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Linux *Won't* Fail on the Desktop? 861

HanzoSan sent in a story claiming that Linux will Succeed on the desktop, and not just the server market where it already has had much success. I think that the latest version of KDE has demonstrated that it can compete, but with the increasing dependance on file formats that have no support on Linux, it's going to be awfully difficult. That said, Linux has been my desktop for many moons, and I don't plan on changing it (Maybe If Apple released TiBook's with 3 mouse buttons I'd at least have an option ;)
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Linux *Won't* Fail on the Desktop?

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  • by Computer! ( 412422 ) on Friday February 22, 2002 @11:39AM (#3051418) Homepage Journal
    I installed Yeloow Dog Linux on one of the iMacs in our Dev lab (first Linux install ever), and man, was I impressed. Hundreds and hundreds of apps came with, and as a lifelong Win/Mac user, I felt comfortable right away. Since that experience, I have stopped bitching about Linux useability. Thanks, Linux! (sparkle from teeth)

    • by aardvarkjoe ( 156801 ) on Friday February 22, 2002 @12:20PM (#3051779)
      Well, there's an idea. If we got everyone bitching about linux usability on slashdot to actually try using it, maybe they would stop.
    • As a person who has installed Linux on a Mac, I find the above post ludicrous. Infact, why has it been modded so highly when the majority of people have no idea what the actual experience of installing Linux on Mac is like?

      Comparing the 'useability' of Linux to the MacOS is laughable. It really is. Why do you think people pay a premium for Mac hardware? For the performance? It's for the UI, and the UI alone.

      So I don't think I'm being particularly unkind to Linux to suggest that it has a long, long way to go to be comfortable at all to the average Mac (or Windows for that matter) user.

      Remember, one of the first stages in solving a problem is accepting that it exists. Denying it to everyone you meet isn't going to make it go away.
      • I recently bought a shiny new G4 with OS X. For many things it is very good, and I love the menu bar at top of the screen thing. But there are many ways in which the UI of my Linux and Solaris boxen with Window Maker is massively better for me.

        The corners of the Mac are ignored, save for some lame option about screen savers. The buttons of the tile bar on the Mac OS X are close togother, rather that on opposite sides, making that part difficult. The cut and paste on the Mac is rather difficult, being a combination of mouse and keyboard, rather than pure mouse use.

        The few times so far I booted into OS 9, it's been pretty bad (for reasons other than the UI), so I haven't learned much about that. :P

        Compared to the Windows box that I use for games, though, the UI on the Mac is wonderfully advanced.
  • by JohnHegarty ( 453016 ) on Friday February 22, 2002 @11:41AM (#3051431) Homepage
    Until some universal file formats are agress by all the compaines out there , then it will no take over. But when your document can be opened in an os , on any word processer... well that will be the end of ms won't it.....
    • by Lumpy ( 12016 ) on Friday February 22, 2002 @12:02PM (#3051626) Homepage
      This is true if the IS and IT people out there stay lazy. Me? I configured EVERY new machine that comes in to make Word not to save as a DOC file. but as RTF. this didn't implode the whole business causing chaos and burning HR people with sales people flinging themselves out the windows as many Microsoft lovers here would like people to think. Noone noticed. RTF flies around fine.. and I now have people asking clients to send them a rtf file of that document.

      This is how chaing to a universal format starts and spreads.. Non lazy IT admin makes a change... now if only another 50 IT admins do this... DOC would be a rarity within months.
      • by Pauly ( 382 ) on Friday February 22, 2002 @12:22PM (#3051795)
        Non lazy IT admin makes a change... now if only another 50 IT admins do this... DOC would be a rarity within months.

        Or you could simply take advantage of all those lazy admins and write a simple macro virus that configures Word in this way automatically. Imagine it, millions of Outlook users blithely opening an email with a subject "Improve Your Sex Life!" that actually does what it promises!

        • Agreeing with the other guy, and being fairly proficient with VB and macro viruses (I read and sometimes unobfuscate the code), I quickly got to work...

          Working with Word 2000, they pretty much allow anything to be scripted, including MOST of the options. There's actually an Options object, which is accessable from the Application object. It consists of 160 some odd properties which can turn on a number of options, but I CANNOT change the default Save option. Oh yes, it's there in the Diaglog box, and I can change the default Open format to RTF from the Options object, but I CANNOT change the default Save option.

          There are 20 some options dedicated alone to "Format As You Type", how often auto save kicks in, Grid Distance, Hebrew Mode, INS Key For Paste, RTF in Clipboard, etc.

          But there is no option for changing the default save to RTF.

          Seems to me Microsoft doesn't want an easy way to give IT administrators an easy way to change the default save option for hundreds of machines.

      • I asked a writer to send me a word doc as rtf and even included instruction. She was going to be paid $250 for the story, but wouldn't bother saving it as rtf, so we didn't run her story and she didn't get paid.

        I think the real problem is that most people are way too lazy to learn even a slight variance in what they do, let alone a huge one like change their OS:

        luser: Where's Word?
        bofh: KOffice.. right there on the toolbar.
        luser: But it doesn't say 'Word'
        bofh: It's the same thing.
        luser: I like Word.
        * bofh renames link to say "Microsoft Word" *
        luser: Thanks!
    • by walt-sjc ( 145127 ) on Friday February 22, 2002 @01:00PM (#3052184)
      This is what I did. I setup a Windows box that acts as a document converter. Incomming emails are scanned for .doc's by procmail which sends off the word doc to the windows machine. A VB script takes that file, opens it in word, and causes word to save it as RTF. The rtf is sent back to procmail which adds it back as a second attachement. So now each email has both the original .doc file, and an rtf version (you want to keep the doc file for various reasons (sometimes you lose info.)

      I also setup drop-box directories for employees to put old word docs and a vb script generates an RTF version.

      You can do the same with other "common" proprietary file formats. We also have a few windows boxes setup that can be accessed via VNC to run various legacy / proprietary apps (I thought about writting a proxy that finds the next "free" machine automatically."

      While this doesn't totally eliminate windows, it cuts it way down. The document converter alone eliminates 95% of the reason to use Windows.

      For people with a larger need for Windows, VMWare can be useful.
      • Have you made the code (procmail & VB script) available for this? It might help a LOT of other people...
      • If you have multiple machines accessing your "few windows boxes" to run Office, then you must pay for a license of Office for each machine.

        Office is not licensed per user, it is licensed per machine. A single workstation that has 20 people walking up to it and using Office needs only one license.

        A desktop machine that has 20 people accessing it via VNC or any other means needs 20 licenses.

        There is no Concurrent Licensing of Office.

        You are in violation of your End User License Agreement.

        Despite how reasonable, practicle, and "fair" you idea seems, it is illegal. Not for any technical or moral reasons, but because of a silly EULA.

        All that said, I like your idea of a drop-box directory to convert .doc. I don't know if t his would violate the license agreement or not. Regardless, could you post your code for others to see and use?

        Thank you.
    • I still have a hard time believing that MS Office and .doc are going to be the tough part of getting people to choose OSS over MS software.

      I don't believe people are _that_ afraid to try an OSS office suite. Maybe a little intimidated, but not truely scared.

      I think the real resistance, the real fear, will show up when you try to get people to give up Quicken or MS Money in favor of some OSS replacement.

      IMHO, people will be much more worried about looseing their banking info, check book ballances, account numbers, payment histories, and other financial information... By comparision to worrying about formating of a frigging .doc vs. a .rtf, which do YOU think they will worry about more?

  • Mindshare (Score:3, Insightful)

    by crumbz ( 41803 ) <<remove_spam>jus ... o spam>> on Friday February 22, 2002 @11:41AM (#3051433) Homepage
    It is important to see Linux succeed as a viable alternative to Microsoft. Especially here in the U.S. With the global trend of open source software picking up steam (German govt., China), the U.S. cannot afford to rely on Microsoft as the provider for all desktop and server OS as well as major applications. Look at the security problems we are seeing currently and multiply it by an order of magnitude with each major OS upgrade.

    It really comes down to a balance of money, intellectual property rights and giving users the tools they want. Let's hope that the U.S. doesn't squander it's lead in this area because of a lack of options.
  • Hmmmmm... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by PowerTroll 5000 ( 524563 ) on Friday February 22, 2002 @11:43AM (#3051445)
    I support disseminating Linux as freely as AOL does its CDs.

