back to article I love the Linux desktop, but that doesn't mean I don't see its problems all too well

Recently, The Register's Liam Proven wrote tongue in cheek about the most annoying desktop Linux distros. He inspired me to do another take. Proven pointed out that Distrowatch currently lists 270 – count 'em – Linux distros. Of course, no one can look at all of those. But, having covered the Linux desktop since the big …

  1. Alumoi Silver badge

    Computing smarts in the cloud

    Sure, Windows users will still see what looks like a PC on their desk, but really it will just be a smart terminal hooked into a Windows 365 Cloud PC. The real computing smarts will be in the cloud.

    And you think the hardware manufacturers will be OK with this? Hell, if the smarts are in the cloud, a Raspberry Pi will suffice.

    1. gobaskof

      Re: Computing smarts in the cloud

      I hate this only cloud mentality. Do these people never travel? Never end up in the countryside? Never have internet issues? Do we all down tools if the internet goes out? I have had no internet for 3-4 days whilst working in Africa. Hell, I have had close to no internet at all in my parents house in Norfolk for years.

      How much of this throttled bandwidth in areas of poor internet is because everyone is streaming and re-streaming their favourite shows and albums rather than downloading once? Soon we can do this with everything!? Progress??

      1. AMBxx Silver badge

        Re: Computing smarts in the cloud

        DaaS is also very expensive considering the requirements of most users.

        For 99% of office work, all you really need is web browser and any OS. If you have a 365 subscription, try using all the Office Apps in browser form - they're surprisingly good.

        I'm just surprised that MS haven't come up with a browser only version of Windows that hooks into OneDrive, Office 365 etc.

        1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          Re: Computing smarts in the cloud

          Don't give them ideas.

        2. Captain Hogwash

          Re: Computing smarts in the cloud

        3. ebinrock

          Re: Computing smarts in the cloud

          Didn't gobaskof just say there are situations where you can't get internet access? What good would a browser do then??

          1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

            Re: Computing smarts in the cloud

            That's the user's fault. They should have stayed at home.

            1. Anonymous Coward

              Re: Computing smarts in the cloud - DWABH

              Work From Home becomes Don't Work Anyplace But Home

            2. J.G.Harston Silver badge

              Re: Computing smarts in the cloud

              My *home* internet craps out due to too many people using it, see earlier post. I had it in the middle of an online video interview a few months ago.

              1. This post has been deleted by its author

            3. BobTheIntern

              Re: Computing smarts in the cloud

              Wasn't it Steve Jobs who said "if your (Apple) device doesn't do what you want, then change what you want", or is that just apocryphal?

              1. Frumious Bandersnatch

                Re: Computing smarts in the cloud

                well if it doesn't hold for you, you're probably holding it wrong

              2. jake Silver badge

                Re: Computing smarts in the cloud

                Sounds like something he might have said in private, when the Marketing Department wasn't pulling his strings.

        4. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge

          Re: Computing smarts in the cloud

          I'm just surprised that MS haven't come up with a browser only version of Windows that hooks into OneDrive, Office 365 etc

          They could spin up their own version of Linux, add Edge, call it Windows 12

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Computing smarts in the cloud

            That's basically chromeos, but even google have at last realised this is crap (since inception they've added android emulation, linux emulation, and are now finally separating the browser from the os)

        5. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

          Re: Computing smarts in the cloud

          I'm just surprised that MS haven't come up with a browser only version of Windows that hooks into OneDrive, Office 365 etc.

          If they did that, how long do you think it would be before it would only run on Microsoft Edge, on Windows...

        6. Ordinary Donkey

          Re: Computing smarts in the cloud

          Windows that runs in a browser already exists, though it might have some issues to work out.

      2. big_D Silver badge

        Re: Computing smarts in the cloud

        I work in an industry where data in the cloud is a no-no. It has to be behind the firewall - it is states in many contracts that the data can't be online.

        1. ITMA Silver badge

          Re: Computing smarts in the cloud

          Not only that.

          There is a fundamental princple to data security which is all too often overlooked:

          He (she) who has physical control of the hardware your data is on has ultimate control over your data. If your data is "in the cloud" that sure as hell isn't you...(unless YOU own that particular bit of "cloud").

          You only have ultimate control of your own data when it is on hardware you own and which you have physical control over.

          1. Potemkine! Silver badge

            Re: Computing smarts in the cloud

            You're absolutely right, but bean counters don't get that, or rather don't give a damn, as they can save some money to give to the C-suite and shareholders.

            1. hoola Silver badge

              Re: Computing smarts in the cloud

              Almost, they don't give a damn if they can save money in the sort term and the execs get their trips out to the US to "see how it works"......

            2. A.P. Veening Silver badge

              Re: Computing smarts in the cloud

              You're absolutely right, but bean counters don't get that, or rather don't give a damn, as they can save some money to give to the C-suite and shareholders.

              It is always very satisfying to hear bean counters howling (and see them crying) when a fine big enough to wipe out the savings tenfold (or even more) comes in, especially if you warned them before they made the mistake.

          2. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

            Re: Computing smarts in the cloud

            Of course, control over, and access to your data (unencrypted) are not the same thing.

            If you're putting anything on the cloud that isn't encrypted with strong encryption, for which you have the only copy of the private key, then you should consider it publicly shared. For some things, of course, publicly shared is fine, and is the actual purpose of "cloudifying" it.

            1. SImon Hobson Bronze badge

              Re: Computing smarts in the cloud

              But that's fine for data that's just sat there and not being worked on.

              So there you are, your word document is nicely encrypted, not even MS can see what's in it. Now you want to edit it - so you fire up your cloud hosted desktop, decrypt the file to load it into Word, and off you go ... err hang on, what was that, our file is now decrypted in the cloud, and the key is also in the cloud ?

              1. BobTheIntern

                Re: Computing smarts in the cloud

                MongoDB has come out with "Queryable Encryption" which may alleviate that particular issue (while potentially enabling others, of course).


            2. ITMA Silver badge

              Re: Computing smarts in the cloud

              "Of course, control over, and access to your data (unencrypted) are not the same thing."

              Correct. But fat lot of use your encryption is if you can't access your own data when you need to because the person that has physical control over it won't or can't let you access it for a whole raft of reasons - unpaid bills (even it is a mistake and they have been), their data centre has had a serious fire (OVHCloud for instance), they screwed up their security, you've had a serious falling out with them and are in dispute, war affecting where your data is hosted.

          3. SNaidamast

            Re: Computing smarts in the cloud

            I have been saying this for years that putting critical data and\or infrastructure in the "Cloud" is a fool's errand that only enriches the vendors.

            Considering the increasing number of breaches to such stupid architecture, one would think that businesses would shy away from using such technology.

            Unfortunately, the majority of business executives and managers are not very bright...

          4. Ken G Silver badge

            Re: Computing smarts in the cloud

            What if you've encrypted and the keys are held by you?

            1. ITMA Silver badge

              Re: Computing smarts in the cloud

              It just means nobody else can decrypt your data.

              But then NEITHER CAN YOU if the person/organisation which has physical control of the hardware your precious data is on CAN'T or WON'T let you get at it.

              And that is the point.

              If your business depends on being able to access that data you are, not to put too fine a point on it, fucked.

      3. Warm Braw

        Re: Computing smarts in the cloud

        I see a lot of people for whom their mobile phone (or, less frequently, iPad) is their only form of computing. They have no need of a desktop because they have no need of the applications that would typically run there.

        If they have a PC it's for gaming or for the kids to do their homework.

        It seems to me at least possible that the Linux desktop will persist longer than the Windows desktop simply because "desktop" stops being a requirement for the average consumer - or indeed the average desk drone.

        1. herman Silver badge

          Re: Computing smarts in the cloud

          Windows is a legacy niche OS. Linux runs on everything else.

          1. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

            Re: Computing smarts in the cloud

            What OS does AWS run on? Or Azure? What is the underlying platform for Apple's iCloud?

            I know, it's a bit of a trick question, because a lot of "cloud" infrastructure doesn't run on an OS at all, especially once you start talking about edge computing and IoT. Add to this, that for things like Azure, when you spin up a virtual machine, you can pick the architecture and OS that you are using. Containerised stuff doesn't (and shouldn't) care about the underlying OS though, and a desktop in this context is meaningless anyway.

            As for Windows being a niche OS? Well, walk through pretty much any business that is larger than a handful of people (or is a design shop where they're all using expensive shiny Macs), and there Windows is, churning away, on every office desk, and in various places in machine rooms and labs, alongside control systems running on other platforms. We might wish it was dead, but businesses move slowly, especially when it comes to such fundamental process changes as doing away with an entire way of working.

          2. hoola Silver badge

            Re: Computing smarts in the cloud

            That maybe true if you look at the overall distribution of the OS. From the end user that is utterly irrelevant. Most of those back end operating systems no longer even have a KVM attached, that makes is completely useless to someone who actually needs to interact with the OS.

            In the perspective of the article it is about what those who interact with the OS to do stuff use. Ignoring the techies on El Reg (we are a very small minority" there are 3 operating systems that matter,

            Windows, iOS and Android. You could possibly include Chrome OS but I don't know anyone who uses it.

            Linux in any form other than these is very rarely used by the average consumer.

          3. AlbertH

            Re: Computing smarts in the cloud

            Windows is a legacy niche OS. Linux runs on everything else.

            More precisely:

            Windoze is a poor, proprietary client for a Unix/Linux world!

            1. hoola Silver badge

              Re: Computing smarts in the cloud

              Okay, look at from the view of the average user who just buys a computer:

              What are the choices?





              For the average user there are no other options. You don't walk into a retail shop and ask for a laptop running Linux. If you have already reached that stage then you are not an average user.

              Firstly, and this is where Linux is it's own worst enemy, what distribution do you install? The list is endless. Windows and iOS are single choice products, The Android variant is based on device you buy.

              People buy hardware with preinstalled operating systems because they (mostly) work out of the box. If a manufacturer supplied a Linux distribution pre-installed with some form of Office and Chrome preinstalled it just might sell a few.

              Secondly take the most used application that many families will already have either through work or education, Office, can this be installed with 2 or 3 clicks on Linux? No, there are multiple steps that will simply make that average user reinstall Windows.

              It is irrelevant to say to use Open Office or Libre Office, people don't want to and don't care, mostly because of product familiarity (not usability). They want Word, Excel or Outlook. Again, if you are using a non-Microsoft Office alternative, you are not an average user.

              That more servers or services are running Linux globally is not what the article is discussing, it is about what the end user who just buys a laptop, desktop or tablet uses.

      4. illiad

        Re: Computing smarts in the cloud

        "streaming and re-streaming their favourite shows and albums" - and then the publisher / author revokes the download permission... :O No more stuf!!!! :) :)

        If had bought the dvd / CD, it would not happen! :P

      5. J.G.Harston Silver badge

        Re: Computing smarts in the cloud

        My internet throttles down when some damn tourist walks past my flat streaming crapola on their mobile shiney. Probably because the town's public wifi is spliced off my street's comms cabinet.

      6. FlippingGerman

        Re: Computing smarts in the cloud

        I used to keep a local copy of English Wikipedia a few years ago. Used it too, out of necessity.

    2. elsergiovolador Silver badge

      Re: Computing smarts in the cloud

      The real computing smarts will be in the cloud.

      The truth is that big corporations want to know everything about what you do. Access to your emails, chats, browser history is not enough. They also want to know what you do at work - and is there a better way than to be in control of the computer that you use to do work on?

      It is all part of "you will own nothing and be happy" 2030 agenda. They are working on removing the need for having a capable computer - you will only be able to rent one - that of course if your social credit score permits.

      1. bombastic bob Silver badge
        Big Brother

        Re: Computing smarts in the cloud

        if your social credit score permits

        yet ANOTHER reason NOT to have all of your data in a cloudy place

    3. Greybearded old scrote Silver badge

      Re: Computing smarts in the cloud

      Don't be silly, there's no amount of hardware that we programmers, MS especially, can't waste.

      I predict that MS Office Singularity Edition will still keep you waiting longer than Word V6 did on a 20mhz processor.

      1. ThatOne Silver badge

        Re: Computing smarts in the cloud

        Was going to say the same. I trust they will most certainly invent some useless, annoying and time-wasting eye candy which requires an outlandish amount of resources to run. All you have to do is to make sure the end user can't neutralize it.

        There is no amount of resources that can't be efficiently wasted if you try hard enough.

      2. illiad

        Re: Computing smarts in the cloud

        It turns out that windows office 365 with teams is almost doing that... 3 Ghz laptop with fast nvidia graphics is getting a bit slow...

        1. sabroni Silver badge
          Thumb Up

          Re: fast nvidia graphics

          Yeah, those powerpoint transitions can be heavy!

      3. ske1fr

        Re: Computing smarts in the cloud

        6! I first used 2.0. WordPerfect was better. Now move along, I have a grassy knoll to mow.

    4. herman Silver badge

      Re: Computing smarts in the cloud

      It became clear to me that Linux is fine as a desktop system when my brother (an accountant) mentioned about ten years ago, that he uses Ubuntu Linux laptops in his real estate business. More recently, my sister (a writer of children's fiction) enquired about a Bill Gates Free OS and I told her to talk to her elder brother and find out where he gets his machines, since it is better to have local support rather than me 10,000km away.

      1. Robert Moore

        Re: Computing smarts in the cloud

        I moved my extremely non-technical mother over to Linux. After about 2 weeks of "What do I click to go to Google?" type questions, her support calls dropped of to almost nothing. She used it happily for the last couple of years before her death.

        My lovely Fiancee got frustrated with Windows on her old laptop, (Very old) and I offered Linux, she tried it, and really liked it. When her old laptop had a hardware failure a year later, she asked me what laptop to buy that was Linux compatible. I did make her go through the initial setup of Win 10 on the off chance she ever wants it in the future. She even installed it (Mint) herself.

        1. AlbertH

          Re: Computing smarts in the cloud

          My aged Father used Mint from 2013 until his demise last year. He was 89, and had found that it was easy to use and maintain. After the initial support calls (back in 2013), he was able to update and upgrade his system himself, and encouraged any number of his similarly aged friends to make the same move.

    5. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Computing smarts in the cloud

      It's like x-terminals all over again.

      I was talking recently to a youngster about my unix servers I've had on the internet for over 20 years, and what I use them for, and she said "wow! So you invented the cloud?"

      The cycle of life:

      1) terminals -> mainframes/vms/unix servers

      2) local pc!

