back to article Does the Linux desktop need to be popular?

Does Linux desktop even need to be popular? There are, shall we say, differing options among the open source cognoscenti gathered in Portland, Oregon this week for the annual LinuxCon. For the last eight years, we've been told it's the year of the Linux desktop. Yet penetration figures have remained somewhere in the region of …


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  1. Brian Miller

    80% complete, what did you expect for "free"?

    So a free application is only 80% complete. Well, that was 100% of the interesting developer parts! Do you really expect people to give 100% effort for 0% (and $0) return? A lot of that stuff was written by someone just to show that they could, in fact, write code. Wasn't it Shuttleworth who complained that programmers don't want to bother writing open-source sewage treatment plant control software?

    At some point there needs to be some motivation to getting a completely working product out the door. Apple and Microsoft do this with something called a "paycheck." This is why they have better than 0-1% market penetration.

  2. Robert Moore


    Linux makes a great desktop... On my netbook.

  3. Jodo Kast

    X/Windows or KDE

    X/Windows or KDE work good. It's no Windows Media Center 2005.

  4. dave hands


    I've been using Linux on my many computers over the last 7 years. I worked, using Linux, for several years (proving that it can lead to paid employment). The only thing I can't do on Linux is play some games, and that's purely down to the software houses not developing for Linux and not because Linux can't cope with the demands of games.

    Everything else, DVD's, all websites, music, 2d games, word processing etc are all completely stable, easy to use and work and are present "out of the box" (as no doubt many of you will know).

    If one could buy computers with Linux set up properly then Windows would see a serious loss in sales. It's only because certain companies that did offer Linux didn't (from what I've read online) set it up properly and didn't stress its inherent difference from Windows that lead to "high numbers of returns" (one suspects that MS pressured said companies into doing this in order to hinder Linux's uptake and let's face it, they've done a lot worse than that before).

    Point being that Linux is not being taken up in the numbers some would like more due to the outright lies and manipulation of certain vested interests than because of its inability to meet people's needs.

  5. jim 45


    The ASUS release of Xandros Linux was a perfect microcosm of the LInux world of today, and a shining example of why Linux has gone absolutely nowhere as a desktop OS. Everything that could have been done wrong, was.

  6. Cliff

    Home PC Desktop is a closed shop

    There's simply no opportunity to break into the desktop as that market is totally stitched up by MSand Apple. There are, however, frontiers where those 2 companies son't own the whole market - netbooks, phones, etc., where Linux can make bigger, faster inroads if the bulk of the effort goes into them. Open Office is a strong player on netbooks, it's enough to keep the people who buy netbooks from worrying about changing OS to get Word and Excel, and that means people can acclimatise to Linux in a frontier they don't associate with their 'PC'

  7. Craig Vaughton

    Sense at last

    "How many network managers do we have to go through before we finally commit to fixing one? How many sound systems do we have to go through before fixing one?"

    At last someone prepared to say whats needed saying for a long time. Having variety is all well and good, but most people would rather have one or two applications that work as well as they can, rather than a collection that only manage the same functionality between them.

    Agreed, what do you expect for free, but if something is good enough and you price it at a level people feel like they're getting a good deal, they'd be far more prepared to buy it. Price it stupid and make people feel like they're getting ripped off and they resort to using knocked off hacked copies.

    Strike a happy medium and you might make developers and users happy..... Ok asking too much.

  8. Anonymous Coward

    game console

    Linux makes a great development OS... on my PS3

    (I use X, but log in remotely with ssh, so no Gnome/KDE window manage overheads. Horses for course, I suppose)

    (Linux on netbooks also quite good, btw. Great for dvd::rip cluster nodes, if nothing else)

  9. bojennett

    it is so close, but...

    There are many things that make Linux sooooo close to being ready, but as the article points out, it just seems that developers aren't interested. I use Ubuntu. Their update manager is AWESOME, blowing away anything in use on Windows or Mac OSX. This is mainly because those two companies don't seem to have an API to let other companies have downloads come through their update manager. So, you fire up Adobe later, and blammo, now you have updates for Adobe.

    But, the desktop still, for all the efforts, is ugly. Buttons are way too big. You have to install both KDE and Gnome libraries because you aren't always sure which apps require which libraries. Themes are impossible to install unless you are an experienced user. And, well, the desktop apps still suck (I'm looking in your direction, OpenOffice).

    I use a Mac, because I like the Unix foundation. There are a lot of things I do as an engineer that require C compilation, and having a POSIX gcc base is invaluable. I would consider going to Linux if they could make the thing look nicer and had desktop equivalent apps. I will never, ever, use Windows again (I guess you can never say never, but i just can't ever envision it)

    I was really hopeful way back when during the DOJ investigation that MS would be broken up (an apps company and an OS company). If Office existed on Linux, and the other things are cleaned up, Linux would do very, very well on the desktop IMO. Having a good (yet still somewhat crippled) version of Office on the Mac means I can co-exist in a Windows world at my company and not struggle. Could never do that with OpenOffice.

  10. Jason Togneri

    @ Brian Miller

    "At some point there needs to be some motivation to getting a completely working product out the door. Apple and Microsoft do this"

    Cue all the fanatic, foaming-at-the-mouth Microsoft (and, possibly, Apple) hating commentards determined to me a point about Microsoft (and, possibly, Apple) never having released a completely working product, inevitable nods towards Vista, exploding iMacs, etc etc etc.

  11. tuna 1

    X-Ubuntu Works For Me!

    I'm no programmer and can barely tread water on the CLI. If Wine, Webmin and Vbox didn't exist/work I would probably have reverted back to XP... again. Still do alot of my work in "virtual" 7 these days, but I'm learning. Still, it's not ready for the "Average Joe".

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Stop beating themselves up..

    Is the answer to Linux/FOSS community.

    It doesn't matter what the defacto desktop is; just keep the evolution coming.

    I have businesses on Linux/Gnome and they just use it (Office, Internet & email for starters).

    No slowdown over time & they don't fiddle (all home users are 'experts' until they trash their [business] machine). Gnome is low on clutter & in my experience easy for technophobes to use).

    I prefer the look and feel of KDE 4.x.

