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Follow Up to "Linux's Achilles Heel" 533

donheff writes "Fred Langa has posted an Informationweek online followup to his "Linux's Achilles Heel" column that drew a lot of attention on slashdot recently. He responds to several of the most common criticisms and 'posits that high-priced commercial Linux vendors are on a suicidal course, unless they lower prices to accentuate their advantages over Windows.'"
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Follow Up to "Linux's Achilles Heel"

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  • by AKAImBatman ( 238306 ) <> on Tuesday May 18, 2004 @10:02AM (#9182954) Homepage Journal
    ...that future Linux distros will move away from being "Linux" and toward being independent OSes. They'd still retain the Linux kernel, and perhaps some of the CLI userland, but the GUI and standard programs will be proprietary.

    Apple has already accomplished this with BSD and OS X. Looking at the Java Desktop System [], I think that this is Sun's endgame as well. For now they'll leverage everything Linux, then slowly replace all programs with Java ones, and the Desktop with Java Looking Glass. It's hard to say how it will work out, but I wish them the best.

    • by FreeUser ( 11483 ) on Tuesday May 18, 2004 @10:12AM (#9183084)
      Apple has already accomplished this with BSD and OS X. Looking at the Java Desktop System, I think that this is Sun's endgame as well. For now they'll leverage everything Linux, then slowly replace all programs with Java ones, and the Desktop with Java Looking Glass. It's hard to say how it will work out, but I wish them the best.

      I don't.

      It is exactly this sort of shit that nearly killed UNIX in the 1980s and allowed Microsoft the opportunity to supplant technically superior systems with their shoddy software and then leverage that toehold into a desktop monopoly.

      Fragmentation is bad for everyone. Sun, HP, et. al. made this mistake before. If they insist on repeating it (and I believe Sun is perfectly capable of repeating acts of inane stupidity perpetually, as they really do seem to have difficulty learning from past mistakes -- remember sunview, openwindows, etc.) they will meet the same fate as before, this time with no one to rescue them.

      Apple is different, in that they have always had their own OS and their own niche, and have used their underlying BSD system to actually broaden that platform some. What you are describing for Sun et. al. is a narrowing of their (Linux) platform, and undermining one of the great values of Linux ... that it is a defacto standard system that runs the same basic flavor of *NIX on multiple hardware platforms, irrespective of distribution, CPU type, 32-bit vs. 64-bit, 1-way vs. N-way processors, etc.

      Lose that and your right back to the state of UNIX circa 1990, and that wasn't a pretty picture (or a viable state of affairs, with every hardware manufacturer's proprietary system incompatible with everyone elses).

      Fragmentation is bad, and I do not "wish the best" for anyone trying to fragment the free software world in general and Linux in particular. Quite the opposite: I hope any such efforts fail miserably and teach a lesson certain parties seem quite challenged to learn, no matter how often they burn themselves trying.
      • It is exactly this sort of shit that nearly killed UNIX in the 1980s and allowed Microsoft the opportunity to supplant technically superior systems with their shoddy software and then leverage that toehold into a desktop monopoly.

        I believe you mean the 1990's. Unix was not having all that many troubles in the 1980's. It's biggest competitor was mainframes and "smart" terminals that allowed things like an independent Word Processor to interface to the mainframe.

        What you are describing for Sun et. al. is
      • by Decaff ( 42676 ) on Tuesday May 18, 2004 @10:50AM (#9183518)
        It is exactly this sort of shit that nearly killed UNIX in the 1980s and allowed Microsoft the opportunity to supplant technically superior systems with their shoddy software and then leverage that toehold into a desktop monopoly.

        Microsoft was never competing with UNIX. Microsoft is primarily an office desktop system and workgroup networking environment. UNIX was specialist technical workstation system and (these days) high-end server. The competitors to Microsoft were GEM and Deskview on the client side, and Netware and Vines on the server side.
        On the other hand, it was good marketing for MS to say that they were competing with UNIX...

        Fragmentation is bad for everyone. Sun, HP, et. al. made this mistake before. If they insist on repeating it (and I believe Sun is perfectly capable of repeating acts of inane stupidity perpetually, as they really do seem to have difficulty learning from past mistakes -- remember sunview, openwindows, etc.) they will meet the same fate as before, this time with no one to rescue them.

        Sun is not fragmenting Linux. Java Desktop is stuff that runs on standard Linux. You can assemble your own 'Java Desktop' by putting all the bits together yourself, assuming you don't want support.

        SunView was before X-Windows. It was certainly not a mistake or an attempt to fragement anything - there were no standards then. When X-Windows came along, Sun provided OpenWindows, a GUI toolset for X. What is mistaken about that?
      • this sort of shit that nearly killed UNIX in the 1980s

        Duh, hello, ignorance.

        The reason that shit 'nearly killed UNIX' in the 80's was because everyone (the vendors) were making their own Unix.

        In this case, its irrelevant: Linux is free, the base technology is out there, you and your competitors all have the same, even, level playing field.

        I see nothing wrong at all with fragmentation and propagation of the Linux kernel into whatever devices can support it. GREAT!

        If UNIX wants to stay UNIX, however, then thats another thing ... but Linux, 'embedded', doesn't have to stay UNIX. At all.

  • Are there any... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by dijjnn ( 227302 ) <bwthomas.cs@uchicago@edu> on Tuesday May 18, 2004 @10:03AM (#9182964)
    ... Legitimate TCO analysis studies out there? Obviously it's different from company to company, but it would be nice if there were something we could point to when we tell our various employers that they should be using Free Software.
    • by SQLz ( 564901 )
      Most of the TCO studies cite that to deploy linux, you need competant admins that cost more because they have pesky unwanted skills like security, programming languages, and generally a lot more experience with more complex software packages than an MSCE.

  • Will they? (Score:5, Funny)

    by Cyclopedian ( 163375 ) on Tuesday May 18, 2004 @10:03AM (#9182965) Journal
    From the article:
    To me, the answer is obvious: The commercial Linuxes should reduce their prices. That will instantly reduce the expectations of the end-user community and avoid the direct comparison to Windows' level of support. Linux will again be a bargain, and issues like incomplete hardware support and other rough edges will matter much less.

    Commerical linux companies that have a bunch of support and execs willing to lower prices to make linux itself a bargain while lowering their profit margin and revenue?