    Perhaps that might be a good idea. The big advantage of free software is the fact that this could be done. You can't beat the price. However, people do not have the same awareness of Linux as they do AOL.

    How about an ad-campaign a la IBM Infrastructure commercials [] to explain Linux in plain English? Without awareness, few would be likely to pick up the CD.
    • they also don't have the knowledge, time, or desire to put it on their computers.

      AOL was something that (in theory) could be removed.

      you put Linux on there, you can't just click "Uninstall" and have it go away.

      Just what we need, 50,000 pissed off people killing all the penguins in sight b/c we are wasting 5.0G of their precious MP3 space.

      I don't think it would be a good idea at all. Put the money into commercials supporting Linux (like Good Morning America for LUG's).

      That's my worthless .02
  • IMHO... (Score:2, Funny)

    by Drakula ( 222725 ) of two things has to happen. The average user must become more computer savvy, including being able to deal with a command line and wanting to understand to some degree what the OS is doing.

    The other thing is Linux will have to become more like a the black box that other OSes are. Everything is hidden and little to no knowledge of what is going on is required.

    It is unfortunate but if you look at other technologies, similar things have occurred. For example, look at the automobile. The complexity of them has gotten to the point that the average driver has little idea of the inner workings and they don't really want to know anyway. I realize this is a bad analogy but hoepfully it makes some sense.

  • by DagnyJ ( 206386 ) on Friday February 22, 2002 @11:45AM (#3051464)
    I guess that depends on whose desktop you're referring to. Linux is already popular on geek desktops. Getting Linux on the desktops of your average Joe (or Jane) is entirely different.

    I would be mightily impressed if a distribution of Linux was released that my mother could use easily.
    • Yeah, it doesn't pass my "Dad" test either. When you have to talk someone through opening a console window, ungzipping a file, untarring the file, running make... you realize how wonderful Windows Install programs are. Wizz-bang-click-next-next-next-finish. Really until my dad can install applications without having to open a console window, Linux isn't ready for the average home user.

      • by anpe ( 217106 ) on Friday February 22, 2002 @12:19PM (#3051771)
        Unless you're an advanced user you don't need to unzip untar or whatever to install a program.

        If you're not using a Slackware 0.1a, you will be able to find some admin apps to manage your packages in your GNOME or KDE menu ...

        Compare comparable things : if you want to install something from the source under Windows, some actions a bit more complicated that next-next-next-finish are involved : your dad would have to launch MSVC++ and hapilly compile every new release of Word.
      • by Lumpy ( 12016 ) on Friday February 22, 2002 @12:22PM (#3051800) Homepage
        so you didnt give him a real distro then? I'm confused as to why did you give your dad a non newbie linux box?

        my mom.. I email her a file... she copies it to her KDE desktop and double clicks on it. it asks for the administrator password and it is done.

        I walked her through that once, and now she does it on her own...

        What kind of alpha-ware are you making your dad install that isn't available as a rpm or easy to install binary package? I've eve seen a couple of apps now bail on rpm and use the Loki installer now...

        please get him off of slackware, an advanced linux distro and give a newbie the braindead distro... redhat. it works great and is easy.
      • I'm currently working on a solution to that problem.

        There is really no reason why we can't have binary compatability between x86 distributions. What's really missing is a common packaging format. One that actually includes ALL nonstandard required libraries, and is self installing. (Meaning that it is a self installing executable that has no non-standard library requirements.)

        The difficulty really comes in trying to determine what libraries are standard and which are not. I'm currently thinking of basing this on the Linux Standard Base. It seems to have a lot of weight with the large distro makers. (Hell, RedHat is a contributer!)

        But you are absolutely right. Linux needs a "next, next, finish" installer. Trust me, it is on it's way. Just be patient. :)
      • As Ed[1] would say, "Fud fud fud FUD FUDDY FUD-fud-FUD!"

        This hasn't been an issue since, what, 1998 or 99? Download file (to desktop if you want). Double click on RPM file. kpackage fires up and installs it for you. You can even use apt on any non-braindead distribution and let the software elves install stuff overnight for you, just like Windows Update (well, maybe without the instability).

        Console windows, gzip, tar, make, etc. aren't factors in the real end-user experience of Linux these days, and haven't been for years as long as you use your distribution's app packages. It would be nice if someone wouldn't bring up the whole damn "packages are hard" thing every time this article gets written, because I get tired of typing up this reply every time. In this aspect, Linux is as hard as you make it. Just because you like to do it the hard way, and that's the only way you know to explain it to dear old Dad, doesn't mean that that's the only way.

        Now, if you want to get code from different distributions running on yours (SuSe->RedHat, for instance), or you want an app that's only distributed as source, then you do have to do more work. Just like if you wanted to take an app for Win 3.1 and run it on Win2k, or if you wanted to compile a Windows app from source. But there's documentation (often voluminous), and 90% of the time you can get by if you can just read and follow instructions that any 10-year-old could. Heck, building from source is almost as easy as installing that Mac OS X distributed computing app :)

        [1] See you someday, somewhere space cowgirl!

      • Yeah, it doesn't pass my "Dad" test either. When you have to talk someone through opening a console window, ungzipping a file, untarring the file, running make... you realize how wonderful Windows Install programs are. Wizz-bang-click-next-next-next-finish. Really until my dad can install applications without having to open a console window, Linux isn't ready for the average home user.

        Have your dad try Ximian Red Carpet. No console, no arcane commands, and so easy he'll probably be asking why there isn't something like this on windows :)
      • by drsquare ( 530038 ) on Friday February 22, 2002 @01:04PM (#3052215)
        You're right. Let's compare the methods of installation of programs on Windows and Linux:

        • Open browser
        • Go to
        • Search for name of program
        • Spend ten minutes navigating some shitty site to find the program you want
        • Click on "download"
        • Click "save"
        • Press "enter"
        • Open Explorer
        • Navigate to file
        • Double click on file
        • OK
        • Next
        • Next
        • Next
        • Next
        • Next
        • Accept
        • Next
        • Finish
        • Reboot

        • Open xterm
        • Type 'su'
        • Type in root password
        • Type 'apt-get install programname'

        As you can see, the Windows method is much more user friendly, and takes much less time. Linux will never succeed as long as it is so difficult to install programs.
    • by JordoCrouse ( 178999 ) on Friday February 22, 2002 @12:06PM (#3051661) Homepage Journal
      guess that depends on whose desktop you're referring to. Linux is already popular on geek desktops. Getting Linux on the desktops of your average Joe (or Jane) is entirely different.

      I would be mightily impressed if a distribution of Linux was released that my mother could use easily.

      The problem is, those features that make the Linux desktop attractive to the geek is exactly those features that make it difficult for otherse to use. My mother doesn't want to hear about command lines, and permissions, and filesystems and the such. She just wants to log on to AOL.

      Will the development of a desktop for the masses involve such massive changes to the basic concepts of Linux so as to make it unattractive to the the geek? And more importantly, will the geek willingly "dumb down" the distribution for the desktop. I will have to say no. Linux exists as it is today because we have designed it for our own use, not for Aunt Tillie.

      So then it falls on the commerical companies to develop a Linux distribution for the average person. Lindows is the first attempt at this, but even they have been hampered by the unique semantics of a POSIX system (permissions!).

      I have resigned myself to the fact that Linux will never reach widespread popularity on the desktop. However, I do know that the platform of tommorrow will *not* be the desktop - it will be the palmtop, PDA, or set top box. The world is obviously moving to a more embedded and more distributed environment. Luckily, thats where Linux shines.

      Don't waste your time getting Linux on the desktop. Instead, spend your time getting rid of the desktop itself.

      • by thesolo ( 131008 ) <> on Friday February 22, 2002 @12:46PM (#3052043) Homepage
        The problem is, those features that make the Linux desktop attractive to the geek is exactly those features that make it difficult for otherse to use. My mother doesn't want to hear about command lines, and permissions, and filesystems and the such. She just wants to log on to AOL.

        This itself is part of the problem. Everyone expects a very complex system to be EASY. Computers inherently are NOT easy!

        Honestly, I think the automakers are the only ones who ever successfully pulled off this paradigm well; cars are extremely complex, but even the most dimwitted person can understand how to start the car, push down on the gas or brake pedal and turn the wheel.

