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Why Linux Has Failed on the Desktop 995

SlinkySausage writes "Linux is burdened with 'enterprise crap' that makes it run poorly on desktop PCs, says kernel developer Con Kolivas. Kolivas recently walked away from years of work on the kernel in despair. has a lengthy interview with Kolivas, who explains what he sees is wrong with Linux from a performance perspective and how Microsoft has succeeded in crushing innovation in personal computers."
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Why Linux Has Failed on the Desktop

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  • by Agent Green ( 231202 ) on Tuesday July 24, 2007 @11:23AM (#19970141)
    And that enterprise crap in Linux saves companies an incredible shitload of money. Enterprise users also have the muscle to keep their systems up to date. The back-office stuff is the more important arena to win, IMHO.

    Desktop users are fickle ... and that's why Linux has failed on the desktop. However, Ubuntu has made incredible progress on this front.
  • Wrong problem (Score:5, Interesting)

    by pubjames ( 468013 ) on Tuesday July 24, 2007 @11:33AM (#19970303)
    Linux on the desktop has been gradually improving, and is now at a point when it is probably pretty much equal to Windows. It may even surpass it in the medium term.

    But how good it is isn't really the issue. The fact is, Microsoft has an incredible lock-in, and it is going to take many years to chip away at that. But Firefox has demonstrated that it is possible to win market share from Microsoft. The two essential ingredients are persistence and time. If Microsoft continue to stumble - as they have with Vista - then Linux on the desktop will happen more quickly.
  • APC linkwhoring (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Might E. Mouse ( 907610 ) on Tuesday July 24, 2007 @11:37AM (#19970365)
    Jesus - there's NO chance of reading this story. This is the THIRD story in a row with a link to Their servers have no chance to survive, and we have no chance to read the content :(
  • by spaceyhackerlady ( 462530 ) on Tuesday July 24, 2007 @11:41AM (#19970427)

    I'm typing this on a Linux desktop. It's a pretty hefty system (dual-core, 2.8 GHz, 4 GB RAM), but it earns its living, I assure you. It's Slackware, with a custom kernel. As I've mentioned before, my view is that the distro kernel is solely there for bootstrapping the system until you can build a custom kernel to match your hardware and your needs. It's open source. We can do that, you know.

    My biggest frustration with Linux is the notion that Linux systems must emulate Windows to be acceptable (e.g. Mono), and that the Unix interface is a priori incomprehensible, for no other reason than that it doesn't look and feel like Windows. I like the concept of lightweight desktop-oriented distros like Puppy, but do not like they way they so desperately emulate Windows. Right down to the icons.

    Is that all there is? We have an open-source OS here, with open source applications. If we don't like how they work, we can roll our own. Mindlessly aping whatever Microsoft are dumping in to Vista this week is dumb.

    What next, DRM?


  • by Doctor Crumb ( 737936 ) on Tuesday July 24, 2007 @11:48AM (#19970551) Homepage
    Your average computer user doesn't go to the store to pick up windows; windows comes on the computer they just bought, and they don't know that they have any other options. The problem is not the number of distros; the problem is the lack of distros pre-installed on OEM computers.

    Plus, if you're not happy with a particular distro, you can try another one, for free, and with a minimum of effort. I've gone through 3 or 4 over the years before sticking with Kubuntu.
  • Re:Failed? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by shelterpaw ( 959576 ) on Tuesday July 24, 2007 @11:53AM (#19970657)
    If you compare it to the success it's had on the server market, then it's a failure. I think a lot of people have been rooting for linux quietly and hoping for it to really make headway. It's had some successes, but nothing close to what we had hoped for or at least what I had hoped for.
  • by SoCalChris ( 573049 ) on Tuesday July 24, 2007 @12:04PM (#19970833) Journal
    For me, Linux offers ease of use. It "just works" on my laptop (A Dell Inspiron 9100). With Windows, I need to download a driver from ATI before I can get a resolution of greater than 800x600. Ubuntu automatically recognizes my card, and correctly sets the resolution to 1680x1050. With Windows, I need to download a driver for my wireless card, Ubuntu recognized my card and configured it automatically. Windows requires several hours to set up and install all of the drivers, software, and security updates. Ubuntu takes about an hour to have the system running exactly how I want it.

    As far as software goes, Ubuntu allows me to easily install whatever I want with just a few clicks. Windows requires me to search the web for software, then (If I'm lucky) download a free or shareware version of the software, or purchase the software. I live in a pretty remote area, and there are no software stores around (Except for a WalMart and Staples that are over an hour away), so it takes me at least a few hours to get the software, or up to a week if I need to buy it online. With Ubuntu, I have it within a few minutes. Also, Ubuntu keeps all of the software on my system up to date on its own, something that Windows has no way of doing.

