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Linux On Netbooks — a Complicated Story 833

An anonymous reader writes "Keir Thomas has responded to the recent raft of news stories pointing out that Linux's share of the netbook market isn't as rosy as it used to be. Thomas thinks the problem boils down to a combination of unfamiliar software and unfamiliar hardware, which can 'push users over the edge.' This accounts for the allegedly high return rates of Linux netbooks. In contrast, although far from superior, Windows provides a more familiar environment, making the hardware issues (irritatingly small keyboard, screen etc.) seem less insurmountable; users are less likely to walk away. 'Once again Microsoft's monopoly means Windows is swallowing up another market.'"
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Linux On Netbooks — a Complicated Story

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  • by Lord Byron II ( 671689 ) on Friday April 10, 2009 @10:11PM (#27538627)
    My gf knows that Linux is on her computer, but even so, she can't understand why she can't go to BestBuy and get software. Or why she can't download Silverlight. If you put Linux on a machine and don't explain the difference between it and Windows, then you're just asking for trouble.
    • by CastrTroy ( 595695 ) on Friday April 10, 2009 @10:15PM (#27538655) Homepage
      Oh so true. Linux is good for the geek market where people can truly grasp the difference. But for people who aren't techies, well, most of them would rather spend an extra $50 to get an experience that they are familiar with. These netbooks are pretty cheap to begin with. Not only that, they are kind of a luxury, and used a secondary computer. People who can afford multiple computers don't mind spending a few extra dollars to get the Windows license.
      • by MrNaz ( 730548 ) * on Friday April 10, 2009 @10:52PM (#27538897) Homepage

        I don't think it's a case of Linux being unable to win the desktop. I think it's just that, while we may have superiority on the desktop and under the hood, we still need to gain ground in the area of software. This does not necessarily mean that we have to get Photoshop ported, IMHO building a following behind The Gimp, Inkscape, Blender, KinoDV and other open source apps on both Windows and Linux will help the war effort generally.

        While these applications are (to be honest) still far behind their commercial counterparts, a greater user base and higher profile will attract developers and help them catch up, just as higher profile has helped garner support for the Linux kernel itself from developers and companies.

        Projects like Big Buck Bunny [bigbuckbunny.org] and Elephants Dream [elephantsdream.org] have proven that high quality, professional results can be achieved using open source tools, a proposition that more and more companies will find attractive as new talent enters industries that use these tools.

        Give it time. The Linux ecosystem is growing. Growing far faster than the commercial fields. We're already competing toe to toe in areas like web servers (Apache and LigHTTPD) blow away IIS and other web servers, PostgreSQL easily competes on a level field with Oracle and DB2 and Inkscape isn't as far beind Illustrator as Gimp is behind Photoshop. Blender was proved to be a highly capable 3D modeler and animation tool in the BBB and ED projects mentioned above.

        It's only a matter of time.

        • by coryking ( 104614 ) * on Friday April 10, 2009 @11:41PM (#27539193) Homepage Journal

          Linux advocates frequently over promise and vastly undeliverable. Your soon to be 5+ post is a shining example of that.

          If you think Gimp is even close to the same as Photoshop, you are smoking crack. Blender vs the other guys? I dont know, I tried blender for about 30 seconds before giving up and playing around with the student editions of the big-boys stuff. PostgreSQL is awesome (seriously, I love PostgreSQL), but it is not even close to Oracle (DB2, maybe). Apache, Lighttpd and my current favorite nginx are awesome, but they dont have the close integration with their development tools and operating system that IIS does. Speaking of development tools... there is no open source equivalant of Visual Studio and there is no MSDN of open source.

          If you want Linux to gain acceptance, you need to stop with the hyperbole and start accepting the truth. The truth is:

          - There is no common way to install and remove software.
          - There is no stable base to write drivers (thus no hardware support)
          - There are too many distros with too many proprietary ways of doing things. Too many proprietary repositories, too many proprietary package systems, to many proprietary filesystem layouts.
          - Gimp is *not* Photoshop. Sorry. I know I mentioned this, but I'll repeat it again. You insult people who actually use Photoshop by making this claim.
          - Ponies.

          It's only a matter of time.

          Only if Linux advocates and developers take a realistic look at their product offerings and their standing in the market.

          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            (seriously, I love PostgreSQL), but it is not even close to Oracle (DB2, maybe)

            And there you go showing your ignorance. DB2 has been a better database than Oracle for quite a while.

            • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday April 11, 2009 @01:29AM (#27539755)

              Yeah - but guess what most webservers (LAMP) use? Ignorance can take many forms, but is mostly based at ignoring some part of the story.

              MySQL use is bigger than you try to make us believe. That's the problem with those windows fanboy's. They seem to hate all other OS. Why should you hate something so deep that is given you for free? There seems to be no rationalism behind it other than hating to see things developping for free.

              All windows consumers should embrace Linux, because it keeps Microsoft on his toes. Microsoft HAVE to develop better stuff, otherwise alternatives start growing. Linux is the best thing that could happened to MS-Windows owners. Do you really think Windows 7 (or IE 7/8 etc.) would exist if there was not something like OSS? The only people complaining about it would not be the consumers, but the people making money with MS-Windows.

              Think about that!!!

              • by jedrek ( 79264 ) on Saturday April 11, 2009 @02:56AM (#27540077) Homepage

                I love how you managed to talk about other people's ignorance, then wrote something like "Linux is the best thing that could happened to MS-Windows owners.", all in one post.

                Love Linux all you want, but as a desktop OS it's place is pretty much in the statistical margin of error. Vista's competitor on the desktop (servers are something else) isn't Linux, it's first and foremost Windows XP. If anybody is switching away from MS, they're going to Apple.

                • by SerpentMage ( 13390 ) <[ ] ['' in gap]> on Saturday April 11, 2009 @07:30AM (#27541043)

                  I wish you were modded higher... The last sentence is oh so true...

                  >If anybody is switching away from MS, they're going to Apple.

                  And I know many Linux users on the desktop are switching to Apple.

                  While I would be willing to lay my hand in the fire for Linux on the server, I would not touch a fire with a ten foot pole for Linux on the desktop.

                  Three years ago I completely gave up on Linux on the Desktop. I decided to focus on Apple, and Microsoft. I have to be frank in that I have not looked back AT ALL...

                  Again on the server not the same story...

          • by walshy007 ( 906710 ) on Saturday April 11, 2009 @12:33AM (#27539467)

            - Gimp is *not* Photoshop. Sorry. I know I mentioned this, but I'll repeat it again. You insult people who actually use Photoshop by making this claim.

            This is true, however how many people actually use the entirety of the features of photoshop? I would daresay that the overwhelming majority of non-professional raster editors would suffice with gimp, simply because they don't need half of the functionality photoshop provides

            - There is no common way to install and remove software.

            Look up packagekit, it hooks into rpm, apt, etc etc, and lets face it, all distros, more or less use apt or yum, two different things with nearly identical uses... yeah, so difficult. which brings us onto our next point

            - There are too many distros with too many proprietary ways of doing things. Too many proprietary repositories, too many proprietary package systems, to many proprietary filesystem layouts.

            This is worse than the hyprebole you were complaining about, 'proprietary package systems' name one used in a common distro, please?, proprietary file system layouts you could be referring to fat patents and ntfs, but both have been supported under linux for a long time now.

            And so far as proprietary repos only really fedora requires the click and install installing of a single rpm to get rpmfusion and all of the patent-encumbered things they won't ship, again, so difficult to look up 'fedora faq' to find out that mp3 etc etc can all be gotten working just by installing one lousy file. The majority of other distros package the proprietary bits with it anyway, so no complication. and finally...

            - There is no stable base to write drivers (thus no hardware support)

            So far as packaging a binary for release, I think nvidia has the best method here, binary blob with compilable source that links it to the kernel, works wonders. But really, if your making device drivers for the linux kernel, why not aim for inclusion in the main kernel tree? having it in there equates to basically free maintenance of your drivers almost indefinitely (so long as people have the hardware). Having the hardware 'just work' when linux boots as a side benefit.