    And there's more choice of window managers, which is what's great about the Linux desktop.

    Instead of bitching to each other about lack of apps on Linux (that are available on Windows/OSX), contact the developers and push for a Linux version.

    I hazard a guess that when a well known brand like Google release their Android/Linux O/S,we'll see more uptake by the masses.

  13. Goat Jam
    Gates Horns

    Linux will never succeed . . .

    while users perceive that Windows is "free" and companies continue to allow themselves to be bullied into buying MS products.

    Make the OS a separate line item on the sales receipt and start rolling out Linux in the workplace and you will see more and more uptake of linux in the home.

    Microsoft know this, that is why they continue with bullying OEMs into paying the Windows Tax along with the rest of the myriad lockin strategies they maintain in their business products.

  14. phen

    Pareto's Chicken Salad

    Polishing apps that last 20% seems exactly like the kind of things the big distros should do. This is just Pareto's law at play, right? Developers are smart that way ;-)

    Linux is already easier to install than Windows, unless you use Gentoo (I do ;-) ), it's just that most Windows users don't ever even install Windows. You really can't expect them to install an OS. Even if it is as easy as popping a cd in and filling in their names, the fear of the unknown is just too high.

    The biggest problem I see though is still hardware compatibility. With more and more notebooks out there it's about time we get this ACPI thing licked. But that's either the chicken or the egg. I forget which.

    Until there's a large install base hardware manufacturers won't care about Linux compatibility and until there's hardware compatibility there will never be a large Linux install base.

  15. Jason Bloomberg Silver badge

    80% complete

    It's that 20% missing which is the problem.

  16. Tom Maddox Silver badge

    Fuck Ubuntu

    I just installed Ubuntu 9.04 (Insipid Imbecile or whatever), and Firefox 3.5 isn't in the repository, and in order to install it by hand, I would have to break compatibility with the repository. I also got dependency issues when trying to add, remove, or upgrade various packages. I haven't checked out all the packages, but the inability to even install software in a coherent manner except as provided by the package manager is a massive failure. The GNOME UI still looks like it was designed by a three year old (or, you know, a Linux programmer). I can only imagine that this is considered "good enough" by people who have never encountered "better."

    I've made Ubuntu my whipping boy because it's supposed to be the most user-friendly Linux, and it probably is, but boy, as has been pointed out in these comments, you sure (only) get what you pay for.

  17. Lyle Dietz

    Actually, no

    Don't need to be popular, just better in certain environments.

    I want to switch the SOE over to Linux. It would make maintenance a lot easier.

    The first problem is convincing the bosses. Then migrating the users. Then ignoring their complaints because its not what they're used to.

    Maybe I can lie and say its the next version of Windows.... X

  18. Gareth Gouldstone

    What about software?

    Linux on the desktop might be a great idea, but until they can walk into PC World and see Linux versions of your favourite apps on the shelf, Joe Public is not going to even consider Linux as an option.

    Mac OS X is slated on this very site for not having all the apps available that Windows users might want; Linux has no generally visible applications. And don't start talking about downloading and installing Linux software off the web, as most of the public can't/won't do that.

    I like Linux, but I think it will always remain primarily a back-end technology. On the other hand, why not let MS have the desktop 'cos they certainly can't do back-end technology!

  19. Uwe Dippel

    For the last 10 years

    have I been using 'Linux' everywhere, including Desktops. Yes, a bunch of quarrels, frustrations, but also of successes. Nice, usable, stable. I had problmes, aplenty. But not any more than my colleagues and friends on Windows, from ME to Vista. Only, their problems were vastly different. Okay, so that's a success.

    I do fully agree, though, with the comment on network managers and sound systems. That was plain crap. Moving from one to another almost by the year. And all working, and none working perfectly well. Here the argument is not correct: 'what the developers want, they write'. It ought to have been done by all commercial distros together, with paychecks, and clear objectives dished out. One network manager for all, one sound system for all. With all those half-brewed to be plugged in by those who feel like; the geeks and nerds. That's the beauty of FOSS, and the freedom of choice.

  20. Anonymous Coward

    Pesky problems

    People talk about OpenOffice all the time, but it can't even handle OTF fonts properly in Ubuntu (it works fine in Windows), so you begin to have to compromise. Then you find Inkscape can't read all those EPS files you made in Illustrator, or that you can't play WMA files in Rhythmbox, and you can't access your encrypted NTFS volume whilst you're trying to make the switch from Windows... and so on. My most recent effort to switch to Ubuntu ended when I realised I'd have to spend half the time using a virtual Windows image (after having had to fiddle around with config files to create a network bridge because the network manager -- absurdly -- still can't compete with the Windows "wizard").

    However, all the above is pretty superficial, and shows it that it's really just a matter of "polish" that's required. People are getting panicky over desktop market share as a matter of pride, but the crucial issue is that there isn't a massive shortage of developers, despite the fuss. It's a solid OS, it's not going to go away, and with every step towards implementing open standards like OTF, and with every hardware manufacturer that opens up to Linux, and with every new free cross-platform app we get a step closer to the time when the transition will be painless enough to make one look instead at all the negatives of Windows (like the apparent impossibility of deleting sensitive data, which is a serious issue and so far as I'm aware hasn't gone away).

  21. Gene Cash Silver badge

    @Jim 45

    Hear, hear. When I bought my eeePC home, I couldn't believe how screwed up it was. It was like a bad-Dilbert-cartoon of an OS. I had to nuke it and install Debian to get any use out of the device.

    I use Linux as my desktop OS because if it's broken or doesn't do what I want, I can fix it, and it will STAY fixed, unlike Windows. It also won't slooooowly degrade in performance over time, like Windows somehow always does.

  22. Charles Manning


    Linux doesn't need to be popular on the desktop. I'd be worried at the stuff needed to make it popular would dilute the stuff that makes it powerful.

    Linux is great where the user doesn't have to fiddle to keep things going: servers and embedded stuff like phones etc.

    My family uses Ubuntu variants as primary desktops on 5 machines (except for gaming) and it is mostly pretty painless. It needs to be a lot more painless to be used by regular people though.

    For example, a minor disk screwup needs a manual fsck which is beyond averagle Joe.