    Don't get me wrong, I'm not a rabid Linux fan boy. I make my living as a Windows developer, so I spend the vast majority of my time on a Windows XP box. My personal computers all run Ubuntu though, as it's shown me that it is far easier to use and maintain.
  • Re:Not failed, niche (Score:3, Interesting)

    by BlueParrot ( 965239 ) on Tuesday July 24, 2007 @12:05PM (#19970843)
    How exactly is 1gb of RAM minimum and $money "the better product" if all you will do is to browse the web and write some e-mails ? Increased system requirements, extra cost,privacy issues,inferior security... Now, compare that to installing Xubuntu on the box. It is probably easier than removing all the craplets from your typical pre-loaded windows system as well...
  • Re:Escalation.. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by pavera ( 320634 ) on Tuesday July 24, 2007 @12:06PM (#19970857) Homepage Journal
    He is disgruntled and rightly so. He had good ideas, he implemented them, Linus and all the maintainers spurned him, said "no this code is crap". Then they turned around, duplicated his work, took his ideas, and put them in the mainline.

    I see this whole thing as a huge ego trip by Ingo and Linus. If they were halfway decent people, they would be able to admit "Hey this new guy had a good idea, and lots of people are using it, and it works, lets bring him in". Instead Ingo was hung up on "My way is the best way", Linus bought off on that, and then after the fact, Ingo screwed this guy over. I would be pissed too if I spent 4 years of my life trying to get something into the kernel, just to have someone who is more "politically" connected steal my ideas and get the credit for my improvements.
  • by Curien ( 267780 ) on Tuesday July 24, 2007 @12:10PM (#19970945)
    I originally switched to Linux years ago because I had a piece of hardware that I used on a daily basis (TV tuner card) which Windows driver was incredibly buggy. Also, the Linux driver for my on-board RAID controller was much better than the Windows one.

    One of my hobbies is making interesting software environments which boot from removable media or the network. While some Windows tools exist which can facilitate this, some powerful nix-only concepts like mount -o loop just don't have Windows analogs.

    My favorite video player and encoder are mplayer and mencoder. While they are available for Windows, they run about twice as fast on Linux as it does on Windows (I managed to do a custom Win32 build, so it really is an apples-to-apples comparison) and some DVDs which rip fine on Linux don't work on Windows.

    Scripting batch processes like image processing on my photo albums or encoding portions of my FLAC audio collection to something smaller for my portable music player is much simpler. Sure, there are a few apps that have preset functionality for something close to what I want, but nothing is ever *just right*. And while Windows does have an amazing scriptability thanks to WSH and WMI, it is much more cumbersome than shell scripts (and cmd.exe is a horrible experience to script in) and most non-MS desktop apps don't provide COM interfaces. I know what you're thinking -- most desktop users don't write scripts. True, but most desktop users would be happy to USE scripts that other people write.

    Other than that, I'd be pretty happy with Windows+Cygwin.
  • Re:Don't think so (Score:5, Interesting)

    by NDPTAL85 ( 260093 ) on Tuesday July 24, 2007 @12:14PM (#19971005)
    No they aren't. They're expanding their company into other industries, not moving away from Macs.

    There's a difference.
  • by dmahurin ( 2128 ) on Tuesday July 24, 2007 @12:21PM (#19971101)
    I have used Linux exclusively for more than a decade.

    Every so often, I use Windows and think "Windows would be usable with a few changes", and every so often I reboot my Mac Mini into OSX and remind myself why I don't like it either.

    For Windows, the things I would like to fix:
          Would like to run XFCE look-alike as desktop (SharpE is ok, I guess, but would rather have XFCE).
          Replace Dos console box with real terminal window.
          Would like apt-get/yum access to install/upgrade latest software.

    For OSX, the things I would like:
          Would like to replace desktop with a simple one. Again, XFCE. I simply don't like the OSX interface.
          Firefox instead of Safari.
          I would feel better with open source Darwin underneath. ...

    In general, I trust open source software more than binary blobs. If I really need to, I can fix it. There is no hidden spyware, no secret user data mining, no locking applications in or out of hardware or OS's. Open source is portable accross OS's and time.

    For a developer, I don't know why Windows would ever be chosen. In Linux, a sea of languages, libraries, and tools are instantly available. Some of these can be installed in Windows, with some work.

    The flexibility and freedoms given in Linux are quite addictive.
  • I remember when you could boot the Linux kernel on a 386 with 4MB of memory. You still can, but it's not a matter of merely running *config and stripping out what you don't need. You need to get in there and scrub the cruft out by hand.
  • Re:It hasn't (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Dr. Manhattan ( 29720 ) <[sorceror171] [at] []> on Tuesday July 24, 2007 @12:32PM (#19971297) Homepage
    Of course, for every anecdote, there's an equal and opposite anecdote. I have a USB joystick. I have to plug it into a specific USB port on my Windows XP machine. If I plug it into any other port, it wants to reinstall the drivers. I've had the same behaviour with USB printers, too.

    In your case, Ubuntu fails to properly handle a case where hardware is moved between boots. In my case, Windows fails to handle hotplug on an interface specifically designed for hotplug. Nyahh, nyaah.

