Banking

Why the Linux desktop doesn't shine in business: A perspective

Jack Wallen has drawn a fairly simple conclusion as to why Linux isn't making any headway on the business desktop front. Read on and sound off whether you agree or disagree.

I've been keeping track lately of what it is I do most during a full day of remote support. The three top things I deal with are:

  • Quickbooks
  • Outlook
  • Backups

The reason I've been keeping track of this lately is simply because I want to know why Linux hasn't found its way to the desktop more than it has. It makes perfect sense for this open source operating platform to be used in businesses. Why?

  • It's free
  • It's free from viruses
  • It's stable
  • It's secure

That short list above should be enough to bring the business clients packing away from Microsoft Windows. Imagine a world where business desktops weren't constantly having to be stroked, burped, and inoculated like the babies they currently are. But alas, it does not. Oh sure, I find Linux being used on many a varied server, but the desktop seems to still be the primary area where Linux is shunned. To find the answer to this, I strongly believe we must head back to my list of most dealt with aspects of support. But even more specifically, we must take on two of those:

  • QuickBooks
  • Outlook
These are two of the single most often used pieces of mission critical desktop software in business today. With these two pieces of software, businesses can:
  • Communicate
  • Schedule
  • Organize
  • Manage finances

The above seem to be the most important duties of the business end-user. Granted, not everyone manages finances, but there is no doubting the importance of that task.

Now, how does the Linux desktop fit into this? You might be surprised when I answer -- not well. Why? Let's break these two pieces of software down, with regards to Linux.

Outlook

The closest thing to Outlook Linux has is Evolution. Evolution isn't a bad piece of software. It's not great, but it isn't horrible. That doesn't cut it. But regardless of how good or bad the software itself is, it simply doesn't work with Exchange. Unfortunately, Exchange isn't going away and if a Linux groupware client wants to make any headway in the world of Business it must integrate with Exchange -- and not with the help of third-party software or serious text-file configuration edits. Linux desperately needs an Outlook-like piece of software that can be placed on a Windows network and be easily configured to work with Exchange. Until that happens, Linux has no chance of working as a desktop client in the world of business.

Some of you might be thinking OWA. Sure, end-users can fire up the web-based OWA Outlook, but most don't want that. Most end-users want a standard client tool that works just like the one being used in the cubicle nearest them.

Evolution could be that client. What would it take? Probably a fork and a lot of work; but it could happen.

QuickBooks

I deal with QuickBooks a lot. It shocks me I don't have gray hair because of that simple fact. If you've used the software enough, you know this one thing:

When QuickBooks works, it's great; but when QuickBooks doesn't work, it's a nightmare.

The closest thing to QuickBooks that Linux has is GnuCash -- and that's not really a close competitor. Why? One major reason:

GnuCash is a single-user software.

If GnuCash is EVER going to be taken seriously in the world of business, it must take a QuickBooks approach and become a multi-user piece of software. Should that happen, GnuCash could make some serious inroads to the business desktop. Until then, it will be relegated to personal use.

Make this happen

I am not a developer. I only serve as a mouthpiece to the open source community, thanks to TechRepublic. But I do know a lot of the open source community does read this (and other TechRepublic) blogs. I have the utmost respect for open source developers. They work from passion and heart -- like few other developers can claim. And I would call to action those developers who long to see the Linux platform make serious headway on the business desktop. If you are serious about this idea, then give serious thought to what I've mentioned here. With a solid Outlook-like client (one that could seamlessly and easily communicate to Exchange) and a multi-user accounting solution (along the lines of QuickBooks) Linux could easily start making serious gains on the business desktop. Until then, however, Linux will be relegated to server rooms and developers.

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.

353 comments
modell
modell

Jay you hit the nail on the head. Linux (Open Source Software period) is only as good as the people that support and develop it. Since there is no financial stake in the software people can just jump back and forth as they like, but businesses cant. Its expensive to change out systems and when you have the flavor of the month its not a sustainable business path. Linux will never be a business player until we get a company that is financially dedicated to the product like Apple and Microsoft.

s_georgiev
s_georgiev

Don't forget that there are new players on the market :) Not only Evolution, but also Thunderbird e-mail client with the help of ExQuilla and Lightning plugins are capable of using Exchange 2007/2010 servers and schedule meetings with the exchange calendar.

geekmasterz
geekmasterz

Many really great comments here. But I think all miss the real point;corporate America is not going to move to Linus unless it is easy for end users to use and saves money. The long life of XP is due to so many being familiar with it and the cost and effort of replacing all that hardware and software and tons of inefficiency while learning. Linux is great and better than a windows server in many ways. But better is not always how things are done.