    I think I'll see a gramatically correct slashdot article before that happens.


  • by Himring ( 646324 ) on Tuesday May 18, 2004 @10:05AM (#9182989) Homepage Journal
    Achilles Heel?

    That Linux is a terrible actor with a great body?

    ...Don't hurt me! I'm not the one making the Troy references!...
    • isnt this more like David and Goliath?. Most of the criticism Linux gets its basically true, usability and compatibility are serious issues that stop my sister or my grandpa to use it on a daily basis.

      Usability: of course thats the last thing you worry about, being a OSS developer, because you do it in your free(as in beer) time!.

      Compatibility: well, Goliath gets all the hardware specs from all the vendors and everything locked up in patents. OSS developers stuck with reverse engineering is like eating th
      • isnt this more like David and Goliath?

        [David] "I don't understand it, Goliath. I've prayed and prayed, but God won't make my soundcard work on Linux."

        [Goliath] "Woof! I only know Windows, Da-vey. We should go ask Pastor Bob."


        [Pastor Bob] "... So you see, Davey, God didn't answer your prayer, because it's something He wants you to do for yourself. You need to write your own device-driver for that sound card."

        [David] "Gee, now I understand. Thanks, Pastor Bob!"

        [Goliath] "Woof!"

    • Re:Achilles Heel? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Obasan ( 28761 ) on Tuesday May 18, 2004 @11:31AM (#9183991)
      Heh... joking aside, Troy really wasn't well written or directed (and Brad Pitt's performance was especially wooden and unspectacular) -however- I will contend that he can in fact act when given a halfway good script and director.

      I cite as examples:
      12 Monkeys
      Fight club

      I know there are at least a few more where he gave a pretty good performance but thats off the top of my head. :)

  • Reverse? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by somethinghollow ( 530478 ) on Tuesday May 18, 2004 @10:05AM (#9182991) Homepage Journal
    "lower prices to accentuate their advantages over Windows"

    So, Microsoft raises it's prices to accentuate it's disadvantages over Linux?

    Commercial distros, last time I checked, are still a hell of alot cheaper than Windows. Employees of Commercial Linux Distros still need to be paid.
    • Re:Reverse? (Score:4, Informative)

      by ThisIsFred ( 705426 ) on Tuesday May 18, 2004 @10:28AM (#9183269) Journal
      I think he's talking about stuff like RedHat Advanced Server. See, this has been a pro-Windows argument that floated around Usenet for years. And it's very easy to knock down:

      The price of commercial Linux is that "high" is because 1) the Linux distro actually includes applications and services that Windows does not, and 2) it includes support, unlike Microsoft's licensing.

      Next time you're buying a $2000 SQL server license, ask them if you can get 1) a CD, 2) a manual, and 3) ask how many hours of phone support are included. Of course, the answers will be "no", "no", and "zero".
      • Re:Reverse? (Score:3, Informative)

        by ArsonSmith ( 13997 )
        I'd hate to see the cost of my work desktop in Microsoft tax. There would be so many applications I would have to buy.

        I use:
        open office free...would have to by MS Office
        Planner free....would have to by MS Project
        Dia free....would have to by visio
        Gimp and Sodipodi free....MS doesn't even have one would have to go to another vendor

        I'd say the $0.00 dollars I spent on Debian is much better than the ~$1500+ I would have to spend to get the above software.

    • Stop obsessing over Windows for a minute and look at it from a consumer's point of view -- an install of a new Linux distro (or even an upgrade) might run beautifully, or it might not set up a peripheral properly or it might require a couple of days in Google Groups or IRC or the install disk might not boot at all. That's why downloadable ISOs are so important. I've been using Linux for years and I still won't drop $80 on something that there's a strong possiblity won't work for me. (I try to download, and
    • Commercial distros, last time I checked, are still a hell of alot cheaper than Windows. Employees of Commercial Linux Distros still need to be paid.

      Well, part of Microsoft's Windows Server strategy roadshow these days is the idea that:

      1. "Linux" is not a product companies buy; it's a technology that other vendors use to build solutions (e.g. Red Hat).
      2. When companies talk about using open source, they're really using a commercially-packaged solution offered by one of these vendors. Very few, if any, Fortun
  • by Lord_Frederick ( 642312 ) * on Tuesday May 18, 2004 @10:05AM (#9183000)

    The price from suse for five copies of linux [] is $598. Isn't this still almost half the price of Microsoft Operating Systems?

    • by Cereal Box ( 4286 ) on Tuesday May 18, 2004 @10:23AM (#9183229)
      Considering that you can get 5 copies of XP home (yes, that's not the "workstation" version of Windows, but still) for $500, AND considering that XP is going to be more compatible with hardware than SuSE's offering (this was the guy's main gripe), then perhaps you understand where he's coming from when he says that commercial Linux distros are overpriced.
      • Overpriced? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by HopeOS ( 74340 ) on Tuesday May 18, 2004 @11:06AM (#9183701)
        XP Home comes with an industry standard web server? XP Home can operate as a full-fledged file server? With unlimited client-licensed connections? XP Home provides a secure, virus-free work environment for the corporate desktop? XP Home comes with a fully functional word processor and spreadsheet? XP Home comes with a complete compiler and development environment?

        Seems to me that XP Home is a bit overpriced.

        All it can do out of the box is play music, watch DVD's, connect to the internet, and download malware while you're trying to get real work done. No, thank you, but I'll pass.

        • Re:Overpriced? (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Cereal Box ( 4286 ) on Tuesday May 18, 2004 @11:18AM (#9183827)
          XP Home comes with an industry standard web server?

          Irrelevant, as the original poster's link points to what is touted as a "desktop" version of SuSE, not a server version. But, if you really want, you can get Apache.

          XP Home can operate as a full-fledged file server?

          With Windows File Sharing, or an FTP server, or an NFS server, sure. Just download it.

          With unlimited client-licensed connections?

          Nothing stopping you from accepting as many connections with third-party software as you want.

          XP Home provides a secure, virus-free work environment for the corporate desktop?

          Linux doesn't provide you with one either, so this isn't really a good point for you to be making.

          Seems to me that XP Home is a bit overpriced.

          Not when you consider that the author's original concern was not with how many different kinds of FTP servers and word processors ship with his OS, but how compatible the OS is with common hardware. Windows is more compatible than Linux. Windows (the version cited) is cheaper. In his view, Linux is therefore overpriced, considering that it costs more than the listed version of Windows yet can't maintain the same level of hardware compatibility. End of story.

