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Linux Desktop Myths Examined 718

Call Me Black Cloud writes "NewsFactor Network has an overview of the $95.00 Gartner report titled, "Myths of Linux on the Desktop". It's a good look at several points from the perspective of a corporate user, not a home user."
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Linux Desktop Myths Examined

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  • by A nonymous Coward ( 7548 ) * on Tuesday May 06, 2003 @12:48PM (#5892273)
    The Gartner link is registration required, but not the overview. There are TWO links ....
  • Some FUD, not all (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Ars-Fartsica ( 166957 ) on Tuesday May 06, 2003 @12:49PM (#5892278)
    Its true that the initial TCO for linux will rise - whenever you are switching from one platform to another, there will be costs.

    I also don't believe Linux saves money on hardware compared to Windows - it seems many offices are holding back with Windows upgrades, and IT expenditures on all desktop hardware and software seems to be slowing. For most people, Win2K is fine.

    What the study fails to mention is security. Linux and open source in general appear to be far ahead of Windows in this regard.

    In any case, most IT people have become innured to these studies - they are often pointless mental exercises without much factual backing.

    • by jlusk4 ( 2831 ) on Tuesday May 06, 2003 @01:20PM (#5892674)
      People talk about how secure Linux is, but how do you prevent some executable piece of email from reading the user's *own* address book and deleting the user's *own* documents (or worse -- corrupting them so the backups get hosed, too)?

      The problem isn't security, it's executable content. As long as executable content is never offered in any popular email program (or search-for-ET screensaver) in Linux, we're safe. How long will that last before some vendor brings out the spiffy new macro-language-in-email feature and users snap it up (once we get past the hurdle of even getting linux on the desktop)?

      • The unix tradition is that when a user creates a file, whether it be directly or though downoading an email, its execute permission is off. This means that either the email client, or the user have to go out of their way to change the permissions, then execute the binary. Yes, it is still possible to shoot yourself in the foot. The ability to only screw with your own files is a benefit though. You personal documents are a lot more likely to be backed up, hope, than the full set of applications and system files. A virus which messes with installed programs or system files often means a complete rebuild of the system. Corruption of personal files can usually be fixed by a quick restore from backup.
        • scp and maybe rcp defies that for sure. it keeps the unix permissions. You maybe be thinking of the UMASK thing,but that can be ignored too.

        • by LadyLucky ( 546115 ) on Tuesday May 06, 2003 @03:28PM (#5893975) Homepage
          Am I the only person that *only* cares about my personal files and not about the system? That thinks the computer is here to do stuff for me, not for me to protect the stupid computer?

          Corruption of personal files is *catastrophic*. Imagine your house burns down, what do you want to save most? Do you say "Oh, we saved the house, but all your personal stuff is gone". That's just completely backwards. If the OS can't save me from a virus mucking with the personal files, then I don't give a damn about the system files, they can be fixed.

          • by ivan256 ( 17499 ) * on Tuesday May 06, 2003 @05:31PM (#5895321)
            Am I the only person that *only* cares about my personal files and not about the system?


            Corruption of personal files is *catastrophic*. Imagine your house burns down, what do you want to save most?

            You convieniently ignored the "Personal files can be restored from backup" part of the parent comment. Even the best security in the world doesn't protect you from hardware failure, so it's a given that you should be backing up your personal data. It's not that hard or expensive, you just need to get in the habit of doing it. When you take that into account your house analogy falls apart. You can't easily make a duplicate of all your personal stuff from your house, but you CAN backup your data. If you DO backup your data, all all that's left to save is "the house".

            If you're not backing up your data, you will loose it. You're flirting with catastrophe. You've been warned.
      • by derF024 ( 36585 ) * on Tuesday May 06, 2003 @02:03PM (#5893167) Homepage Journal
        The problem isn't security, it's executable content. As long as executable content is never offered in any popular email program (or search-for-ET screensaver) in Linux, we're safe.

        actually, the latest version of SuSE ships with executable permission _off_ on any user writable partition. this means that unless the system administrator installed the application system-wide, it can't be run. this almost completely nullifies the virus issue. hopefully other distros will follow SuSE's lead on this point and make this a standard setting on desktop distributions.
      • Most Linux email software is developed with security in mind. Thus, they prevent users from using executable content without making sure they know what they are doing. Most of them require you to save the file to the disk, change the executable permission to "on", and _then_ run the programs.

        Macros in documents _may_ come to be problematic, but that's yet to be seen.
    • Please, please, could you offer something to back that up?

      An unpatched Linux machine is as vulnerable as an unpatched Windows machine. Security is to do with administration, not the operating system.

      The sooner Linux zealots realise this, and start saying things like "Linux provides an easier patch path", the sooner people will start taking them seriously.
      • by digidave ( 259925 )
        That's only partially true. OS design has a lot to do with how much damage a virus or hacker can do. On Windows, once some executable content runs, it has free reign over the system. On *nix, this is not usually the case.

        Truth be told, security has more to do with users than with the OS.
        • Anti-windows FUD (Score:3, Informative)

          by rgmoore ( 133276 ) *

          On Windows, once some executable content runs, it has free reign over the system.

          That's only true of the Win95/98/ME series. WinNT/2K/XP has the capability to set permissions so that not every program has access to every piece of the system. In fact, Windows ACLs are much finer grained than traditional Unix rwx type permissions; it's easy for any user to set access to his files on a person-by-person basis. I don't think that they're usually used very well, but it's certainly possible for a competent ad

          • by nitehorse ( 58425 ) <> on Tuesday May 06, 2003 @03:52PM (#5894276)

            Internet Explorer runs with Adminstrator privileges. So does Windows Media Player. And Microsoft Office. Including Outlook. The "finer-grained ACLs" on Windows NT-based OSes don't mean shit when the programs all get to run setuid root.
            • Re:Anti-windows FUD (Score:4, Informative)

              by Keebler71 ( 520908 ) on Tuesday May 06, 2003 @08:15PM (#5897009) Journal
              Nope... you are wrong (or lying but I will give you benefit of the doubt). I just fired up outlook, word and explorer and checked their ownership. All were listed as user level. (WinXP unmodified w/SP1).
              • Re:Anti-windows FUD (Score:4, Interesting)

                by rice_burners_suck ( 243660 ) on Tuesday May 06, 2003 @08:56PM (#5897335)
                Not that I'm taking sides or backing up you or the parent, but...