    The other real limitation is the messing about with flash etc toi get youtube working. This is really a case of some developers putting their moral outrage about free software ahead of usability.

    I recently set up a new network printer with a network using Ubuntu boxes, Mac boxes and Windows. Ubuntu and Mac "just worked" Windows needed shagging around pulling WinZip files etc.

  23. John H Woods Silver badge

    Suitable for noobs but ...

    Ubuntu has been, imho, suitable for *complete* noobs since about version 6. The people it isn't suitable for are the people who think they know about computers but believe that the international symbol for the internet is a blue 'e' - the people who really don't know enough to realise just how much they don't know (e.g. the guy from BT who told my friend that his Ubuntu PC wasn't compatible with the Internet).

    I have delivered countless rescued-from-skip desktops to friends and family, with stable Ubuntu releases (and VNC in case they need remote help). For people who just need 'web appliances' for mail, surfing and google docs they are perfect, almost maintenaince free. The few friends and acquantainces who have insisted on Windows are, quite frankly, a pain in the arse, with constant configuration problems , malware or other issues.

    I believe it is the schools that are really letting us down. There is only one keyboard (UK Qwerty), only one O/S (Windows), only one browser (IE), only one Office Suite (MS), only one search engine (Google) and only one reference source (Wikipedia). No wonder the kids don't have a clue any more ... computer teaching is now little more than sub-optimal secretarial courses on a very restricted range of hardware and software.

  24. Robert Pogson


    TFA article has a few things wrong. GNU/Linux is in double digits whether people know it or not. M$ admitted to 7% in Steve's presentation to analysts. M$ is not even counting GNU/Linux thin clients accessing M$'s Terminal Services. 10% of the world's PCs are thin clients and a lot of them run GNU/Linux. The truth is closer to 10%. GNU/Linux passed MacOS around 2003 and has had a good rate of growth since. If the reader doubts this, answer this question;"Why did M$ subsidize XP to the tune of $2 billion if GNU/Linux was not breathing down their neck?" No answer? I thought not. Not many ARM netbooks are running that other OS. GNU/Linux works on them and they are ramping up production. The usability issues are gone on a well-configured OEM installation. eeePC showed that. Many others were snapped up by consumers. The current low attachment of GNU/Linux is due to M$ being willing to forgo profit to keep monopoly a bit longer. They will no longer be able to do that after Christmas. The armies of ARM netbooks will take a bite and M$ will not run "7" on an ARM netbook.

    TFA completely ignores the fact that GNU/Linux is on fire in the BRIC countries where hundreds of millions will soon buy netbooks when the price drops just a little more. Once ARM production satisfies the need, no one will be laughing at GNU/Linux any longer. Some of the new ARM chips will give Intel a run on notebooks, desktops and servers in a year or two.

    Change is happening. Claiming it is not happening may make some people feel better but it is a lie. The monopoly is ended. M$ does not have enough money to buy everyone off.

    GNU/Linux does not need to succeed on the desktop but it will happen because people want inexpensive PCs etc. that just work. M$ has failed miserably to fill that role. People do not need DRM, phoning home, and malware. Those make money for M$ but rip off the end-user.

  25. RudeBuoy


    Linux desktop does not need to be popular. It just need to work as well as it does.

    I have been using a Linux desktop since 1999. I like the fact the fact that once configured it works as I need it to. And for the past 5 or so years it has been much easier to configure any of the mainstream distro that it is to install any Windows box. As a desktop Linux will never be popular. Thats not a result of any deficiency with Linux but an issue of marketing.

    When I can spend 30 minutes installing and updating a Windows Desktop and installing all peripherals and drivers, and have a box that is not a sitting duck for virus and Trojans then I would start considering using windows again.

  26. evanpro

    'V package'?

    Surely that's "dpkg".

  27. The Fuzzy Wotnot

    Shouldn't be the main focus

    When I first started using Linux on my desktops, I was bothered about its uptake, but what is the obsession with forcing it on the desktop? Shuttleworth has made massive strides in making it accessible on the desktop, 9 times out of 10 it works perfect on the machines I have installed it on, but the major vendors are not shipping on Linux platform ( Adobe, MS, EA Games, Autodesk ), so no one is interested. The zealots say they have free alternatives, but users don't want alternatives, they want the genuine article, even if that costs and arm and a leg. Businesses want someone to shout at when it goes belly up, well you can't shout into "the void" and hope for an answer.

    Yes it would be nice if the usage shot up to the 40-50% figure, but then the script-kiddies would have a new toy to play with and quite frankly I dont think the "community" would be prepared for the fight to keep the desktop usable against every malware threat.

    GIve MS some credit, they have years of experience trying to fight the onslaught of malware and viruses, and if Windows was really that bad, no one would use it at all, they wouldn't be able to use it for more than 5 secs, but somehow Windows battles on! Linux community need to play to their strengths and keep fighting in the server room, they stand a much more even fight in there than out on the desktop.

    Face it MS owns the desktop and unless they do an Enron/Lehmans, are unlikely to lose it within the next 10-15 years.

    Thumb Down

    First figure out what the real problem is.

    > I just installed Ubuntu 9.04 (Insipid Imbecile or whatever), and Firefox 3.5 isn't in the repository,

    Please update your FUD and try again.

    I installed Firefox 3.5 from the repositories on my 9.04 install.

  29. Paul 129
    Thumb Up

    Thin Client

    It's simply where MS can't compete. A push to schools, would be well worth the exercise.

  30. Brian Scott

    @Robert Pogson

    "The usability issues are gone on a well-configured OEM installation. eeePC showed that."

    Have you ever used the rubbish Xandros install on a eeePC? My wife demanded I fix it within a day of getting one. She is now happily using eeebuntu. I look at eeebuntu and think that it is appalling that many of the dialog boxes are too big to fit on the screen so you have to guess how many times to hit the tab key (to select an unseen OK button rather than the equally hidden Cancel button).

    Xandros 0/10

    Eeebuntu 5/10

    *nothing* gets 10/10

    This is meant to be a core market for Linux and they don't get it.