    The plural of "anecdote" is not "data". So far as I can see, every operating system runs into situations that require a 'guru'. My parents are running Ubuntu pretty happily, and while I have to do their tech support... well, I was doing that with Windows, too, and now I don't have to fret so much about malware. My wife got me a t-shirt for my birthday that says "No, I will not fix your computer." because of all the 'tech support' requests I get from family and friends. Of course, the vast majority of those were Windows. I'll still do Linux support, but Windows-using people are SOL unless they are immediate family members. I just don't have time for the rest.

  • Re:Don't think so (Score:1, Interesting)

    by utopianfiat ( 774016 ) on Tuesday July 24, 2007 @12:39PM (#19971401) Journal
    Okay, I hear Microsoft, Sony, and Apple mentioned in the same sentence as "Stealing Ideas"- Who cares if they steal ideas or not? They're the most unpopular companies worldwide in terms of intellectual property; their stealing each others ideas is just a big corporate circle-jerk anyway.
    I don't think I'll ever forgive Sony for putting Lik-Sang out of business.
  • by roscivs ( 923777 ) on Tuesday July 24, 2007 @12:53PM (#19971583) Homepage

    I don't really understand your comment about the active window is in front. Would you like the inactive windows in front?

    God, yes. It always amazes me how Windows-only or Mac-only users don't grasp this fundamental UI restriction. I use this functionality all the time (as a sibling post explains) and I can't imagine how people live without it. (Much less fail to understand why it's useful.)
  • Re:Don't think so (Score:2, Interesting)

    by HermMunster ( 972336 ) on Tuesday July 24, 2007 @01:07PM (#19971791)
    Linux has not failed on the desktop. Any article with a title such as this is just FUD. Linux is growing on the desktop like wildfire. There's an estimated 100 million Linux users world wide. No way can you consider 100 million of anything a failure.

    Are there optimizations that can be taken into account to clean up Linux? Sure. As with any OS. But Linux is no way a failure. The biggest problem Linux has had is the failure to communicate it's existence to the masses. Yeah, there were issues with the zealots killing Linux a couple years ago but you can tell that more reasonable minds have prevailed.

    The Windows zealots believing they can kill Linux with their FUD simply brings Linux into the minds of more potential users.

    I'd say we just let it ride and everyone do their best to bring awareness about it to others and we'll see how it grows.
  • Re:Don't think so (Score:5, Interesting)

    by lordtoran ( 1063300 ) on Tuesday July 24, 2007 @01:09PM (#19971819) Homepage
    This is why Linux distributors supply custom built kernels in different flavors. In desktop distributions like Kubuntu or Mandriva, the standard kernel is in fact configured to be responsive for desktop use.
  • Re:Again??? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by huckamania ( 533052 ) on Tuesday July 24, 2007 @01:12PM (#19971853) Journal
    Linux is a really great kernel.
    Gnome, KDE, etc are really ugly, poorly integrated windows managers.

    The best applications available for Linux are servers that run on top of the kernel. They are without a doubt world class, best of breed, rock solid servers.
    The best applications for Gnome, KDE, etc are p2p clients, decoders and cd/dvd rippers. They are without a doubt world class, best of breed, rock solid p2p clients, decoders and cd/dvd rippers. Everything else is a cheap knockoff of some commercial app.

    The Linux kernel continues to adopt 21st century technology.
    Gnome, KDE, etc are really ugly, poorly integrated windows managers.

    The Linux kernel has support of major corporations.
    Gnome, KDE, etc are anathema to corporations because the best apps are p2p clients, decoders and cd/dvd rippers, among other things.

    Linux development is led by Linus Torvalds.
    The development of Gnome, KDE, etc are led by a commitee, a carrot dangling from a stick and some guy in his mother's basement, repectively.

    Linus is from Sveeeden.
    Gnome, KDE, etc are from Mars, Venus and some poor mother's basement, respectively (or not).

    Linux development is focused.
    Gnome, KDE, etc do a great job of muddying the waters not just for developers but also for the users.

    Everybody loves Linux!
    Everybody can tell you why you shouldn't use Gnome, KDE, etc instead of Gnome, KDE, etc.

    Linux is the present and future.
    Gnome, KDE, etc are the reason why desktop Linux is not present.


    Call me a troll if it makes you feel better, but the truth hurts sometimes. It's not the Gnome, KDE, etc developers who are to blame, but the development model which doesn't provide focus and a market system (if you can call it that) that doesn't pick a winner.
  • Re:Don't think so (Score:5, Interesting)

    by HermMunster ( 972336 ) on Tuesday July 24, 2007 @01:37PM (#19972321)
    Why he's getting the response he is, is because of the claim that Linux is a failure, which only feeds the Windows fanboys. Linux is in no way a failure on the desktop. It just isn't as widely accepted as a viable desktop due to so many people not knowing anything about it as a desktop OS, or that it even exists. Focusing on that--getting the word out--is what will ensure Linux on the desktop.

