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Does Open Source Software Really Work? 499

reflexreaction writes "This article on NewsFactor does a decent job of covering some of the issues facing Open Source Software (OSS). It points to Linux's growth area, non-mission critical projects in mid-sized companies, and its main weakness, the desktop. It also briefly discusses Linux's potential growth into mission critical applications if scalability issues are addressed. Quick easy read. My favorite quote from the article "Linux on the desktop is toast.""
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Does Open Source Software Really Work?

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  • NewsFactor (Score:2, Insightful)

    by prostoalex ( 308614 )
    As usually, the article comes to the conclusion that it's mostly lack of applications that hampers Linux, more than anything else.
    • by mirko ( 198274 )
      10 years ago, people were reproaching Linux with its lack of drivers and now, some whine about its lack of applications...

      I guess it'll soon be fixed once people express their needs instead of their "états d'âme".

      And BTW, the loudest ones are also the ones that are supposed to pay for apps, so, let's give money to Sun or Ximian or whoever develop corporate stuff and we'll soon have more than enough Office Suites, etc.

      Of course, the others who actually work with Linux on a daily basis just didn't remark such lacks and, for example, are happy with the light-weight Ted when it comes to view/edit/print RTF :-)
    • Re:NewsFactor (Score:2, Insightful)

      by ftumph ( 463525 )
      What I thought was the most interesting is that this conclusion is quoted from one of the professional analyst companies, when this story in CIO [] (actually a link off another CIO article that appeared in Slashdot a couple of days ago) talks about how they a) often don't know what they're talking about and b) will have whatever conclusion they are paid to have.
  • Toast? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by PigleT ( 28894 )
    "Linux on the desktop is toast."

    Takes two to make a desktop work.

    I'm running Debian/unstable, blackbox, mozilla, and a few multi-gnome-terminals, oh and emacs21, here, oh and the box is using XFS on LVM just for fun as well.

    Do you think the author would know one of these if it bit them on the bum?

    People ought to define this idea of "the desktop", because I keep thinking people mean "it's got to be accepted by mass corporations", for no good reason.
    If there's one thing I've fought AGAINST it's getting the clueless masses involved in linux in any way; I am so not interested in fielding "mummy, if I click here it segfaults!" on usenet it's incredible.
    • Re:Toast? (Score:5, Funny)

      by Salsaman ( 141471 ) on Wednesday March 27, 2002 @06:04AM (#3233625) Homepage
      I just this week installed Mandrake 8.2 on my machine. If linux on the desktop is toast, then it's nicely browned toast with lots of butter and strawberry jam :-)

      • Re:Toast? (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Redline ( 933 )
        Mandrake 8.2 has given me the proof that Linux is ready for the desktop. I just wiped my 128M G3 Powerbook clean and installed Mdk 8.2 on it. While it will run OSX, it runs dog-slow. KDE however, runs like a pleasant dream (and I have more apps now!)

        I got all of the vindication I needed though, when one of my semi-computer-literate (he knows just enough to get himself in trouble) friends saw it yesterday. He loves to taunt me about my Linux zealotry, and because of him I have often doubted (forgive me Tux!) the "readiness" of the Linux desktop. I had left the room for a minute, and when I returned he was toying with my laptop, running games and digging through the menus. (Next time I'll lock the screensaver!) He looks up at me with a big satisfied smile, and says "Leave it to Apple to finally make a user-friendly Unix!"

        Having never seen it, he just assumed it was OSX. He absolutely refused to believe it was Linux, even after I pointed out the penguin on the desktop and the little "K" button in the corner. Never again will I doubt.
    • Re:Toast? (Score:3, Insightful)

      I think one of the problems with linux on the desktop is that people want to see features they know from windows, and don't care about other useful ones. Last week I saw my friend's mom and brother complaining about linux because he hadn't set up anti-aliasing yet, and windows had it. But Windows XP wouldn't work with his cable modem, so it wasn't even worth booting into, but they still ragged on linux. The problem is people don't care about cool things like exporting displays or multiple windows- they've been conditioned to believe the only things that are important are things Microsoft gives them. Up until MS used anti-aliasing, they couldn't care less about it, but now it's the end of the world if it's not there.

      Colin Winters
  • Bad Logic (Score:5, Insightful)

    by tapiwa ( 52055 ) on Wednesday March 27, 2002 @05:54AM (#3233597) Homepage
    <blockquote>One reason for enterprise is, 'You have the source code; if it doesn't work, you can fix it.' But the fact is, if I'm an enterprise, I don't want to fix it. I want somebody else to fix it," Goldman said. </blockquote

    This is a sign of bad logic. Because I want to be able to pay somebody to fix it, I need the source.

    The CTO of BigCorp is not going to hack code, but he wants to be able to pay someone *lots_of_money* to fix it so it works for his organisation. The fix might be becuase of a problem unique to his situation... (we've all seen how some programs can break OS), and so not on top list of priorities for whichever co built the software.

    With closed source this is more difficult.
    • An example (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 27, 2002 @08:06AM (#3233876)
      In my hospital, different sets of proprietary software are used for path results, patient records, radiology reports, etc.

