back to article Even 2020 cannot bring forth the Year of Linux on the Desktop

Microsoft MVP and Canonical engineer manager Hayden Barnes has upended the scorn bucket over the dreams of open sourcers that Windows might end up as an emulation layer atop Linux. Open source software advocate Eric S Raymond prised the lid off the can of worms late last month, suggesting that Windows development was "a thing …

  1. Mike 137 Silver badge

    Is this really a valid point?

    "...as for the vast array of drivers enjoyed by the NT kernel, Barnes reckoned that shunting them into Linux would cost millions"

    But at least they wouldn't then continue to to be version-specific. Buying new hardware for Windows systems is almost impossible unless you keep "upgrading" the OS with every new version, whereas most current Linux distros support plenty of "legacy" hardware. For example, if you don't run any Windows version later than 7 because you're sensible, it's hard already to find even a new printer with drivers to suit.

    1. dajames Silver badge

      Re: Is this really a valid point?

      ... if you don't run any Windows version later than 7 because you're sensible, it's hard already to find even a new printer with drivers to suit.

      Surely, if you're sensible, the printer is just a device on the network. You send it a PostScript file and it prints it. What need is there for a driver?

      (OK, there is a little bit more to it than that, but you only need one driver for all network-connected PostScript printers.)

      PostScript: the only good thing that Adobe have ever done.

    2. Alan Bourke

      Re: Is this really a valid point?

      "Buying new hardware for Windows systems is almost impossible unless you keep "upgrading" the OS with every new version, whereas most current Linux distros support plenty of "legacy" hardware. "

      This is incorrect on every level.

      1. Dr AntiSol, astrophysicist
        Mushroom

        Re: Is this really a valid point?

        Firstly I'd like to point out what a super-informative and useful post you've written, with well-reasoned and well-elucidated arguments. Bravo.

        Secondly, how's your Packard Bell Fastmedia remote control running on windows these days? Mine is still running great on Linux, 20+ years later. In fact I managed to score a spare one recently in case the one I've been using since ~1998 ever dies.

        That's just one example of "legacy" hardware that hasn't been supported on windows since it switched to the NT codebase.

        But one example is all I need to demonstrate that "incorrect on every level" is...uh...incorrect.

        1. Snake Silver badge

          Re: Is this really a valid point?

          "Secondly, how's your Packard Bell Fastmedia remote control running on windows these days? Mine is still running great on Linux, 20+ years later. In fact I managed to score a spare one recently in case the one I've been using since ~1998 ever dies."

          But I thought we were talking, according to the OP's sentence structure, of NEW hardware.

          See? He misdirected everyone and people took the bait. His post posits that you can't upgrade from Windows 7 because

          "For example, if you don't run any Windows version later than 7 because you're sensible, it's hard already to find even a new printer with drivers to suit." (emphasis mine)

          "NEW printer". Not old. But his "legacy" quote misdirects you to talk about actual, old hardware drivers as equivalent to discussing new hardware driver support.

          1. Dr AntiSol, astrophysicist

            Re: Is this really a valid point?

            Oooooh, I see, you're right (for once), Snake: we're actually talking about my client who is stuck on windows server 2012 because he can't make his ~5yo label printer work with anything newer (well, except Linux, of course, but the software he's using doesn't like wine). Right. Thanks for clarifying.

            1. Snake Silver badge

              Re: 5yr-old label printer

              And why is THAT Microsoft's fault, somehow?? Anybody and everyone with *any* knowledge of the Windows ecosystem knows that driver updates for secondary peripherals are the responsibility of the MANUFACTURER

              NOT Microsoft. Who only publishes / packages for distribution on the Windows Update system, any drivers updates the manufacturers supply.

              Indeed, Microsoft sends out early copies of major Windows changes to said manufacturers so that they prepare, design, and test drivers for their products as promptly as possible. Plus, Microsoft is now *blocking* drivers that they can't verify - if Microsoft were responsible, why block their own software?

              PLUS - PLUS! - your post makes no sense. The printer is "~5yo" yet it doesn't have drivers beyond WINDOWS SERVER 2012?! So the driver for a ~5yo printer only goes as far as supporting an EIGHT year-old operating system, and that's MICROSOFT'S fault? And the customer did due diligence before purchase, seeing drivers for anything newer than "antique" BEFORE he sent his money to that fool company? When he supposedly bought that printer, Windows Server 2016 *and* Windows 8 were already out. If there is a Windows 8 driver it might work...IF there is a Windows 8 driver. You imply there isn't.

