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Why Linux Doesn't Spread - the Curse of Being Free 1243

Vlad Dolezal tips us to a philosophical take on why Linux hasn't grown to challenge Windows as the most popular operating system. According to the author, the reason is simple; Linux is free, and humans tend not to equate free things with being valuable. "Here's what Compy McNewb sees. He can get both OS's for free. But one of them is worth over three hundred dollars, while the other one is worth nothing. 'That's not true!' I hear you scream. 'Linux is worth a lot! It's just being offered for free!' I know it's not true that Linux is worth less than Windows. It's far more valuable to the end user in terms of getting things done. But that's not what Average Joe Computer Newbie sees. He sees a free product versus a three-hundred-dollar product he can get free. It's all about the perception!"
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Why Linux Doesn't Spread - the Curse of Being Free

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  • by zonky ( 1153039 ) on Sunday February 17, 2008 @11:19PM (#22458402)
    because it is relatively difficult to buy as a pre-installed system.
    • by ushering05401 ( 1086795 ) on Sunday February 17, 2008 @11:24PM (#22458452) Journal
      Yeah, that has to be reason #1. Outside my professional acquaintances I know very few people who would ever attempt re-installing Windows without a pro technician, much less the great unknown Linux.
      • by ShieldW0lf ( 601553 ) on Sunday February 17, 2008 @11:30PM (#22458494) Journal
        My system is just so much easier to use in a general sense using free software. My computer used to feel like a wrestling ring with two dozen different companies and a few organized criminals duking it out while I tried to keep things from falling apart, with anti-spyware and anti-virus programs acting like my assistant referrees. That feeling is just gone. I don't think I could go back to the way things were before and be happy working that way now.

        I'm sure I'll need to work with MS tech to make my living in the future, and I'm pragmatic about it, but it sure is nice to be free of their crap.
        • by erlehmann ( 1045500 ) on Monday February 18, 2008 @12:17AM (#22458904)
          when i present ubuntu, i highlight the integration:
          - synaptic is a killer application, the dumbed down version is literally idiot proof
          - when i click on a file, if a suitable program isn't installed, i get a prompt if i want it
          - when i input a command and a suitable program isn't installed, i get instructions to install it

          combined with my subtle RDF, it works quite nicely ;)
        • by Average ( 648 ) on Monday February 18, 2008 @12:50AM (#22459132)
          This is one of modern Linux's greatest assets. When I re-install a box for Windows I have to:

          Find the right OEM disc.
          Step through the install.
          Deal with activation headaches.
          Uninstall a dozen OEM programs I don't want.
          Run through several reboot cycles of upgrades.
          Download drivers, antivirus, utilities from a dozen sites.
          Download the free (beer and speech) apps I need and use from more than a dozen sites. Go back and get Windows add-ons I needed for things like Paint.NET.
          Round up 7 or 8 CDs worth of software. Many of them needing codes and activation (or cracks). Install these one by one.

          A full day shot.

          Needless to say, Ubuntu Gutsy is much faster to get going. I've used Unixes for 13 years now. But, I use synaptic because I don't want to have to care any more. If I worked with 200 Windows machines, I'd create a images and force matching computers. But, I (like many small business types) am dealing with only 15 or 20 computers, every single one of which is unique.
        • by tsa ( 15680 ) on Monday February 18, 2008 @01:03AM (#22459236) Homepage
          Joe user says: "Every time I want to play an mp3 on my Ubuntu a weird popup comes up telling me about plugins?! And my wireless network card doesn't work. Give me my Windows back!"
          • by kjkeefe ( 581605 ) on Monday February 18, 2008 @01:33AM (#22459452)
            Joe user != dumb. If someone is knowledgeable enough to have MP3's on their system to play, they are knowledgeable enough to google "play mp3 in ubuntu", hit I'm feeling lucky, and find their answer right there.

            As for the wireless, what would do if some piece of hardware didn't work in windows? Get one that does. I recommend Joe does the same, there certainly are plenty of wireless cards that just work in linux.
            • by tsa ( 15680 ) on Monday February 18, 2008 @01:57AM (#22459612) Homepage
              Joe user just bought a laptop and doesn't know the difference between a window and the screen. That's the audience we're talking about here. They just want their computer to work.
            • by 2short ( 466733 ) on Monday February 18, 2008 @02:22AM (#22459766)

              I'm a Linux user and fan, but if we're going to discuss why Linux hasn't spread faster than it has, let's not be disingenuous:

              You double-click the icon, you get music or you don't; If you didn't, it failed. You can research why it failed, it might even be easy to research, but it already failed.

              As for the wireless, what would you do if you had a wireless card that couldn't work under Windows? Send it back as a hardware failure; There aren't any wireless cards that don't support Windows.
          • by 0100010001010011 ( 652467 ) on Monday February 18, 2008 @01:47AM (#22459538)
            Or an even bigger pandora's box: "I can't get my iPod to work on Ubuntu and where can I find iTunes"
      • by DigitAl56K ( 805623 ) on Monday February 18, 2008 @12:44AM (#22459076)
        I'm not so sure. By now there ought to be a whole generation of tech-savvy people in their 20s-30s who grew up "doing the things with computers" that their parents just couldn't fathom. That group of people ought to be a big market, and I fall into the category. I've also installed a few different distros of Linux over the years, played with them for a bit, and then went back to using Windows.

        I know that many of the following points will be disputed, but here are some of the reasons I personally have stuck with Windows:

        * It's what I'm used to.
        * I have a lot invested in Windows software that isn't available natively on Linux. (Yes, some of it could run under Wine)
        * Graphics drivers. I installed Fedora about a year ago and installing their graphics drivers felt like I was hacking my own computer. Maybe that's part of the fun of Linux (heck, of course it is!), but for a wide base of consumers it's also part of the fear.
        * Installing software. There's so many distro's of linux and seemingly packages built for individual flavors, installing new software "feels" risky, and running into package conflicts is a bit nasty. Do I trust the people who seem to build and redistribute packages on random websites? I don't know. There's a bit of a difference between commercial vendors and some guy with a popular FTP repository. I also downloaded and compiled some apps myself because I couldn't find packages for certain things for the version of Fedora I was using. Are regular consumers expected to do this?
        * Accessing my Windows files was a bit of a PITA. I had to install an NTFS driver manually, which meant editing some conf files to auto-mount partitions. Again, that ought to have been automatic to make switching OS's easier. Maybe it's included in more recent distros?
        * Back to the nVidia graphics drivers: I quickly discovered that something like gEdit was very simple to use, much like Notepad. Then I tried editing some conf files from the shell. With vi. Enough said.
        * I had a nice soundcard (Creative Audigy 2), and when I installed Linux some of it's advanced features were not working (e.g. CMSS), and the mixer application showed dozens of sliders to set the volume, some of which I couldn't even identify. Then there is the whole issue of using two separate sound architectures.
        * Which desktop environment do I want to use? I have no clue. Am I supposed to get familiar with one for a while, then try the other, then finally decide?