      A unit head had become frustrated that he was paying his registrars to do hours of work collating the data from the various (incompatible) sources before each ward round. (paying doctors to do paperwork is expensive ;)

      He reasoned (correctly) that it SHOULD be easy to make a little program to collate the data. But the vendors weren't prepared to talk to one another, or to give advice on how their systems worked. Quotes from the companies to do the work were exorbitant.

      If you have the source, little ad-hoc, specific additions are cheap and easy. If you don't, vendors can hold you to ransom and demand as much as they like.

      The logic seems clear to me, but there is a lack of (production quality) open-source code for such applications.
    • by CrazyLegs ( 257161 ) <> on Wednesday March 27, 2002 @10:24AM (#3234191) Homepage
      As a senior IT guy at a Very Big Corp (and former geek) I must humbly point out a few errors in your logic:
      • I do not need the source, I need a support structure (i.e. a vendor) who has the source
      • I'm not willing to pay "lots_of_money" to fix something I already bought from the vendor
      • closed source or open source - no matter. As soon as I pay for support (under the above rules), it's closed source. Let the vendor worry about it.

      Now, folks may not agree, but this is the way it works. Big corporations are in the business of doing their business, not maintaining an o/s (unless that is their business). Fact is, there's no such thing as "free' in the corp world. Corp wants to pay someone else (under an SLA) to maintain stuff. Where Linux is concerned, they want to (1) buy licenses from a vendor and (2) buy support from a vendor within an SLA. Any other arrangement does not work.

      That said, I would love to exploit Linux desktops (and I'm considering that option for about 21,000 OS/2 desktops I have today). Why? Because I think it could be cheaper than going the M$ route - assuming vendor support is there. My biggest risk is the lack of applications (with support) and lack of peripheral vendors (with support). However, the picture is getting clearer and I have hope.

      • That may be the way it works, in IT.

        In engineering, there's more to life than fixes and support. It's about doing things, creating new things, using your tools to get things done. You might have software that you would like to perform some function, but the vendor is under no obligation to provide that function for you. You can apply pressure on the vendor, and if they get enough of the same kind from enough companies, maybe the next release will have it. Or not. But that doesn't help you if you want to get something done before the next release. Having the source code is an invaluable asset for an engineer.
    • but all things are not equal. Open source is simply not the same as an ordinarily commericial software product + the source code. It's an entirely different proposition. The level of support of most of these open source companies is, at best, unproven. Now you may counter that the companies have the source code, but that's really not terribly relevant. Having the development company that has responsibility and experience with that product fix that product is not only more cost effective, but is also generally the only feasible way to solve the problem. Solving these kinds of problems in house is just not feasible. You can't afford to keep a bunch of programmers around just to solve those occassional problems with varying pieces of software and even then the programmers would be inefficient because they'd have to scale the learning curve first (this is made harder by the piss poor documentation of most open source software). And if you want to approach some 3rd party, you're going to pay out of the ass and they too are not well configured to do that kind of work.

      The company that developed the software and is actively supporting it though is going to already know about the ins and outs of it and will have the necessary skills and procedures in place. They may or may not profit from your support requirements, but that profit is more than made up for by their increased efficiency.

  • by Brento ( 26177 ) <{brento} {at} {}> on Wednesday March 27, 2002 @05:55AM (#3233599) Homepage
    "I believe that if you supported the desktop side more and there were more Linux desktop users, you'd sell more servers," he said.

    This is exactly how Windows invaded the enterprise: it was easy for businesses to buy into Windows servers simply because they looked & felt just like the desktop OS. Newbie network admins loved Windows over Netware because they could quickly transfer their knowledge into the server room.

    Fast forward to today, and Linux is trying to invade from the other side. Suddenly, this guy makes me realize that it's just as if we were trying to get Novell to the desktop - it wouldn't have worked either, even if Novell had a desktop OS.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 27, 2002 @05:56AM (#3233603)
  • VERY basic stuff (Score:3, Insightful)

    by hashinclude ( 192717 ) <> on Wednesday March 27, 2002 @05:59AM (#3233609) Homepage
    It looks like the article is more of a "i came, I saw, I wrote" stuff than a properly well researched article. The major (only?) things the article keeps pointing out is the "Lack of applications" and "No company pushing it"

    Linux for the desktop is another matter. Its wide-scale adoption is still treated with skepticism by experts, who say that for consumer-level users, simply configuring Linux to dial into an ISP (Internet service provider) is a challenge.
    What about KDE and GNOME diallers? Both work great.

    But what hampers Linux the most, according to analysts, is a lack of applications that can run on the open source operating system.
    I think what they mean is a lack of Microsoft Office Compatible applications. However, what about OpenOffice [] and StarOffice 6 [] (though there is a very brief mention)

    "All the system vendors are pushing Linux on the server side, [but] there's really no large company that is ... pushing Linux on the desktop," Claybrook said.
    Looks like Mandrake [], RedHat [] et al. have been forgotten?

  • I've been using GNU/Linux on the desktop for eight years now, and just this month I switched my mother and her partner over (from Windows 3.1).

    My estimate is that maybe 0.5% of Internet users are running GNU/Linux on the desktop. That's not a huge percentage, sure, but it works out at something like 2.5 million people - some people like toast!


  • by nordicfrost ( 118437 ) on Wednesday March 27, 2002 @06:01AM (#3233616)
    At work, a newspaper, the desktop publishing system is being changed. They have used Sun SPARCstations in the past, but changed them for Dells when they got too expensive. The Dells Intel structure isn't very stable with Solaris and crashes quite often it seems. Now, even worse, the Solaris is being phased out and Windows is in (!) with remote X windows. Is it just me or is this a perfectly stupid descition?