                Windows 3.1 had code embedded in it that detected if it was running on DR-DOS, and if so, caused Windows to crash and otherwise behave unreliably. (The evidence was presented in court and Microsoft had to pay fines many years later. These amounted to a slap on the wrist for them.) Is there a point to what I'm saying? Yes! A company that puts deliberate bugs into their software in order to crush a competitor might also put special code to detect that an application is Outlook, or Internet Explorer, or Word, or whatever, and show your username next to it as opposed to Admin, just to make people like you feel good. I have no evidence to prove or disprove anything said in my post or in the parent posts. But I'm trying to make a point... Remember the old adage about not believing everything you read? That applies to computer software, too, and probably more so than anywhere else, as people have this way of believing what computers tell them.

                Hey, there might be 100 million lines of code in Windows... It might only take 20 or so to put your username next to something that has admin privs.

      • by _Sprocket_ ( 42527 ) on Tuesday May 06, 2003 @03:21PM (#5893894)

        An unpatched Linux machine is as vulnerable as an unpatched Windows machine. Security is to do with administration, not the operating system.

        The sooner Linux zealots realise this, and start saying things like "Linux provides an easier patch path", the sooner people will start taking them seriously.

        This hits on a very important point.

        Usually this kind of conversation ends up as a flamewar debating over the vulnerability counts found on SecurityFocus, etc. Ignoring exactly what these numbers mean, how they are tabulated, and whether they compare apples to apples or not... they only tell a part of the whole story. The trouble is, when people think "security", they've become conditioned to think exploit numbers. And patches.

        Ideas like "Linux provides an easier patch path" is a good start. So would something along the lines of "Linux provides a more modular environment and control over installed components." But then, that's considerably longer than "Linux provides better security." Even if it leads to miscommunication.

        But it may be worth the extra effort. After all, at the risk of generating another slew of flames, infosec is one of the subjects that seem to draw a lot of comments from those who really don't understand the subject. Pointing out the strengths of one's favorite environment might hold more weight if it also included some education in the subject matter at hand.
    • by Bingo Foo ( 179380 ) on Tuesday May 06, 2003 @01:38PM (#5892900)
      I also don't believe Linux saves money on hardware compared to Windows - it seems many offices are holding back with Windows upgrades, and IT expenditures on all desktop hardware and software seems to be slowing. For most people, Win2K is fine.

      Actually Linux does save money on hardware, because by the time decent drivers for a piece of hardware have been written for Linux, you can pick up that hardware at the swap meet in the bargain bin.


    • by rushiferu ( 595361 ) on Tuesday May 06, 2003 @01:54PM (#5893080)
      "they are often pointless mental exercises without much factual backing."

      Sorta like Slashdot post, right?
  • paid support (Score:4, Insightful)

    by jameson71 ( 540713 ) on Tuesday May 06, 2003 @12:51PM (#5892308)
    I don't see why "paid vendor support" is such a big deal with corporations, when it typically amounts to either A: Someone telling you what should have been documented on their web site or B: someone telling you to hire a guy to come in at $200 an hour to tell you you have a bad ram module, and replace it.
  • by Transient0 ( 175617 ) on Tuesday May 06, 2003 @12:51PM (#5892315) Homepage
    Something I have definitely noticed with initiatives like OSS which are still currently largely under the radar of the public is that those who are promoting them are screaming as loud as they can to get heard and will say whatever will get them a little attention. Things like "Linux won't cost you anything." "You never have to upgrade." "You get support forever."

    All of these things have a kernel of truth to them, but when someone looks a little more deeply at the issue and sees that it's more complicated than that it makes the original statement seem deceptive. It should be noted that even after the author goes through all the myths put forward by OSS proponents he still in the end says that he believes Linux on the desktop offers a real cost savings over Windows.
  • A wake-up call (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Thornkin ( 93548 ) on Tuesday May 06, 2003 @12:51PM (#5892318) Homepage
    It is too easy for Linux advocates, surrounded by their Linux friends, to lull themselves into a sense of complacency. Too often they weave tails of easy rollout and lower cost that are simply not supported by reality. While I suspect that this report will be attacked as FUD, instead it should be a wake-up call to the Linux community. It should be used to show us which direction to go and what to improve on. We should take it as a roadmap, not an attack.
    • Re:A wake-up call (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Skyshadow ( 508 ) on Tuesday May 06, 2003 @01:03PM (#5892468) Homepage
      Look, I agree that there is a certain feeling of complacent superiority festering in certain segments of the Linux community, but these sorts points are still 100% prime USDA bullshit.

      Look at an example from the article: The author suggests that it's a myth that Linux is free, because you must either pay for support or pay people to support it. This is a dishonest arguement, because it purposely blurs the concept of support with the concept of licensing fees. They're not the same thing.

      Anyhow, I'm all for constant and honest reevaluation of our real weak points. That said, I'm all for constant and honest reevaluation of our real weak points, not for trying to address problems pulled out of the ass of some moron trying to hawk a paper.

      This sort of exercise is just a waste of time.

    • Re:A wake-up call (Score:5, Insightful)

      by fishlet ( 93611 ) on Tuesday May 06, 2003 @01:24PM (#5892725)
      I think that is a good point.

      Many of us linux users are used to making excuses for (or at least working around) problems with the Linux desktop. It doesn't work as smoothly as windows, it doesn't work anywhere near as smoothly as a mac- but there are so many other reasons that we like Linux that we tend to minimize them. It's just human nature I think, it's easier to criticize others than to admit our own faults. The first step in making progress is admitting what doesn't work and making it better.

    • Re:A wake-up call (Score:5, Insightful)

      by delcielo ( 217760 ) on Tuesday May 06, 2003 @01:40PM (#5892913) Journal
      I applaud your over-riding position that we should take such reports seriously and address them, I do think that many of the points raised in the article are true mostly in the short term.

      I haven't called AIX support in almost 2 years, never called Sun/RedHat/HP, etc. And the impression I get from listening to the Windows guys on the other side of the cube wall is that they get very little actual support from MS. Mostly they get pointed to vendors. So I'm not sure support is as big an issue for the OS as it is for the applications.

