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The Next Leap for Linux 517

Nrbelex writes "The New York Times is taking a look at the state of Linux. "Linux has always had a reputation of being difficult to install and daunting to use. Most of the popular Windows and Macintosh programs cannot be used on it, and hand-holding — not that you get that much of it with Windows — is rare. But those reasons for rejecting Linux are disappearing." The article discusses major PC makers' newest offers and compares them to their Windows counterparts."
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The Next Leap for Linux

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  • by BlueParrot ( 965239 ) on Thursday October 04, 2007 @08:10AM (#20849995)
    Based on my experience with Ubuntu, I'd say that the biggest issue is by far hardware vendors. When given ideal hardware Linux will pretty much "just work" but there is a lot of hardware that is not just less than ideal, but quite frankly unusable. I eventually bought a new PCI wireless card because I couldn't get my existing one to work, even with ndiswrapper.

    Unfortunately there really isn't a whole lot the developers can do to change this unless hardware vendors start opening their specs. The good news is that a lot of vendors do realize that having the FLOSS community write the drivers is pretty much the cheapest way to outsource development. As a bonus these drivers tend to be a lot more stable as well.
  • Re:Less keystrokes (Score:5, Interesting)

    by chuckymonkey ( 1059244 ) <.charles.d.burton. .at.> on Thursday October 04, 2007 @08:11AM (#20850005) Journal
    If I had mod points I would make you insightful. I have less problems with my mother's computer now that she has Ubuntu and I didn't have to walk her through the install. When there is a problem all I have to do is ssh in and fix, I do this while she's still using it.
  • by foobsr ( 693224 ) on Thursday October 04, 2007 @08:15AM (#20850025) Homepage Journal
    From TFA: "Linux is best for technically savvy users or for people whose needs are so basic that they will never need anything other than the bundled software"

    Which basically translates to not for me for the average person, being neither a geek nor wanting to have the self-image of being 'basic'.

  • by eulernet ( 1132389 ) on Thursday October 04, 2007 @08:19AM (#20850049)
    Ok, so why is it not advertised on Dell's site ? From the TFA, Vista is 50 to 80 dollars more expensive. Does this only mean that Dell wants Microsoft to reduce its license price ?
  • Evolution of Linux (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Fireflymantis ( 670938 ) on Thursday October 04, 2007 @08:22AM (#20850065)
    I first got linux running back in '97 with Mandrake 5 point something, and back then I used it more with a 'shove it to MS' attitude. Things were clunky, slow, and broke easily in the GUI side back then. Definitely needed xkill as a shortcut, accessible at all times. X was a nightmare to configure and good luck getting sound working. OSS was 'the next big thing' for dealing with sound cards. *shudder*

    10 years later, there are some things that are still a bit rough around the corners, but at least now I am using it full time because I find it genuinely more usable and I can get a lot more work done using it than I ever could on windows. It is more stable, and short of accidentally hitting the switch on the power-strip with my feet, never have to deal with system crashes or BSODs.

    Right now, we are starting to see some 'really' neat things taking off like next-get UI's (compiz/beryl) and zeroconf that when refined over the next many years will undoubtedly make Linux systems the leader of the OSs. Additionally, due to the compound effect when more users switch over, more companies will release more goodies onto 'nix.

    Over the next decade I really think that there will be massive proliferation of Linux desktops and that maybe finally the IT industry can start the long journey to finally rid itself of nasty kludges presented by Redmond year after year. Of course though, we will have to watch out for self contrived idiocies such as political breakdown within the wizard circles (kernel, KDE, Gnome, Mozilla, etc) and also try and sanely resolve niggling issues like the current GPLv2 vs GPLv3 dilemma.

    So far since my indoctrination to the Linux world I have seen such vast improvements it boggles my mind, and I expect nothing less for the next 10.
  • by Dr. Manhattan ( 29720 ) <`moc.liamg' `ta' `171rorecros'> on Thursday October 04, 2007 @08:31AM (#20850149) Homepage

    "for people whose needs are so basic that they will never need anything other than the bundled software" ... translates to not for me for the average person, being neither a geek nor wanting to have the self-image of being 'basic'.