        I think the problem is this: Linux can be made to vastly lessen the learning curve for new users, and at it's heart it's a very powerful and flexible OS. You can tweak it to work any way you want it to work. But that's part of the problem - eventually (and usually for me, not too long after installing it) you run into situations where to make your Linux system do what you want/need it to do you have to delve a little into the "customization" piece. Sometimes that means editing some conf files. Sometimes that means running commands that you found on some website that look like they might do what you want, according to the comments posted by others. It's a different experience to Windows, where most people will never have much cause to turn to the command prompt, for example - or at least it will be to fix a problem after it occurs, not to make something work in the first place. Of course, you get out of the OS what you put in, but there are still far too many people in the world who wouldn't even try editing their registry on Windows with a graphical utility.

        Why did I give up on Fedora (for now)? Because I have a full time job and as much as I would love to spend time learning Linux, I just don't have the time to. I have an unreasonable expectation that I should just be able to use a new OS without much effort. But it's the same unreasonable expectation that consumers have in general. It's also one that Linux can fulfill so long as newer distros keep doing more and more out-of-the-box, and at some point having to run a few commands in the shel
        • by webmaster404 ( 1148909 ) on Monday February 18, 2008 @12:54AM (#22459164)
          Thats mostly because it is Fedora, and therefore fully free. Have you tried Ubuntu? Things nearly always seem to work better from and end-user's standpoint. Fedora is one of the few big distros that is fully free and therefore requires more work to get simple things done such as install graphics drivers. Fedora is miles behind Ubuntu in terms in usability in my opinion.
        • by kjkeefe ( 581605 ) on Monday February 18, 2008 @01:24AM (#22459378)
          I can't tell you how many IT people claim to have "tried linux and it is too experimental/incomplete/unstable/whatever". Then, I ask them a little more about their experience and find that they tried the wrong distro, three versions ago. In the OSS world, 6 months is a long time. If you haven't tried the recommended beginner linux distro at the version that has been released within the last 6 months, you shouldn't be asserting that modern linux distros are not mature. That would be like me taking a copy of windows 98, trying to install it on my 3 month old computer, and then calling Windows a bad OS because it didn't work. You wouldn't give an assessment of Vista based on your experiences with Windows 2000 would you? Then why does it make sense to say that current linux distros can be evaluated based on your experience with older versions.

          I highly recommend you take that computer and try it again with Ubuntu linux 7.10. Your nVidia card will almost certainly work. Installing software is really easy and the number of packages in the repositories is massive. NTFS just works. The sound should just work. Finally, are you really complaining about having to choose between desktop managers???? Give me a break. Use whatever you like. Stop spreading ignorant assessments of linux. If you don't know the current state of linux, don't say anything. Better yet, learn the current state of linux. From what I hear, it is pretty cheap to try it out.
          • by fahrvergnugen ( 228539 ) <fahrv@noSPAM.hotmail.com> on Monday February 18, 2008 @01:53AM (#22459574) Homepage

            So because someone tried a distro in Fall 2007 that wasn't the "right" distro and gave up, that's the end-user's fault, and not the distro's / linux community at large's fault?

            • There's no clear signpost as to what's the "right" distro for beginners(UBUNTU UBUNTU UBUNTU, but newbies won't know that, go google "which linux distro should I choose?" and get back to me when the top result isn't a TEN QUESTION QUIZ.
            • 6 months ago was Fall 2007. Windows '98 shipped in 1998, and was deprecated partially in 2000 and fully in 2002. You can't compare a 10-year-old OS to a 6-month-old linux distro. Well, I guess you can, you just did, but you can't do it without looking like a total asshole.

            XP was the standard for Windows for 5 or 6 years, and it went through 2 major revisions in that time. OS X revs approximately every 18 months, and is on the fifth version to ship since 2000. You're not treated like you're stupid by the community for getting frustrated with the shortcomings of OS X 10.2.

            Look: UI engineering is all about balancing exposing essential functionality vs. overwhelming your end user with choice. Here's an example: Near as I can figure, my TV remote needs about 18 buttons, max (including the 12-digit number pad). Yet it shipped with more than 70, and each of those buttons is there because the engineers at Sony thought I'd want them. I ignore the extra features on my remote, and resent their presence, because they're a constant reminder that I'm not using the television to its fullest abilities. That I don't WANT to use it to those abilities is irrelevant, those 50 buttons there remind me every time that I pick it up that I'm just not smart enough to get the most out of this machine. They have a negative effect on my perception of the value in this television. I dislike it because of the complex user interface (and I plan to get around it by getting another, simpler universal remote, at which time I will credit the remote for simplicity, and not the television for functionality).

            Similarly, the barrage of choice that assaults users of linux systems is a detriment to the newbie. Having to pick window managers in 2008 is a disgrace. The decision should be out of the end user's hands until he wants to make the choice, at which time it should be available to him. You don't just ram it down his throat the first time he powers up the system.

            You yelling at him for not wanting to make that choice, or necessarily understanding it, is shameful and proof that you're unable to see the forest for the trees. Stop being so damn myopic. Of course you and I want all the functionality we can get out of linux, but we're not typical. Ubuntu understands this, which is why it's been such a phenomenal success, but godDAMN man. Stop driving away the people we need to convert with this shitty attitude of yours.

        • by radimvice ( 762083 ) on Monday February 18, 2008 @01:29AM (#22459420) Homepage
          Sounds like you've managed to steer completely clear of Ubuntu, which fulfills exactly the need you're describing here. Try it out, it will probably make you think twice about making a post like this again. I had also turned my back on desktop Linux distributions a handful of times, until Ubuntu finally gave me a user-friendly desktop to stick with.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      In this vignette, Luke has been caught running Free Software.
      He's been drug in front of the Judge from Caddyshack by the Captain and the Boss.

      Boss: Bailiff
      Captain, Road Prison 36 (CRP36): Prosecutor
      Judge Smails (JS): Judge
      Luke: Free Software User

      CRP36: What we got here is... failure to communicate. You run one time, you got yourself a set of chains. You run twice you got yourself two sets. You ain't gonna need no third set, 'cause you gonna get your mind right.
      JS: Well, the world needs ditch di
      • Re:vignette (Score:5, Funny)

        by Migraineman ( 632203 ) on Sunday February 17, 2008 @11:57PM (#22458720)

        In this vignette, Luke has been caught running Free Software.
        Luke is sitting alone at his computer. He nervously inserts a linux Live CD into the disk drive and reboots. His roommate, Chad, enters from the kitchen.

        Chad: Whatcha doin', Luke?
        Luke: [nervous] Nothing!
        Chad: Looks like you're installing linux.
        Luke: It's just a Live CD.
        Chad: You know, I've been into linux for years now.
        Luke: Really? I'm just ...
        Chad: Yes?
        Luke: God, I can't believe I'm saying this ... I'm ... I'm a little dual-boot curious.
        Chad: Oh. Let me show you how to properly set the boot parameters on that Live CD you've got
        [cue the "bow-chicka" music ...]
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      Yeah, I mean, ordering a system from Dell is just so incredibly difficult. You call a 1-800 number and an actual human being will help you order a computer. I mean, almost nobody orders computers from Dell! No siree, Bob.