            Funnily enough, one of the biggest problems I find with windows apart from it's lack of usability is it's lack of in-built driver support. I can install linux on a 2-3 year old machine, with various ethernet cards and sound boards etc, and have all the hardware just work. Whereas with windows you have to hunt down exactly what the hardware is, where the drivers are, and hope to god drivers were written for your version of windows.

            there is no open source equivalant of Visual Studio and there is no MSDN of open source.

            So far as MSDN replacement, try devhelp has documentation for most used libraries etc etc. So far as visual studio replacement, people aren't going to make an IDE EXACTLY the same as visual studio, that would be idiotic, however if your after a nice usable ide with similar features, may I suggest looking into eclipse, kdevelop etc.

            Only if Linux advocates and developers take a realistic look at their product offerings and their standing in the market.

            Their product offerings typically aren't a problem... except to those who assume for instance that gimp must be 100% exact clone of photoshop, or eclipse must be exact 100% clone of visual studio. The fact is, people do use these open source products for professional quality work (admittedly fewer of them), and it does work. But you will never make someone happy who expects a clone.

            So far as standing in the market, I agree it's minimal, but it's rising all the time, ten years ago I could tell someone about linux and they'd go 'what?' nowadays most even non-techs I meet know about to to at least some extent, even if they have never used it. But really market standing is irrelevant if they have a piece of software that functions well and does it's desired purpose. Who cares if linux takes over the world or stays as a niche, if it functions well for those of us who choose to use it.

            • by coryking ( 104614 ) * on Saturday April 11, 2009 @12:49AM (#27539555) Homepage Journal

              This is true, however how many people actually use the entirety of the features of $PRODUCT_X? I would daresay that the overwhelming majority of $USERS would suffice with $LESSER_PRODUCT, simply because they don't need half of the functionality $PRODUCT_X provides

              The reason these claims are wrong is while they sound true, they are infact very wrong. Sure nobody uses every feature in a product (say, $PRODUCT_X). The thing is, every user has a different subset of features they use.

            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              by leenks ( 906881 )

              I would daresay that the overwhelming majority of non-professional raster editors would suffice with gimp, simply because they don't need half of the functionality photoshop provides.

              No doubt, but the interface is horrible - even with the improvements made recently. It doesn't feel intuitive and, more to the point, it is too different from Photoshop for people to use when they've already got some Photoshop experience.

              Look up packagekit, it hooks into rpm, apt, etc etc, and lets face it, all distros, more or less use apt or yum, two different things with nearly identical uses... yeah, so difficult. which brings us onto our next point

              You just made his point for him. There is no standard package management - there are dozens of tools, and dozens more repositories for them. And yes, it is difficult for the lay person - why do you think phishing and trojans are so common - people really don't understand th

          • by Sycraft-fu ( 314770 ) on Saturday April 11, 2009 @12:42AM (#27539515)

            Is usability/training/help for non-technical users. Technical issues aside, one of the ways Photoshop kills GIMP is in usability. This doesn't just mean the UI itself, it also means the materials available to help you learn about it. Adobe has some first rate stuff. Their help files are quite helpful and include things like pictures of what to do, they have online video training docs, and their books are awesome. That goes a long way to making it usable for the non-tech type. My mom is an art teacher by profession and while she's not scared of computers, she's not good with them. She needs things spelled out step by step. Well she tells me that Adobe does a good job of doing just that. She's found it easy to use. She knows the art aspect of what she wants to do, and their docs help her figure out how to make the software do it.

            That is something major that much OSS seems to lack. The software itself might be badass, but if it is hard to use, it'll be a geek tool only. Normal users aren't going to read text man pages, Google through newsgroup posts, and try stuff on their own to make things work. They need an easy experience. To them the computer is a tool, not a toy, thus it'd better be easy to use because learning how to use it isn't fun for them.

            So if Linux ever wants a big share on the desktop, that is something that is going to have to happen. All the common tools that people use will have to be nice and easy to use, and nice and easy to learn about.

            However, none of that is going to happen until, as you say, they start taking a more realistic look at their products.

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by Malaak ( 1093915 )
            As you made your Photoshop point pretty clear... For me Gimp IS pretty close to Photoshop. Of course I am not doing professional image editing, but so is the majority of people who use Photoshop as a replacement for MS Paint. They use it because a friend gave them this wonderful editing software where they can use this magic wand and edit contrast and brightness. You are right, Gimp is probably not even close to Photoshop for a professional user, but it is for Joe Sixpack.
          • There are too many distros

            Exactly! The industry will need to settle on maybe 3 desktop distros (light, medium, pro) before there will be enough de-facto standardization for driver writers etc. to bother with.

          • by TheModelEskimo ( 968202 ) on Saturday April 11, 2009 @01:25AM (#27539741)
            I use Photoshop and teach it professionally. *You* should not be insulting people who actually use GIMP by making those ridiculous claims. Sure, I've heard maybe one or two GIMP users say they think it's a perfect replacement for Photoshop - completely out of ignorance. But can I tell you how many Photoshop users I've seen who use their Photoshop license-purchase as a reason to bash GIMP without any real experience backing them up? And MOST of them are laughing a bit, then looking at ME for cues that they should keep laughing!

            That's not professionalism, that's just mindless consumerism. People like me use Linux day in and day out with Photoshop in a VM because we've decided that if our generation won't put things right as a group, we will do it as individuals. THUS your complaint about many different distros, THUS your complaint about no MSDN. You want your MSDN but you probably despise the virii that come with its core experience. >:-)
          • by spasm ( 79260 ) on Saturday April 11, 2009 @01:48AM (#27539853) Homepage

            Gimp vs Photoshop: intended end-use is everything. Gimp saves a lot of people the bother of either paying money or committing copyright infringement to do 97% of image manipulation. Photoshop is an indispensable tool for a professional operating in a world geared around that tool and/or the 3% of end-users who are actually doing something that Gimp can't do and Photoshop can. That's not most of us.

            Blender vs unnamed "big-boys stuff": You tried a complex piece of software for "30 seconds" and expected, I don't know, what? The software to read your mind and render amazing 3-d porn on the fly? We'll skip the Freudian analysis of what's going on for you around "the big-boys stuff". But in short, your "30 second" comparison is irrelevant.

            Postgres vs Oracle: the two main comparison points between these two these days seem to be 'we've built an infrastructure around Oracle and switching is dangerous/a huge waste of time' (an attitude I completely support); and Oracle's putative 'richer feature set'. Some people also say that for really huge databases (hundreds of millions of rows), Oracle is superior. Once again, it's what your end-use is that decides whether you want a multi-thousand dollar Oracle seats vs free Postgres seats. You'll note that slashdot (between 10,000 and 40,000 hits per second) uses *mysql* - it fits their fairly specific needs. I work with behavioral data from thousands of respondents at the University of California, San Francisco, and I use postgres and mysql because it suits my very specific needs just fine (and I would happily use Oracle if that was what was needed to manage and analyze my data, but it'd be expensive overkill, so I don't).

            Apache vs IIS. Well, whatever. You're comparing a webserver which serves 106 million sites vs IIS's 67 million (http://netcraft.com [netcraft.com], accessed April 10, 2009); once again, if you need something tightly integrated with Windows servers, IIS is a decent product and possibly even worth paying money for. For the other 106 million of us, Apache is a more apt product.

            I'll stop there. It's my bedtime, and I'm sure someone else will take you to task on the rest of your list.

            Regards, Pete

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            Only if Linux advocates and developers take a realistic look at their product offerings and their standing in the market.

            The real problem with Linux is that the last 10% of any software is a real PITA. It's the kind of work that only gets done because you crawled out of bed on Monday so you don't get fired and are bored of staring at your monitor pretending to work. The kind where you reluctantly finish it because you're going on vacation next week and the only thing worse that actually finishing it is coming back to it afterwards.

          • I'm not sure of the history behind blender, but i seem to remember it was an in-house tool at a company that does graphics work and that a bounty was paid to open source it.