    It turns out that CCI, the DTP company, don't want the clients to run on Solaris, but on windows. That sounds fucked up. Why can't they port it to Linux, which is somewhat native for the app? And easier to deal with in a crisis?

    • Why can't they port it to Linux, which is somewhat native for the app?

      Because technical decisions should never trump marketing decisions. From a business perspective, the way to phrase the question is: Is the extra cost of porting the product to Windows made up by additional sales?

      The answer must have been yes.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 27, 2002 @06:02AM (#3233617)
    I use Linux on my Desktop. Have done since 1996, in fact.

    But recently, I've noticed doctors, lawyers, teachers, engineers and programmers using Linux on their desktops (I'm in Europe, and therefore there is a chance that the situation in America is different). The "Desktop" is not one market. Linux is already satisfying lots of desktop needs.

    It's like AI - every time one of the problems in AI is solved, someone says "that's not AI"...

    • Here in Europe, people are going out of their way to get out from under M$Windoze. I've found FreeBSD and Linux emmulation and Gnome make a fine desktop -- even at work! Integrated 'office applications' are being developed, but that isn't very interesting since all the features of "NT" and alot more can be found in any Unix. Just that they aren't integrated into lame packages like "Office" and "Outlook". There is no great demand to develop a Unix equivalent of "Exchange" as it will probably fall into dis-use in a fairly short timeframe.

      On the server side, there is no excuse not to use Unix. Some customers want "NT" so they can hire low quality, low paid workforces. Firewalls at the provider proxy all input and output, so the end users are actually talking to Unix which is talking to "NT".

      The remark in the FreeBSD handbook that it costs 100x more to run a "NT" server is no exageration. It is well justified for providers to charge upto 1000x or so more for "NT" services.

      IMO, it would be better business to train people to use computers and pay them. Presently there is a very high turnover in the low paid "NT" office user section. A very large organisation here in NL is actually paying over 100k Euro a month to a provider so they can hire semi-skilled, computer illitterate labour from the street. People who are well paid and given challenging work tend to stay far longer than 'people off the street'. This is a very bad, shortsighted business model and "NT" seems to encourage it and somehow convince managers it is the right move.

      *"NT" is a generic term for any Microsoft product, generally Win2k today.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 27, 2002 @06:08AM (#3233634)
    If your comment starts with "the problem with linux is" then *you're* the problem because Linux doesn't have a problem it is made by geeks for geeks give it or take it but don't put marketing into the equation because it isn't code and linux is code under the GPL so don't give me crap about linux not ready for the desktop because linux doesn't care linus doesn't care no one cares except those who don't understand what that this is all about empowering users to a new paradigm that cannot be put side by side on a scale with proprietary alternative because linux doesn't fit on a scale it is code to be runned for a direct purpose that goes beyond mere comparison with alternatives and microsoft and stuff I just doesn't make sense to force the issue like some people are doing since no one can claim that linux was designed to take over the world initially while it may be on that path currently it remains to be seen whether OSS can compete in an arena controlled my money and dominated by people who have been top company execs for ages so they know their ball game and they know their turf unlike linux which is like the new kind on the block heck linus doesn't even wear a mustache so how in blue hell can anyone claim that you can compare apple and oranges while keeping a straight face and claiming purported weaknesses on the desktop but doing ok in mission critical application were scalability issues need to be addressed so I think that the point is moot and that the article is too quick and too easy to read compared to the stuff I write because when I write it never stops to be interesting especially when I write about linux and issues facing open source software because not everyone knows how to discuss these things without a single period or coma amen.
    • That pretty much sums it up, and in just one sentence. Gertrude would be proud.
  • by DarklordJonnyDigital ( 522978 ) on Wednesday March 27, 2002 @06:15AM (#3233655) Homepage Journal
    Open source is a really nifty system. The programmers get buckets of free help, beta testing and distribution, the users get limitless free-as-in-beer [] software and Bill Gates gets one less ivory back scratcher every time a thousand copies of Linux [] are sold. Everyone's a winner.

    Still, a couple of programmers I've spoken to say are actually against Open Source. They argue since they spend hours coding, debugging and maintaining a program, shouldn't they be allowed to make an honest buck in return? I guess that's their decision, and ya just gotta respect it - some want the money, others just want to help create nice software for everyone.

    And what if you don't like b33r? What if you're a teetotaler, a recovering alcoholic or a PHP hack []? Can I create software that's free as in Coca-cola instead?

    • by sql*kitten ( 1359 ) on Wednesday March 27, 2002 @07:33AM (#3233815)
      I guess that's their decision, and ya just gotta respect it - some want the money, others just want to help create nice software for everyone.

      I see that you're a full time student... but pretty soon, you will realize that in the real world, people need money. Not to flame you, but until someone cracks the problem of making actual cash money, you know, the stuff that buys groceries and houses and cars (spending venture capital is not making money) then there will be no open source industry.

