Linux

Is too much choice getting in the way of Linux' acceptance?

During a conversation with a member of the Linux foundation, Jack Wallen had the seed of an idea planted. The idea germinated very quickly, leaving behind the realization that the grand scheme of Linux is being hindered by one of its best "features" -- choice.

Last week I was having a discussion with one of the members of the Linux Foundation about a series of articles I am writing for Linux.com. The series centers around helping new users either discover open source alternatives to Windows applications and/or help the new user learn how they can run those "must have" Windows applications by emulation or virtualization.

During this discussion we discussed what it would take to create a "definitive manual" for new Linux users migrating from Windows. It became all too clear that there is one issue at the heart of the creation of any single "definitive manual" for the Linux operating system. That issue? Too many choices.

I know, I know...absolute crazy talk. But hear me out before you label me a mad man. This issue is fairly key to the wider adoption of Linux.

When someone comes to you asking for help in the migration from Windows to Linux how do you help them? You might start off telling them about the fundamentals of Linux, how it came to be, and what open source means. You will discuss the abundance of applications available. You will discuss the Linux desktop and how many choices there are. And that discussion will fuel the first flames of confusion. When this confusion builds you will eventually come around to the topic of distributions. It is at this point where you can finally start showing your newbie the similarities and differences between Windows and Linux.

Now, imagine that scenario if you didn't have to worry about finally getting to the point where you had to sell the user on a distribution. Imagine, if you will for a moment, there was only one "officially sanctioned and supported" Linux distribution. How much easier would the task of migrating users be? Not only would you not have to worry about standardization, you would also speak the same language as other Linux users and gurus.

We all know there is a standards-based organization - the Linux Standards Base. This organization works in conjunction with the Linux Foundation to come to some semblance of standards for the Linux operating system. This hasn't been an easy task because their are so many distributions to standardize. But imagine if one distribution could be chosen above all else to "officially represent" and be sanctioned by the Linux Foundation, Linus, and possibly a governing body made up of developers, media, and corporate sponsors.

This distribution could easily be the focal point of plenty of documentation, education, support, you name it. Migrating from Windows would become a piece of cake because every user of the "official Linux" would speak the same language for a change.

Think about it for a moment. Let the idea sink in. Now, would you be willing to give up your favorite distribution for this to happen? Or would you be willing to accept the idea that your favorite might have to become nothing more than a variant of the "official distribution"? Because we all know that even this wouldn't stop the open source community from continuing to create the way they do. But even if forks of the "official distribution" were developed, there would still be "the one" that companies and new users could migrate to and know what they were getting, know that they could get world-wide, standardized support.

Would you be willing to go this far so that Linux could make that leap it has been wanting to make for years? And how do you think this would affect Linux in general? Would it be a step forward? If not this, how far would you be willing to go to help Linux gain further acceptance?

About

Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and Linux.com. He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website getjackd.net.

70 comments
Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

acceptable? This is commercial thinking. A distro fair enough. If they aen't cuttng it, and quite obviously they aren't you wish to solve their lack with a committee of vested interests an impose a choice on me? F888 that. Going down this route might give YOU everything YOU want, what does it give ME though? I don't give a crap whether whether some distro takes over MS's mantle as the OS of choice. If Ubuntu is anything to go by, I wouldn't touch it with a barge pole anyway.

rhutchinson81
rhutchinson81

Personally if we are going to ever have a "Official Distribution" I would have to say that It would need more of a newbie Friendlier systems for example it would need something like Debian Uses like Apt-get and dpkg as its package manager. I find it easier with new linux users to use Debian's Package manager. Also it would be required to make setup easy and pain free. A "Official linux distribution" would be nice in theory but its it possible?

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

As a long time Windows user, I agree the number of options can be intimidating. After dabbling with a few distros, there are still choices I feel unable to make easily. I voted "I don't know", but after thinking about it I feel an 'official' distribution, just by itself, won't make any difference. Unless you can persuade hardware vendors to pre-install it on new systems, an 'official' distro won't get any farther with Joe Keyboard than existing distros. Home users run the OS that came pre-installed. They don't load or reload the OS unless they're forced to; then they pay someone else to do it. Most of them don't upgrade their OS; if a new version is available, they'll wait until they can buy hardware with the upgrade pre-installed. Of course, if someone could get the hardware vendors on board, he or she would have already done it with Ubuntu. That's the closest thing there currently to an 'official' distro as far as Joe is concerned (if he's heard of Linux at all).

Morcas
Morcas

linux has come a long way in the last few years. My first distribution was suse, around 10 years ago, but for one reason or another, I had to go back to Windows. Recently I have been evaluating the modern distributions with any eye to finally moving in that direction. To be honest, it's a mess. Obviously Ubuntu has made the biggest impact, and is in some ways the defacto standard, but the choice doesn't end there. If I choose that path, which flavour should I go for, Gnome, Kbuntu, XFCE... I appreciate that these are only window managers, but to first time Linux user it's confusing. Beyond that, well it's a mine field. I've downloaded the top 10 distributions as listed on distro watch. All have been installed into the exact same environment. Almost 50% of those downloaded didn't want to install and all for different reasons. I have eventually decided on Mint as my distribution of choice, but I haven't finalised, which flavour. I'm sure I'll get flamed but I hear the same noise from the majority of windows users when the topic of moving to Linux arises. That is 'it's too complicated", "too many choices, which is best for me" etc.