            When it comes to gimp and postgres (and mysql)... Oracle and photoshop occupy relatively small niches, for the average user the free apps are more than adequate and save them a significant amount of money. As an example, for most people photoshop isn't worth the money, piracy rates of photoshop are extremely high and those who don't want to risk it typically buy something cheaper (and inferior) like paint shop pro.

            There are common ways to install and remove software, but these methods are *per distribution* and not global... Once you stop lumping linux together and start thinking of each distribution as a system in it's own right (which they are really, albeit with a lot of shared components) it makes a lot more sense. The installation system on ubuntu for example, is far more consistent and usable than windows or osx.

            Stable base to write drivers - Linux drivers are very stable and included within the kernel, no stable way to write closed source drivers perhaps but open drivers are better, and not having to provide binary compatibility allows the linux kernel to innovate in ways it couldn't otherwise... Conversely, the need for binary compatibility has been a thorn in microsoft's side for years, and whenever they do break compatibility big problems occur, for example:
            Vista - new driver model, drivers need to be rewritten, hardware makers won't write drivers for old hardware thus rendering it useless..
            64bit - 64bit XP was useless in terms of driver support, compare that to 64bit linux which supports 99% of the hardware it's 32bit counterpart did by virtue of being able to recompile the existing drivers with little or no modification.
            Alternative architectures - most of the linux drivers will work on other architectures, if i install linux on a ps3 i can connect virtually any usb device to it that linux supports and use it, if those usb drivers were supplied as binaries for x86 i wouldn't be able to do that... Similarly i could get a PPC, IA64, Alpha or even Sparc based system and use random PCI cards that linux supports.
            No, open source drivers are better, binary drivers have never given me anything but grief.. The current model seems to be working just fine, and the only real holdout is nvidia.

            Too many distros is an issue, and more specifically in the netbook case - too many lousy distros being put on the netbooks.. the few i've seen were using unheard of distros where important things like the package manager were broken or crippled... Ubuntu works really well for the people i've shown it to, but not being able to (easily) install any extra apps on the netbook distros didn't do them any favors.

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by ardor ( 673957 )

            These points are relevant, but the problem no.1 simply is the user. The user is accustomed to Windows, plain and simple. For many people, Windows equals "the PC". Anything else than a Windows GUI feels unfamiliar, and broken.

            This cannot be fixed with technology. This is the area of salesmen, of PR, marketing. OSX is wildly different from Windows, yet it sells. Why? Not because of the tech (which is partially very good), but because Jobs knows how to sell.

          • by DuncanE ( 35734 ) * on Saturday April 11, 2009 @05:20AM (#27540553) Homepage

            What the hell has photoshop got to do with Windows vs linux on netbooks?

            I dont want to run photoshop on my netbook regardless if the OS is Windows or Linux. I want email, a web browser, a simple photo tool and an office suite.

      • by goombah99 ( 560566 ) on Friday April 10, 2009 @11:40PM (#27539187)

        As long as linux advocates curse the foolish choices of the enduser they will never succeed in increasing market share. One can ask, well is market share the goal? If not then don't begrudge windows for providing an end user experience that is preferred. Sure in your view it's a lesser ecperience, but people want comfort. More people like cheeseburgers than tofu even if tofu is better for them. Does that make cheesburger's bad or good?

      • by Spy Handler ( 822350 ) on Saturday April 11, 2009 @01:58AM (#27539901) Homepage Journal

        Actually no, XP license costs ASUS/Acer/HP only about $25 a pop.

        The same XP software costs them 2 times as much if they install it on a slightly bigger laptop or a desktop.

        Reason? Linux on netbooks scared the bejeesus out of Microsoft, they didn't want the Netbook market dominated by Linux. (BTW the whole thing caught MS completely by surprise)

        So, even though most netbooks are probably gonna be sold with Windows on them in the future, we the consumers have the FOSS community to thank for saving us $$

      • Shrug. (Score:5, Interesting)

        by SmallFurryCreature ( 593017 ) on Saturday April 11, 2009 @02:24AM (#27539971) Journal

        Linux is linux because it is linux. CHange it and it won't be linux anymore.

        What is Linux anyway? Is it Linux from scratch or Ubuntu or Linpus (the Linux Acer used to put on its netbooks).

        They are all linux but radically different products. Some distro's go for cutting edge, compiling straight from Linus keyboard, others present a product as unchangebale as your VCR "OS".

        The linux that most geeks use is probably the cutting edge stuff, we can deal with the problems it gives because, well we grew up on it and we accept that it is the price to pay for having the features we require. I KNOW my linux desktop is not as smooth as Vista's is (firefox especially is a bitch) but I have become so accustomed to the X way of presenting a desktop I would quit any job that told me to use windows.

        This however makes it hard for linux to ever kill windows which is what some seem to desire. Linux but its nature is a niche market. How can you sell a product that is free and where the users have no need of tech support or even worse, give said tech support for free? Oh and are also high resistant to adds being displayed. So, you can't sell a boxed product, can't sell support and can't run it add supported.

        That is why there is no linux desktop startup.

        As for mass market, support is expensive. Sell a $50 profit product, get one support call and watch your profit fly away. How does MS do it? Simple, they don't. MS does NOT give consumer support, that they leave up to dell.

        Since linux is not yet capable of being 100% windows (and its current niche market audience has no desire for it to be windows) you can count on any boxed product customer generating at least one support call to find out why their windows software don't run on it.

        Simple put, linux is linux because it is a product by nerds for nerds. It can't go mainstream in a similar way that kit-planes can't. Not everyone has the knowledge to build their own plane and if it became so easy any idiot could, one of the kit-plane fans would buy it and the idiots don't have the pilot license needed anyway.

        Some things are just meant to be niche.

        What would help Linux far more if the world came to accept that windows is not the only OS. I therefor like Apple (despite hating almost everything about them) as any Mac sold means 1 more PC that ain't windows, doesn't do windows and won't do windows. 1 more user wanting opensource or at least portable apps. 1 more user against windows only "standards". 1 more twit railing against wind-mills.

    • by rolfwind ( 528248 ) on Friday April 10, 2009 @10:27PM (#27538735)

      I can't get Linux easily:(

      I want a decent netbook but can't get the model I want. I don't want an eeePC 1000HA, which is slightly dated, I want the upgraded chipsets in the 1000HE or 1004DN that allow smooth HD playback, but right now both only come with Windows. One nice thing the 1000HA did was if you went with Linux, they upgraded your harddrive from a mechanical 80GB to a 64GB SSD. Not too bad.

      As it stands, I would almost have gone with a Windows netbook simply for the hardware I want and be forced to install linux on it. But I decided on the ARM based Always Innovating when it comes out:
      http://www.engadget.com/2009/03/02/touch-book-from-always-innovating-harbors-removable-tablet-netb/ [engadget.com] [engadget.com]

      It has a really nice 15 hour battery life, which for a true portable is one of the top considerations.

    • by alizard ( 107678 ) <alizard.ecis@com> on Friday April 10, 2009 @10:45PM (#27538845) Homepage
      the Linux desktop on the Asus Eee PC 900 out of the box is an abomination for anyone who qualifies as a power user on ANY OS. It's a dumbed down older version of Xandros modified for a tab-based UI.

      Basically, it's a locked down net appliance UI... the only programs you can install without drastically modifying or replacing the OS that will show up on any desktop tab are the handful of programs available on the Asus repository site. Running nxclient required me opening a terminal window and using the CLI to manually enter /path-to/nxclient . Note that nxclient has a perfectly good desktop icon and is happy to install itself to a menu if given the chance, i.e. on any normal Linux OS.

      I turned myself from a pissed off Eee PC Linux user to a happy one by replacing the OEM desktop with a standard Ubuntu desktop plus hardware drivers from the Ubuntu-eee project, you can find out how I did it here [informit.com].