    Of course, the article itself already stated:

    "An Add/Remove function actually makes finding programs easier with Linux than it is for Mac and Windows. Without having to go to Web sites, it lets you browse through categories of software. It took me only seconds to find several additional music players, a PDF reader and other programs. In addition to downloading the software, this feature installs it and finds any necessary additional files."

    It's a holdover from Windows/Mac, where installing software can be hard and requires some technical knowledge. The author still subconsciously thinks of installing software as 'difficult' even though they've actually seen the evidence that on Linux it's not. On any modern desktop Linux, software installation is no more complicated than "I want this program. Gimme."

  • by jkrise ( 535370 ) on Thursday October 04, 2007 @08:39AM (#20850237) Journal
    ... positive attention to Linux is demonstrative of Linux on the desktop becoming a success story of its own, but I don't really see what the GPL has to do with it. The license itself makes no difference ...

    Er.. how many BSD licensed distros have made it to mainstream press? The simple truth of the matter is that GPL has ensured that users get the most benefit from the Freedoms. Else, the corporate idea-thieves would've long ago taken over Linux, and made colourful, bloated clones.. back to Unix days. GPL is the best thing that ever happened to Linux.
  • by morgan_greywolf ( 835522 ) on Thursday October 04, 2007 @08:52AM (#20850363) Homepage Journal

    Usability is a nightmare. The UI is cluttered with useless, confusing icons and half of the functions behind them don't even work properly
    What are you talking about? Have you seen a recent GNOME or KDE desktop? Lots of thought and care were put into uncluttering the desktop and making icons and menus make sense -- on both of the major desktops.

    But configuration is the worst problem, why is it so hard to make a system architecture and drivers that don't require constant hand holding regarding even the most basic settings?
    It's not. I haven't had to compile a custom kernel in gods-knows-how-long. Most common hardware devices are supported out of the box on modern, polished distros like Ubuntu or Fedora. For the four computers in my house, I only ever needed to manually configure ONE piece of hardware -- a USB wireless adapter on my laptop. The other machine with wireless has an Atheros wireless NIC, and I literally had to do nothing other than configure WPA. The digital camera, Web cam, scanner, printer, wired NICs, nVidia video cards, USB storage devices, mice, trackballs, keyboards (some with special keys), etc. were all literally supported out of the box with no manual configuration or driver installation whatsoever.

    Second, supporting Windows apps is a huge problem, too.
    Really? Why is that a problem? Notice no one ever says "supporting Windows apps is a huge problem for Mac OS X". That's because 1) most people don't need Windows apps when there are plenty of nice alternatives, and 2) there are options like Parallels and Boot Camp for Intel Macs. Likewise, there are options like XEN and QEMU on Linux. Ever tried QEMU on Ubuntu Feisty Fawn? Other than the need to compile a custom kernel module for full virtualization (admittedly, a bit hard), there are applications like the QEMU Launcher and the QEMU Control Panel, which make it drop dead simple to setup and run QEMU for someone who knows what he's doing. Not that setting up Parallels is a cakewalk, either, though. It still involves installing a second OS in virtual machine, no matter what. And XEN is very usable.

  • by thasmudyan ( 460603 ) <thasmudyan@openfu.cAUDENom minus poet> on Thursday October 04, 2007 @10:16AM (#20851273)

    1. The machine came with Windows, they have no clue that there is an alternative. Much the same as to many people IE is "the internet", for a lot of people Windows is an integral part of the computer and they have no concept of changing it any more than you would change the tube in your TV. (No, that does not make them retards, it makes them uninformed)

    2. It is what they know and they are afraid of change. Even when Microsoft dictates change with an upgrade, the changes between two versions of the same bit of software are perceived to be smaller than the jump between different bits of software (whether or not this is true).
    True, but publicity helps. However, I'm a little afraid that average people (let's get away from the retard image) when they finally say "hey, I'm gonna try this Linux thing" are in for a disappointment. I'm talking for example about people who love to tinker with their computer in their spare time. There are lots of them and they tend to be huge influencers on their social surroundings. And I know we can't win a huge portion of them over, just because nobody cared enough to make this a priority.