      Speaking of the Windows guys. I've seen several cookie-cutter MCSE's who got hired; but went through an enormous learning curve because they got their cert without really learning anything. I don't see where this learning curve would be more expensive than the curve I initially went through to learn Unix. All of this, of course, depends upon the individual; but I don't think a good Unix tech really takes more time to grow than a good Windows tech. The good Windows techs are the guys who understand the underpinnings. In other words... the geeks like us.

      In the short term, retraining and porting, etc. will cost more; but in the long term these will indeed produce a lower TCO.

      As for the forced upgrades, I don't think I've heard anybody say you don't have to upgrade Linux eventually. The difference is that you won't have to pay for a license every time. You also don't necessarily have to keep your hardware around forever, which the article suggests would cause you to have to support "16 different varieties of hardware." You could, as an alternative, buy cheaper hardware and replace it just as often. Guess what? Lower TCO.

      Most of these "myths" that he has exposed as false would be proven true in the long term.

      The biggest myth I see these days is the myth that you should be able to perfectly duplicate what you're doing without just doing exactly what you're doing.

      That seems short sighted.
    • Re:A wake-up call (Score:3, Interesting)

      by zulux ( 112259 )
      Too often they weave tails of easy rollout and lower cost that are simply not supported by reality.

      We rolled out Linux for a cost of $5 per user for labor and $20 per user in hardware.

      We did this for about 200 users, and all we did was install VNC on everybodies old Win98/2000/NT/XP box.

      People boot into their old copy of windows, and do legacy tasks. When they need their Linux desktop - they fire up VNC and it connects to our VNC server. When VNC is in full-screen mode, they completely ignore MS Windows
  • Half Right (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Apreche ( 239272 ) on Tuesday May 06, 2003 @12:52PM (#5892328) Homepage Journal
    This guy is half right. Every one of his myths is indeed a myth. But there is truth in every myth that he fails to note. For example:

    Linux is Free:
    He says it isn't free because support costs money. Well, if you don't get support it is free. There are lots of CS and IT guys looking for jobs. If you hire them to support you rather than pay RedHat it may turn out to be cheaper.

    So "Linux is Free" is a myth. But "Linux can be free" is not. If you're going to talk about what is true and what is not you better be absolute. He also mentions the TCO myth. I have yet to see real numbers showing it go either way, and there aren't any here either. So don't bother looking for them.
    • by MrPink2U ( 633607 ) on Tuesday May 06, 2003 @01:07PM (#5892507)
      Are you actually suggesting that in-house support is free? If so, you sound like management material to me!
      • Re:Half Right (Score:3, Informative)

        by bwt ( 68845 )
        The whole issue with support is infected with the proprietary thinking model, which is based on the idea that you are stupid, the vendor is smart, and even if you aren't stupid the vendor has access to the real information, which they won't share because it would harm their support revenue.

        Support for open source IS FREE (dammit!). The support process is as follows.

        1) Use google to search the web for keywords on your question. This give you access to info in howtos, FAQ's, and basic documentation. IF your
  • by billstr78 ( 535271 ) on Tuesday May 06, 2003 @12:53PM (#5892338) Homepage
    ... is the flexibility that *nix offers. I would like to see some Win MCSE write a .bat script that could perform half the tasks my bash/perl script foo could handle.
    There is still the basic undeniable fact that becuase Windows hides the operating system internals away from the end user, it is far less configurable and less flexible.
    • by bellings ( 137948 ) on Tuesday May 06, 2003 @01:08PM (#5892528)
      Why would anyone write a .bat script on Windows to emulate a Bash or Perl script on Unix, when both Bash and Perl are available on Windows?

      I would be interested in any example of a Perl script you've written on Unix that will demonstrate the "basic undeniable fact" that Windows is far less flexible than Unix.

      Otherwise, STFU.
      • Web server management, user account managment service startup, firewall managment, hardware configuration all can be configured using BASH and PERL on *Nix.

        Even though those utilities have been ported to Win2K, they cannot perform the same functionality on an operating system that hides 75% of it's operation from all users.

        THAT is what makes unix more flexible.
        • by binaryDigit ( 557647 ) on Tuesday May 06, 2003 @01:23PM (#5892701)
          Web server management, user account managment service startup, firewall managment, hardware configuration all can be configured using BASH and PERL on *Nix.

          You can do basic stuff like "net start w3svc", most any part of iis can be controlled through vbscript (adding users, virtual domains, etc), I don't know if a PERL lib is available, but it certainly could be. What hardware configuration do you refer to?

          Even though those utilities have been ported to Win2K, they cannot perform the same functionality on an operating system that hides 75% of it's operation from all users.

          First, this is completely false. You can access a HUGE amount of the OS via any scriptable language that can do COM calls. If Win2K was so closed, it wouldn't be so damned easy to write virus's for it. Plus, the things you mentioned above (web server/firewall mgmt) have nothing to do with the OS.
    • by stratjakt ( 596332 ) on Tuesday May 06, 2003 @01:19PM (#5892657) Journal
      .bat isn't a script, it's a batch file.

      And an MCSD wouldn't write one to do anything in windows - it's a DOS construct, he'd write a VBScript, JavaScript, or - if he wanted to be just like you - write it in perl or bash or tcl.

      Every userland language/app that exists for linux exists for NT.
    • Agreed. I use Windows2k for some of my work and I wanted to create a simple macro to enter some directories.

      c2 = c:/winnt/system32/documents and settings/administrator/my documents/code/C++/ch02 or chapter2 for school. Likewise p4 = c:\winnt\documents and settings\administrator\my documents\code\perl\ch04. Imagine how much of a pain in the ass it is to type cd .. and this every time when cmd is opened? I decided to write a .bat file to do this. One problem. No aliases??

      After looking at msdn for documentat
      • Ok, you need to readup on the DOSkey command

        doskey c2 = cd "c:/winnt/system32/documents and settings/administrator/my documents/code/C++/ch02"

        doskey p4 = cd "c:\winnt\documents and settings\administrator\my documents\code\perl\ch04"

        etc... You can save these associations to a file and recall them using 'DOSKEY /MACROFILE='. You can create a custom command prompt icon which will set up your environment with that, etc.