          All it can do out of the box is play music, watch DVD's, connect to the internet, and download malware while you're trying to get real work done.

          Of course, in a corporate environment you would most likely be installing full disk images, complete with all the software you need (and patches) to the client machines, so Windows could "out of the box" do all the things you listed (which no one really cares about on the desktop, except development, depending on the user).
        • Re:Overpriced? (Score:4, Informative)

          by mhesseltine ( 541806 ) on Tuesday May 18, 2004 @11:30AM (#9183984) Homepage Journal
          All it can do out of the box is play music, watch DVD's, connect to the internet, and download malware while you're trying to get real work done. No, thank you, but I'll pass.

          As a small nit to pick, XP home will *not* play DVD's out of the box. You need to download/purchase/etc. a software DVD MPEG2 decoder for DVD playback to work.

          This begs the question: Microsoft obviously licenses many patented technologies to implement in their operating system (JPEG, MP3, Zip, etc.) Why the hell don't they license a DeCSS system from someone and include it as a Media Player codec? Even XP Media Center Edition doesn't include DVD playback. Does that make any sense?

    • This guy misses the mark by being concerned about price. Corporations are less concerned with acquisition price as they are with operation costs.

      And as for hardware support, corporations are typically smart enough to buy hardware that is listed as being supported by the software they buy. Any specialized commercial software may have more limited hardware requirements than Windows XP does, and companied will readily comply. The same is true for Linux.

      This guy is really just clueless. He sounds like a j
  • lowering prices (Score:4, Interesting)

    by lcde ( 575627 ) on Tuesday May 18, 2004 @10:08AM (#9183023) Homepage
    To me, it seems to me that RedHat would be the kind of company that would lower prices and haggle with you just to get your buisness. A lot of people just look at the price and think it is too expensive. I bet if you got a sales rep on the phone you could make deals.


  • by GMill ( 734492 ) * on Tuesday May 18, 2004 @10:08AM (#9183024)
    High price commerical Linux distros are appriopriate for value added components useful for servers, e.g. ldap, mail servers. Nobody expects such a computer to support every sound card or other peripheral.

    PC users don't need high priced commercial Linux distros.

  • Achilles What???? (Score:2, Informative)

    by Scrab ( 573004 )
    Quick site for those who don't know who Achilles was or the significance of the heel.
    • Are the schools in the US really getting that bad?

      Also, I would think that with the (assumed) hype surrounding the new movie Troy (which wasn't that bad) that all slashdotters would recognize Achilles and a least know that a foppish prince could really harm him, if only in his heel!

  • I think (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Phidoux ( 705500 ) on Tuesday May 18, 2004 @10:09AM (#9183035) Homepage
    It would be good if the Linux community, as a whole, saw these criticisms in a positive light rather than getting our collective backs up and getting on the defensive. If Linux is ever going to replace Windows, we all have to be prepared to listen to criticism and then do something to correct the weaknesses, even if the weaknesses are only perceived, because to the perceiver, perception is reality.
    • Exactly (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Stevyn ( 691306 ) on Tuesday May 18, 2004 @10:21AM (#9183205)
      Exactly. Every time someone brings up an experience they had of not being able to get some stupid piece of hardware working in linux that they easily could in windows the typical response around here is "well I got it to work so you must be dumb!" I would have switched a while ago however my printer doesn't work and in school I needed to use a specific software title only available for windows and I didn't feel like switching back every time homework was due or I needed to print something.

      But I'm not complaining, linux is free and so I have no right to complain as I didn't pay a dime for it. It's just that whenever someone says linux should be on everyone's family living room computer there are a lot of things in the way. People getting offended and the mods posting trolls and people getting +5 insightfuls make this whole free software movement seem really childish. It's sad because I'm sure the people who develop linux, gnome, kde, mozilla, ect. are not here bitching about windows all day long but are actually doing something. I'd do something myself, but I'm still just learning software and I don't have the skills to write a driver for the printer or port PSpice over to linux.

      I'm really impressed with KDE3.2 and it's amazing how fast it's updated that is very much beyond Microsoft. There is definatly a window of several years here until longhorn debuts and I think that linux could very well make its way into more people's houses. I just wish something just like apt-get existed for the rpm world that made it just as easy to update. However, I've read of projects in the works just for that so I'm sure "rpm hell" will be over a lot sooner than "dll hell" lasted.
      • Re:Exactly (Score:4, Informative)

        by Etyenne ( 4915 ) on Tuesday May 18, 2004 @11:30AM (#9183977)
        I just wish something just like apt-get existed for the rpm world that made it just as easy to update.

        You mean something like yum, up2date, urpmi, YaST or (gasp!) apt [] ?

      • Re:Exactly (Score:3, Informative)

        by Khazunga ( 176423 ) *
        ...or port PSpice over to linux.
        Spice is BSD-licensed, and runs on linux. PSpice is a front-end. Although you can't get pspice, there are quite a lot of GUI front-ends. A few years ago, I used oregano -- don't know if it still exists...
    • Okay, I'm looking at this criticism in a positive light.

      I'm even willing to fill out the bug report for Fred.

      Now, maybe you can help me with some of the specifics. What chipset was it?

      Ooooh. It looks like fixing this "problem" will be a little more difficult than you implied. Without knowing WHAT HARDWARE was giving the problem, we won't know WHAT DRIVERS need fixing.
  • Hmm (Score:5, Insightful)

    by DaveJay ( 133437 ) on Tuesday May 18, 2004 @10:10AM (#9183048)
    Putting aside the other issues for a moment, is an article that essentially cherry-picks forum posts from random people -- specifically the ones that look the most foolish and are most easily refuted -- anything other than sensationalistic journalism?

    Before you answer, keep in mind I'm going to pick the most foolish replies that are most easily refuted and write an article about it. ;)
  • When was the last time you needed sound (or even a GUI) on your web server anyway?

    I know that's not the point of this article, but he also completely fails to even mention the most common use of a Linux install - on the server.

  • by YodaToo ( 776221 ) on Tuesday May 18, 2004 @10:11AM (#9183056)
    Maybe he's just covering his ass in retrospect, but it sounds to me like this poor bastard really got flamed for writing an honest article.