  31. Greg J Preece

    @AC 22:57

    I'm with you on this. Who cares if the rest of the universe is using Windows? Let's stop making shiny gadgets designed to attract them and fix the stuff that's important. As someone else said, 5 different incomplete sound managers are useless. We need one that does everything properly.

    This is why I'm brushing up on my C++ and Perl skills as fast as possible. I want to start contributing to Linux - not on the flashy stuff, but on the important stuff. I want to help make the sound stack work properly. I want to add in those missing options in apps that everyone wishes were there. Let's just quit fecking around for a bit and finish one version of Ubuntu - properly. If we took Karmic and just worked on it for a year, sorting out every little last thing, then released that, it would be far more popular than something flashier with the same old glitches.

  32. Loki 1

    I would be happy...

    ... with Linux getting 10% market share on the desktop. With this much there would be enough people using Linux to ensure MS remained on their toes and standards compliant (otherwise they wouldnt be able to work well with that 10%.... and it could be vital customers/suppliers/OEMs/etc).

    With 10% market share it may be even enough to encourage MS to create a version of Office for Linux - which would give the OpenOffice team a major kick as well.

    I'm more that 90% of my time at work in Linux, resorting to VM/Wine for checking document formatting in MS Office and the occasional need for IE for sites that just refuse to play with FireFox (including one of our own!!).

    At home 4 computers. 2 x dual boot XP/Linux Mint (gaming/work machines), 1 x Mint only (daughters computer - she loves Childsplay/GCompris), and a Mac running OSX 10.2.

  33. James Smith 3

    Killer Applications

    I remember when Doom came out. People who didn't want computers were going out and buying top of the line 486 DX2 66's just so they could play it. It was the same with the first spreadsheet app.

    People (use my mum as an example) don't want Linux. They don't care what OS they run. Forget the OS features. It's the applications that are key. You need something unique that people want.

    The day my mum rings up and asks me how she can get "StuffMyMumWants v3.0", and that requires a Linux install, is the day that they've cracked it.

  34. Anonymous Coward

    Linux fanboys, ROTFLMAO

    I'll will use Linux as my main OS, when it can run as much software as Windows (there is loads of wonderful free stuff not on Linux, and WINE sucks) , I don't get annoyed by stupid arcane, non-descriptive (unless you hunt for an ugly man file) , *nix shell commands, and all the installs and upgrades are trivial, like Windows, yes you can get update scanners for Windows, for both free and non-free apps, and you don't get loads of pain-in-the-**** dependency issues!

    I want easy to use GUIs and Wizards, for most stuff, not because I can't use shell commands, but because I have better things to do than guess application/config directories, figure out arcane config file syntax/reference rules, and figure out command/service names.

    Windows is not perfect, but it does save me a lot of time over Linux.#

  35. James Smith 3
    Thumb Up

    "unless they do an Enron/Lehmans"

    Oooh. I feel all dizzy.

  36. Sooty

    tom maddox has the right idea

    the major problem with linux that i've found, is that it's a complete and total ballache to install anything.

    Yes if it's in a repository and someone else has sorted it all out for you, its as easy as ticking a box. The problem comes when it's not in one, if your unlucky you might even have to downlaod half a dozen libraries and compile it yourself, and some of the libraries will conflict with others, and so on!

  37. NB

    @Tom Maddox

    nice trolling there, FF3.5 is in the repositories (try actually checking your settings and enabling all of them before mouthing off like a retard) and exactly what packages did you have dependency issues with? Sounds to me like you b0rk3d your installation through your own ignorance.

    Fair enough the default gnome theme is still ugly but that's one of the nice things about gnome/kde, they're both insanely easy to theme up and customise their look and layouts.

    I've installed ubuntu and debian on countless machines and never encountered these problems. It would seem the outlying factor here is you.

  38. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Joe Brockmeier++

    What a sensible man

  39. Justin Case

    One set of problems for another...

    That's what swapping from OS to OS does. You just have to choose the set of problems you are most happy to live with. Mostly, I end up back with the penguin - OSX, I find is too smug and sanctimonious; Windows - apart from the virus/trojan problem does tend to fail in strange esoteric ways.

  40. Anonymous Coward
    Gates Horns

    Capture the offices!

    For the domestic user, it's not a good idea to install Linux. With second-rate support for many internet technologies (e.g. Flash) and poor compatibility with lots of hardware (most MP3 players, mobile phones, etc, only support Windows and maybe Mac OS X), it's going to make your life harder.

    However, I really don't understand why more businesses don't use Linux. There are massive cost savings (both on the OS and on lower-spec machines). Preventing people playing Flash games and using their iPods at work is probably a good thing. Perhaps the problem is that while many serious applications for software engineering, electronics, databases, etc, support Linux, there are currently few or no easy-for-managers-to-use business applications (I think Lotus Notes supports Linux but that would only prove my point). Word and Excel for Linux would destroy Windows in the office, but I guess that'll never happen for exactly that reason.

  41. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Linux penetrates the Black Country!

    I was in a Sainsbury's near Wolverhampton at the weekend, and there on the magazine rack alongside Hello, Heat and What Chav was Linux Format magazine. Woo hoo!

    Couldn't agree more about Network Manager being only half-finished. Will they ever make the authentication work with automatic logon in Ubuntu? If you're just looking for a usable equivalent to the Windows networking wizard, try Wicd instead - it's simple and perfect for wireless laptops.

  42. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    I'd like to get hold of Mr Brockelheimer (apologies if I've spelt that wrong) and say, we need to get some energy behind educational materials that the everyday Joe can trip over. Be it a regular TV program on the subject, or a DVD that gets piled out with a Linux machine ...

    People are getting Linux machines, turning them on and saying, "How do i use this thing?" before returning them to whence they came for a refund.

    That, in my humble opinion, is the nut that is needed to be cracked.

  43. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Thinking about it...

    You know, thinking about Windows support; when was the last time any person/customer telephoned Microsoft for support? When something has gone wrong, I for one know better than to waste my time telephoning Microsoft. I actually tried a few months ago; the person at the other end exchanged e-mails several times before they actualy understood what I needed help with; and the final response wasn't a solution, either.

    When I need help with a Microsoft product, I hit the community support web sites. Same with Linux.