      3) local pc -> NAS

      4) cloud!

      repeat and repeat

      1. ecofeco Silver badge

        Re: Computing smarts in the cloud

        Truth. The corporations want to turn our PCs into nothing but fancy terminals.

        We're halfway there now.

    6. Munchausen's proxy

      Re: Computing smarts in the cloud

      "And you think the hardware manufacturers will be OK with this?"

      What are they going to do about it? Sell Linux computers?

  2. Joe W Silver badge

    Shell-shock-trauma (of sorts)

    My first work desktop was an XTerm, hooked up via 10base2, which ran hrough the whole institute. It had graphical capabilities, I even developed some LabVIEW stuff on it (way back when rubber boots were still made of wood). It was... yeah, slower than a five day test match. The single point of failure nature (ok, the long single chain of possible failures) was nasty, much pulling of hair, breaking of colleagues knuckles (or, that didn't happen, but it was close and warranted). I'm not going back there. I'm sure that there are many in this forum whose experience goes back further, back into the Eemian, or even to the time when dinosaurs still roamed the earth (or at least when the terminals had green on black text and then changed to beige on black).

    That aside, I think the article is spot on, and it echoes much of what I think (and read/hear elsewhere). The biggest advantage, for me, is that I am not tied to a certain distro's view (desktop, systemd/init/whatever, sound system / demons, XFree / XOrg / whatever), and this is certainly a huge weakness at the same time, and likely a fatal one. The next big problem is the hunt for "new, shiny-shiny" and the neglect of documentation and reliability (and continuity[*]), because let's face it: doing something new and exciting is more fun (and we have all been guilty of this, or most of us, I'm sure).

    ---> sleeves up, I'll write some documentation. Future /me/ will appreciate the effort.

    [*] yes, I use Debian "rusty" on servers (three flavours of Debian: rusty, stale and broken - sorry to the great guys and gals doing the amazing work! I actually like it that way.)

    1. big_D Silver badge

      Re: Shell-shock-trauma (of sorts)

      Yep, my first *NIX experience was a DEC VT1000 XTerm connected to a VAX over 10base2.

      Great stuff, back then. Dev opened up xeyes, followed mouse around the screen. Opened 2nd xeyes, spooky. Then, "hmm, how many xeyes can you open on the desktop?"

      dozens of small xeyes windows later and WHOOOOSH! Mouse moved around quickly... Screen starts to stutter, cries from all over that the network had gone down, then cries from ops, that the VAX had gone down... It hadn't but the xeyes had saturated the network and overloaded the CPU for a short time.

      Followed by quickly closing the windows and whistling innocently. :-D

      1. Tom 7

        Re: Shell-shock-trauma (of sorts)

        Ah the good old days - before security became a noticeable problem. Running things on other peoples xterminals - upside down, reversed left to right or melting.

        1. 42656e4d203239 Silver badge

          Re: Shell-shock-trauma (of sorts)

          you missed vines from your list... that may have been my favorite...

      2. Bitsminer Silver badge

        Re: Shell-shock-trauma (of sorts)

        Ahh, we used to run Framemaker on NCD xterms, backed by various Sun servers.

        In the good old days, before MS Word took over the world.

    2. herman Silver badge

      Re: Shell-shock-trauma (of sorts)

      Eish… editing a document from a VT100 terminal over a 300 baud modem on a PDP11 was an experience that I cannot recommend to anyone.

      1. Tom 7

        Re: Shell-shock-trauma (of sorts)

        That's when experience meant you didnt write things experimentally - you pretty much had the code or whatever worked out in your head and debugged there before opening a new file. And you could move the cursor to anyhwere in your file by some keystroke involving line number and position on the line...

      2. jake Silver badge

        Re: Shell-shock-trauma (of sorts)

        vi makes 300 fairly painless in a pinch. Yes, I said makes.

        I still connect over dial-up from my property in rural Mendocino county about 20% of the time, usually at about 9600 ... but sometimes at speeds as low as 300 (sea fog and aging, cracked, dusty cable plant with copper stretched to its distance limit makes for bad signal to noise ratio) ... And that's barely 200 miles by road from Silly Con Valley.

        Truthfully, when it gets much slower than 1200, I usually disconnect and wait for the sun to dry things out. No great loss.

        Mine's the one with the Telebit Trailblazer in one pocket & floppy with Kermit code in the other ...

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Shell-shock-trauma (of sorts)

          Jake, you're such a cliche about Linux you may as wl keep posting about IR35

      3. big_D Silver badge

        Re: Shell-shock-trauma (of sorts)

        We had 1200 baud between the data centre at the other end of town and our offices (dozens of dedicated lines). My boss at the time had a VT100 with Techtronix graphics card. It used to produce geological plots in hi-res (~640*200, I think), it processed on the fly and had to draw each pixel over the 1200 baud link.

        By the time it had finished drawing the screen, the tectonic plates had moved and you had to start over! :-D

  3. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    Linux has been my daily driver for years. Does fragmentation bother me? No. On the contrary it makes it easier for me to have exactly the desktop I need without some handful of vendors trying to double guess some small choice of arrangements which will [dis]please me and everyone else simultaneously.

    1. John Sager

      I've used Xubuntu for many years, and will probably stick with it until I can't adequately vanquish another systemd dragon. I've used Linux desktops since I gave up a Sun workstation in the 90s, though Windows occasionally demands obesiance, most recently with a Kia satnav upgrade. But VMware handles that.

      1. Ian Johnston Silver badge

        I've used Xubuntu since Ubuntu went silly with Unity, but I will not be going beyond 18.04 because I will not have the snap abomination on my system. Linux Mint is looking OK, save for its habit of periodically crashing both of my Thinkpads.

        1. Peter Gathercole Silver badge

          Snaps noy (yet) essential.

          Currently, you can still turn off Snap, at least up to about 20.04, and download the normal debs, but that will persist only as long as Canonical keep the debs in the repositories.

          I dislike snaps intently, mainly because I would like the output from "mount" to fit on one screen, and although I would accept them on niche or specialist application software, I can't abide them being used for packages to run the system, like Gnome or Firefox.

          I know what they're for. I know that it makes it easier for software vendors to ship packages for a smaller number of target systems, and I applaud that facility for non-system packages, so Linux has another opportunity to pick up paid-for applications that may make it more acceptable for end users.

          But for parts of the distro itself, they are completely inappropriate.

          1. Tom 7

            Re: Snaps noy (yet) essential.

            I've disabled Snap and will continue to do so. I find it very instructive to git clone and make and then wonder about all the bizarre libraries people use. It often speeds things up enormously because the snap is never configured for 16 threads or whatever CPU/GPU I'm pissing about with,

          2. Ian Johnston Silver badge

            Re: Snaps noy (yet) essential.

            After 18.04 you can't install proper Chromium on *buntu, just the abominable version. That's what rules out 20.04 for me.

            As I wrote, Linux Mint looks OK, but it's like stepping back ten years or more in Xubuntu - quite apart from crashing my Thinkpads it has many, many rough edges. Networking is spectacularly unstable, for example.

            1. ICL1900-G3

              Re: Snaps noy (yet) essential.

              Networking unstable? Really? Been running it since, I think, 2006 and have yet to see that problem.

              1. Ian Johnston Silver badge

                Re: Snaps noy (yet) essential.

                Yup. Constantly drops connections to both wifi and wired networks that other systems can see fine, and in a particularly endearing habit, closing the lid of my X220 stuffs the wifi so completely that a reboot is required to connect to anything again.

              2. Ian Johnston Silver badge

                Re: Snaps noy (yet) essential.

                In case anyone is still reading this I have done a bit more digging. The network-crash-after-lid-closes may be a particular Linux Mint + Thinkpad issue, but there are loads and loads of complaints and but reports online, going back years, of LM nuking IPv4 connectivity completely and leaving only IPv6 running. That's what I see, and the developers seems utterly unfazed by it. The only cure seems to be to plug in another network adaptor and make the most of things till IPv4 dies on that too. When you run out of network adaptors, you reboot.

                1. AlbertH

                  Re: Snaps noy (yet) essential.

                  That's bizarre - I've been running the various versions of Mint for several years and have never had a networking issue at all - on any of the dozens of types of machines we have around here!

            2. Updraft102

              Re: Snaps noy (yet) essential.

              You are not restricted to only getting things from the Ubuntu repos. There are other sources of Chromium. Just remove the Snap stuff, set up the PPA, and be on your way. I won't use snaps either, and now Firefox is in a snap too... so just get that elsewhere. I've been using the OpenSUSE version converted to .deb with alien.

        2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          It seems strange to you & me (where would I put all that stuff I'm working on and all the reference document?) but there are not only people who like the Unity sort of UI but were prepared to keep maintaining it. That's the beauty of an arrangement that gives you choice.

          1. Liam Proven (Written by Reg staff) Silver badge


            Spent much of today trying and failing to work on a machine with Cinnamon. Looks nice, but it's hard to customise. Alt-tab doesn't show apps on different desktops, for instance, and I can't find a fix.

            I think I will nuke the box and put Ubuntu Unity 22.04 on it. Most effective use of a small screen, and also scales nicely to 3 screens on my main machine.

            OTOH my Alpine, Devuan and openSUSE machines run Xfce. Does the job and does it well. I just find Unity prettier and needs less tweaking.

            1. bombastic bob Silver badge

              Alt-tab doesn't show apps on different desktops

              I'm glad it doesn't! ctrl+alt+right and ctrl+alt+left switches between desktops in Mate, though, at least on my FreeBSD systems. Alt+Tab then switches between things on THAT desktop. I use the desktops to organize tasks, and I do not want to alt+tab between 30 different windows on 9 different [named] desktops (not exaggerating) when I'm switching between open mate-terminals (let's say), or different browser windows, or whatever else, on a specific desktop where I want to get things done.

              So I'm quite happy it works "that way" and hope it NEVER changes. A change to the basic behavior of Alt+Tab would REALLY hamper my productivity.

        3. Mike_R

          I love the Linux desktop... using Flashback

          Been on Ub. 20.04 *without snap* since it came out.

          Google (hack, cough) is your friend both in getting rid of snap and it's friends, and in finding workarounds for stuff than Canonical tries to insist on installing/updating with snap.

          Or use Mint...

          Or Devuan...

    2. Jonathan Richards 1

      Why should we care?

      No, really. I don't need my chosen Linux desktop to drive MS (and coincidentally all the other Linux desktops) into oblivion, so that I can say that I am using the "most popular" variation. If the distro./desktop has sufficient critical mass to maintain its development, support and documentation, then I'm happy. At the moment, and for many years it's been KDE for me, but I could change if something better *for me* comes along. Something better for a lot of others? I don't really care.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Doctor Syntax, you miss the point of the article - or, at least, you fail to mention, answer or acknowledge it in your post, instead just focussing on yourself.

      You say "easier for me". It doesn't need to be easier for *you*. It needs to be easier for *seven billion* (and counting) other humans who are not IT literate (or don't have the time to faff)...


      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        I don't have the time to faff either. That's why I don't run Windows.

        1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          PS I think you also miss mine. It's easier for me to have a working environment that I want. It's also easier for you and anyone else to have a working environment that you want which can be different from mine and different from what Windows or Mac provide.

          You - and the author - see fragmentation. I - and others - see Pick 'n' Mix. And before you take up the analogy with the argument that Windows is the equivalent of a box of chocolates let me point out that I've disliked Black Magic for years since they removed most of my favourites and left me with no choice.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            The problem is that those seven billion "anyone elses" don't have the ability to come up with their own preferred stuff. Real people don't want to deal with wading through tens or hundreds of choices to work out what's best for them - real life is NOT like that. Why should desktops and configs be something everyone (who doesn't want to bother with) has to deal with and sort out the hard way compared to, say, writing your own software? Where do you draw the line?


    4. nematoad

      "But that's not what Linux desktop fans want. They want Windows crushed and bleeding underneath the Linux juggernaut."

      Speak for yourself.

      Personally I don't give a damn about what other people use for their computing needs. So long as no-one forces me to use Windows then they can do what they want.

      As for crushing Windows, who cares?

      Microsoft seems quite capable of making Windows so unpleasant that people may think about moving to an alternative. I had jobs doing desktop support and sysadmin on Windows and the experience made me look for another OS. I found Linux and have used it ever since but if other people want to stick with Windows why should I care? I regard Windows users as harmless and if they don't bother me I won't bother them.

      The truth is a lot of Linux users are happy with the choices available, natural selection will weed out the weaker offerings and the whole ecosystem will get better and better.

      1. Lars Silver badge

        "But that's not what Linux desktop fans want. They want Windows crushed and bleeding underneath the Linux juggernaut."

        Speak for yourself.

        I agree with that.

        Perhaps there are those who don't know or have forgotten the game Microsoft had opposing Linux then years ago, and that certainly wasn't popular or accepted among Linux users and enthusiasts.

        Linux more than survived those efforts, absolutely splendidly, one can say.

        As for many desktops, so what, people are not all that disturbed by the fact there are several brands of cars either and most will be able to chose one all the same.

        1. Dinanziame Silver badge

          All brands of cars have a steering wheel made for hands, and accelerators, brake and clutch made for feet. If Linux distributions where that standardized, we wouldn't even notice switching from one to the other

          1. boblongii

            If computers were as simple as cars we could probably have that, but then we'd need to invent computers again because that would be useless.

            1. Col_Panek

              Ever rent a car and try to figure out the nav system, run the rear wiper, or shut off the auto-start/stop?

          2. Updraft102

            And then you get Reg articles complaining about how there are only two "real" desktop choices in Linux (Mac pattern and Windows pattern), even though there are dozens of desktop environments. The author made the argument that most desktops are largely indistinguishable from one another because most follow the Windows pattern, and essentially they all count as the same thing, and there should be more diversity.

            If there is a de facto standard, like the Windows desktop pattern, it's bad because of a lack of choice, and if there is not a standard, it's fragmentation, which is bad too.

    5. ricegf

      Choice is a Feature

      Choice is a feature, not a bug. If one desktop distro was ubiquitous, I'd need to find a new desktop OS just like I keep searching for a workable replacement for smartphone Android.

      1. ebinrock

        Re: Choice is a Feature

        For that matter, if you think about it, Android itself is fragmented. Google, Samsung, Motorola, OnePlus, et al all have their own skins and ways of implementing things on Android, and their own versions of bloatware. So in essence, there are even different Android "distros".