      • by webmaster404 ( 1148909 ) on Monday February 18, 2008 @12:10AM (#22458842)
        Dell though seems to be hiding Linux, even though they offer it they never mention it in any ads, or on the main page. If you search for Linux you will find it with the heading "Not sure Open Source is for you?" under the computers. Honestly, even though Dell does offer Linux which can't be said about other vendors, they sure seem to hide it well.
    • Exactly, when things such as the gPC start appearing more often people will naturally switch to Linux. Why? Because A) The hardware price-performance ration is good, B) The OS is free cutting down the cost of the computer and C) Nearly all software is free. Joe Sixpack really doesn't need much more software then is installed by default in Ubuntu. About the only things would be Flash and MP3 support which is trivial to add. All in all, when cheap Linux-based desktops/laptops start appearing more often expect
  • by neapolitan ( 1100101 ) * on Sunday February 17, 2008 @11:20PM (#22458408)
    Nothing new, and basic psychology. This has been proposed before, even on Slashdot many times in many posts.

    It is also the explanation behind fraternity rites / hazing and various initiation procedures to clubs. No pain == no value in many people's eyes.

    You could almost look at defense of Microsoft as a form of the Stockholm syndrome. [wikipedia.org]
    • by catwh0re ( 540371 ) on Sunday February 17, 2008 @11:44PM (#22458600)
      Computing is a boon to the consumer-based society.(Not entirely helpful while ploughing a field for example.)
      In a consumer-based society products are propagated by sellers.(Computer stores in this case.)
      When a product/service is good, the penetration of a product/service is directly proportional to number of sellers.(Think iPods)
      The number of sellers is maximised and thus achieved by the ease of profitability of the good/service sold.
      Items which can be sold as-is attract both small and large resellers who market and profit from the good/service directly.(It's easier to sell something as-is, then have to think of something to bundle it with to make it profitable.)
      Remove the sale price and the result is instead of being the sold item, it merely becomes a tool to sell another kind of product/service.(Usually as a value themed bundle - such as services or hardware, think IBM or Walmart.)

      Additionally, selling it cheaply doesn't solve the problem either, as there needs to be significant profit for sellers to be bothered.(Why you will find windows and not linux in the local computer store.)

      Free items are rarely marketed to consumers for these reasons, marketing costs money, marketing is mostly to generate sales uplift. Marketing is paid for by revenue. The end result is that there is limited mass-market penetration, and it's propagated almost entirely by skilled persons or word of mouth.

    • by plierhead ( 570797 ) on Sunday February 17, 2008 @11:57PM (#22458726) Journal

      Most people don't like free for many reasons. People need to know how you're making a buck before they want to deal with you. After all, "there's no such thing as a free lunch".

      If you come around and offer to clean my windows for free, I naturally assume its some kind of scam. Perhaps my windows are coated with a rare gold dust which you intend to scrape off and re-sell? Who knows?

      If you offer - nay, push on me - a free piece of computer system, I have to wonder why. Especially if you have the appearance and demeanour of some kind of zealot, with an almost religious fervor in trying to push me to use this software.

      At least with MS I know they have a naked interest in gouging me for money via unnecessary upgrades and vendor lock-in. I can almost put a number on it - something in the mid-100s perhaps over the next few years. Something I guess I can grudgingly live with.

      • by neapolitan ( 1100101 ) * on Monday February 18, 2008 @12:36AM (#22459034)
        The funny thing is, after you push the software on somebody and allow them to reap the rewards, they are incredulous. It undermines the concept of "fairness" that they have learned as you state above.

        My girlfriend was about to shell out several hundred dollars for Word on her new Mac. I introduced her to openoffice, but she couldn't figure out how to save files, and said "it uses incompatible format, I have to buy the Word."

        I showed her how to save in .doc format, and she was astounded. She is converted, and introduced 4 of her friends, all students, to openoffice.

        Viral marketing can work, and old learned prejudices can be overcome...
  • Big deal. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ScrewMaster ( 602015 ) on Sunday February 17, 2008 @11:20PM (#22458410)
    This is just another story about perceived value vs. actual value ... whoop-de-do. It's funny too, because the music industry would take the exact opposite position: people see "free" as being more "valuable".

    Gagh. The human psyche is fundamentally twisted.
  • by Gothmolly ( 148874 ) on Sunday February 17, 2008 @11:20PM (#22458412)
    A computer nowadays is an appliance, that plays games, downloads porn, and gets you onto Myspace. Whether its a Mac or PC is based on what other s/w you can steal from your friends, or whether you're rich and/or trendy. You have to buy a computer, and it "comes with" the OS - why would you even waste your time farking around with something else?

  • I call BS (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mrbcs ( 737902 ) * on Sunday February 17, 2008 @11:21PM (#22458420)

    But that's not what Average Joe Computer Newbie sees. He sees a free product versus a three-hundred-dollar product he can get free. It's all about the perception!"
    It's not perception. Windows is already "free". It either comes with your computer or you borrow a disc from a friend and install it. How many of Microsoft sales depend on users buying a copy in the store?

    Who wants to use Linux when there always seems to be one damn thing that doesn't work? How many of the cheap Walmart cd's will run on a linux box? The killer still seems to be accounting programs. When Quicken, Quick Books and Simply Accounting work, then there will be real in-roads to business.

    Home users may never sign on. Shit far too many home users already shouldn't have a computer. You want Linux to work and be accepted by the masses? Make it look and work like windows. Any learning curve is too large. We've had the same basic windows functions and menus (until Vista) since 95. How the hell are we going to train legions of AOL users to use Ubuntu? Good luck with that.

    I hate Microsoft as a company. Their business practices have been highly suspect, but their software (XP Pro anyway) does work and lets me do stuff without having to read man pages, or tweak files or find special drivers or find a replacement program, or run in a sandbox. After 8 years, countless distros, way too much time and actually failed hardware (how does ubuntu kill a previously working drive), I personally have jumped off the linux soapbox for the last time. Linux is awesome on servers but I don't think it will ever even challange even Apple for desktop market share.


    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      "When Quicken, Quick Books and Simply Accounting work, then there will be real in-roads to business."

      I would suggest the Sage products are more vital to businesses.

      http://www.sage.co.uk/productsandservices/home.aspx?tid=131865&stid=131870&pid=132037 [sage.co.uk].

      These guys are deep in every core industry and are global. A product like SageTimberline is used beginning to end in the commercial construction industry including by the owners and property managers who commissioned the construction.