    The good thing is that Linux, GNU, and Open Source development are moving along at a faster pace than Windows is and sooner or later it will begin to surpass other OSes and GUIs in features, stability, flexibility, future potential, etc (if it already hasn't). There are weak spots as all products have them. I think Open Source will respond better to enhancing those features faster than a monolithic monopoly ever could. Not to mention there are huge numbers of potential developers that will be creating prior art and even IP that companies such as Microsoft can only steal if they want to move ahead. That's a tremendous boom.

    What also troubles me is that Linux, GNU, and Open Source tend to react to technologies instead of really developing new technological ideas. We see that feature such and such has been created and that is often reproduced, though maybe in a superior way. What I'd like to see are more unique ideas coming from the Linux community itself thus ensuring that some key new technological concepts come from Open Source. It is sort of like when John Warnock created Adobe and created PostScript for the Apple Mac and the Laser printer. It was a technology like that which propelled Apple to the front of certain markets and it is that which made John Warnock the rich man he is today. I just can see some killer app being developed for Linux which draws people into the industry created and supported by so many of us. Also, convincing companies such as Adobe to adapt their applications to Linux will also help change the landscape. The issue is why would a company develop for such a small market? Well, as we have seen in the past couple years with Ubuntu having approximately 20 million users world wide and then with all the other distributions combined we come near 100 million users world wide. That's a huge market vs. what Adobe had when it was working on the Postscript and the laser printer with Apple. Certainly a much greater potential market for even some of the smaller technologies. Personally, I don't care if software costs money. And I know software can be developed for the Open Source operating systems without forcing them to use Open Source code. So, the potential is there for a huge market to make some people very rich selling software to Linux users.

    I don't recall the guys name nor his exact quote nor the precise context of the quote, but I do recall what he was getting at when he said something like "in our fight for racial equality we should have put more emphasis on buying land/property and being less strict about fighting for equality, as equality is bound to happen in a free society." What he meant was if they had bought land they'd have it as a valuable resource--something to ensure the future. They should have focused on that as much as they did on just getting equal rights as equal rights were bound to happen. Maybe it would have taken longer but it was bound to happen. This is what I perceived he meant. What I'm getting at with this story is that Linux should be focusing on building up (as in every participant, every volunteer, every developer) the IP and prior art to keep companies such as Microsoft from getting patents on them. We'll get parity sooner or later on the desktop. Let's own the land upon which the IP is based so that the monolithic monopoly doesn't lock Open Source out of some key advances. I'd rather see Open Source lock out the commercial entities than have the freedoms that I desire held hostage to the extortion attempts we've seen Microsoft use in the past.
  • by JeremyGNJ ( 1102465 ) on Tuesday July 24, 2007 @01:43PM (#19972427)
    A quick read of the front page displayed one of common reasons that this, and other open source software will never make it into the enterprise. Lack of marketing.

    Compare the two home pages for information and IT director (or higher) might see.

    Here's some quotes from Citadel:
    "Users love Citadel because it's software that helps them work, play, stay in touch"
    "an RSS sink"
    "replicate rooms between multiple Citadel nodes, allowing you to set up a federated, distributed messaging environment"

    Here's some quotes from Exchange:
    "Anywhere Access"
    "Operational Efficiency"
    "Comparing Exchange Server 2007 to other messaging solutions..."

    If that isn't obvious to you....what can I do. In fact Citidel deosn't really compete with Exchange it TRIES to compete with the combination of Exchange + Sharepoint, and it doesn't explain that properly at all!
  • Re:Don't think so (Score:3, Interesting)

    by oohshiny ( 998054 ) on Tuesday July 24, 2007 @01:49PM (#19972541)
    His point is that the kernels are optimized for servers. That is, focus on throughput, performance, but not latency or responsiveness

    As if the market cares. OS X will start spinning its beach ball every now and then and simply not talk to the user for seconds, sometimes minutes, for no apparent reason. Windows has similar blackouts.

    Linux interactive responsiveness can perhaps be increased further, but it already beats Windows and Macintosh hands down.
  • by tinkerghost ( 944862 ) on Tuesday July 24, 2007 @01:49PM (#19972551) Homepage

    With Windows, there's a support number you can call, or you can take it to a local computer store, or ask for help among the massive number of Windows users - in short, you're not stuck with snobs on forums who think you should be able to hand-edit configuration files without being able to see anything on the screen.

    I have 4 computer shops with 45 minutes of me that build linux boxes. All of them are quite capable of restoring one that didn't install properly. Also that support number you can call for Windows is usually a waste of time and money. Every time I've called it's been a 20 - 45 minute wait followed by:

    • It's not a MS problem call [supplier] - several issues
    • Please provide a credit card so we can charge you - hard drive replacement & reinstall failed to recognize partitions on the 2nd drive
    • No speaka da inglish - XP activation of a stand alone box w/ no network connection.

    I think once they actually gave me a MS Knowledgebase number to resolve my problem.

    As for asking for help among the massive number of Windows users - I almost pissed myself when I read that. I am almost certain that the number of people who can & will tell you how to hand configure your /etc/fstab to register a HD that the system didn't recognize on install is greater than the number of people who can tell you how to go into the registry & reset it to do the same.