    6. herman Silver badge

      Exactly - the variety of desktops and distributions is a feature, not a problem.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        " a feature, not a problem"

        It's a problem for application developers. Linux lacks a coherent "desktop" API, and a coherent widget set, which means a coherent GUI, and simpler development.

        That's important for desktop apps developers. With Windows you can compile once and deploy the application on any Windows desktop - even older ones unless you use some specific API available only in latest system and you have very good chances your application will work on future releases unless you made something really stupid.

        Android was successful because it brought a common API for applications. So once you write one, you don't have to care what "distro" of Android it will run on. ChromeOS used the browser as the desktop API.

        People use applications, not OS nor desktops. They will use the OS which runs the application they need. Linux right now runs mostly applications for some kind of software development and system administration. And not everything can be replaced by a web application.

        Without applications, no users...

        1. Dave559

          Re: " a feature, not a problem"

          "It's a problem for application developers. Linux lacks a coherent "desktop" API, and a coherent widget set, which means a coherent GUI, and simpler development."

          But it (mostly) doesn't matter which widget library (the main difference a user sees) a particular application uses, as it will bring in the necessary libraries as part of its installation, if they are not already installed. There is absolutely no need to make a QT version and a GTK version (etc) of the same program. The window manager that you are using will stick its own window chrome around the bare window in any case, so the windows will all look similar at that level.

          Sure, app toolbar icons and the UI widgets might look slightly different in different apps, but that's not really the end of the world; they are all much the same photocopies of Xerox's original efforts and so are mostly similar, and (as far as I can tell) the most significant different widget libraries are nowadays able to (reasonably well) all make use of the particular desktop theme that you have chosen, regardless of which libraries the apps were built with, thanks to compatibility efforts between the various camps (obviously this doesn't apply to older software using much older widget libraries, but you are unlikely to be using such a program nowadays, and if you are, you have a very good reason for it (I know people who still swear by xfig, for example!)).

          (It's definitely the case that we do need a few more good quality and attractive desktop themes - that certainly hasn't been helped by the rival desktop systems too frequently changing how themes work and causing breakage, shades of Mozilla causing major damage to its add-on ecosystem by moving away from XUL before its replacement was properly ready for use.)

          And certainly Windows has previously been (possibly still is) guilty of having programs using all kinds of wacky interface libraries that were much more ugly and much less compatible with each other than present day X apps are - Windows peripheral driver software always seems to particularly "excel" in these especially!

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            "But it (mostly) doesn't matter which widget library "

            No, actually it does matter because otherwise you get each application with a different look & feel, with controls that doesn't behave the same in subtle ways. Interaction among different application and the OS becomes much more cumbersome.

            "it will bring in the necessary libraries as part of its installation"

            That another Linux issue that brings compatibility problems when the "necessary libraries" change their ABI/API at will - and each distro may be only compatible with specific versions. Moreover if they are not OS standard libraries you start to enter the GPL hell for non-open source applications.

            "UI widgets might look slightly different in different apps"

            It is a problem especially when they **work** slightly different and or developers have to try tricks to make them work the same way, or users will be baffled why something that work in a way in an app works differently in another.

            "certainly Windows has previously been (possibly still is) guilty of having programs using all kinds of wacky interface libraries"

            True because they are aimed at the kind of users who likes bells & whistles, like multimedia players. But for example nVidia much more standard UI Control Panel was much simpler to use than AMD ones.

            As long as Linux does its best to keep desktop application developers away, its user base will be small. Still it can thank Microsoft which is quite busy trying to alienate its desktop users too....

          2. drankinatty

            Re: " a feature, not a problem"

            (It's definitely the case that we do need a few more good quality and attractive desktop themes - that certainly hasn't been helped by the rival desktop systems too frequently changing how themes work and causing breakage,

            Amen. After 20 years of LInux desktop use, the one constant is the rival desktops unwavering ability to "throw the baby out with the bathwater" and run off chasing the new "gee whiz" look and features a port to toolkit version X+1 promises to provide. Which inevitably results in a 5-8 year period when the new desktop is an unsightly, bug filled, crippled version of what it was with toolkit version X.

            The theme analogy is directly on point. Let's pick on the Gnome devs first. While Gtk+2 had hundreds, if not thousands, of quality themes that provided an endless variety of desktop looks, how many years has it been since then that themes have broken with every minor release of its successor? Not to mention the rival's Qt5/6 debacle that is still reeking havoc for app developers (in fairness, this wasn't the rival's doing).

            The trickle down effect on app developers is a never ending need to continually re-write code to handle the changing toolkits as older versions are deprecated and disappear from the package selections of distributions. Many favored apps, due to nothing more than needless toolkit changes, simply quit working.

            The problem for the Linux desktop has always been application developers forced to code to a continually moving set of API targets. There is nothing wrong with progress, but change for the sake of progress misses the mark.

        2. ~~

          Re: "Android was successful because it brought a common API for applications."

          No, Android was successful because of the marketing manily generated by the iPhone and due of the use of Java as a transition tool, since most mobile operating systems before Android were Java based, having a common set of widgets and APIs doesn't guarantee the success of an operating system, many have had it and have failed miserably too.

          And the same as always, Linux is not the only OS family that uses QT and GTK and so on, BSD, Illumos, Solaris, etc. also uses it, none of these systems have a common GUI API, nor can they because it will repeat the failure of Motif and CDE due to lack of differentation, with CDE they wanted a standard desktop for UNIX and UNIX-like systems but since they were all different operating systems with different kernels architecture, etc it ended up being very confusing for users, who believed that they were all the same OS because they looked the same, until you find out the truth, with disastrous results.

          The only real solution to this issue is to create a desktop API that doesn't rely on the GUI and be part of the UNIX standards/certifications, this would allow these systems to continue to differentiate themselves, which is key to success, so that Linux, BSD and others integrate it as part of the base system. But since everyone wants to innovate on their own and exclude the rest, just like proprietary software developers, it's very unlikely that this will happen.

      2. Liam Proven (Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

        I wrote about that a week or so back.

        My point was not that ~20 different desktops is a bad thing.

        What I was trying to say is that 20 different bad copies of Windows 95-through-XP is a bad thing.

        I want to see one _really good_ copy of Win95 -- and none of them are yet -- and one really good copy of OS/2 Warp Workplace Shell and one really good copy of MacOS 8 or 9, and copies of Amiga and GEM (they're simpler, so that shouldn't be *so* hard) and a modern RISC OS alike and maybe Psion EPOC16, and EPOC32, and IRIX "This is Unix - I know this!" Magic Desktop and NeWS and OpenWindows and CDE and...

        20 totally different desktops. All doing different things in different ways for different people.

        Desktops for big screens and tiny ones. For keyboard-only operation and for touchscreens and for both. Desktops for people with low vision or no vision. Desktops for people with half a dozen metre-wide monitors. (Terry Pratchett had 6 screens, because he could.) Desktops with gesture recognition so we can go all Minority Report at our PCs.

        But no. We just get endless repetitions of a taskbar and start menu, done so poorly most of them can't even put the taskbar vertically and have it work as well as it did in the beta of Windows Chicago in 1994.

    7. Someone Else Silver badge

      From the article:

      We have many excellent Linux desktop distros, which means none of them can gain enough market share to make any real dent in the overall market.

      OK. Why is it that The Pundits insist that there must be One True Distro To Rule Them All®? What would the numbers be if The Pundits were to get the aggregate market share of all the distros out there (including the one-off that Johnny built from scratch from tarballs in his basement over last weekend and is now happily using to run Steam games and view porn on)? How would that stack up against Windows? How is it trending?

      Yeah, I know that "They want Windows crushed and bleeding underneath the Linux juggernaut." Probably won't happen as a result of one distro. But if the "Linux juggernaut" encompasses all of Linux, then maybe...just maybe.... After all, didn't Android basically extinguish Windows Phone?

  4. Artem S Tashkinov

    A much deeper dive into the problem:

  5. Flocke Kroes Silver badge

    What if the number of distros increases?

    Every day I ignore over 260 of the distros currently listed on DistroWatch. I am sure that with no extra effort I could ignore a thousand or even ten thousand. Likewise if the least popular half of those 270 distros disappeared, perhaps 300 people would notice, 200 would care and most of them would find they ended up better off. I did a very brief check of the top end of that bottom half and found:

    a) Distributions that are so young that the creator has not got bored of it yet.

    b) Distributions that have not been updated for at least 5 years.

    c) Single purpose distributions like GParted Live.

    [GParted Live is a disk partitioning GUI that fits on a CD business card. There was a time when I would have found such a thing useful. These days I can put a full fat distribution on a µSD card, in a full size SDHC card converter, in a USB→SDHC converter. Far easier to carry around than a USB BlueRay player and a powered USB hub (so it will work with the old low power USB interfaces).]

    1. bombastic bob Silver badge

      Re: What if the number of distros increases?

      Linux Distro = package maintainer (when you boil it all down)

      In theory, this just determines how you install and keep your Linux OS updated, and what comes with it by default. But, what matters for REAL is:

      * what init system(s) you have available from your Linux distro

      * what GUI system(s) it uses by default (and can you CHANGE it?)

      * what device support it has (other than going out and finding source and compiling yourself)

      * which desktop options you have that are EASILY set up (this includes boot to console)

      * what [other] 3rd party software you have available for easy install

      * how reliable and close to 'bleeding edge' the binary package versions are

      * how easy it is to build from source if you need to fix things or do development work

      Any Linux distro that has good support for THOSE things for YOUR purpose is just fine, I say

      Many distributions seem to provide these things. My current favorite is Devuan.

      However, when working with / evaluating a development ARM board recently, I had to install a version of Ubuntu (only available choice) which was pre-loaded with WAYLAND which i had to IMMEDIATELY SWITCH OUT for Xorg for MANY reasons, and even after being ANGERED by WAYLAND and FIXING IT to use XORG (which was a bit painful) it STILL did not work with the LCD screen afterwards... (not even a change in Linux distro or desktop back-end can fix hardware design flaws). But CHOICE between Linux distros would have led me to that conclusion a LOT quicker.

  6. jake Silver badge

    "They want Windows crushed and bleeding underneath the Linux juggernaut."

    That is an invention of prattling children.

    Quite frankly, I don't give a shit about Windows. It is completely irrelevant to me, and has been for well over 20 years on a personal basis[0], and over a dozen on a professional and "friends and family support" level. If it went away tomorrow, I probably wouldn't be affected at all.

    I use Linux and BSD because they work the way I need and want them to. Windows, more often than not, did not, so I shit-canned it. ... The Slackware distribution, once customized to suit me, blissfully gets out of the way and allows me to do general purpose computing as I need it to ... including making a variation that is friendly to my computer illiterate DearOldMum and Great Aunt, and computer end-user Wife. Can't ask for much more than that out of an OS.

    [0] One exception ... the lone, air-gapped Win2K machine running AutoCAD2K, which I still haven't managed to find the time to fully extract myself from.

    1. Flocke Kroes Silver badge

      There used to be a reason ...

      Many many years ago it was hard to buy a computer without paying Microsoft tax. Years ago it was hard to buy a laptop without paying Microsoft. You could buy without Windows installed but you would still be paying the license fee bundled with the hardware. It was in theory possible to claw back the money from the vendor, but the vendor would not get their money back from Microsoft.

      These days avoiding the Microsoft tax is a minor inconvenience and as far as I am concerned Microsoft exist only to provide entertaining articles on TheRegister.

  7. Spamfast

    That's because there are over 3 billion Android phones out there and Android is just a smartphone-specialized Linux distro.

    Not to mention pretty much every home router, most commercial web servers, in-vehicle (land & sea) displays, smart TVs etc, etc.. Heck, if you change the word from Linux to GNU - let's face it, the kernel & device drivers would be useless without the utilities - you're including every iThing , Blackberry, Cisco/Sky box & VMware host too and lots of others I can't bring to mind right now. The C & C++ runtimes even on Windows are POSIXy.

    I'm just hoping that by 2038 everybody's time_t is 64-bit.

    1. RichardBarrell

      Somewhat tangential, Android's userland is, off the top of my head, mostly BSD (*) licensed and there's little to no GPL licensed or GNU stuff in there. For example, it comes with a BSD licensed thing called "toybox" instead of the GPL licensed "busybox".

      (* or similar)

    2. doublelayer Silver badge

      You're claiming victory on a stack of wrong assumptions. The first is that you can count servers and networking equipment in the whole "year of the Linux desktop" thing, ignoring the fact that the key word is "desktop". Servers didn't count in 2005 and they don't count now. Linux has been the most popular server OS for a long time; that's not news.

      Secondly, you've got an incorrect notion about where GNU code runs (I don't know if you mean from the GNU project alone or licensed under the GPL, but in both cases, you've named things that don't have it).

      "every iThing": Nope. They've used a lot of the utilities from BSD, and they've contributed code to many of them, but they're not using the GNU utilities or Glibc in either IOS or Mac OS as standard. You can get a lot of the GNU tools for Mac OS, but they're all optional and most not even made available by Apple (a few compilation-related things in the developer tools from XCode).

      "Blackberry": It's a bit weak to include devices that haven't been manufactured for almost a decade now, but even if we count it, no. I don't see any GNU or GPL code in the information I have available on the OS components.

      "Cisco/Sky box": No again. They have a proprietary OS without either in standard Cisco IOS, and they have at least two versions using Linux as a kernel, but those are embedded systems without GNU components, at least as long as their open source page I found is telling the truth.

      "VMware host too": If you're talking about ESXi, I'm afraid this is another miss. The original ESX had a Linux kernel in it, but ESXi replaced it over a decade ago. There was a GPL lawsuit in more recent times, but a) it was dismissed and b) it was still about parts of the kernel. The GNU project not so much. I don't know if GNU software was used in the original ESX Linux system, but that seems more likely.

      GNU code is not used everywhere, and it's not even used on every Linux box. There are alternatives and people use them.

      1. DS999 Silver badge

        Not to mention

        Smartphones aren't PCs, so calling Android a win for "desktop Linux" is really stretching things.

        In the PC market, Linux still barely registers with Windows having a bit under 90% and Mac a little under 10%, with Linux (almost entirely in the form of Chrome) taking the rest. Little change since 2005, and most of that due to pandemic related Chrome buying blitzes by school districts in rich countries.

        Time will tell whether those become a permanent fixture or gather dust and are forgotten once schools reach the point where they can really quit worrying about an outbreak causing a temporary shift back to remote learning.