Morcas
Morcas

If the possibility of a single standardised distribution for the masses became a reality, which may potentially help uptake, It wouldn't necessitate you having to give up your personal freedoms and conform. You'd still be free to choose whichever distribution makes you happy. Linux is no longer the plaything of geeks and propeller heads, 'ordinary' people are deciding they want to use it too. I believe Mark Shuttleworth has a vision and it's being, slowly but surely, realised in Ubuntu. Is that a bad thing?

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

As the newest tools, Aptitude is great on top of apt-get and dpkg managers. It does all that apt-get tools do while also maintaining a database of what packages where requested versus required as dependencies. When you uninstall an asked for package, the orphan dependency packages go too. I'm loving the .deb package management in general after years of urpmi though. I'm not big on the full screen graphic aptitude so much but if your using apt-get, I'd recommend moving to aptitude for all those command line things.

ivorjosephson
ivorjosephson

Can you remember when you could walk into a high street electronics chain store and buy a net book with linux installed on the solid state disk? then suddenly two things happened, the price of the Windows based conventional disk machines came down and the Linux machines disappeared, I think they were "leaned on" by Microsoft.

csmith.kaze
csmith.kaze

You know. If there is one person in this world i absolutely loathe, it would be "Average Joe". I don't know why, but i hate this guy. As a long time (relative to years using computers) Windows user I found that Linux is the only way to go. To me it was closer to seeing the light than making a business decision. Freedom is very important me. There are some Vendors with Linux computers (Dell) and some with only linux (System76). I wish Dell would offer Ubunutu on all and not hide their measly selection under twenty pages of "Are you sure you didn't mean Windows pages". And "Average Joe" sucks.

bill.tkach
bill.tkach

Linux is a system that is designed to be flexible and give you many options. Windows, is designed to give you options that lock you into one standardized way of doing things. Mac restricts you even more so. It tries to simply everything so that there is only one way, reduce the clutter so to speak. Now, backtracking to Linux, I do agree that having too many distributions can cause headache, as well as decrease how easily a piece of software will be received by the community as a whole. If you have to make your code work on ten distributions of Linux, that extra work might seem like to much overhead. Plus having 10 variations of software on might cause users to be annoyed as well, when they see something work on one and not another. As a user your best bet is to go with one of the leaders, since they will have the best support and functionality for you. If there is something specific one of the other distributions offers, than you can select that one.

alaniane
alaniane

"You might start off telling them about the fundamentals of Linux...discussion will fuel the first flames of confusion. When this confusion builds you will eventually come around to the topic of distributions." The problem is that if you follow the above method, you're going about things backwards. When I'm given specs to design a new module for our in-house app, the first question I ask is what does the client need? What functionality are they expecting? Then I tailor my responses to that need or functionality. If you start off explaining all the different versions out there and what they offer without first finding out what the user wants then yes the user is going to become confused. For that matter, Windows software choices can also daunting. Do I use Eclipse, Rational, Visual Studio, Borland C++, C++ Builder, Visual Age C++, MASM, TASM, Microfocus, and a plethora of other programming ides/compilers/assemblers for my projects? Depends on what I want to do. The same goes for Linux distributions and software choices. Before explaining all the choices out there, first find out what the user wants to do. If he just wants a simple small business setup with an accounting package and office suite then show him what is available in those areas. You don't have to explain that he can also find a terminal emulator for IBM mainframe (something he is probably never go need, but can be indispensable to someone else). There is no one complete answer or solution for everyone's IT needs.

amoeba
amoeba

Is to be friendly and genuinely interested in the user. Ask what they need their computer to do, how they want it to look, etc; and set it up that way. Several of my best clients continue to come to me for support because I took the time to fit it to their needs/likes. I even have my mom (accountant), wife (also an accountant), kids (ages 17 to 7), and various others using linux, all I had to do was know what they wanted and match them to the best distro for them.

brokenspokes
brokenspokes

I agree that there are too many points of entry to the GNU/Linux world. Besides being totally open and free, GNU/Linux platform isn't doing things that the vast majority of people expect of a top-shelf desktop OS. For a refreshing look at how things should be, everyone should look at Apple OSX or even BeOS. With OSX, you can play all you want in the GUI side without worrying about breaking anything. Anything can be installed in that environment using a standard package format. Want to install some open source stuff on the command line? Mac ports is at the rescue. Apache, MySQL, Ruby or Rails, etc are all at the ready in a standard place. Want to go deeper by compiling stuff? The necessary tools are there. Don't beat users over the head with geek stuff from the moment they turn the computer on. Present a clean, consistent interface to everyone but give power users and developers the option to muddy the waters if they want to. There was (is...Haiku) BeOS. I remember what a joy it was to play with BeOS. It was unheard of to have a rock- solid graphical partition manager on the PC that laid out the disks in a nice manner, but the BeOS engineers did it. There isn't a single GNU/Linux distribution that comes to that level of fit, finish and polish even today. Is it because too many people are re-inventing the wheel too many times? I think so.