      It is kinda insane
  • by QCompson ( 675963 ) on Sunday February 17, 2008 @11:22PM (#22458428)
    One can come up with all sorts of complicated theories on why linux hasn't gained significant ground on windows, but it's very simple. Applications, applications, applications. If linux was running word, photoshop, quickbooks, and a host of other business software (not to mention games), we wouldn't be reading these endless pontifications about why linux hasn't been overtaken windows on the desktop.
  • by TheMeuge ( 645043 ) on Sunday February 17, 2008 @11:22PM (#22458430)
    I call this the "King's New Robes" effect, which is the same logic by which "boutique" products are sold - you can take the same crap, repackage it in a pretty way, and charge 10X as much, and people will flock to buy it by the hundred.

    In the past year I've had a lot of success converting frustrated Windows users into Linux people... and simply convincing both Windows and Mac users that Linux was a legitimate operating system. However, I've also frequently run into a scenario where I would be showing somebody my Dell laptop running Ubuntu, and they'd be REALLY excited about the features, the intuitive UI, the eye candy... and then they'd ask me how much it was... and when I told them it was free, they'd be disappointed!

    • by rohan972 ( 880586 ) on Sunday February 17, 2008 @11:53PM (#22458666)
      ... and then they'd ask me how much it was... and when I told them it was free, they'd be disappointed!

      http://www.ubuntu.com/support/paid [ubuntu.com]
      Then tell them it's $250 with a years support package, but because you're a licenced distributor, you can install it for nothing, just for them. Then it has percieved value, it's a good deal and they're getting it because they know an insider! While people don't want to get something of no value, they love getting something of value for nothing and they love "knowing the right person". Either that or tell them the price of a Dell with Ubuntu preinstalled [dell.com], which is not nothing and definitely has credibility as "value".
  • I don't buy it (Score:5, Insightful)

    by _merlin ( 160982 ) on Sunday February 17, 2008 @11:23PM (#22458436) Homepage Journal
    I don't think the n00b sees it this way at all. To them, the OS/window manager is part of the computer. That's what they see when they turn it on, and that's all that matters. As they don't see Windows as separate from the computer, they won't see it as extra value. Linux may be ready for the masses at last, but until it's marketed as such in the stores they visit, they'll never know. I was at Harvey Norman the other day buying a new Wacom tablet. There was not one Linux PC in the building. Same goes for just about any other computer store. If your lucky, there might be one or two in a corner. Linux is a build-to-order option from Dell, but Joe n00b won't choose that - he'll just take what's recommended. Right now, you have to actively seek out Linux if you want it; that's perfect for techs, but no use for n00bs.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by NorbrookC ( 674063 )

      Exactly. Most computers these days are in the hands of people who do not understand that the hardware and the OS are separate items. Which is why the average computer user doesn't see the cost of Windows - it's built into their purchase price. They might choose Linux over Windows if they were forced to buy the OS separately from the hardware.

      That said, there are moves into the retail market by Linux computers. They have the advantage of being significantly cheaper than the equivalent Windows versions.

  • by stevestrike ( 695817 ) on Sunday February 17, 2008 @11:23PM (#22458442)
    I've tried to setup several small offices with OpenOffice. Within a week or two, they are screaming for their Excel and Word. It's not that they hate free, they hate change! If it doesn't look and behave exactly like they are used to, they won't invest the time to learn a new product.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Lemmy Caution ( 8378 )
      Moreover, if you have 99% compatibility, enough users will hit that 1% often enough in meaningful enough situations that they will shrug and go back.
    • by JoshHeitzman ( 1122379 ) on Sunday February 17, 2008 @11:40PM (#22458556) Homepage
      Why should anyone invest the time to learn a new product that doesn't do more for them then the product they are currently using? Personally, I'm still using Office 2000. I've used both Office XP and Office 2003 extensively at my prior job, but I really didn't notice the difference between 2000, XP, and 2003. I've also given OpenOffice a try. The thing that really annoyed me to no end with OpenOffice was that I could not grab the edge of my current selection in it's Excel equivalent and drag it in order do the equivalent of a cut and paste of the selection (i.e. move the selection to a new location on the spreadsheet). Apparently I do this a lot, but hadn't really noticed how frequently until I tried OpenOffice and couldn't do it. I use FireFox and Thunderbird for web and mail there so no problem there.
  • OP is wrong (Score:5, Insightful)

    by jjohnson ( 62583 ) on Sunday February 17, 2008 @11:24PM (#22458446) Homepage
    It's not because Linux is free, it's because businesses don't put Linux on their desktops.

    For a really large number of people, their main experience with computers is at work--that's what they learn on, that's what they come to understand. Deviation from what they know is a barrier to entry.

    Couple that with virtually no vendors selling computers with Linux pre-installed, and you have a huge barrier to entry. The vast majority of users use what's put in front of them, either by their employer or Dell or Walmart, and see little to no incentive to switch.
    • 1) IBM, Novell, Red Hat, Sun...along with small businesses and individuals across the country (via the Ron Paul *Money Bomb* line of fund raising), do a flat-out hostile takeover of Intuit.
      2) Quickbooks and TurboTax are ported to Unix/Linux under the GPL.
      3) IBM, Novell, Red Hat, Sun, etc., build a Linux application server tuned especially to offer up Quickbooks in a Remote Desktop style.
      4) Offer said server on an easy to install LiveCD that lets everyone try it out and easily install it.
      5) IBM, Sun, etc., m
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by jjohnson ( 62583 )
        It's not a bad idea, but Quickbooks and TurboTax aren't enough. They'd have to port the top ten apps, starting with Excel, and it would have to have a way to enable continued use of existing Excel worksheets with as little frission as possible to users--ideally some situation where the IT department dumps all spreadsheets into a folder and the new system serves them a converted version that seems like the same thing they've known all along.

        There's an installed base of software that has to be overcome. But
  • Duh. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by WK2 ( 1072560 ) on Sunday February 17, 2008 @11:24PM (#22458450) Homepage
    Thanks for the profound knowledge, Einstein.

    I noticed this a long time ago, when I first started my business. According to economics, there is more demand if you lower your price. But in reality, this is not always the case. In fact, I would go so far as to say that almost as often as it does, price does not affect demand at all.

    I've been saying for a long time that someone should package a Linux distro in a box, and sell it for $100. People will buy it. Anybody could do it, developer or not. It is perfectly legal, as long as you follow the license for all of the programs, which can usually be done by including a source CD along with the package. I haven't done it myself because I'm not familiar with retail setup, and would probably just end up spending my money on a business venture that I can't complete.

    Red Hat does something similar. They sell their package for $15. They should increase the price.
  • Apples & Oranges (Score:4, Insightful)

    by EEPROMS ( 889169 ) on Sunday February 17, 2008 @11:28PM (#22458470)
    The author is off base, Linux isnt free when presented with the same features as Windows ie codecs. Thats why we have $$$ distributions that sort all that out for the consumer. What is an issue are people downloading free versions of Linux then being stupidly surprised that the $$$ bits are missing.
  • by thedragon4453 ( 1236484 ) on Sunday February 17, 2008 @11:30PM (#22458486)
    I think the reason doesn't spread is because of the virtual monopoly windows has on the OS market. Linux is difficult to get on a system pre-installed, and its difficult to get a lot of mainstream software on Linux. Games are almost non-existent in any real way because developers just aren't producing for Linux. At the moment, it will take quite a bit for Linux to take hold of the OS market just because Windows has made it so hard to get in.
  • by schnikies79 ( 788746 ) on Sunday February 17, 2008 @11:34PM (#22458514)
    I have a minor in marketing and economics, woohoo. Anyway...