        "Still Unix rocks in this regard."

        Ok next complaint.
  • by Surak ( 18578 ) * <surak AT mailblocks DOT com> on Tuesday May 06, 2003 @12:54PM (#5892345) Homepage Journal
    This guy totally misses the point on TCO. The thing is if you go with a thin client model -- i.e., have a nice fat server with lots of processing power that can serve up the major appplications to Linux thin client PCs that are, in some part, acting basically as X terminals (although some applications can be seamlessly loaded and executed locally as well depending on demand and needs)

    You don't need to spend $BIGNUM on client PCs. Only maybe about $200-$500 a seat in terms of the hardware. And large enterprises don't typically buy their support from Microsoft, they typically buy it from companies like IBM or EDS who then contact Microsoft only when there is a problem they themselves can't figure out. They buy this support whether they have a UNIX client, a Windows client, or a Linux client.... it doesn't matter, the cost of support is basically the same.

    This guy really misses the boat, IMHO.
    • by banzai51 ( 140396 ) on Tuesday May 06, 2003 @01:38PM (#5892892) Journal
      That's been tried already. Its called mainframe computing. Client/Server computing, even with it's warts, is still cheaper and more prodcutive in userland. If the bighorkinmachine ever went down, you're SOL, EVERYONE is down. While in client/server while I may loose access to a program or two, I still can work on other things. Or I am smart enough to have redundancy (Citrix) to serve my applications and I don't have any downtime with a puking server. All still cheaper than the mainframe route.
      • by jpetts ( 208163 ) on Tuesday May 06, 2003 @02:07PM (#5893210)
        If the bighorkinmachine ever went down, you're SOL, EVERYONE is down.

        You're absolutely right. But this doesn't really need to happen, except in case of a real catastrophe which will take down all the client-server stuff too. People, back in the '70 and '80 I used servers that had uptimes of 2 *YEARS* or more, and these were serving apps out to over 400 people. People are *so* used to the prophylactic reboot (Ooo-er, Missus!) on Windows machines, that they seem to accept machines going down regularly as normal. It currently IS, for Windows servers, but it doesn't NEED to be for other servers.

        The real issue here is control: people don't feel happy about letting IT control the resources. I would urge everybody to read A Unix Guide to Defenestration [] before they comment on centralised vs client-server computing.
  • Inflama-tastic (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Skyshadow ( 508 ) on Tuesday May 06, 2003 @12:54PM (#5892351) Homepage
    If the summary is indicative of the report (and I'm hoping it's not), let me say: Bullshit.

    Let's examine one of the "myth" bullets:

    Myth: Linux Means Longer Hardware Life

    "It is true that a three- or four-year-old PC that is not powerful enough to run Windows XP Latest News about Windows XP and Office XP may be able to run Linux and StarOffice," Silver says. "However, enterprises need to budget for some additional costs to maintain older PCs."

    Notice how the inflamatory, attention-grabbing headline does not actually describe the analysis below it. Rather than suggesting that the average useful lifetime of a PC running Linux is longer than that of a PC running Windows, they point out instead that older PCs might break down.

    They're charging $95 for this brilliant type of insight? The ridiculous idea that PC hardware's average working lifespan is three years aside, they're not making any point about Linux at all.

    *sigh* I got to keep my resident pointy hair away from this one, lest he see the P300 workstation on my desk (still completely usable, BTW) and assume I'm damaging company revenues...

  • by borgdows ( 599861 ) on Tuesday May 06, 2003 @12:56PM (#5892373)
    Price: US $ 95.00
    Pages: 6

    95 : 6 = 15.83$ per page !

    wow! their business plan might be :

    1) find something interesting /. crowd
    2) write a 6 pages report (not necessarily interesting)
    3) ???
    4) PROFIT!!
    • Re:Do the math... (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Dot.Com.CEO ( 624226 )
      Gartner provide highly valuable reports that are more than worth their price. If you were a CTO trying to convince the board that Linux is ready for the desktop, a Gartner report supporting your suggestion would be a very valuable weapon. $95 is peanuts in corporate land.

      And, yes, they make a very, VERY handsome profit.

  • Such Research (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Gleef ( 86 ) * on Tuesday May 06, 2003 @12:59PM (#5892409) Homepage
    "Linux vendors only support their consumer releases (and free distributions) for a maximum of two years, Silver noted."

    Sounds like the only research the Gartner Group did for this report was to call Microsoft, call RedHat, and find out what they do.

    They don't even bother to say what the TCO issues are between Linux and Windows, they just say "If [enterprise complications result in high TCO] is true with Windows, "we see little reason to believe that the cultural or political issues will change just because the enterprise is now using Linux," he observes. They didn't even check. They didn't do a study of their own, they didn't talk to people who have done TCO studies of this [], or talk to Businesses who have already made the jump []. They looked at Windows, and they guessed.

    And they charge $95 per copy for their uneducated guess.

    At least they can do some work before charging people for it.
  • fair report (Score:4, Insightful)

    by poot_rootbeer ( 188613 ) on Tuesday May 06, 2003 @01:00PM (#5892425)

    This seems like a pretty fair and unbiased report... the only bullet point I have any issue with is the 'forced upgrade' one.

    While it's true that commercial Linux vendors do not support older versions of their distributions indefinitely, the nature of the upgrade cycle is different with free software than it is with a closed-source product.

    There are some costs that Linux and Windows upgrades have in common:

    ongoing support


    productivity decreases as computers have to be taken out of service temporarily to apply the upgrades

    However with Linux, each upgrade to the OS is available free of charge. Microsoft requires you to give them money each time you upgrade. As such, forced upgrades are not as onerous on a company using Linux.

  • TCO (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Mistlefoot ( 636417 ) on Tuesday May 06, 2003 @01:01PM (#5892444)
    With the Total Cost of Ownership up for debate I think a main point is being missed.

    If I own a foriegn car, I expect the mechanic I use to charge a bit more (or a lot more). Plain and simple supply and demand. And I can't hire my friendly neighbourhood backyard mechanic neither because most backyard mechanics don't touch my brand.

    Linux, as the purveyor of a much smaller portion of the computing environment suffers the same fate these days. 8 out 10 users use something else. If and when that reaches a more equal ratio there should be more people available to maintain these systems. And less time spent helping out with small issues.