        1. doublelayer Silver badge

          Re: Not to mention

          I agree with you. I don't consider Android to mean success for the Linux ethos, although not that much because it's not a desktop. I'm fine considering any consumer-used product in this category. The reason that Android doesn't count in my mind is that it doesn't follow any of the goals of open source operating systems. When you have to fight to get root access or replace the OS, it's not what Linux has come to mean on desktops or servers.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Not to mention

            I think he replied to the wrong post!

  8. werdsmith Silver badge

    Excellent article facing facts. It's important not to consider this problem from the perspective of an experienced linux user who enjoys the options and choice. Instead try and approach it from the point of view of an ordinary computer user considering a purchase of their next computer. Imagine their full range of experiences.

    Always remember "it's not all about me" and "I'm perfectly happy with my little world so why isn't everyone else?" Indignant denial won't fix this.I suspect most of us would like it fixed.

    1. Gene Cash Silver badge

      Instead try and approach it from the point of view of an ordinary computer user considering a purchase of their next computer. Imagine their full range of experiences

      Why? Why do I care about them? They can buy Windows/Apple. I don't care. Let them do what suits THEM and I will do what suits ME.

      If they ask me, I will tell them what I use and why, and they can make up their mind, and ask me for help or not.

      1. werdsmith Silver badge

        Did you read the article? See the quote from Jake above.

        1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          Do you mean the post by Jake which says pretty much the same thing as Gene?

      2. lglethal Silver badge

        You should care Gene. If more people bought into the Linux system, there would be more money in the pool for development. More money means better optimisation, more programs being rewritten to run natively on Linux without needing an Emulator in between (if they can be run at all). There are a multitude of benefits for current users if more people used Linux and bought into its ecosystem.

        But the attitude of so many Linux users turns the average user away. Why should you care about ordinary computer users and trying to get them to give Linux a try? Because by turning them away with such an attitude, your simply harming your own system's development....

        1. ricegf


          No. If the Linux desktop grows too much, it will attract rent-seeking corporations who will lock down choice in favor of profits.

          The Internet was the great democracy experience. Now we have Facebook and Google.

          DOS and Windows brought computing power from mainframes to individual control. Now you pay subscription fees for your web-based apps and cloud storage.

          Streaming let you cut the cable. Now you pay the same fees to Netflix, Hulu, and Sling.

          Can we please just keep Linux to ourselves?

          1. Bck

            Re: No

            "DOS and Windows brought computing power from mainframes to individual control."

            In my experience, it rather was Apple, especially with VisiCalc. I'll always remember the extatic look in the face of our Accounting manager after he discovered that he could do "what if..." with that box.

            MSDOS came with the 8086 and was/is a "me too" product. Apple ][ was 6502, and revolutionary.

            There was water under the bridge in the interval. And don't think of "graphics" and "VGA" in the same mind set.

            Or "Internet", "V.22" and "xmodem". They're not in the same continent.

            Still, UNIX and family are always there.


            I see Windows as a catastrophe that derailed what Apple was, and personal computing never fully recovered.

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            " it will attract rent-seeking corporations"

            ROTFL! It did already. Who do you believe pays Torvalds & C.? What do you believe runs Google, Facebook, Amazon?

            Actually, they can exist at this scale only because Linux exists and its open source. And thanks to the GPL they don't have nor to pay much many developers, nor they have to disclose the code that really matters to them.

            Linux it's mostly a server OS exactly because those companies need a server OS - they don't care at all about a desktop OS. They don't sell OSes so they don't care at all about development of a desktop OS. It's not a surprise that many developers at those companies use a Mac.

            So, sorry, you never kept Linux for yourself...

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          [[ NOTE: When I say "linux", I'm talking about the whole os and user software... I guess I could say GNU/Linux, but it's not necessarily just GNU. And it's mostly not the kernel either, more the whole userland, from daemons to user utilities to UI's to "apps". ]]

          No, don't you realise linux is becoming the new microsoft already?

          Loads of software now written to expect stupid linuxisms that do nothing to improve their use.

          Whether alsa, pulseaudio, and now systemd, the linux people who used to cry "we want things to be cross platform" now don't even realise they are now content to use and write single-os software.

          So much shite now requires workaround patches to "emulate" systemd or some silly sound driver.

          So much for standards, so much for common API's.

          Some of us are still into *real* open-computing. For linux to get even more popular with it's current insular developers would be a bigger headache. Linux fanbois (and I'm not calling you all fanbois, I'm talking ABOUT the fanbois) don't even realise what's going on. They went from moaning about windows lock in and lack of variety to wanting the same thing with linux (different widgets and ui's don't count)

    2. An_Old_Dog Silver badge

      Underestimating the Average Desktop User?

      People manage to drive many different models and makes of cars and trucks in which the nit-picky details of the vehicles' user interface differ without being bothered by this, as the basics are the same on all models: step on the gas pedal to go faster, step on the brake pedal to go slower, use the steering wheel to go left or right. The same basic things are the same for Linux/MS Windows/macOS.

      Given this, would an average desktop user truly be confused or aggravated if one Linux flavor had its menu bar on the top, or on the bottom, or on the side? Aren't we underestimating these people? (Yes, some people need to be sent to the mouse double-clicking school, but they would have an equally-difficult time using MS Windows or macOS.)

      1. yetanotheraoc Silver badge

        Re: Underestimating the Average Desktop User?

        "People manage to drive many different models and makes of cars and trucks"

        For many people they *barely* manage. Story about a recently widowed woman whose car wouldn't start and that's when she found out it needed gasoline - shock! Her husband had been putting gas in every weekend, as well as all the other maintenance, but she thought it "just worked". Story about a young man (my nephew) whose car wouldn't start because it had no oil. This despite his father telling him, when giving the used vehicle, that he would need to check the oil, which of course he never once did.

        A typical Average Desktop User comes to me for help with their new Windows 11 laptop. "Can you help me set up my Yahoo! account? Gmail is working, but not Yahoo!". Sure, I said, but first can you sign in via the browser? After many failed attempts she reset her password, and then quite unexpectedly (sic) was able to set up her Yahoo! account in the app.

        The problem with Linux compared to MS Windows/macOS isn't the basic GUI items. It's the trouble-shooting steps when something catastrophic happens (out of gas!, out of oil!), which on Linux at some point involves a command line in the terminal. And yes, the Average Desktop User would be quite aggravated at having to use "DOS" to fix their computer. (Where I work, every CICS application is called simply "DOS".)

      2. Liam Proven (Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

        Re: Underestimating the Average Desktop User?

        But it's not just about cars and trucks.

        It's also about motorbikes (with clutch and gears) and mopeds (automatic, no clutch) and bicycles and electric bikes and electric scooters and monowheels and segways and boats (rowing, motor, sail, combinations thereof) and surfboards and paddleboards and windsurf boards and kitesurf boards and skis (alpine, telemark and cross-country) and snowboards and snowshoes and sleds and carriages and rollerblades.

        It's only car drivers who think the world is all cars.

        And American car drivers don't realise nobody else much drives automatics.

        All I ask is: can we have as much diversity as there is in vehicles and their controls?

        Because whatever the car drivers thing, it's not all cars.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Underestimating the Average Desktop User?

        But when you fill up with petrol, you don't need to seek out the pump that serves Ford-petrol, or Renault petrol, or even pre-2020 VW petrol as opposed to post-2020 VW petrol...

        1. Giles C Silver badge

          Re: Underestimating the Average Desktop User?

          You do older cars do not like E10 petrol - some carburettor floats have the solder disolve with e10 meaning they fail to float. Even older cars need leaded petrol or a lead substitute these days

          So for those cars you have to seek out superunleaded (E5) petrol and / or additives.

          However you can get in any car from the 1930s to today and drive it. The pedals all do the same job, the steering does and yes you may have to hunt for some of the minor controls but they all do the same thing.

          You don’t have to relearn the fundamentals every time you change the car or get in someone else’s vehicle.

          1. Tom 38

            Re: Underestimating the Average Desktop User?

            Neither do you when you change Linux distribution. The mouse moves the cursor, the keyboard enters text, stuff gets shown on the screen.

            Configuring the stereo on a Ford is different from doing it on VW, no-one loses their shit over that.

  9. cheekybuddha

    >> But that's not what Linux desktop fans want. They want Windows crushed and bleeding underneath the Linux juggernaut. <<

    Are you sure?

    I couldn't care less whether anyone else uses Linux on the desktop. And I relish the ability to be able to tailor my desktop to my specific requirements.

    My take is that computers should do what I want them to do, not that I should do what the computer wants me to do.

    Linux gives me that - Windows and MacOS definitely don't.

    1. yetanotheraoc Silver badge

      The other side of the coin

      "My take is that computers should do what I want them to do"

      Equally important is that your computer should not do what you don't want it to do.

      1. Bck

        Re: The other side of the coin

        That comment should go viral.

  10. Lon24

    Choosing to choose

    The common thing about Windows, MacOS, Android, ChromeOS is that the user didn't make a choice. The OS arrived pre-installed and generally is good enough to satisfy tthe needs of most users. Unsurprisingly Linux is also dominant on servers since if you are firing up a VPS or dedicated server you tick the Debian/Ubuntu etc box on the datacentre webpage and it is all magically ready for use by the time you can login.

    The next common thing about users is they hate change. Even modest 'enhancements' by Microsoft are guaranteed to bring howls of protest in these columns from people who want it to work the way it did. Maybe they can round a few corners but that's pushing it ;-)

    Given there is near-zero availability of Linux in the mainline desktop/laptop market it follows that even a 1% market user share is amazing. Given that expecting an average user to find, download, burn a USB stick, navigate numerous 'this will destroy your disk data' messages - why would anybody except the burning zealot do this and then find the screen looks a bit odd and the icons aren't in the right place - and where is MS Office?

    Frankly Linux desktop is for the dedicated. You put some effort into and, if you are smart, you can reap enormous benefits. One of which is ironically to shape the desktop to your unique customised preferences - and even more importantly - keep them that way untouched by some marketeers idea of improvement. We, Linux users, are some of the most conservative users re-living the glory days when the user was in charge and not Redmond or Cupertino.

    If you really want big time Linux [proper] desktop - all you have to do is make it a one-click free upgrade to Android or ChromeOS. I don't think that's in the Google playbook.

    1. werdsmith Silver badge

      Re: Choosing to choose

      Windows is in the workplace. So people are familiar with it. Windows is also in the schools and Universities.

      Despite MS fiddling about with the UI through various reskins, it's been the same over the years with the same familiar applications.

      Part of the reason it's established in those places is the enterprise support it has. The AD and Group Policy and all the management tools.

      So people are encountering computing and becoming familiar with it and don't want to mess around learning something else that might be different from one desktop to another.

      1. Pascal Monett Silver badge

        Re: Windows is also in the schools and Universities

        And that is probably the single greatest factor in Borkzilla's insulting success.

        Bill Gates had the genius idea of inventing the school license, and now we are saddled with whatever stupid new idea Borkzilla invents.

        1. jake Silver badge

          Re: Windows is also in the schools and Universities

          Cupertino invented the school license, not Redmond.

          Am I the only one who remembers Guy Kawasaki saying in a marketing meeting for the original Macintosh "Let's get it into schools, and get the kids hooked on it! It'll be better than heroin!"?

      2. jake Silver badge

        Re: Choosing to choose

        "Despite MS fiddling about with the UI through various reskins, it's been the same over the years with the same familiar applications."

        On the contrary. Witness that every time MS rolls out a UI rev, businesses all over the world spend hundreds of millions, if not billions, on re-training their users.

        I only had to show MeDearOldMum and Great Aunt how the version of Slackware I built for them works once. Three major releases, 5 minor releases and a dozen(ish) years ago.

        1. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

          Re: Choosing to choose

          I think the root of the problem here isn't necessarily the underlying OS, but capitalism. It's capitalism that drives Microsoft to make those breaking changes so they can sell more training.

          Linux is not really a capitalist enterprise, in the sense that it is not done for money. This is good in some ways, but if you're a capitalist yourself, it doesn't necessarily fit in with your mindset or way of working, so it's a bit like mixing oil and water. Hence why a market for various flavours of Linux support exists, although arguably, there is no real need for such a thing.

          The fundamental problem here is that capitalism is "the best worst system we have". Personally, the way I see it, the way to rein in its worst excesses are via regulation, and then you have a workable compromise. Then you realise that anyone who starts ranting about "cutting red tape" is a full-on far-right Rayndian neoliberal nutjob.

          I wandered a little off-topic there, but... discuss...

    2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: Choosing to choose

      "The next common thing about users is they hate change. Even modest 'enhancements' by Microsoft are guaranteed to bring howls of protest in these columns from people who want it to work the way it did."

      Got it in one.

      That's why I prefer a Linux desktop. I can keep things looking more or less the way they were 20 years ago with subtle improvements on the way. If you don't want to keep enjoying those modest enhancements bite the bullet once, switch to a Linux desktop that duplicates the experience you wanted and you never have to change unless you want to.

    3. Roland6 Silver badge

      Re: Choosing to choose

      > Unsurprisingly Linux is also dominant on servers since if you are firing up a VPS or dedicated server you tick the Debian/Ubuntu etc box on the datacentre webpage and it is all magically ready for use by the time you can login.

      Linux became dominant because of Unix and the massive popularity of the Windows x86 server architecture. Even in the mid 1980's, putting to one side IBM and DEC, it was difficult to purchase workstations and servers that weren't running some variant of Unix.

      The ease with which you can fire up a VPS with Linux is very much chicken and egg: Linux is dominant therefore providers will support it, because it is widely supported it is dominant...

      1. Peter Gathercole Silver badge

        Re: Choosing to choose

        It really depend on how you define a 'workstation'.

        It began to be used as a term to describe so-called 3M systems defined by CMU, and became applied to Sun systems, which had large graphical screens, local disk and significant processing power. But even in the '80s, they weren't all UNIX. The Xerox Star system weren't and some of the ones from US educational establishments had non-UNIX workstations based around Lisp and Smalltalk.

        Even the Apollo workstations did not run UNIX, although DomainOS was rather UNIX-like.

        DEC's VaxStations appreared towards the end of the 80's, but if you discount the more powerful IBM PCs, IBM's main workstation offering was actually UNIX based, the 6150 runnning AIX.

        Most of the other workstation vendors, like Whitechapple, SGI, Torch, NeXT, Evans and Sutherland, and others, have disappeared from memory, followed by DEC, and soon Sun and HP are or will be ex-workstation manufacturers.