lucy.georges
lucy.georges

I believe that there is a lot to be said for a single distro, but latecomers to Linux are each very different, and as such one distro might not "fit all". Many users actually adapt to unfamiliar interfaces reasonably quickly, although some may need the "illusion of a close-enough clone such as PC Linux OS. Chiefly what is important is that the distro be easy to install (hell not even 5 percent of windows users install their OS) and most importantly that everything work OUT OF THE BOX (or at least essentials). Beyond the working, quick boot requirements, a user needs to be in action ASAP, and I think any "standard" needs to heed the advice of usability experts so that things are as smooth as possible. Linux has one major advantage - and that is the notion that the system is secure and immune to viruses - a reputation that needs to be guarded like a daughter's virginity! Oh, and a distro needs a minimum of the best free and open source software preinstalled which illustrates that one can get by on Linux (except for hardcore gaming) for zero outlay. I just wish my colleagues could adapt (and none of them is a gamer!!!)

jim_murrell
jim_murrell

My "hands-on" experiences goes back to the days of debate of System V vs. BSD. I have a hard time settling on the distribution even for myself. I mostly use Ubuntu at home but settled on it only because of Edubuntu and what if offered for my 8 yo grandson. I also use RHEl 5 (CentOS 5) at home but mostly because I test stuff in preparation for client who mostly run RHEL servers. I have a small PCLinux but mostly because of its ability to deal with different filesystems. What would I suggest to the typical user going from Windows to Linux? I am really not sure. Everything I've tried with ubuntu has been pretty trivial except formatting large NTFS USB drives. I was developing a shell script on ubuntu earlier today and was dismayed that there was no ksh but the fix for that was simply ftp'ing one over from my RHEL box into the proper directory...not even something the "average" windows user would ever want to do but says something about an underlying uniformity among distributions. I installed ubuntu for one friend who didn't like UNTIL I changed the background colors then loved it. I guess the blue reminded her more of Windows which she had been using. I believe choices for a distribution are best made by asking the users what they like most about Windows.

pmietzner
pmietzner

You have taken the bull by the horn! I have only recently migrated my laptop to Linux (Ubuntu. Finding out which distro to use has not been easy. If I take all the time taken to download and evaluate the various flavours and had converted that to money (including the cost of the Internet connection - not cheap in our part of the world and definitely not unlimited broadband 24/7), I could have easily bought two copies of Windows and Office and would have been happy forever after WITHOUT having to learn new tricks, WITHOUT having to get used to new ways of doing the same thing, WITHOUT having to learn how to convert a tar.gz or a tar.bz2 into something useable in Ubuntu and WITHOUT having to jump through hoops to find a programme equivalent to the one I need and have worked with for a decade or more. It may sound na?ve, but, since I do not play games and therefore do not need the latest and greatest in processor or graphics card, I am seriously considering dumping Ubuntu and buying an upgrade to my Vista licence and buying a new licence for my old XP. I always consider that I am not using the Windows programme all that much. 97% of the time I am in one or other application and I don't notice the background or basis that much. And, please, don't come with the "free". On my desktop, which features XP SP3, I have have only TWO programmes that one would call commercial and that cost me additional money: Office and a certain application I need. The rest is all Open Software/ Freeware (Firefox/Chrome/Thunderbird). Also don't talk to me about updates. My laptop on Ubuntu needs updates as much and as often as my XP desktop. I have started out with Kernel Linux 2.6.28.10 As of today's date (11 August 2009) that has advanced to 2.6.28.15!!!, while 2.6.30 et al still lie ahead of me. And |I only started in mid-May! On the other hand, I do enjoy learning new things and I do enjoy Ubuntu, but except for the bit about giving the "money-sucking behemoth MS" even more money, Linux simply does not yet make very much sense.

lefty.crupps
lefty.crupps

I think most Linux users welcome new users into the Free Software realm, but once a new user picks a different distro than I am using, support often ends there. Yes there are plenty of similarities among the apps and filesystem, but if Distro U changes something to be different from the other distros, not knowing about that change can make support difficult. So, I'll support any linux distro as the Official one, as long as it is my favorite distro. Obviously I kid, but that is the way it is. I have no interest in supporting a GNOME environment due to its GConf 'registry' and its 'simplicity' which makes real work impossible, and I wouldn't suggest others use it. But plenty of people disagree with me, which is fine. Is there one standard of house which should be built, and no others? One type of car? Free Software is a raw material, and people can build whatever they want; distros will continue to be made with this material and there is little we should want to do to stop this. As a side note, I had that exact conversation last night: "Free Software is blah blah, window managers blah blah choice blah, which many softwares are combined into distros blah blah blah, so what I use is Debian with KDE 4..." Confusing, yes, unfortunately. Computers are complex tools. I don't know the solution except for user education, perhaps a license to use a computer, as they can cause untold damage in the wrong hands.

rfolden
rfolden

This "debate" has been going on for some time. Go here... WARNING! NOT SAFE FOR WORK, and not safe for those who easily get their wittle feewings hurt... http://linuxhaters.blogspot.com/ Enjoy.