ricardoc
ricardoc

I thought the "mine is better than yours" will dominate the discussion but I'm glad to see that it isn't the case. IMHO I think that putting the argument down to just Outlook and Quickbooks is overly simplistic on Jack's part (no offense). As with any software or application it comes down to features and education of users. Every business has different needs and problems; here is our experience... We have never used Quickbooks, but we have used Outlook and still use AutoCAD, Canadian Electrical Code, and Expert Estimator which are all Windows only applications. I said "used Outlook" because we finally got rid of it. I came late in my IT career to use Outlook and when I did I liked it a lot because of the many features included on it. But with time I came to hate it; the way the PST files work are a royal PITA, especially for backup. Exchange is a monster so in the current company I work for, they never had it. We considered hosted Exchage services but by the time we were about to make a decision Google Apps and Office 365 were on the horizon. We finally decided for GA and we have never been happier. We still have a few users that use MSO but we don't have to deal with PST anymore. Many business fear the security risks involved with outsorced email, but unless you're a defence contractor or a company involved with highly secretive stuff, I don't see why you will fear having your email on someone else's servers. After all if your email is sent externally or if you cc someone outside your company, then the email will traverse other external servers and can be copied, archived and reviewed. The main road block to our adoption of Linux in the enterprise is AutoCAD; to answer some of the tips posted here (Deadly Ernest), we have tried to ask for a Linux version many times and it hasn't go anywhere. For the last five years I've been into all AutoDesk and AutoCAD events in town, always with the same question "are you comming up with any version for Linux?". The answer is always the same, nope!; I had hope in the last one because they were working on a version for Mac OS (which I believe is out already) but still no version for Linux. We have looked into other CAD programs for Linux but the uncertainty of compatibility with AutoCAD is too big. We don't work alone, we need to accept and share CAD drawings with numerous contractors and it has to work. Other than that will be to check whether the other mentioned above soft will be available for Linux or work on WINE, but the latter approach is one I'll like to avoid as much as I can. Introducing more issues trying to make things work under WINE will replace a few headaches by new ones. As Palmetto here mentioned, making apps to work with a simulator is not a good solution for OS migration. A Linux version (recompiled and fully compatible) is the best choice. For the other crowd here saying that Linux is slow, or difficult to use (I guess they refer to the general interface), that's not my experience. Linux has come a long way with the usability and stability of their main distros. The main challenge to a wider adoption of Linux is availability, meaning more computers with Linux pre-installed on them and the education system being a Windows predominant environment. Please do not tell me that installing Linux is easy and anyone can do it; I know that for a fact, but the average Joe won't install Linux neither he will install Windows. That's where the main obstacle for Linux is; get the PC makers to distribute pre-installed Linux boxes and support them and you will see how people start using them more. As for the education system (schools and libraries) being mostly a Windows environment, it doesn't help with the adoption of other platforms. If what you've seen and used all your teen years and way into adulthood is the same OS then changing becomes challenging. If your business use for a computer is email (with no Outlook or Exchange), document writing, running software via RDP from a Windows server, simple spreadsheets and doing simple picture enhancing Linux is more than suited for your needs. Beside that you will need to consider how you will be managing all those systems through AD (if you use it) and keeping them up to date. Thanks,

breirden
breirden

It's more than Outlook and Exchange, it is the office productivity tools (MS Office), and in particular Excel and Word. Since so many businesses have to exchange documents, OpenOffice falls flat, and LibreOffice is still a long way off from having the sleek interface, power and ability to integrate with Outlook - and the ability to create and edit documents that can be utilized by the MS products. I have Office 2010 and LibreOffice 4.5.2 and I simply cannot move documents back and forth with any fidelity at all. When all the basic open source tools can easily and flawlessly exchange documents with MS products, you will have a chance at getting Linux onto the desktop. So, Outlook, Exchange and MS Office must all have an open source counerpart or capbility or else people (and businesses) will [rightfully] stay tightly aligned with MS. It's not the OS, it's the office productivity tools.

oldmicro
oldmicro

Please read the article, and consider the main points. This is about Applications, and user interface, and data flow. In general this was the reason that the old S100 systems were for hobbyists only, and why CPM was not welcome in the office. Consider there were micro turing machines soon after the first Intel 8080 appeared, but the PC did not truly arrive until Apple and Microsoft made them "user friendly" (although no computer is user friendly.) The points raised in the article are valid, a small business (25 or less employees, which employ 95% of the workforce in this country) need business tracking, accounting, bookkeepping, tax reporting, inventory tracking, and last but not least reporting software (Exchange.) Have you ever tried to run a business using only Open Office? Try running three stores using only what Applications are available to the linux platform. This is the point of the article!

marlorcomp
marlorcomp

What I think is the major culprit of why Linux is not making the grade in business is that it is constantly changing every 6 - 36 months. This is a major problem for a business to deal with. Lets say Linux version 10.00 comes out and everything is working fine. Then 6 months later version 11.00 is released and now several software packages that were once working is not. Most recent example is Google Chrome Browser ver 20. Version 19 of Google's Browser installed perfectly with no problems and would even play videos without even having to add extensions. After Version 20, click on Google Browser and the browser won't even load - just hangs! No business will even consider using Linux in a business environment unless the distributions of Linux start supporting their versions longer and that time period must be at least 5 years ( Longer would be better) instead of the normal 6 months. Ubuntu is the first distribution to start supporting version 12.04 LTS to 5 years and I am hoping that the others will soon follow suit. It makes no sense to hurry up with a new release only to break what was working in the previous version.

VGRAUX
VGRAUX

I don't use Quckbooks in my domain, but does Lotus Notes qualify for the title of "running only on Windows so I can't change to linux" software ? ;-)) In fact, a lot of people work in companies that offer the choice between two software suites (eg, MS Office/OpenLibreOffice, or MS Internet Exploder/Firefox) . When you're lucky that no "business critical" stuff works only with WIndows, you can change to linux. And some people do. I did. No problem. In fact, a moder distribution includes GUIs very similar to the accustomed-to MS desktop (or similar to GEM 3 if you like). The users don't see the difference. Everything works out nicely : - Office suite : LibreOffice does it all in both directions ; - VPN but you've to trash the Win32-only client like Business Everywhere, - email but you've to trash the Win32-only Lotus Notes solution, and I assure you that Thunderbird replaces Outlook (and is compatible with it, calendar included) even in version 2.0; - printing - windows shares - windows domain/ADirectory (it's OpenLDAP, after all...) - even running Win32-only applications is usually permitted (WINE) and of course the software updates are much more intelligent and less prone to fill in your (main, of course) hard disk with pointless "patches", "software updates", "critical security fixes", and so on So I don't agree with you that (a) linux is not yet on the desktops, (b) it lacks Outlook and Quickbooks [whatever this is : M$ Money is back ?;-], (c) it lacks Exchange I think that nunux is not on the desktops because (a) MS lobbying and bullshit, (b) frilosity/Peter's/incompetence of top management as for (c) Exchange can stay on a server, but the desktop can be linux ;-)