    4. Tams

      Re: Choosing to choose

      Yes, where is (a fully working) MS Office (and other programs)?

      The ones available for Linux are decent (if usually ugly), but still nowhere near as good.

      1. LionelB Silver badge

        Re: Choosing to choose

        "Yes, where is (a fully working) MS Office ..."

        Errm, in MS Windows, maybe Mac too. I guess you'd have to ask MS why they haven't produced a Linux version.

        FWIW, I loathe MS Office, and actually find some of the alternatives available on Linux to be preferable.

        1. ITMA Silver badge

          Re: Choosing to choose

          I generally find Office OK....

          What I really loathe is the way MicroSoft just can't stop ****ing about with it. They just have to bloody fiddle. Keep introducing new useless functions (as they do with Windows) and INSIST and turning bloody things on!

          Like the "focused" inbox debacle and the predictive typing which starts deleting everything you've typed if you don't like its crap suggestions.

          And don't even get me started on that "News & Interests" s**te.

          Windows 11 is Microsoft's "fiddlers wet dream".

  11. LionelB Silver badge

    Do they really?

    "But that's not what Linux desktop fans want. They want Windows crushed and bleeding underneath the Linux juggernaut."

    Infantile straw man. I'd certainly count myself a Linux desktop fan - it's my OS of choice for work and home - but I could not possibly care less whether it "crushes" Windows or not.

    For what it's worth, I seriously doubt any desktop OS ever becomes mainstream until it is routinely delivered preinstalled on mainstream hardware - like Windows, Mac OS, Chromebook, Android, iOS, ... This is simply because users have no motivation to change OS (even assuming they are aware that the option exists, which most users probably aren't). And indeed, why would they change? They know what they're getting, and are familiar (if not happy) with it.

    1. theOtherJT Silver badge

      Re: Do they really?

      It's what I want.

      Not because I want Windows dead. Because I want it fixed. Microsoft have broken Windows. It's become an awful Frankenstein's monster of a thing with bizarre UI inconsistencies, sudden unexpected behavior, forced reboots, forced upgrades, and worst of all someone then went and slapped adverts all over it.

      It is - frankly - a fucking mess. Compare Win11 with NT4 and the user experience has gone backwards. Hard.

      But there's not really any competition to Windows as a desktop OS in the business space. Macs are simply too expensive for most companies to issue one to every employee in the same way that they can buy a thousand Dell desktops at £400 a piece, and Linux... well... Linux's issues are well documented right here.

      I want to see a Linux desktop hurt Microsoft in the only way they care about - in the sales. Until it does they've no motivation to get their shit together and I and people like me are stuck trying to manage something that's getting damn close to unfit for purpose.

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: Do they really?

        As long as you put up with it they'll keep on doing it.

        Here's an idea for you. Download the live ISOs some of the most popular distros: you could try the three main variants of Mint, Zorin and something with KDE, say Kubuntu.

        Copy each in turn to a USB and fire it up. Play with it running from USB. Remember that the performance you see running from USB will be less than a properly installed version. Bearing that in mind see which most suits you, maybe with the aid of a bit of tweaking* - that's personal preference, neither I nor anyone else can help you there.

        When you've made a choice, and providing you've got spare disk space, run the installer that the live distro provides. Take the option that allows it to install beside your Windows**. If offered take the further option which allows a separate /home. Try living with it for a few days.

        * All of them will have some settings options which may change their appearance and behaviour to some degree. All of them IME default to a US keyboard layout so if that's not what you have it will be the first thing to change, even before logging into yout WiFi if the password includes punctuation marks. For a KDE desktop if you want to change the way the start menu works right click on the start menu button, click on Edit panel, then on Show Alternatives.

        ** Do not choose to let it take over the whole disk!!!!

        1. theOtherJT Silver badge

          Re: Do they really?

          Look, my daily has been Debian for the last 3 years now and that's great. It suits me perfectly. My work machine has been Ubuntu for the last 10.

          Now you tell me how I can sell that to the finance team, the HR team, the marketing team, the FOH team... I can't. I can hardly sell it to the couple of dozen engineering teams I have because they all spent their budget on MacBooks because they wanted something with a native posix style shell but a nice familiar GUI.

          It doesn't matter how much I like it because it is simply impossible to get the business to replace Windows end to end. The users won't have it. Believe me, I've tried.

          My last employer had over a thousand desktops in their office, and being an educational institution largely revolving around academic computing 90% of those were Ubuntu desktops - which was a joy to administer for me. Regular release cycles. Simple upgrade path. Ability to patch up anything I didn't like... but even there we had over 100 Windows machines for administrative staff who's life entirely revolves around Windows and simply cannot be persuaded otherwise, no matter how much we tried.

          Unless there is a single Linux desktop release that can kill Windows stone dead in every possible metric people won't change. It's too scary and they're too resistant.

          1. LionelB Silver badge

            Re: Do they really?

            "Unless there is a single Linux desktop release that can kill Windows stone dead in every possible metric people won't change. It's too scary and they're too resistant."

            But there's your problem, right there - going on what you say yourself, those Windows admins are not going to be suddenly convinced just because there's a single Linux desktop. That's not their issue. Their issue is simply that it's Not Windows(TM).

            1. theOtherJT Silver badge

              Re: Do they really?

              Not sure about that. We do have plenty of people using Macs after all... although a lot of those are admittedly "Because Mac" rather than any other reason, so it might be just as dogmatic.

              1. jake Silver badge

                Re: Do they really?

                How many times has Microsoft made major changes in their desktop in the ten years you've been using Ubuntu at work?

            2. ITMA Silver badge

              Re: Do they really?

              "That's not their issue. Their issue is simply that it's Not Windows(TM)."

              No. It is MUCH simpler than that...

              Does the OS run the application software we need to run our business? If does't, it is no damn use to us.

              In the business my employer operates in that is Windows. Not because we are in some way "in love" with Windows or "don't like" Linux. It is because the tools we need just do not exist for Linux. They do for Windows.

              And the OS is there to run applications. End of.

              1. jake Silver badge

                Re: Do they really?

                "It is because the tools we need just do not exist for Linux."

                Bullshit. I run several interlocked businesses using Linux. It's actually easier, and takes less of my time, than doing similar in Windows.

                Windows is a time-sink, and time is money.

                1. Ian Johnston Silver badge

                  Re: Do they really?

                  I am impressed that you know what tools the previous poster's business needs. So. what's your fully featured CAD/CAM solution for Linux?

                2. ITMA Silver badge

                  Re: Do they really?


                  You know absolutely SFA about my employers business and thus the essential software tools it needs.

                  Therefore your entire comment is "bullshit".

                3. ITMA Silver badge

                  Re: Do they really?

                  "Bullshit. I run several interlocked businesses using Linux. It's actually easier, and takes less of my time, than doing similar in Windows."

                  You sound like one of those:

                  "I can solve it with Linux, now what is the problem?" type of guys.

                  That essentially sums up your response. Knowing absolutely nothing about our business, needs or problems, you claim you can "solve it" with Linux.

                  Here's a hyothetical to illustrate the "lack of thought" in your comment.

                  Purely hypothetically we say "we have a problem" and you come back with your "I can solve it with Linux, now what is the problem?".

                  We then (hypothetically) reply "The problem is, you are alive and we want you dead. Fix it for us please".

                  Can you?

                  I'd never trust any so-called IT professional that claims they can solve a problem, particularly using Linux (or anything else) without even the slightest understanding of the client's situation and problems.

          2. jake Silver badge

            Re: Do they really?

            "Believe me, I've tried."

            Then you are not trying very hard. Make a business case for it. They will listen to bottom line. I make part of my living doing just this, and have done for about a quarter century.

            "Unless there is a single Linux desktop release that can kill Windows stone dead in every possible metric people won't change. It's too scary and they're too resistant."

            Keep telling convincing yourself that is true, and it'll automagically be true. For you, anyway.

            1. doublelayer Silver badge

              Re: Do they really?

              Sure, business case. Right away, we can save them the Windows licensing costs. And we add retraining or replacing admins who worked on the Windows machines, finding alternatives for anything that didn't run on Linux, possibly writing our own software for things we need that don't have options available, retraining users who don't understand the new OS or application interface, and then we have to somehow work out the net maintenance cost of the two OSes. There are other benefits to using Linux, but they're technical problems and explaining them to finance can be hard, especially if the finance people are the type (and they often are) who would just say "I liked Windows 7. Let's just keep using that forever." Having seen the list of new costs above, it's not even that surprising when a finance person starts asking whether those Windows licensing costs are really that high. There are many good arguments for using Linux, but the financial business case is often not one of them.

          3. An_Old_Dog Silver badge

            Don't Fear the Penguin

            Part of the problem we (Reg readers) have accurately understanding this problem is while we all have anecdotes, we don't have hard numbers.

            I "supported" an old grandmother's use of Linux on her Dell Mini-9 for years. The questions were easy, infrequent, and none of them stupid. She'd previously used MS Windows. On the other side of the coin, at work I was assigned to upgrade a woman's office from an IBM 3278 terminal to a PS/2 PC (with software allowing access to all her mainframe apps). When I arrived, I politely explained why I was there. She brandished a ruler at me and angrily informed me I would not be replacing her 3278.

        2. Roland6 Silver badge

          Re: Do they really?

          >Here's an idea for you. ...

          Become a PC World salesperson and spend a day telling that to prospective customers... I suspect all will just take the system with it all installed and ready to go, so that will be a Windows or Mac sale...

        3. jake Silver badge

          Re: Do they really?

          "Mint, Zorin and something with KDE, say Kubuntu."

          Those are all essentially the same distro.

          How about Mint, Devuan and something with KDE, say Slackware?

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Do they really?

        IMHO 2000 was Microsoft's best desktop a solid daily driver after that the drapery mattered more

        1. jake Silver badge

          Re: Do they really?

          You beat me to it.


      3. jake Silver badge

        Re: Do they really?

        Better, compare Win11 with Win2K.

        Win2K was peak Microsoft. It's all been downhill from there.

        1. ecofeco Silver badge

          Re: Do they really?

          Win2k was hot garbage.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Do they really?

      I'm also a Linux Desktop fan (currently Enlightenment, but I'll use most of the available options) However, at home, we have 1 linux laptop (mine) and 3 windows laptops.

      Linux is never going to take over the desktop in our house, but even ignoring the broadband modem, the ethernet switch and the wifi router, once you include our various file servers and our raspberry pi based PVRs, windows is outnumbered by a factor of 2:1...

    3. sabroni Silver badge

      Re: Infantile straw man.

      More like butt hurt linux fanboys.

      That comment was obviously a joke, but there's post after post on here shouting "Not all linux users!!!!"

      This is "The Register", they take the piss, did none of you notice?

  12. cheb

    I'm another long term user, openSUSE and now Mint, that doesn't want MS crushed, it smacks of thoughtless tribalism. I won't say I not bothered if others use Linux or not as I need technical help occasionally so other users are useful.

  13. dajames

    But that's not what Linux desktop fans want. They want Windows crushed and bleeding underneath the Linux juggernaut.

    No, that would be silly. What I want is for everyone to have a choice, and for the choice not to use Windows (or any other system) to be as simple and painless as the choice to use it.

    This means that I should be able to buy a PC from any major manufacturer without getting Windows on it (and without anyone paying Microsoft for it, obviously).

    This means that when my DVD-DW drive needs a firmware upgrade I should be able to apply that upgrade without having to connect the drive to another computer that happens to be running Windows because the manufacturer (I'm looking at YOU Samsung) supplies the upgrade program as a Windows executable (that won't run under Wine or from a VM). Supplying it as a bootable USB image (or a UEFI executable?) would have been smarter ... or, hey, a bootable DVD would have worked; I wouldn't have been trying to update the DVD firmware if I hadn't had a DVD drive!

    This means that when I buy an electronic device that is supposed to exchange data with a PC over USB it works regardless of the OS the PC is running (and doesn't, like my SatMap Systems handheld GPS device have a broken USB implementation that talks to Windows but not to anything else I've tried).

    I have been using Linux almost exclusively on the desktop for over ten years, now, and it has mostly been a pleasant experience. Where there has been hassle it has been from things like the above, which are nothing really to do with Windows, but rather with third parties making an unwarranted assumption that anything that works with Windows is Good Enough, when a slightly different approach would have led to a solution that would have pleased everyone and would probably have been no harder.

    1. Tom 38

      This means that when my DVD-DW drive needs a firmware upgrade I should be able to apply that upgrade without having to connect the drive to another computer that happens to be running Windows because the manufacturer (I'm looking at YOU Samsung) supplies the upgrade program as a Windows executable

      This is what is trying to solve - its not quite there yet, but the idea is that with a modern UEFI based machine, you can get firmware updates delivered to Linux machines without any hassle. Unfortunately its mainly the big vendors at the moment - great if you have a Dell or a Lenovo device, every bit of built in hardware will have its firmware covered. Looking at their database, the only firmware Samsung push to it are for NVME devices.

    2. jake Silver badge

      "and would probably have been no harder"

      Possibly easier, in fact. For example, updating firmware shouldn't require any OS at all.

  14. msknight

    It all comes down to money

    Personally, having a Windows desktop license bundled in with the whatever-it-is-these-days microsoft user license, means that Windows on the corporate desktop is the path of least resistance.

    If Microsoft separate out the Windows license and starts charging for that separately, then the impact might be enough to make some corporations look at putting the effort into switching to a Linux desktop.

    That's my belief, anyway.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: It all comes down to money

      Evidently you don't know how "corporations" buy licenses. They don't use the desktop license bundled with the PC, nor they buy PC with bundled licenses. They don't buy at Walmart or Amazon, end they do buy licenses separately.

      1. msknight

        Re: It all comes down to money

        Beg to differ... page 1 on this where Windows 10 Enterprise is included with a 365 license...

        ...and that's my point. If you get a desktop enterprise OS license with your 365 license, then why go through the pain of buying extra licenses and support for a different desktop OS.

  15. Terry 6 Silver badge

    Some concerns though

    I get it that El Reg commentards don't want to see Windows crushed. You say.

    But, with all these distros are there really enough devs to support them all?

    And if so much development work is essentially done by volunteers and enthusiasts, will there be any guarantee that development will continue for any item of software, from OS down to small utility programmes? It's bad enough with Microsoft and Google routinely dropping stuff, but if there is no one even wanting to sit down and develop a given bit of software will we even have stuff we want?

    And will there be the drivers and stuff for all the various hardware out there if desktop 'nux isn't a big enough player to support their development?