Peconet Tietokoneet
Peconet Tietokoneet

Choices in Linux is a good thing. It is like nice wine, lots of different labels with different tastes. But you do get crappy wine from time to time. So when it comes to NO choice then you are stuck, like in Windows. For Linux you pick the best for you, for what you want it to do, not for the colour. I have Xandros (yes a nice Linux system): http://www.xandros.com/ I picked it because it does the work that i want it to, and yes i have tried near on every flavour of Linux before i picked it. SO choices are good, not having a choice and just having one flavour does not work for me, just like wine. If you do NOT like it try another. :)

maruadventurer
maruadventurer

Talk to any 100 Win users and maybe 5 have ever loaded the OS from bare metal. They have never had to face the choice of which file system. Or partitions for that matter. It all came preinstalled. So when I hear complaints of its too complicated, what they are really saying is that they are lazy and expected the Win environment to already be loaded on their machine. (Or Linux for the same reason.)

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

For first time users, the distribution defaults are a good place to start. Sure, there are umpteen window managers but the user is not being force to choose. If one must make a choice; look at a screenshot of Ubuntu, look at a screenshot of Kubuntu, pick one. Most people pick there first DE based on appearances. If they user takes interest then get into the details after. I think much of the confusion around distributions is imposed rather than required. The key concept is that a distribution is a separate company's product. Once you realize that they are not all the same product or meant to do the same thing; your all set. Distribution selection is really not as hard as it's made out to be. Even easier for first time users who won't be greatly effected by the differences. I'd say your approach was about right; grab a bunch and try them out if your more tech savvy and have the time. Mint does look like a good distribution and when you've not bought your hardware with the intent to run non-Windows on it, there is some trial and error. Now, standards I am all for. More compliance within the file structure, file format standards respect, hardware standards compliance. Absolutely; those things help all platforms including the Linux based ones. This is different from having one core distribution to rule them all. When you where testing and if you tried Debian and Mandriva, what where the snags for those two? There may be an easy fix or something new to add to my notes on them.

Slayer_
Slayer_

Even the part about the fact that you will get flamed.

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

MS use it's market dominance to maintain it's position? Something like well seeing as you are not selling as many windows machines we'll have to increase the price of your OEM copy maybe... You have a nasty cynical mind sir. LMAO. :D

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

But there are a lot more of him than us, and they control a lot more money than we do.

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

They only have to make it compile with the modern libraries. It's up to the distribution maintainer to take that sourcecode, compile it into a binary and package it for the repository. The developer only need be sure the program runs. If they feel that they must package for the distributions to get the software introduced; do a deb and an rpm for the top two brand names and all the child forks are covered or easily modified themselves. Consider Mozilla, they don't do a Debian Firefox, Ubuntu Firefox, Red Hat Firefox, Mandriva Firefox, Suse Firefox, ... They due a Firefox source code download and a Firefox compiled binary which runs easily on many different distributions. If the distribution doesn't have a packaged Firefox for some reason, one can easily add it themselves. In the case of Debian, a 64bit Firefox was not available on Mozilla's website yet Debian already has a 64bit compiled version available. With hardware support, it's even easier. Hardware developers only need work with Linux, Xorg or the Linux driver project and all the distributions are covered. There is definitely variety in the choices of software but from the developer side, it's not as complicated as people try to make it. Things manage to remain much more compatible without giving up true market competition.

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

I'm not sure if it's in the *buntu repositories but I can't see why it wouldn't be. "aptitude search ksh" will answer that easily enough though.

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

Looked like some f***wit masturbating in public to me. Maybe I'm missing the social context though, after all I'm a geek.... PS you owe me six minutes and twenty-two seconds of my life.

Smeags
Smeags

Why do you say you have no choices in Windows? Windows gives many more choices than Apple. Apple is way more restrictive than Windows. It's either i-this or i-that. As an individual that enjoys building my own PC's, Apple is not an option at all. It's either you use this Apple product or you don't.

john3347
john3347

"So when I hear complaints of its too complicated, what they are really saying is that they are lazy and expected the Win environment to already be loaded on their machine. (Or Linux for the same reason.)" When you hear complaints that it's too complicated, what they are really saying (in most instances) is that they have job demands on their time (that are not computer related), they have family related demands on their time (that are not computer related), they have home maintenance demands on their time (that are not computer related), etc., etc. In other words, the computer is just not the focal point of their life and they do not have (do not prioritize) the time and effort to learn what is clearly a time and effort consuming project to learn "Linux". They can buy a computer with an OS preinstalled that they are familiar with and take it out of the box and begin "doing what they do with their computer" with a Windows OS. They cannot do that with a Linux OS. A computer enthusiast buys (or builds) their computer, then customizes it to their liking - very often with some Linux OS. An automobile enthusiast buys a new car and immediately, or soon thereafter, puts some custom wheels and various other specialty items on it and polishes it and "caresses" it. The computer enthusiast calls the automobile enthusiast lazy because they do not prioritize a gob of time to their computer. Likewise, the automobile enthusiast calls the computer enthusiast lazy because they do not choose to spend time and effort customizing their automobile. NOW, when Linux developers understand this concept and realize that the computer is not the focal point of the lives of the masses, Linux will make HUGE headway as a viable OS for the masses. Until then Linux will remain a niche OS for the computer enthusiast. Assigning the title of "primary Linux distribution" to any one distribution without making it "easy" will accomplish nothing to increase market penetration. edit: When this distribution that I speak of appears, it will automatically become "THE Linux" distribution and will need no such designation by convention. The masses will have their "THE Linux" and enthusiasts will still have as many variations as they desire. That's my story, and I'm stickin' to it !!!