    3. They are not interested enough to change - their computer does more or less what they want and they don't want to go to the effort of changing (even if the change would make things better for them in the long run).
    I think there are huge numbers of people who are frustrated with Windows, if only for the sheepish reason that they read about the security problems. But chances are your average users has quite a bit of experience with spyware and viruses and software that you have to sell major organs for to use it legally. That is potential right there. Plus, now that so much stuff is happening on the web, the OS becomes more interchangeable. But for this change to occur, people have to be able to configure their system more effortlessly and a lot of them want to bring their pet application with them when they move in.

    Your original post came across as a "Linux sucks compared to Windows because it does $lots_of_things_windows_also_does". I'm all for improving Linux, but citing these sorts of problems as a reason why Windows is "better" (even though Windows has exactly the same problems) seems the wrong attitude.
    If it came across this way I hereby apologize. And I'll try to hide behind the fact that I'm not a native English speaker.

    I think the main way Linux can get into the mainstream is for it to be shipped as standard on machines (similar to what Dell are doing) *where appropriate*. Obviously shipping it to people who need Windows specific software is just going to piss them off, but there are a large group of users for whom Linux does everything they need as standard. I'm not convinced that further improvements to the software itself are going to push Linux much further into the mainstream at this time.
    Agreed. But it really comes down to momentum. Massive change happens only with momentum. And momentum only happens when opinion makers get in line behind Linux. Instead of telling them to piss off, listening to their concerns may be a necessary evil.
  • ...came a long way (Score:2, Interesting)

    by EasyCo ( 940761 ) on Thursday October 04, 2007 @10:19AM (#20851327) Homepage
    I haven't installed or used Linux on any of my local machines in over a year and a half due to a lack of available drivers and especially due to poor wireless connectivity support.

    Well... I decided it was time to give it a go again and see what kind of progress has been made and my initial reaction is "Wow, I'm very impressed". I installed the latest Ubuntu distro on a new'ish Sony Vaio laptop and was it ever a breeze! Sound, mouse, keyboard, wireless ethernet and battery life were all automatically installed and working properly. All I had to do was pop in my network key and off I went.

    I opened up a few word documents containing nested tables and objects using OpenOffice without the slightest problem. I'd say that the computing experience as a whole is vastly improved with Ubuntu and so is the speed. I haven't had the time to try other distros but if they're inline with Ubuntu then Linux is definitely on the right track.
  • Re:Less keystrokes (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Braino420 ( 896819 ) on Thursday October 04, 2007 @11:57AM (#20852995)
    I think is a poor reason to choose Windows over Linux.
  • Re:Less keystrokes (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Remusti ( 1131423 ) on Thursday October 04, 2007 @02:16PM (#20855351)
    I used to work recomissioning ex-lease machines for sale, and I can tell you that is not accurate. Unless you have the OEM restore disc, which never happened for us, you are stuck hunting for drivers almost every time. Odds are, most machines will have at least one item which requires searching to find if you do not have the hardware driver discs. We had a rather large database of drivers which simply were not installed with Windows or Windows Update.
  • Re:Less keystrokes (Score:3, Interesting)

    by AvitarX ( 172628 ) <me.brandywinehundred@org> on Thursday October 04, 2007 @03:51PM (#20856873) Journal
    Your directions require:
    1) package is in the repository
    2) leave out simple steps I listed

    Stuff in the repository is real easy to in Ubuntu.
    It has add/remove programs like Windows, but you can actually add pretty much whatever program you want.

    For stuff not native to the distribution I chose to include everything not in the package manager for my install directions. If Linux ever gets wide commercial support for desktop apps I don't think the situation will be as good though (see SimCity 2000 problems, which I assume pacman does not include).

    For this reason I actually don't think Linux will ever be a great games platform, the oldies but goodies will be hard to install, even when not too old.