      Let me give you an example. ESR drives his pickup truck to the nearest small town (he lives in a log cabin in the woods for the purpose of this story) to pick up some oatmeal, beef jerky, tinned beans and this month's Guns & Brides magazine. But since the NASDAQ crash, he's a little short of money, so he says to the cashier, hey, I wrote a tiny part of the OS that runs your cash register, can I just take this stuff for free? Ummm, no, says the clerk, pushing the button connected to the local Sherriff's office.

      See, that why wanting to help create nice software doesn't cut it in the real world. Sorry to have to be the one to break it to ya, kid.
      • Not to flame you, but until someone cracks the problem of making actual cash money, you know, the stuff that buys groceries and houses and cars (spending venture capital is not making money) then there will be no open source industry.

        It's already been cracked. What's happening is that software service companies... companies that make money off selling their workers for hire on a contract basis... are using the product of open source code as a market descriminator for their services. This is in tune with the larger-scale socioeconomic realities: we are becoming a service economy. Open source is actually well-synchronized with the changing economic landscape by that standard.

        • Open source is actually well-synchronized with the changing economic landscape by that standard

          I would need some convincing of that, since IT systems within large corporations are largely bespoke, and are a source of competitive advantage. Look up articles in business journals about Cisco's "daily close" of their accounts, for example.

          If you buy SAP, then you do get the source for (most of) it, and you customize it to fit your business - this is bread-and-butter work for the "Big 5" consultants. You can't release it, but nor would you want to, since it encodes intimate details of exactly how your business works. If you need code written from scratch, large corporations hire IBS, EDS, CSC et al to do that, the source is right there, but it will never be let out "into the wild".

          If code is the source (pun intended) of competitive advantage, and costs a great deal to develop (and/or customise) then that's incompatible with the Open Source tradition of giving it all away for free.

          So, people already do make lots of money from services, but that's entirely unrelated to the business of producing free software.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    There are many many people who prefer a linux desktop to a windows desktop.

    If people are afraid to try somthing new, or a proprietry application isnt available doesnt mean its a failing of the free software movement.

    Gnome is a beatiful thing.
  • Another obstacle. (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Stillman ( 185591 )
    Something I see a lot of at work:

    Some of our larger clients, the ones with hundreds of desktops, who on the surface would benefit most from moving to linux, are hamstrung by the applications they use.

    Typically in a larger organisation, the "desktop drone" is running a piece of client software which interfaces with a piece of server software.

    Inevitably two things are true...
    1. It's windows - client and server.
    2. The developer has no interest in porting to linux.

    This, in addition to the old "no replacement for exchange server/outlook" chestnut, is the major reason large organisations don't move away from windows.

    Drives me nuts.

  • by Genjuro Kibagami ( 264623 ) on Wednesday March 27, 2002 @07:04AM (#3233755) Homepage
    You know what, Linux is going to win, period, end of story, no further debating, it is not an issue of if, it is an issue of when.

    I've figured this out due to an earlier assumption I made about netscape, I thought, jeez, with the massive installed base that netscape currently enjoys in the www market, IE has no chance, no matter if it's free, especially considering that the early versions of IE, probably up until about 4.x were actually enormously worse than the comparitive time based offerings from Netscape, a lot of people at the time shared my opinion.

    But, as we all know, IE won, and is probably about to be overtaken once more by gecko.

    The reason IE won isn't bundling into the desktop as so many people like to think, it's because of a few things that it had going in it's favour over netscape and these few things that it had going over netscape, linux currently has going over windows, plus some.

    1) Microsoft was giving away their product for free, as much as you like to blather on about TCO and crap like that, it's a simple fact that this matters, I've implemented corporate wide solutions before and seen people blanch at licensing fees for commercial software, especially the exorbitant rates which microsoft charge, and people are looking at ways to cut these costs, Microsoft could afford to give their Browser away for free because they had a whole bunch of other products still making them money and providing them with a nice fulcrum to leverage the www market.

    Linux, is basically invincible, you can't kill it, you can't target the company and choke it by removing it's revenue sources, it doesn't matter if it's not a commercial success, there's nothing that you can do that will stop people from making linux a better mousetrap time after time after time, and it does get better, with every iteration, it's amazing just the difference between RH6.2 and RH7.2, what do you think will happen by the time we have RH8.2?

    In this respect, Microsoft has no come back, there is nothing that they can do in the long run, short of making linux illegal (touch wood) that will stop it from eventually destroying their monopoly.

    Disagree with this single point all you like, but ask yourself how much people would be willing to pay for a car with metallic paint which cost 30,000$ vs a car which they could simply get for free and was just as usable as the original option.

    2) Linux, unlike MS IE, is actually coming from a technical position of strength, if you all remember the version of IE that MS first put out, you'll understand where I'm coming from here, IE 1.0 was a joke, it was completely laughable, there was nothing even remotely in it that was percievably a threat to the dominant browser.

    In the modern OS market, Linux vs Windows from a purely technical standpoint without the UI issues results in a resounding win to Linux, I will grant that application, driver, and even debatably User Interface is superior under Windows, but if you think that is going to remain the truth forever, I advise you to look back at humble old IE 1.0 vs the current offering from netscape, and Windows XP vs. the latest RedHat distribution, I think you'll find the gap to be quite significantly smaller.

    Judging Microsoft's recent business initiatives I am beginning to think that perhaps they're hedging their bets on the windows hegemony with the .net initiative and Xbox, etc, it leads me to believe that they have also considered the possibility that over the long haul, they just can't compete.

