Linux

My solution for Linux adoption

I have been involved with the Linux community for over a decade. It's taken me that long, but I think I've found the solution to serious Linux adoption. Read on to find out what it is.

Recently, I was reading a thread about Linux game support. The thread was regarding a particular game that had a version for Linux (it wasn't actually a port), which was quickly pulled from support. Within the thread the tried and true standardization argument came up. It's a valid argument, and one that most people don't realize could bite Linux in the hinder at some point.

Let's take a look at the sound layer of linux. If you want to write a game for Linux, in order to get sound running on your game you have to make sure you cover: Alsa, OSS, NAS, ESD, Pulse, SDL, JACK, and any other miscellaneous sound technology that is layered on top. It's maddening.

Or Java. Java has always been one of the Achilles heels of LInux. In order to use Java on a Web browser in Linux you have to install Java on your machine. But which version? Do you install JDK or JRE? Some Web apps might not work as well as JDK as they do JRE. AHHHHHH!

I understand, fully, the issue. Which "standards" are the best? Do you go with what Fedora is doing or Ubuntu? What about Mandriva or SuSE? I have an idea.

First and foremost the standards issue needs to be immediately solved on an enterprise level. For that Red Hat and Novell need to have a sit-down and agree on standards. Why them? Because they are the two biggest providers of enterprise-level Linux. Once they hammer out a standards-base, they need to employ them immediately. Once they have started shipping their distributions with their standards intact, smaller distributions can either follow suit and pick up enterprise users, or not and lose out.

Following this lead the home and hobbyist distributions can either abide by the standards created for enterprise Linux or they can get together and set their own. The non-enterprise standards wouldn't have to be as strict as the enterprise-level standards, but that doesn't mean they shouldn't have them.

But what about the Linux Standards Base? Forget about them. What have they done in the years they've been together? Nothing. They had a great idea, but couldn't follow through. And because they couldn't follow through, Linux suffered. Yes, I understand this task is a big one, but Linux is at a point when having standards could take the operating system to the next level.

The media fans and the Linux community have all been wondering why Linux has stagnated.  In my opinion the ONLY reason for this is standards. Because of a lack of standards Linux does not have games. Because of a lack of standards Linux has issues with browser plugins. With standards, the big hurdles to adoption are taken down.

So - I appeal to Red Hat and Novell, get together and develop your own standards for enterprise Linux. Will there be push-back from the Linux community at large? Sure there will. But eventually that same community will benefit from the standards you have created. So go ahead, be bold and do something to take Linux to the next level.

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.

48 comments
richie
richie

Adopting stricter standards similar to "carrier grade linux" (CGL) would be a good first step

shryko
shryko

if there's a large following for wine which is working to make compatibility... why can't this group be tapped to create a single interface to all the audio systems? There's already WINE support for most of the sound systems, so... tap into the sound stuff the same way that WINE does, and you would allow people more choice, while avoiding the pain associated with supporting so much all on your own... or you pick one, make the game's installer depend on that *1* being installed, and avoid the multi-sound-system problem entirely... those are pragmatic, here-and-now ways to support linux in a game, without necessarily changing the systems you're running on... oh, and for the LSB, I think they bit off more than they could chew, in that they wanted a unified base for EVERYTHING... if there was a seperate group of standards, ie. LSB-Audio, LSB-Video, etc. then I think it may have faired much better, since it'd be possible for the industries to speak up on it, and things where different groups disagree would be more visible... (sure, they're not as unified that way, but it'd be easier for the people making the base to do, as they can have each category proceed seperately...)

apotheon
apotheon

I like your idea of a fragmented approach to the LSB, separated by functionality area. The LSB as it currently exists is a political matter, not a technical matter -- and it is nothing but a collection of "standardized" compromises. Compromises like this don't make anything technically better. They just create bureaucratic domains of control for people to exercise their petty desires for power. Seriously . . . I think the best approach right now would be for game companies and graphics adapter manufacturers to target an open source Unixlike OS that doesn't deal with the kind of varying interfaces we see in the Linux family of OSes. In short, FreeBSD seems like a better option. There's one sound subsystem, for instance, so the varying sound systems issue doesn't come up. As a bonus, the sound subsystem in FreeBSD is OSS-compatible, so you could get OSS support in the same shot -- which would help in at least some cases of Linux-based OS installs. I'd say that they could just target specific Linux-based OSes, but they'd try to claim they were "Linux compatible", as if supporting a single OS equates to supporting all OSes that have a Linux kernel -- which creates more problems than it's really worth, at this point.