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

Just because you and I have nothing better to do than test-drive OSs until the wee hours of the morning doesn't make others 'lazy'. If I gave you a free engine for your car, better than the one you have now, would you spend time acquiring the skills and tools needed to install it, or the time to arrange a loaner while you performed the work? If not, are you lazy? No, you just have things you'd prefer to do (like installing OSs). Same with those users. They're interested in USING their computers, not overhauling them to get the last bit of performance out. Linux isn't too complicated, but they have other things they'd rather do with their computers.

xfilz_1133
xfilz_1133

go with one of the defaults. I think Ubuntu desktop is a good for a starter, but you may go through a couple of distros before you find the one that you like. It may take a little time and patience to find one, but look on the bright side...for the most part they're all free and the most it could cost you is a couple of headaches and a bunch of CDs/DVDs. :)

lachgil
lachgil

I am a long time Windows user who has attempted to migrate to linux a couple of times over the last 5 years. One problem that I have found is that the distribution aren't necessarily that simple to setup. When you install Windows you get all a barebones system with enough features to get u by without having to install extra components with a few exceptions eg. the office suite (I'm not going there). This of course depends on what u want a PC for. Things that are obvious inclusion in the OS are left out: A prime example is that of codecs and other media centre type software which is out there but just not included in the distribution. With Linux there just isn't adequate support for a total multifunction distribution that works out-of-the-box. Ubuntu is very close. Unifying Linux however may tidy things up considerably. As most Linux distributions run on the same core it would be reasonable to suggest that different UI's could be applied to the same distribution. An end user could choose the UI and install it onto the supported Linux core OS. People would still be able to choose the interface that they feel happy with and have all the benefits of a centrally supported OS. The issue then becomes what becomes part of the supported OS and what doesn't. And what will work and what won't. From the point of view of a long time Windows user and and IT enthusiast I want to take the leap into the Linux community but I have been reluctant to as I lack the time to spend setting up a distribution exactly how I want it; downloading and installing extra packages to get the required software. 90% of the software I require is ready to go but its the hassle that it takes to get hold of the remaining 10% of the software that stops me. I look forward to trying the latest Ubuntu distribution and to a time when I can just get rid of Windows

Slayer_
Slayer_

It's like making waves at a guy standing on a log in the middle of a lake. Completely unneeded "weirdness" and change. IF your trying to look Windows Like, use a Windows Like Clock. It's simple things like this that throw out big questions about the Analysts for these distros. Even dumber is how hard it is to change to to a standard 12 hours clock. Should be as simple as "Right click" the clock and choose "settings".

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

The original poster provided there own experience adding to the discussion where your post simply drew the attention of anyone who was looking for the first easy flame.

Bernie S
Bernie S

The figure was "4X", and was given by an executive in an interview, that was _actually_ conducted before the product in question was _actually_ shipped. And when it was shipped, it didn't even work -- the OEM hadn't actually bothered to set it up correctly (or, obviously, put it through basic Quality Assurance before releasing). In short, it was nothing but a ploy to leverage better licensing terms from MS, and never was intended as a genuine product release. Meanwhile, Dell and HP have noted that a third of their netbook sales are Linux models, and return rates for those are no higher than Windows models. Of course, their products actually work well, as shipped. Go figure...

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

Between poor sales staff knowledge, placement within stores and websites, missing the "what do you want to use this for" question off the start.. it wasn't just the system's OS platform at fault with those returns. I also hear that percentage wise, the Windows returns where pretty close. Mind you, there isn't a netbook vendor coming forward with there specific figures either.

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

though. Not just linux, either, couldn't get ultimate either. They did throw in a pile of crapware, and a copy of Norton though so they can't be all bad. :p It was all bundle type manouvers as well. Want a bigger monitor by a bigger PC, more speakers, a bigger print cartridge etc.. Got mine from a customer box builder, far more options, effectively four times faster, (even without getting near fully utilising the quad) than their best, half the price. No Norton though, ho hum...

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

they were flying back onto the shelves too. I think we've all seen the reports that Linux netbooks were returned at five times the rate of Windows systems. But I'm open to other theories as to why our British friends can't find them at the big box retailers. Well, any theory except "Global Conspiracy!"

motie38
motie38

Eee PCs with Linux were flying off the shelves. That's what forced Microsoft to prolong the life of XP and sell it for next to nothing to netbook manufacturers.

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

last go round. I went to eight high street retailers. They would only sell me a box with Vista Home Premium. That was the only choice they offered. They refused to sell me anything but that, and consequently sold me nothing.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

that no one was buying the Linux systems and the store stopped stocking merchandise that wouldn't sell. Just a theory.

Bernie S
Bernie S

I keep hearing about him -- but it's always a case of "some guy, that some guy I know, knows". He's pretty aggravating, but even harder to get a hold of than "Auntie Tillie". I personally don't encounter that many people who are as big a pain as "Joe Average" appears to be -- When I do, I leave them to Windows, and emphasize to them that I'm a "Linux guy", and don't do Windows anymore, unless I get paid for it. Then they go bother someone else.