    As for snobs on the forums, the few times I've gone to ask questions, I have seen people asking for additional information - often with very specific requests & exactly how to get that information - only to be rounded on by the original poster claiming nobody is willing to help them. If expecting you to be able to follow directions to provide the detailed information needed to solve your problem is snobbery, then I guess there are a lot of snobs on the boards.

    Unfortunately I guess there just aren't as many people gellering on the Linux boards as there are on the Windows boards. Oh wait, on the Windows boards they tell you to check the MS knowledgebase & if the solutions not there - reinstall.

  • Re:Solution (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Dahamma ( 304068 ) on Tuesday July 24, 2007 @02:02PM (#19972751)
    Nice doesn't do much for disk I/O issues, which is why Linux video players like Totem, MythTV, etc, read a lot of data from disk before decoding (ie waste memory).

    Nice is not a solution to latency, either - it just gives the process a large timeslice in case it needs a larger share of the CPU than other processes running along side it. This is why said players also pre-decode an absurd number of video frames ahead of time (ie waste a LOT of memory), so that they can better manage latency and limit the critical low latency operations just to flipping pages/blitting buffers when they need to be displayed (ie every 15-30ms).

    There are a lot of ugly solutions (like your suggestion) but Kon's point is that the user is left to ugly solutions, not proper design for desktop/interactive latency concerns. It's really disappointing to hear that he has given up on the -ck patches - IMO he has done more to fight for making the Linux kernel usable in a desktop OS (and indirectly in embedded devices) than anyone.

  • Re:Don't think so (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Eravnrekaree ( 467752 ) on Tuesday July 24, 2007 @02:03PM (#19972761)
    I believe this article indeed is nonsense. The same safety and performance features which are good for server systems also work well with desktop systems. Do I want my desktop to crash right in the middle of editing an important document? NO. And what if i want to SSH into my desktop system or use a remote X server to access it? I think I should be allowed to do that. That is one of Linuxs great strengths over Windows is its versatility and the main reason i use Linux.
  • by munpfazy ( 694689 ) on Tuesday July 24, 2007 @02:26PM (#19973127)

    God, yes. It always amazes me how Windows-only or Mac-only users don't grasp this fundamental UI restriction. I use this functionality all the time (as a sibling post explains) and I can't imagine how people live without it. (Much less fail to understand why it's useful.)

    I agree. But, it's not just mac and windows folks. I'm always amazed when I have to do something in other linux/unix user's window manager that, 90% of the time, they've got click-to-focus and or raise-on-focus going. I'm not sure whether I'm really the oddball for wanting to do things differently, or whether my colleagues have just grown up on windows and never tried anything else. But, having to work in that environment just drives me nuts.

    Many times a day I find myself wanting to look at one window while typing into another. Either I'm working on some data analysis and want to plot things, or I'm writing and need to look back closely at something in an online paper, or I'm using a cad program and feeding it numbers from an email or scratch paper, I'm thumbing through photographs and wand to jot down notes on a scratch terminal at the same time.

    Sure, if both objects happen to be text one can do the same in screen, emacs, or your multiplexor of choice (and I do, when appropriate.) And, if you're going to be doing it a lot with the same objects you can resize your windows and tile things. But, in practice, it's always a one-off minute long task involving random graphics for which resizing windows would be a pain.

    When it comes down to it, UI configurability is among the biggest drivers in my OS choice. If you ask me why I like linux, I'll give you a long, meandering, philosophically charged answer that won't convince anyone. If you ask me why I throw a fit whenever I'm forced to use a non unix-like system, the answer is a lot more pedestrian: X can be easily configured to fit my needs, and every task can be accomplished from within a well designed shell.

    What do I personally need in a UI?
    - multiple virtual desktops
    - focus follows mouse
    - no raise on focus
    - per-user key remapping
    - fully functional, fast keyboard control over window placement/size

    There are plenty of other little window manager tweeks that I like a lot, but that's the minimum I need in order to not hate integrating with a desktop. In windows, some of it kinda sorta works if you install lots of random third party software. (Although I've yet to find a no-raise-on-focus or a per-user key remapping option. Would love to hear about one if it exists.)

    In X, it takes a minute of setup time and works on every machine, everywhere, and it doesn't screw up the UIs of all the other users.

  • Re:Don't think so (Score:3, Interesting)

    by SanityInAnarchy ( 655584 ) <> on Tuesday July 24, 2007 @02:34PM (#19973243) Journal

    ONE SIGN ON. ONE KEY staying with the user session, whether they open a shell, click on an app in KDE or Gnome, SSH or NFS to another machine or disk. One sign on.

    I'm not entirely sure you need Kerberos and such for this.

    For example: I sign on once to my desktop, and one more time to my KDE wallet -- and I could skip the second step, actually, by removing its password. I can then ssh anywhere I want -- I have the key already, and it's not encrypted on-disk. I can login to any website, and Konqueror uses that KDE wallet to remember the passwords.