    Imagine an office full of staff who have been weaned on Windows. Toss them linux and half the maintainance costs wouldn't be on maintainance, but on solving issues the users create. Familiarity is a big part of the big picture.

    As Michael Robertson noted yesterday - Lindows users insist on Anti-Virus protection. Yet when a virus comes out in linux there is usually a fix as fast as there is detection for the virus. As linux becomes more mainstream small issues such as this will go away.
  • This seems like FUD (Score:4, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 06, 2003 @01:08PM (#5892525)
    I think that any enterprise rolling out linux on a large scale would be smart enough to go to a thin client, heavy server model. That's where the TCO argument starts to really support linux on the desktop. LTSP and such. As for your myths:

    Linux will be less expensive:

    Office is the lockin tool, much more than Windows itself. Running OpenOffice on Windows sounds like a great way to wade into a transition, taking the most bitter part of the medicine up front. If that's over with, the OS switch doesn't look nearly so daunting. Licence per license, linux is cheaper up front. Feel free to disprove that.

    Linux is free:

    Paying for an ERP package isn't much of a show-stopper. You're talking about buying expensive OS licenses + expensive ERP licenses versus buying inexpensive OS licenses + expensive ERP licenses. A shortage of available ERP programs for linux is a better argument, although there are several ways to access ERP systems running on windows or commercial Unix server from linux clients - thin or otherwise (so you're buying licenses for one server, and its client access rights to access that program). And with popularity in the enterprise will come native ERP programs.

    Linux means no forced upgrades:

    Of course linux shops will upgrade their systems to get newer, nicer software. An enterprise won't be running Redhat 9.0 in 2045 any more than they'll be running Windows XP or Mac OSX. The difference is whether you're paying out windows prices or linux distro prices every 3 years, and whether your company upgrades for business reasons or contractual Licensing 6.0 obligations. And whether you have a choice of vendors.

    Linux Management is Easier:

    This is where the thin client setup really pays off. Dumb graphics terminals with 5-years-ago pc hardware minus a hard drive (to fail) connected to top-notch, dependable server hardware, centrally managed. An extra 5,000 spent on a server for 300 less spent per client (x40). And good performance for the majority of 'enterprise' tasks.

    Linux Has a Lower TCO:

    Again LTSP. Simple, very-few-moving-parts, interchangeable-in-5-minutes clients and real server hardware with trinity dies RAID and multi-processors, and hot-swap power supplies.

    Linux Means Longer Hardware Life:

    Again, of course enterprises will do OS upgrades during a 6 to 8 year lifespan. They would with Windows too. Anyone know how many scheduled upgrades you'd have to go through with MS Licensing in that period of time? Again the licensing price difference. And variance in hardware makes life harder (and more expensive) for IT. For Windows, Linux, or any other OS. How is this a linux-myth-debunker?

    Skills are transferrable:

    This is a real hurdle for linux. But for how long? It seems like a matter of momentum. The more enterprises switch (in whole or in part) to linux, the more IT people will build their careers around it. The bigger hurdle is nick is back end-user skills and perceptions. Linux desktop environments have come a long way in the last few years, though.

    Bottom Line:

    Linux isn't going to dominate the desktop anytime soon, enterprise, personal, or other. And it won't be the end-all be-all bliss of computing nirvana where enterprises never upgrade software, and linux solves "cultural and political issues" (ha! that was my favorite part of your article) for companies. But I think it looks like a feasible way to reduce headaches and lower costs, and your article did nothing to change my mind.
  • TCO musings... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by wwest4 ( 183559 ) on Tuesday May 06, 2003 @01:09PM (#5892531)

    Management tools have been available for Windows for years, Silver observed, but many enterprises still have not been able to manage their Windows environment. This has often been due to too much complexity, lack of sufficient policies or standards, or cultural and political issues, according to Silver.

    If this is true with Windows, "we see little reason to believe that the cultural or political issues will change just because the enterprise is now using Linux," he observes.

    Umm, I do. With *nix, you can get away with using almost nothing in the way of "management tools." What most would consider essential utilities are included. Just add effort.

    The situation is improving with newer Windows versions, but my impression is that they are still behind the game; I admit that maybe my ignorance of XP and longhorn might leave me biased, but for e.g.: try finding a list of open file handles in Windows, or a table of bound ports, or a robust scripting language. These types of tools typically need to be added. With *nix I usually can use an existing tool or combination of tools to easily and quickly find what I want, plus it is easily automated from then on. My impression is that things are not always that easy in Windows without (occasionally costly) add-ons.

    Another point regarding desktop TCO - a lot of Windows-based office productivity type networks opt for Terminal Server/Citrix to lower cost and simplify administration. For use on a LAN (i.e. not considering low b/w access, where RDP and ICA really shine), *nix has a network transparent windowing system (X, in case that isn't completely obvious) that doesn't require connection licenses or $15,000 per server licenses plus maintenance. All things being equal (i.e., assuming all of the linux apps are adequate functional replacements for Windows apps, and hardware + software maintenance is about the same price), this is an area where linux is clearly cheaper because you don't have to pay for the network protocol.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 06, 2003 @01:09PM (#5892537)
    The original article is on zdnet here []
  • by Synn ( 6288 ) on Tuesday May 06, 2003 @01:10PM (#5892543)
    Is that everyone today is talking about whether or not Linux will really give you cost savings over Windows on the desktop.

    A year ago they weren't even ready to admit it was ready for the desktop at all.

    Two years ago people would've laughed at you if you even suggested Linux on the desktop for corporate users.

    I wonder if next year's report won't be whether or not you should use Linux on the desktop, but rather which distribution you should be using.
  • Cost? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by lexcyber ( 133454 ) on Tuesday May 06, 2003 @01:10PM (#5892554) Homepage
    Even if the support and maintence cost is as high as windows. It will still be cheaper since you slash of the software license cost from the total price. Even if you only move your servers onto GNU/Linux and/or *BSD. You will save a whole lot of money. Since the server + client accesslicenses are very expensive.

    Isn't the best path just this minute to move over to for officeapps and GNU/Linux and/or BSD for the servers? As an initial move towards OSS and Free Software.


