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5 Reasons that Linux is a failure

By dcolbert Contributor ·
1: Returns of Linux netbooks are currently 4:1 against XP based netbooks.

If ever there was a platform that was suited to all the claimed and perceived strengths of Tux, it would be the low powered, no frills world of the Netbook PC. Yet consumers, by a 4 to 1 margin, are picking XP based netbooks over their Linux counterparts. This failure to leverage an opportunity when Microsoft execution has been flawed, via Vista - illustrates how far behind Linux is. Linux can't afford to let opportunities like this slip by, but by losing the early advantage in the emerging Netbook market, that is exactly what the Linux community is doing. Losing the Netbook market, which I feel is almost a certain thing to happen, could be a critical and fatal misstep for Linux, preventing it from ever becoming a serious contender in the OS "wars". The emergence of Netbooks is the opportunity for Linux to establish itself as a serious contender to Microsoft, and even more importantly, to establish that the OS platform is not actually important. But at present, the Linux community is letting that opportunity pass it by, which is likely to be a far bigger blunder than any mistake Redmond made with the release of Vista.

2: The "Linux is leaner" argument is a myth.

I've been saying for awhile, I can get XP running far better on a Presario 305M "subnotebook" with 128mb of RAM and a 4gb hard-drive (call it a pre-netbook) than any distro of Linux, if I want comparable features. This is a 333mhz Celeron machine. Linux bloat is as bad - if not worse than XP.

3: Linux "Just Works" and is suitable for end users.

The most annoying thing about this is that XP "Just Works", a familiar claim that Linux cannot deliver on this particular box. Linux may be able to be MADE to work on it - but, why would you hassle with the OS other than for the challenge and academic reasons? I recently acquired a EEE PC, and considered sticking with the Xandros distro on it. After trying to load a simple Mp4 video and having it fail to provide audio or video despite "playing" the file, I quickly removed *nix and added Win XP. I suppose I could have messed around with Xandros for hours, days or weeks to get it to work - but instead a "click yes to install" default XP installation resolved that, and likely many more problems. Normal people do not want to spend hours messing with fine tuning and tweaking their OS to get it to do something, merely for the achievement. They want to be doing it, transparently, without having to worry about the infrastructure that allows them to be productive.

4: Linux is more stable than Win32.

Now, this one is difficult to address. The Linux kernel itself is undoubtedly more stable than the Win32 kernel, even today. So if you're content just running a CLI interface and simple non-graphical applications and utilities than run from the CLI, then Linux had an advantage. But once you add Xfree86, and then a Windows Manager, and then an application that runs under that Windows Manager, you've added 3 additional layers of complexity to that model of simplicity, and 3 times are many opportunities for instability. KDE applications are particularily grevious offenders, in my experience - but GIMP isn't immune. Most users don't differentiate between where a failure occurs. Hardware, Infrastructure, OS or Application. All they know is that if something goes wrong it disrupts their productivity. So, we can split hairs on this argument, but ultimately, the perception is what is important. If Open Office is constantly crashing with a SEV error or cannot load a file correctly doesn't matter to the end user - and they certainly don't care if the crash occurs at the OS level or at the particular application.

5: Linux is easier.

Ok... so, there isn't anybody, even the die-hard Accolytes of the Temple of Linux, who are making this claim. But that is the problem. Linux isn't easier. It isn't even easy. Now, some Linux proponents are willing to try to spin this, and I give them an A for effort. "Linux is harder, but it is worth it". There are various explaination for exactly what the "reward" is. It is liberating to be free of the Microsoft Yoke. It is socially responsible to support the ideals of the *nix community. It is mentally stimulating to use an OS that is challening - it broadens your technical skills and understanding, and countless others. The one that you won't hear is that the reward is that you can quickly, simply and efficiently be up and running productively on any task you might endeavor to attempt. Unfortunately, that is the one that the average user is interested in, and the one that Linux can't deliver. Thus, we see a 4:1 return ratio on Linux based netbooks and a mad rush among Netbook manufacturers to move away from customized Linux platforms to WinXP and even Vista.