              As a judge would say to a defendant with a terrible excuse for a crime: Try Again.

              1. Dr AntiSol, astrophysicist

                Re: 5yr-old label printer

                And why is THAT Microsoft's fault, somehow?? Anybody and everyone with *any* knowledge of the Windows ecosystem knows that driver updates for secondary peripherals are the responsibility of the MANUFACTURER

                Oh, Good! So you do understand this thing that I and others have tried to explain to you multiple times in the past, and all the times I've seen you complain about Linux's terrible device support have now been proven to be disingenuous and not just ignorance. Thanks for the confirmation!

                This will be the last time I respond to you with anything other than mockery and scorn.

            2. martynhare

              Re: Is this really a valid point?

              As in the driver itself or the accompanying software?

              There’s supported backwards compatibility as far back as Windows Server 2003 (user-mode) driver support in the Server 2019 print spooler. That’s more than good enough, as anything older would use kernel mode drivers and need a decent hypervisor, locked down networking, constant snapshot rollbacks and a regular reboot cycle - just to keep things (relatively) secure.

              I regularly use printbrm.exe to port over printers from older servers on the quick without even replacing the drivers. 35 minutes ago I replaced an SBS2011 box with Server 2019 and no driver downloads were needed, as the print queues along with their existing drivers “just worked”

    3. Snake Silver badge

      Wait, what?

      "Buying new hardware for Windows systems is almost impossible unless you keep "upgrading" the OS with every new version, whereas most current Linux distros support plenty of "legacy" hardware."

      So you criticize Windows because of new hardware driver support...but, in the same sentence, promote Linux because it supports "legacy" hardware well (lovely use of "quotes" there)?

      And no other person noticed the slick changing of misdirected topics in the sentence structure, from new hardware support to "legacy hardware"?

      Are you actually going to take the position that the most popularly-used desktop computer OS in the world

      https://gs.statcounter.com/os-market-share/desktop/worldwide/

      https://gs.statcounter.com/os-version-market-share/windows/desktop/worldwide

      doesn't have adequate new hardware driver support??

      Almost all new hardware has Windows 10 support - you download the drivers, it's all web-based now. The hardware may not ship with Win10 drivers on a disc any more but that doesn't mean Win10 drivers aren't there for your new hardware; every new component I've bought has certainly, as expected, had Win10 drivers available. To do otherwise is market suicide, please don't patronize.

  2. Flocke Kroes Silver badge

    Denials are step one

    Ending support for a small proportion of legacy software was never a problem. It had the bonus of forcing most people to buy the new version (and a few to switch to Linux). Lack of new drivers for old hardware has always been a solution for selling new hardware. So far the cost of modifying Windows has been less than the benefit of a Windows licence on all new laptops and desktops. Phones, laptops and consoles have been cutting into desktop sales. The increased useful life of laptops have pushed Microsoft into the software rental business.

    Buying laptops and desktops with Linux preinstalled is getting easier. There must be a sufficient market big market already that it has more value than the cost of push-back from Microsoft. I expect that market to grow as fast as stalactites. Come back in five years and we will see how much money Microsoft is willing to spend on supporting the most troublesome legacy apps.

    Monoculture: MacOS, BSD, a fork of Linux, Windows extended support for $100,000 per seat per year (per legacy app?).

  3. jotheberlock

    I am shocked, shocked I say, that ESR was spouting bullshit.

  4. jonha

    I disagree with Barnes. MS has done it before when they had two OS lines in parallel, the old Win16/32 world of a GUI on top of DOS and the new world of NT. These parallel worlds (including different driver models) went on for quite some years (95, 98, ME vs NT3/4, 2K) until finally Windows XP (NT-based) was deemed "backwards compatible enough" to end this double effort. There were still fears about compatibility problems but it went pretty well in the end.

    Maintaining a web browser costs a lot of money... so MS finally bowed and accepted Chromium as the base for their browser.

    Maintaining a kernel also costs a lot of money so...

    Given time, they can do the same thing over again. Not in 2022, probably not in 2025, but by 2030 Windows will be Linux-based.

    1. Alan Bourke

      > but by 2030 Windows will be Linux-based.

      What would anyone have to gain from this event that is emphatically not going to happen, even?

    2. Charlie Clark Silver badge

      I'm not sure there will even be desktops as we currently know them in 2030 but I expect most things by then will be "web-based". But it doesn't really matter because Linux is only really the kernel and so much of the desktop is about the GUI and multimedia for which Linux still fails to provide a single, simple solution.