    This is the best example I can think of. There was a small watch company (can't think of the name off my head without getting out a textbook) who sold fairly high-end watches for about $500-$800 and sales were poor to flat. The company raised the price to around $1500 and sales went crazy. The higher price has a perceived higher quality, even if it doesn't.

    Cars work that way, computers work that way. Of course price doesn't always equal quality, but it can and that is a that point is stronger in peoples minds.
  • it is true (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Aeron65432 ( 805385 ) <agiamba AT gmail DOT com> on Sunday February 17, 2008 @11:34PM (#22458522) Homepage
    It is true. One of the most common examples of expensive products being valued more, despite the difference, is wine. Caltech released [bbc.co.uk] a study about a month ago that showed people constantly rated wine better if they were told it was more expensive, and vice versa for cheap. And it wasn't just preference, it was cerebrally measured.

    People associate more expensive products with being superior. Stupid, I know. But it's true.

  • Here's why.. (Score:5, Informative)

    by Computershack ( 1143409 ) on Sunday February 17, 2008 @11:38PM (#22458544)
    I've just installed Ubuntu on my laptop. Installing it was the easy part. I then had to go off and search how to add MP3 support, multimedia streaming and DVD playback. 3/4 hour later of enable this repository, apt-get this and a fair bit of sudo this and that and it's all done. OK, got MP3 support in Rythmbox and VLC is doing a tremendous job of playing DVDs. Firefox seems to be OK although Realplayer streaming on the BBC News website only works in standalone player.
    Fonts look crap so lets see how to install some decent ones..a quick google and after reading several different ways to do it, I'm copying them over from my Windows installation - another 20 minutes. Now, lets set up a shared folder so I can access it from my Vista desktop. Right click on folder, select Share Folder. Goes off and gets another raft of files. Refresh Windows and my laptop shows..all good. Click on the icon for the laptop, user/pass prompt. Try several including guest and the logon for ubuntu and no go. Off we go to Google again and there's a Howto. Only problem is it misses out a few IMPORTANT steps (like saying I have to add a SMB user WTF???) In the end, a post directs me to a Youtube link which shows exactly how to do it. Try to let it share without user/pass and in the end I give up. There's another 45 minutes wasted.

    So it's taken me 2 hours just to install BASIC multimedia functionality, some decent fonts and figure out how to share files over a windows network. What makes it worse is there's not just one way to do something but several ranging from completely ridiculous strings of CLI commands to a simple solution but you can bet which one tops the search results. OK, I know how to do it for next time but do you honestly think Average Joe on their first venture into Linux is going to persist as much as I did? Not a chance. Windows "Just works" so that's what they'll go back to. It'll be "Yeah I tried it once but it was just too damned complicated to do anything so I gave up."

    And that's why Linux isn't cutting it on the desktop.

  • Windows is Free (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Mazin07 ( 999269 ) on Sunday February 17, 2008 @11:40PM (#22458564) Homepage
    How many people pay for Windows? These scenarios are common:

    "When I need Windows, I just grab my friend's Windows disc with a volume license."
    "When I need Windows, I just buy it for $5 with my University ID."
    "When I need Windows, I just borrow my friend's bootleg copy that he got in Asia."
    "When I need Windows, I get the pre-cracked version from The Pirate Bay."

    How many people really know the real cost of a full license of the various versions of Windows Vista?
  • I disagree (Score:4, Insightful)

    by jollyreaper ( 513215 ) on Sunday February 17, 2008 @11:43PM (#22458596)
    This was news years ago but this view is slowly changing.

    1) Open Source is gaining more and more penetration in the workplace. It starts out small with free stuff like wiki's, gimp, open office, etc. Eventually the ethos will spread to the OS as well. OSS isn't just abstract theory anymore, there are real apps that non-geeks can appreciate.
    2) There's more and more frustration with Microsoft.

    I'm hearing people in userland start to talk about going open source. Case in point, a parent I know found out the cheap computer they got did not come with Office. They need it for school. Well, you can fork over $125 for Office or $0 for Open Office. Assuming they just need basic word processing, free is fine. Said parent was highly receptive to the idea. Five years ago, I can just about guarantee the answer would have been "Open what? No, no, I want the Microsoft brand, what everybody's using."

    More than "free must = crap," I think the dominant corporate meme is still "Nobody ever got fired for buying IBM." If Microsoft drops a steamer in your lap, you just shrug and look at the boss like "Hey, what can I do, the market leader is dropping steamers on everyone." You go with a product no one has ever heard of and it fails, the boss looks at you like "We're the only outfit in the industry with a steamer in our laps and gee, we're also the only one using that Foosoft app. Got any excuses, flitboy?"
  • by FoolsGold ( 1139759 ) on Sunday February 17, 2008 @11:44PM (#22458604)
    ...for what it's worth, as to the reasons Linux isn't spreading as quickly as was hoped:

    (1) Crap-all marketing. Windows has posters, flyers, tv spots, and general awareness by most computers users. Apple has poster, tv spots, attractive retail stores, and in most cases a general awareness by most computer users. What does Linux have? At best, word of mouth.

    (2) Lack of commercial apps. Don't give me crap about being able to use GIMP for free - armature and profession photographers want professional-level tools like Photoshop. They WILL pirate the damn thing if necessary.

    (3) Path of least resistance. Moving from one operating system to another is generally an exercise in trading one set of hassles for another. It's not often that it's a painless experience. Moving to a Mac though is much more realistic for someone fed-up with Windows than moving to Linux however, due to points (1) and (2).

    Finally, the biggest reason of all - why change? Windows just isn't that bad if you know how to use a computer. Most people have more important things to do in life than worry about operating systems, or at least they do once they get to a certain age when priorities become clearer.
  • Wrong (Score:5, Insightful)

    by kmac06 ( 608921 ) on Sunday February 17, 2008 @11:45PM (#22458608)

    It's far more valuable to the end user in terms of getting things done.
    That's wrong. For the vast majority of users, it doesn't matter much what OS they use. Inasmuch as it does matter for those users, "getting things done" is tipped in Windows favor just because of compatibility issues such as Word vs OpenOffice. Many users (such as myself) use specialized software that only works under Windows, or simply play games. I know you can do some virtual environment or dual boot, but neither of those is better "in terms of getting things done". There is of course a small base of users than can get more done with Linux, but they are a small minority.