    The problem is there's NO LEADERSHIP.

    Linus, RMS, Mark Shuttleworth, and quite a few others would like do disagree with you.

    In particular, there doesn't have to be leadership governing every single project, so long as there's leadership governing a distro -- which can then fix every other project any way it wants.

    But Linux works specifically because there's no permanent leadership. If Mark Shuttleworth screws up, and Ubuntu fails, we can go to Debian, or Gentoo, or Slackware, or LinuxFromScratch, or Arch Linux, or... need I go on?

    A lot of people would argue that all these distros are part of the problem, but they really are not. Ubuntu is good enough, and so is Kubuntu, Xubuntu, Edubuntu, etc. And Ubuntu is also an example of why multiple distros is a good thing -- Ubuntu happened because Debian wasn't good enough, so they forked Debian. If Ubuntu falls, we could use one of the other distros, or we could simply fork Ubuntu.

  • by PCM2 ( 4486 ) on Tuesday July 24, 2007 @03:07PM (#19973681) Homepage
    I'm surprised (but I guess not shocked) that there hasn't been more discussion on /. as to the technical matters behind what he's saying. I, for one, do not follow Linux kernel development closely enough to be up on any of this stuff. If you make it that far in TFA, though, you'll find that his main gripe was the incredible resistance he got to his desire to include a "fair" CPU scheduler in the kernel. He even went so far as to develop a pluggable architecture that would allow you to pick which scheduler you wanted at boot time, but this was also met with resistance. Then you get this:

    Then one day presumably Ingo decided it [fair scheduling] was a good idea and the way forward and... wrote his own fair scheduling interactive design with a modular almost pluggable CPU scheduling framework... and had help with the code from the person who refused to accept fair behaviour in my flamewar.
    Presumably this is not the whole story, but I'd expect /. to talk at least a little bit about this aspect of the story, rather than all these "Linux on the desktop" comments we get. How does Ingo's new CFS compare to the code Kolivas wrote? Which design is superior? Does Ingo's design actually borrow from Con's code, or does it just do more or less the same thing? And what about Con's implied accusation that the kernel development process is impenetrable, both to end users and even key developers when they reach an impasse with one of the "elite" -- is this a fair criticism? Like I said, there's no way for me to answer these questions for myself with my current knowledge.
  • Re:Don't think so (Score:2, Interesting)

    by shaitand ( 626655 ) on Tuesday July 24, 2007 @03:30PM (#19974051) Journal
    'As a user of all 3 (and a few more), I must disagree. EVERY operating system has it's little pauses like you describe, but Linux in particular drags the whole time, just in small incremements.'

    It may be true of Linux on random system but it certainly isn't true of Linux setup by an educated user. Running a 3D accelerated desktop Linux not only has an extremely rapid response that rivals or exceeds anything you see on OSX it also has better 3D effects than OSX (and Vista by miles).

    I think that was the breaking point, with the 3D Desktops like Beryl on a proper card the GUI workload is offloaded to the video card where it belongs. Rendering desktop effects is a rather trivial task for a modern 3D video card and my outdated FX5200 doesn't hiccup.

    X always had problems with graphics. Some of those problems seemed to be related to caching. For instance, the icons in menus weren't loaded and cached until the first time you opened the menu. This meant a substantial delay when you first open your menus. In other respects, X is actually very well designed. Unfortunately, its a GUI, in the eyes of most of us, the graphical part of the graphical interface is the most important aspect.

    With the graphics heavy lifting offloaded to the video card X can finally shine. The only thing I see still being a problem is that X typical fails to fall back to the sane default low quality display that most GUIs use when the display settings are incorrect. X also fails to detect displays on the fly. You still can't unplug your monitor, plug in a new monitor, and reboot the computer and have everything work. That is a big minus.

    Some people don't realize how huge a hit this is. That means you can't bring your computer to a PC repair shop and have them fix it and give it back to you without any major hurdles. They would have to connect the tower to their display to work on it and the system would have to detect your settings when you plugged it back in (because it certainly isn't safe to assume you have enough knowledge of computers to configure one yourself and most users shouldn't be trying).
  • Re:Don't think so (Score:2, Interesting)

    by scott_karana ( 841914 ) on Tuesday July 24, 2007 @04:08PM (#19974617)
    Con Kolivas used to provide his own, custom 2.4 kernel patches, much like Andrew Morton still does. I'm not sure if he's done it for 2.6, but the fact that he's tried patchsets to remedy and still is discontented sure seems to poimy that patchsets aren't currently that great at what they're supposed to do.
  • by Hatta ( 162192 ) on Tuesday July 24, 2007 @04:38PM (#19975057) Journal
    Which is totally not the point. The average user doesn't have to do this. A developer does, just once, then he distributes it to all the average users.
  • X11 desktop (Score:2, Interesting)

    by daemonologist ( 1132501 ) on Tuesday July 24, 2007 @05:12PM (#19975509)

    My desktop preference is basically any Unix/Unix-like system with X Window System (note that I don't consider OSX as one because its graphics is not really based on X11). I don't really care about the underlying operating system that much since all Unix-like systems offer basically the same services. I usually prefer BSD, Debian and Slackware but basically any Unix, e.g. Solaris or AIX will do.