    But also, in the end, all these various versions of Linux are an immense duplication and waste of effort, couldn't it be better used to develop something wonderful?

    Or is this all about ego?

    1. FeepingCreature Bronze badge

      Re: Some concerns though

      It's not like distros are sucking up otherwise available developer resources. These are developers who want to start distros. The proliferation of distros is an effect of the available resources, not a cause.

      1. VoiceOfTruth

        Re: Some concerns though

        -> These are developers who want to start distros.

        And they are wasting their time. 99% of these distros have very low user numbers. The time developers spent on creating YALD could have been better spent improving an existing distro. They are also misleading people into "trying" their new Ubuntu-clone with the promise of it being the new Holy Grail of Linux distros, because it will disappear in a few months. Oh look, SpoinkyLinux 1.0 uses IBM Plex Serif instead of the butt ugly Liberation Serif as its default font for - wait for it - LibreOffice. Yeah, like I can't download a font and choose that for myself.

        1. ricegf

          Re: Some concerns though

          Why do you assume new distro developers must aspire to mass adoption?

          Are you not aware that the huge base of fanfic authors don't expect to write a best seller? They write for the love of writing and exploring their corner of fandom.

          Similarly, distro (and free software) developers often develop simply for the love of development and better understanding their chosen technologies.

          Your "waste of time" is a normal person's "fascinating hobby"!

        2. nematoad

          Re: Some concerns though

          "And they are wasting their time."

          If they want to waste their time why should you be concerned?

        3. jake Silver badge

          Re: Some concerns though

          I built a distro, based on Slackware, for MeDearOldMum and Great Aunt. Now my Wife uses it too, instead of a full-blown Slackware install. They've all been happily using it for a dozen(ish) years. As have many other family members, friends, and current and ex students of mine.

          And yet in your mind, I wasted my time building it.

          You really, really need to take three steps back and look at what you are saying.

          1. VoiceOfTruth

            Re: Some concerns though

            Congratulations on building your own distro. I did the same about 25 years ago basing it on RedHat. And so what? YAAAAAAAALD.

            1. LionelB Silver badge

              Re: Some concerns though

              "And so what?"

              And so it was useful to him, and no doubt an educational experience. Is there a downside to that? And why should you care anyway?

              Seems to me you've entrenched yourself in a rather silly position, and yet you keep digging... YARALD (sure you can work that out ;-))

    2. LionelB Silver badge

      Re: Some concerns though

      "But, with all these distros are there really enough devs to support them all?"

      Who cares, though, if they "support them all". In reality, there are a handful of easily-identifiable major distros - and they are well supported.

      You can whinge about wasted effort, duplication, blah blah of hobbyist distros, but hey, you could whinge about stamp-collectors if you're so inclined. Let them have their fun, what do I care?

      1. yetanotheraoc Silver badge

        Re: Some concerns though

        "you could whinge about stamp-collectors if you're so inclined"

        There you go. Some people are inclined to whinge.

      2. Ian Johnston Silver badge

        Re: Some concerns though

        you could whinge about stamp-collectors if you're so inclined

        Stamp collectors use hinges, not whinges.

    3. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: Some concerns though

      "But also, in the end, all these various versions of Linux are an immense duplication and waste of effort"

      A lot of distros are derivatives of another. Ubuntu, for instance, started as a version of Debian but keeping components more up-to-date*. Mint is a derivative of Ubuntu and is now considered preferable by a lot of users. Zorin is a derivative of Ununtu with the particular twist of making it as little of a culture shock as possible for Windows refugees. Neon is a derivative of Ubuntu for one specific purpose: to showcase KDE in its current version as a rolling distro. Devuan is a derivative of Debian keeping to a more Unix-like way of doing things.

      Rolling out any these Debian distros takes less work than making a distro from scratch but each has a distinct purpose underlying the features that differentiate it from the others. The nature of FOSS facilitates this.

      * Debian is a very conservative version with a huge amount of S/W in its repositories. Conservative is favoured by server admins as well as desktop users.

    4. jake Silver badge

      Re: Some concerns though

      "But, with all these distros are there really enough devs to support them all?"

      Who cares? If you want support, get a distro with a support contract. If not, don't. It's about choice.

      Or, you can choose to go where the Marketing Department in Redmond (Cupertino, London, Raleigh ... ) wants you to go today.

    5. jake Silver badge

      Re: Some concerns though

      "Or is this all about ego?"

      In my case, it's selfishness.

      I wanted an OS that would free up MY time, with minimal support for my end users. It worked.

      Soon after installing the version of Slackware that I came up with, my Dad jokingly suggested that I re-install XP on my techno-phobic Mom's computer, because they never saw me anymore now that she's running Slackware. I took it as a non-joke, and now the Wife and I make sure we alternate visiting my Great Aunt (running the same version of Slackware) and my parents on a regular basis. The only difference is that I get to visit with them, instead of working on their computers while my wife visits.

  16. elsergiovolador Silver badge

    Chicken and egg

    Some specialised software only exists on Windows or on Mac. When you ask the vendor about making a Linux port, they say it's a niche and not worth their time and it's a niche because vendors don't port their software...

    If all the software I use was ported to Linux, I wouldn't think twice but just uninstall Windows from all my machines. It would probably be the end of Microsoft as well had most vendors decided to provide Linux ports.

    1. To Mars in Man Bras!

      Re: Chicken and egg

      >Some specialised software only exists on Windows or on Mac


      How many times must I be pointed out that it doesn't matter how many fecking Linux desktops there are, or how many different software repos --where are the applications?

      No-one who works in graphic design, or desktop publishing, or video editing, or... [other fields I'm not familiar with] is going to use Linux, because the pro quality applications they need to produce their work on don't exist.

      Why can so many Linux evangelists not get that simple fact into their skulls?

      The desktop is practically an irrelevance. I use Mac OS for my design work. I probably spend about 1% of my time --if that-- interacting with the 'Mac desktop'. [ie. Finder, System Preferences, whatever]. The other 99%+ of my time I'm doing work in actual applications. I hate the MacOS Finder. Most mac users do. It's a bag of shite. But I hardly ever touch it, apart from to look for a file to work on or move files about. So its 'bag-of-shiteyness' is something I put up with.

      I'm not going to switch to using Linux to get a slightly less painful experience* during that <1% usage, at the expense of having a much worse experience [Gimp cough! cough!, Inkscape cough! cough!] the 99% of the time I'm actually doing work.

      *[and even then, the one thing that Linux is supposedly superior for; ie the choice of file managers, still falls short of even OSX's crappy Finder. It's 2022 and I still can't preview the contents of a file on Linux, without opening it]

      Downvote away. I know the truth hurts.

      1. ricegf

        Re: Chicken and egg

        Oddly, you seem to be in much more pain about this than Linux users!

      2. VoiceOfTruth

        Re: Chicken and egg

        -> video editing

        There are at least a couple of good pro level programs for video editing on Linux: DaVinci Resolve, and LightWorks. Just doing video alone is quite possible - nobody can say that DaVinci and LightWorks are not pro level.

        But if you want to put graphic design into the mix, you're right. I can't think of a single pro level graphics program for Linux. And nobody, absolutely nobody, mention GIMP (even though you did hahahaha).

        -> Why can so many Linux evangelists not get that simple fact into their skulls?

        Because they don't want to. Some of them are so obsessed that they metaphorically cut off their noses to spite their grimacing faces. I am a Linux evangelist, but I encounter some Linux nutcases.

        1. ebinrock

          Re: Chicken and egg

          Absolutely true about DaVinci Resolve in the video space. It's already the Hollywood standard for color grading/correction. And I think Adobe's finally getting scared of Blackmagic Design for all the improvements they're rapidly making in DaVinci for video editing, effects, and sound.

        2. LionelB Silver badge

          Re: Chicken and egg

          I think the truth is that the whole "Linux evangelist" thing is a little over-egged.

          At least on this forum, the Linux "evangelists" are basically people - like myself, and probably yourself - who use and like Linux, and for whom it works better than the alternatives. Or are we to call those who use Windows because it works better for them (perhaps because of software availability) Windows "evangelists"?

          It feels a little like one of those annoying "culture war" thingies that seem to be all the rage these days. Personally, I want no part of that.

          1. doublelayer Silver badge

            Re: Chicken and egg

            I don't know what term we should use, but I think they're not referring to you or me when they say that. There are many of us who use Linux, like Linux, and recommend Linux while acknowledging that there are things it doesn't do well or at all. Similarly, I will often recommend Linux but will on occasion recommend something else when that something is going to work better. There are those, however, who refuse to acknowledge any problems with Linux or who will always rant about anything else, and they also inhabit these forums. Your comparison to Windows is apt; people who use Windows and like it aren't a problem, but when someone comes along and says that Linux users would always get better results from Windows and only use Linux to satisfy their ego (an argument I've seen more often than I'd like), it's pathetic and annoying.

      3. LionelB Silver badge

        Re: Chicken and egg

        <shrug>I work in scientific computing, where Linux is de facto standard and has the appropriate tools, whereas Windows isn't and doesn't.</shrug>

        Is that a "truth" that's supposed to be "hurting" someone? The truth is I couldn't give a flying one whether the world and her brother choose to use a different OS. I'm fine that people use what works for them.

        1. ITMA Silver badge

          Re: Chicken and egg

          I agree Lionel.

          I don't give a monkey's if the desktop OS is Windows, Linux (of any flavour) or Pink Unicorn with tartan spots (Playshool Edition)!

          As long as it runs the applications we need to run our business and isn't a pain to support or maintain, it really doesn't matter.

          What works for you is fine. What works for us just happens to be Windows. It is not, and should be, a case of "My OS is better than yours 'cos I say it is"...

          Horses for courses...

      4. Simulacra75

        Re: Chicken and egg

        Could be mistaken, but doesn't Thelma Schoonmaker use Lightworks on Ubuntu for "video editing" ? She seems to get on alright.

  17. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    "Then there are all the newer containerized ways to install programs including Flatpak, Snap, and AppImage."

    I'd agree this lot need to die. Just stick whatever it is in /opt in its own little directory tree along with any dependencies you think might be troublesome.

    LibreOffice does this. It provides .deb and .rpm files with no need to bother about the specific distro using that particular package mechanism. (It also provides single packages for 32 & 64 bit Windows and for two CPU families of Mac.) The packaging mechanism looks after integration with the desktop - menus, file associations etc. and I assume the Windows and Mac options do the same thing.

    An alternative option is to simply provide a tar file to unpack in /opt. This leaves the user to integrate into the desktop although I suppose it might be possible to provide a post-install script to do it.

    1. katrinab Silver badge

      I think most people, if they want LibreOffice on Linux, use their distro's package manager to install it.

      These package managers usually come with a GUI frontend, which I never use, but works in much the same way as the Apple App Store, which many people are familiar with.

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        My main distro is Devuan which has a fairly old version (7.0.4) so I removed it and keep to the more conservative of the download options. But, yes, many will just use the distro version.

  18. Adair Silver badge

    '... that's not what Linux desktop fans want. They want Windows crushed and bleeding underneath the Linux juggernaut.'

    There's your strawman. Who says that's what 'Linux desktop fans' want? No doubt there are 'some' LDFs who want that, but I would hazard a guess that these days a substantial proportion really don't care, because their reasons for using a 'Linux desktop' have far more to do with 'getting stuff done', and/or 'legal and ethical principles' than caring about what MS are doing over there.

    Surely part of the point of FLOSS (incl. the Linux desktop) is that there can be n+1 number of desktops. Just as Linux, FLOSS, etc. have their place in the computing ecosystem, so too does Windows and other proprietary offerings.

    In general choice is good. Choice is even better with a healthy dose of 'freedom' injected into it. Except for those people who struggles with the reality that other people have ideas and needs that are different to their own.

  19. Alan Bourke

    This statement is so incorrect I've just had to lie down.

    "Sure, Windows users will still see what looks like a PC on their desk, but really it will just be a smart terminal hooked into a Windows 365 Cloud PC. The real computing smarts will be in the cloud."

    Not happening at any major scale, not ever.

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: This statement is so incorrect I've just had to lie down.

      You hope. But it's Microsoft's decision.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: This statement is so incorrect I've just had to lie down.

        No, really. People in places with fast reliable internet forget how many people don't have that.

        1. ebinrock

          Re: This statement is so incorrect I've just had to lie down.

          Exactly. There needs to be a vast global investment in fiber, and I mean fiber to the home (FTTH) as well as 5G. But FTTH would definitely be more robust - wires are almost always more reliable than spotty signals in the air.

    2. ecofeco Silver badge

      Re: This statement is so incorrect I've just had to lie down.

      Don't look now, but it's already happened.

      1. doublelayer Silver badge

        Re: This statement is so incorrect I've just had to lie down.

        Citation needed. There are cloud desktops, lots of them, from many companies. However, there are lots of non-cloud desktops, and often those using the cloud ones are accessing them from a fully functional non-cloud box instead of a thin client.

  20. lglethal Silver badge

    Statistics, Statistics, Statistics...

    So 60% of people say they use Windows as the primary workplace desktop. And 1% say Linux.

    What do the other 39% use? There cant be that many people using Android as their workplace desktop surely? And Chromebooks have never been that popular.

    So colour me confused?

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: Statistics, Statistics, Statistics...

      Chromebooks are probably in the mix and the rest will be Mac or Don't Know. Colour the latter Windows.

      1. DS999 Silver badge

        Re: Statistics, Statistics, Statistics...

        I suspect "don't know" in the lead for the remaining 39%, as Windows has a nearly 90% share in installed base with Mac taking most of the rest.

  21. eMarable

    Almost ready for the big L

    My first computer was the commodore 64. I have suffered with every version of Windows. 11 is my getting off point. I'm looking for a Windows-centric distro that has some futuristic browsers. I think that one of the reasons Linux is not attractive to the common non-techy has to do with the Elon musk effect. Linux distros expect people to learn them and get over the learning curve. Musk removed the learning curve and made it irresistible. If a distro came along that was as brain dead as windows and had futuristic versions of browsers included that say could read your text to you, remember where it left off when you close the browser, could organize and historically bring up large groups of tabs, and maybe two or three more eye popping things that nobody ever thought of.. if Lenox is going to make a dent it needs to wow the non-techy.

    1. yetanotheraoc Silver badge

      Re: Almost ready for the big L

      "Musk removed the learning curve and made it irresistible."

      Musk has a Linux distro?

      1. ITMA Silver badge

        Musk has a Linux distro?