    I'm not bashing Linux or open source software in general, but the simple fact is that Windows is Just Fine for most people. Add to that fact that people don't see the hidden cost of Windows, and you have the current situations.
    • by Sycraft-fu ( 314770 ) on Monday February 18, 2008 @12:53AM (#22459162)
      A good example would be the whole source code thing. This is scary to a non-technical user. Maybe it shouldn't be, but it is. While it is possible to run Linux and never run in to any code, it isn't that hard to find something you want to do that needs source code. Maybe it is a driver or an app that is distributed only in source form. Well, compiling that scares people. You have to drop to a command line and you are going to get a shitload of text dumped at you that makes no sense. Even though the end result might be just as easy as running a visual installer in Windows, it doesn't FEEL as easy, it feels scary.

      I could go on with a whole list of design choices Linux has made that are like this. Basically what it comes down to is that it doesn't seem as easy to a non-technical user. Even if the process is just as easy (and there are times when it certainly isn't) the fact that it involves something that looks highly technical makes it very intimidating. This is going to hinder adoption, of course. If people feel it is harder, they aren't going to want to use it or learn it.
  • by at_slashdot ( 674436 ) on Sunday February 17, 2008 @11:52PM (#22458656)
    It's lock-in, hardware and software lock-in.

    Hardware: Linux is pretty good at working with MOST of the hardware, but there are wireless cards and scanners and of course other devices that don't work out of the box with Linux

    Software: yes there are replacements and most of the people probably need only a browser, but if 100% of Windows programs would work on Linux I'm sure we'd not have this discussion.

    All the rest of "reasons": ease of use, resistance to change, lack of perceived values they are there but they are minor issues, most of the people I know won't even be able to tell the difference between KDE and Windows, most of the people I know don't care about the "value" of their OS either.

    And of course, why says that Linux is not growing? It's growing pretty fast considering these issues. What do people expect?
  • Inertia (Score:4, Insightful)

    by JesterXXV ( 680142 ) <jtradke.gmail@com> on Sunday February 17, 2008 @11:57PM (#22458712)
    It's got NOTHING to do with Linux being free and EVERYTHING to do with inertia. Linux is used by jillions of companies every day for all kinds of shit BESIDES desktop apps, so it's not like there's widespread distrust of Linux, and certainly not due to its price tag. The reason it hasn't reached that tipping point is circular: nobody is using Linux on the desktop because nobody is using Linux on the desktop.

    Windows is well-known and it's Good Enough for the masses, so they have no reason to go through the unknowns of switching. That the "something else" is Linux has nothing to do with it.
  • by erroneus ( 253617 ) on Monday February 18, 2008 @12:03AM (#22458772) Homepage
    1. It doesn't run "Word", "Outlook", "Photoshop" and all that people are used to
    2. The flaws, difficulty and learning curve are very different from the flaws, difficulty and learning curves the people are already accustomed to under Windows. (It's important to note that Windows isn't perceived to be 'better' than Linux or even MacOS, it's that the users are accustomed to the problems with Windows and are reluctant to learn to deal with a new set of problems associated with alternatives.)

    Most Windows users will not give you any argument about the expectedly poor performance, stability, reliability or security of MS Windows. If you told them it was unsafe, you wouldn't be telling them they don't already know. The reality of the user psychology that most people seem to be missing is that people are accustomed to Windows and its shortcomings.

    The reality is that there's a LOT of psychology to overcome when it comes to getting users to try alternatives... even alternatives such as MacOSX. And getting beyond the psychology still isn't enough -- there has to be a comprehensive set of answers to handle the questions surrounding migrating their data to a new OS and running needed applications or their acceptable substitutes. And most significantly, the answers to those issues are not one-size-fits-all! The comprehensive solutions need to be tuned to the user being converted.

    I don't have a clue how to get beyond the psychological barriers to change. But taking a lesson from Microsoft when they were busy converting users from Word Perfect to MS Word, they were ALL ABOUT providing massive guidance and assistance for Word Perfect users. Microsoft's efforts won users over. It would seem to me that if there were sufficiently effective documents and "wizards" to guide Windows users in using Linux, it might prove to be helpful... do a degree. (If I were to estimate how effective such an effort might be, I'd guess about 5% effective. It's not a big estimation, but it's not 0.)
  • ^^ Good Excuses. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by rampant mac ( 561036 ) on Monday February 18, 2008 @12:03AM (#22458776)
    "According to the author, the reason is simple; Linux is free, and humans tend not to equate free things with being valuable." Linux fails because it's _doesn't_ do anything significant. Apple = iTunes, iPod, iPhone, Digital Monopoly Windows = Gaming, Office, Corporate Environment, Desktop Monopoly Where does Linux fit in among the current scheme of things? It does nothing well of the previously mentioned market space, so what does it have going for it? Those 8 things are probably 95% of what consumers do with computers so where and how will Linux compete?
  • by dl107227 ( 632747 ) on Monday February 18, 2008 @12:05AM (#22458796)
    I used a linux type OS fr the first time in the late 90's at a computer lab at the university I went to. Mosaic worked and later netscape worked. I thought it was fine as a way to access the internet. I still used word perfect (on a windows system) for word processing. Hell... I remember telling my dad that you could find anything on the internet. i told him if you want to find out more about "nose picking" just type it into a search engine and you will discover new ways to pick your nose (there were less than 10 hits back then on fast.com compares to 400,000+ on google now) So recently I downloaded and burned a gutsy gibbon boot disk. I was not a Comp Sci major. I am not some computer guru even though i built all my computers and my parents computers (the only exception being the laptop I am currently posting from. Booting to GG showed me a desktop that I was almost familiar with (things do change a bit with time). I immediately discovered that my bluetoooth mouse and my internet connection did not work. Obviously without internet it becomes impossible to research solutions to a problem on the internet. Without bluetoooth I could not use my mouse and I hate using a touchpad. I would like to use some sort of Linux distro but I don't seem to have the specialized knowledge required to do so. If, eventually it becomes a system where all you have to do is install it and almost everything works then I will gladly become faithful fan. Until then I will continue to use windows products because I have a lot of other things on my plate than learning how to finagle an operating system to meet my needs when there is one that already does.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by mikesd81 ( 518581 )
      And, here lies the exact reason why Linux doesn't spread. People who have even slight knowledge with computers still see it as a hobby. Distros like Ubuntu have come a long way to make things work out of box, but still...they don't. And I know that Microsoft has it's problems too, but there are drivers out there that you can just install...in a more easy way than having to add this line to a file and run that command and so on. I love Linux, I have a Fedora box running as well as a MS box and they coexist t
  • Call the emperor (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Progman3K ( 515744 ) on Monday February 18, 2008 @12:10AM (#22458840)
    Tell him his new clothes are ready!

    As far as I am considered, I hope Linux NEVER becomes mainstream.
    I've been using Linux exclusively for 4 years and I love it, especially when all the freeloaders ask me
    "You're in computers; my computer is acting up, can you take a look?"
    "What operating system are you running?" I ask.

