    The charge is obligatory in this genre of article, but, honestly, the place you hear the overwhelming share of anti-Microsoft ranting is from that company's captive user base, not from those who've eluded its grasp.

    A decade later, Linux is lauded as a technical success. But as a business, it's a flop.

    Notice how, here, he completely changes the subject of conversation. The article was purportedly about why Linux cannot "win the desktop" (tra la), but now he's talking about the fortunes of companies. Not the same discussion at all. (Probably, the unstated assumption is that development of worthwhile software requires well-funded companies devoted to them. Which is not obviously the case.)

    What if all the effort that's gone into writing desktop drivers that peripheral outfits don't care to support were redirected toward drivers for corporate environments?

    There are no such thing as "desktop drivers". This passage is gibberish -- but it's obvious that Mitchell is entirely clueless about the technology.

    Linux has been on the industry's radar screen since the mid-'90s, yet the vast majority of applications available for Windows and Mac don't exist for Linux.

    The trick when you're making a non-sequitur argument like this is to carefully avoid stating it explicitly, but instead only imply it. Then, people probably won't notice that you've just pulled a fast one.

    To wit: Mitchell is implying that the only way productive and useful software comes into existence for Linux desktops is to be ported from Win32 or MacOS. Which is, of course, completely false. But he's preaching to the choir of people who've never heard of any other software, and who refuse to believe that such software exists unless they see it shrink-wrapped on the shelf at CompUSA.

    I would wager good money that, in the year that Mitchell impliedly attempted to use Linux, that he made no effort at all to truly attempt to acclimate himself to the thousands of packages that Red Hat's IS Dept. undoubtedly handed to him on a platter. Instead, I'll bet he sat back and whined about how much he wanted back his MS-Outlook, MSIE, and so on, not caring about the security exposure to his company or really anything else.

    [Michell has a passage where he complains about alleged lack of hardware support.]
    You'll note that Mitchell's idea of where to look for hardware support is, invariably, to visit the manufacturer's Web site. Consider: A full year of working for a Linux company, and it never dawns on him to start with the Linux Documentation Project or with Google. Simply amazing.

    Nontechnical users continue to have a hard time installing Linux.

    Guess what? Non-technical users continue to have a difficult time installing Microsoft operating systems, too. But I'll bet that Mitchell has never actually installed any OS in his life. He probably thinks he has, harking back to the day that he put his name and S/N into a preloaded Microsoft "welcome" screen, and then (of course) rebooted.

    Matthew Butterick, a former member of Red Hat management who ran Web operations from the company's 35-member San Francisco office, disagrees.

    Right: The Atomic Vision Web weenies are clearly expert on OS technology and strategy. {cough}

    Frankly, KDE 2.2.x strikes me as a good bit easier for naive desktop users to learn and become productive with, than are Microsoft Corporation's messy and inconsistent desktop offerings. But Mitchell and Butterick's yardstick is, predictably, people like themselves who will settle for nothing other than exactly what they're already useful, and will whine until they get it.

    Serious technical issues must be resolved, the biggest of which is scaling.

    Yet another subject in which Mitchell is clearly out of his depth. Scaling can occur in any of several ways, not just the SMP approach Mitchell discusses briefly. In the latter area, with the 2.4.x kernel's ability to scale well to around eight CPUs on a motherboard, Linux has surpassed all but a couple of OSes, without the sluggishness on uniprocessor systems typical of, say, Solaris. But one can also scale by switching to faster CPU architectures, or through one of a couple of different varieties of clustering. And guess what? Linux is a leader in both areas.

    Gartner's Weiss understands Linux's appeal to IBM.

    It's not surprising that Mitchell digs up quotations from Microsoft Corporation's chief shills in the IT industry, Gartner Group. (It's usually analyst George Weiss, these days. It's unclear where the formerly ubiquitous Rob Enderle has gotten off to.)

    So: You won't learn anything about Linux from this article, but Red Hat's early closure of its San Francisco Web office becomes suddenly much clearer.

    Rick Moen

Q: How many IBM CPU's does it take to execute a job? A: Four; three to hold it down, and one to rip its head off.