    Anyway, the article, oh yes, the article.

    Bunch of fucking hacks.
  • They are so wrong (Score:2, Insightful)

    by CanadaDave ( 544515 )
    But when it comes to Linux on the desktop, experts' tone is less upbeat.

    "Linux on the desktop is toast," said Goldman.

    "Pathetic," Claybrook noted.

    These people, whoever they are, don't know what they are talking about. I think the prediction that Linux is toast on the desktop is so far from the truth. I wish the myth that Linux is for servers and Windows is for desktops would stop. That categorization only looks at a few features of each OS. Sure Windows IIS Web or whatever the hell it's called sucks, and Apache rules. And Windows ease of use on the Desktop for doing stuff like web surfing and general file handling is far better than in Linux (IMHO). But I think that in general you could use either one for server or desktop and do just fine IN GENERAL. It's sort of how you use it, not what you use.

    But about Linux's potential for the desktop now...

    After switching to Linux as my desktop OS just a few months ago, I've come to realize that Linux can do almost everything. For example, just today someone sent me a link to a 7 MB DivX home video. I was in Linux at the time, I have dual boot with Win98 but I like to stay in Linux. I had installed a DivX program in Windows a while back called The Playa, which comes with the DivX codec. But I wanted to see if Linux could play it. In Mandrake 8.2 I looked on the distro CDs and found "aviplay" which has just added DivX support. I installed it, and it showed the video clip beautifully. This could not be done this easily in Linux before. For example, in Mandrake 8.1 I don't even remember finding anything for DivX on the CDs, unless it was hiding somewhere.

    Another example of things that Linux can now do: Ximian Evolution is quite an amazing program. It is a total Outlook clone but still, it exists. And Ximian Connector which allows it to connect to all that Microsoft crap.

    OpenOffice and StarOffice are now being included in the Mandrake distro for the first time AFAIK. OpenOffice is almost identical to Word as far as I can tell (they are still missing a few features, but those are of course being worked on as we speak). I just noticed the other day the OpenOffice Writer even has reviewing capability. I also think it is better than Word in many ways. It is far better than WordPerfect, which some people believe it or not, still use. I find that inserting pictures and figures into my text with OpenOffice gives me 10 times fewer headaches than with Word.

    The things I still need to run in Windows: Microsoft Money 2002 (GNU Cash has far more potential, it's system of handling catergories and accounts is far superior. I just haven't bothered doing to switchover yet), Mathematica (although I could buy a UNIX version of this), Matlab (don't actually need this anymore because I have GNU Octave for Linux. That's about it. I'm thinking of looking into Wine in the next few months to try and run any of those programs in Linux. Wine development is pretty heavy apparently and it's getting better all the time by the sounds of it.

    That's the best part about Linux and open source. Development is so much quicker when it really matters, for things like Mozilla (it has MathML before IE did), KDE (which is just getting better exponentially), and the kernel-type stuff as well, which is always on top of the latest hardware advances (USB was a litte slow to come, but I think it is getting better. Look at ATA133 for example). I think Linux has gone as far in two years as Windows did in 5 years. The best is yet to come. Windows can never win. It is programmed by a bunch of people in Redmond who aren't really in touch with the customers as much as they could be. Linux is programmed by the customers/users themselves. The open source model works, and it is what has made Linux the best server OS and will make it the best desktop OS in the future.

  • by Ilan Volow ( 539597 ) on Wednesday March 27, 2002 @07:09AM (#3233768) Homepage
    Most linux programmers come from a developer community that up until recently hasn't been tasked with designing user friendly interfaces or has even considered UI design very important. For almost 30 years, the target audience for unix software has been either other unix geeks or servers, and human non-geeks never really figured into the picture. We keep hearing "Linux has already gotten so far on the server, it's only a matter of time till it gets as far on the desktop". It is incredibly naive for the linux development community to think that any of its attitudes, design values, and methodologies are going to carry over from the server to the desktop. Linux got as far as it did on the server because linux programmers were the absolute best kind of people you could ever hope for to do server stuff. Unfortunately, they are the absolute worst kind of people you could ever sent to do desktop stuff.

    The reason why MacOS X is currently the most successful unix desktop is that the mac development community has always been very committed to designing usable and consistent interfaces. They don't have 30 years of anti-newbie, RTFM baggage they've got to get rid of, and no one has a problem saying the word "folder" instead of "directory".

    To get to the point that the mac community is at, linux developers will have to undergo a radical attitude debugging. The problem the linux development community faces is not a technological problem like the kind they've had in the past, but a people problem. Unfortunately, fixing people problems are a hell of a lot harder than fixing technological ones.
    • by nagora ( 177841 ) on Wednesday March 27, 2002 @07:43AM (#3233833)
      Almost everything you said is wrong.

      Linux has some of the best desktops. I use WindowMaker on every machine and I install it as the default on every machine. Even people new to computers settle into it within a few minutes. It is far better than KDE/GNOME/Windows/MacOSX. I've never edited a single WM config file by hand either.

      Unfortunately, they are the absolute worst kind of people you could ever sent to do desktop stuff.

      What I think you really mean is that they are too interested in porductivity and not enough in interesting little icons. Well, most secretaries are interested in productivity too and they don't give a shit about GUI theories that spout all kind of ways to "interface with the user": they want a clean simple fast method of telling their computer what they want it to do next.

