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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 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?

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

    by Scrab ( 573004 ) on Tuesday May 18, 2004 @10:08AM (#9183030)
    Quick site for those who don't know who Achilles was or the significance of the heel.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 18, 2004 @10:09AM (#9183034)
    It seems to me that yes, Langa is correct: commercial support for individual users is poor. But options that Langa didn't seem to explore, like IRC and message boards, are in my view Linux's saving grace. Thousands of knowledgable power users are at any given time willing to help troubleshoot.

    However, in this latest article, Langa seems able to listen to and quote Linux users just fine: when he's illustrating in his article just how dumb some of them can be.
  • Cheapbytes? (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 18, 2004 @10:09AM (#9183040)
    What's to stop folks from buying from Cheapbytes [] or other discounters?
  • 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.
  • 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 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.

    Hmm... Not sure I follow you here. Sun has release JDS for x86. They've promised to also release JDS on Solaris for x86, AMD, and Sparc. In this way, you can choose what features meet your needs. If you need a kernel that handles all the exotic x86 hardware, then a Linux kernel is best. If you want to run JDS for 200 people using SunRay stations, then JDS Solaris is for you.

    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).

    True. But I'd like to point out that Sun isn't bucking any specs here. Their JDS system still interops with all Unix and Windows machines. In the process, they're attempting to blaze a trail for what Linux can be used for. Assuming they don't open source Looking Glass, what stops the Linux community from creating a better engineered knockoff? And how will Sun's desktop fragment the market? It's still X11. It just has 3D features not present in today's GNOME and KDE desktops.
  • 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".
  • by jedidiah ( 1196 ) on Tuesday May 18, 2004 @10:30AM (#9183292) Homepage
    >> 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 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?
  • 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.
  • 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: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?

  • Not insightful (Score:3, Informative)

    by FooBarWidget ( 556006 ) on Tuesday May 18, 2004 @11:40AM (#9184106)
    Bah, frankly I'm tired of people modding things like this "Insightful".

    Are you completely ignorant to reality? The Internet is like the real world: there are bad places, but there are also good places! If you get flamed down at an IRC channel, big deal. Move on to a good channel where people are willing to help you.
    Saying that everybody in the Linux community tells you RTFM just because someone from a certain channel said that is like saying every human is a thief because a certain human is a thief. It's a completely wrong generalization.

    An excellent Linux support forum would be the ComputerTotaal Forum [] (Dutch). People have been very helpful to me ever since 1999. People will Linux software and hardware problems are never flamed down.
    Just take a look at the GNOME [] and KDE mailing lists []. Do you see RTFM anywhere? I don't.
    Take a look at the GNOME support forums []. Where do you see newbies getting flamed down?

    In other words:
    Stop spreading the RTFM-myth!
  • Re:Reverse? (Score:3, Informative)

    by ArsonSmith ( 13997 ) on Tuesday May 18, 2004 @11:53AM (#9184272) Journal
    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.

  • 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.
  • Re:Overpriced? (Score:3, Informative)

    by Cereal Box ( 4286 ) on Tuesday May 18, 2004 @12:22PM (#9184580)
    Right, here we go for a corporate desktop.

    Hey, he was the one talking about using Apache on a desktop. I was merely pointing out that you CAN do this.

    This is about a ready-to-go solution - XP Home does not provide this.

    In corporate environments, there's plenty of custom software that users need that isn't provided by either Windows OR Linux. So if you're going to be making custom disk images anyway, might as well throw in all that software that Windows doesn't have in the first place. So I don't see why everyone keeps thinking that a couple CDs full of free software is so amazing, considering that you can just download it before you make the corporate disk image.

    Bzz. We are not taking about Linux. We talk about SuSE - and SuSE provides a secure, virus-free work environment for the corporate desktop.

    No it doesn't, unless SuSE has absolutely no viruses or exploits. What you mean is it's more secure.

    Windows on AMD64 is still a no-go for example, while it is quite possible with linux.

    Really? That's news to me, seeing as how you can buy these AMD64 laptops [] with Windows XP pre-installed (and just in case you come back with "but that's not really 64-bit!" don't forget that Microsoft will let you download a copy of XP that works with AMD-64 right now, and for free).

    How do you get this right license-wise without loosing OEM licenses/doublelicensing?

    Volume licensing.
  • Re:Exactly (Score:3, Informative)

    by Khazunga ( 176423 ) * on Tuesday May 18, 2004 @12:59PM (#9185125)
    ...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...
  • Exactly. (Score:3, Informative)

    by khasim ( 1285 ) <> on Tuesday May 18, 2004 @05:51PM (#9189486)
    Hey! Linux SUCKS because it won't recognize my hardware. To find out what hardware it is, I want you to go wading through my online discussion site and DRIVE UP MY AD HITS!!!

    So, we're looking for "SoundMAX Digital Audio".

    Just by coincidence, that is the same as on the IBM T40 laptops.

    Now, I boot a Knoppix 3.3 CD in the T40 I have right here and....... it works. I get sound. I get automatically detected and configured sound. I get automatically detected and configured and working sound on the chipset that HE SAID DID NOT WORK.

    And I used a distribution that he said he used.

    Now everyone knows why Fred would not Name That Hardware in his articles.

    He wants to write a couple of articles about how Linux sucks when compared to Windows.

    When the fact is that there seems to be something wrong with the hardware he has, or the virtualization software he is running.

    If anyone else wants to try, just download the Knoppix CD (3.3 was out when he was writing, so using the new 3.4 version would not be fair) and try booting it on a machine with the "SoundMAX Digital Audio" onboard chipset.

    It works for me with an IBM T40 laptop.
    Fred says he has lots of problems.

    A little research and some experimentation can work wonders.
  • by moyix ( 412254 ) on Tuesday May 18, 2004 @06:05PM (#9189699) Homepage
    Maybe this is something that the 2.6.x series has fixed; I wouldn't know. And maybe the general problem is that if a module screws up and wrongly decides it's still in use, there's no "rmmod -f" command to force removal.

    Amusing that you should bring up rmmod -f -- this is precisely the command you would use :) From the rmmod man page:

    -f --force

    This option can be extremely dangerous: it has no effect unless CONFIG_MODULE_FORCE_UNLOAD was set when the kernel was compiled. With this option, you can remove modules which are being used, or which are not designed to be removed, or have been marked as unsafe (see lsmod(8)).

    However, you are correct, this is only available with a 2.6 kernel.

    Hope this helps some...

The human mind ordinarily operates at only ten percent of its capacity -- the rest is overhead for the operating system.