        I bet it stinks!!! But attracts all the females....

      2. alisonken1

        Re: Almost ready for the big L

        I think he's confusion SpaceX with Canonical - both leaders came from the Dark Continent.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Almost ready for the big L

      Apples and oranges.

      You are comparing a pre-install windows setup with a install-yourself-linux.

      Give someone a pre installed linux computer and all you mention will be there.

    3. ecofeco Silver badge

      Re: Almost ready for the big L

      If you can use Windows, most Linux desktops work the same way. Menu top left, buttons top right. File Save, Print, etc., all in the same places.

      Installations and updates? Even easier.

      Install programs? Built in "store" just like Apple and MS.

      Add peripherals? Chances are Linux already has it loaded, just like the other Big 2.

      Tell us you haven't used Linux in years without actually telling us.

  22. umouklo

    Hello - I would like to engage you in a discussion about what is really wrong with the Linux desktop. It really doesn't have much to do with the variety of distros or interfaces. It really comes down to the fact that the developers are not interested in fixing the small holes (like printing and reliable drive mounting) that are required to really have a functioning desktop, plus the fact that support is really terrible (although you could argue it is for the other desktops as well). Interestingly, Linux applications have come a long way and are no longer really a problem. I have been using Linux since it first came out and Unix before that.



    1. thejoelr

      Have you used a modern distro? Last time I used Ubuntu it was great at printing. Better than windows. It autodetects my network printer and just adds it...

    2. ricegf

      Let's discuss!

      Sure, I'll bite. What printer do you have that won't work with which distro? What filesystem are you unable to mount?

      We used to laugh (good-naturedly) at Windows, because every time we bought a new printer it just worked with Linux whereas we had to manually install drivers for Windows. Windows is closer to Linux now in that respect, at least. They're learning.

      I've always had great difficulty mounting any non-Windows filesystem on a Windows machine, but have rarely found ANY filesystem that Linux can't mount.

      Of course, WSL 2 is getting much better at providing a reasonably good desktop Linux experience on Windows with minimal effort. My Chromebook's Linux support is also quite good. Perhaps you'd be happier taking that route instead of a native install?

      1. Ian Johnston Silver badge

        Re: Let's discuss!

        Sure, I'll bite. What printer do you have that won't work with which distro? What filesystem are you unable to mount?

        I bought a nice new Brother HL1210-W during lockdown. It does work with Xubuntu, but only once you track down the Brother drivers, which say they are for another printer. The out-of-the box drivers in Xubuntu put blobs at the bottom of each character.

        Network filesystems are an absolute nightmare to mount.

        1. ecofeco Silver badge

          Re: Let's discuss!

          I bought a nice new HP printer scanner and Win 10 STILL does not play nice with it.

          It MOSTLY work, but sometimes Win 10 says, "LOL wut? Yer printer is offline." when it obviously isn't.

          There. Now we both have anecdotes.

          1. Ian Johnston Silver badge

            Re: Let's discuss!

            Sure. I had an HP printer (one of the cheap all-in-ones) which I bought when I was in a hurry. Linux could see it and even make a stab at printing, but getting the scanner working required finding and running HPs own Linux driver software. Which to their credit existed, but finding it and then using the command line to install it was fiddly.

            That's two to one to Linux on anecdotes.

    3. nematoad

      Well I don't know about printing as I have never had any problems setting up my printers.

      When it comes to audio, you might have a point.

      The "magic bullet" that was supposed to sort out all the problems Linux had with audio was Pulseaudio. I have found it a complete PITA and the first thing I do when setting up a new install is ditch that piece of junk and drop to ALSA. It works for me and I don't have to put up with all the screeching and distortion that Pulseaudio seems to give on my systems.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward


        I dislike pulseaudio; it seems laggy and needs (or so it seems) to be restarted at odd intervals for no obvious reason; and restarting doesn't always work.

        However, alsa hardly ever worked for my use case - my main computer has multiple users logged in at once - mostly simultaneous versions of me, but also other users temporarily logged in on other vt's, and any of the other whoms may leave things running under a screen lock rather than logging out.

        Either alsa was unable to keep track (and I really wouldn't blame it), or I was too limited to work out the way to make it cope with that complicated situation. I guess the problem was that some programs expected to hog the sound output, and once several of them were running under different users at once there was no way for alsa (or perhaps my config-fu) to resolve the conflicts.

        But under pulseaudio, however horrible it is, most sounds get played according to the wishes of the various users, albeit with variable and sometimes multi-second start delays; which is better than I could ever get alsa to manage.

        So for me, pulseaudio is not so bad, and mostly even ok. But I'd happily swap it for something else that was less inscrutable and/or more reliable.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Pulseaudio

          Use FreeBSD. Audio-just-works. Harware/software mixing, independent mixers per channel etc. It's been like that over 20 years.

          Or, try and convince Linux people to get your crappy OSS implementation to work. That's what should have been done in the first place, but of course, "NIH"

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Pulseaudio

            2 downvotes? What he/she said is accurate. If you're going to downvote a factual post, at least explain why so your claims can be debunked.

        2. Ian Johnston Silver badge

          Re: Pulseaudio

          However, alsa hardly ever worked for my use case - my main computer has multiple users logged in at once.

          I generally have two users logged in and mostly audio only works for the first one. The second doesn't see any output devices at all. I don't know whether it's Pulse or ALSA playing silly buggers, so I just put it down as "Linux". Or maybe that should be "GNU/Linux".

  23. Boolian

    Thin client, slim pickings

    The 'cloudz'? - well that's just Winterm, what do I need a PC for?

    Anyway, Linux desktop isn't a juggernaut, it's a quiet adoption over time.

    Where everyone 'computes' on their phones and needs little more than a larger screen and keyboard (browsing, email, basic productivity suite and a printer) then fewer are shellling out hard earned dosh for bleeding edge PC's capable of running whatever the latest Windows horrorshow is.

    Yes, anecdotal, but I increasingly support 'friends n family' with 'ageing' PC's by banging eg Ubuntu, Mint, Linux Lite (or even Puppy, ha!) on their machines and walking away. No-one complains, fewer care and support calls tend to zero.

    Most PC users are what I call Pigeons - peck the button - a peanut falls out. We all know this truth. This demographic has no concept or interest in Gnome vs KDE, and package managers are whoever delivers their Amazon purchase.

    So, I wonder how long Microsoft's business model for the average domestic punter holds up, when they are not prepared to purchase the machines required to run the hulking great behemoth that is 'Windows OS'

    Times be hard - ask Joe, or Josephine public what they'd rather their budget went on - a new phone, TV, the leccy bill, gallon of fuel, or a new PC/Laptop and I can give you an accurate answer.

    So, if their PC's will no longer run Windows Resource Hog X, what can it run? Well a Linux Distro natch and that's what they are getting. Slowly and quetly, because I bet it's not just me implementing it.

    1. yetanotheraoc Silver badge

      Re: Thin client, slim pickings

      Very funny post.

      "Windows Resource Hog X" - The best (sic) thing about Windows is the hardware requirements. This means I can wander into any big box retailer, pick out last year's model on discount, and know that it will be blazingly fast running Linux.... Assuming I don't have too many browser tabs open.

      1. Claverhouse Silver badge

        Re: Thin client, slim pickings

        Tabs ? Well, at this moment I have 949 open in Pale Moon ( on PCLinuxOS KDE --- both deliberately crafted to look like it's 2012 ] --- this is a rare case, but... I have opened a lot of pages of images to view and download. Which once downloaded the browser will go back to ~300.

        This is a very old self-assembled PC, but with 16 GB of cheap RAM; most of which is swallowed by a VirtualBox instance at the moment --- but in no way has the computer gone slow for doing anything else.

        Mind you, I have been configuring my ideal PC, with 128 GB of RAM at Quiet PC, just in case I suddenly come into £6000, but that's merely because I would like that, not because I need it.


        As for Linux users wanting Microsoft destroyed, not something wanted by me: yet for their actions in the past [ and for the threats of what all Big Tech has in the future ], this is like Capital Punishment: on many levels I utterly oppose it, but when certain malefactors have suffered it, their records ensure I don't worry about it.

        1. jake Silver badge

          Re: Thin client, slim pickings

          WTF? 950 open tabs?? And 300 is NORMAL???

          Have you never heard of bookmarks?

          1. ecofeco Silver badge

            Re: Thin client, slim pickings

            LOL I was about say. I shudder to think of what their desktop looks like. You know the type. Every file and shortcut saved to the desktop.

          2. ITMA Silver badge

            Re: Thin client, slim pickings

            I think it is called sheer bloody laziness, lack of self discipline and a discorganised, untidy mind.

            If you can't even clean up your browser by closing tabs when finished with them, I dread to think what are like with other things left "hanging".

            Reminds me of the classic "child that spots a new toy" analogy - just drops the one(s) they have where ever they happen to be. Behind them a trail of discarded toys until their parents MAKE them tidy their room and put their toys away.

  24. MattPDev

    Value entertainment

    Every time I see a Reg article on OSes it makes me smile knowing the comments will provide a good source of entertainment. It makes paying Microsoft feel less ugly. Imagine how boring the computing world would be without MS to pick on.

    I use Windows because I want the OS to be as transparent as possible between the hardware I want and the software I want. Linux has never done that for me.

    I don't really understand the obsession with Desktop customisation, I don't see it as an application I regularly used.

    I also have no idea why I keep reading about ads in Windows 11. I had a good look around and couldn't find anything close. The new task bar is much better than the Win 10 panels trying to preempt what I want to do.

    I find the Windows key and 3 letters pretty much finds any application or setting I need, I don't even look at the UI.

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: Value entertainment

      "I use Windows because I want the OS to be as transparent as possible between the hardware I want and the software I want. Linux has never done that for me."

      Odd you should say that. My experience is the opposite. Don't tell me Microsoft have got rid of that opaque mass, the registry? Admittedly recent years have pushed Linux in danger of going the same way but as long as Devuan's about it's not really a problem.

    2. ecofeco Silver badge

      Re: Value entertainment

      Windows? Transparent? In what alternative universe is this?

  25. ebinrock

    It's about the apps, silly

    I would go back to Linux in a heartbeat if WINE could run all Windows applications flawlessly. I don't want Linux substitutes and I don't want compromises/hiccups, and sorry, I'm not a developer or sysadmin, so I'm not super tech savvy. I want to run my Windows apps on the desktop but I don't want the invasion of privacy or DaaS. It's either that or keep praying for more mainstream software companies to port to Linux (i.e., a pipe dream).

    1. LionelB Silver badge

      Re: It's about the apps, silly

      I.e., you want an Windows Without The Windows Annoyances. Linux is not, and never will be, that OS. That OS does not exist.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: It's about the apps, silly

        And why not?

        1. LionelB Silver badge

          Re: It's about the apps, silly

          That question is best directed to Microsoft.

    2. Irony Deficient

      I would go back to Linux in a heartbeat if WINE could run all Windows applications flawlessly.

      You could contribute your time and/or money to the Wine Project to help make that happen.

      1. Rockee

        Re: I would go back to Linux in a heartbeat if WINE could run all Windows applications flawlessly.

        Just get Windows and install WSL2. It will compatible with Windows app now. :)

  26. Joe Gurman

    Face facts

    The Linux desktop will never be as big as macOS now is, much less Windows.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Face facts

      Despite basically agreeing with the article, and even many of the comments, the fact you phrased it so directly meant you upset at least 4 linux fanboi downvoters!

      1. LionelB Silver badge

        Re: Face facts

        I suspect some of those downvoters will be regular Reg readers who come here for stimulating, informed discussion, and are mildly exasperated by childish, content-free flamebait. There are other forums for that.

    2. ecofeco Silver badge

      Re: Face facts

      The guts of modern MacOS is now Unix and has been for a few years now.

      1. gotes

        Re: Face facts

        It's not Linux, though.

  27. Lduvall

    When I was working in the US Department of Agriculture I used to frequently walk by the "Linux Team" wing in the South Building. I stopped one time and ask one of the techs about beng able to use Linux on my desktop - I don't recall which outdated version of Windows was on my locked-down work machine, but I used Linux on my personal computers at home. I was told it wasn't going to happen; the reason given was the support burden that would be incurred if Linux was available on USDA desktops.

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      That sounds like a manglement decision - or maybe Windows support wanting to keep themselves in business. Those of us doing family support know that the problems come form the Windows users.

      1. ecofeco Silver badge

        Those of doing support at every level know MS is shite and Apple is not far behind.

        1. ecofeco Silver badge

          Those of us...

  28. David 138

    Its too awkward for 99% of users which is why it only has 1%, but i feel thats how the users like it. OSX and Android are essentially polishing a usability turd. Users hate WIndows but they despise Linux.

    1. nematoad

      Users hate WIndows but they despise Linux.

      If only 1% use Linux how do the other 99% know enough about it to "despise" it?

  29. Chris Thomas Alpha

    What killed the linux desktop: package managers

    Underpinning a lot of problems with linux was always package managers. Device drivers too. But the primary way to get software onto your system is through a package manager. Which is a fancy zip file with some scripts in it for particular events during installation. This is what killed off linux as a desktop.

    Why is it that on debian the packages all depend on different packages? Why is it that files are installed into different places? Or that the filesystem has a dozen different configuration formats, all of which are nonsensical and pointless. It's just a massive pile of ego-masturbation and package managers are at the centre of that whole dogpile.

    Whats the real difference between an RPM, or a DEB file? There isn't none. Any different is artificial. So if you wanna support linux, why can't I just use one format and have one configuration system with multiple potential backends to store the actual config in any number of ways. But that said, why aren't configuration files json documents? Can you give me any technical reason why any format couldn't just be a standard, well described, well supported json format which is machine processable and human readable/editable? It would be lightyears ahead of the trash garbage which is installed into /etc right now with about ten different file formats and no consistent way to know which is which or machine scriptable way to interact with any of it.

    Expanding this point about consistency, what about configuration? Why can't I reliably get the ip address of my machine using a command instead of using sed, awk, and grep on the output from ifconfig, or is it ipconfig? or ip? or whatever tool it is today?

    I know I'm expanding my point a little bit here. But underpinning this entire message is the core theme. The basic standards of software installation and system configuration should have been standardised and resolved DECADES AGO. It's absolutely ridiculous that we have a dozen package managers installation files into a dozen different locations based on whatever distro decided to buck the trend and go it's own way. Why are they doing these random and pointless changes to how the /etc filesystem is stored? It's just ego, it's just empire building. We need to acknowledge that fact and then we might have a chance to fix it.