        I don't think however that you need to dumb-down the distro. Linux should do this, IMHO:
        On install, after you pick the install type (Workstation, Server, etc.), pick the install type (basic or advanced). If you pick Basic, it makes everything as easy as humanly possible; no status displays on bootup, just a nice graphic with a loading bar. If want to see if eth0 came up correctly, you should do an advanced install. And of course, you can change that in X itself too. If you pick basic, it doesn't even put a shell on the main KDE bar, nest it down somewhere. Put the Office Apps on the desktop, Web Browsers, Media Players, and thats IT. If you're a geek, Advanced install or Advanced mode let you do everything you currently can under Linux.

        Geeks are happy, regular users are happy, and Linux looks good to everyone.
        • This itself is part of the problem. Everyone expects a very complex system to be EASY. Computers inherently are NOT easy!

          From The Humane Interface by Jeff Raskin:

          Complex tasks may require complex interfaces, but that is no excuse for complicating simple tasks.
          There are many tasks that can be done on a computer which are inherently simple and the UI should reflect that.

          I don't think however that you need to dumb-down the distro. Linux should do this, IMHO: On install, after you pick the install type (Workstation, Server, etc.), pick the install type (basic or advanced).

          Again from The Humane Interface:

          As a user of a complex system, yhou are neither a beginner nor an expert, and you cannot be placed on a single continuum between these two poles. You independently know or do not know each feature or each releated set of features that work similarly to one another.
          Raskin then goes on to explain in further detail that the Beginner-Expert Dichotomy is false. He adds almost at the end of the section: a well-designed and humane interface does not have to be split into beginner and expert subsystems.

          There is substantial proof that UNIX can be user friendly and it comes in the form of OS X. Despite what some other posters have said, OS X adheres to UNIX traditions extremely well (they changed /home to /Users). The only other major changes were using NetInfo for OS management instead of plain text files and the system init procedures. Both those changes were made for technical reasons (right or wrong) and are not used directly by the great majority of users.

          The real problem that Linux has with being user friendly is that it is being created by people who are hopelessly unqualified to do user interface design (note that I fit this category) and that it has no standard for the way a user interface should look and feel. Now, the GNOME and KDE projects are making great headway and I'll bet that they've picked up a lot of talented designers over the years so that the brains trust is now adequate to solve the first problem. However, these people need to take the plunge and completely change the interface if it is required (a point echoed by Raskin).

          The second problem will be extremely difficult to solve - it does not have to involve ridding the world of either KDE or GNOME but does involve treating them as largely different OS's that are compatible. There should be pressure on developers to develop both a KDE interface and a GNOME interface so that the user experience with either desktop is consistent. Another option would be to define a set of APIs that maps to both GNOME and KDE as native interface elements depending on which is currently in use.

          This is the kind of thing that Linux has to do to be userfriendly and hence be successful on the desktop. If you think that these suggestions are unrealistic or impossible, you're saying that Linux can't make it on the desktop - I however disagree. Linux has achieved many impossible things before and in time I think it will achieve end to end user friendliness if the developers are serious about achieving that.

  • Succeeding on the desktop is more than just KDE or even nice applications. It requires substantial hardware support. People don't want to be severly limited in the type of printers, scanners, video cards, sound cards, etc. they use and they will expect them to work exactly the same as under their current system. The cost saving of using Linux is wiped out if you have to spend more to get a supported printer or if you have to spend an extra half hour figuring out how to change the resolution of your screen. Linux is still a little ways from that point so widespread desktop use is unlikely to happen any time soon.
  • by pressman ( 182919 ) on Friday February 22, 2002 @11:47AM (#3051481) Homepage
    (Maybe If Apple released TiBook's with 3 mouse buttons I'd at least have an option ;)

    Aaaaaargh! With OS X you can use a 5 button mouse if you'd like! Just go and buy one! Can we please let this rest already!
    • Read it again.
      TiBook. TiBook. TiBook.
      That would be a laptop, which implies a built-in mouse. He wants a laptop with a built-in three button mouse, instead of buying an external mouse and dragging it around with him.
  • by mrblah ( 229865 ) on Friday February 22, 2002 @11:48AM (#3051491)
    What everyone keeps forgetting is that people don't care about making the best choice in operating systems. They're only concerned with making a good choice. If MS is good enough for the vast majority of users, then the new user is going to decide that it's good enough for them. MS is what "everybody else uses" ... and that's a strong message.
  • by GlobalEcho ( 26240 ) on Friday February 22, 2002 @11:50AM (#3051503)
    Maybe If Apple released TiBook's with 3 mouse buttons I'd at least have an option

    For the Apple enthusiast's in the audience, you do know Taco is just pulling your leg. Right? Right?
  • by weird mehgny ( 549321 ) on Friday February 22, 2002 @11:52AM (#3051525)
    I dunno which of Linux/Windows is better, so I run Cygwin in Win4Lin.
  • by Archie Steel ( 539670 ) on Friday February 22, 2002 @11:53AM (#3051527)
    ...hangs on a few things:

    StarOffice/OpenOffice: they need to iron out the last few bugs and market it, for crying out loud! Not just for Linux, but on Windows as well, so that they can wean the business sector off of MSOffice.

    Games: despite what many "serious" computer users will say, the PC industry was built on gaming, and gaming is what keeps pushing the hardware improvement cycle. Serious Linux players such as IBM and HP should give substantial (if discreet) grants to efforts such as Transgaming's WineX so we come out with a complete DirectX API for Linux.

    Marketing: the different Linux players, big and small, should pool some of their resources to create a "flavorless" marketing organization who promotes the Desktop use of Linux (without specifying a distro in particular). The goal is to challenge common misconceptions about Linux: that it is hard to use, that there are no apps, that it is not graphical, etc., in a series of cool, professional looking ads in print and televised media.

    Aim for the Business Desktop first: more people will consider switching at home if they've been "coerced" into using Linux at the office first, only to realize that it was as easy to use as Windows, and a lot more stable.

    Don't install so many apps by default in common distros: personally, I don't mind it, but Windows users might be overwhelmed by the choice. Let them choose their browser, e-mail client, office suite, etc. during installation, or with a post-installation "setup" program.

    I do believe that Linux has a very good chance of becoming more widespread on the desktop...the fact that it can't be bought off by Microsoft is a big plus! But I'm not kidding myself: the Linux revolution might have better chance of taking place abroad first (Europe, Africa, Asia) - and given America's (and, by extension, Canada's) annoying record of always doing everything different than the rest of the world, it could still take some time here...
    • StarOffice/OpenOffice: they need to iron out the last few bugs and market it, for crying out loud!

      I don't disagree with you, but the problem is... who spends money to market a free consumer/business product that they've already spent a ton of moolah developing? I'm sure it's hard enough for companies to justify spending money to continue developing products they're just going to give away (or sell for little more than the cost of media and docs), but to have to drop money on *advertising* them as well starts seeming like throwing good money after... other money.

      At the same time, remember the IBM OS/2 Fiesta Bowl sponsorship? Different situation, but not totally. What a disaster of a promotion, although history seems to show that IBM couldn't market a cure for death.

    • The Games Myth (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Watts Martin ( 3616 )

      I see this "the PC industry was built on games" line frequently, and with all due respect I think it's dubious at best. If you measure the personal computer revolution using applications as roadmarks.

      • The first drive from mainframes to "non-programmer's programs" predates PCs of any sort: the IBM DisplayWriter, a word processing terminal.
      • The programs that brought the first microcomputers out of the hacker realms? Certainly not Adventure and SubLogic's FS1 (the predecessor of Microsoft Flight Simulator): try WordStar and dBASE on CP/M and Visicalc on the Apple II. The first two were revolutionary in the sense of bringing mainframe-like functionality to cheaper hardware, and the third was revolutionary, period.
      • The program--not interface paradigm--that really made the Macintosh? Aldus PageMaker, of course.
      • The field that the Amiga dominated long after its demise? Video editing, particularly with Newtek hardware/software. Despite being sold as a game machine, this niche non-game market kept the Amiga not only alive but undead. For some years after Commodore went away, Newtek was still selling their own branded Amigas!

      The "Windows PC" is largely carrying on the CP/M heritage. Games only sell machines to hardcore enthusiasts. For the majority of computer buyers, a range of applications sell the machine and games are just icing on the cake. (Games arguably sell video cards for PCs.)