      The reason why MacOS X is currently the most successful unix desktop

      Is that it's preinstalled on Macs. Reactions to it are mixed at best but, just like Windows, the users are locked in and frankly Apple isn't interested in whether they like it or not. Jobs made it pretty clear that the desktop was changing and the users could like it and ask for more, please Sir.

      They don't have 30 years of anti-newbie, RTFM baggage they've got to get rid of, and no one has a problem saying the word "folder" instead of "directory".

      There is a lot less anti-newbie feeling than there is a dislike of being told that useful and productive tools that need some time to master are less important than pandering to simpletons that can't handle difficult words like "directory". Explain again why "folder" makes more sense; particularly the bit where I open a folder and find more folders inside. Which metaphor are we using here?

      To get to the point that the mac community is at, linux developers will have to undergo a radical attitude debugging.

      Assuming they wanted to get to that point, where their market is shrinking and the hardware they use is grossly overpriced for the performance and there hasn't been a new application of any note for a decade.

      Unfortunately, fixing people problems are a hell of a lot harder than fixing technological ones.

      How true. It is much harder to get people to try thinking instead of just following the latest pronouncements of the Gates and Jobs of this world. Imagine if people using computers felt they had a chance of arranging their desktop to suit themselves instead of some expert with a joke degree in Human-Computer-Interfaces. Or even, Jobs-forbid! an actual choice in which desktop to use! Jesus Christ! The sky is falling, the users have choice; the unified user interface is under attack!

      Basically, to hell with you and to hell with people that want their users to be good little sheep. Linux on the desktop does every work related task I've had for four years now ranging from graphics to web design to large document preparation to programming and if you want to pretend it's not happening it's no skin off my nose. I'm not depending on a financially insecure company with a terrble track record for supporting its users when things get tough.


      • "Linux on the desktop does every work related task I've had for four years now [...]"

        Sorry to cut your sentence in half, but this part is the important part.

        It works for what you need - that doesn't mean it works for everyone else. I've been wearing size 11 shoes for more than 10 years now, and they work just fine for me , so just shut the fuck up and use the size 11 shoes you're handed.

        Heaven forbid that some people actually want the unified interface. Let me give you a few simple reasons why they might want that:
        • Having only to remember a single copy/cut/past/undo command.
        • Having only to remember the standard menus.
        • Having only to remember a single "change document window" shortcut.
        • Not having to worry about how the hell to use the "alien abduction in corpus minor with flying cows playing cubic pigs", that the person next to them in the office is using.

        Moving on to another subject, try finding your nose. Place your finger on the tip of your nose. Now - try looking beyond the tip of your nose.

        When ever you have trouble with the concept of "other peoples perspective" - repeat what I just learned you.
        • It works for what you need - that doesn't mean it works for everyone else.

          Exactly. The problem is that the unified interface approach is exclusive. You simply can not have both a unified interface and choice so if you are in favor of choice and you getting what you want and me getting what I want then you're in trouble. In this case one has to throw one of the options out; I choose to throw out the restrictive one.

          If you want restrictive mass-produced, lowest common denominator interfaces that have the very minor virtue of being consistant in their mistakes then go and use one but fuck you if you're going to try to force me to do likewise.


  • by bildstorm ( 129924 ) <peter.buchy@ s h h . fi> on Wednesday March 27, 2002 @07:42AM (#3233832) Homepage Journal

    Ok, I started off with a blatantly obvious statement that can be said about just about any software. I have yet to find a piece of software that does more than one or two things that doesn't have flaws. (Kudos to those out there who have done it. Too bad I haven't seen it.)

    Anyway, I know even from a server position that there are issues with memory management and garbage collection that make Linux unwieldy at times. We use it, but we also know that sometimes we have to reboot systems. Yes! We reboot Linux machines because we haven't coded around the lack of features. We easily have RAM allocated on our machines and then can't release it easily for other applications. Oh well. Rant, rant, rant.

    I see the posts about Aqua and how Macs are so great, but I hate that I can't customise Aqua to how I want it. I hate the big bulky bars. Yeah, Apply MAY have been really great, but I think they've lost touch with people now, and are fighting a losing battle of trying to control. Microsoft may be a big bad behemoth that has wielded a lot of power out there, but at least I can customise windows to some degree as I like it.

    As far as getting applications onto Linux, it's not that hard. Support the companies that are building good IDEs! Get better and better documentation written. If you wonder why widget X and Y hasn't been built to work with your application, perhaps your documentation isn't so good. I found this with our own developers in that we had lots of docs written by our developers ostensibly for others, but only really targetted towards themselves. No one had any idea beyond a basic presentation as to what our apps did as standard features and how they could be configured.

    And for those trolls who love to bash anyone who's not a great tech geek, well, I'm sorry, but someone has to pay the bills. And people who design those pretty boxes and that cool anime and write a lot of great sci-fi books, scripts, and so on, tend to not be the most technically oriented people, and they don't like fighting to get an OS to work for them. If you don't have the user base, you don't get the supporting tools, and without the tools, you can't easily increase the base. The Linux user base has to reach critical mass, and not only in the server area.