      If you compare the improvements in browsers over the last ten years with all those desktop-like APIs with the various Linux-based environments then this becomes increasingly obvious. Of course, it might be the case that Android is the dominant OS by then but who knows whether it will still be running on a Linux kernel?

      1. Ken Hagan Gold badge

        Ye cannae change the laws of physics!

        "I'm not sure there will even be desktops as we currently know them in 2030 but I expect most things by then will be "web-based"."

        I doubt it. The bandwidth from my machine to "the web" is and always will be several orders of magnitude lower than the bandwidth within my machine, with an occasional tendency to fall to literally zero. For some applications, that isn't an issue. For others it is fatal.

  5. CAPS LOCK Silver badge

    Morer kissing and hugging between MS and Canonical...

    ...where will it all end?

    1. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

      Re: Morer kissing and hugging between MS and Canonical...

      ...where will it all end? ..... CAPS LOCK

      Well, you pays your money you makes your choice ........ it'll be either a quickie in the alley and a shotgun wedding or a hot passionate affair and high society engagement or something else in between.

  6. 45RPM

    Honestly, who cares about the Desktop? And I say this as someone who uses a desktop (or laptop) computer every day, but they’re increasingly anachronistic. Phones and tablets are the computers that people use the most, and Android is top dog in that space - which, last time I checked, has Linux underpinnings.

    If we forget the nebulous argument about Linux on the desktop, and extend it to all Unix alikes, then this is even more true since iOS and MacOS are making healthy inroads to the Windows space as well - and ChromeOS looks like it’s picking up traction too.

    But really. Who cares? Most people seem to do everything on the web these days, so if it has a browser then that’s all that really matters.

    1. Dr AntiSol, astrophysicist

      who cares about the Desktop?

      People interested in using complex software who want an interface that isn't dogshit

      1. 45RPM

        Yes. That's us, true, but I think that you misunderstand me (my own fault for not being clear in my language, perhaps). It's not that a quality environment, both command line and gui, isn't important, and I do love a well crafted IDE. My point is that, for 90% of users, the desktop is as relevant as an IDE is (they don't care about having an IDE, they don't care what the desktop is either). They only care about getting on the web.

        Me? I'll stick with one of each - a Linux machine (with KDE and various Jetbrains IDEs), a Windows 10 machine (with various Jetbrains IDEs - sorry, I just don't like Visual Studio) and a Mac (with Xcode and various Jetbrains IDEs).

        1. Dr AntiSol, astrophysicist

          but I think that you misunderstand me

          Nah, I knew what you meant, I was mostly just being facetious ;)

          To expand on what I meant, there is always going to be a desktop. Horrible web-based interfaces are never going to cut it for some of the more complex workloads (and I'm not even talking about IDEs, which are not super complex really, they boil down to being an advanced text editor - You can build that as a web interface if you really feel the need to do such a thing. Rather, I'm talking more about things like DAWs and video editing, where a responsive, complex interface is involved, and particularly in cases where you're working with huge amounts of data [video editing with gigabytes or terabytes of HD content, for example] or where reliability and/or latency is important - Richard D James is never going to want to do live performances via a web interface. And these aren't the only examples, another would be things where security is important and there's no need for it to be on the web).

          And sure, you might argue that things can get better and one day you'll be able to do a high-end video editor on the web, but a native desktop interface is always going to be better (as in more responsive and useful) for that kind of thing.

          The TL;DR version of my point is that contrary to current popular fantasy, the desktop won't ever really go away, it'll always have its little niches where it's the best way to do things. And there will always be somebody out there who cares about the desktop.

          1. NetBlackOps Bronze badge
            Boffin

            I can think of several approaches that don't involve a desktop. For instance the first approach is to set your super-advanced phone in a (wireless charging) cradle while wearing the appropriate VR/AR gear standing in front of said phone and manipulate your video editing or similar task in VR space. Voice commands as appropriate. Gear and phone connected via super-fast Bluetooth and/or 5G or much better.

            The second approach is the phone connected to your touch-screen wall mounted (huge) display. Direct-neural interface is a remote third possibility, at least in the near term. Speaking for myself, I like the latter but that's due to the fact that in a few years, I'm going to be a total shut-in on a respirator (service connected injury from hell). I really want to see the first approach, but that's due to it making computer aided engineering of all sorts a dream.

            1. Dr AntiSol, astrophysicist

              wearing the appropriate VR/AR gear standing in front of said phone and manipulate your video editing

              We were talking about interfaces that aren't shit.

              touch-screen

              Again, I think you've missed the "not shit" aspect of our discussion.