      The Linux gaming world is likely to always be like the Mac gaming world. It's there, but people clearly aren't going to the platform to play games that they can also play on Windows. They're going to be going to the platform for something they need to do and that, objectively or subjectively, is better on that platform.

      The enthusiasts will come to Linux already (they already are, and most of them are on Slashdot). To get regular users as Linux desktop users for its own sake, appeal to their sense of need with something that done more elegantly, effectively or more easily on Linux than it is on other platforms. That's why Linux is doing well on the server side--and it's a major component of all things Macintosh.

  • Build a tool ... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by linuxdoctor ( 126962 ) on Friday February 22, 2002 @11:53AM (#3051531) Homepage
    I especially like this suggestion which the author suggests as a paradigm shift: "Let's completely modularize each tool function (such as layout, fonts, kerning, textures, linking, math and tables) and make each a separate interactive GUI tool. Like an erector set, applications could be constructed for specific needs. And like hammers, saws, wrenches and screwdrivers in the physical realm, such tools are easier to utilize than large factories (or contemporary application programs)."

    This is the classic call to arms of Unix, way back when. "Build a tool that does one job, and does that job well." And then make the tools work together. Unix was originally built for programmers, but there is no reason to believe that "ordinary users" cannot benefit from that philosophy as well.

    I say, go back to first principles, and we all win. It worked for hardware in the 1980's with the advent of RISC technology. Software too has become too bloated.
    • Re:Build a tool ... (Score:5, Informative)

      by MenTaLguY ( 5483 ) on Friday February 22, 2002 @12:05PM (#3051649) Homepage
      That's effectively the idea behind Berlin [].
    • All those tools need to agree on a very exact format specs or else the user cannot use the tools together.

      All those tools need to operate in roughly the same way or else the user will have to learn a lot more.

      All those tool developers need to remember that 99% of their market is for that subset of features that the dedicated application needs. Thus, adding much more will bloat it with complexity and size that simply does not reward the user.

      All those tool developers all need to setup their applications with the majority of the users tasks in mind so they don't force the users to do more work than is necessary.

      All those tool developers should provide a certain amount of interoperability besides just file formating and such. e.g., How does the user perform an "undo" after one tool has been applied?

      All those tools need to agree to collaborate on support problems rather than pointing fingers at other tools.

      The point is that creating seperate tools in this fashion is simply not appropriate for most applications. The organization and development costs for this "tool" methodology to make it appropriate for the end users totally exceeds the costs to produce a superior application under the "traditional" unified application framework. The analogy that I'd make, in response to the "tool box" analogy, is what tool do most users, that actually use tools, actually carry with them? A leatherman (and maybe a limited toolbox at home). The toolbox is too bulky and ackward in most situations where a leatherman (or like tool) is totally appropriate.

      What you are doing is laughing at the Swiss Army knife that is MS and kin that tries to be everything to all people and assuming that the toolbox is the best solution because the swiss army knife is almost useless. Well it's not impossible to devise a better unified tool than both for most users. Its name is the Leatherman ;) While there is still plenty of room for the toolbox, its use is largely confined to professionals and enthusiasts that require a high degree of specialization.
    • ls | mc (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Animats ( 122034 )
      Anyone remember when the UNIX file listing utility "ls" was separated from the columnization utility "mc", so that you wrote "ls | mc" for a multi-column file listing? Now that was modular. And how long did that last?
  • From what I've seen of people who post on Slashdot, most of them use Windows anyway...
    Linux wannabies

    Admittedly, if a corp says uses this, you have to use it.

    It'd make a good poll.

    How many people are using Linux **right now** as they view this page.
    • How many people are using Linux **right now** as they view this page.

      That may not be a fair question. I'm viewing this on my lunch break at work, and the company has standardized on Windows. But my home is full of Linux & Mac computers. I spent last night using my SuSE 7.3 box: I downloaded skins for XMMS, I surfed to and using Mozilla, and played a game of Risk. So what should slashdot count as my "real" computer? My "lunch break" computer or my home computer?

  • by phaze3000 ( 204500 ) on Friday February 22, 2002 @11:53AM (#3051539) Homepage
    To paraphrase open-source advocate Richard Stallman

    I don't think RMS is going to like that one.. :)

    Seriously though, I think there's one major issue which the article writer has forgotten: fear.

    Many (most) IT directors think that 'No-one ever got fired for choosing Microsoft'. If they go with Linux and it's a failure, it could well be their neck on the line; if they choose a Microsoft option and it's a failure, well everyone already knew Microsoft were crap, but what choice did we have?

    The only way this can be combated is with slow erosion of the Microsoft market - it used to be that "no-one ever got fired for choosing IBM", so it's certainally possible to topple the Microsoft monopoly - it just isn't going to happen overnight.

  • I to have been using linux at my desktop for many years now, and liking it very much.

    However, when compared to windows, everything appears to be very slow. Launching of windows, getting visual feedback, it's all a bit snappier on windows, on the same pc. I think most people that come from a windows world trying linux+KDE or something will be disappointed with the speed of operation.

    Maybe in a couple of years, with processors in the 100GHz range this won't matter anymore (although a new layer will be added by then to slow things down even more) but for now I see a lot of hurdles to overcome
  • To Do list (Score:2, Interesting)

    by barnisinko ( 551765 )
    I know that everyone is always saying this, but there are a few things that "linux" needs to do to gain the average user's desktop.

    I use SuSE 7.3, and love it, but there are a few things that were somewhat difficult for me to figure out, and I can't imagine what the non-techie user would do about these things.

    -printing: it is currently a shade less than a nightmare to configure printing in linux. I believe this varies wildly depending on what printer you are using. One false move, and your printer starts printing a million pages of gibberish.

    -Internet connectivity: I think the biggest hurdle for this one is the evil WinModem. Also, some ISP's just plain don't have a clue how to help users set up connections using linux.

    Some other ideas:

    -I have no idea how this one might be implemented, but some sort of "sanctioned" place for technical support for users would be good. I think one central place would give users some comfort instead of being told that they need to find their technical support on newsgroups.

    -We can always use more support from hardware manufacturers. This seems to be getting better and better all the time!

    -Lastly, the ubiquitous Games! We need more!

  • Ugh, more garbage? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by conner_bw ( 120497 ) on Friday February 22, 2002 @11:57AM (#3051567) Journal
    No doubt linux will prevail. But the article linked is a pile of crap.

    It claims Linux will prevail with no facts, examples or andicdotes, then takes it all back by saying Linux developpers should focus on killing Office or all hope is lost.

    ZDNet is playing sklashdot like a fool.

    Write up a piece of incoherant propaganda that concludes by saying Office rules, call it "Linux Rules" and get slahsdotted for banner revenue.
    • by Lumpy ( 12016 )
      actually the apps are there. they just need fine tuning.

      the number one important thing that linux needs is a decent installer. Loki gave us one in their final death throwes.. it's awesome. and the like of KDE,gnome and EVERY app should drop what they are doing and start adapting it to their app.

      To hell with making some minor bugfixes this week, get an installer on your app that even a lobotimized monkey can use.... that's the loki installer.
      • by Pengo ( 28814 )
        As someone comming from the KDE side of the fence, I would say we have a -LOT- to learn about red-carpet. Though it's not perfect, it's what an installer should be. Simple, direct and online.

        My guess is a huge percentage of the post-install boxes are on the internet. I know the kde group believes that the responsibility is for the distro's to resolve those issues, but I disagree. I have a redhat 7.1 box that just doesn't need upgrading, because I have switched it over to Ximian Gnome desktop. Thats right, there is nothing really different about that older version of redhat than running on a ximian desktop on top of Mandrake 8.1. It's great, my box is always current and I don't need to play the bi-yearly distro knuckle-shuffle.

        I get to choose the distro I am most comfortable with , and red-carpet keeps me up on the security updates, software updates , etc. It's just plain and simple nice.

        I don't think I will be upgrading my home / primary workstation to Mandrake 8.2 because Ximian works fine. I am also tired of chasing down RPMS and playing the dep game.... Ximian has just got it right on that one, and it's all in the packaging and distribution.