      However, I also have some serious doubts about the accuracy of the original "analyst" report. If Linux sucks so badly on netbooks, why are any netbook vendors still selling it to anybody? Note that by and large, computer retail stores have not exactly put any great effort into selling Linux netbooks, the only place it's easy to get them is via online ordering, so it can be assumed that people who buy the Linux netbooks thought they knew what they were getting in advance.
      • by CAIMLAS ( 41445 ) on Saturday April 11, 2009 @12:17AM (#27539379) Homepage

        The likes of the big box stores - Best Buy in particular - are not selling the Eee with Linux for a couple of major reasons:

        1) They can't sell support for it because
        a) they don't have anyone who can offer support for Linux
        b) there's precious little to support which can be charged ... and ...

        2) They can't sell software for them, because there isn't any.

        3) Being a lower-priced item, I'd guess there's a lower profit margin.

        So, basically, there's business case impetus to "stick with Windows". I mean, seriously: for the kind of person who shops at Best Buy, which would sell better: that it has XP, so it's familiar, or it has Linux, which is free and secure?

      • by PastaLover ( 704500 ) on Saturday April 11, 2009 @08:21AM (#27541221) Journal

        This was hashed out in the recent thread on 96% windows penetration. The fact of the matter is that:
        1) Some vendors actually had the gall to sell netbooks that didn't have working wifi under linux, then claim they were netbooks. They saw higher return rates but others (dell and was it acer?) didn't. Chalk one up against the basic premise of the article.
        2) After Microsoft decided to really enter the netbook market netbooks with linux on them suddenly became impossible to get. Whether this has anything to do with Microsoft or more with the stores choosing brand awareness I don't know. The fact remains, people that went into a store somewhere in the last few months were extremely unlikely to even be offered the option.

        I've recently broken down and ordered an MSI Wind. I'll probably not bother to try and get a refund on the Windows (it's a huge hassle, and I might never see the money) but it's gonna run Ubuntu either way.

        What we really need is someone to come in and make the major suppliers give us the option of getting a laptop without an OS pre-installed. Why the hell in 2009 are we still dealing with this shit where you simply cannot buy anything in a laptop form factor or below without paying the Microsoft tax. (disregarding macbooks for a minute)

    • I think people would like Linux more if they were familiar with program names. Notepad, Paint, Wordpad, Calc... whatever. When I boot Linux on occasion, I'm more confused with what program does what than how to use them.

      While I applaud the work of thousands to build such robust amazing programs and give them each their own special name, I'm of the opinion that if you give someone KDE with a few programs labeled generically "email" "internet browser" "calculator" "text editor" "Office Text/Spreadsheet/Pre

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by syrion ( 744778 )
        Nah. Your standard end user doesn't even understand the concept of software, really. I know people who think Windows is Office, and so on. These aren't people who are totally ignorant—they work with computers every day—they're just not very good at reading. Their excuse is usually "I don't want to think about that stuff, I want to get my work done," never realizing that thirty minutes of thinking about "that stuff" could save them hours of frustration. When I heard someone who's worked in a
      • I think people would like Linux more if they were familiar with program names. Notepad, Paint, Wordpad, Calc... whatever. When I boot Linux on occasion, I'm more confused with what program does what than how to use them.

        Excel, Visio, Quicken, Outlook and Visual Studio aren't exactly self-explanatory.

        While I applaud the work of thousands to build such robust amazing programs and give them each their own special name, I'm of the opinion that if you give someone KDE with a few programs labeled generically "email" "internet browser" "calculator" "text editor" "Office Text/Spreadsheet/Presentation" "Network - Wireless" "Printers" and so on and so forth instead of each programs' real name, you'd be a lot closer to the #1 goal of usability: making an intuitive interface.

        In the Applications -> Internet menu from Ubuntu on my EeePC, I have "Firefox Web Browser", "Mozilla Thunderbird Mail/News", "Pidgin Instant Messenger", "Transmission BitTorrent Client", and several others. Compare with the Windows debacle of Start -> Publisher -> Weird Program Name.

        I agree with your point, and apparently so did the distro maintainers a few years ago that made Linux much better on this count than Windows.

  • by microbee ( 682094 ) on Friday April 10, 2009 @10:11PM (#27538633)

    I am no fan of Microsoft, but it's not like they are doing anything illegal or unethical here. Even Redhat's CEO commented he didn't believe in Linux's desktop future.

    Frankly, netbook looked like worth a shot for Linux. If it fails, then maybe desktop market is just too hard for Linux to win.

    • by Bill Currie ( 487 ) on Friday April 10, 2009 @10:40PM (#27538809) Homepage

      No, it's just that in the long run new hardware won't help Linux exactly because of that comfort zone issue. And these that's, that's really the only problem that Linux has: it's outside of people's comfort zone. The article is right: the combination of new hardware and new software is just too much for people to cope with.

      I can vouch for this, but from the other direction.

      I bought a netbook late last year to replace my dying laptop (I'd dropped once, and put it in its case without putting it to sleep a couple of times: not good). Because I couldn't be bothered fighting to get one with Linux installed (language barriers don't help). With the combination of having been using Linux for 11 years, the cramped conditions, etc, my 10 minute Windows experience (just enough to get hardware information) was a nightmare. Once I got Linux on there with a fairly familiar environment (Gnome, though I usually use blackbox), I could cope with handling the smaller screen and (Japanese) keyboard. I can very easily imagine someone who's never used Linux freaking out trying to use a Linux installed netbook.

      The reason new hardware that locks out Microsoft won't help Linux is that it doesn't exist, and never will (for any meaningful period of time). Look at servers: while Linux isn't yet beating Microsoft, it's doing well enough, and that's on PC based servers.

      It's not hardware that will help Linux, but rather governments and businesses adopting Linux for policy reasons (currently insignificant) and people gaining exposure to Linux through work. The same way Windows became popular.

      The problem comes down to whether enough governments and businesses adopt Linux. Of course, games being produced for Linux will help, but that's a bit of a chicken and egg problem.

      Linux's desktop is pretty good. The problem is, it's unfamiliar. Windows wins not because its desktop is any better, but because people know it. "Better the devil you know."

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by whoever57 ( 658626 )

      Even Redhat's CEO commented he didn't believe in Linux's desktop future.

      And, IMHO, if he means "Linux in general" (as opposed to Red Hat Enterprise Linux), that is a huge mistake, because MS will use its desktop monopoly and control of protocols to limit the penetration of Linux servers.

      • MOD PARENT UP (Score:3, Interesting)

        by mkcmkc ( 197982 )

        ...because MS will use its desktop monopoly and control of protocols to limit the penetration of Linux servers.

        Believe it. And it's not just squeezing Linux out but eviscerating the web as we know it. Already I have to deal with web apps at work that are just a pile of obscured javascript (often plus activex). Something like this can't be programmed, it can't be interacted with, can't be reasoned with, and it will absolutely not stop until you have learned to be absolutely helpless at Microsoft's feet...

        (hat tip to The Terminator :-)

    • by electrosoccertux ( 874415 ) on Saturday April 11, 2009 @01:15AM (#27539679)

      There's still plenty reason to blame monopoly. Check out this thread [anandtech.com] on the AT forums, user VinDSL comes up with some interesting facts + sources about these supposed "Higher return rates" with Linux. Apparently it's all FUD marketing from MS:

      Some netbook retailers are slamming Linux for boosting their product-return rates. Here's why you should take their protests with a grain of salt.

      Lately, quite a few netbook makers and resellers are saying that buyers return Linux machines far more often than identical models running Windows XP. Last year, for example, the director of U.S. sales for MSI told Laptop Magazine that customers return Linux netbooks four times as often as Windows netbooks.

      As Computerworld.com contributor Eric Lai pointed out, however, such claims can be misleading.

      According to Lai, MSI's numbers weren't based on the company's actual netbook return rates.

      In fact, at the time, MSI wasn't even shipping a Linux-powered netbook model.

      Source [bmighty.com].

    • by Insanity Defense ( 1232008 ) on Saturday April 11, 2009 @02:02AM (#27539911)

      I am no fan of Microsoft, but it's not like they are doing anything illegal or unethical here.