              Direct-neural interface

              Maaaaaaybe. Let's chat again in a decade or two. Maaaaybe. And there will still be people who don't want / can't have a brain implant, so this still won't entirely kill the desktop.

              But we were really talking about "desktop" vs "web". In my book, native software running on your phone would still fit into the "desktop" category, particularly if you're connecting other stuff to it.

      2. nematoad Silver badge

        I agree.

        Why look through a keyhole i.e. on a mobile when you can open the door and use a PC or laptop?

        1. 45RPM

          I love this analogy. Have an upvote.

        2. NetBlackOps Bronze badge

          I already have tablets that can drive a 4K display, with my 12.6" acting as a touch screen, which it really is out of the box. Pen driven, no less. What is lacking is that cables are required and the tablet chews up the battery something fierce so a charging cord is required for any serious work that lasts more than two hours. Post above has the approaches I want to see further along.

    2. Captain Hogwash Silver badge
      Joke

      Re: Phones and tablets are the computers that people use the most

      Yes, and an excellent choice for developing professional software.

  7. John Robson Silver badge

    Office on Linux...

    Now that would kill the OS for many more people than anything else.

    Of course nowadays you can't buy office without paying for Windows anyway...

    Oh for the days when you could buy the bits of the pie that you actually needed.

    1. Sandtitz Silver badge
      Happy

      Re: Office on Linux...

      "Of course nowadays you can't buy office without paying for Windows anyway..."

      Office is available for Mac, iOS, Android and Chromebooks.

      Most people have at least a hand-held device without Windows that can run Office.

      1. John Robson Silver badge

        Re: Office on Linux...

        Yes - but they are moving towards MS365 rather than O365, which means paying for windows even if you literally can't use it.

    2. McToo
      Thumb Up

      Re: Office on Linux...

      I discovered (accidentally mind) that Office 365 runs quite happily on 'buntu Focal in Chrome. The only downside is not being able to open spreadsheets >15MB (WTF?).

      I know I'm edge case as most of my development work is embedded or cloud, but that was "tipping point" for me. The only reason my laptop had Windows on it was for the rare times I had to use Office and for playing games. The only game I play regularly (X4) also has a penguin port, which is running rather nicely too, so the 2 M2 SSDs with Windows were ripped out (they were sh** anyway, thanks Dell) and replaced with some nice Sammy EVO970s. Problems? Yeah, no drivers as yet for Intel RST means I can't put them into RAID0, but I just put / on one and /var on the other and SSHD is /home.

      I'm very happy with it.

  8. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    Good to hear that. As the 2nd para says, it would be a con of worms as I doubt Microsoft would have been able to resist throwing its weight about.

  9. Strongbow

    I would so love to go back to old skool on this. New Xbox running full Win10 vs new Ps running Linux. But Mum, Dad i can do my homework on it too. Let there be war.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "X client required"

    I'm reasonably sure you meant "X server" here. The X clients are the applications themselves.

    Afternoon nitpicking: ✔️

    1. nematoad Silver badge

      I'm not sure that you are right on that. If I recall correctly in the wonderful world of X Windows the client is the bit that does the processing and the server sits on your PC, laptop or whatever. This always struck me as being backwards.

      I might be wrong on this as it's been a while since I had to delve into the innards of X Windows. These days it all just seems to work, no installation needed.

      1. Aremmes

        You recall incorrectly. In X, the server is the process that manages the display and input devices (keyboard and mouse) and the clients are the processes that use the display and inputs as mediated by the server. This inversion was deliberate, since the display, keyboard, and mouse are finite shared resources much like disks, printers, etc. can be finite shared resources. Per Wikipedia, "X takes the perspective of the application, rather than that of the end-user: X provides display and I/O services to applications, so it is a server; applications use these services, thus they are clients."

  11. werdsmith Silver badge

    Just settle on one distro and one user interface for the desktop. Fragmentation hurts Linux adoption by ordinary users who gravitate to the familiar.

    End the condescending approach towards folk who prefer to stick with the os they know well. They are not interested in any holier than thou ideals, they just want to be productive. Patronise them and lose their goodwill.

    You know who you are. Yes you, downvoting me, I’m talking about you.

    1. Claverhouse Silver badge

      The Soviet Way

      If 'they''re preferring to each stick to the OS they know well, why would they want to ditch their OS in favour of '...one distro and one interface ?