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

Granted, it's subjective based on the user one has to work with. With any machine I support, I'd just ssh in directly and make the changes. Low on network resources, secure and mighty powerful. Next option would be a quick bash script "here run this and answer the questions". In terms of documenting solutions in forums, this is where five command line entries versus GUI navigation directions and images blows a GUI only solution away. It's in a forum so your already dealing with a user willing to do a websearch for it. The users who are going to reject a three command solution because it involves typing are already hostile and looking for failure or the same people who are going to go running to tech support because they have to click more than one GUI utility button. The key point is that the flexability offered by ways to solve a problem and in a secure way over untrusted networks is a huge strength. Lack of choice is never a benefit. Regardless of platform though, the solution has to be gauged on the user your supporting if you can't just remote in and fix it.

TtfnJohn
TtfnJohn

BUT..in front of an "average" user which doesn't describe most of us who hang out here the command line is a scary place and totally foreign. If they don't get some nice GUI useless or not they won't do it they'll run back to Windows as fast as they can pull out the DVD, complaining all the while how horrid Vista is. If the GUI fails then they'll call tech support or their friend who does that and be perfectly happy. Other than that they want GUIs and, mostly, no failures. Linux, regardless of distro, is far better at the latter and often worse at the former. You and I may be comfy on the command line, 99.99% of users aren't. It's that simple. ttfn John

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

First, it's a hardware problem with a vendor who chooses not to support the platform. That doesn't help you as an end user but it does explain the root cause. Second, with good hardware and modern distributions, touching the command line is rare unless one prefers to work that way. The original post in this thread was from someone comfortable with the command line so suggesting aptitude as an progression from apt-get was a solid recommendation. The other thing is, if something breaks in windows, you can edit the registry and maybe fix it. You might find a utility that helps. If those options are not available, your screwed. If the hardware is not supported by the program your running, your screwed. It either works, or it doesn't. On the other hand, I can have a minimal Debian install done on a remote machine and do the rest of the install myself through a remote terminal. If a user has an issue, I don't have to list "click here, then here, then here, then that, then this".. I simply give the five or less commands needed to fix most issues. Example; rsyslog got chewed on a system somehow: aptitude update aptitude purge rsyslog aptitude install rsyslog Installed fresh and clean with simple commands a anyone brighter than the average monkey could key in. It's much easier to list a few commands in order rather than the steps to pointy-clicky through a stack of GUI windows. And, that's if the option of simply dropping in through ssh myself isn't available. Ironically, my bigger challenge right now is sound drivers on my Windows boot. Board is 5.1, speakers are 5.1, drivers are latest from the vendor and software continues to reset the sound to 2.1; the driver's actually allow this though they've been set to not do so. The issue is not caused directly by Microsoft developers but if Windows aproach is so wonderful; why the issues and why can't I go to a deeper level of the OS like I probably could with other platforms? Graphic tools are available but the option to work from the command line or ability to have deeper reaching solutions to problems like lack of vendor recognition is not at all a disadvantage. Lack of official hardware vendor support remains a problem; it's the same chicken and egg excuse that the game developers claim.

amoeba
amoeba

Synaptic and Aptitude, both are graphical interfaces to apt-get and require zero knowledge of the cli. This is hardly unique to Linux, Windows has some 'scary' techniques to fix problems (regedit anyone?). One slip-up and you have screwed your windows install, time to get the install disk out. Why should a user be afraid of a way to fix a problem if someone is willing to 'walk' them through the necessary steps/commands? It's like calling a mechanic for the car and saying 'I thing I have a problem with my engine, but don't tell me to open the hood to fix it.' As a side note, I can't count the times I could not install Windows (et al) due to unsupported hardware. Yes, no OS can fully support all devices or add-on cards and all require due diligence on the techs part to have it all working.

bigaussie
bigaussie

It is not really about choice at all. I have tried many distros myself, and nearly cried when my new laptop would not run any because of the useless Sis graphic chipset. The real problem comes with any advice for fixing a problem on any distro.... It is usually aptget.. blah blah blah. Windows users, especially since XP would hardly even know a command line existed, let alone how to use option switches. There is the biggest hurdle Linux has today.

dpalsen
dpalsen

The biggest problem I've seen with Linux isn't the choice of distributions, but the lack of application support. Until there are BOXED versions of the same software you can run on windows made for Linux, it won't gain widespread support.

kevaburg
kevaburg

Keep it up! But it is true: They aren't lazy just interested in other things! And thank God for that! Otherwise I could find myself out of a job!

tkfnetwork
tkfnetwork

I have recently migrated to ubuntu on my lappy and the installation process was painless. You are saying about Win being installed with just enough to get by? After installation I booted up and had immediate access to OpenOffice and Firefox, both of which installed by default and allowed me to get right into work without having to wait to install both of these bits of software, which i use heavily.

Deadly Ernest
Deadly Ernest

as it uses most of the same repository and Ubuntu base but has a KDE 3.5 interface as against the Gnome of Ubuntu and the KDE 4 of the latest Kubuntu.