With Netbooks forecast to be one of the hottest items this holiday season, with rumored deep discounting coming up this Black Friday, this really presented an opportunity for Linux to gain massive visibility into a previously largely uncracked market segment. But instead, it is more likely that this Black Friday and the following holiday season are instead going to see Microsoft dominante yet another platform while reducing Linux once again to a bit player. I've seen a growing lack of confidence for Linux throughout the tech community, an erosion of enthusiasim for the potential of this platform. Despite the buzz regarding cloud computing and the browser as an OS replacement - despite the arrival of powerful and useful personal convergence electronics like the iPhone, Android Phones and Netbooks - Linux has not been effective at leveraging these market changes. That failure to execute may be the swam-song of Linux - at least in regards to ever being a major player.

None of this means that Linux is inferior. But I don't think it is superior, either. The thing is, Linux is better for some things, and worse for others. This seems lost on many Linux advocates. Linux is not a silver bullet. Far from it. In fact, Linux is highly specialized and very well tailored to very specific needs, but woefully disadvantaged at operating in the "mean". Linux users seem to have a real chip on their shoulder and a inferiority complex that makes them tend to overcompensate. They revel in the fact that Linux is obscure, arcane, and requires a superior intellect. They revel in the fact that Linux is somewhat counter-culture and inaccessible to the masses. Yet, the feel that Linux should be all things to all people and they constantly seek affirmation by way of comparisson to other products. They inevitably find that Linux is "superior", although it is quite clear that this requires a form of mental yoga that often defies rational thought. In the meantime, their aggressive, condenscending attitude to anyone that won't drink their special Kool-Aid makes theirs one of the more unpleasant communities on the internet. I'm happy for those of you who enjoy Linux and take whatever benefit, real or imagined, physical or mental, from that action. I'm glad for Linux and the competition it brings to the marketplace. The fine line exists where Linux-reality approaches untruth, where tech-journalists who are also Linux advocates stretch and distort reality. I think the flurry of anti-Vista rhetoric over the last two years or so is an example of this. I don't think the Linux community is alone in culpability for this, either. Apple is likely the biggest culprit, having aggressively promoted a highly popular and successful campaign that often stretches the limits of truth and honest advertising. In fact, the irony of the pot calling the kettle black in Apple Mac/PC ads have often been the most amusing part of that particular campaign. The sheer balls of Apple to implicate that a Mac has better peripheral support than Win32 (by indicating that the Mac speaks to a Japanese "camera" that the PC cannot speak with) is only eclipsed by an add that implicates that Microsoft is spending huge sums of money on advertising Vista that would be better spent on improving their product. I mean really, how much has the PC/Mac campaign cost APPLE over the last 5+ years, and how much better would their product be if they had put that money into R&D? The PC/Mac ads have launched Hollywood careers, for Christ's sake. How come rational people can't see through the logical inconsistency of a prime-time commercial taking another company to task for running prime-time commercials? Especially a company that encourages people to think independently and critically. I'm Jack's amused grin.

Now, really, I think it is becoming readily more apperant that Vista has turned a corner recently, and that parallels between Vista and XP (adoption, lifecycle and stability) are appropriate and fitting. The reason I chose to post this at Tech Republic, and in this particular format, should be obvious. There are certain segments of this industry that don't want to see the anti-Vista rhetoric die away. But the fact is, Linux has every reason and interest in acting just a ruthless and cut-throat in promoting Linux adoption as Mac or Microsoft. To that end, just like a political campaign, there is a large incentive to tarnishing the reputation of your opponent while over-estimating the value of your own (Candidate or product). That is really a fitting analogy. Both a poltical campaign and an advertising campaign have the same
goals; to convince someone to pick one choice over another. But to those who are the target of these campaigns, it is always important to maintain a truly critical perspective and to have a nose for the hyperbole, exaggerations, and outright lies. In particular when any campaign turns "dirty". In the case of Linux, when you look beyond the hyperbole, exaggerations and outright lies, the numbers and facts - in the case of netbooks - tell a very important and undeniable truth. Average consumers, for some reason or another, are rejecting Linux *in this segment*, by what appears to be a SIGNIFICANT margin. Now, no doubt some of the returns are based on people expecting a true laptop experience from a Netbook and being disappointed by the netbook experience. The early perponderence of Linux based netbooks probably means that the returns of Linux based netbooks are going to be skewed further. Regardless, a quick browse at Amazon or Tiger Direct shows that XP has quickly gained on Linux in the netbook segment, and 4:1 returns still indicate that a significant reason for this disparity is Linux itself. The very fact that vendors and manufacturers have so quickly adopted XP in the netbook segment would serve to illustrate that there is demand for XP and dissatisfaction with Linux in this market. The prospective Linux convert should weigh THAT factor very seriously before considering a change. Based on this fact, a prospective Linux convert should be skeptical of the claims made about the opposition. Based on all of that, it is crucial that potential Linux converts research their consideration seriously, carefully weighing all factors, before they jump. As we head into the holiday season, unless you are familiar with Linux, I would recommend that you do NOT make the jump into Linux with a brand new netbook purchase, at the very least. The numbers show that if you do, you are liable to become an unsatisfied statistic.