berk
berk

I, almost to exclusion, use linux. However, the most outstanding waste of time, effort, and production, for me, is in dealing with Windows generated pictures and videos. And since most email seems to call for a reply, or forwarding to Wx machines, things can become trickier. Copyrights !! BAH! b-

paulfx1
paulfx1

"The long life of XP is due to so many being familiar with it and the cost and effort of replacing all that hardware and software and tons of inefficiency while learning." You can have all of the features on Linux Windows users are familiar with. Things like icons, applications windows, menus, scroll bars, etc. etc. Linux runs on the same hardware Windows runs on too, and more. I am not aware of another OS that even comes close to running on all the different hardware Linux does. People install Linux on toasters and potatoes. If Linux licenses cost anything at all they're usually pretty inexpensive, so I don't see cost being an issue. Unless you need custom software written. I can't see why that costs any more on Linux than it does any other platform. You might get more portable use out of it too. Linux is free, and if you don't like it then Linux comes with a double your money back guarantee, so how can you possibly go wrong? It seems smarter isn't how things are often done either.

Deadly Ernest
Deadly Ernest

have to stay with what runs it, you have no choice. That's why some people are still running MS-DOS. I'm surprised that some people have a Mac OS version of the software but not a Unix or Linux one as Mac OS is a spin off of Unix and still about 85% Unix (last I heard, but that was some years ago) and it shouldn't take much to make a Unix version from the Mac OS version and most Unix software will run on Linux anyway, but with a Unix version you then have the choice to go to any one of the available Unix distros out there. Good luck, and keep asking. Sooner or later they may get fed up with having to make constant changes to keep it working in the ever changing Windows OSs.

Deadly Ernest
Deadly Ernest

found Libre Office Writer is a LOT more productive than any version of Microsoft Word since MSO 97. The current ribbon based version slow down general document production. As to comparing Libre Office with Outlook, one is for document creation and amendment while the other is basically a calendar. As to exchanging documents and compatibility, Libre Office and Open Office natively do things that MSO 2007 and MSO 2010 can't do, like safely open and use older MS Word and MS Excel documents. There is a slight format compatibility issue between MSO and the Open Office / Libre Office files saved as .doc, but that's mostly due to deliberate incompatibilities built in by Microsoft, due to the MS aversion to using International and Industry standards. As someone who spends many hours each day writing and editing documents in special formats, I can honestly say that Libre Office is much better than Microsoft Office 2007 and 2010. There are calendar products out there, but what you choose will depend upon what you want, and there are mail servers available. The real issue is getting people to accept that they aren't Microsoft products, and the second is they're is some training needed by the tech staff in using them properly. Your post reminds me a lot of the time, many years ago, when people claimed their office couldn't switch productivity suites until Microsoft came up with something that worked exactly the same as Lotus Notes.

paulfx1
paulfx1

The legend I heard was the day Digital Research was supposed to meet with IBM about CP/M the weather was too nice so all the Digital Research execs decided to go flying their private planes instead. The DR guys figured IBM would reschedule, CP/M was the only game in town after all. But IBM met with these upstarts named Microsoft, who were all too willing to get their feet in the door, even if it meant missing a nice day. S-100 also suffered from a lack of the proper big blue anointment. No one is going to write boring business software for free. It hasn't happened yet, and it is probably never going to happen ever either. If this software is so vital for such a mass of small businesses as you say it is then they should get together, form a Kickstarter, and pay to have what they need made for them. Or they can learn how to program themselves. I doubt these businesses are giving their bread and butter services away for free or they wouldn't need to track every detail so closely. Why it is commonly assumed that the FOSS community will simply provide these programs for free I'm not understanding. I mean what's next, freebie pickup days in the salt mines? Volunteer programmers work on interesting projects they enjoy. No one lines up to do dull, drudge work, unless you re-compensate them. FOSS is more about hands up than handouts.

Deadly Ernest
Deadly Ernest

mean you have to run all the updates. I know people running versions of a particular Linux distro that's a few years old, and all with no worries. It's no worse than staying with Win XP and not using Win 7, or staying with Win XP SP 2 and not SP3 - if you want the Windows equivalenta.

Deadly Ernest
Deadly Ernest

something a Sendmail server doesn't do and is needed to deal with mail handling?

Deadly Ernest
Deadly Ernest

supportive of doing things by International and industry standards, sadly, I'm not in charge of any of the Microsoft technical decisions to have them go back to those standards. The problem you mention is the same one people get when they make things in a way that ignores the relevant standards. edit to fix typo in title

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

It probably doesn't cost any more to have new applications developed for Linux than it does for Windows. (Many would argue that new apps should be web-based to W3C standards and be both browser and OS independent, but that's another debate.) What costs is paying to have new versions developed to replace 20 years of custom apps already developed for Windows, regardless of whether they're ported to Linux or the web. That can be a tough sell to the ROI crowd.

ricardoc
ricardoc

being very Unix alike; hence the reason for my hope a version for Linux will come out one day. I still think that vendors that take the step to compile for Mac OS are short sighted by not going the extra step of compiling for Linux. If you think about it many of the times a tech rep gets a support call about a software having issues, the culprit is the OS, not the software. If you take into account that a stable Linux install (in the corporate environment) doesn't get that buggy, you will think that someone, as a software maker will have a vested interest on his software running on a more stable platform, this way minimizing the issues and the support calls. Thanks for the encouraging words; I'll definitively keep asking.

paulfx1
paulfx1

You're weird so you don't count. I've read your stuff ...