TtfnJohn
TtfnJohn

To start with I agree that hunting down needed software in the various Ubuntu flavours is a pain in the ass and a needless one to boot. Before I get flamed let me say some of this is probably unfamiliarity with Ubuntu and annoyances at getting familiar with it. There's a great deal good about it,some bad, some bloody awful the abuse of SUDO and the fact that it's GNOME based (for me). It's just not there yet with Ubuntu in comparison with Mandriva or SUSE or even Fedora. At least with Mandriva the install and update is done from the same interface, the Mandriva Control Centre, sorted, thankfully, by what the software does. Not perfect but it does cut down substantially on searching. One drawback is a lack of good descriptions of what the software does. It's nice to know something does CAD, say, but which of the wide varities of CAD does it do? As for codecs I've had to hunt down codecs for Windows too and it's no joy I can tell you. Still, with Mandriva there's this lovely resource called the Penguin Liberation Front where you can get all these things and more. And it's free. Outside of a very few things there's no need to stay in Windows for anything short of specialized things like Premier Pro (or any decent video editor sadly) or some 3D packages like Poser. Beyond that sort of thing, which is minority interest to all but those who need it you can be rid of Windows today without too much difficulty. ttfn John

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

LiveCDs like Ubuntu just stamp a default software selection on your drive while normally managing the dualboot setup if you want to keep your existing OS in place. Debian's graphic installer could improve the disk partitioning but the rest is easier than Windows; place checkmark in box beside category of software you want and hit [next]. Mandriva is the nicest installer I've seen yet. More questions than Debian but you can always stick to defaults. Disk partitioning is fantastic. Nice menu of settings just before first boot to find tune your settings. If you have a list of desired functions/features or a list of issues you ran into last time, someone here can probably offer some suggestions.

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

Mandriva PowerPack (70$'ish), *buntu, Mint and some other's include the codecs. For DVD, the WinDVD folks also publish LinDVD. For those who are limited by a patent crazy legal system, there are ways to remain within the law and still play the media.

Deadly Ernest
Deadly Ernest

out of the box compatible with hardware made by people to suit the Windows standards and not the internationally recognised industry standards which Linux is built to meet. Also the codecs you complain of are all proprietary codecs which the Linux people are NOT allowed to put in the shipped install. But you can download them from certain sites unless your country is one where downloading them is unlawful. The latest default installation of Ubuntu, Kubuntu, PC-OS Linux, SimplyMepis, and several others are all easier to install than MS Windows XP, and quicker to install to. I did a SimplyMepis 64 bit install on a ten month old Toshiba laptop today and it took only thirty minutes (with some breaks to do other things) - and all the built in hardware worked perfectly from the default install. Edit to add - All I did was put in the CD, rebooted the system from CD. Since the owner wished to retain the already installed Vista (which he was complaining about) I took an extra few minutes to manually set up the partitions in the partition editor, the rest was automatic.

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

Some people do prefer to work in pure text but there are graphic pretty editors available also. When was the last time you looked?

dproske
dproske

In windows you got a choice even Microsoft Publisher is a "easy" WYSIWYG HTML editor. It even does menus and multiple assoiciated webpages very easily. In Linux you got?????? So even with an old standard like HTML you get zilch with linux. If you want to do a bunch of coding then use a text editor NOT!

nedvis
nedvis

Microsoft is feeling the heat of Linux competition. For the first time the company has named Linux distributors Red Hat and Canonical as competitors to its Windows client business in its annual filing to the US Securities and Exchange Commission. http://www.techworld.com/opsys/news/index.cfm?newsID=120501&pagtype=samechan And to my best knowledge Microsoft is most concerned about business desktop and then about home desktop users. Once Microsoft admit it's threatened by community product such Linux is, then it's just matter of time we will start seeing job openings for Linux desktop support technicians. I am Microsoft certified desktop tech and I am half-baked Linux desktop technician ( the only one available to my friends who are switching to Linux in flocks) and I'ma happy with competition between two as well as with all variations in flavors in both camps. I am all for standards but we are way to far from something like that. Diversification will continue and it will just be worse than it is right now. Period.