    OSS works. But bad attitudes and bad practices by the self-appointed mini-evangelists (i.e. trolls) who would rather engage in idealist wars than work together have hurt OSS more than Microsoft or any other corporation. There are very few idiot users. But there sure are a lot of socially inept engineers.

  • by nagora ( 177841 ) on Wednesday March 27, 2002 @07:49AM (#3233843)
    Funny how these people happily ignore all the problems of closed source apps, isn't it? The security issues, the continual upgrade payments, the bloated system requirements, the worry of the company dying and support drying up. Not to mention the cost.

    The most pathetic thing in the world is a prisoner what spends their time rationalising about how much better off they are than those poor saps that have to pay for rent and food outside.


  • This article is so like 1998.

    But what hampers Linux the most, according to analysts, is a lack of applications that can run on the open source operating system.

    I mean that line alone brought made me blow Dew all over my monitor. Lack of applications? Chuckle. Hehe. Good one.

    Has Jill been in a cave for four years?


  • ...there wasn't a huge monopoly threatening to crush the life out of any mainstream desktop vendor who tried to support any other OS on Intel PCs.


  • by nomadic ( 141991 )
    Linux is just fine on the desktop, if you don't want to play current games or read .pdf files or use a browser that works with most web pages or drivers for any obscure hardware that you might obtain or technical support or patches for your applications. Other than that it's great.
    • by horza ( 87255 )
      Eh? I just click on a .pdf file and can view it fine. Under Mandrake 8.1 I can choose between 2 or 3 PDF viewers. You can play Counterstrike under Linux, which is the only game I play these days. Not sure about obscure hardware, I tend to buy off-the-shelf stuff, but I've found tech support to be really good if you are prepared to subscribe to the mailing lists.

      There is nothing these days that Linux doesn't do better for me than Win2k, and I use my Linux box almost exclusively. Especially as Galeon is better than IE (and IE6 seems to be buggy, wish I'd stayed with IE5). I'll probably get the Crossover plugin in case I ever need to view a Word document. There will be plenty of people locked into Windows who are forced to use niche Win-only software, but as a software developer who also wants to play games and watch movies Linux fulfills all my needs.

  • An OSS based buisness is like any other business that focuses on services, the fact is that if you don't cover out going expenses with commercial work (note: not code) such as services, documentation and consulting, your code will get stuck and your developers will be on rations.

    So I don't see it as any different from any other consulting or services business, I think the problem comes when boxed products are thrown into the mix. But the it's chicken and the egg, covering development costs needs a good turnover, but only if you want it done on a commercial timescale.

    I've always wondered if the best bet would be to turn developement over to a educational sector and fund them through commercial business. That way you'd have a ready pool of good recruits and the company could concentrate on selling and promotion of the services provided on the educational establishments development plinth. A lot of government projects work in a similar way - look at SE-Linux.

    But I don't see Redhat or any of these companies as different from those selling any other product. You can get the same product elsewhere but Redhat has factors that differentiate them from others, the code is free - but so what, most people aren't bothered about the underlying code, they are more bothered about what it can do for them and what the company that provided it can do for them over the companies competitors. Provided they can out market and provide cost advantages over the competitors Redhat and others should do well.
  • "With respect to enterprise computing, analysts agree that for smaller projects that do not involve mission-critical elements, there is room for open source software, such as Linux."

    Excellent, that's probably the reason why we don't see any Linux rendering farms in digital FX companies or Apache on webservers of e-commerce outfits.

    Every month or so some creep winds up telling us that opensource or Linux is not ready for whatever. Who cares?

    Regarding the lack of applications, only one thing can be said: Do it yourself or help others to do it for you, damn it!

    There are opensource developers out there who actually listen to what you have to say. It's not "If you build it, they will come", but rather "If you tell them, they will build it right." Well, depending on how you do it. Most developers of opensource projects where thankful for useful comments and at least tried to implement the feature suggested. How often do you see Microsoft responding to your inquiries? Hell, they don't even give required security patches in a timely manner.

    The problem IMHO isn't the acceptance of opensource software, but rather a complete misunderstanding of the opensource processes and the way they can be influenced by anyone with at east half a brain and some decent manners. That's still often enough a problem with managers (I am one myself, and I have seen enough of those already), especially at large corporations: "I WANT X, Y AND Z!!!! AND I WANT IT YESTERDAY!!!" rarely works in opensource. Hmmmm....., it doesn't work anywhere else either, but gets rarely noticed.

    I love this quote as well: ""[Linux] just doesn't easily plug into the management framework," Goldman said. "The applications aren't standardized. When that level of standardization occurs in terms of applications and management tools, then I think Linux will get there. "For now, it's great when you want to tinker," he noted.

    Yes it is great if you want to tinker, because you can. With most closed source products you have to tinker as well to get it running the way you want, but alas, you can't. Instead you get any number of consultants in who will then tell you, that you have to reengineer your business processes (if you can't pay for the software customization) to fit the software. While this is sometimes a very good approach, this is often enough not the case. With opensource a company, even with a limited budget, can influence the developers of OSS projects and maybe donate hardware, money or whatever else is required. Yes, it might take a little longer and cost is hard to predict, but so it is with business process reengineering.