        IMHO KDE is superior in technical ways, but I am now using Gnome because of the superiour distribution and packaging and the warm feeling of knowing I am getting updates on a weekly basis.
  • One word... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by FortKnox ( 169099 ) on Friday February 22, 2002 @11:59AM (#3051589) Homepage Journal

    I know flames will fly, and not a lot of people believe in it, but that's what MS has a big advantage in. People watch TV. People see MS ads. People might occasionally see an apple ad. People only see IBM's Linux Server ad (and the common person has no clue what its about).

    Also, maybe having some local demo's in malls. Just to let people play with it, like they do in bestbuy, etc...
    See what its like so you don't need to be afraid...
    If someone made a good commerical ad and had demos in public places that showed how pretty it is, how inexpensive it is (people will need to buy it for the support), and how there aren't licenses and most everything is free, then you'd have a "general layman interest."

    That "general layman interest" is a catalyst Linux needs. Its powerful. That's when people "try" things. Isn't that all we're asking for? Just "try" it??
  • From the article (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Selanit ( 192811 )
    >In a nutshell, the Linux community must develop both
    >a quality GUI system for configuring hardware and a
    >standardized system for installing and removing
    >software. Developers must be persuaded to provide
    >Linux drivers, especially for "Winmodems," and to
    >port their software products to Linux.

    Agreed on the need for a GUI "system properties" type hardware configurator. KDE's hardware configuration leaves something to be desired. (Specifically, it doesn't offer much in the way of actual configuration options. If you want to do any non-trivial fiddling with your hardware, you might as well go straight to a console, 'cause you're going to need it anyway.)

    As for installing and removing software, it would be good to have a more-or-less universal software management system. The two current contenders are RPM and Debian's apt-get, of course. Both have advantages and disadvantages -- for example, it's more common to find fresh builds of programs in .rpm format; but apt-get handles dependencies more gracefully. Perhaps what we need is a synthesis of the two, which would use the .rpm file format and apt-get's syntax. Instead of having a centralized package depot like apt, or many randomly distributed files like rpm, you strike a balance: maintain a server that lists current URLs for packages, which would be hosted on the project's page instead of centrally. Typing "rpm-get install Snicklefritz1.3" would check the central database for current URLs of the RPM and its dependency BruberMIPS0.9.5, download them from two different sites and install them. (Note: the "spell" system in Sorcery GNU/Linux [] works kind of like this, only it downloads source and auto-compiles instead of downloading pre-built packages.)

    In addition to persuading companies to release Linux drivers for their hardware, we also need to convince them to open-source the drivers. I seem to recall ATI already did this. There is even less reason than usual to make your driver proprietary; after all, the driver is useless without the hardware to match. People would still have to buy the product in order to get use out of the driver, and in the meantime students could study the driver code to learn about low-level hardware interaction. And stuff. (nVidia, are you listening?)

  • Linux is on my desktop, and it hasn't failed me yet!
  • When you can give the user a "launch the installer, ask a couple simple questions, watch it install the files, and put icons wherever the user wants" installation system then you will have a better chance at the desktop. Even better if the uninstall is just as easy.

    I mean, what the Hell are dependancies to the Winbox user? And why should they care? Apt-get is close, but not enough.

    Eyecandy is all well and good, but if they can't install programs easily then it's not going to work.

  • I recently helped a fellow CS grad student install Linux on his laptop. KDE looks pretty, Netscape 6 runs great, and emacs handles all the text editing he needs. But frankly, I find it hard to advocate Linux to replace his Windows partition entirely.

    It's really the distribution taken as a whole that counts. This includes drivers, program setup, configuration, etc.

    We ran into some stupidity when installing Linux. When the computer goes into suspend mode and then wakes up, XFree86 would hang. In order to play games, he has to kill off aRTs daemon to get reasonable performance; and if he kills it off, he'll have no sound in KDE. When configured for DHCP and the laptop is disconnected from network, system start up would take a long time (older Windows also have this problem, but not 2000 and XP). There are a few more problems like these, and they really look silly to my friend who has been a long time Windows user.

    I told him a Linux system is a pain to set up the way you want it, but after it's set up it'll rarely choke on you. This has generally been my experience running Linux every day. Fortunately we had most things working and he's happily dual-booting between Linux and Windows.

  • One of the killer things about my OS X Powerbook is how I can plug my digital camera or FireWire cd burner and it not only has a driver, it already knows what to do with the device. With my camera, it automatically asks me if I want to transfer all the pictures off the camera.

    I've never bothered hooking it up to my Linux box. I'm sure nothing would happen.

    Where Apple goes, often most of the industry follows. Jobs' "Digital Hub" strategy is dead on once you've seen it in action. It makes a computer really useful for the home user.

    For the business, I am increasingly in doubt. Microsoft file formats are so common it's futile to try to use Linux in the office. If the free office suites do the job, fine. But I think the only place Linux will succeed are in custom installations (like the Burlington Coat Factory point of sales units) or where cost is essential (like the city using Linux for offices in the Florida Keys).

    For the business user on the go, Linux won't make it unless there is a desktop with the kind of commercial development behind it like Apple's or Microsoft's. The level of integration and consistency of interface needed is far, far away in the Linux world.
  • Installing SuSE 7.3, Red Hat 7.2, Mandrake 8.1, Lycoris DesktopLX or Caldera 3.1 is as easy as installing Windows

    I've at least seen the others, but has anyone used this Lycoris distro? How does it stack up?

  • by Linus-fan ( 463349 ) on Friday February 22, 2002 @12:04PM (#3051646)
    As an oldtime user of Linux I DO have the advantage of being at home on it. I've used Linux as my desktop for seven years. (Mostly KDE.)

    The interesting thing is that I throw people on it without any training to see what happens.

    F.ex. an eleven year old girl sat down and logged in (I gave her the password) and configured it just the way she liked it.

    She installs software and plays games, does research online and writes school reports without ANY help from me. She's not trained on computers either, just not afraid.

    I've thrown grownups on it too, and as long as they are not afraid of trying, they think it looks great and is easy to work with.

    So I don't know that it's not ready, except for thoses who don't understand or are against change. I agree that it is not quite where windows is at, after all these years, but don't throw it away either. Many offices could readily change and have the tools they need using Linux, and gain the stability and speed we come to love.

    It just does not cover ALL desktop needs.
    • So I don't know that it's not ready, except for thoses who don't understand or are against change. I agree that it is not quite where windows is at, after all these years, but don't throw it away either. Many offices could readily change and have the tools they need using Linux, and gain the stability and speed we come to love.

      The single common denominator I've seen so far is that all Windows users switching to Linux, expect Linux to _BE_ Windows. They want to right-click on the desktop and get "Properties", and they want a "Start->Run" paradigm. They try to "de-configure" the Linux machine to live and breathe like their previous Windows environment, instead of learning why Linux _EXCELS_ past Windows, and exceeds where Windows fails, they just want Windows.. on Linux.

      People who are too lazy to learn a new environment, are not going to be users you want helping to contribute to the advance of Linux in general.

      Linux requires work. Linux requires time. People need to understand there is no "Linux, Inc." that manages this. It advances at the speed of.. well, nothing. Whenever something needs to get done, it gets done... or doesn't.

      Migrating users also need to understand that Linux _IS NOT FREE_. It costs money, lots of money in fact. Time, bandwidth, servers, payrolls, salaries, equipment. Just because something doesn't work, or "sucks", does not mean that it will get fixed. I see literally _THOUSANDS_ of people complaining about Linux problems. When I ask them if they have reported the issue, they say "No, I'll just wait until it's fixed". _THIS_ is the real problem with the "professional" quality of Linux. We have talented programmers, documenters, packagers. We just don't have talented users that provide _USEFUL_ feedback so we can improve the software we write every day.

      Linux is ready for the desktop, and has been for years. Are migrating desktop users willing to learn how to use Linux on the desktop? Not yet.

      • Linux is ready for the desktop, and has been for years. Are migrating desktop users willing to learn how to use Linux on the desktop? Not yet.

        Oh I see, it's the users' fault.

        As soon as they stop acting so st00pid Linux will take over on the desktop.

        People don't want to learn a new environment unless there's a concrete benefit to doing so. Not supporting "Right click/Properties" just to be different or for the convenience of developers makes Linux a little bit harder to learn. Add up a bunch of these subtle interface incongruities and your users will feel furstrated, upset and angry [].