    I have used all kinds of windowmanager/desktop environment configurations, such as: FVWM, WindowMaker, Enlightenment, CDE, KDE, GNOME, etc... Only about six months ago switched back to my old favourite: FVWM and I haven't looked back. Finally things work exactly the way I want them.

    The features (which mostly do not exist on Mac/Win (or any clone such as Gnome/KDE) environment) I use on my own desktop are:

    • sloppy focus (variation of focus follows mouse)
    • inactive windows can be in front
    • one key combination to throw active window into the background
    • small and short "bare essentials only" menu accessed by pressing left mouse button in the root window (=background/desktop in Mac/Win terminology)
    • window list menu by pressing right button in the root window
    • 16 desktops divided in four categories (Misc, Net, Code, Docs) each containing four desktops
    • window can exist on multiple desktops (sticky window)
    • different parts of window can exist on different (adjacent) virtual desktops! (useful for dealing with huge windows)
    • FVWM pager to manage the desktops and windows in them (FVWM pager is the best pager application I have ever seen!)
    • window can be moved by dragging from border (i.e. not only by dragging title bar)
    • fully configurable window buttons
    • no "start" button with an overcrowded useless menu (and no "start"->"shutdown" type of UI)
    • no task bar (useless for managing 20-30 (or more) open windows)
    • no desktop icons
    • no useless animations
    • fully configurable by using plain text file (easy to transfer from one (Unix) computer to another, add CVS or other version control system + networking to the mix and we get interesting "desktop synchronization" system...)
  • Re:Solution (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Dahamma ( 304068 ) on Tuesday July 24, 2007 @05:22PM (#19975637)
    "nice -n19" just puts it at the minimum timeslice, ie I believe in the stock Linux kernel it's nice 0 = 200ms, nice -20 = 400ms, nice 19 = 10 ms.

    So, now do a video encoding and backup at the same time. Now try to play video, or even an mp3 off the disk as well. It quickly becomes impossible to fix with timeslice changes alone. Using nice to work around a crappy (or, I should say "not-designed for desktop interactivity") I/O scheduler is a hack. It's not that hacks don't sometimes get the job done, it's that recommending hacks instead of proper solutions is part of the reason Con gave up, of course...
  • As a newbie... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Groggnrath ( 1089073 ) <> on Tuesday July 24, 2007 @05:42PM (#19975879)
    I can say 2 things about Linux in general, and you had all better listen closely.

    1.Linux is too hard for a casual user to learn to operate. Even a somewhat advanced user, such as myself, gets completely confused at times. You literally have to be an industry expert to use this on a daily basis. It's too complex, and not at all user friendly.

    2. Apple will have a PC OS within 10 years, probably less. You'd have to be a retard not to see this coming. Cash in the coffers from the iPod/iPhone. Porting iTunes, and now safari to windows, for God's sake they use Intel processors on their native hardware now. Apple can only hold so much of the market only running on Macs. It's inevitable at this point.

    If Linux is going to be commonplace on desktops, it needs to do something about it's GUI, and do it now, or face the same fate as BeOS, and so many other projects.
  • by ckolivas ( 1132603 ) on Tuesday July 24, 2007 @06:41PM (#19976629)
    The chance of being modded up is miniscule, but anyway I'm Con Kolivas. There is only one thing I'd like to point out about the whole interview. Ashton (the interviewer) chose the title that says why linux failed on the desktop without consulting me. If you actually read the interview I never once say that linux failed on the desktop.
  • Re:Don't think so (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Corwn of Amber ( 802933 ) <> on Tuesday July 24, 2007 @07:17PM (#19977057) Journal
    How is having four workspaces that can be locate using our primate brains' basic functions NOT an usability improvement? It's the best thing since the invention of hot water. And wobbly windows are Wow factor. (You go ask Apple about the importance of that...)

    And, what about those experimental Java desktops? The most popular Java project is called Azureus and it's about as slow as a dead slug that overdosed on morphine, just like Eclipse. How on Earth did anyone think of developping a Java desktop... Sun? Yeah, I'd like a couple of Enterprise 10Ks just so that my Java(tm) word processor launches in under an hour.

    As for what innovations in usability, look at individual apps, like Amarok. That one has three times more features than every other player, not one I left unused (except the store), and I found it more friendly than any other player I've ever tried.
  • Re:Solution (Score:2, Interesting)

    by ChrTssu ( 821400 ) on Tuesday July 24, 2007 @07:33PM (#19977263)

    He's saying that someone afraid of their computer can't do it. And until Linux can be used by people afraid of their computer, it won't appeal to the majority of the desktop PC market.