    His points seem valid enough to me and while Linux beats M$ hands down on many points, there are still areas where Linux has to step up before it will be an attractive alternative to Windows across the board.

    Having said that it is attractive in many cases now. I migrated all of my employee workstations to Fedora a few months ago and couldn't be more pleased with the results.

  • How about both? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Bandit0013 ( 738137 )
    My company has a .NET shop for development with many of our internal applications going to ASP .NET. We're actually exploring only using windows machines for developers and managers/executives and turning all of the lower level end user machines to linux clients since all they really need is a browser.

    Not sure how it will work out, but it seems to me a good way to leverage the power and ease of the .NET environment with the cost savings of linux.
  • by MtViewGuy ( 197597 ) on Tuesday May 18, 2004 @10:14AM (#9183113)
    I think there are two issues that plague Linux:

    1. Will the software and/or software driver be able to be loaded and unloaded easily without a complete system reboot? They're getting better but we're not there just yet.

    2. Will we get Linux drivers that take FULL advantage of the hardware? That means something like supporting all the soundcard functions of the Sound Blaster Live! and Audigy sound cards, all the graphics-processing functions of the graphics card chipsets from ATI and nVidia, and all the functions of all-in-one printers like the Hewlett-Packard OfficeJet 6110.

    It's the hardware driver support issue that is currently the bane of Linux, though of course this is less of a problem with very recent Linux commercial distributions.
    • The primary problem with hardware drivers for Linux is that hardware vendors (usually) aren't interested in making them. The only reason they are interested in making Windows drivers at all is because the environment is already so popular.

      So it's interesting that you appear to be saying that Linux needs better hardware driver support to become more popular, but the truth of the matter is that most hardware vendors are simply uninterested in supporting a platform that isn't already popular.

      Interesting Catch22, no? Actually, it probably won't matter to anyone who isn't trying to evangelize others to their pet OS.

    • And this is further support for a pragmatic attitude regarding binary only modules. Companies continue to prefer having trade secrets for competitive advantage, and linux advocates should keep a bit of pragmatism available for those companies who at least offer binary drivers for download instead of going all batshit RMS-like.
    • >> 1. Will the software and/or software driver be
      >> able to be loaded and unloaded easily without a
      >> complete system reboot? They're getting better
      >> but we're not there just yet.

      What the H*LL are you talking about? If there
      is a driver available, it will certainly be loadable and unloadable without a system reboot. The problem (if any) will be the avoidance of subjecting the end user to any arcana.

      • by Minna Kirai ( 624281 ) on Tuesday May 18, 2004 @10:57AM (#9183598)
        What the H*LL are you talking about? If there
        is a driver available, it will certainly be loadable and unloadable without a system reboot.

        Wrong. You sound as if the system always works perfectly- but it doesn't. It's easy enough to get a "stuck" Linux module.

        For example, I've got a USB joystick. Plugging it in will automatically cause a module called "joydev" to be installed. Unplug the joystick while a process has the /dev/js0 file opened and then you're stuck- the module can never be removed, because "joydev: Device or resource busy". Plug the joystick back in, and it connects to /dev/js1. /dev/js0 will never become usable again, until I reboot.

        Similarly, I've got a CD-R whose burning failed. Attempting to mount it from Linux will hang up for a few minutes, then print a failure message. From then on, reading /cdrom will give an error, and "umount" will freeze up in a system call (meaning the process will ignore all KILL signals). Again, the cdrom can only be made usable again by rebooting. (And worse, any processes trying to access the disk will be unkillable. So if those processes also have a file open on your hard drive, then that disk can't be umounted either... meaning you can't reboot cleanly, and will have to yank the power cord, then watch an fsck run)

        I'm sure that many Linux users never see these problems: either because they never do those sorts of things, or they have a better version of Linux (I last tried 2.4.26), or they're just lucky. But they do happen.
    • With regards to 1:
      I don't know how you think Linux is "getting better" when we're talking about yanking rmmod entirely.

      However, realize this is not something that's fully under control of the kernel devs anyways. Some hardware simply does not enjoy being reprogrammed.

      With regards to 2:
      This is a vendor problem, not a Linux problem. Linus is not the one who should be held accountable for irresponsible hardware vendors.

  • Agree or disagree with the author, there is one thing he shows quite clearly: Many Linux users would rather attack than help. Regardless of whether it's an EBKAC problem or not, don't you people think that you should be using polite language to discuss the issue? A little bit of "Oh, it's all right. You merely did this wrong. Now you're up and going and you know for next time. :-)" would go a long way toward getting Linux a positive review. Instead users are assailed as "stoopid" and "the real problem is that you don't know what you're doing". This is extremely frustrating!

    I myself have years of experience with Linux, *BSD, Solaris, and several other Unixes. When I try to point out a deficiency that I think should be fixed (binary compatibly, PLEASE) I merely get the "you're stupid and don't know anything about Linux", or the "You're using the wrong distro. MY distro doesn't have this problem!" Of course, you can switch, run into some other problem, then be told, "Well this OTHER distro (which you were previously using) doesn't have this issue! You should switch!"

    In all fairness, many people have managed to be polite, as evidenced by many of the replies I received in my Linux reviews []. Unfortunately, one bad apple tends to spoil the bunch. Stop the fighting and name calling! Work together! So much more will be accomplished that way.

    • by FreeUser ( 11483 ) on Tuesday May 18, 2004 @10:37AM (#9183354)
      Agree or disagree with the author, there is one thing he shows quite clearly: Many Linux users would rather attack than help.

      I disagree (rather strongly) with your use of the word "most." It isn't "most" users, it is the "loudest" users. There is an important difference.

      Any crowd has its bullies, and the RTMFYDMF ("read the fucking articile you dumb mother-fucker") crowd rears its ugly head in almost every community of sufficient size (I've seen variations on that in the MSFT support groups, the FreeBSD groups, and plenty of others).

      Unfortunately, while the RMTFYDMF crowd is a tiny minority, it tends to be the loudest subgroup by far, while other, helpful, normal people tend to be quieter (as they are not looking for the first opportunity to put someone down ... they are too busy leading real lives, be they on-line or in meat-space).