jeslurkin
jeslurkin

Not relevant to the article,... but I am sick of the IBM/MS propaganda about CP/M. Gary Kildall _did_ fly that morning,... to Oakland to deliver a software package to a paying customer. He knew he would be back in time for the scheduled meeting, and was. IBM concluded their previous business early, and showed up early. Their kingly egos were offended by the fact that DRI had never planned a 'red carpet' reception. The real killer to the deal was IBM's one-way NDA. They wanted everything IBM said to be non-discloseable, while all of DRI's comments would be "in the Public Domain." DRI wouldn't sign it, IBM wouldn't change it, ...and they left in a huff. IBM went to MS to buy their BASIC, ...not for a real OS.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

Boring is relative. Developing office suites and accounting apps could be called boring, especially when many of each already exist. And yet it has happened; someone developed OpenOffice and GnuCash anyway, along with other programs rooted in unpaid labor. One person's boring app may be another's fascinating project.

lehnerus2000
lehnerus2000

"Update your software to get the latest security enhancements/fixes." Linux distros and related software have security patches.

apotheon
apotheon

The email isn't what makes people think they need Exchange.

apotheon
apotheon

QUOTE: as a writing, I'm all for copyrights 1. I take it you mean "as a writer". 2. As a writer (technical articles, instructional texts, documentation, fiction, political philosophy and ethical theory essays, RPG products, and software), I'm definitely not "all for copyrights". They cause much more harm than good. Being a writer doesn't make one "all for copyrights". Being unwilling to notice that copyright is going to become irrelevant before much longer, and that business models strictly dependent on copyright are pretty much doomed, probably does make one "all for copyrights", though.

pgit
pgit

Licensing is at the heart of this, many very basic functions that are free with Linux cost $ to have it on Windows. This is a reason beyond the moral to be a stickler about proper licensing. A lot of people seem to be of the impression an independent IT guy is in the business of pirating software. I've had a few apparently disappointed people exclaim that if they wanted to (be properly licensed, expressed as "pay that much") they'd have gone with (the local big corporate IT services company) But to the point, apotheon is right. I'd encourage a 'kitchen sink' approach to derive an initial number, eg start with a full license for bare-metal backups for every computer in the place, which of course is not necessary. But heck, comparing apples to apples if you run Linux you have that capability and more, for free. When promoting Linux I don't (initially) shoot for a number based so much on what they need, rather I make a comparison of what they would have with Linux, and what the same capability would cost with Microsoft. Purely a psychological distinction, but sales are as much psych as fact. (most unfortunately)

apotheon
apotheon

There are also more savings to be had than just the OS (lots of applications can be replaced freely or cheaply), and there are benefits to be gained from functionality that is difficult, expensive, or impossible to get on MS Windows as well. If you want to sell it to "the ROI crowd", make sure you address all of the returns on your investment, rather than just one at a time.

Deadly Ernest
Deadly Ernest

think otherwise. My only trouble is organising a few bucks off each of them each year as income.

apotheon
apotheon

I really do tend to appreciate it when people correct the common misconceptions about things. Thanks for contributing to the discussion.

apotheon
apotheon

A lot of business application development requires a collaboration between developers and experts in the relevant area. One reason there aren't better small business accounting packages for open source OSes is that accountants don't tend to be interested in developing open source software. Of course, this only applies to the case of people who develop software for free, to scratch a personal itch, and for other reasons that do not involve being told to do so by an employer. The other case -- people who develop software on orders from an employer -- is usually limited to people who are trying to make money off a rapidly-antiquated "software vendor" model, where the entire revenue stream depends on enforcing an (increasingly unenforceable) artificial scarcity condition so that people will buy something in units that, in reality, does not even meaningfully exist in units. For that case, you need a software vendor to decide to pay someone to make a product that can somehow be marketed to users of open source OSes, and the pathologically risk-averse nature of corporate bureaucracies tends to think of Linux as a gigantic risk not pursuing, regardless of whether it would cost anything notable to serve that market. There is a third case, and that is in-house development. If a given business has the resources to develop a new software package for its own use, and sees some benefit in doing so, new applications can arise that way. The case tends to be that this is done by large corporations, however, and if they're going to do that for accounting software it's almost certainly not going to be something suitable for small businesses or individual home users. Worse yet, the control-freakish ways of corporate bureaucracies tend to confine such organizations to behavior pretty hostile to releasing software under open licenses unless it's part of a very specific business plan -- and internal development like that does not generally come with specific business plans involving releasing such software to the world under *any* license.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

I made assumptions and was incorrect. Thanks for the information. So why aren't there more business apps for Linux on the desktop? Why do you think there isn't more demand?

paulfx1
paulfx1

I'm pretty sure the programmers that wrote Open Office got paid to do so. I imagine Sun paid their employees. You do know that it was Sun Microsystems that developed Open Office don't you? I think you'd be surprised how many folks actually get paid to develop FOSS. Just because FOSS is given away for free doesn't mean it was made for free. In fact technically no FOSS is made for free. Someone at least donated their time to write all of it. But that still is not saying any developer's time is worthless. "One person's boring app may be another's fascinating project." Anything is possible, fact is most things are extremely unlikely though. Even if one was fascinated writing business software they might as well get paid doing it. Enough are in the position to pay for such services that demand will never run out. I don't even think it is particularly ethical to take one person's free work, financially profit off of it, and offer nothing in return. Nothing illegal about it, but it is still pretty sleazy.

lehnerus2000
lehnerus2000

I know that the kernel is part of the OS. ;) Zorin OS must be maintained/run by more competent people than Ubuntu. I've had multiple kernel updates on my Ubuntu install (and VMs) this year. I've had 2 or 3 in the past 2 months! Update (12-08-11) Another kernel update!