      You do know that Microsoft has been convicted of breaking the law many times in many countries? Everything from copyright violations and false advertising to being an abusive monopoly.

      I myself would say that their "Get the facts" campaign was unethical and deceitful. Just my opinion of course.

      Famous phrases from within Microsoft's top ranks. "Knife the baby". "Cut off their air supply". "Whack Dell".

  • by 75th Trombone ( 581309 ) on Friday April 10, 2009 @10:13PM (#27538641) Homepage Journal

    Of course the actual reason Linux's share of netbooks has dropped is simply because netbooks have changed from a nerds' thing into a mainstream thing.

    UNIX's marketshare of all computers did the exact same percentage decline over time as netbooks are having now. It's the early adopters, stupid!

    • by RiotingPacifist ( 1228016 ) on Friday April 10, 2009 @11:21PM (#27539091)

      netbooks have changed from a nerds' thing into a mainstream thing.

      I mean that as an open question. Why the hell, as a linux user, should i care if my neighbor is using windows or Linux? While more geeks defiantly help improve things and report bugs, how does it help if there are more ex-windows newbs on ubuntu?
      There is the hardware support, but even there I'm gradually seeing even supported hardware (atheros and flgrx) get nudged out by community drivers.

      All i can think of are games, is that the main advantage of having more users?

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by tnk1 ( 899206 )

        There are many reasons to care, but I can think of two that are general enough that they would apply to most people.

        1. More software, particularly polished software. It doesn't have to be commercial, but the bigger the audience, the more people who will be interested in helping bring that software to Linux.

        2. Better and supported hardware for Linux. This has gotten a little better over the years, but the more people who have Linux in the general population, the more time that vendors will spend on both

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Mal-2 ( 675116 )

      Note: I am writing this post from a Windows XP Acer Aspire One.

      Ultimately, it's all down to what you need to do with the computer, no matter what size it is. I need to be able to operate on MS Office 2007 documents with zero compatibility issues. This means I have to run MS Office 2007. I have to run other software used in our office, which (outside of the server room) is 100% Windows XP. To use the management system, I must have IE7. While I put this netbook to a lot of other uses that do not require Windo

  • Performance (Score:5, Interesting)

    by basementman ( 1475159 ) on Friday April 10, 2009 @10:15PM (#27538653) Homepage

    The problem for me is performance. XP runs significantly faster and has significantly better battery life than Ubuntu. Assuming your hardware is compatible Linux isn't_terribly_difficult to get running. It's hard to justify open source when propriety software just runs better though.

    I am holding out hope that 9.04 will work to improve battery life and speed, and not just give me more features I don't need. Like what Windows 7 has done after Vista.

    • Thank Linux (Score:5, Insightful)

      by xzvf ( 924443 ) on Friday April 10, 2009 @10:46PM (#27538849)
      One thing you should do is thank Linux for forcing MS to keep XP available for you at $15 instead of the normal OEM of $70. It is better for customers and hardware manufacturers that Linux is available as a viable alternative.
      • Re:Thank Linux (Score:4, Insightful)

        by RanCossack ( 1138431 ) on Friday April 10, 2009 @11:01PM (#27538965)
        I am amazed how many people don't get that. I've seen Microsoft fans cheerfully bash Linux on netbooks and say Linux lost its chance and so on... and I just don't get it. Even if they can't stand Linux, I don't think anyone disputes the fact that the Linux option is why XP is so cheap and Windows 7 was focused on performance.

        Does the thought that someone, somewhere, might be happy without paying the Microsoft tax annoy them that much? Or did they just not... think?
  • by Jafafa Hots ( 580169 ) on Friday April 10, 2009 @10:19PM (#27538681) Homepage Journal

    I bought an eee pc 901, linux (for the larger SSD on that model) with the intent of installing an nlited copy of WinXp on it instead of the stock asus linux. Instead I ended up installing eeebuntu and love it... although I still have the nlited XP as a second boot option in case I need it.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday April 10, 2009 @10:20PM (#27538693)

    I had an Asus netbook with Linux demonstrated to me, wanted to see how webpages looked on the tiny screen. In the end, the guy at the store had to pull out a cable and plug it in, because he couldn't get WiFi to run. He suggested, I should just pay extra for Windows. To that sales guy, getting Linux wasn't "buying the alternative", it was just "being cheap".
    And frankly, since that was probably his first contact with Linux, that's actually quite understandable. A machine, that comes with Linux preinstalled, and it won't even run the devices that are built in? That's ridiculous, not to mention unneccessary. It's not as if building a Linux with working WiFi was rocket science.

    • by Doctor_Jest ( 688315 ) on Friday April 10, 2009 @10:51PM (#27538891)
      My HP Mini 1000 worked flawlessly with Ubuntu (and the UNR menu add-on that maximizes the tiny screen space to its fullest potential), wireless and all. Sometimes it just takes one more step to get it working (in my case it was not one more step, but for other netbooks, it may be.) The payoff is immeasurable. My HP came with XP, and I was done with that after the first month. I put 1 more GB of RAM in it and never looked back.

      I don't get the sales-guy's attitude on the "cheap" subject. I can't believe in 2009 it's still prevalent. Most people in the past who weren't passionate about linux felt that "free is less than commercial" in terms of software. In some instances we know it was true, but for the most part that stigma sticks with Linux like gum on your shoe. It's a shame too, considering how completely seamless and wonderful running ubuntu on a netbook truly is. As for battery life, it's comparable on the Mini 1000 to running XP. And no conficker, antivirus 360 worms, or other assorted nonsense means a less headache-filled experience on the netbook.

      I guess some people are too forgiving of Microsoft's failings... And I'm really not sure what the prevailing reason is, other than the comfort level.
  • by pimpimpim ( 811140 ) on Friday April 10, 2009 @10:20PM (#27538695)
    Really, try buying a linux netbook in the average computer store, there is none. At least in Germany you can get them at the smaller specialized computer stores. Also, the models you can get with linux are often not the ones with the best outfit, low RAM, slow SSD, etc. The reason behind this is, if you ask me, a matter of economics. Linux was convenient to get netbook pioneer Asus in the position to get the better deal out of Microsoft. E.g., not having to buy Vista. They will pull it out of the closet again when Windows has their netbook-optimized windows 7 ready (as if!).

    I myself am at my second factory-preinstalled linux-based netbook (first Asus, now Dell), and my experiences are nothing but positive, The specially created interface on the asus was practical, the one on the Dell is fantastic and even stylish. I wouldn't want to have to navigate the miniature start menu of XP on my netbook. But then again I was already ready for Linux anyway. Let's see if Android will get new Linux users into the mobile devices market.

    • by Blakey Rat ( 99501 ) on Friday April 10, 2009 @10:24PM (#27538715)

      That's "effect", not "cause." 9 months ago, there were tons of Linux netbooks in stores. They've gone away because they're unpopular, and get returned a lot. (Well, I can't speak for Germany, but that's the case in the US.)

    • This is the key issue - availability. If you go to Asus' site they list all sorts of different models, all of which they say have Linux as an option. When you go to actually buy one - no matter where, online or in store - there are only a handful of models available, and as pimpimpim notes, they are generally the less capable models.

      I wanted the Lenovo S10e - Lenovo doesn't offer a non-Windows version so I didn't have a choice. I got it and wiped the harddrive and installed OpenSUSE, no problem for me, but I don't like the fact that I paid for Windows in there somewhere.

      Interestingly the S10e has two drives - the main disk and an additional 4gb SSD with some sort of instant-on Linux distro - but I didn't even know it was there before wiping both drives :) They obviously didn't push that feature too much if I hadn't even heard of it despite researching the thing before buying it... but I do appreciate that I have a 4gb ssd to do something with apart from the main disk.

      Anyway to get back to the topic - I did get an eee 901 for my girlfriend, with Linux - which seems to be more common with the SSD models. I couldn't get it in the color she wanted, though - again, they are picking and choosing specific models to carry, and I just don't see the logic. I did install a different distro for her - eeebuntu, as it is very well put together for the eeepcs and she needed more functionality than the Asus distro offered - and she is painting it herself. But we are clearly not normal purchasers, who would do neither of those things themselves, but who would have liked different options available at purchase.