  • by codepunk ( 167897 ) on Tuesday May 06, 2003 @01:14PM (#5892591)
    What they really should have hit on is the difference in the deployment model in a corporate environment. The windows deployment model is driven
    by maximizing profits not increased efficiency.

    No real linux admin is going to go out and load linux on each and every desktop, that would be incredibly stupid. I run a 125 node thin client linux desktop environment and the cost so far has been peanuts. The administration costs thus far have been non-existent. My users have no computer skills yet have no problem clicking a icon that I provide on the desktop.

    We use VIA motherboards in a casoutlet case, no drives just a copy of peewee linux that provides X windows. The peewee linux distro is loaded to a compact flash card with a ide adapter on it. Total cost per node 224$ and it boots in under 10 seconds.

    Put that in your study and smoke it!

  • License Hell (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Alcoyotl ( 157542 ) on Tuesday May 06, 2003 @01:16PM (#5892634) Homepage Journal
    What was not taken into account is the License Hell you get with Microsoft products. If you stick with GPLd software, you won't have to worry about what you can install or distribute, and how many times.
    Having seen the pain trying to keep track of licences for Windows/Office/MSDN, this could be another argument to switch.
    Ok, it's not that essential, but still nice. Now, if Microsoft changed their licensing policies in the right direction...
  • by IGnatius T Foobar ( 4328 ) on Tuesday May 06, 2003 @01:27PM (#5892767) Homepage Journal

    Gartner cannot view Linux rollouts with an open mind because Gartner insists on looking at Linux as a drop-in replacement for proprietary operating systems. Gartner refuses to alter its frame of reference.

    Deployment of Linux isn't just about Linux itself. It's about changing the rules, shifting the paradigms, that sort of thing. That's the piece that Gartner misses, every single time. To deploy Linux effectively you have to treat it as Linux, leveraging its advantages and steering clear of its (rapidly diminishing) disadvantages. Gartner wants to force-fit Linux into a Windows paradigm, so it's no surprise that they keep finding that it does so very poorly. Linux is not a drop-in replacement for Windows! It is an alternative, just like the Macintosh is an alternative.

    Only when you design for Linux and plan for Linux do you get to take advantage of its strengths.

  • Desktop management (Score:3, Insightful)

    by demaria ( 122790 ) on Tuesday May 06, 2003 @01:35PM (#5892853) Homepage
    In the enterprise, desktop management is a very big issue that still hasn't been solved completely. In the Windows world there is SMS, ZenWorks and a slew of vendors offering application deployment, application management, asset control, metering and patch management. Does anything like this exist for Linux at all?
    • by Gothmolly ( 148874 ) on Tuesday May 06, 2003 @01:53PM (#5893074)
      You SO don't get it. Firstly, SMS doesn't work. Everyone knows it. It has failed in every org I've belonged to, and I wasn't the guy running it. People used to laugh about unplugging their PCs so that the IT baboons COULDN'T do an SMS push. ZenWorks might work, only because it's not Microsoft. On Linux, it's all different. Firstly, your "profile" is all in one place. Really. It's called "/home". Secondly, since you can SSH into any box, as an administrative user, you can upgrade whatever you need to. Hell, with a few Perl scripts, you could have the systems autoupgrade - put some .debs or .rpms in a magic directory, and "if -x files, do upgrade process" in a shell script via cron.
      The thing about a Unix shop is that you can depend on the fact that all systems have cron, an MTA, Perl, and sshd. In a Unix shop, remote administration is the norm, not the exception.
  • by pchown ( 90777 ) on Tuesday May 06, 2003 @01:36PM (#5892863)
    The report starts off a section by saying, "Myth: Linux Will Be Less Expensive." The author then shows one situation in which Linux is the same price. "Therefore," implies the article, "it is a myth that Linux will be less expensive." It's an obvious non-sequitur []. I wonder if Gartner's clients are paying for that sort of thing, or if it just got added in the summary.

    More importantly, the article misses the big difference with Linux, that it puts the customer in the driving seat. If you want to run NT 4 after it is out of support, you won't get security fixes and the like. With Linux, the source code is all out there, so you can keep patching yourself if you want to. Assuming that you aren't running loads of services, that would be a reasonably straightforward thing to do.

    This is the reason why Linux is a "paradigm shift" and not just another product which happens to be 10% cheaper.
  • by psgalbraith ( 200580 ) on Tuesday May 06, 2003 @01:38PM (#5892895) Homepage
    When the report states that Linux isn't free because support isn't free, it forgets that it's the licensing that's free.

    How much is the elimination of the threat of a license audit worth to your company?
  • Stupid (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Jacek Poplawski ( 223457 ) on Tuesday May 06, 2003 @01:39PM (#5892908)
    Read article before you moderate that as flame.

    Myth: Linux Will Be Less Expensive

    And who cares about StarOffice? I don't use Star or OpenOffice. For documents I use LaTeX, gnumeric and Dia. OpenOffice is not Linux, just like Debian is not.

    Myth: Linux Is Free

    Supported? You mean Linux on desktop means I need support? So when I used DOS without support I used non-desktop system? Server one maybe?

    Myth: Linux Means No Forced Upgrades

    Software like TeX is not changing at all for years (or is TeX server software?). You need only to upgrade stuff like kernel and servers (remember? we are talking about desktop!) - to avoid crashes and crackers.

    Myth: Linux Management Is Easier

    Fever viruses? What viruses?! Anyone this point is not so stupid like others.

    Myth: Skills Are Transferable

    They are not in Windows. Microsoft changes things too fast.

    Anyway - it was very lame criticizm of Linux on desktop. You need to get better arguments next time.

  • by Jaywalk ( 94910 ) on Tuesday May 06, 2003 @01:40PM (#5892923) Homepage
    On a number of points the author dismisses points a "myths" in the header only to allow that they are at least partly true in the body of the text. What he should be saying is that these things are "exaggerations", which isn't the same thing. Calling them "myths" sounds cooler, like he found some big coverup, but it doesn't serve the readers to put up a sensationalist header when all he's really calling for is for the person considering switching to Linux to do their homework.
  • Reality says "Hi" (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 06, 2003 @01:47PM (#5893007)
    I can only speak from my own experience, but I've been around this business some 15+ years, worked as a programmer, ISP sysadmin and consultant for both really large and really small companies (and a couple of in between ones).