      Most Linux users and enthusiasts can take criticism reasonably well, just as most OS X enthusiasts, *BSD enthusiasts, Blender enthusiasts, etc. can. Those who cannot unfortunately scream the loudest and get the most attention, emberrassing the rest of us (I have been moderated into oblivion and flamed to hell for posting rather mild criticism of Apple on this site a time or two ... and I'm a fan of Apple who owns one of their high-end laptops).

      I disagree with several of the points in the original article (and agree with others), but I shudder to think of the rude flames the guy probably received from the RTFMYDMF crowd.

      It isn't helpful, nor is it an accurate representation of our community. It is, however, the most often seen (or heard) group because of its loud obnoxiousness, and there are certain parties that no doubt would be perfectly happy to enhance that loudness to the detriment of us all (and to their PR advantage).

      While I disagree with the current article's posits (commercial Linux distros remain significantly less expensive than their commercial equivelents, particularly Microsofts) and believe it based on too few data points (RedHat is the glaring exception to the above), the author does seem to have tempered his response to what must have been some aggrivating flamage from the more boistrous, and generally more anti-social, parts of the peanut gallary.

      Hopefully more reasoned and enlightened disagreement (where appropriate) will prevail in response to this article, instead of some of the knee-jerk flamage that so often gets shouted from the rooftops by an undiplomatic few.
    • The author also entirely misses another related point. That is that people wanted to know exactly what hardware he was trying to get working so that they could verify the problem and fix it. The community aspect cuts both ways, and if he isn't willing to share then he isn't helping.

      The fact is that linux drivers are often not written by the hardware manufacturer, they are written by users. So if you have a problem you have to turn to other users and give them the information they need to help you. Of

  • Settle Down (Score:5, Insightful)

    by WordODD ( 706788 ) on Tuesday May 18, 2004 @10:15AM (#9183115)
    No matter how Pro-Linux anyone is they have to realize that charging as much for a distro of Linux as a copy of Windows XP is wrong. Constantly I read on Slashdot how MS is overpriced and Windows XP is not worth even half of what the retail price is but when this guy comes out and says that commerical distos need to reduce their prices the pro-Linux slashdotters go wild and a flameware ensues. I think what he said that set everyone off was that the quality was lacking in the Linux distros and that what was made them worth less then the asking price, what he should have said is that the prices are ridiculous for both commerical Linux and Windows because both are in fact priced outrageously. The price points set by Microsoft have made their OS one of the most pirated peices of software on the planet and even with their size and influence they know that there is no way to ever experience complete success against piracy of their product. We do not want the commerical Linuxs to experience the same problem or else it will slow their development because the do not have the resources of a Microsoft or an Adobe to live off of. Commerical Linux needs to lower its prices and start selling itself as what it really is, a MS alternative that may take a bit more effort to get off and running but will pay dividends down the road.
    • Re:Settle Down (Score:4, Insightful)

      by jedidiah ( 1196 ) on Tuesday May 18, 2004 @10:33AM (#9183330) Homepage
      As long as the "product" can be downloaded legally for FREE, any blatherings about price are mindless babble. Support for $50-$200 software products suck regardless and have always sucked. This is a simple fact of life.

      The cheap entry point is what is really relevant. Those that try to choose Linux will need a local support network just as they do with WinDOS. THAT is where the real "Microsoft support" comes from.
    • Although I do agree with your basic points, people have to remember that a distribution of linux is not just the kernel -- it includes an office suite (or several), graphics programs, programming environments, cd burning software, etc, etc, most of which people pay extra for in the Windows world.

      I do agree that many distros are overpriced and that lowering prices would likely help, but, it's not an apples to apples comparison.
  • by ralf1 ( 718128 ) on Tuesday May 18, 2004 @10:16AM (#9183134)
    His recommendation that vendors lower prices is taking htings much too simply. As a person whose job it is to sell Linux to non-Linux shops, I can tell you there are two conversations here: 1)Linux on the server - here it is already price advantaged as most Linux deployments in server rooms are replacements for mainframe/solaris/sco enviroments and WAY cheaper than those solutions 2)Linux on the desktop - here the price issue of the distry is a secondary concern. Customers worry first about retraining, security, disruption of business due to change, application compatibility, vendor support, price of the productivity suite (Office/Openoffice) then the price of the OS.
  • Time waste (Score:2, Interesting)

    Since Windows is the dominant desktop OS by a significant margin, it is the only OS for which you expect all hardware to work. (This expectation will be violated from time to time, of course, and we all have anecdotes to show it). That much is pretty damned obvious.
    The original article was annoying because he "didn't want to make this an issue about tech support", but it is just that. Not everything works straight off. Some people need to be told to turn the volume on. This can take a while for a tech supp
  • by khasim ( 1285 ) <> on Tuesday May 18, 2004 @10:21AM (#9183208)
    From the article:
    "There were a few more posts in the "Fred is lying/hiding" vein, but most of those died out when the participants in the discussion saw that the sound system indeed should have worked."

    How can they see that it "should have worked" when Fred still won't Name That Hardware?

    Once Fred is willing to Name That Hardware, then everyone can progress to the next round!

    Is it a BUG in Linux
    Is it a BUG in the hardware

    But Fred sez:
    "The omission was simple: I had seen no need to burn space in the original article with a list of the hardware specs because the vendor I was dealing with specifically said the system should work with their distribution (I had provided the support techs with a complete hardware rundown); and the sound chipset in question is listed on the Advanced Linux Sound Architecture (ALSA) site as supported."

    It would take Fred less space to Name That Hardware than it took to write that paragraph.

    IBM Thinkpad T40
    (16 characters plus carriage return)
    Fred's reasoning why he shouldn't have to to identify it...
    (approximately 400 characters)

    What was that about not wanting to "burn space"?

  • by dpbsmith ( 263124 ) on Tuesday May 18, 2004 @10:21AM (#9183212) Homepage
    Langa's criticism sounds fair to me. I've been there, done that so many times. Official spec sheet says product X supports product Y. You have product Y. You buy product X. Product Y doesn't work with it. You complain. Then you hear variations on the following theme

    *Very few of our customers are using product Y.

    *Personally, I would never have recommended product Y.

    *Why are you using product Y? Product Z is so much better.

    *You don't really need to have product Y work with product X.

    *By "support," all we meant is basic functionality. It does allow product Y to frangulate over the standard three-gnorgl raniseft. I know that the main selling point of product Y is that it can frangulate over eight gnorgls more than standard products, but we only support the basic functionality.