      It's not good for anybody - the manufacturer, the reseller, or the consumer - to limit choices. The manufacturers claim to have all these options - why can't resellers get their acts together to actually offer them?

      And, how many people, like me, aren't counting towards these statistics accurately because a Windows netbook was the best deal (or only option)? I mean, realistically, it's probably not that many people, but still. It's something.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by donaldm ( 919619 )
      Here in Australia you can't get a netbook with Linux unless you go to a speciality store. Still if you are willing to use Google for a few minutes you can find those stores and save up to A$100 compared to the equivalent netbook in a department store running XP. This is not to say that XP is actually cheaper than Linux, I have seen speciality stores where the XP version of the netbook was the same price as the Linux version effectively making the cost of XP zero dollars and if you take into account some sor
  • by Zerth ( 26112 ) on Friday April 10, 2009 @10:27PM (#27538737)

    A large percentage of Windows users do not understand what an operating system is and assume if they can buy it in a store, it'll work. Manufacturers need to put giant stickers saying:

    Not a Windows system, does not run Microsoft anything, none of your programs will work on this, Apple* made it.
    *that is a lie, but Mac users won't be on the cheap end of the aisle.

    Not that I think it will help much. I've had too many acquaintances think "ooh, cheap computer", buy one, and then ask me if Microsoft Ubuntu is newer or older than Office 07, and if it will run Vista Excel.

    They usually end up returning it and I buy another bottle of aspirin.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      I've told people not to get a Mac as it wouldn't play their PC games. They didn't believe me, they bought a Mac, then realized nothing worked, and promptly returned it.

      My boss wanted a netbook for travel, but he had a hard time believing our in-house Windows app wouldn't work on the Linux model...

      People just think it's a computer, and anything should just run fine regardless.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by matazar ( 1104563 )

      That doesn't really help.
      Before I left Staples, all we had was Linux Netbooks at the time.
      People would come in and we'd tell them, this is NOT windows, you can not use windows software, blah blah blah. They'd buy it anyways and return it when they couldn't install Office (even though it had open office) or some other software that was for windows/mac. We also had one return it because their USB mouse didn't work, but I think they were just stupid, since any mouse should work on those netbooks.

      People don't l

  • Dell is guilty (Score:5, Informative)

    by Midnight Thunder ( 17205 ) on Friday April 10, 2009 @10:36PM (#27538779) Homepage Journal

    ... or maybe Red Hat is.

    To clarify: At work we recently ordered a Dell Precision Mobile Workstation (forget which exact model it is) with Red Hat Linux preinstalled. When we got it we found that it did not have the necessary drivers for the Ethernet port (wireless worked fine) or the audio output device. Going to Dell's and Red Hat's web site resulted in nothing. We scrounged around the internet, but find some partly working solutions. In the end we just ended up installing Ubuntu which worked out of the box.

    For me this is the sort of thing that makes Linux look bad and PCs in general look bad. It is if they don't care. For me it unacceptable for a computer to be supplied with an operating system that does not support completely the hardware it is bundled with, whether it is due to missing drivers or something else.

    I blame Dell here for being to lazy to ensure quality of product. Techies may be the primary market for the product, but techies don't want to spend time fixing someone else's fuck-ups either.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by donaldm ( 919619 )

      At work we recently ordered a Dell Precision Mobile Workstation (forget which exact model it is) with Red Hat Linux preinstalled. When we got it we found that it did not have the necessary drivers for the Ethernet port (wireless worked fine) or the audio output device. Going to Dell's and Red Hat's web site resulted in nothing.

      Ah I see you problem, you brought a Dell :) We use HP workstations and blades and everything works with Redhat V4 and V5 as well as CentOS V5. I actually use Fedora 10 on my HP laptop and everything works including Wireless, sound and the inbuilt camera.

      I blame Dell here for being to lazy to ensure quality of product. Techies may be the primary market for the product, but techies don't want to spend time fixing someone else's fuck-ups either.

      You are dead right here, when a vendor sell a product everything should work. This is pure laziness which borders on the criminal. Actually most HP commercial hardware usually sips sans OS so you have to install your own which if you know what you are doing

  • Critical Mass (Score:3, Insightful)

    by erroneus ( 253617 ) on Friday April 10, 2009 @10:43PM (#27538827) Homepage

    Windows has something Microsoft once identified as critical mass in the market. It was no accident that they arrived at that point. The choked, cheated and killed IBM's OS/2 making it the only desktop operating system for PCs. Had Linux begun to mature during that era, we would be telling a very different story as Microsoft would never have achieved critical mass.

    What is critical mass? I am probably wrong or incomplete in my understanding of what that means, but to me it means they control enough market share that every software and hardware vendor must heed what Microsoft says and does or face the consequences. It also means that all users have come to expect only one user experience and is cursed to be unaware of other options and what they mean. When they don't get what they expect, they believe something is wrong.

    People are okay when that "something else" is Mac OS X. They know it is different and usually comes on an Apple branded PC. It is a conscious decision that users make and are aware that "It's not Windows."

    Just keep chipping away... keep chipping away. Eventually Linux will begin to mean something to users. It may mean the equivalent to the pictures that come in wallets, purses and picture frames. It may mean something that works, serves its purposes and doesn't get viruses. It may mean something that kinda works, but everything they want isn't quite available yet.

    One thing that changes user perception is "standards compliance." Users don't have a clue what that means, but if it works fine in Windows and not in Mac OS X or Linux, the PERCEPTION is that there is something wrong with Linux and Mac OS X. The more pressure put on Microsoft to comply with standards on the web, the greater the possibility that alternatives could be perceived as viable.

    "Critical Mass" means that people think it's the standard. "Critical Mass" means it is the defacto standard. Toppling a standard is no easy task.

    • Re:Critical Mass (Score:5, Insightful)

      by im_thatoneguy ( 819432 ) on Friday April 10, 2009 @11:08PM (#27539009)

      What is critical mass? All of my programs working and not having to pick and choose compatibility like iPhone vs. Android vs. Simian vs WinMo.

      If you switch phones you have to buy all your applications all over again. Some applications are only available on one phone. Some applications run better on one phone than another.

      Hardware and OS shouldn't be a deciding factor in a system. Software should be. Microsoft DOMINATES the software compatibility. That's why I bought Windows 95 over MacOS. All of the programs and games I wanted to play ran on DOS/Windows not Macintosh. Linux application compatibility at the time? HA! I installed linux around when I upgraded to Window 2000. I found it incredibly useful as a boot from floppy router (Coyote Linux). That was it. There were no applications I wanted or open source apps that were similar.

      Fast forward to today and Apple has seen some improvement on the app front. Still no where near PC but if you're willing to spend an extra $100 for Vista you can also run your Windows programs. There isn't a single application which tempts me over to the apple side. Avid/Premiere > FCP. Nuke > Shake. Everything else is cross platform.

      My Windows installation runs pretty much every single application on the planet that I want. I use applications, not operating systems. And Windows is more than good enough as an operating system while offering millions of more programs for me to run. Millions of programs, billions of features and tools. That beats the socks off of a supposedly improved kernel.

  • by code65536 ( 302481 ) on Friday April 10, 2009 @10:56PM (#27538931) Homepage Journal

    One of the problems that I see in the Linux world is that many of us are quick to cry "monopoly" and blame it on unfair practices.

    So if it's because of Microsoft's dominant market share, why does Apple do so well in the markets that it is in (at least in terms of return rates)?

    Blaming it on Microsoft is a cop-out because it lets people avoid the harsh reality that the fault really lies with Linux. Linux is far, far from passing the Aunt Tillie test. Ubuntu is nice in that it's trying to be more consumer-oriented, but so far, most of its changes are superficial.