Deadly Ernest
Deadly Ernest

been using my current Linux Distro (Zorin OS 5) I've seen on kernel patch and a kernel upgrade. As to Windows patches for apps, the Windows patches usually include patches for MS Internet Explorer, MS Office, .NET, the relevant GUI, and other MS apps - none of which are actual OS patches, although some will claim the MSIE and the GUI ones are since MS have placed them inside the OS security perimeter instead of where they should be outside it.

lehnerus2000
lehnerus2000

I guess you are still using kernel 1.0 and unpatched Samba. If not, why not?

lehnerus2000
lehnerus2000

"[i]1. Windows does the same thing with putting out security updates, and lots more of them, but they accumulate them to put them out once a month.[/i]" Partially true. Certificate revocations come out when they are done (not necessarily "Patch Tuesday"). "[i]2. The majority of the Linux updates are application improvements, not security updates for the applications.[/i]" I never said that they were ALL security patches. "[i]3. Security updates in Linux are mostly for the applications and NOT the Operating system itself, while most of the Microsoft security upgrades are for the operating system and not the applications.[/i]" MS doesn't make most of the applications that run on Windows. "[i]4. Most of the updates in Linux systems are for applications put out by other vendors, a thing that Microsoft never does. If you reduce the updates to those that are the OS only, you'll find that Linux updates for the OS are only one or two every few months.[/i]" So the kernel isn't part of the OS?

paulfx1
paulfx1

Meant to lull the mind. In real usage Linux updates are often less than vital. In the more than 17 years I've run Linux I can remember very few absolutely critical updates ever being released. My command prompt hasn't enhanced appreciably in all of that time either for that matter. What was great then, is still great today. Much ado about nothing.

Deadly Ernest
Deadly Ernest

1. Windows does the same thing with putting out security updates, and lots more of them, but they accumulate them to put them out once a month. 2. The majority of the Linux updates are application improvements, not security updates for the applications. 3. Security updates in Linux are mostly for the applications and NOT the Operating system itself, while most of the Microsoft security upgrades are for the operating system and not the applications. 4. Most of the updates in Linux systems are for applications put out by other vendors, a thing that Microsoft never does. If you reduce the updates to those that are the OS only, you'll find that Linux updates for the OS are only one or two every few months.

lehnerus2000
lehnerus2000

You don't get the latest improvements (security or other) if you don't update.

Deadly Ernest
Deadly Ernest

told, not when the media abuse about their exploitation gets too much. There's also a lot less of them in Linux and Unix than there are in Windows. Mind you, the majority of updates in Linux are improvement patches and not security patches. In the last eight months I think I've seen about five or six security patches for Zorin OS, and most of them have related to services I don't use at the moment - eg Bluetooth and WiFi.

apotheon
apotheon

All else being equal, when disparate functionality is tightly coupled, it tends to become more difficult to migrate to other tools because things like file formats and processes tend to be implicitly reliant on the assumption that the various bits of relevant functionality are all present all the time. Even worse, the different bits of functionality tend to merge and not be *different* at all. This makes it much more difficult to migrate to different collections of functionality, not only because it is more difficult to separate the results during migration but also because *all* functionality must be migrated *together*, given there's no way to separate the bits of functionality that might otherwise be separate to begin with. Gluing separate tools that each do one thing well into a process suited to your specific needs means there are disjunctions in the process where new tools that provide different functionality or different approaches to providing similar functionality can be inserted, allowing much easier migration in a piecemeal fashion, replacing only what you most want to replace at any given moment. I've done a fair bit of data migration over the years. It's a lot easier when the data is processed by distinct parts of a system that interact using standard interfaces than when data is processed by a single, monolithic, all-at-once, homogenous blob.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

At least not with this single statement: "...choosing to lock oneself into a single tool so that it's very difficult to migrate away..." I agree completely with the concept, but I don't think choosing a multi-purpose application is any more likely result in lock-in than choosing a single-purpose one.

apotheon
apotheon

We agree about a lot of things. I find myself upvoting a well-turned bit of phrasing about something when you've written it in comments here, and often skip responding in threads where you are doing well and making excellent points, because it would be needlessly redundant for me to comment, Ernest. There are some key areas where we definitely disagree, however.

Deadly Ernest
Deadly Ernest

good software. That's scary, us agreeing on something.

apotheon
apotheon

Make software to do one thing well, and to be easily used with other software. That's the kind of software it is smart to choose. Choosing software that tries to be all things to all people is choosing inflexible software that will be increasingly difficult to use in a rapidly-changing world, choosing to lock oneself into a single tool so that it's very difficult to migrate away even when it's doing more harm than good, and choosing to chain oneself to unnecessary complexity. Email applications should not be different from anything else, in this respect, but these applications should be the same in that they should be tools that each do one thing well and play well with others -- not piles of feces that each do a million things poorly and are actively hostile to all other software in the same environment.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

People don't use most of the features in most of the programs they run. For that matter, they don't use most features in other things. How many bothered to learn how to program their VCRs? What percentage of features on smartphones or GPSs do they use? Heck, i just bought a new ratcheting screwdriver that came with 12 or 16 bits; I'll probably never use half of them. The number of available features is a factor in many purchasing decisions, regardless of whether they'll be used.