    I just had a friend - who has never owned a computer before last year (a Dell), and who has never installed an OS, who's only computer experience period has been Windows XP (he's a 30 year old social worker) - install Ubuntu 7.04 The Feisty Fawn. Don't tell me Linux isn't ready for the desktop. All I had to say was "Windows XP uses a file extension called .exe to install programs. Ubuntu doesn't use this, so you won't get any more viruses, since they're written for Windows, and not Linux. Just insert the CD, when it boots, double-click 'install,' and follow the instructions." I sat on his couch just in case he had questions. Then I told him about Synaptic Package Manager, and how to use it. He's had no problems, complaints, or even questions. Don't tell me Linux isn't ready for the desktop.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday July 24, 2007 @09:40PM (#19978419)
    Just to let you know, as someone who uses an 8600GTS in Ubuntu, you need to remove the Ubuntu official nVidia drivers and download the latest ones manually. Whatever nVidia released that was blessed into Ubuntu flips out on cards newer than the GeForce 7 series, and are thus useless. I also ran into the sound not working on my nForce 570 board, but I just plugged in my "crappy, old" Audigy 6.1 from 4 years back that's 100% supported by Linux (certain X-FI cards are actually Audigy inside, same chip, etc, and 100% supported -- they're also cheap, being around $40-60 for a card I paid $150 for).

    I'm surprised that Creative doesn't follow a hardware-API standard like AC'97 (+... for multi channel) on their new chip designs. It'd make their driver support costs less, and thus allow them to focus on the main money by reducing a cost centre.

    Sorry about the AC post, I haven't got my login with me.
  • Re:Solution (Score:3, Interesting)

    by szap ( 201293 ) on Wednesday July 25, 2007 @04:56AM (#19980705)

    Nice doesn't do much for disk I/O issues, which is why Linux video players like Totem, MythTV, etc, read a lot of data from disk before decoding (ie waste memory).
    # man ionice

    Recent kernels (2.6.13 with the CFQ io scheduler) and distros have been using it. e.g. beagled and updatedb is in class 3 (idle). Try ionice -c1 nice -n -10 totem. That's kernel support for I/O scheduling. Now user apps and $fav Desktop Environment just need to be able to be aware of that and use that more often.

  • Re:Don't think so (Score:2, Interesting)

    by sqldr ( 838964 ) on Wednesday July 25, 2007 @04:59AM (#19980717)
    In desktop distributions like Kubuntu or Mandriva, the standard kernel is in fact configured to be responsive for desktop use.

    No it isn't - you have to install the low latency kernel (which they do provide), but that's not the point. It's still shit.

    Try getting 2ms guaranteed sound out of it. Try dragging a window when you've got 5 GCC's running. Fact is, I don't care if I've got high load, there should be an interrupt bound to my mouse movement which will keep the desktop responsive. GCC can bloody wait.

    If I hit 'fire' in a game of quake, with a nice value of -19, I expect two things to happen:
    • At the VERY NEXT FRAME, my gun starts firing
    • I hear the noise of it firing IMMEDIATELY
    • The above is NEVER interrupted by ntpd or cron or some shit. I've told the computer which is priority, and it should behave like that
    The reality is that it's about half a second between hitting the fire button and something happening. This isn't responsive. My Amiga could do this, why can't a PC, 15 years later? Because it's running a server OS.
  • Re:Don't think so (Score:3, Interesting)

    by dave420 ( 699308 ) on Wednesday July 25, 2007 @12:49PM (#19985095)
    Putting Linux's less-than-spectacular market share down to folks not knowing about it is doing Linux, and its community, a great dis-service by ignoring the real reasons it's not as popular as it could be. Most folks don't choose their OS because of ideological beliefs, but because of what they can do with it. Microsoft Office, Photoshop, games, help from the internet, hardware, etc. all play a far bigger part in Linux's desktop market share than folks knowing about it. People won't switch with the promise of "just use what's on offer at the moment, and one day it'll get better", as they're not using computers in that way - they're not part of a movement, they're just trying to get shit done. They want to use their computers NOW, not in a few years.

    Linux is fantastic, I use it every day on many machines in my job. I won't have it at home, however, as I like the software I can use on windows too much. I don't want to cut my nose off to spite MS, as I just don't give a damn about MS or RedHat or Linus or Tux or any other camp. I care about getting my work done.
  • Re:Wrong problem (Score:3, Interesting)

    by dave420 ( 699308 ) on Wednesday July 25, 2007 @01:19PM (#19985559)
    Firefox is something completely different. It just needs to understand HTTP, HTML, JavaScript, etc. AND you can install it on Windows. Microsoft's "lock-in" has nothing to do with this. Linux doesn't offer the same as Windows. That's all there is to it. Once you can do everything on Linux that you can do on Windows, just as quickly, with the same or less hassle, people will switch in droves. At the moment people have to make sacrifices when they switch, if they're not just using their computer to check email and surf the net, and folks won't make sacrifices without a reason, and "microsoft sucks" is not a good enough reason for people to suffer these sacrifices.

Solutions are obvious if one only has the optical power to observe them over the horizon. -- K.A. Arsdall