    What the person posing the hypothetical was asking is a hard thing to compare, because pretty much everything in Linux is native to the distribution or unavailable. The few instanced I am familiar with that arn't are:
    1) Loki games (some other company too), with Loki getting it to run on the new glibc at the time (about 5 years ago? moving to 2.6 maybe?) was a chore.
    2)Nvidia driver, real easy, if you are wiling to type. the typical user may be afraid to CTR+ALT+F1, killall gdm, cd to correct directory, sudo sh NVIDIA-Installer
    "cd" is a trickey command to people who are unfamiliar with the command line, even browsing through folders is hard for a lot of people. I suppose an install CD could be setup to run gtk-sudo or whatever it is, and already have executable set, it a double click install would work (not for graphics drivers though).
    3)Wolfenstewein:ET, installs great, sound is OSS, so must do some wierd voodoo to make it work (I hit up a couple times, so I don't recall what it is at work), this is better than the Loki games problems, but still there.
    4)Opera Browser, download .deb and double click, enter password. Opera packages at least 3 files (RPM, TAR.GZ, DEB, maybe many more).
    5) f-prot, run a shell script and it's done.

    I have found that even though people claim it is so hard to get things to install consistently, everything that installs as a shell script has worked for me (except glibc problem, and now Wolf:ET). I use fairly mainstream distros though (Redhat -> SUSE -> Debian -> Mandrake -> Ubuntu with slackware in parallel on a server at work) which may help.
  • Re:Less keystrokes (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Tacvek ( 948259 ) on Thursday October 04, 2007 @05:42PM (#20858831) Journal

    Of course, only when your Windows CD is old do you understand how crappy Windows is. I recently had the honor to install Win XP Pro SP1, and boy was that annoying. Of course there are many downloads with such an old release, a linux distro would not be fundamentally different (though it seems to me that for the amount of patches Windows downloaded, it should have included apps too, like a distro does). But I assure you that a linux distro would not reboot 20 times in the process. Boot, log in, Windows Update finds patches. Dl, install. Reboot. Login, it finds more patches. Dl, install, reboot, login. It finds more patches, and so on and so on. Why the fuck can't it download everything at once?
    Or how about patches that you need to install before Windows Update even offer the latest service pack to you? The service pack is a cumulative update! There should be no prerequisite patches. granted that when installing SP2 via windows update, some files may be skipped if they are irrelevant (already up to date), but I have personally found that on at least 5 different systems, Windows Update was not able to install SP2. I had to download the huge offline install EXE to install SP2, so I'm definitely re-downloading all the old updates. (I always try using windows update first, instead of heading directly for the service pack, for no really good reason. I guess I'm just optimistic that Windows Update might just work this time for installing SP2.)
  • Re:Less keystrokes (Score:3, Interesting)

    by turbidostato ( 878842 ) on Thursday October 04, 2007 @08:28PM (#20860917)
    "Installing an new XP from a shrink box is a long complex process"

    You can be damn sure. Just this morning a junior tech was trying to install XP SP2 on a computer. He came to me because he thought the SATA hard disk was fried. I pointed out that BIOS start messages showed it properly; then he told me the problem was that XP install just hanged. I told him, "just take the netinstall CD from Debian and run it to the point it offers to partition the hard disk and we'll see" and I returned to my stuff. 25 minutes later the boy came to tell me Debian was perfectly installed in the system, with GUI and all; just few "ENTER" keystrokes (I don't remember but I think five keystrokes will do it). It seems that somehow the SATA chipset is not of the likes of the Windows XP SP2 install CD; I let the junior to find his way out of the mess; we'll see.

    "if you are running RED hat you can guarentee that the software you really want is packed for Debian, if you are running Suse its incredibly frustrating when the latest greatest version of whatever is only available at Ubuntu. How hard would it be to get a unified package management system?"

    If you are running Ubuntu you can guarantee that the software you really want is packed for Windows. How hard would it be for Microsoft to get along everybody else and get a unified program system?

Order and simplification are the first steps toward mastery of a subject -- the actual enemy is the unknown. -- Thomas Mann