Deadly Ernest
Deadly Ernest

Thanks for the info, I gather that Exchange is the MS response to Lotus Notes that also did all that stuff and most people only used about 5% of.

apotheon
apotheon

People like to have everything bundled together in the Microsoft world. Calendaring, notifications, minor project scheduling, address management, and MS Office entanglement are among the many stupidities that people believe they need in a mail server and client, for some absurd reason.

apotheon
apotheon

QUOTE: Look, censorship is the process of stopping someone from saying anything at all about a subject or subjects. Nonsense. Censorship is stopping people from saying things. Period. Your definition would not include stopping people from saying things with which you disagree on a given subject; they could always say things with which you agree, so they're not stopped from saying "anything at all" on the subject. QUOTE: They exist to give the creator of an idea the ability to gain a benefit out of their creation, but only that specific form of creation. History tells us otherwise. That was only a justification made up later on, rather than the reason copyright came to exist in the first place. Anyway, copyright and patents, both by rational analysis and by the evidence of studies conducted in the real world, do not meaningfully encourage creative acts and innovation, and in many cases have actually hindered the advancement of the state of the art significantly, to say nothing of the millions who die every year thanks to the economic effects of patents. QUOTE: Without them it becomes impossible to make any sort of living by creating anything That is absolute poppycock. I suppose you should tell Amanda Palmer and the members of Radiohead, Nine Inch Nails, and Harvey Danger that they couldn't possibly have made money using business models that do not at all depend on copyright, so they should burn all the money they made in such endeavors. While you're at it, go to the Humble Bundle site and take note of all the musical acts (They Might Be Giants, OK Go, and four or five others) in the Humble Music Bundle so you can get in touch with them and let them know that they're not actually making a crapton of money as well. Go to the TeeFury site and look at the gallery, taking note of all the artists who have made a bunch of money on a business model that does not depend on copyright, and tell them all that they have to give back the mass quantities of money they've made there. You can tell all the writers at TechRepublic to stop making money, too, because it's impossible to get paid for providing content to a site that makes its money off of advertising. Go ahead. I await your results. QUOTE: many people would cease creating things as they would have neither the time or the incentive to do so. I suppose the millennia of creative history of the human race before the governmental censorship backlashes against the invention of the printing press didn't actually happen, then. QUOTE: BTW Most legal jurisdictions define theft or stealing as taking something of value from it's owner or denying the owner the use or value of something they own. Thus taking my work and presenting it as your own is theft. Your two sentences here are mutually contradictory. If I presented your work as my own, I would not be "taking something of value from" you or "denying the owner the use or value of something" you own. If I did that, what I would be doing is plagiarizing, which is neither theft nor copyright infringement. Copyright infringement is *distributing copies* of something (without permission) when its copyright "belongs" to someone else -- not stealing it or mislabeling its authorship. QUOTE: Even so, the writing of code for a program or a web page is, to me, just about the same as preparing the end of year reports for a small business, a lot of work to do things within the limited options of the system according to the established framework. Writing novels, for Dean Koontz, is a rote application of template-like forms to a set of initial conditions and some character names; not really art. Writing music for pop stars is a formulaic collection of common chord progressions in 4/4 time to make something "catchy" without any real creativity; not really art. On the other hand, the novel Strange Angels by Kathe Koja is most assuredly an artistic work, with prose that carries the essence of poetry through every page; Prokofiev's Battle on the Ice is a composition of incredible beauty; and I have seen code beautiful enough to take one's breath away, if one has the soul to recognize the elegance of it. The fact you're a hack doesn't mean the form of expression cannot produce art, and the fact you recognize some forms of expression as being capable of art does not mean that all works in that form are even remotely artistic. QUOTE: Over the years I've created hundreds of Macros for use with MS Word and MS Excel I might have thought those forms of expression were not susceptible to artistic use before I stumbled across a couple of amazing achievements in Excel -- one of which was an implementation of Conway's Game of Life, and the other of which was a 3D rendering engine, both implemented in Excel. QUOTE: any more than I'd regard building a house out of Lego is a copyrightable event. I bet a court of law could be pretty easily convinced to regard a 1:1 scale recreation of a Tudor mansion using LEGO blocks as a work of art. All of this talk of copyright, by the way, is kind of a moot point. In ten years or so, you'll probably find it essentially impossible to make a living by explicitly and implicitly relying on copyright to enforce artificial scarcity on your works. You'll have to either come up with a smart(er) business model or change careers -- and the world will be better off for it. Toward the end of the 19th century, Germany was moving ahead of England by leaps and bounds in pretty much every knowledge based industry, because in England copyrights held sway while in Germany people sold first editions for significant profit, then others sold cheaper following editions of successful works for next to nothing but still significant profit, and as a result the arts and sciences were promoted by the wide spread of ideas and knowledge.

Deadly Ernest
Deadly Ernest

Look, censorship is the process of stopping someone from saying anything at all about a subject or subjects. Copyright is where I've created or written something creative and that exact wording usage or presentation is protected, but you can still say the same things on that subject or subjects as long as you change the words around or stay within the limitations of the copyright laws and attribute it to me. In no way does it stop communication between people. As I said earlier, it covers artwork like stories, paintings, pictures, physical design like clothing patterns etc. The two subjects are not mutually exclusive. The film The Magnificent Seven is an outright rip off of the old Japanese story the Seven Samurai, but due to the major changes to shift the storyline to the US west in the late 1800s it's not a copyright violation. The basic story is the same but it's told with different words, and thus a new story. It would seem you have a major issue against copyright and patents in any form. They exist to give the creator of an idea the ability to gain a benefit out of their creation, but only that specific form of creation. Without them it becomes impossible to make any sort of living by creating anything and thus many people would cease creating things as they would have neither the time or the incentive to do so. In no way do they stop anyone from creating something similar as long as it's enough different, as explained before. BTW Most legal jurisdictions define theft or stealing as taking something of value from it's owner or denying the owner the use or value of something they own. Thus taking my work and presenting it as your own is theft. I have written code in the past, quite a fair bit of it, but not as a full 40 hour week type job. Even so, the writing of code for a program or a web page is, to me, just about the same as preparing the end of year reports for a small business, a lot of work to do things within the limited options of the system according to the established framework. Over the years I've created hundreds of Macros for use with MS Word and MS Excel and would regard any of them as being copyrighted software, any more than I'd regard building a house out of Lego is a copyrightable event. Writing software code in any format is, in my opinion, and engineering matter - and that's why the people doing it are called software engineers. Building a database in dBase or Oracle or SQL requires slightly different knowledge and skill sets, but they're still a case of using the various tools and materials to construct something, the same way a building uses materials and tools to make a house. And, yes, before your ask, I've created quite a number of databases over the years using all three.