    And finally, one person's "superior" is another person's design flaw. Apple is "superior" and "innovative" (that's debatable) mostly because Apple doesn't give a damn about its ecosystem. Microsoft does. It bends over backwards and even consciously duplicates buggy behavior, all in the name of backwards compatibility (given the HUGE diversity of software and hardware in the Windows ecosystem, the (relatively small) amount of breakage between each version of Windows is actually a testament to Microsoft's ecosystem cultivation). Is this technically superior? Probably not from an orthodox perspective. Does it make sense? I think so. THIS is why Microsoft has its monopoly. Until Linux can start cultivating such an ecosystem (no, telling someone that they can just download the source and compile it for their system does not cut it), it will always remain on the sidelines. Period.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Sycraft-fu ( 314770 )

      Also one has to ask is it a bad thing for Linux to be on the sidelines as a desktop OS? Why is it bad for Linux to do what it does well, and not care about what MS does well? There is this assumption by many zealot types that Linux has some divine destiny to take over on the desktop. Why? Who cares?

      The reality is that Linux would have to make some major changes to become a real desktop OS contender. By changes I don't mean doing things better, I mean doing them different. There are many things in the world

  • by atarione ( 601740 ) on Friday April 10, 2009 @10:59PM (#27538945)

    and I have to say in my view if I was anyone else in my family I would have returned it.

    I have some friends that could have probably dealt with it.

    but while everything i want / need it to do is working great getting there was a bit of a hassle. Openvpn was in the default OS (Linpus) install but the tun kernel module was not?? for that matter to open up the advance mode you have to hack (trivial hack but hack none the less)

    several updates from acer wiped out my tun module and joystick module and I had to re add them...Nice one one of the updates screwed up all the quick launch icons / apps (which unless you've unlocked the advance mode is the only way for people to launch the apps..nice)

    I love my little aspire one and it goes many places with me that my old thinkpad didn't (cause it was too much bother to lug it out and around). but the linpus has been far from a cakewalk. I thought about putting windows on it but the SSD on my 110 is really not well suited for running XP and I do like the 10sec or so boot time so after a bit of head banging getting some stuff working it looks like I'll just stick w/ linpus now.

  • The author is crazy (Score:3, Interesting)

    by phantomfive ( 622387 ) on Friday April 10, 2009 @10:59PM (#27538947) Journal
    Starting out, he says,

    [Linux tutorials are] often deliberately [complicated], because some of the people who write them like to express their machismo by creating inordinately complicated tutorials. Recently I read a tutorial describing how to get a Wi-Fi card working on a notebook that recommended compiling new driver modules.

    Woah, Linux documentation is sometimes complicated, but no need to make accusations. But never fear, the author of the article has ALSO written a Linux book, designed to help with this very machismo problem. Conflict of interest here?

    Hardware problems were much more pronounced with the first wave of netbooks. I had one of the very first Asus Eee netbooks shortly after its release and it's hardware design meant it was borderline unusable. My hands ached if I typed for more than five minutes. In the end I sold it--I too rejected a Linux netbook.

    Oh, so it wasn't Linux, it was the hardware that was giving you problems. That makes sense, but what is the point of your article?

    What happens is that the software problems presented by Linux, combined with the hardware problems presented by smaller computers, push users over the edge.

    I see. Do you actually know any of these users, or were they just like you, annoyed by the hardware?

    What's the solution? To be honest, I don't think there is one.

    So your a 'glass all empty' type of guy? I mean, Linux has problems, sure, but the falling price of hardware is going to make it increasingly attractive as an option. To say there is absolutely no solution never is a bit extreme.

    And finally, this quote made me laugh

    [On linux], when the user starts the browser, things change. Nothing looks right. The fonts will probably look wrong, maybe causing the page layout to be skewed a little.

    Right. The only thing they will notice different about the fonts is that they aren't as ugly, especially if they are used to having clear type turned off, as is the default on Windows, and makes every font look like a harsh cactus in the eyes. Now Linux fonts aren't awesome, but they don't stoop to the default windows level of horribleness (note: I have no idea if cleartype is on by default in Vista).

    So what is this guy's point? I think that he needs to fill his page with words, since he is a columnist. And he does it with some rather inane and uninspiring words.

  • by presidenteloco ( 659168 ) on Friday April 10, 2009 @11:06PM (#27538997)

    My favourite computer still is my 1024x768 screen 12inch iBook.

    It is ONLY acceptable because of the UI feature that quickly shows miniaturized versions of the windows of all my running applications, and lets me pick one and get back into it in one click. That gets rid of most of the need for a large screen.

    And the iphone ui is optimized for its screen size, etc.

    Linux might do better on netbooks if a similar gui optimized for the screen size was available and worked well. I understand a few of these may be available but haven't tried any.

    Have to say I'm holding out for an Apple netbook. UI of MacOSX is too much better.

    I am an extreme comp-sci geek, but I have way better things to do than configure the low-level settings of my laptop.

  • by idealego ( 32141 ) on Friday April 10, 2009 @11:15PM (#27539053)

    I'm surprised I haven't seen this mentioned yet, but one of the main reasons netbooks with Windows XP are doing so well is becuase Microsoft started offering netbook manufacturers lower prices on XP Home. I can't seem to find the article right now but XP Home may be offered to large ODMs for around $20-$30, with some claiming it's around the $20 mark. I think the cheapest it ever got before these new netbook-only prices was around $40.

  • by ChipMonk ( 711367 ) on Friday April 10, 2009 @11:16PM (#27539063) Journal
    The very clear-headed Carla Schroeder has a write-up [linuxtoday.com] at Linux Today. Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols also noticed the figures were bogus [computerworld.com].
  • by billcopc ( 196330 ) <vrillco@yahoo.com> on Friday April 10, 2009 @11:37PM (#27539173) Homepage

    ... if it weren't riddled with fanboyism and aggressive language.

    In contrast, although far from superior, Windows provides [...] Once again Microsoft's monopoly means Windows is swallowing up another market.

    Wrong. Fail. Abort. Windows is swallowing up another market because Linux doesn't belong on the average user's netbook, for the same reasons it doesn't belong on the average user's desktop. It is a usability nightmare, you need to be a network engineer AND programmer to fix it when it breaks, and perhaps most importantly the Linux community is hostile and unhelpful toward non-techies.

    I am a network geek and programmer, and I still get pissed off at Linux on a daily basis because things that should just work, do not. Usability issues never get addressed, no one wants to touch them. "My app is fine, go fuck yourself" is the general attitude I see among app developers/maintainers. Maybe they're sick of replying "RTFM" to every single question, but to me that is a symptom of bad code. Joe Random doesn't read the README, nor should he need to. If you can spend the time to write a long, complicated README, you could spend that same time writing a small script that does all those contrived pre-installation steps for the user.

    The problem is that we programmers are terrible users, because we don't use computers the way non-programmers do. The goofy little apps and utilities I make for myself, they have the most spartan, militaristic interfaces because I write the code first, then wrap buttons and knobs around it. I know how to use my stuff, because I'm the guy who built it. I know which bits of code fire when I click this or type that. Joe Random does not. We need to fix our apps to be so intuitive, even Joe Random's retarded stepchild can use them.

    The netbook does not matter. Other than the size factor, it is hardly different from 3-4 year old laptops, and like any laptop, usability is top priority. If we want Linux to rock netbooks, we need to make it usable.

    • by viralMeme ( 1461143 ) on Saturday April 11, 2009 @08:29AM (#27541251)
      "Linux .. is a usability nightmare, you need to be a network engineer AND programmer to fix it when it breaks, and perhaps most importantly the Linux community is hostile and unhelpful toward non-techies"

      You're talking total nonsense. Any modern Linux distro is perfectly usable. And to fix it when it breaks, which is a rarety - is just as easy as the Install-Program option in Windows.

      As for the hostile Linux, you are equally inaccurate in that statement. Join a forum, politely ask a question and get a response else pay for a support contract.