      1. werdsmith Silver badge

        Re: The Soviet Way

        You illustrate one of the problems very well.

        It’s easier to get them to ditch their familiar os if the world they are moving to isn’t a world of fragmented choices, and when they moves between one place and another, they are not faced with different package managers, repos, guis and so on.

        And when they need to know something and the do a web search they don’t get a set of instructions or tutorials that aren’t relevant to their distro. Or even their version of it.

  12. mark l 2 Silver badge

    Microsoft are unlikely to want to invest the millions it would cost them to recode Windows to use the Linux kernel instead of an NT one, for what would be very little gain for them. With 25+ years of development of the NT kernel and including undocumented APIs they have used in the past to make their own software run faster than the competition. They probably don't have the people who even know how it all work any more to port it over to Linux.

    I reckon we would see Microsoft releasing a native Office for Linux before we see Windows running on top of a Linux kernel

  13. Jason Hindle

    The problem for Microsoft?

    Windows is increasingly just that. A desktop and not much else. The world is largely Linux. Windows is in danger of rapidly becoming little more than a window onto the world. In the near term, it is smart for Microsoft to see Office (and Azure) as the chicken that lays the golden egg.

    1. werdsmith Silver badge

      Re: The problem for Microsoft?

      As far as a normal user is concerned, it was always so. Normal users aren’t interested in the OS so long as they know how to start it, sign in and find the apps they need. They are interested in the applications where the productivity is. They spend a few minutes using the OS interface and hours in the applications.

  14. Denarius Silver badge

    Open Source has won ?

    Another SCO type lawyerfest is only years away. Dont feed the tiger

  15. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

    Out of the frying pan and into the firing line. Out of the kitchen and dining at chefs' tables.

    "It is one thing to provide a NT-related compatibility layer for SQL Server on Linux, which Microsoft owns," stated Barnes, "it is another to guarantee it for millions of other developer's applications."

    FFS, Barnesy, it's a prototype novel development. And naturally not to be guaranteed as fully functional as one may have wished .... or as is maybe much more important for the security of Microsoft Windows Machine in the Linux Environment, not as millions of other developer's applications may have wished, but what the hell do they care of Microsoft's businesses just as long as they can hitch their wagons to them for a scenic ride.

    Is Microsoft safe as an innovative leading company or not? Or is it almightily prone to leaking info and secrets like a sieve because it is fundamentally sub-primed and sub-prime based and therefore vulnerable to high end market orders/penetrations tests stresses? Are its Magic Bus Sees descending second rate?

    Future Future Builder Developments would server those interests that would know and harbour fleets of fixes.

    1. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

      Almighty Engaging, the Program to Beat or Defeat if Aspiring to Lead with or without an AI Following

      Have you not fully realised yet, the internet/world wide web/call IT what you will, is both the monitor and screen/the picture maker and taker, and the mentor and GUI for humans operating executive SCADA Administration Systems.

      And it is designed to both show you what there is everywhere and what else you can have just as simply elsewhere courtesy of Advanced IntelAIgent Applications.

      Mainstream media channels with their scripted daily televisual news and printed paper tales for the dozing masses are just as entertaining mind-numbing comics designed no more than to give one something disquieting to think about whilst significant others go about their dodgy business in the shady shadows of mass ignorance and deep cover of 0day exploit vulnerabilities.

      Things nowadays though just aint at all like they used to be, and they're never going back to the way things were with what was, whenever what is to be is so incredibly attractively different and extremely excessively rewarding.

      And you can disagree if you like, but nothing will change that future, for it is already some time ago, your current present day dilemma which has systems admins racing around like headless chickens enabled to do nothing to change such things ..... and running out of places and spaces to go and try hide and deny such developments exist and cause them such untold angst and unbridled political pain.

      1. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

        Almighty Engaging .... with a Double Whammy of Failures to Address and Fix

        And, should you believe all of that and see it all as being unfortunately so perfectly true, what does it tell you of the dire straits state of all of those supposedly smarter national security and secret intelligence services that would not be able to sublimely develop and effectively lead both saints and sinners with global resources in an altogether quite different and much better direction just following simple instructions ...... apart from them being not presently fit for the future nor any Greater IntelAIgent Games purpose ...... and especially so now that such has been so clearly pointed out and asked of them and should they persist and insist they must continue on failed and failing paths, which by any measure would surely be evidence of a hidden pernicious madness in an increasingly more apparent and self-serving command and control of executive administrative command and control systems ‽ .

        Time for a change, methinks. What think thee? What do you imagine think they?:-)

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