apotheon
apotheon

QUOTE: apotheon, copyrights as per the Berne Convention do NOT apply censorship at all I get the impression you're not even reading what I write in any depth. How is "No, you can't say that to anyone!" not censorship? QUOTE: they just protect the creative work I've done. "Protect." Like a protection racket. That's the only kind of "protection" it provides -- by stopping people from communicating with each other in a manner that in no way actually affects *you*. QUOTE: The way the US lawmakers have warped copyright laws is another matter altogether. Due to this, other countries are now headed down that path to do the same or similar before they get shafted by the US laws and companies. I've already addressed this, and your response is evidently to pretend you didn't notice. QUOTE: I can legally take anything you've said and rephrase the concepts in totally different words and it is not a breach of copyright, but using the same words is. *You* are the guy who suggested it's not about the *words*. What about music and paintings and photographs? Don't bother answering; that's a rhetorical question. QUOTE: When I've created a new character and world, they are copyrighted by me, but only in the style in which I've created them. Fanfic is an odd area because most of the fan authors actually violate the copyright by using the specifics used by the original authors; however, some of the originating authors do give permission, some don't. An example would be a fanfic story about a Hermoine Granger as a witch at Hogwarts is a copyright violation, while a story about a teenage surfer-girl called Hermoine Granger set in Hawaii and no magic with a different physical description is NOT a copyright violation because there is more than enough differences, although it would be better to change the name a bit to avoid any risks. This is all . . . pointless. You've done nothing to call anything I've said into question by saying that. I don't even know why you said it. QUOTE: Every year millions of college and university students do assignments where they look up books and papers by known researchers and authors. They then have to prove they know what that stuff means by writing a paper where they rephrase the material. By using different words they are NOT breaching copyright of the initial material, even though they can use up to 10% as direct quotes to support what they're saying. So you can say what's written without a licence, you just can't give an exact quote without approval - that even applies to reporters. This also applies to software, and also disputes nothing I said. QUOTE: In my opinion copyright should never have been applied to software,neither should patents be allowed for genes. In my opinion, neither copyright nor patents should ever have applied to anything, because it's a bald-faced attempt to change the laws of economics to suit the short-term desires of a relatively small group of monopolists. QUOTE: The copyright laws are all that protects my books from being stolen and printed under another person's name so they can make the money from their sales. Stealing actually involves making something available to the victim of theft. Copyright infringement does nothing of the kind. Copyright is not about someone else's name being used in the credits for a book. That's not copyright infringement; it's plagiarism, which is *fraudulent* -- a completely different body of law. QUOTE: That's what they were intended for, that and other works of art - I'd not call software a work of art. I can only assume that either you have not put much time into writing code or when you do write code you do it like a construction worker paints a wall. Software *can* be art. It can even be poetry.

Deadly Ernest
Deadly Ernest

at all, they just protect the creative work I've done. The way the US lawmakers have warped copyright laws is another matter altogether. Due to this, other countries are now headed down that path to do the same or similar before they get shafted by the US laws and companies. I can legally take anything you've said and rephrase the concepts in totally different words and it is not a breach of copyright, but using the same words is. When I've created a new character and world, they are copyrighted by me, but only in the style in which I've created them. Fanfic is an odd area because most of the fan authors actually violate the copyright by using the specifics used by the original authors; however, some of the originating authors do give permission, some don't. An example would be a fanfic story about a Hermoine Granger as a witch at Hogwarts is a copyright violation, while a story about a teenage surfer-girl called Hermoine Granger set in Hawaii and no magic with a different physical description is NOT a copyright violation because there is more than enough differences, although it would be better to change the name a bit to avoid any risks. Every year millions of college and university students do assignments where they look up books and papers by known researchers and authors. They then have to prove they know what that stuff means by writing a paper where they rephrase the material. By using different words they are NOT breaching copyright of the initial material, even though they can use up to 10% as direct quotes to support what they're saying. So you can say what's written without a licence, you just can't give an exact quote without approval - that even applies to reporters. In my opinion copyright should never have been applied to software,neither should patents be allowed for genes. The copyright laws are all that protects my books from being stolen and printed under another person's name so they can make the money from their sales. That's what they were intended for, that and other works of art - I'd not call software a work of art.

apotheon
apotheon

Define "rights" for me in a manner that includes monopoly privileges granted by government, and at that point we'll have a fundamental disagreement where we need to just "agree to disagree". Fail to define "rights" that way, and you'll just be wrong. The main difference between the royal edicts and the Berne conventions are: 1. copyright is now pseudo-universal, but only in theory 2. the Berne conventions are international 3. the Berne conventions do a bit of a song-and-dance to try to make copyright sound like a good thing Copyright is still, fundamentally, a form of censorship. If I wanted to tell you something that was copyrighted, without having received a license to do so, I'd be a copyright infringer. That's censorship. Your attempt to differentiate software from literature and oil paintings based on the notion of incremental changes is kind of strange. I suppose you've never heard of fanfic, text editors, or software like Photoshop, the GIMP, and CinePaint. This isn't just a US problem, by the way. Consider ACTA, CETA, the fact that visiting websites is technically copyright infringement under UK law, and the fact France explicitly disallows releasing a work into the public domain, for instance. Europe's on the fast track to being a place where copyright becomes an explicit tool for the complete dismembership of freedom of speech, by combining its tendency to capitulate to US copyright policy demands with the existence of egregious limitations on freedom of speech related to copyright that already exist there but not in the US. (If you really wanted to leave it at "agree to disagree" you should have just said that and stopped arguing, by the way.)