    *Anyone knowledgeable could have told you that X's support for Y sucks. It was your dumb fault for believing the spec sheet.

    *We've found that most of our customers LIKE having Product Y hang, freeze, and emit smoke.

    *Oh, we're sorry about that, but it was marketing that put that on the spec sheet, not engineering.

  • by harikiri ( 211017 ) on Tuesday May 18, 2004 @10:23AM (#9183231)
    When Linux is free, or nearly so, there's no reason to complain if its hardware support isn't quite up to Windows' level, or if there are other rough edges: You're getting a great price on a very good operating system, and the low cost more than makes up for any shortcomings

    Linux distribution vendors only have the right to charge equivalent costs to Windows if and when their distribution is equivalent or better than Windows in all respects, out of the box. This has yet to happen for the desktop market (which appears to be what he's referring to in the article).

    In the server space, Linux is definitely "there". Just look at what you can do on some of the new blade servers that HP, SGI, IBM are selling.

    However, even the most rabid Linux advocate will agree that you can't typically get a Linux desktop-focused distribution to work across the board, out of the box. Efforts are definitely being made, with most of the commercial vendors producing better-integrated desktop offerings that tie together the various open source projects (evolution, openoffice, mozilla, kde) into something cohesive and easy to use. Problems however, still exist. Partly due to lag-time between getting drivers for cutting-edge hardware, and secondly, because work still remains to be done in the whole "integration of the desktop".

    As I read in a fellow slashdotters post a while back, "Linux will be ready for the desktop when users don't need to understand mount(8) parameters" (paraphrased).

  • by Teckla ( 630646 ) on Tuesday May 18, 2004 @10:25AM (#9183245)

    First, I think it would only be fair to point out that the cost of Linux should be compared to the cost of the server version of Windows. XP Home, and even XP Professional, are much more limited than your typical distribution of Linux.

    Second, if you're taking the Linux plunge, it's generally trivial to test drive a free (as in beer) distribution of Linux before making the dive into a commercial distribution of Linux that comes with support contracts and other goodies.

    Third, the fact that Linux lags behind when it comes to drivers can hardly be blamed on Linux. Hardware manufacturers (whether rightly or wrongly) tend to put a low priority on writing Linux drivers, if they write them at all.

    Honestly, I blame this in part on the GNU Public License, since it's somewhat business unfriendly. This is just my honest opinion, please don't flame me for it.


  • I agree (Score:5, Insightful)

    by TwistedSpring ( 594284 ) * on Tuesday May 18, 2004 @10:29AM (#9183283) Homepage
    Zealots aside, I agree with this article and the former article. It's been a frequent issue for me when installing many different Linux distributions that:

    1. It's not a surprise if my network card works.
    2. It's a mild surprise if my sound card works.
    3. (up until recently) It'd amaze me if my graphics card worked to its full potential.

    Net, sound and graphics are the most important peripherals that should work flawlessly. Sound and graphics especially, as they're the sensory output of your computer, without them you don't know what's going on.

    Linux does not have the same quality of driver database as Microsoft's OSes do. This is merely because Microsoft is dominant. Perhaps a sweet way to handle the problem would be to create some kind of abstraction layer that allowed you to use vendor-supplied Windows drivers under Linux, but that is extremely unrealistic, and it'd be slow and bloated (someone will now pipe up and tell me that it is being worked on).

    Linux has been given a boost by the recent dominance of particular audio chips from Creative (such as the EMU10K1) and graphics chipsets from ATI and nVidia.

    Sadly, Linux drivers are provided mainly by people who have some hardware that doesn't work under Linux. So they start a driver for it, get far enough for the driver to work well enough for their needs, and then leave it to deteriorate over time without any attention paid to it, as they change hardware. End users then get some kind of beta thing that hasnt been worked on for 3 years but still have to use it. This is the hardware manufacturers fault -- Linux devrs dont have the money to buy and reverse-engineer every piece of hardware. They need the specs, and ultimately they need the vendor to make a Linux driver by proxy, as vendors do for Windows.

    Currently though, you don't look bad for not making a Linux driver. People don't open the box and say "wtf is this? No linux driver?!", because they morbidly expect Linux support to be limited. In the domain of onboard sound or graphics, or newer hardware, Linux support is the exception rather than the rule. Vendors need some good reason to add Linux support, and it's not up to me to decide what that reason would be. "Thanks" is not good enough.

    I should also mention that even if most home Linux users do obtain a driver for some hardware, they'd be at pains to find out how to install/compile the damn thing, especially if it involves recompiling the kernel.

    I'm not flaming Linux, I don't need a crock of shit from the zealot crowd telling me I'm an idiot faggot and so on, I'm just being realistic and saying there is work to be done.

    What I'd like to see in the future is a Universal Driver Abstraction Layer, some kind of compile-once-run-many virtual machine that allows the same drivers to work on any OS that supports it, the only problem is that OSes make very different demands of the drivers so this may never come into fruition.
  • by Malor ( 3658 ) * on Tuesday May 18, 2004 @10:31AM (#9183295) Journal
    Boy, one thing that really struck a chord here with me was Mr. Langa's observation of the "if we don't have it, you don't need it" syndrome. I've seen that so many times with Linux. If you ask how to do a given thing, and it turns out that thing is hard to do in Linux, inevitably multiple people will suggest that you shouldn't even need to do that. It doesn't matter what it is, if it's not in Linux, someone will tell you that your need is silly.

    A great example is one of my early posts about how I didn't trust Linux filesystems, and that I'd lost files on numerous occasions due to power failures on ext2 systems. I went back and looked through my whole archive, but apparently this thread was before the cutoff date for archiving... lost to history.

    Roughly summarizing, I posted that I didn't trust Linux in a production environment because ext2 was unreliable: you couldn't trust it in a power failure. I didn't get EVEN ONE useful response. What I got, instead, were a mix of (approximately):

    1) "Well, gee, I've lost power 14,232 times and I've never lost a file"; (ie, problem doesn't exist)
    2) "You should always have backups"; (problem is unimportant)
    3) "You're an idiot, you should have copied a backup superblock. Moron. Go play with Windows." (problem is stupid user)
    4) "I lost power to my NT machine and I lost 23,124 files!' (NT is worse so it's okay for Linux to suck.)