    "Sorry, I can't help, I run Linux"
    Ahh... Sweet peace and quiet, not only in my computer, but in my life also.
    Fuck being an evangelist, it has caused nothing but pain for me and now I just want to be left alone.
  • good (Score:5, Funny)

    by anonypus_user ( 1236548 ) on Monday February 18, 2008 @12:14AM (#22458880)
    If everyone else used it i wouldn't feel cool anymore.
  • by Money for Nothin' ( 754763 ) on Monday February 18, 2008 @12:20AM (#22458924)
    Business users don't generally use Linux on the desktop because of:

    1) IT inertia - i.e., application infrastructure which would require replacement (a.k.a. lock-in)
    2) Corporate desire not to spend extra money supporting another OS
    3) Training costs

    Joe Home User sees #1 and #3 as well. e.g. for #1, they want to play Cabela's Big Game Hunter, not hack on Gnumeric. And Big Game Hunter is a Windows app, not a Linux app. For #3 - and this is the killer - Linux is still too hard to use. Venture outside the well-defined, tolerably easy-to-use user needs space of web browsing and... and that's about it... and you're looking at having to deal with a command-prompt. God forbid you should have to install something like a printer, which is usually dirt-simple on Windows, but a PITA on Linux (to wit: I have used Linux and FreeBSD since 2000. I still cannot get my Brother HL-2040 to print anything besides text and Word docs via CUPS + SMB on my FreeBSD box. PDFs are a no-go. But it works fine when connected to my OSX laptop - which also runs CUPS, so I know it *can* be done.)

    Users have a hard time dealing with command-prompts -- that's partly why GUIs were invented.

    Windows offers a path-of-least-resistance/lower barrier-to-entry. It does so by having a larger established application base, far-greater mindshare (which in turns feeds the app base), and by providing a generally easier-to-use interface -- all of which drive its own growth, or at least self-perpetuation.

    Meanwhile, although Linux is free-to-possess, it is certainly *not* free to learn, and operating it requires more time spent "tweaking" than is usually the case on Windows. As the old saying goes, "Linux is only free if your time is worth nothing." Hence why some of us have switched to OSX (my time is pretty expensive)...

    Windows' continuing desktop dominance is ultimately a feedback loop in action. Linux is great for many things, and for a power user who does no more than basic Office-type work (Word docs, spreadsheets, etc.), and who doesn't mind multiple audio streams failing to mix together correctly -- or require different audio frameworks to do it, depending on the app -- it's usable... But as a desktop for Joe User, Linux isn't there yet, and probably never will be (consider the expansion into synchronization with iPods, cellphones (and the PIM stuff that goes along with smartphones), and so forth. Even Apple has a lot of catch-up to do here; Microsoft is using its market dominance to connect all these things in a tolerable -- but far from perfect -- manner.)
  • by erlehmann ( 1045500 ) on Monday February 18, 2008 @12:24AM (#22458952)
    MORPHEUS: At last. Welcome, Neo. As you no doubt have guessed, I am Morpheus.

    THOMAS: It's an honor.

    MORPHEUS: No, the honor is mine. Please. Come. Sit. [Pause] I imagine, right now, you're feeling a bit like Alice, tumbling down the rabbit hole?

    THOMAS: You could say that.

    MORPHEUS: I can see it in your eyes. You have the look of a man who accepts what he sees because he is expecting to wake up. Ironically, this is not far from the truth. Do you use closed source software, Neo?

    THOMAS: No.

    MORPHEUS: Why not?

    THOMAS: Because I don't like the idea that I'm not in control of my computer.

    MORPHEUS: I know exactly what you mean. [Pause] Let me tell you why you are here. You have come because you know something. What you know you can't explain but you feel it. You've felt it your whole life, felt that something is wrong with the world. You don't know what, but it's there like a splinter in your mind, driving you mad. It is this feeling that brought you to me. Do you know what I'm talking about?

    THOMAS: Windows?

    MORPHEUS: Do you want to know what it is? Don't we all feel that there is more to life...that there is something missing? [Pause] Windows is everywhere, it's all around us, even now in this very room. You can see it when you look out your - ahem - window [short pause] or when you turn on your media center. You can feel it when you login at work, when you surf to slashdot, when you pay your taxes online. It is the world that has been pulled over your eyes to blind you from the truth.

    THOMAS: What truth?

    MORPHEUS: That you are a slave, Neo. Like everyone else, you were born into bondage, born into a prison that you cannot smell, taste, or touch. A prison for your mind. Unfortunately, no one can be told what Windows is. You have to see it for yourself. This is your last chance. After this, there is no turning back. You take the recovery disc, the story ends. You wake in your bed and you believe whatever you want to believe. You take the Ubuntu disc, you stay in Wonderland and I show you how deep the rabbit hole goes. Remember, all I am offering is the truth. Nothing more.

    (Thomas takes the Ubuntu disc and some cookies.)
  • I don't know (Score:4, Interesting)

    by bitspotter ( 455598 ) on Monday February 18, 2008 @12:29AM (#22458984) Journal
    I don't know that Ubuntu GNU/Linux isn't spreading.

    I've long since given up trying to advocate a new OS to people who aren't fed up with the one they have. But last week, I heard from a friend of mine who told me his roommate installed it after seeing it on his PC. He installed it after seeing it on his girlfriend's computer. She happens to be my roommate, and she asked me to install it without prompting from me.

    I didn't even install two of these systems. I didn't //have// to. The thing installs itself; I just get a postcard every so often.

    Aside from that, freedom is worth more than free. I am worth more than beer. Thank you very much.

    So he may be right, in the sense that Windows users basically hate freedom (like terrorists! er, no wait...), so they put a low price tag on it. But everyone I know who's installed Gutsy since it's been out has been pretty pleased with it //precisely// because of the lack of restrictions on what it lets them do, instead of trying to sell and advertise a bunch of crap they don't want, or have to pay more to get if they do want it.

    Perhaps freedom won't sell. But that's because it can only be given away. And as people realize that they're paying to have their freedoms //taken away// instead of given to them, they find ways to make the switch.

    And again, why is it so important that GNU/Linux "spread"? Just keep it^H^H me free.
  • by moss1956 ( 246946 ) on Monday February 18, 2008 @12:36AM (#22459032)
    The real problem is that it is a hassle to get any operating system up and running on a machine. Microsoft solved this problem by working with manufacturers
    to make sure the windows runs on their product. Apple solved this problem by only allowing their operating system to be used on machines that they sell.
    Until recently there had been no solution of this sort for Linux, so people who ran linux had to be brave enough souls to fuss with the machine
    so that it acts right after the operating system has been installed. Part of the reason that linux is starting to be used more on the desktop is
    because manufacturers are selling the machines with linux preinstalled. I am not so sure its about perceived value, its more likely about convenience.
  • by Jackie_Chan_Fan ( 730745 ) on Monday February 18, 2008 @12:41AM (#22459062)
    Its the apps... Thats it.

    It starts with the applications. Its things like iTunes. It's things like Office, Games, etc. On the more professional level, there are a lot of apps that are still just windows and those that do have linux versions lack the other complimenting applications that are only still on windows... which prevents people from using the linux versions.

    There are other factors such as ease of use. Linux is still a bit tricky in some areas. Its a lot easier to install now a days but it is still not as smooth and straight forward as windows.