    The only real problem I have with Ubuntus forum is that questions come in thick and fast and there are too few sub-sections in the forum; they quickly get flooded. you can post a question and five mintues later it is off the screen and on to page 2 in some forum areas. Well, not quite five minutes, but it has a very quick turn around.

    ... so when I do a search I end up with many posts from people all asking the same question and not very many answers.

    Microsoft? Support? Do me a favour.

  44. red death

    Too much choice?

    I bought an Eee expecting to have to install a new OS, but have been pleasantly surprised by Xandros. Sure I have customised some bits and added bits of software that I wanted, but in the main it is still the out of the box Xandros.

    One of the issues I wonder about is if there is too much choice in Linux distros? I don't want to have to play around with umpteen distros before finding one that actually works.

  45. Cameron Colley

    Linux needs games!

    One group of people who don't mind messing around downloading drivers and patches are gamers -- they're also more likely to build their own machines and have to install Windows themselves.

    If games like Crysis and Fallout3 could be made to run on Linux I'm sure many people would migrate.

    Sadly, I'm not sure how this could happen.

  46. Chika

    Oh no not again!

    Oh this is an interesting sensation! So much to do, so much to see, I'm quite dizzy with anticipation. Or is that the wind? Now I can see a big thing coming towards me. Very very big! It needs a big, wide sounding name like rou... groun... GROUND! That's it! GROUND! I wonder if it will be friends with me? <SPLAT!>

    (Just a little something for the fantards on both sides to think about as they continue to confuse quality for substance, brand names for applications and bang their respective drums yet again.)

  47. Chris007
    Gates Horns

    @bojennet (22/9/9 22:15 GMT), @Linux fanboys, ROTFLMAO (23/9/9 08:20 GMT)

    Both your comments more or less mirror my thoughts.

    Linux is nearly there but not quite.

    If I take my immediately families usage of their computers then I'd have to ensure that all their printers, webcams, cameras, video cards had Unix drivers available (and that there are easily installed!). This is no easy task. Plus my dad's business - they use sage for payroll and accounts, is this available under Unix?

    It's probably a chicken and egg situation. Not enough Unix on the desktop to warrant companies bringing out a Unix version and not enough versions of software available on Unix to warrant companies changing to Unix on the desktop

  48. Chris007

    Follow up to my last comment

    Having said all that I am going to try MINT linx on my laptop to see how it goes.

    I had tried Unbuntu 9.04 on an old (2000) Compaq SFF machine but the video driver would only allow 800x600 (whereas windows would do 1280x1024). It is these small niggles that prevent take-up on a greater scale.

  49. sachinrkanade

    Linux become end user desktop OS if strategy will be...

    Why today every where desktop with non-Linux OS?

    Reason is that today's popular and top most (proprietary) OS have been targeted to a developers those who will be working for end user apps.

    Generally end user will accept a system setup that developer will provide to them and now a day from small application providers to a big providers, provide only what they know or a setup in which they are hands-on.

    And I have observed that most of the application providers are hands-on on a popular proprietary OS and that's the reason why all end user desktop having proprietary OS, not Linux.

    So Linux need to target end user apps developers/providers and make sure that availability of fast development IDE (like NetBean, Qt Creator) and SDK that easy in development.

    So Linux should be worked for a same strategy (to make easy development IDE & SDK ).

    That will easy to develop end user apps and developers will make user friendly apps on Linux platform. And one day Linux become end user desktop OS.

  50. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Does he get it?

    I think he might. The number of times I have been fiddling with some settings in the GUI and then found the rest can only be done from the command line. Or that the command exists, but has no GUI interface. Or an install completes, has a GUI, but does not install and launcher. It's depressing. Or there are multiple versions of a GUI for some tool and they all offer slightly different features, but none actually work and have little documentation.

    Command line = FAIL. Total fail. Utter fail.

    Yes, I know the command line is powerful (more powerful than the GUI in many ways). I agree that it can also be faster. But it is 100%, pure, undiluted FAIL *if* you are Joe Average who does not have a degree in Comp. Sci. The command is user-hostile (although it's very good once you have trained yourself up). To get anywhere on the desktop Linux needs to ensure that all major configuration can be done from pre-installed and operational GUI apps.

    And remember Joe Average is not an enthusiast, he/she does not care how new and funky PulseAudio or whatever is. They just want to get their stuff done. They do not want to download yet another widget that only does half a j a job (case in point, why is there no system-wide graphical equaliser for a Linus OS? BASIC FUNCTIONALITY PEOPLE!)

    And get rid to the stupid names. "CatFish"...WTF is that? This is a computer, not an aquarium. "Nautilus"...WTF does that do? "Totem"...any clues there? "baobab" the name of god people. If it's a file searcher why not call it, I dunno, "FileSearch"? Or is that just too logical, too usable and too simple?

    Should Linux try and win (by "win" I mean, enter double-digit penetration) on the desktop? Yes.

    Will it? No. Not if the Linux world keeps going as it is and not for 10-15 years even if they do change.

    Should MS have their "exclusive" licensing deals with OEMs blocked? Yes, but don't expect a massive switch even if that does happen; Linux is just too hard for Joe Average.

    @dave hands: Here's something else you can't do on Linux; run a decent multi-head system. Let's say a standard TV and a widescreen display. What's that 800x600 and 1600x1050? Can you do that on Linux? Can you heck, X demands a square virtual desktop which is utter shit.

    And don't even start me on the fact you can rarely control which screen in primary. That is also utter shit.

    This is the kind of simple, basic, VITAL stuff than Windows has nailed (despite the problems with that platform).

  51. Asphy

    Why would I want that final 20%?

    Why on earth would I want that final 20% present? All that pathetic ease of use getting in the way, clicking "Ok" every time I want to remove a file, restore points, wizards, patronising paperclips and cute little animated doggies to fetch my files..

    Screw the last 20%, I don't want the polished corners, it attracts the undesirable idiots. Leave them to languish in their pathetic "Windows for Retards" pool of misery and malware..

    I for one don't want them here proclaiming "ease of use!" and they idiot proof yet another decent operating system to prevent accidentally deleting their precious lolcat collection because they "didn't understand what that button did".