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by Forum Surfer In reply to indeed

You can't get me out of bed for that, lol. And let's not forget the 2 hour minimum!


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You go to bed

by jdclyde In reply to $50?

for $50? :0


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yeah well

by jck In reply to $50?

You live in Vegas...higher cost of living.

I can get a 3 bedroom house here brand new (not a foreclosure) for $95k on a 1/3 acre lot.

Plus, I live around a lot of retired folks. Limited income here.

As for minimum time, I can't do that unless I'm being called out to a site. For me, I mostly work for individuals. I usually cut it down to 30 minute minimum charge. That way, it's worth my time if it takes 10 mins to fix.

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It is easy to do, though

by jdclyde In reply to indeed

last summer I bought my boys "rockband" for their hatching day. Was in a rush, and got the PS2 instead of the Xbox360 version. Had to take it back, and didn't hear boo about it, even though it was my fault.

I recently won a hp mini notepad, preloaded with SuSE. It has not been a simple sit down and go experience.....

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by Forum Surfer In reply to It is easy to do, though

I should have mentioned that returning unopened items was ok.

Yeah, my g/f received an acer mini as a gift with linpus linux lite or something like that on it. It's a piece of crap! Somewhat intuitive, yet shockingly ugly. Beuty is in the eye of the beerholder I guess. Fine for websurfing or some light open office stuff. She uses office 07 at work, and she gave up on transferring files back and forth. Since she could care less about pc's or software, I sympathize. The thing basically sits there and is used for internet surfing on the couch occasionally. And I have to admit, I giggle at the name "linpus" lol. Sounds like something a microsoft zealot would call a linux zealot on the playground in elementary school.

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See, that's too bad

by chris In reply to It is easy to do, though

you'd think they would have the thing fully configured and ready to rock.

what was wrong with it?

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Get the advantage from the lazy people!

by nido_rano In reply to indeed

I agree with it.
But the point is missed. Most people spend a lot of money on computers that they think are the best in the market at a time. Simply because the vendor says them it is. So, the people with their new computers want to their computers almost fly. But when they realize that their pcs cannot fly, they are disappointed. The point I want to remark is that the pcs need a minimum personalizing in configuration. A minimal knowing of what a computer does. With Windows, most of the people don't know how their machines do the jobs, and when something goes wrong they don't figure what to do. I guess Linux breaks this habit forcing the user to know something before start with it.

But if the people insists in not knowing anything about their machines, we can do that job for a little money...

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Gods of us all, why did you dig up this zombie?

by CharlieSpencer In reply to Get the advantage from th ...

Halloween isn't for two more days. Isn't it a bit early to be digging up the dead, especially a corpse as volatile as this one?

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Just doing my part to keep the corpse smelling fresh!

by Forum Surfer In reply to Gods of us all, why did y ...

Might spawn some new comments given the recent Jack Wallen posts and debates that followed.


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*NIX easier than XP? Not if you are an end user...

by jeff.allen In reply to agreed

I am in my 40th year in the IT industry. My intro to Unix was in 1983 when it was on a single-user graphic workstation. Since then I have been exposed to it's various flavours etc over the years, on workstaions, servers etc, using Posix, Unix (all variations) SCO and some that I discovered hiding behind dedicated operating systems on purpose-built machines.
In the last ten-ish years I have been working on almost exclusively Windows based products, so I have been "out" of the Unix world for a while.
I recently decided to install Ubuntu onto my laptop, to see for one thing, how much *nix has changed (not a lot - but that's not a bad thing).
But was it easy? No. Was it smooth? Up to a point. How long was it before I switched from end-user mode to Unix technologist mode? - About ten minutes. Just after I downloaded an MP3 I couldn't play. Just before I downloaded an AVI that wouldn't play... I gave up when my attempts at Utube proved fruitless....

As a techy I find it's great, but as an end user?
I WAS going to set up our home PC with Linux, but the thought of customizing it for my wife and kids to use seemlessly? Nup..

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