    I can't actually recall even one transition from MS/whatever to Linux/*BSD where the people involved wasn't really happy with the move afterwards. They simply never look back.

    That's my experience, others may vary, but to me the choice of platform in the overseeable future is very easy. And it's dirt cheap compared to the alternatives too.

    The best way to find out is to try it yourself. Don't believe everything you read.
  • by w3weasel ( 656289 ) on Tuesday May 06, 2003 @01:58PM (#5893124) Homepage
    Congrats for making it all the way down here in the posts... you must be really bored. For those comments above that "don't really see anything wrong with... [MS improving the OS by prescribing hardware]". I will assume you didnt follow the anti-trust case very closely. I would strongly urge you to CAREFULLY read the Findings of Fact []. Surprisingly, the Judge in this phase of the trial nailed the issue... its only too bad the meat of this document was overlooked by virtually everyone else. In short, MS was proven to have manipulated and maintained an "Applications Barrier To Entry". Which means if you don't have the developers writing for your OS, then you ain't gonna compete with MS. Well, now that MS has been [*cough!*] disciplined, and is a good citizen, there surely is no real harm in them having direct control of hardware that will support all the third party software that will run on it. For those who think this might not be a bad thing, I hear the Jeff Dahmer is reformed and available to babysit your kids... when can he come over?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 06, 2003 @02:03PM (#5893168)
    at least all I've read so far. I manage the computers at my company (about 10 workstations and a server). We typically will stretch a computer as long as possible.

    Why? The replacement costs are staggering! and they have nothing to do with the cost of the machine itself! It is the endless time it takes to replace a Windows machine. M$ has made it as difficult as possible (bordering on impossible) to backup and restore a Windows machine completely. Even if you can image a Windows hard disk completely, it will never run on anything except that exact hardware. The way hardware vendors change machine configurations, you can't get the same hardware mockup if you order two machines on the same day! All applications are hopelessly entwined with the copy of the OS running on THAT machine.

    The only reliable way I have found to do this is to force users to keep the data files they work on on the server, do a routine weekly backup on e-mail files and bookmarks for each machine. When a machine must be replaced, I spend a minimum of two days reloading all of the software we need on each workstation from the install disks, loading patches for each of those programs and then restoring e-mail and bookmarks. This doesn't include the 1-2 hour wait on M$'s line to get another authorization number so I can reuse the Office Pro license on the new machine; I went thru that twice then found a pirated copy of the corporate version so I wouldn't have to waste that time anymore.

    Linux, on the other hand is simplicity itself. I simply back up several subdirectories. If the machine fails or I want to clone the machine to another, different set of hardware, I reinstall Linux on the new machine and restore the backed up subdirectories on the new machine. Voila! complete new machine with every application, all data files and all settings intact.

    M$ is sooooo concerned with piracy that they make preserving my company's data and work environment hell. Frankly, ANY amount of trouble with a different OS pales in comparison to the hassles outlined above.
  • by FooBarWidget ( 556006 ) on Tuesday May 06, 2003 @02:22PM (#5893346)
    "but enterprises that require vendor support for their client OS will need to pay for it."

    All I can say to this article is duh!

    Like the anti-open source people say, "you get what you pay for".
    So if you want more support, then pay for it! Why should Linux and it's associated companies give away everything for free? You're supposed to pay for quality products!

    First people complain that it's free ("free = amateur/bad/whatever"), and now people complain that it's NOT free. *sigh*...
  • Um...what?? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by SeanAhern ( 25764 ) on Tuesday May 06, 2003 @03:22PM (#5893907) Journal
    Myth: Linux Will Be Less Expensive

    They then go on to explain that the argument is that OpenOffice and Linux will be less expensive than MS Office and Windows. Their attempt to debunk this is to say that OpenOffice is available on Windows.

    Somehow this means that the "myth" is false? Their arguments don't stand to reason.

    First off, the argument of Linux being less expensive is much, much larger than just the cost of an office productivity suite. It has to do with licensing, user support, applications, TCO, uptime, and all sorts of other things. Saying "OO is available on Windows. Q.E.D." is almost a non sequitur.

    And how does saving money on an office suite, even if you don't migrate to Linux, mean that Linux costs more? It doesn't follow! If they argued other costs of migration (apps, user training, etc.), maybe they'd start down a logical line of argument. But the office suite argument is a dead end that doesn't lead to the conclusion that their headline would suggest.

    This article is mostly FUD.
  • Sly Deception (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Euphonious Coward ( 189818 ) on Tuesday May 06, 2003 @03:32PM (#5894030)
    This is a very sly article. Its overall level of articulateness and internal cohesion suggest that it was written by a Gartner customer and published more or less unchanged. Make no mistake, despite the apparent evenhandedness, this report is meant to muddy the water. If Free Software really offers only a "slight edge" here and there, and numerous "problem[s] replicating this [or that] technology", who would dare switch? The section headings, identified as "myths", are meant to be taken as false, when in fact they all remain substantially true despite the author's quibbling.

    Perhaps the slyest bit of slight-of-hand was the claim that the cost of supporting Linux users would not be significantly less than for Windows users. As support, the author quotes somebody saying that Linux required about as much support staff as Unix -- then just guesses (ignoring contrary reports) that the same would obtain vs. supporting Windows desktops.

    Another is the suggestion that working well on older hardware actually counts against Free software. The author says, for instance, "After warranty support is over, many enterprises choose not to repair broken PCs, but to replace them with new ones." This is in large part because the repaired PC would not be able to run current MS software versions anyhow.

    Similarly, the author suggests that keeping older hardware means managing many more varieties of hardware. Yet, it is not old, well-understood hardware that is hard to manage, but the forced influx of new hardware needed to run new versions of software. Absent that forced turnover, an enterprise may reasonably stick with substantially the same hardware configuration (with optional upgrades in clock speed and storage capacity) until there are compelling, objective reasons to switch.

    Equally damning are the omissions. The author carefully avoids mentioning lock-in, and never mentions the possibility of obtaining support from independent (and possibly local, and competing) third parties, or from the in-house expertise that can only develop with Free software. For a good comparison, consider the SUNY Faculty Senate resolution published at il2003_approved.html [].