  52. James Hughes 1

    So, what are these legendary...

    ..Windows only applications that stop people moving to Linux?

    Because there appear to be apps for everything I want to do already available in Ubuntu. For free.

    Yes, they need a bit of polish (as do Windows apps), but I would have to say, its only games that are missing (and TombRaider III works on Wine...or is that a bit old now?).

  53. Psymon

    @capture the offices

    As many of the commenters have pointed out, there are two major hurdles in the linux community that need to be addressed.

    Firstly there's the 'last mile' polish often lacking from most software, but secondly, and this is the deal breaker when it comes to sysadmins, is the disparity and lack of coordinated effort.

    I agree that linux/unix based systems make great back-end servers, to a point, (Our file server, firewall, proxy are all Solaris) but I would never again have one as a domain controller.

    I still remember the days when a new starter at the company would be a major ball-ache and take the best part of a day setting up on the many different systems. Unfortunately, a lot of the linux community seems to be mired in this era.

    Today, I create one single account in the appropriate OU in active directory. From here file permissions, email account, distribution lists, remote logon rights, local computer rights, even required software, are all configured and deployed. Right down to their desktop wallpaper.

    The main reason we upgraded to 2008 was because group policy finally had the small gaps like security group, printer and network drive mapping filled in. We don't use a single script on our systems now, as scripts are always the weakest point in a network.

    This doesn't mean I have less work to do, it just means my focus is on progression and development, not day-to-day house keeping.

    Yes, all of these features are available in the linux environment, but integration is laughable by comparison. It's as if the linux developers concept of server/client relationships haven't progressed since the days of Novell.

  54. sT0rNG b4R3 duRiD

    Na, it's probably still not ready for the masses...

    I'm remarkably platform agnostic, but I have to agree, linux in all its current incarnations at the moment, is probably a bit too demanding for a new person, to set up, it can be quite intimidating.

    Macs (and Ipod/phones!) seem to have achieved the unix-in-the-hands-of-the-lay-person feat well, I would hazard a guess because of the easier job Apple OS developers have - their hardware is more uniform (less problems with worrying about drivers etc). They also probably have more 'direction' in where they are heading.

    Or perhaps you might read that as there is a more dictatorial system in place.

    Take iphone apps for example. You basically don't have much of a choice on what or how you write them - that's OK - because it also probably means the user will have less of a hassle installling your product and may find the UI experience more consistent, which is probably a good thing . (I take great offence in what you're NOT allowed to develop, but that's another issue altogether).

    Linux? Sure, packaging stuff into .deb are great but still there is a lot of heterogeneity in how easy packages install.. or how up to date said packages are... Sometimes, you're better off building from source... Or you have dependency issues.

    Macs/Iphones by and large, you just install the thing and it works, and you don't have to go looking for GTK 2.10 or greater etc for the latest incarnation of your web browser.

    Na, linux has a ways to go yet. But it's a lot _better_ now than it was 5 years ago I daresay.

    Perhaps we should look and see why this is and try and capitalize on this...

    (Still, some things don't change - OO still has NO decent outliner. I daresay that day that OO has a decent outliner, the day for widespread linux desktop adoption will have arrived! Or of course, if Blizzard starts to build WoW for linux heh).

  55. Colin McKinnon

    Their own worst enemy?

    I work in IT and like Linux, but I often wondered why other people just didn't seem to get it. Was the political and economic factors colouring my judgement of the useability of the system?

    When I started my current job, I was forced to go back to using a Microsoft OS and apps desktop - I found it a big struggle. Slow, unreliable, difficult to move data between tools, hard to manage, poor ergonomics. There are some things I think MS does better - SMB makes a lot more sense than NFS for most purposes, mailmerge in OpenOffice is still painful. But compare OpenOffice's template system with that in MS Office, or try to fix a Microsoft window above others when switching betwen apps...

    I recently bought a new laptop for my daughter (aged 10) - it came with Vista, so I thought I would try it out before wiping it. Gettnig the system installed (OEMs don't ship PCs with Vista pre-intalled - merely copied onto the hard disk with a bootstrap) took hours of effort (do you really want to run this program? HTF should I know what it does?). But I persevered and got a useable system set up.

    My daughter is now pestering me to install Linux on it because its so much slower and flaky than the (also 10 year old) laptop it replaced running Linux.

    I welcome the fact that she's got access to Apple Macs and MS Windows machines - I think there is tremendous value in being exposed to different tools when learning about computing - it enhances the learning of the computing rather than just learning your way around a single application.

    Open Source is certainly no less useable/functional as the commercial alternatives. As far as I can make out, the issue is only one of market penetration/perception.

    I would agree that, with no barriers to entry, there is a lot of badly written open-source software freely available - but this is irrelevant to what most people are actually using computers for.

  56. Fenton

    Too late...

    Linux on the desktop is too late. If google have their way (and MS is starting to follow suit) then most apps will be provided over the web run in some sort of plug in (after all it's apps that people want).

    Companies are increasingly installing client server Apps, with a web front end.

    Defacto standard multimedia apps that have to run locally (photoshop, pro-tools, etc) only run on Windows/Mac, the last thing they want is to port to linux and have thousands of extra calls from users/companies where there are problem running on their particular distro.

    There is one killer app that could help break MS if Linux was to be used as the thin client OS, is to make Office X compatible. i.e. some sort of middlewhere where on a Windows server you could set DISPLAY= and the office app appears on your desktop but runs on the server but with full OLE functionality intact.

    Also what the linux community is lacking (cos it costs money) is research into ergonomics, MS and Apple spend vast amounts of cash on non programers looking directly at usability. The Linux community uses geeks.

    I spend 80% of my time running various flavours of Unix. But when I get home I just want to plug my guitar into my digidesign interface fireup protools and go. I bought these in a shop and they worked first time in Windows. For linux I would have had to do loads of research on what interfaces have drivers in Linux, have to put up with the fact that these interfaces do not have the high sample and bit rates and software that is not a studio standard.

  57. Will Godfrey Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    Linux works for me.

    Sorry and all that, but I'm not really bothered about those that can't use it.