    But no doubt there are a dozen people gonna try to debunk my point by whatabout-isming it into oblivion and then nothing will get done cause nobody wants to accept this is a big problem that needs to be fixed.

    Last time I tried to make this point I got a bunch of comments about how this wasn't the biggest problem and then blah blah blah. Can we all just agree that whatever you're going to add to this message, is in fact another problem on top of my problem, instead of trying to debunk what I'm saying by just layering on another totally different thing? Would be nice right? To finally agree on something. We can both be right you know, it's not an either/or issue.

    Linux failed cause nobody was professional enough to do the right thing and instead we have a bunch of professional amateurs building distributions that now is an unfixable problem because those people are "validated" by their long tenures instead of being ridiculed for producing inconsistent piles of garbage all in the sake of brushing their own ego instead of doing the right thing.

    That's the underpinning problem of linux and unfortunately it's a problem that will never be solved.

    1. Ian Johnston Silver badge

      Re: What killed the linux desktop: package managers

      Why can't I reliably get the ip address of my machine using a command instead of using sed, awk, and grep on the output from ifconfig, or is it ipconfig? or ip?

      Because you don't know to type "hostname -I"? Your ignorance really isn't Linux's problem.

      1. Chris Thomas Alpha

        Re: What killed the linux desktop: package managers

        So you're not going to address the main topic of my comment and instead nitpick about one tiny detail which wasn't really the point of the comment. Great work my friend!

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: What killed the linux desktop: package managers

      Consistency? All files installed into logical places?

      Unified packaging / ports (pick and choose) ?

      No stupid things changing on the whim of some developer?

      Sounds like you should have tried FreeBSD not Linux.

      1. ~~

        Re: What killed the linux desktop: package managers


        Everyone complains about Linux fragmentation but no one supports the other open source operating systems that don't have this issue, they are just Windows fanboys complaining about everything in retaliation for telling the truth about their beloved OS.

  30. binary

    Too Many Linux Distros Lessens Its Value!

    "We have many excellent Linux desktop distros, which means none of them can gain enough market share to make any real dent in the overall market."

    Exactly! The reason no one picks up coconuts in the streets of Miami is because there are tons of them laying in the streets, which diminishes their value so no one cares.

    After using Redhat, SUSE, Manjaro, and Mint, I found that Mx Linux does everything better for me than the rest, so I am done with pointless installations of distros.

    Distrowatch can, and should bring up Linux' value by ignoring the wannabees past the top three distros posted on its site.

  31. AdamWill

    Fragmentation is a red herring

    I disagree that fragmentation is really "the problem", if problem there is. And ironically, the article's text sort of makes that point for me.

    Let's consider some of its arguments:

    "We have many excellent Linux desktop distros, which means none of them can gain enough market share to make any real dent in the overall market."

    OK, sure, but then...if you add up the market share of *all* of them, it's still not much.

    It's also worth noting there have been points in the history of Linux on the desktop where 'fragmentation' appeared much less significant. For a few years after Ubuntu emerged, love it or hate it, it was clearly and by a long chalk both the most popular and the most buzzy desktop Linux. That lasted for quite some time. But even still, its market share never got very high, and Canonical never made any money out of it.

    "None of the major Linux distributors – Canonical, Red Hat, and SUSE – really care about the Linux desktop. Sure, they have them. They're also major desktop influencers. But their cash comes from servers, containers, the cloud, and the Internet of Things (IoT). The desktop? Please. We should just be glad they spend as many resources as they do on them."

    This is true, and it's a good point, but *it has nothing to do with fragmentation*, does it? It would be true even if there were only one commercial Linux distributor. They still wouldn't be able to make much money off the end-user desktop.

    And in the end, that's the real problem: money. Exactly as you say, nobody has ever figured out the magic way to make money off desktop Linux (with the possible exception of ChromeOS; I dunno how the financials on that look, honestly, not sure if Google breaks it out). At this point, given how many people have tried, that probably means it isn't going to happen. And without a large and self-replenishing pile of money, shifting a behemoth like Windows is just not realistically going to happen.

    There are, rough guess (I'm too lazy to go look up the commit logs), probably less than 50 people in the world who are paid to work, full-time, on a *nix desktop environment (again excepting ChromeOS). That's *all* of them put together. So is fragmentation really the issue? Even if you got rid of all the desktops but one and put them all to work on that, 50 full-time devs is still not a large number. How many full-time devs do you think there are working on the Windows or macOS shells? It's a hell of a lot more than that.

    Ditto for the F/OSS graphics stack, only if anything it's probably worse. Ditto audio. Ditto bluetooth. Ditto, let's be honest here, basically any part of the OS that doesn't make Red Hat, Google, Facebook or (a bit less significantly, since they have much less in the way of resources) SUSE or Canonical some money.

    Given how few resources we (I'm the Fedora QA lead) have for this stuff, honestly, it's pretty amazing - and a tribute to the folks involved and the community volunteers who help - that Linux on the desktop works as well as it does. If you gave Microsoft or Apple the resources we have they probably wouldn't cut another release for a decade.

    That's the real issue, not fragmentation. Fragmentation is, if anything, more of a consequence. If you think about it, when it comes to the areas where Linux actually is a serious, money-generating player - in the cloud, on-prem in the enterprise, Android, maybe ChromeOS - there is *much less* effective fragmentation in those areas. Where there's money to be made, a dominant player or a handful of them somehow emerge naturally. There's one serious player in Linux phones - Google with Android. ChromeOS is also all Google. There's a handful of serious players in the enterprise and the cloud - Red Hat, SUSE, Canonical, plus Debian for non-commercial cases. There aren't dozens and dozens of serious enterprise distros. If there was real money in the Linux desktop, the same pattern would likely emerge.

    1. Gorkin48

      Re: Fragmentation is a red herring

      There's more to it than that. Linux never tried to play nice with proprietary software vendors, and that screwed anyone who uses their computer for work. I'm senior management at a firm selling a software product that EVERYONE in the relevant field uses. Wanna know what would inspire my company to port for Linux? Inter-distro binary compatibility, and stable APIs. Nothing short of that will do. I can tell you firsthand that we are not alone.

  32. Boris the Cockroach Silver badge

    Having been

    a victim for m$ for many years

    The only things that keep windows alive is m$ office and "no one gets fired for buying m$"

    Lets face it..... windows is crap compared to some linux distros, and for some strange reason m$ make it slower with more eye candy every time they do a new release.(along with slurping as much data as they can) with the result my 5 yr old dual booter PC takes 90 secs to get to a linux desktop... while the win10 desktop appears after 40 seconds or so (and the computer remains unusable for 30 mins+ because its 'scanning' and running update and m$ technical telemetry etc etc)

  33. Rockee

    Windows with WSL2 is a great "Linux distro". Love it. That might become the most popular "distro" out there one day.

  34. Rockee

    Get the "best" Linux distro there is. 100% compatible with Windows apps. It's called... Windows with WSL2 installed. :)

  35. Kev99 Silver badge

    Windows As A Service will be worth considering once the internet/cloud has 1024-bit encryption as the minimum security, and absolutely NO telemetry go back & forth to the servers. Until then, I stick with my PC running client only software. If office365 or google docs is any indication of what an online office software will be like, my determination to stick with a PC based application will only grow.

  36. Uncle Ron

    Ok, Here's My Problem:

    Most of the Linux desktops are just fine and dandy for me. IMO, they all work more or less the same. It took me about a half-hour to install Zorin OS (dual boot) and get it up and running on a new-to-me refurbed Lenovo desktop shipped with Windows 10. If it came pre-installed and customized by one of the top-tier vendors, it would be every bit as good as a pre-installed Windows machine. As with most things in my IT experience, it takes 10% of the time to get 90% of what you want. The remaining 90% of the time is required to get that pesky 10%, which, in my case, is 1) VNC to and from my other local Windows machines, and, 2) NETWORK SHARES !!! There are a few apps that I love that don't do a Linux version (like FastStone Image Viewer) but I have found a decent Linux substitute, and I will find substitutes for the others.

    My point is that Linux (on the desktop--not Android) could certainly become the dominant desktop. The 4 or 5 or 6 'top' distros are, IMO, interchangeable. They ALL use the same kernel, so again, IMO, they really don't represent fragmentation. I would truly love just forget MS with the insulting Windows 11 and see them just go away.

  37. sabroni Silver badge

    Great stuff guys! - Bogbrush


  38. ratkil

    The circle continues

    Having worked in this industry for over 3 decades now (disclaimer, not a claim to ability or know how, just as a reference to time observing) it is like most things purely cyclical, as others have mentioned. Though the infrastructure has changed the rotation between centralised and decentralised has come and gone 3 times in my professional lifetime thus far. What I find interesting is that the argument between centralised and decentralised is actually quite similar to the argument between desktop OS's. There is an ongoing battle between what many would like to see happen and reality. A cloud based system would be awesome, but in reality we are still a very long way from this being successful everywhere for everyone. An owned by all desktop operating system would be awesome but we are long way from it being a useable reality for the mainstream user.

    I am a hybrid in that I kind of straddle two worlds, IT and operations. I have IT knowledge to figure out how to make things work but I also have to keep in mind there is limited time and I have a day job of making sure everything is working day to day. Thus while often I do find myself tweaking and fighting with things to make them work correctly because I want it to work my way, more often than not I just need it to work mostly correctly now and on the first try for efficiency and so I can get on to the next task.

    Long story short, though I have lived a life as a Unix system admin and Linux user I have been saying since the 1990's Linux would never be the mainstream user interface because it/we are our own worst enemies.

  39. Tommy Pock

    You're confusing fragmentation with choice.

  40. untrained_eye_of_newt

    linux saves us from environmental catastrophe by recycling old computers

    I just installed Ubuntu 18 on a 10 year old HQ touchscreen pavilion missing a battery. Installed pulse secure, microsoft teams and zoom. Shined it up with a microfiber cloth. I intend to get value out of it this coming monday when I will work from my second home before I jet off to california to fulfill a travel obligation.

  41. 54bombay

    Linux is ok

    I use Linux zorin 16 Pro on my main system and plex system.

    It good does all I want plus can run Windows apps using wine. Like ms office.

    It's solid and reliable.

    Plus it can be made to look like other OS apple, Windows etc.

  42. belowdabridge

    Why the fragmantation counts

    My initial thought was "true, but that doesn't worry me", then I realized that without a common install framework, something as simple as "download the correct version ( of 4 choices ) and run it", the software I stay on Windows for won't run on Linux.

    It's not the "I've got to check that that file really looks right in Word" - which happens sometimes, it's Rockwell Software and Siemens, ans Schneider, and ... for PLC and HMI programming, it's interface to the Phillips XRF, or Faro's arm, it's CAD ( I paid for Gcad, it's damn close to good enough for schematics, but still has places that don't quite work. - and the big shop standard is EPlan ). And at 3D, I haven't found anything that will do assemblies.

    So I'm stuck with Windows.

  43. ChadF

    " and over half-a-dozen different major ways to install software such as the Debian Package Management System (DPKG), Red Hat Package Manager (RPM), Pacman, Zypper, and all too many others. "

    There has also been CPIO, TAR, ZIP, RAR and others.. but nowadays it isn't uncommon for a single tool to be able to handle most archive formats, since they are just variants of the same conceptual thing. In the same way, package files are just variations of each other, so there is little technical reason why package manages can't read each other's formats, at which case it becomes more of just a user interface difference. Ideally, they could also use the same system database format(s), so you could use them interchangeable based on personal preference the same way someone uses the text editor of choice to edit the same files (but we're not quiet there yet).

    Perhaps what's really needed is a non-profit organization who's goal is to help unite various distros with common APIs, without preference to any particular distro. If being a member of such an organization can provide additional developers (or direct funding), it might encourage them to be less fragmented, or eventually merge distros once the differences become trivial.

  44. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    "Distrowatch currently lists 270 – count 'em – Linux distros"

    Just a small correction, it's not 270 Linux distros, Distrowatch also counts other systems like BSD and OpenSolaris derivatives and other operating systems that don't use the Linux kernel as distros, which are outside the scope of this article. However, if all of this were true, we would not even be using Linux, but rather some BSD derivative since they are centralized developments, which means that they are more unified than Linux. Unfortunately the facts are different, and deny this myth and others.

    The very existence of these operating systems also makes totally impossible and unfeasible to consolidate a unified and single desktop environment on Linux, because whoever manages to do that will kill Linux in the long run because another similar system will emerge and replace it, in fact thanks to things like systemd interest in the FreeBSD desktop is growing, and that's only going to grow that interest much faster than the FreeBSD devs ever imagined.

  45. Gorkin48

    You're missing a huge chunk of the picture, and I speak as someone who works for a prominent software vendor. You wanna know why my company's software is not, has never been, and never will be, ported to Linux? It's too friggin' hard. We're not going to re-compile and redistribute our stuff every time a new version of Ubuntu comes out, and also do the same thing for Fedora, Arch, Suse, and half a dozen others that would arguably be too large to ignore. More to the point, we ARE NOT going to release the source code. It's not happening.

    The ideal time for Linux to assert itself would have been around 2007 or so. Everyone hated the new version of Windows, and Apple was scrabbling around for a new identity. But the Linux community failed to understand where the battle was. Everyone was knocking themselves out to reinvent the desktop paradigm, when the average end-user doesn't give a single crap about that; the average end-user just wants a platform from which to launch applications. For anyone who actually uses their computer for work, none of the free apps were suitable. Seriously, spend a month with Adobe Photoshop, then spend a month with Gimp, and get back to me. You can't compete with a small army of paid developers.

    Would the proprietary application vendors have ported to Linux? My company would have. But Linux failed to make it EASY. What was needed wasn't a restructuring of the desktop. What was needed was inter-distro binary compatibility, and stable APIs/ABIs. At this juncture it is far too late for that. Even now, as Linux is starting to offer things like Flatpack, there's a a friggin' format war. Give me a break. Can't you guys get together on ANYTHING?

  46. Mike_R

    Lies, damn lies and statistics

    "Overall, just 1 percent of employees report usage of Linux on their primary laptop used for work. "

    On any PC where I have a choice, I run Linux. Unfortunately due to the dictates of my employer, for work usage I have to run (hawk, spit) a laptop running a locked-down installation of Windows 10. For sure I'm not the only user in that situation (check users in government employ, other hide-bound organizations...)

    I would prefer even a locked-down distro, but NO!!

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