  • I can only say that this article quotes myth and ignorance as though they were informed opinions. For example, in the question of support, the "experts" they quoted seemed completely unaware both that you can hire excellent technical support for Linux and that for most closed source you need to ALSO need to buy tech support separately to get real help. The difference is that with open source you have a variety of competitors to choose from for tech support, whereas with closed source you usually only have one shop to purchase from.
  • General purpose computing is a good hobby but I wouldn't work for a company trying to survive on it. General purpose computing is toast for all operating systems. Linux never was going to break into it in the first place.
  • by zerofoo ( 262795 ) on Wednesday March 27, 2002 @10:02AM (#3234082)
    It's right in the article:

    "There are different reasons why people advocate open source. One reason for enterprise is, 'You have the source code; if it doesn't work, you can fix it.' But the fact is, if I'm an enterprise, I don't want to fix it. I want somebody else to fix it," Goldman said.

    That about sums it up. Most corporations are not in the software business; they have IT staff, but not programming and development staff....just guys that maintain and secure the servers and networks. These guys aren't going to desk-check all the code for buffer overflows and the like, they just want to install it, configure it, and apply security patches that the software developers wrote.

    This is not an unsolvable problem; hopefully Redhat and other Linux vendors will eventually get the respect / trust that other commercial OS vendors get from the business community.
    • But if the source is available you can pay someone else to fix it/customise it for you even when the vendor isn't interested in one-off modifications that they know they won't be able to sell to other users.

      The article is saying that Enterprise users would prefer the "no fixes/changes until someone else feels like it" option over the "we can fix it if we have to but it's a pain" option and it's just not true. Obviously they'd rather have "the vendor fixes it quickly and for free when we ask" but that box is usually greyed out in closed source.


  • Let's see the headline quote from IBM is that Linux doesn't scale. 2/3rds of the way into the article there's a general consensus that Linux is a toy for tinkerers and there are no applications and by the end - the whole 'desktop is dead' thing.

    Here let me winch my fist up up your ass a little deeper. Twist! How does that feel?
  • Nobody cares whether YOU use Linux. What matters is whether the rest of the world does, or will ever want to, and the answer to that is no. Linux will not replace Windows until it does everything that Windows does, especially all the features geared towards novice users, and the elitist resistance to "dumbing down" open source software will never allow this to happen. Linux will remain designed by geeks for geeks and therefore incomprehensible to all normal people, and Windows will win by actually taking its target audience into consideration.
  • Seeing the various other posts along these lines...

    My wife and I have used Linux on the desktop (a laptop at first) at home since 1993! Of coure, before that (and for a while after) we ran SunOS on an old Sun 3/50, which was immensely better, and actually cheaper (from a workstation reseller) than any of the PC's available in 1991. I've used SunOS, NextStep, Solaris, and now Linux (since 1999) on my work desktop since the late 1980's. And it just keeps getting better - the latest upgrade to RedHat 7.2 was the smoothest yet: an 11 minute install, plus about half an hour of futzing with KDE (I'd used Gnome at work before).

    Some maybe we're weird - but I've never used Windows as a desktop, and never regretted it.
  • by Ogerman ( 136333 ) on Wednesday March 27, 2002 @04:43PM (#3236695)
    Open Source, as a philosophy for producing software that people need, works quite well. In fact it can work much better than proprietary development in every possible case. BUT.. for it to work properly in any given case, there must be a tight-knit community of dedicated, hard-working, ethical, freelance programmers with good people skills. That, friends, is the weak spot--nothing else. Open Source works when people that have similar needs collaborate. You have to get away from the idea of a software company altogether--even for centralized support. Open Source development is very anti-corporate by nature and nobody will ever change this. It's true that most non-tech companies are not interested in developing their own software, and this is not what I'm suggesting. I'm not necessesarily suggesting that IT staff do all the development either. How can this work? Consultants that coordinate with other consultants!

    Let me give a example of how this might work:

    Lets say that, across the country, there are 20 randomly scattered firms in the same industry that compete locally but not with each other. (or even if they do compete with each other, software is not their core competency) Each of those companies has very similar software needs, with some minor customizations needed by each. The companies now have a choice on how to meet some specific software need. The traditional choices are:

    1.) Hire in-house programmers to do everything
    disadvantage: too costly, too much time to develop
    2.) Find an existing proprietary solution that just happens to cover all needs
    disadvantage: very unlikely to find pre-made solution that fits, no ability to customize later->compromises or crude hacks end up being made instead, upgrades require additional costs for licenses, per workstation license fees may be exorbitant
    3.) Pay to have an existing proprietary solution customized to suit specific needs
    disadvantage: all the cost of licenses from #2, plus the time and cost for the customizations required
    4.) Outsource development of a complete custom solution
    disadvantages: way too expensive, way too much time to develop

    The "ideal" Open Source solution would be for each company to contract their own community-focused Open Source developer who would collaborate with the others to develop the base application (drawing from existing code as available), then perform any customizations needed to meet their own client's needs if they differ. Each contracted developer would then also assist in installation and perform any support services based on the contract terms. The base code base is fully open and free to the public. Customizations deemed of potential value to others are also included. Modularity in design is key.

    Advantages: much faster and lower cost than in-house or single-party contracted design due to distributed workload among other contractors with similar clients, utmost in customization flexibility, investment in the future--codebase will evolve and improve so no need for costly upgrade licenses, (hopefully) better quality code assuming you ended up with ethical consultants. (-:

Beware of Programmers who carry screwdrivers. -- Leonard Brandwein