    I could go on and on, but the point is that the opposition has become more sophisticated. This is more clever than "Free software is a cancer that threatens the American Way", but the intent and the conclusion are the same. Now the strategy is "make minor concessions, but sow seeds of fear, doubt, and confusion." The falsehoods reveal the true intent.

    Try to guess which Gartner customer wrote this report.

  • The bottom line (Score:3, Interesting)

    by g4dget ( 579145 ) on Tuesday May 06, 2003 @03:52PM (#5894277)
    Well, the bottom line is:
    The bottom line is that Silver sees some cost savings in migrating to the Linux desktop but says the move "will probably not eliminate all of the costs the enterprises expects."
    Isn't that all that counts?

    Perhaps they should now go back and write "Myths of Windows on the Desktop", like:

    • Myth: Windows is easy to use
    • Myth: Everybody runs windows
    • Myth: .DOC is a good document interchange format
    • Myth: Windows development tools are high quality and productive
    • Myth: Windows is professionally supported
    • Myth: Windows admin tools are easier to use than UNIX's text-based configuration
    • Myth: Windows NTFS provides reliability and performance
    I could go on...
  • by debest ( 471937 ) on Tuesday May 06, 2003 @04:20PM (#5894617)
    ... by anyone that actually knows what is necessary to do a Linux-on-desktop rollout anyways. Sure, they are part of the overall message, but no one who is serious actually says that using Linux is free (as in beer).

    The real benefits are that money can be saved using Linux if you use Linux within your enterprise for what it is: a network-centric operating system. If you try to simply make Linux work like Windows, you have just forced Linux to ignore its strengths.

    The REAL impediments to moving to enterprise-wide Linux implementations are not listed as myths here, because no one ever pretends that these are easy. The big ones:
    • Resistance to change by users - Users will always raise a stink when forced to learn something new. In general, this reaction is softened somewhat for Windows upgrades, because most people realize that they'll probably soon be (or already are) using the same new version of Windows at home as well, so it won't be seen to be "forced" by nearly as many people.
    • Access to existing Microsoft documents - Most businesses have all of their data locked away in MS documents, and only MS apps can be guaranteed to open them properly. We really need a slick tool that batches these .doc, .xls, .ppt, etc. documents and mass converts them open XML documents, once the filters are (we hope) figured out to the Nth degree of accuracy.
    • Home-grown applications - Most businesses have a bunch of tools that range from fully developed applications, right down to customized macros on spreadsheets, that were created on MS products. They may be company supported or just a pet project of an employee who needs it to get his/her work done. Regardless, moving to Linux will probably break them, and cause much grief to those maintaining them.
    • Enterprise-class apps on Windows only - The *really* big one. Big companies have already invested huge dollars in purchasing proprietary applications for accounting, project/time management, human resources, etc. The companies that produce these tools aren't going to make Linux versions until they see a few big customers committing to go with their product AND switching to Linux. Pretty hard for a company to commit to the switch if the product doesn't yet exist. The proverbial Catch-22.

    I don't doubt that these things will eventually happen: Microsoft's continuing increase in obnoxiousness is helping companies along nicely in this regard.

    I really believe that one big company, with plenty of internal IT resource, and reason to want Microsoft knocked down a few pegs, could eliminate Windows systems on their own systems (hurdling the obstacles I listed above). This could serve as the benchmark that other companies can point to and see that it is possible. Are you listening, IBM? I'm talking to you!
  • by njdj ( 458173 ) on Tuesday May 06, 2003 @04:21PM (#5894623)
    We hear this again and again: "Proprietary software is supported, free software isn't".

    It's bullshit. If you have problems installing a driver for Windows, do you think Microsoft will give you any support? Have you tried calling Microsoft tech support?

    "Be sure to install the latest service pack". That's your tech support from the vendor. You get effective support for M$ products exactly the same way you get effective support for free software - by posting a question on a newsgroup or forum.
  • by Julian Morrison ( 5575 ) on Tuesday May 06, 2003 @05:31PM (#5895324)
    "If you're dumb, and it's losing you money on windows, then even if you switch to linux you'll still be dumb, and it will still lose you money."
  • by Eric Damron ( 553630 ) on Tuesday May 06, 2003 @05:33PM (#5895341)
    that after paying $95.00 for the six page FUD document, management is going to believe that it must be true.
  • MS "support" (Score:4, Interesting)

    by noda132 ( 531521 ) on Tuesday May 06, 2003 @05:47PM (#5895445) Homepage

    Let's take two typical software bugs -- one with Windows, one with Mozilla.

    Mozilla bug: Submitted bug report, got a preliminary reply via email in under two hours. Bug was solved in two days and pushed back into CVS, ready for compiling. Took under one hour to reproduce the bug, write down all steps in bugzilla, read all the email traffic, and recompile.

    Microsoft bug: (registry key not closed on logoff) After waiting 5 hours on hold, I got in touch with somebody asking all the dumbest questions ("Tried rebooting?" etc). The person wasn't even going to give me a phone number if I hadn't asked. I had to be sure to be available at hours when this person would call; I was transferred to three phone support people, and three technicians. I was asked to build two debugging computers and waste a hundred megs of download bandwidth to get certain "debug" patches, only to find that just when I got the computers built and set up, they had managed to solve the problem. Total time spent I working on the problem: at least 40 hours, spread over 6 months. About 10 of these hours were spent answering the same question to new support staff (or sometimes the same staff). Oh, and I was told that I'd have to pay additional support costs if this wasn't a bug in Windows (which it was).

    The lesson: "support" is a broad term, and just sticking it on a list of features doesn't mean anything. I'll take the free support from volunteers over Microsoft's any day of the week. Though I have no direct experience with paid support from Linux vendors, I'm confident its quality is higher.

    Yeah, we've set up about a dozen Linux servers -- Red Hat and Debian. And there are simply no problems. So the second edge of the "support" buzzword: for the same amount of money, would you rather have support you don't need, or need support you don't have?

    These arguments are based on personal experience and not ideals, though I've got plenty based on ideals, too!

"For a male and female to live continuously together is... biologically speaking, an extremely unnatural condition." -- Robert Briffault