    Hardware. Linux supports a lot of hardware... but not all.

    The main thing is applications and not because its free. Just because it's free, doesnt mean i'll take it. A free Ferrari without its Ferrari engine in it, is worthless to me.

  • by golodh ( 893453 ) on Monday February 18, 2008 @01:08AM (#22459280)
    I know I won't make myself popular here, but nevertheless. I think it has to be said.

    I believe that Linux being free has nothing whatsoever to do with its value perception.

    Instead I believe that people, and to some extent correctly, still equate Linux with "something for geeks, not end-users" because of:

    - the generally poor standard of GUI's on Linux itself and Linux software

    - the generally dismissive attitude of Linux users / software developers for a nice polished GUI with all the details taken care of.

    There ... I've said it. So flame me.

    Ordinary users simply do _not_ want something that forces them to go to the command line for system maintenance. Neither do they want to have to edit configuration files, let alone scripts. It has taken Linux distributions years to come up with something as sophisticated as YAST (for SuSE Linux) and KDE Control center, and especially KDE still doesn't provide a reliable one-stop solution to detect and install my inkjet printer. I have to go to CUPS for that. In a word ... it's less simple than MS Windows (unless you already know what you should be doing because you did it before and kept notes).

    I have seen threads with expostulations about how great command line oriented programs are, and I agree ... for some programs that are oriented towards batch processing, for repetitive jobs, and for software that I write myself for my own use. (When I write software for my own personal use, I never write GUIs. Command-line, control files, and file in, file out. If a GUI is needed, someone else can do that.)

    But for other people's programs, and for programs I don't use every day I want to be prompted and guided ... by a GUI ... with tooltips and a smoothly functioning and fairly complete Help function. The very last think I want is to be obliged to read a manual and remember commands for some fink of a program before I use it. I believe I have a typical end-user mentality in this respect.

    And did I mention that as an end-user I really do _not_ want to see every program sporting its own GUI layout either? I don't care a fig about what some programmer thinks is good way to organise his GUI. I want my GUI to be *standardised* (at least the toolbar) so that it's somewhat familiar as soon as the application starts. Copy-paste should of course be supported, and don't you dare to let it default to any other key combination than C for copy and V for paste, and a print option (if applicable at all) right where I expect it ... under the menu (which has to be the leftmost menu) somewhere 3/4 down the list.). Well ... I might be able to cope with a standard GUI layout under Linux that's different from Windows, but no more than one.

    And then the graphics itself ... ouch. I really *hate* GTK-based programs. They look somewhat like the Windows programs I'm used to, but the widgets work differently. I find them clunky. Ugly and clunky. Again, I couldn't care less what some programming community thinks of them. I don't want them. Take the typical GTK file menu for one thing. An abortion! And what's more, I won't have them unless there is no alternative.

    As an illustration, take for example AviDemux (see here: http://fixounet.free.fr/avidemux/ [fixounet.free.fr]). It comes in two flavours: with a GTK+ interface and with a QT4 interface. I tried the GTK+ flavour first and disliked it. The QT4 version on the other hand was acceptable. It didn't irritate.

    The good news is that this nicely illustrates the difference between what in the context of "Git" (the version control software) is called: the plumbing (the guts) and the porcelain (the superficial layer that comprises the GUI). A well-designed GUI can be rendered in either GTK+ or QT4, and it should have absolutely no impact on the plumbing.

  • by McSnarf ( 676600 ) * on Monday February 18, 2008 @03:13AM (#22460068)
    You know whho I mean. Teen wearing "I am root, bow before me" t-shirts and who hang around in Linux support forums because Linux installed automatically on their PC. Never compiled a kernel, never seen a kernel being compiled - and wouldn't know bash from COMMAND.COM.

    You most likely know the type.

    Enters a friend of mine. New to Linux. Reasonably clever, manages to install, then wants to run Windows games under Linux. He learns about wine and wants to know if it will do what he wants it to do.
    "No problem," he thinks, "there is this thing called the community and I will go and ask!"

    And he did. In polite words. Telling people about his system setup, about his idea to change to Linux, then asking a number of questions about distributions (which one?), wine and performance.

    Answers included things like:

    - "Go away, windows boy!" (no further comments)
    - "RTFM!" (no further comments)
    - "Use Google." (including the common "Oh no, another Windows user..." quote)

    It was made very clear to him, in all but two answers, that he was not welcome, the wrong kind of user, morally inferior for wanting to play non-free games.

    Two people actually jumped in and told him that, yes, Windows was actually better in supporting Windows games and wine wouldn't really help there. Linux would not make sense here. Heresy takes courage. :)

    I am a bit of a late starter, installed my first SLS when kernel versions were around 0.98, the file system was minix and you had to hex-edit sectors to set your boot device. If you haven't been there, you don't want to know what you had to do to make X run. I remember a different kind of Linux crowd from that time. "Snotty" was not part of that.
    Nowadays, my t-shirt would probably read: "I was root. It becomes boring. Now I just fired root for beeing cheeky and hired Admin because he is polite, solves my problems and will not risk my business on alpha code."

    Linux is a great OS - and my friend is now learning how to use a Linux server as a game server (for windows games), web server and FTP server. He is doing fine, even with bash, as he is not stupid - just untrained. His web interface for game servers is not looking too bad...

    But like would be easier if the "WHOOOA! I am root!" kids (on a single user system, probably running a boot-from-DVD Knoppix or a SuSE Live DVD) learned to shut up unless they had something helpful to say. They are not doing Linux any good.

  • Coherent and Xinu (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Per Abrahamsen ( 1397 ) on Monday February 18, 2008 @05:23AM (#22460756) Homepage
    Oh, if just Linux had been proprietary like the other Unix lookalikes of the time, it might today have enjoyed the same propagation on the desktop as, say, Coherent or Xinu.

    BTW: Linux does ship today with more computer based products than MS Windows, just not on the most visible platform of them all, the PC desktop.
  • by reallocate ( 142797 ) on Monday February 18, 2008 @11:20AM (#22463234)
    Some may be old enough to remember Turbo Pascal. Back when Microsoft and Digital Research were selling Pascal compilers for DOS for a few hundred dollars or more -- in the days before C took off on that platorm -- fast Turbo Pascal hit the market for $39.95. They sold bunches. I sure fewer people would have acquired Turbo Pascal if it had been released for no cost with a free license of some sort.

    Linux is not held back as much by the "it's free" factor as it is by its unavailability in places where many people look for software. I know that sounds incongruous to everyone here, but the world is full of people who expect software to come in a shiny box sold by a store in the mall.

    That, of course, is marketing, something that Turbo Pascal had and Linux has never had. More precisely, it's something no single commercial Linux distribution has ever taken seriously: market Linux to a mainstream audience. (Plenty of distributions have decalred they were targeting the mainstream audience, but they never bothered to tell the mainstream.)

"No, no, I don't mind being called the smartest man in the world. I just wish it wasn't this one." -- Adrian Veidt/Ozymandias, WATCHMEN