        Linux brings more to the table than a re-arranged GUI with different colors and fonts. So why not try to match the familiar (Windows) interface on commodity OS elements (copy/cut/paste keystrokes, file property menu location and other common right-click behavior, basic File menu commands and Edit menu commands, even task bar/dock and start/apple menu) in as many cases as possible while adding subtle, unobtrusive improvements to interface components where Linux can excel (paticularly software upgrades, since most apps upgrade for free under linux and can almost always do so online, and doo dads like a graphical uptime monitor that highlight Linux' strengths).
  • >(Maybe If Apple released TiBook's with 3 mouse buttons I'd at least have an option ;)
    Yes, because when I buy an IBM/HP/Gateway/Dell/etc/etc/etc/etc I never replace the mouse that came with it because it's such a perfect mouse in every way.

    If that were the case, there wouldn't be such a huge market for different mice. Yes Mac ships with a crappy mouse. So do all other computers. Get over it, get off your lazy ass and buy a $10 fucking mouse.

    "I can't consider buying a Mac because it doesn't have a good mouse" "" "I'd love to see a beowulf cluster of" "Cowboy Neal option". PLEASE RETIRE THESE MEANINGLESS ANACHRONISMS!

    (rant mode off)

  • by Anonymous Coward
    I just finished a couple of weeks trying to be primarily a Linux client on our company network (I was using Mandrake 8.1 -- a Great release). I am now installing windoz 2000. Why? Not that I don't like linux, I've put it on multiple laptops, I have a server I run at home and I like to do my perl/cgi development on linux. No, it is because of these reasons:

    1. No NOTES client. We use LN for e-mail and many DBs. Tried VMWARE desktop 3.0 -- too slow, frequent lock-ups (which require the blue checking HD deal -- and take time). Also didn't like the smaller screen (tried the full screen mode and this locked up both the VM and linux twice). Tried hitting LN through a browser (works, but doesn't have a fraction of the features and ease on the client).

    2. Limited support for Netware. Only way to map to a network drive was to use the console to do ipx_configure and ncpmount -- it works and I can put it in my start-up script, but not easy for the average user ...

    3. Never did get the network printer working. Tried HardDrake MANY times with MANY settings and never once had anything exit the printer. Even worse -- no messages at all about where my test pages might have gone (even an obscure queue not found message might have helped in my trouble shooting).

    4. Getting sound working was a trial. After buying a new sound card and disabling the MB on-board sound, I still needed to purchase the OSS driver to get it working, but don't play around with the controls or you will have what sounds like a 78 piled high with dust. And volume is all over the map Xmms needs my volume WAY UP, but the Mandrake boot song WAY LOW - forget and you are blasted out.

    5. Not being root all the time is the mantra - and yet everything I tried to do seemed to want me that way. SU all day long. No SU editor - I guess you need to evoke a graphical based editor from a console where you've logging as SU. Maybe I'm an idiot ... Next time I'd just ignore the warnings and install everything as root.

    Enough rant ... Linux is neat ... Linux is stable ...

    And yet it is still too complex for my average windows type user. So even though I feel like a turn-coat -- I am back to W2000 (actually NT4 has been a pretty good and bullet-proof OS for me over the last couple years) and a dual boot Drake 8.1 for development.
  • X must die! (Score:3, Interesting)

    by themks ( 536975 ) on Friday February 22, 2002 @12:07PM (#3051668)
    OK we have KDE and Gnome and a great moltitude of window managers and desktop apps.
    I think the real problem remains X(Free): it's too heavy and it doesn't provide any form of widget directly.
    Maybe I am wrong but what we need is a linux kernel with a decent, fast, reliable and self-contained GUI (please don't forget the "classic" tty shell such as bash).
    What we get today is a GUI with tons of layers (CORBA, DCOP, QT, GTK, and so on...) that reduce the performances and create a lot of problems during compiling because the incredible number of libs dependencies.
    If someone needs X, well, he could use it in "rootless" mode on the GUI as already happen in Mac OS X.
    A simple installer should complete this visionary desktop-oriented distribuition of Linux.
  • by toupsie ( 88295 ) on Friday February 22, 2002 @12:12PM (#3051710) Homepage
    In less than one year since its release, Apple has smashed the years of KDE and GNOME on the UNIX desktop frontier with MacOS X. Frankly, KDE/GNOME look like redheaded stepchildren compared to MacOS X -- looks too much like Windows (YUCK!). Darwin + Quartz + Aqua is such a beautiful combination. Practically anything you can run on Linux (outside of network IP specific apps) can be compiled in MacOS X. Plus MacOS X has the "killer" productivity application, Micro$oft Office and the ultimate graphics app, Photoshop (GIMP is no where close--sorry). Your X Windows applications will run on MacOS X for the most part. About the only valid argument Linux users have against MacOS X is the cost of hardware, but that is just a short term cost.

    Don't get me wrong. I don't hate Linux. Its a daily part of my a server OS that maximizes my old i386 hardware. I won't be using MacOS X Server either. The PPC hardware is too nice to stuff in a closet. It begs to be used by human hands.

    I think its time for hard core Linux zealots to really examine what a beauty MacOS X is. Pop over to CompUSA or an Apple Store, shove the crowd in front of the new iMac to the side, click on the Terminal icon and see what a pure UNIX experience is really like. After that, I think your fear of Steve Jobs and his magical black turtleneck will go away.

    Note to CmdrTaco: If I hear another mouse button joke and Mac from you, I am going to hand Ms. Fent an original iMac hockey puck mouse so she can beat you into submission. The PowerBook G4 has USB, take some of that dowry and buy one.

  • It's a long shot. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by SlashChick ( 544252 ) <<zib.acire> <ta> <acire>> on Friday February 22, 2002 @12:15PM (#3051735) Homepage Journal
    I work with (and for!) a lot of people who use and like Windows. I was also part of a test group at our company that switched from Outlook / MS Office to Netscape 6.2 email / StarOffice, and I have several juicy tidbits regarding this that fit in well with this article.

    I just got finished setting up three computers with Windows XP Home from Dell. Computers really are a commodity now -- the Dells were gorgeous, easy to open, and functioned perfectly for a cost of $588 each (shipped!) Google "Dell refurbished" for other good deals. But I digress.

    I set my mother and my dad's secretary up with the new computers (two at the office and one at my parents' house.) Keep in mind that Windows XP is about as far from Windows 98 (which is what they had) as you can get while still being Windows, and Office XP is somewhat different from Office 2000.

    With two clicks I had set up a system whereby they could connect the secretary's 56k modem (my parents live/work in the middle of nowhere) to the Internet and have everyone else's computer connect through hers. I then set up remote disconnect -- where it shows the icon in your system tray and you can connect and disconnect the modem from any computer in the office. Windows XP comes with a nifty disk that you can put into any Windows computer (besides Windows 2000) and set up the connection sharing.

    With another few clicks I had set up the Files and Settings Transfer Wizard, which uses Ethernet or a serial cable to connect to the other computer and download settings (fonts, favorites, etc.) I even backed up other programs and had them transferred automatically.

    When my mom plugs in a digital camera, a wizard pops up and shows her all the pictures on the camera. She can then copy them to a disk or to the hard drive. She can print 4x6s, 3x5s, or wallet prints from the OS. Burning files to a CD is as easy as selecting the files, dragging them to the CD drive, and clicking Write To CD. Yes, folks, Windows XP may have a whole host of Big Brother issues (most of which I turned off upon installation), but it sure is easier to use. The whole experience reminded me of the Macintosh.

    Compare this with installing Linux. Even setting up Linux to see NTFS drives is a pain, let alone transferrring files and settings (since that is most likely what you are going to want to do upon installation.) I've used Mandrake pretty extensively, and even it has some weird problems (like asking which version of XFree86 you want to use, and not automatically detecting the monitor and setting a reasonable resolution.) It took me hours to figure out how to get Mandrake to change to a lower resolution (Ctrl + -). There is little documentation. And this is on Mandrake 8.1.