      "I am a network geek and programmer, and I still get pissed off at Linux on a daily basis because things that should just work, do not"

      Maybe you should try an other occupation?
  • by j741 ( 788258 ) on Saturday April 11, 2009 @01:09AM (#27539655) Journal

    I had a friend who won an EEE netbook, which came with Linux. He liked it until he tried to use it on a website that contained Flash content. This netbook did not have Flash pre-installed, and he was unable to install it himself by following the links on the website, so he asked me for help. I am not very familiar with Linux (I try a distro each year to see if it is up to my standards yet). I was unable to determine what type of package the Linux distro on this machine supported, and was unable (through trial and error) to get any of Adobe's Flash for Linux packages to install. I ended up having to do it manually from the command line with an APT GET command that I found after a Google search. That is not an acceptable user experience for customers who expect to use this computer the same as they would use any other computer. And that is why you can expect high return rates for Linux Netbooks.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Ash-Fox ( 726320 )

      This netbook did not have Flash pre-installed, and he was unable to install it himself by following the links on the website, so he asked me for help.

      That's odd, I have a EeePC701 and it had flash pre-installed (along with adobe acrobat reader and other commercial software).

  • by Skapare ( 16644 ) on Saturday April 11, 2009 @01:49AM (#27539861) Homepage

    ... even though I fully intend to wipe Windows off (after making 3 backups of it) and replace it with Ubuntu Linux. The reason is this gives me the ability to cheaply run Windows in case I might ever need to do so (happens about every 2 or 3 years). If I were to buy a netbook with just Linux on it, most likely I've be replacing that Linux with Ubuntu Linux, anyway. But that other Linux wouldn't really be giving me something extra. With these netbooks in the $250 price range with XP or Linux, it's really like getting one Windows usage license nearly for free (for that machine).

  • by DougReed ( 102865 ) on Saturday April 11, 2009 @03:46AM (#27540263)

    I am a software developer, and the guy all my friends bring their PCs to. I LOVE the UNIX environment, and HATE the Windoze environment, and I have an 8 port KVM on my desk with Linux, Mac, Solaris, and Windows at my fingertips.

    I always use Linux or Solaris for server stuff if possible. To me putting a database application or a WEB server on a Windows box is just silly.

    But I am typing on a Windoze XP machine. (Vista does not exist in my world) I seldom use the Linux machine because I always need to switch to the Windows machine for something the Linux one cannot do, and there is nothing the Windows one can't do, so I just end up on the Windows machine. The MAC is nice, and I use it occasionally, but it too just cannot do everything I need, or is more frustrating to get it done. When I first got the MAC, I thought it was so cool and used the hell out of it for a while, but simple things can be quite hard to do sometimes because it tries to be so "easy" that it can become hard to do anything the MAC guys did not think of an easy way to handle. So back to the Windows machine... again because I need to do something the MAC has difficulty with. As a desktop, Solaris is useless for most stuff.

    It is like a trap in a way. Once I go to the Windows machine for one application I cannot do easily or at all on whatever other machine I was on, I just start doing stuff on that machine, and soon forget about the others. Cygwin and PuTTY do not help either because with that working, grep, find, and ssh is there, and I'm just done. (The Cygterm hack is my console, cmd.exe is dreadful.)

    I really wish this were not true, but ...

  • lousy installations (Score:3, Interesting)

    by speedtux ( 1307149 ) on Saturday April 11, 2009 @03:56AM (#27540305)

    I bought two netbooks with Linux preinstalled, an HP2133 and an Asus Eee PC. The pre-installed versions of Linux (SuSE and Xandros) had serious problems: bad fonts, bad desktop setup, misconfigured update sources, bad drivers, etc.

    But the problem wasn't a problem with Linux--with stock Ubuntu installed, both of them are great machines. The problem was incompetent and overly zealous customization and installation by the vendors.

  • by ClosedSource ( 238333 ) on Saturday April 11, 2009 @04:14AM (#27540355)

    If MS's "monopoly" is really the cause of every "Linux on the desktop" setback then you might as well give up because MS's market share isn't going to go down if Linux can't grow.

    Rather than use the monopoly excuse, Linux fans should figure out the specific reason for the setback and try to address it.

    Or you could just sit on your hands for another 10 years and say it's all MS's fault.

  • Crazy idea (Score:4, Insightful)

    by heffrey ( 229704 ) on Saturday April 11, 2009 @04:55AM (#27540493)

    Has anyone entertained the thought that people might actually choose windows because it's the best available option?

  • Bad distros (Score:4, Insightful)

    by renrutal ( 872592 ) <renrutal@gmail.com> on Saturday April 11, 2009 @05:06AM (#27540519)

    Part of the blame are the bug-ridden cheap distros that come with the computer.

    I've seen a whole community trying to help a guy to get his notebook, mainly the wi-fi, to work.

    Days later he gave up and installed Ubuntu. It just worked.

  • Which is why.... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by mormop ( 415983 ) on Saturday April 11, 2009 @05:59AM (#27540715)

    'Once again Microsoft's monopoly means Windows is swallowing up another market.'"

    Which is why, if the rumours of Microsoft giving XP to netbook manufacturers is true, they are guilty of predatory pricing which is basically summarised as discounting heavily with the intention of forcing a competitor out of the market.

    Open and shut case really although it'll probably take the EU stepping in to do something about it.

  • WTH? (Score:4, Funny)

    by KnowledgeKeeper ( 1026242 ) on Saturday April 11, 2009 @07:04AM (#27540939)
    Why are you all rambling here? Start writing code, slackers! :)
  • Not true! (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Bones3D_mac ( 324952 ) on Saturday April 11, 2009 @12:52PM (#27542771)

    Microsoft doesn't have a monopoly on the netbook arena. They're just the only mainstream OS option available without resorting to breaking some EULAs and/or piracy. It's been quite clearly shown that there is a huge desire for Apple's Mac OS X to be made available to the netbook market. As it is, some people have gone to great lengths to install Mac OS X on the machines due to the underwhelming performance of Windows XP and the lack of commercial software support from the linux end.

    Getting Mac OS X into the netbook arena resolves both issues, you get a stable, responsive OS with support for commercial produced software, while still having access to most of the open source market as well.

    While the MacBook Air is arguably a "netbook", it lacks the size and form factor that has made actual "netbooks" like the Acer Aspire One, such a runaway success.

    If Apple ever plans to penetrate the PC market with Mac OS X world-wide, the netbook market would be the best place to start. Netbooks generally aren't modified by end users in the same way desktop computers are, so Apple could easily develop a standard for officially supporting Mac OS X on them.

    Once users have experienced Mac OS X on their netbook, they might even consider buying an actual Mac for their desktop machine.

    The netbook market is something Apple really should consider embracing while users are still up in the air over which OS they want.

  • by mauriceh ( 3721 ) <`maurice' `at' `harddata.com'> on Saturday April 11, 2009 @01:04PM (#27542851) Homepage

    The REAL reasons M$ is gaining ground in this is due to a combination of vendor ignorance, marketing pressure, and manufacturers with no clue how to prepare a Linux machine.

    If companies like Best Buy, etc. will not take the Linux versions, then the sales of Linux based netbooks is going to be weak.
    With no financial incentive, it is even worse.
    How do machines with a "free" OS happen to cost the same as ones with Windows?
    Let's see, if we make the Linux ones with smaller, but more expensive SSDs, and sell them at the same price as machine with a HDD that is 4 to 8 times the size?

    Hmm, what will the chains and consumers choose?

    Add to this distis and manufacturers offering less and less Linux models.
    Case in point:
    eeePC 1002.
    Specs show it comes in both Linux and M$ versions.
    In fact, in N. America,ASUS are not shipping the Linux version.

    Finally, calling Xandros "Linux" is a pretty sad situation.
    Ever try using it?

    Contrast this to eeeBuntu on the same hardware and the difference is astounding.

    In the end it boils down to 2 things:
    1) Vendor and manufacturer ignorance of how to prepare a Linux machine.
    2) Sales channel fear of anything "unusual"
    3) M$ marketing pressure and incentives.

The unfacts, did we have them, are too imprecisely few to warrant our certitude.