reggaethecat
reggaethecat

Standards are a MASSIVE problem, but to that I would also add quality control. It is really annoying when you want a particular program but it only seems to work on a particular distro, or your the new version of your distro comes out and something that was working previously now isn't - that happened to me with Kubuntu and ripping MP3s which I really really wanted. I used Linux for about 3 or 4 years until a few weeks back when I got fed up and bought a Mac. Now I am happy because on my Mac, everything just works. It just works! Unfortunately I am out of pocket by nearly ?700, but to me the money was worth it because of the quality control. So I agree, all the major Linux distros should pool together, iron out all bugs, polish the interfaces and release a unified Linux version for the consumer. At the moment the are too many people pulling in different directions and it shows. Which is a shame, because Linux is great when it works and good value for money.

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

"your the new version of your distro comes out and something that was working previously now isn't " I'm going to enter that statement in my dictionary as a definition for irony.

reggaethecat
reggaethecat

That's not ironic, it's true. It happened to me every six months when the new Ubuntu was released. The problem is that the people working on the kernel / Window Manager / packaging / etc, are all in different corners of the world, using different tools and working to different agendas. Plus half of them are only doing it as a hobby, not getting paid by results.

FXEF
FXEF

What you just described is the way open source works.

apotheon
apotheon

Maybe it's ironic because you're so heavy into "quality control" and your sentence construction is so lacking in quality control. . . . or maybe it's more because of the fact that neither MS Windows nor MacOS X is really the epitome of quality control you seem to want. To someone like me who pays a fair bit of attention to security issues, the lack of quality control in that area for both those commercial desktop OSes is inescapably evident.

csmith.kaze
csmith.kaze

my thoughts exactly! (Debian Lenny FTW!)

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

Are you saying they should use their 'market dominance' to guide Linux to a standard. The big question, how are you going to get them to do one that doesn't bar competition, particularly higher quality competition? If market dominance was the answer Windows would be the the most standards compliant high quality product available! If the games boys want to deliver to linux, all they have to do is get together and come up with a games distro, and then some games people want. The video hardware boys will follow suit, microsoft will cry foul. Quality comes from competition not majorities. Quality standards are quality vectors, crap standards are not. You let 'one' vested interest choose the standard, you'll get one that ensures their interests.

Slayer_
Slayer_

Wow, thats an awesome idea. Like, perhaps a Distro that, when you ran a full screen game, it actually unloads everything excess. A distro dedicated to gamers, perhaps built in overclocking tools and temperature management, memory management. You would need very good game crash management, a game crash cannot take down the system like it often does in Windows. If such a distro existed, I bet you could probably sell it for 200 bucks a license and the majority of gamers would buy it. Heck, if it supports all the Windows games that already exist perfectly, it would be an instant win! Imagine.... Windows gaming without the Windows experience :). Incase anyone didn't get that, I'm implying that Windows Experience sucks.

sidekick
sidekick

Maybe some of these game developers should get together, form a Linux Games Alliance or something like that, and decide they will support a specific distro, whether it be Red Hat, FreeBSD, Ubuntu, or whatever. If enough momentum gets going behind the chosen distro, then maybe other distros would hop on board by making themselves compatible (like back in the day when hardware was labeled "IBM Compatible").

sidekick
sidekick

Reminds me of how Word Perfect use to come with a whole bunch of printer drivers. Then Microsoft decided to build a printing interface into their OS, and the responsibility of writing a driver wen to the printer manufacturer, and the software, such as Word Perfect, only had to work with the printing interface on the OS. Sure, it's another layer, but it is not necessarily a bad idea.

seanferd
seanferd

Create a gaming backend so game developers have a unified API to develop for. Distro maintainers would be responsible for tuning the backend to their distros (or vice versa). But who wants another layer?

apotheon
apotheon

A while back, someone put together Kororaa Linux, a distro intended to handle all the necessary multimedia stuff out of the box so you wouldn't have to screw around with ATI's horrifyingly bad installer, and similar issues. That would have been the perfect basis for a games-oriented Linux distribution. Unfortunately, some of the GNU/GPL zealots started sending the Kororaa project cease and desist notices, claiming that bundling the proprietary drivers with the OS violated the terms of the GPL because those drivers needed to interface with the GPLed kernel. If you really want to blame someone for the failure of Linux as a mainstream gaming platform, I guess the GNU project and the FSF should top the list. If the major players involved would get their heads out of their fourth points of contact, and try supporting a copyfree licensed OS like FreeBSD instead, we could quickly have games running just fine on an open source OS "out of the box", instead of running around like chickens with our heads cut off trying to figure out who to blame and how to fix the problem.