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

Looking at it as a problem may be part of the issue (I really wanted to say "part of the problem" to continue the theme). You can't move between two versions of Windows, two versions of Word or two versions of a web browser without some change. If it's being imposed by an IT department then they can take the time to minimize the change but there is always some. If someone is vulanterily changing there OS platform then they have to accept that there will be change and adjustment. It's not a direct swap-in unless one happens to be using that particular Windows clone. On my Windows box, I get a text HH:MM in the lower right. On my KDE boxes, I get a text HH:MM on the right. If I wanted an analog display then I'd have to select that intentionally; it didn't work for me so now it's HH:MM again. In general, if someone is choosing the change then they have to accept some adjustment. The only think I can think of that has no adjustment is spoons.. maybe wooden pencils. If the change is imposed by work then it's a matter of the IT department or change project planner dealing with it. Make the interface as familiar as one can; icons, menus, mouse.. it takes effort to make it really unfamiliar in the first place. The only real challenge to business IT is supporting functional needs currently provided by specialty software like Photoshop or CAD.. maybe ActiveX for the IE only webapp crippled companies. This is actually the challenge I continue to see. If a developer needs that function in Photoshop not provided elsewhere then that dictates the platform choices. If you can't live without Crysis or the latest Directx10 title then that's going to dictate your platform choices. Some of the software I can't live without is unavailable for Windows which dictates my platform needs (one of them anyhow). Mind you, I wouldn't look at hardware let alone software until asking what the functional needs of the user are. The game cunundrom remains. Hardware makers claim that honest support is not justified by the small market. The developers claim that no market share means they focus on only the Windows market. This results in most gamers running dualboot or single Windows because that's what the specialized software requires. and around.. and around.. and around.. (lest we forget the DirectX addiction developed by game publishers now.) Sidenote: I'm still torn between soundcard and video. I can't get stable fully supported sound out of the gamer board that ships on the Asus Striker2. If the games that do support the audio board reset it to 2.1 where I'm using 5.1 speakers. Now begins the research to see if I can move the lonely GPU to a different PCIE slot or if it need to remain in slot 1 which block the use of both mini PCI slots and any soundcard replacement options. On the other hand, the GeForce 250 boards are affordable and I do need to expand up from 256 meg video ram to a minimum 512. The 250s rank noticeably higher on Tom's Hardware. It may not push point lights and dynamic shadows but it'd be a heck of an upgrade. hm.. think I spend some time tonight with my motherboard manual and see if there is any possibility to juggle the slots around. My friend may be onto something with his gaming notebook except that it destroys batteries and runs hotter than a George Forman grill.

Slayer_
Slayer_

Of course an operating system change, is a fairly big change from the normal Windows themes we have all mostly become used too. Think of how many people still use Classic view. I have a personal gripe over network admins that change users start menus to classic. Almost everyone I have changed the view for, has appreciated it (maybe 1 out of 100 wanted it put back) simply because the new one is simply more convenient. But of course, not all changes are better, and significant changes are even worse, even if they are better (Vista and office 2007 anyone?). So, covering that people, innately hate change. When we are forced into change, we are naturally annoyed. But, one big change, annoys us less than a 1000 little changes. A right click menu missing... a clock display that is unnatural to us... It all adds up really fast, every little new change is almost as painful and annoying as one big change. I see no real solution to this. Though in my opinion, the biggest thing stopping Nix adoption is media, Nix doesn't have every form of media, while Windows does. Especially the big one, games. I am always saddened when someone will say something to me like, "I want to buy a new computer, my current one can't play games, what do you think of this one {link to store website}" And I'll ask them what they are currently running. The norm... They are usually running some Intel beast with a 3.2ghz Duel core processor, and they want to buy a new system with an Intel 2.4ghz duel processor... Completely oblivious to the fact that their system is already significantly faster, and they probably just need a video card. The stupidity of modern users is staggering. But what drives hardware performance forward, is gamers. And Linux is not a gamers OS.

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

I think the Mandriva KDE4 default is a mistake myself. I'm willing to believe it'll mature but it's not there yet for my use. Let me check my clock here.. I'm getting "adjust date&time" and "date&time format" off a right click; KDE3.5 on Debian Lenny. It will also be the same behavior at home; KDE3.5 on Mandriva 2008.1. The clock appearance has never really thrown me off though but it's a subjective thing that others may pay more attention too. I actually hid the task bar on both platforms so leaving more screen space for what I'm working with.

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

we had frequent visits from a rather tenacious cat that was either stray or belonging to incompetent owners. Hitting it with the water gun didn't even reduce it's visits to our back door.

HAL 9000
HAL 9000

They showed a [b]Space Balls Flame Thrower[/b] I want one. If it was just a matter of hotching one together I would have done that years ago but I liked the one shown in the movie. If it worked it would have been so much the better but it's really not that important. I already have [b]Morgana the Magical Mutant Maniacal Mut Manners Modifier[/b] [i]try saying that 6 times and see where you get. [/i] :D Which can be used on either Mats with bad Manners or Prowling Pu$$ies which I have in abundance in this neighborhood. I actually used Morgana on a Black Cat at 05.30 this morning it it took off with a distinctly Blue tinge to it at close to the speed of sound. That should at the very least tell it's owners to [b]Lock it up at night.[/b] ;) As I now have to refill Morgana I'm thinking maybe Green this time so that the grass doesn't get strange color stains. :^0 Col

HAL 9000
HAL 9000

Space Balls the Flame Thrower. I could never find one to buy either. :( Col

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

I fear the subtle approach may sneak past some though.

Slayer_
Slayer_

I mean, I could have just said "You're right and everyone who doesn't agree with you sucks" But I figured that would just get me targeted for flaming and trolling.

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

That's going to go around and around all day now.. "A man had an idea; I'd like to set that thing on fire but I just can't quite get the job done from here. And, it would have ended there except that he mentioned this idea to his neighbor who was good with tools..." I do like the learning in the discussions. It's the content having to be delivered with the flames that detracts from it though. It makes spotting and considering relevant points more difficult when they are berried amongst "your a stupid head" level phrases in the same comment. I'd much rather see productive posts (and the really good one liner zingers of course..).

Slayer_
Slayer_

Flames are fun, don't you agree? You get to learn lots of stuff. I don't walk around with my own flame thrower, I just hand them out on the side of the street and point to a target :).