    There is just a lot of stuff on Linux that is poorly documented and/or buggy, and that carries over to the Windows versions of open-source software in a lot of cases. Netscape 6.2 (which I am using on a daily basis) is easily one of the worst email clients I have ever used. It won't let you switch on-the-fly between text and HTML mode. Attachments randomly refuse to open. At least it's stable, which is more than I can say for any version of Staroffice (5.2 or 6.0 beta.) Save a file as Excel format? Crash. Open a large file? Crash. Apply special formatting? Crash. I'm running Windows 2000, so no, this has nothing to do with Microsoft. A favorite quote of a co-worker also on this project is "Yeah, I use StarOffice to open documents, but if I want to get any real work done, I just use Excel."

    It's not there, and after seeing Windows XP (which, BTW, has no activation bull if you buy it preinstalled), I'm not convinced that it ever will be. I will happily use Linux on the server, but I consider Windows an excellent client OS.

    See my post history / journal if you want more info.
  • by pongo000 ( 97357 ) on Friday February 22, 2002 @12:15PM (#3051737)
    Knowing the /. conventional wisdom on this subject, I'll probably get branded as a troll. But here's my take: So long as there is the degree of fragmentation in the Linux world as currently exists, a mass migration to Linux via the desktop is highly unlikely. Why? Because people don't want to have to chose between two desktop managers, between ten different word processors, between x different flavors of y.

    This is not an indictment against freedom to choose! But it's been my observation that most people (especially the tech-unsavvy) don't want to have to choose if at all possible. They want one desktop, one word processor, one of y.

    For Linux to break the M$ stronghold, distros will need to provide two things: (1) A "simple" install which provides the typical user with the minimum (ideal: zero) number of installation options, and (2) an "expert" install option for those of us who want to tweak our systems to the nth degree and not use an install process aimed at the LCD of the population.

    Distro vendors themselves will need to agree on what a "simple" install is comprised of...and use the same components. Otherwise, we're back to square one on the fragmentation issue. Developers can make this process easier by putting aside their petty disagreements and pooling their energies to make production-quality software a reality, rather than the endless stream of beta-version software that never seems to quite make the jump to release-quality.
  • Device drivers... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mjh ( 57755 ) <mark.hornclan@com> on Friday February 22, 2002 @12:16PM (#3051742) Homepage Journal
    Developers must be persuaded to provide Linux drivers, especially for "Winmodems," and to port their software products to Linux.

    I think it's a bit more complicated than that. Developers don't have a way of providing a universal device driver that will work under any release of a kernel. Heck, a device driver for 2.4.10 won't easily work in 2.4.17! Exactly how is a device manufacturer going to release a driver (either open source or binary) that an end user can *easily* install? As it is right now, device manufacturers who support Linux have to do so with little added expense. Mostly because most of the people using Linux are technically adept enough to get their devices drivers working. But if Linux gets more popular on the desktop, the cost to device manufacturers of supporting Linux is going to dramatically increase as end users aren't able to install their device driver by themselves. I think this is going to be a limiting factor on Linux's popularity.

    Until a device manufacturer can easily install their device driver in to just about any running linux kernel, I don't see them jumping on board to provide linux drivers. Until that happens, I don't see linux making much headway on the desktop.

    I don't like this. I run debian on every computer I own. I'd really like to see Linux become popular on the desktop, but I think it has to overcome many hurdles. One of which is easily allowing device manufacturers to install their drivers.


  • by Second_Derivative ( 257815 ) on Friday February 22, 2002 @12:27PM (#3051847)
    The problem with drivers is not to do with arrogance of hardware manufacturers. Dare I say it's exactly the opposite. The problem with drivers as opposed to programs under Linux is that programs have something that drivers don't: a reliable ABI. Granted one usually needs to static-link against glibc, however if you import libc symbols and libX11 symbols your ELF binary's pretty much guaranteed to work everywhere.

    Enter the kernel. Here there's no such thing. Just try running a 2.2 module under a 2.4 kernel, for instance. People tend to upgrade their kernel just like they upgrade any other part of their computer, and the interface is a real moving target.

    A hardware manufacturer has a tough time when he wants to distribute a binary-only driver. They'll need to recompile and twiddle their driver every time a kernel release comes out, which is becoming more and more frequent these days. Binary drivers also seem to be viciously resented [] by the open-source community; if you refuse to release your hardware specs you're an information fascist. It's so bad that we've now got this kernel license mess, where some modules refuse to let you link against them if you're not GPL. Read the f***ing GPL: there's an exception against GPL 'infecting' other code from within core services like the os kernel. Even Microsoft, evil as they are, doesnt mind what license your software running on their system is, so long as you don't touch theirs.

    A popular approach these days seems to provide a GPL'ed 'resource manager' module which exports a stable ABI for accessing that device. The proprietary bits are then packaged up into a library or XFree86v4 module (which by the way is a much more stable proposition, with binaries being not only stable but crossplatform on x86. Linux is just as low-level and really ought to take a page out of their book). However this is no better than Microsoft DRM: it is code written for political, not technical reasons and it really does not need to be there.

    Face it, Linux the kernel will succeed not when the scheduler runs like greased mercury, not when they finally decide which damn VM to use, but when they (a) provide a stable kernel services interface and (b) give hardware vendors a choice about how they can let you use their hardware (what if they've got good intentions but have licensed technology from someone who made them sign an NDA?). Isn't there a bit in the GNU manifesto about Free Software being there to promote choice for the user?
  • Oh, man... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by SlashChick ( 544252 ) <<zib.acire> <ta> <acire>> on Friday February 22, 2002 @12:43PM (#3052014) Homepage Journal
    This article actually brought a smile to my face...

    "Quite a few distributions of the Linux desktop are close to becoming products that can successfully compete against Microsoft Windows."

    Translation: It's still not there yet.

    "Each system can be installed without harming Windows."

    Indeed, that's the first step. The second step is to automatically transfer / map "My Documents", "Favorites", "Fonts", etc. I haven't yet seen a distribution that will willingly copy over files from Windows, but Windows XP will willingly copy files and settings from any other Windows computer via Ethernet. Linux needs this to have a successful dual-boot audience, and it would be nice for system upgrades as well.

    "With closed-source systems, users are stuck with programs and upgrades they cannot change."

    Who says? I regularly contribute my feedback and bugs to everyone from Microsoft to MySQL to Trillian. I pay for the products, and I send in every bug report / feature request I find. In most cases, I don't want to program it myself anyway. If many people request a feature, it will be there. And often the programmers come up with a more intuitive way to impement it than I would have. I'm okay with this, and so are the majority of users.

    "The Microsoft approach limits a user to available software. With Linux, a user can grow."

    This makes no sense. There are development tools aplenty for both Windows and Linux. If your company uses Windows, chances are high that someone, somewhere, has an MSDN subscription and has the suite of Microsoft's visual development tools that they would be willing to let you borrow. Of course, you can also use third-party development tools (some of which are free) for both OSes.

    This article should never have made it to ZDNet. Sometimes I wonder whether ZDNet scans article submissions for "Linux" and just posts those, knowing it will generate heated debate. Ths article is really flamebait -- it says nothing new, and it makes both sides come up in arms. Too bad. *sigh*
  • by Fizzlewhiff ( 256410 ) <jeffshannon&hotmail,com> on Friday February 22, 2002 @12:57PM (#3052152) Homepage
    The leading distros are improving in leaps and bounds for making Linux easy to install. There's still a few things that I think are lacking after the install but we are starting to see improvements in this area thanks to Ximian's Red Carpet and Red Hat's Up2Date.

    I'd personally like to see a facility to make it easy to install something you might have missed during the original install. For example, Joe user installs Linux and when its all over and done with he wishes he could connect to a file share on his Windows box. He remembers seeing something about Windows connectivity during his install but doesn't know how to get back to that dialog or what the package was even called. His choice is to either reinstall or go to a newsgroup and ask for help, which leads me to my main point.

    I think the linux community needs to lighten up when it comes to "newbies". Linux users should think of themselves as evangelists and when a new user asks a question not be so quick to flame them for not reading the HOWTO before coming to them with such a trivial question. If you go to your local church and ask an elder or a member of the clergy a question about somthing that has you confused do they jump up your ass for not reading the bible first for the answers? No, they are happy to see that you are interested and they try hard to help you. Why can't we be the same when someone approaches us with a question about Linux, no matter how trivial it may be? I'm not saying we should be there to answer all their questions, but in the process of answering their first questions we might want to show them where to find the answers so the next time they can help themselves. We just need to be more tactful when educating new users.