  58. copsewood

    @Brian Miller

    "At some point there needs to be some motivation to getting a completely working product out the door. Apple and Microsoft do this with something called a "paycheck." This is why they have better than 0-1% market penetration."

    Linux is mainly developed by those collecting paychecks.

    Only 11% of code contributed to Linux 2.6.20 was known to have been done by those self employed - 70% was by paid employees of well known companies: and 19% by those of unknown employer. Of the 30% contributed by those of self and unknown employment we don't know how many contributors made money from this and how many didn't. You are probably running Linux in your webcam, broadband router, cable or sattelite box or TV - it's a multi-billion dollar business. More than 90% of software is developed for a cost centre as opposed to a profit centre. When it's a cost centre it benefits those funding its development to collaborate with other developers with similar interests.

    As to <1% using it on the desktop, Linux desktops tend to have specialist applications or users. If I used a helicopter and you a car why should I care if there are 100 times as many cars as helicopters ? It's not that I can't drive a car - it just wouldn't do what a helicopter does. Also if any proprietary packaged software product were "completely working" why do companies supplying these need to keep on dropping and patching old products and developing and marketing new ones ?


    It's a much more sparse minefield these days...

    > If I take my immediately families usage of their computers then I'd have to ensure that

    > all their printers, webcams, cameras, video cards had Unix drivers available (and that

    > there are easily installed!). This is no easy task.

    ...just like you would be doing with Windows.

    They will come for you to advice and recommendations and help when all does not go well.

    It's a big myth that Windows device support is trouble free. Plus with a sufficiently sophisticated device they may have it working and not even realize it. Some device (like a multi-function printer) might just be more than they know how to deal with. They might not be clear on how they verify that it is actually working.

    So the whole "will all of grandma's devices work" problem is a bit of nonsense.

  60. The Fuzzy Wotnot

    Games not the answer...

    Back in 2004/5 EA/Atari and Epic actually release Unreal Tournament 2004 with one set of CDs, it had Windows and Linux versions in one box. It was the must have game of the moment.

    Did Linux ownership shoot up? Did it ****! I loved being able to play the latest comercial game on a Linux platform, but it was a very rare case and due to some form of legal complication we are still waiting for Atari/EPIC to release UT3 on the Linux platform, 12 months after the Windows release.

    There are plenty of great FPS games on Linux, using the OSS Quake3 engine, have trawl through Freshmeat one day for a list of OSS games. Commercial stuff? Forget it! It just isn't worth the effort pushing out a Linux version, in box and definately not seperately. Some online companies do, World of Goo. I bought that for Mac and I was allowed a copy of the same game for Windows and Linux platforms, great idea! Well done! This is sadly the exception, not the rule.

    Sorry but games and Linux will never mix in a big way, just not worth the bother. Hard enough to get Windows, a resonably stable platform, to run games consistently, let alone a billion different self-built Linux systems. Support for games companies would be a nightmare.

  61. I didn't do IT.

    Its all about the creamy, GUI centre...

    The fact is that the reason Joe Public does not know what to do with Linux when it is in front of him (netbooks, etc). He does not know what to do. Forget command line - the GUI is unfamiliar and unknown to him.

    Why can't we get "Linux" GUIs (KDE, GNOME, etc) on Windows? If more people got accustomed to the "Linux" GUIs on the Windows machines (with the programs they know and love), then sitting in front of a Linux box would be no problem - just that the apps are named funny.

    Is this a copyright issue? There is nothing in the EULA that says you have to use Explorer.exe as your GUI shell; but you can't remove it from the machine, so don't. Just have another shell that gives us the look and feel of "Linux", and off we go to getting users ingrained, eh?

    Or does this violate some moral GNU issue?

  62. Bruce Ordway

    Home vs. business?

    I use Ubuntu at home for browsing and playing media files. I think any average person could perform a Ubuntu install today provided they had a CD. A big improvement over the first Slackware distro I tried to use in the mid 90's.

    However, I'd be interested to know how any Linux vision could penetrate the business desktop.

    I just don't know how it could function at any of the businesses where I've worked.

    Engineering and manufacturing use MRP, CAD and PLC programming applications whose clients are all Windows and/or .NET based. The MRP database is the only thing that could run on a Linux box right now and that's a server not a desktop.

    Creatives use MAC's. Render on Linux OK, but again that's a server not a desktop.

  63. Joe Zeff


    I have no idea how you got the idea that you have to install KDE to be sure you have the libraries for some app you might want. My sister uses Ubuntu, and if she uses their package manager to install a program, and it needs some KDE libraries, well, it installs them as dependencies. The same on my computer, and it runs Fedora. The only time you have to worry about dependency hell is if you're installing SomeRandomProgram you found on the net, and if that's what you're doing, what else would you expect?

  64. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @Cameron Colley

    Yup, that's it. PC gamers don't mind (TOO much) messing around with drivers and configs, and gaming is what has driven at least 75% of the non-business purchasing of PCs over the years.

    I run Linux on my netbook, home fileserver/webproxy/torrenting box and my media box in the loungeroom. My gaming box however, runs XP.

    I would LOVE to be able to dump Windows altogether and the day I can run Bioshock and Eve Online under Linux with the same framerates I can get under Windows (ie, NOT through WINE) is the day my household goes Microsoft-free forever.

  65. John Bailey

    Yet again

    Wow.. Another " If this and this was just like Windows, then Linux would be everywhere" rant from several people. Never gets old..

    Thing is.. It wouldn't. Windows is what everybody uses because it comes "free" with a new computer.

    To get Linux adoption widespread, one thing needs to be done.

    Make it illegal to sell a PC with any pre installed OS. Problem solved. Then people will have to make a choice. Scary eh..

    If every PC came with a shiny new Epson printer, it would be next to impossible to sell people an HP printer. Exactly the same phenomenon. Most buy the cheapest, the nicest looking, the one that has the cheapest inks or whatever their personal criteria is for a printer. They do not pour over the spec and weigh up the pros and cons before putting their money down.

    The vast majority of people do not buy operating systems. They buy computers. And as long as most computers come with Windows pre installed, they will continue to do so. They also mostly get a freebie/cheap home copy of Office, and use that because they don't even know anything else exists. And from personal experience, most don't even need Office.