NickNielsen
NickNielsen

You should at the very least know that Linus Torvalds wrote the first Linux kernel, that Steve Wozniak both designed the first Apple AND wrote the first Apple OS, and that Paul Allen is the co-founder of Microsoft. For your sake, I hope your coding skills are more in-depth than your knowledge of the background of your chosen field.

Slayer_
Slayer_

I am sure if my entire life was computers, I would know more, but it is not, my life is fairly diverse. At least enough so that I do not know every piece of history. About as much of history that I know of is what they taught us in school with text books from the 1940's

NickNielsen
NickNielsen

Ignorant of the past and oblivious to that ignorance. Do you pay no attention outside your little cubicle of life? Have you no intellectual curiosity? Every one of those people helped make today's computers and software possible. Take each name, plug it into Wikipedia, and [u]learn[/u]. Do it on your own. Hand-holding time is over.

Slayer_
Slayer_

Sorry, if there is no mean 4chan posters about them, I have never heard of them. Why don't you make an informative topic about those people and explain their significance.

apotheon
apotheon

What about Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Bill Joy, Linus Torvalds, Steve Wozniak, Theo de Raadt, Ian Murdoch, Mark Shuttleworth, Paul Allen, Ken Thompson, Dennis Ritchie, or William and Lynne Jolitz? They've all had hands in developing fairly well-known and widely-used OSes, too -- some more hands-on than others.

Slayer_
Slayer_

I've never been in the habit of looking up where I get free software, I just say a little thanks and use it.

FXEF
FXEF

Ubuntu is the best "average Joe" distro so far. Install the missing codecs for audio and video playback, then it's pretty much a no brainier. You have a much easier system to manage than Windows.

cearrach
cearrach

I was constantly fixing problems for my in-laws when they were running XP, I switched them to Ubuntu and have drastically reduced the number of "support visits". I think the idea that Windows is somehow easier to support than Linux is a bit of a farce.

reggaethecat
reggaethecat

I agree with you there, Linux is getting better and easier but there is not a cat in hell's chance that I could install it for my parents or most of my friends, the phone would just ring off the hook. Much more work is required. Maybe Canonical can pull it off but in effect they are fighting against all the other distros.

Jaqui
Jaqui

~smack upside the head with mae's shovel~ ;) You do not know who the Founder of the Free Software Foundation and of http://gnu.org is? really? Richard Stallman. oddly enough, after going to hear Richard talk last weekend I have to disagree with Tony. Richard Stallman and the FSF and GNU haven't violated what they profess to stand for, they have gone beyond that point. I don't agree with where they have gone though.

Slayer_
Slayer_

And what's going on?

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

If someone else's stuff doesn't work with your OS, it is not an OS problem, it's the stuff. The only way we get that stuff produced to work with our OS's is to not use it, if it doesn't. If you plug something in, and it doesn't play, it isn't plug and play, it's a waste of effort.

trent
trent

I have to agree that Linux adoption is being stalled by lack of OOB use. I have attempted to get others to switch to Linux but it is tough when doing so makes me the only support tech. I have had my Dad on an old Win2k Dell box that is now running PCLinuxOS (I forget the version, but it is 2007-2008 vintage), but I cannot afford the time to visit every time he cannot get it to work correctly. In fact, I do not even use Linux myself very often because I mostly use laptops with whatever OS happens to be loaded. (This one is Vista but I plan to load Linux dual-boot when I get a chance.) If someone would give me a plug-and-play distro that I would not have to constantly support and upgrade (and fiddle-with to get the web-content of the week to work with the loaded add-ins) I have many friends and relatives who would make the switch, whether they know it or not. Just a side note: Glad to see someone else out there still has their old Win95 and Win98 boxes running. My 6 year old plays games on my old Win95 laptop and loves it. We have stacks of old games from her older cousins that just won't run well on post-Win98 hardware. Until I needed the power supply to fix a dead box, I even had my wife's old WinME box running (and crashing), just for grins.

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

have become increasingly dogmatic over the years. To the point where they are now violating the concepts they claimed to have stood for.