Deadly Ernest
Deadly Ernest

modern copyright is based on the Berne Convention and not the old Royal edicts to restrict trade. The Berne Convention Copyright laws were brought in to protect the rights of people who create completed works of art like books and paintings and statues, and not to protect things related to engineering or the like where incremental improvements occur. Software code is more an engineering aspect subject to incremental improvements, not a completed work of art. However, you see it differently, and I suspect that's because the US lawmakers see that way and have passed their laws that way. A large number of the copyright court cases being held in the US would not have even been considered in other countries using laws based solely on the Berne Convention.

apotheon
apotheon

QUOTE: It's the misunderstanding and misuse of the system that's causing the problems. The system is designed as if intended to create that behavior in the first place. That makes it pretty difficult to call that "misuse". The system of which you speak is a system for using the law, backed by threat of violence, to create conditions of artificial scarcity so that some people can profit at others' expense as a matter of a protection racket rather than voluntary exchange. What you call "misuse" is just what happens when some people specialize in business models that make use of that system. QUOTE: Software code should be handled under the patents systems and not the copyright. That's *insane*. Patents are a bigger problem for software than copyrights -- much bigger. QUOTE: Computer algorithms and code should not be covered under copyright, they should be covered under patents, like any other engineering item. Algorithms are not covered under copyright, and definitely should not be covered under patents any more than the chemical properties of freon should be covered under patents, or any more than a mathematical expression describing the relationship between gravitational acceleration and the resistance of atmospheric friction should be covered under patents -- otherwise, every time you made a more aerodynamic car you'd have to pay someone licensing fees for the relevant patents, and every time you fell down you'd have to pay someone licensing fees for the relevant patents too (because that atmospheric friction helped slow your acceleration toward the ground, thus softening your landing a little bit). QUOTE: However, the misuse over the last twenty or thirty years have created a whole lot of issues that are now threatening whole industries. Copyright has been "misused" much longer than that, such as in the case of the Statute of Anne, which restricted the use of printing equipment to a selection of publishers who, in return, served as a censorship cartel for the Crown in England. That's all copyright enforcement really is, after all: censorship.

Deadly Ernest
Deadly Ernest

what should be a copyright and what should be a patent. It's the misunderstanding and misuse of the system that's causing the problems. Software code should be handled under the patents systems and not the copyright. For some odd reason someone in the lawmaking area a few decades ago felt computer software code should be copyright because it's words, but being words is NOT a criteria for copyright as copyright is also applied to paintings and designs. In short, copyright is supposed to be applied to intellectual property of a completed item, not a part or component of another item; each variation created by change should be regarded as a totally different item - such as books in a series. Computer algorithms and code should not be covered under copyright, they should be covered under patents, like any other engineering item. That system is set up for the easy expansion and incorporation of improvements and changes to the design by others. However, the misuse over the last twenty or thirty years have created a whole lot of issues that are now threatening whole industries. Especially the way the laws in the US are at the moment.

apotheon
apotheon

For the first time in a month or so, I forgot to save a copy of what I was writing before trying to post it when it was something long, and for the first time in a month or so TechRepublic ate the damned thing. My comment is gone. I'll probably come back to this and respond in full later -- if I remember to do so. Short version: Trying to clear copyrights when building on the work of others is often nigh-impossible, as explained in an article to which I tried to link, which fell in my lap earlier today. It's literally illegal in the UK to browse the web right now, and parliament won't do anything about it until a case in courts right now is finally decided, as explained in another article to which I tried to link, which also fell in my lap earlier today. Stuff like this falls in my lap all the time. I'm quite tuned in to the atrocities of the copyright system, and I know a heck of a lot about it for someone who isn't a copyright lawyer, not just in the realm of software but in pretty much all areas. The very basic assumptions that underlie our modern (as of the vicinity of 1900) copyright system fundamentally encourage the kind of evolution you refer to as "warping" the system. The "warp" to which you refer is the warp and weft of the system, and not a twisting of it into some antithetical form; it is its natural face, following its conclusions to their logical ends. It's completely screwed, and it hurts genuine content creators most of all.

Deadly Ernest
Deadly Ernest

type it, thanks for noticing it - fixed now. However, there are copyrights and there are US software litigation copyrights - and never the twain shall meet. Copyright, as initially set out under the Berne convention is fairly standard and easy to use and protects people's IP rights of written words without trying to restrict the use of words or concepts. In short, copyright protects the EXACT set of words you write, if someone else says the same thing with a totally different set of words, then it's a different item and not yours. They do also protect a few unique aspects of what you write, such as names of people and places that aren't common and new concepts you introduce. An example of a protected name is Hogwarts - new and unique and protected, but names like Harry Potter are only protected if placed in the same environment as Rowling's series as her protection relates to a wizard of that name in that set up, thus I could write an action story with no magic or reference to her set up around a character called Harry Potter and still be legal. For some strange reason the US law courts are extending the copyright laws well beyond what they were intended for with the way they're making decisions on some of the software code that's around. For some things there is only a few very obvious algorithms and the US lawmakers and judges are allowing people to copyright and patent them and laws of nature. There is a very finite way you can write an algorithm for two plus two equals four, yet the US systems allows someone do write the code to do that and then claim copyright and then litigate against anyone else who writes code to do that. The copyright laws were originally intended to allow the creator the right to make money for themselves and their children off their ideas, thus the period of fifty years after their death as they figured their kids are adults and making their own life or dead by then. They were never intended to provide corporations with long term income, but that hasn't stopped the US lawmakers from changing the laws to help the companies out by making it 75 then 100 years after death. It's the warping of the system to favour companies that's where and why the system is breaking down. And that's what should be dealt with and corrected, not the copyright concept itself.