    It was really interesting to see how different the posts were when I mentioned that a couple of years later. I can't find that post now, but by that time, Linux had journaled filesystems. We had a fairly interesting commentary back and forth about how NT 4.0 didn't really have journaling, and that it wasn't until 2K that NTFS was truly robust. But everyone agreed that journaling was good, now that Linux had it. Pretty significant shift in stance, eh?

    I've seen this so many times that I'm forced to conclude it's some kind of defense mechanism.... if you really love your pet project, and it has shortcomings, gloss over them or dismiss them as unimportant. I think we would be wise to be more aware of this, and that users in general don't request things for no reason at all. They may just need education. It may be simple ignorance on how to approach the problem in Linux.

    Chewing them out, on the other hand, for not manually repairing their filesystems by copying a backup superblock, well.... that's stupider than their not knowing how.

    • Oops, I forgot one:

      5) "What kind of idiot would run a server without a UPS?" (another variant on stupid user)

    • by Rick Zeman ( 15628 ) on Tuesday May 18, 2004 @11:21AM (#9183877)
      t was really interesting to see how different the posts were when I mentioned that a couple of years later. I can't find that post now, but by that time, Linux had journaled filesystems. We had a fairly interesting commentary back and forth about how NT 4.0 didn't really have journaling, and that it wasn't until 2K that NTFS was truly robust. But everyone agreed that journaling was good, now that Linux had it. Pretty significant shift in stance, eh?

      Very insightful. Something analogous is the MS press writers' stances of how the previous versions of Windows truly sucked...but while they were current they were being touted by them to the high heavens. It was only when they became obsolete did they admit to (at least in their press) all of the shortcomings that everyone else had pointed out all along. That sort of 1984'ness never ceases to amuse me....that along with "the next version will fix all of the problems" til the next version gets here and then the cycle starts all over.
  • by mark-t ( 151149 )
    Right... just like there's no "English Alphabet" corp... yet it seems like there's a lot of people that use that (including the writer of the article).

    But somehow the idea that a lot of people would ever be comfortable using a system that isn't managed by a central organization is unthinkable!

  • It seems to me as if Fred wrote the article knowing that he'd provoke the Linux community.

    He seems amazed that people could react in this way:

    Many readers thought I was trying to hide something; or was secretly trying to stack the deck against Linux; or that I had some other evil motivation in not detailing the hardware.

    some readers from the Linux community are deeply suspicious of criticism of Linux.

    I find it hard to believe that an experienced writer such as Fred Langa would express disbelief at t
  • Fred Langa is "right on" when comparing Microsoft OS offering against the attempted commercialized Linux offerings. From the perspective of a consumer.

    He had the expectation that "all would work", and be "supported" (um... work) at least as well as Windows; given the the price was comparable.

    From another perspective, that's wrong. If it doesn't work, get your money back -- that's what he paid for. But, Linux is a hobby system. If (or when) it works for Mr. Langa, he will know it, and use it.

    What ticks me off is that Mr. Langa is being critical of Linux! You know, that hobby project. Get pissed at Suse, Redhat, Mandrake, (___ fill in the blank). Leave the hobbyist alone! Linux, Debian, et al. I am sure that Mr. Langa (as most of us) hs two standards -- one for professional atheletes, and another for amateur (Olympians, etc.). Yes, the professional bar is higher, as it should be.

    If the F/OSS stuff is good enough, it will be used. Sure, criticize, but also give that community positive feedback. We aren't in it for money -- so some positive feedback would be useful.

    The vilest thing that has happened to me in the Free Software world was a program I wrote (EMUL87). Distributed on SIMTEL; thousands of users. Not a word of positive feedback. Until one day (actually, 5 years later), when one consultant mailed me, and DEMAANDED I fix the software (because his client needed it). And if I didn't fix it IMMEDIATELY, I would be SUED. I told him to 'f off.

    That nearly ended my relationship with F/OSS. But, I changed my mind. I like sharing, you see, and I get stuff from the community.

    So, I feel that the F/OSS community is maligned and demotivated by the constant comparision with commercial software. The journalistic tack should be to take the commercial vendors to task if their offerings are so weak that F/OSS is actually competitive.

    I understand why some people got defensive. Mr. Langa should CLEARLY state that the comparision is *not* with Linux or F/OSS, but with particular distributions or support organizations.

    Enough of a rant.

  • Good for him (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Apostata ( 390629 ) < minus poet> on Tuesday May 18, 2004 @10:51AM (#9183530) Homepage Journal
    As a steady Linux user for the past 4 years, I feel Langa's response to the onslaught of reactions is even-handed and, well, fitting.

    I feel embarrassed for the Linux community when I see people making such asinine remarks (/accusations/insults). In fact, I was *thankful* that someone asked him to 'write his own driver', just so that we could all see just how narrow-minded we can all be.

    Supporting Linux means being fair first, and not simply being sycophants. Langa's points are somewhat salient, and they need to be addressed. Not derided out-of-hand.

  • by SharpFang ( 651121 ) on Tuesday May 18, 2004 @11:09AM (#9183729) Homepage Journal
    Okay, let me see...
    If I have an IT company that needs to provide services to, say, 100 customers a second. Say, a big database or such. I can pick Windows servers for moderate price. They will crash under the load about once a day. Because of being unreliable my company goes bankrupt.
    Now if I use "overpriced" Linux services, I keep my company running smoothly. It brings profit, it exists. Uptime nearly 100%, with downtimes for upgrades etc announced a month ahead.