    The distributions are doing a good job, the developers are doing a good job, now it is time for the users to do a good job. If Linux is to succeed on the desktop it is up to the users to give it a good image.
  • Just an observation. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by volcanic_god ( 312399 ) on Friday February 22, 2002 @01:02PM (#3052197)
    I believe that Linux does have a promising future as a common desktop operating system. The problem is that everyone uses MS products as a benchmark for usability and functionality. Is linux difficult to use? When comparing it to the defacto standard that MS has established over the years, indeed Linux is confusing and difficult to use.

    As an experiment I recently gave my mother, who has _never_ used a computer, a new Dell system with Redhat 7.2 installed. I taught her how to use it and gave her a few books to help her along the way. Results, she is now a productive and happy user of Linux.

    See, to her MS or Linux makes no difference. She would have to learn either but since she didnt have years of bias towards MS products both OS are completely interchangeable to her. She can surf the Internet, use word processing, and play music, and the price was right!

    Linux has come a long way and is getting better everyday. Maybe LUGs should proactively promote and manage Linux machines in schools with kids who don't have the bias yet, and establish Linux as the defacto standard.

    Just a thought.
  • by sterno ( 16320 ) on Friday February 22, 2002 @01:34PM (#3052535) Homepage
    The title of the article and the contents seem to be unrelated. The title says, "Linux will prevail," then goes on to says:

    "Unfortunately, many computer users are unaware of the extent to which they are "jerked around" by companies that sell a license restricting the freedom to use their software."

    Well, it would seem that Linux doesn't stand much of a chance if people continue to remain unaware of that issue. He's not suggesting here that they are becoming more aware or ways that they can be made more aware, he's simply stating a set back to the cause. So hardly a proof that Linux will prevail. Next he says:

    "Recent announcements by Sun Microsystems, regarding its expanded support for the open-source community and its decision to provide its own Linux distribution, are welcome news. "

    Excellent! So all of the Solaris desktop users may move to Linux. I'm sure we welcome all 3 of them to our happy community. Next he goes on to list hurdles that Linux needs to overcome but doesn't provide any evidence that they ARE being overcome which is somewhat important if he's trying to proove his title. So then he moves on to say:

    "No one would buy a car with a welded-shut hood, yet we continue to buy software that way. The Microsoft approach limits a user to available software. With Linux, a user can grow. If a tool is missing or awkward, someone can get under the hood and fix the problem. "

    The funny thing is that increasingly, especially amongst the more expensive cars, it is becoming impossible to do any real work on them yourself. Sure, you can change the oil and other fluids but beyond that many cars are impossible for the average person to do work on. Finally, he says:


    Two paths are before us. One leads to increasing proprietary control, protectionist measures and legal threats, while the other leads to open source, freedom and accelerated innovation. I, of course, choose the latter because it is "win-win." Vital innovation, new markets and vastly improved customer service win the vote readily over the purveyors of proprietary hoarding. "

    To summarize, he seems to be concluding that Linux will prevail despite some hurdles because it would be really good if it did and really bad if it didn't. Wow, that's all the evidence I needed, kudos to linux, your victory is well in hand!

    This is really a poorly written article and is little more than another puff piece about how Linux is the right choice, and windows is the wrong choice. It shows no new insights on the chances of Linux surviving and only points out the same issues to be dealt with that only about a billion other articles have pointed out.
  • by nakhla ( 68363 ) on Friday February 22, 2002 @02:13PM (#3052889) Homepage
    Think of your computer being like your car. Sure, there are some drivers who want to take it a step further. They might tweak their engines, swap out components, etc. all in order to make their cars the best they can be. However, most people are happy with their car the way it is. When you buy a car, everything is there for you. Most drivers don't want or need to know about the innerworkings of a car, let alone what to do when something fails.

    We can apply this to OS's by comparing the OS to your transmission. I know ABSOLUTELY nothing about cars. That's why the transmission in my car is fine with me. If something goes wrong, I take it to the shop. If it completely dies on me, I buy a new car. I don't have the expertise - nor do I want to learn how - to rebuild my transmission. The average computer user doesn't want to worry about their OS. It's just supposed to be there and work. Installing a new OS is like rebuilding a transmission, and the average end user doesn't want to do it.

    That is why Linux cannot succeed on the desktop until several events happen. 1) Linux must be installed at the OEM level. Computer have to come with it preinstalled. 2) The GUI has to be completely object oriented, easy to use, and easy to configure. News flash: XFree86 is NONE OF THE ABOVE. Look at how Apple took BSD to the masses. They didn't try and build an interface for X Windows. They built one ON TOP of BSD. That's what Linux must do. We can't rely on X Windows because it has too many shortcomings. 3) Applications 4) Unique features and enhancements not found on any other platform. As it stands right now, very little is innovative within the Linux community. Sure, the way things are done might be innovative. But, it all boils down to the Linux community trying to duplicate the things that Microsoft and Apple have already done. If Linux is truly to succeed, there needs to be some reason for users to switch.
  • by Lxy ( 80823 ) on Friday February 22, 2002 @02:40PM (#3053121) Journal
    I submitted this story twice only to get it rejected. Over at [] there's an article about Walmart stepping out ahead and offering PC's WITHOUT an OS! This will not only drop the cost of the PC but will alert consumers that yes, they ARE paying for the OS and yes, it DOES matter that linux is free.
  • by Kjella ( 173770 ) on Friday February 22, 2002 @03:02PM (#3053287) Homepage
    From time to time it appears people think they're one and the same, but for linux, they're not. I think Linux should focus on taking the business desktop, for several reasons. The problems with the home desktop are:

    1. Free vs. free. Let's face it, that's the way it is for most home users. Either that or it's a sunk cost from when they purchased their machine, and people don't mind violating copyright. Unlike companies BSA is unlikely to pay a visit to them too.

    2. Rapidly changing interface, particularly in the graphics area (DirectX, OpenGL). The interface for business application changes far less often.

    3. More legacy applications. Companies generally have more legacy data, which can be converted. Recreating the API for running the apps is considerable more complex and buggy.

    4. Faster application turn-over. Most business applications are continous developments, while games are released, then left for a sequel. By the time Linux game comes out everybody's waiting for the sequel, while people would be interested in Linux Officepack 2 even if Windows Officepack 3 is out.

    5. Fewer competent users. Having a bunch of Linux admins who work full-time with Linux is better than a bunch of home users, even with many powerusers. Of course they are there to work and not do Linux development, but qualified people identifying, analysing and working around problems (one way or the other) still helps more than "I click and it doesn't work".

  • by konmaskisin ( 213498 ) on Friday February 22, 2002 @11:01PM (#3055713) Journal
    It will win big time desktop share because of:

    - low cost (all the following features are free the cost extra on Windows)

    - easy to use in "thin client" setups, VNC, terminals, etc. Admin all GUI desktops on one or two servers ("on" not "from")

    - ease of preventing users from installing applications. Save data to partitions mounted "no-exec", wipe and restore $HOME on each login, etc.

    - XFS, ext3, KDE, mozilla, VNC, X (yup X is going to be the killer app it was never allowed to be - yes it *will*). Mark my words and when you are shokced to discover at a future place of work that you have a legacy Windows desktop running *inside X* or that a suite of custom applications your employer purchases comes with a "remote viewer" (aka X).

    - lack of applications (this is a *GOOD* thing) You don't want users downloading and installing the latest Windows vid player, virii or whatever else.

    Office apps are dinosaurs soon to die. Who sits around writing long documents with MS-Word these days? Do companies mandate that everyone install their own copy of Excl because spreadsheets are better than Web apps or do you fill out your expense reports using ... yup a **browser**.

    And even if those old fashioned type docs are used where do they end up? On the Web. The browser is the OS these days - even Microsoft wants everything to run on .NET and over the web.

    Plus things like 100-200 day uptimes on servers with 400 users doing GUI logins from 96 X-terminals help to push the use of of Linux on the "desktop" (only, *where is* the desktop?).

    Things like a Sun server with 64 CPUs a GiG of RAM surrounded by el cheapo Linux diskless workstations will become very normal in gov't a business ... since you can install the same desktop and a free OS at home and on your laptop well ... you get the picture.

    And once again ... the main reason Linux will *WIN* on the desktop: *LACK OF APPLICATIONS*
    ... it was one of the primary success factors for Windows 3.1

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