Slayer_
Slayer_

I want to play the latest and greatest games, but I don't want MS's bloatware of an OS that does nothing more than to hide poweruser functions. Though to be fair, I have been spiteful of MS ever since they removed winipcfg. Something else neat, take the MSconfig exe from any system, and drop it in Windows 95 to access hidden options :) http://www.trevorsarchives.selfip.net/funpics/images/hidden%20options.gif ^^^if this doesn't show up, its cause that ole 98 POS server of mine died again :(

Jaqui
Jaqui

since Novell alienated a large percentage of the GNU-Linux communities with that deal with Microsoft, where Novell claimed they could make BINDING agreements for everyone, without getting ANYONES input. I'm one of those who will not use any software that Novell's touched, even to the point of the package being hosted on Novell's collaboration tools because of that bullsh!t deal with Microsoft. Red Hat, well, they might be the biggest [ because of IBM BAILOUT when they ran into financial difficulties in the early years ], but they really don't know what they are doing. 1) They are incompetent, they cannot patch GRUB to work with XFS filesystems. [ seems to be a pandemic issue with the GNOME distros ] 2) They are too stupid to offer lilo since they are not competent enough to get grub working correctly. 3) no options about networking, gui session nothing during install and first boot. 4) GNOME the second most useless GUI available. [ Macos being the most ] 5) no ability to REMOVE SOFTWARE in the add/remove software gui tools. 6) incompetents can't even get a well supported sound card to work. 7) GRUB, the worst excuse for a bootloader, it can't use filesystem code for the installed kernel to support the USER'S choice of filesystem, it has to have it's OWN implementation? I could go on, and rip novell for reasons in addition to the one I mentioned, as well as numerous other stupidities for Red Hat, but I think you get the point by now.

seanferd
seanferd

Could you possibly expand on number seven a bit? If you've got the time.

Jaqui
Jaqui

grab an archive of the grub sources and open it up a complete read implementation for all supported filesystems. and it's screwed on xfs. oops, grub-legacy, since they have not touched it for close to 2 years, grub 0.97 grub is actually not released yet and is at 1.96, which has slightly better xfs implementation. track down lilo, no filesystem implementation it's it's sources, and it works on all filesystems available to the os being used.

seanferd
seanferd

It is clearer now. GRUB is fully using its own implementation of "What filesystem is this?", and does not simply ask the kernel. That is pretty stupid. And I'd quite liked GRUB, although I liked LILO as well. Now I know a little more on the technical merits of each. Thanks again.

apotheon
apotheon

Red Hat and Novell? What? No. Novell's SUSE Linux is actually an offshoot of Red Hat Linux from back in the day. They're part of the same "family" of Linux distributions. Try Red Hat and Debian -- the patriarchs of the two biggest families of Linux distributions. Second . . . my solution is actually much easier to pull off: Get game developers (and so on) to target FreeBSD instead. Unlike Linux, there's no fragmentation in the FreeBSD world: there's an official Base System that comprises a single OS, rather than a pile of 10,000 different OSes all pretending to be one OS for purposes of trying to gain market and mind share. What about the Linux people, though? Well, hell, they can use FreeBSD. It's not a huge migration issue: FreeBSD is easy to adopt, coming from Linux; I have personal experience in this area. If you want unity, pick a single OS. Don't pretend 10,000 different OSes are a single OS, then try to get them all to conform to some singular, unified "standard" that undermines the reason for the existence of all the variations in the first place. Plus, FreeBSD's sound subsystem is much easier to get working with multiple sound channels than ALSA. The relief I felt the first time I realized how much easier it was to get sound working properly on FreeBSD than it had been on any Linux distro I'd ever used was immense. Software vendors will be less reluctant to make their code play nicely with copyfree licenses (such as the BSD and ISC licenses) than with copyleft licenses such as the GPL, anyway.

Jaqui
Jaqui

according to the suse groupies it's slak based, not rh based.

apotheon
apotheon

Perhaps they could explain why, for instance, its package manager uses RPMs.

scarville
scarville

About ten years ago as I recall.

Jaqui
Jaqui

no idea why they are stupid enough to do that.

chris
chris

run debugguers and previews and stuff?

seanferd
seanferd

SuSE was originally a consulting firm, then put out their own Slackware-based distro. Suse Linux began snacking on other distros for improvements, and took a lot from RedHat. That is, AFAIK. All the "geneology" or lineage trees I've seen have Suse branching off Slackware, but it may have included other elements of SLS as well.

Jaqui
Jaqui

I just had to point out what their fanbois are saying. :D I look at the product and see Red Hat all over it, not slak. I see really, really stupid deps that ONLY exist in Suse. [ apache, mysql and php are required, if you want to install screem html/xml editor? WTF??? ]

Slayer_
Slayer_

cause blue screening history is something microsoft does lol. It's simple, A redhat developer traveled into the future, stole Suses idea, traveled back into the past, and called it an RPM instead of an SPM. Make sense?

apotheon
apotheon

Red Hat must have "stolen" the Redhat Package Manager package format from SUSE. I get it, now. Especially since RPMs were invented before SUSE existed.

Slayer_
Slayer_

obviously red hat stole it from suse lol

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