    I pay what it's worth.
  • by Improv ( 2467 ) <> on Tuesday May 18, 2004 @11:10AM (#9183740) Homepage Journal
    I don't think the criticism about pricing is valid, because when one buys a distro, especially on a server, one isn't buying it because it could run on all the hardware in the world you might toss at it -- generally people make some effort to make sure that they're using compatible hardware (and, on the server, often that they're using 'industrial-grade' stuff). Further, as Unices have several areas where things are better than Windows, it really is a crapshoot as to which is a better value (or, more accurately, it depends on what specific features you/your IT folk want). On the other hand, he does post some letters he recieved that are quite likely knee-jerk responses, especially the person who suggests that people who like playing mp3s shouldn't use Linux.
    Further, it is a point that, depending on the hardware available, Linux might not work, or not work well on some systems. My present laptop, for example, has built-in wireless that was dead to me until the driverloader compatibility layer was written, and so I was using a PCMCIA wireless card until then. Still, for me using windows wasn't an option -- I'm just not comfortable on non-Unix systems because, so long as hardware support is acceptable, the other advantages far outweigh graphics/sound/whatever not being as fast/capable.
    Even now, I could download vendor drivers for some of my hardware (Dell Inspiron 8500), and maybe get a few extra features or a bit more speed, but I just don't care enough.
  • by barryfandango ( 627554 ) on Tuesday May 18, 2004 @11:14AM (#9183794)
    The users. I'm a regular linux evangelist, but when i see feedback like this guy got from us - accusing him of lying, being an idiot, working clandestinely for Microsoft, SCO or the Christian Right... I just feel ashamed and want to distance myself from the whole thing. These knee-jerk reactionaries, zealots and narrow-minded elitists make us all look like fools and tarnish the image of Linux far more than some guy who can't get his soundcard to work. It has to stop.
  • by holy_smoke ( 694875 ) on Tuesday May 18, 2004 @11:31AM (#9183995)
    If Linux wants to supplant Windows, then you have to cater to the target audiences that comprise the Windows world. Linux can easily target the system admin crowd, as system admins are technically savy enough to deal with its nuances and actually will appreciate its complex beauty.

    Linux cannot, today, target the home user or even small business category _effectively_. This is because this market segment demands different (more simplistic) criteria (the pointy-clicky crowd).

    So the trick therefore is to retain the technical prowess while providing for the pointy-clicky types. The system admins should be able to command-line to thier hearts content, but the average users should be able to install, use, and upgrade Linux software AND hardware without being attacked by the command line demons. When we have achieved that nirvana then Linux will conquer all.

    Until then, its a hobby OS for anyone other than the hardcore non-nOObs.

    That said, I am looking forward to the day when I can be Linux only, but for now its to much hastle for the benefit.
  • by ShadowRage ( 678728 ) on Tuesday May 18, 2004 @11:41AM (#9184109) Homepage Journal
    ist he fact commercial distros will overshow the real distros that think of opensource and the user before money. They'll sell their product in stores, but will provide it free of charge also.

    Sadly the way the US economy is, the commercial ones will be the representatives to linux to joe average and mr. common businessman

    and they're not necessarily the best, they offer some good features, but are too narrow in what they provide, much like microsoft.

    MEPIS and Mandrake 10.0 are the best for users IMHO, and if a company has some good techs on hand who want to get down and dirty to make some good low-end servers, use debian, and of course, give a nice donation :P
  • by codepunk ( 167897 ) on Tuesday May 18, 2004 @12:02PM (#9184362)
    A couple of issues he is totally failing to address.

    1. When you install windows it is capable of doing absolutely nothing. Yea you might be able to open a text file with notepad but that is as far as it goes. Now compare the cost of a commercial linux distro with it's software CAPABILITY to that of a comparable windows with the software loaded to match it. By the time you are able to match the functionality of the linux box you will have spent nearly 100,000 dollars on software licensing alone. The only functionality in a freshly loaded windows box is the capability of spreading worms.

    2. As for hardware compatibility he is addressing the enterprise crowd but is talking about desktop hardware. Trust me when I buy my servers preloaded from HP they just plain work with every piece of hardware in that box. In the enterprise we do not have somebodys 20$ cheapo mexican built scanner hooked to our desktop server. We are talking high end fiber channel, san, huge memory etc.

    I will take Windows seriously when it can run on
    Power PC arcitecture. You see that statement really turns the tables around now doesn't it. I would say that windows has poor hardware support becuase it cannot run on PPC.
  • by reallocate ( 142797 ) on Tuesday May 18, 2004 @12:06PM (#9184393)
    If the Linux vendor told Langa everything would work with his hardware and it didn't, then either the vendor was wrong or lied.

    If a download some free ISO's, then I expect to get what I paid for. But if I choose to spend, say, $89 for a Linux distro instead of Windows, I also expect to get what I paid for. That includes having every piece of hardware, every peripheral, detected and properly configured during the installation. I want the printer to work: I want the scanner to work; I want the sound card to work (and don't mute the thing; that's lame: I found your sound card, and now I'll turn it off); etc., etc.

    People do not buy computers and operating systems so they can waste time getting the damn things to work right.
  • dumb question (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Mr_Silver ( 213637 ) on Tuesday May 18, 2004 @12:18PM (#9184517)
    You HAVE to unmute the sound on any Linux distro that uses ALSA.

    Is this true? If so ... why?

    Why on earth does the system once it's worked out, configured and primed your soundcard feel the need to gag it before it's even had the chance to make one note of noise?

    Why would you want something that makes people immediately think that the installation and configuration process of their soundcard is broken because their OS claims it works, but they can't hear a damn thing even with the volume on max? Yet it works just fine under Windows.

    Sure, "all you need to do it un-mute the volume", but if the solution is so simple, why couldn't the system do it for you in the first place?

    • Re:dumb question (Score:3, Insightful)

      by DarkMan ( 32280 )
      If speakers are of an active (powered) kind, then initialising the DAC's without setting the volume to zero results in an audable click or pop on the speaker, if they are on. For a large amp / speaker combo, this can, in principle do some damage to the cones or the hearing of someone listening [0].

      Secondly, if the volume is not set to zero, where should it be set to? That's not answerable. You can take a guess, but it's might well be too high, or too low. Too low is less of a problem than too high, hen
  • Who looks bad? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ChaoticCoyote ( 195677 ) on Tuesday May 18, 2004 @12:25PM (#9184620) Homepage

    In my not-so-humble opinion, it's the Linux community that looks bad, not Fred Langa. The virulent, dogmatic reponses look childish, especially when they sound like the folks who preach the virtues of tin-foil hats. There are real conspiracies in the universe -- being unable to get sound working with Linux is not one of them. ;)

    I've been running Linux for a long time, and it's certainly come a long way; seven of nine processors (trekkie pun not intended!) in my office run Linux full-time. And it can be a pain-in-the-rump to install; I've had at least one major hardware problem with every install. Now, once Linux is installed, it offers me many facilities unavailable under Windows -- but then, I'm a developer and engineer, and what I need is quite different than what an office worker or home computist wants.

    It's too bad that certain religious fanatics insist upon screaming at heretics and unbelievers when their energies could do so much more for making Linux better.

The first rule of intelligent tinkering is to save all the parts. -- Paul Erlich