    If Linux was created to replace Windows, fair enough. It has so far failed. In the same way chocolate has failed to replace aluminium.

    Think of Linux as an alternative, and the angst goes away. If it was a copy of Windows, then it would be pointless. £60 or so for an OEM license is a trivial amount for a pretty important bit of software you are going to get a lot of use out of after all.

    Want a free copy of Windows. Great. Go for it. Try any of the torrent sites, or burn yourself a copy from someone who bought it. But please.. stay away from Linux. You will be disappointed. It isn't Windows.

    You want to learn how to use Linux, great. It takes a while to get over the hump of the learning curve, but once you do, it's fun. It's free, and it works and keeps on working. It is also great for putting on the computer of someone who comes to you every six months to de crud their PC.

  66. mfraz

    RE: AC

    Regarding the names of Linux apps, well what about some Windows apps? Outlook doesn't sound like an email reader/organiser, where as KMail and KOrganizer make sense to me. Not forgetting Powerpoint and Excel, do they sound like applications you would use to create presentations and spreadsheets?

  67. Greg J Preece

    @Tom Maddox

    "I just installed Ubuntu 9.04 (Insipid Imbecile or whatever), and Firefox 3.5 isn't in the repository,"

    Yes it is.

    Man, I love listening to people who don't bother trying, don't even Google stuff, then just start moaning and whining. It's not the main FF package in 9.04 because it was developed after 9.04. Given enough time they would have upgraded the package, but decided to keep two separate ones, and make 3.5 the default in 9.10, out in a months' time.

    What I'm happy about is that they finally put Netbeans 6.7 into 9.10's repository. Thank God for that!

    Quit thine bitching.

  68. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    If you want powerful object organisation and control, automatic deployment, etc., why don't you go to Novell and the NDS with ZENworks? After all, that was the very system that Active Directory was based on. And what is currently at the core of Novell? Ah! Yes ... a Linux kernel.

    What was the record for a Novell server uptime ... 694 days?

    After all, we're being forced to change from Netware to Windows by management and we're having issues ... like under Netware, if a user didn't have access to it, they couldn't see it. Under Windows, it shows them everything but they can't get at it. The users end up with a massive list of applications in their application directory (among others) whereas before they could only see the ones they had rights to ... mind, Linux does that as well :-(

    Application Explorer and SnapShot beats anything I've ever seen before or since. As for iPrint, iFolder and the other automated tools ... one click and a base image can completely configure itself dynamically for the user and location. Gorgeous.

    In my book, AD has a considerable number of technical flaws and bodge ups. Give me Netware every time. Sooooo easy. I'll miss Console 1.

  69. Greg J Preece

    @AC 12:44

    "And get rid to the stupid names. "CatFish"...WTF is that? This is a computer, not an aquarium. "Nautilus"...WTF does that do? "Totem"...any clues there? "baobab" the name of god people. If it's a file searcher why not call it, I dunno, "FileSearch"? Or is that just too logical, too usable and too simple?"

    Yeah, Windows apps are much better for that sort of thing:






    OMG, without their purpose being in the name, I have no idea what these apps do! How can I possibly use them?


  70. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Netware uptime

    Sorry, it was ...

    "12 Jan 2006 - Maikel Rozegarde sent in this screen capture of a NetWare 4.2 server with BorderManager 3.5 which is used for building a vpn tunnel to a offsite location. Uptime: 1639 days, 03 hours, 20 minutes, and 10 seconds!."

    ... but I'm sure there was a Netware box running at 6 years+ somewhere.

  71. Quirkafleeg

    Multi-head system

    “@dave hands: Here's something else you can't do on Linux; run a decent multi-head system. Let's say a standard TV and a widescreen display. What's that 800x600 and 1600x1050? Can you do that on Linux? Can you heck, X demands a square virtual desktop which is utter shit.”

    X wants rectangular ;-)

    I've had non-rectangular (1024×768 & 1280×1024) working fine with X and the open-source Radeon driver (in "zaphod" mode, back when the driver had a "non-rectangular display" option); and it seems to be largely fine with recent versions, though now using xrandr. All that's missing these days is the bit which restricts the pointer to the visible area.

  72. Harsan

    Killer App

    My gripes with Linux (as I write this from my final(?) install and configuration of Linux Mint 7 Gloria) tend to be along the same lines as most folks. If I install a desktop Linux, I want it to support the hardware in my computer. There's so much talk about killer apps as if there's a mythical next-gen office suite, or a new game or some database software coming, something that'll force users to switch. The killer app for Linux isn't something that you can really play around with, nope, the killer app for Linux is gonna be the same killer app Microsoft has, and Apple has recently brought to bear with their OS X, peripheral support.

    I've been through some 10 distros trying to get this setup I've got now, and I'm done..I've installed Linux. I cannot get my mouse, nor can I get my keyboard to do what they were originally designed to do. Installed the "drivers', but I can't for the life of me do on Linux what Windows or Mac lets me do with this hardware. I can't scroll universally with the mouse, half the buttons don't work either. I can't take advantage of my 12 macro keys on the keyboard - which, luckily were a fringe benefit to the keyboard, I got it because it's near-perfect for typing on. The state of Linux today is that it needs support more than anything. Forget GUI, forget applications, we're in 2009, nearing 2010, and the operating system is so far behind on its support - not just for peripherals but for hardware, internal hardware - that when you get Linux up and running with everything working, you consider it a victory, not an affirmation of the status quo. Geek on.

    Linux needs support. Forget the GUI, though, please, give us a standardized dynamic installer, forget games, though, please, please, please give us a standardized dynamic installer, if you can support hardware (and open source has done a might many grand things with hardware, now it needs to be finished) you'll be competing with Windows in their own turf. Apple's gotten there, and now Linux needs to get there. Support wifi out of the box, support peripherals, support all that menagerie and hodgepodge of hardware without fear from the installer that it may not work.

    That will push Linux to the desktop marketplace. It honestly belongs there, it's secure, it's powerful, it's dynamic, it's more buzzwords than I can fit in here, and I love it, and its underlying concepts, to death.

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