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Is Desktop Linux software ready to take off?

By masinick ·
I have been using desktop Linux software regularly since 2001, and as my primary desktop since very early 2002. My Linux systems background goes back t0 1995. In '95, I did not have my Linux system directly connected to a fast network. In fact, I did not have ANY home system connected to a fast network, so I did not do the kind of computing I do today. Back in the mid nineties, I used UNIX workstations to access the Internet.

In 1999, I got broadband Internet access into my home. I hooked it up to my Linux software that I had at the time, and I was amazed that the DHCP service used picked right up and worked, right off the bat. However, I was attending graduate school online at the time and the papers and participation I did forced me to use Windows and Microsoft Office. I did, however, write a number of class papers about the emergence of Linux software and what I felt was needed to make it successful. Many of the things that I mentioned have happened in the server and embedded software markets, but have not really consistently happened in the Linux desktop space.

... so I open this up to you and pose the question: What, in your mind, will it take for desktop Linux software to reach critical mass? Do you believe it is there, do you believe it will get there, or do you believe it is a lost cause? Whatever your opinion, make your comments and arguments sound and civil.

Thanks!

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Please, not again.

by CharlieSpencer In reply to Is Desktop Linux software ...

See http://techrepublic.com.com/5208-11185-0.html?forumID=90&threadID=179221&start=0

See also http://techrepublic.com.com/5208-11185-0.html?forumID=90&threadID=179407&start=0

Also see
http://techrepublic.com.com/2100-10877-5825524.html

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Its not ready !!!

by justnews4812 In reply to Please, not again.

I to have 2 versions of Linux. (1) SuSe 9.0 64 bit ver I bought (2) Xandros a freebie which i can use but it works similiar to SuSe. Suse recognizes the AGP card Xandros doesn't figure that. Xandros recognizes my "serial HDD" SuSe doesn't. I prefer SuSe as it a top 64 bit ver. I have never been able to install Flashplayer from Macromedia. As i say its not ready for the masses.

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Linuxed

by Neil Higgins In reply to Its not ready !!!

What's good,open source.What's bad,too many variants,too many variables for software-hardware to talk correctly.Not everyone understands "Linux speak".Thirdly,Microsoft.Go ahead and use Linux if your confident to do so.I have tried various products,and have friends who use nothing else.Even companies are beginning to take the plunge.But as far as universal,mass public appeal goes.Not yet.

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I did not see all of these threads

by masinick In reply to Please, not again.

I did not see all of the threads that you cited, otherwise I may not have opened yet another thread. Apparently there was activity within the bowels of some of these threads that I just either didn't see, notice, or find.

I'm of the personal conviction that Linux desktop software is, and has been, useful and ready for a small, but solid, niche market. Within that space, I think there is actually room to produce commercial software, but that is what is going to make or break the commercial end. Investment is needed, and investment is not cheap. Many will doubt and question whether there is, or ever will be, a return on free and open source software.

May I boldly suggest that there is such a return, and even some of the major vendors are seeing it and realizing it.

Sun Microsystems, while kicking and bucking the Linux trend, has actually been one of the early hardware vendors to embrace Open Source Software, just not Linux software. Sun has long produced software to leverage other business. Ironically, the one piece of software that really seems to be catching on that they want to fiercely guard is Java. As they guard it, the software is likely to, and already has, forked in two or three different directions, just what they DIDN'T want to happen. They ought to completely Open Source Java and let go of the reins. They can still probably drive quite a bit of its implementation, simply by having their own developers do much of the work.

I do not see Linux taking over anything, but I do see it continuing to be a disruptive force, enough so that Microsoft is forced to respond, and that's exactly what I think is needed. We also need at least one viable alternative to Windows-whatever, and I also think that we have that much.

For me personally, desktop Linux software provides a combination of flexibility, usability, and stability that I just cannot get in any version of Windows. I can slice it and dice it any way I choose. Now I realize that Microsoft makes it one way so that the masses can use it without getting confused. Linux has cookie cutter variations that chop down and condense the choices into packages that look and feel a lot like Windows, but they are not the ONLY choices. The fact that they are there is a good thing, not a bad thing, in my mind. The fact that Windows remains another choice is also a good thing. It is a good option for some people, just not for me.

I do think it is good to discuss and mull these things over. The only sad thing about it is that these discussions can rarely be held in a civil manner. The vast majority of people simply do not know how to make a good case about the pros and cons of various choices.

I hope this thread shows that there is another way. I don't want anyone to claim that either Windows or Linux software is the only way, clearly neither one is the ONLY way. Having alternatives, in my mind, is the right way, even if that isn't the only way either. But others are welcome to state why having alternatives is not always a good thing. I can definitely see environments where providing too many choices introduces too many problems. I'm just glad I can make my own choices.

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misconceptions

by apotheon In reply to I did not see all of thes ...

You're applying common closed-source misconceptions to an open-source world.

"Investment is needed, and investment is not cheap."

I hear that a lot. For what purpose is this investment needed, exactly? As far as I can tell, Linux is kicking more *** and taking more names with each passing year and, yes, there's investment going on, but that's not why it's advancing. It's advancing because people like to write code for it. Linux is fun. When was the last time you heard someone say that, for instance, hacking code for Windows or OS/400 was "fun"?

"Many will doubt and question whether there is, or ever will be, a return on free and open source software."

Maybe someone should tell Novell, IBM, AutoZone, Munich, and GM that there's no commercial value in free software, then. They don't seem to have gotten the memo. Oh yeah, don't forget all the other users and vendors of Linux-related solutions, like Progeny, HP, and Dreamworks.

"I do not see Linux taking over anything, but I do see it continuing to be a disruptive force, enough so that Microsoft is forced to respond, and that's exactly what I think is needed."

Frankly, I disagree: what is needed is not an active response from Microsoft. What is needed is for Microsoft to lie down and die. MS has long been the poster boy for anti-competitive practice, opaque development standards, and legal threat in the software industry. None of these are good things. It'll be a long time before Microsoft suffers enough financial damage for that to happen, though.

Linux isn't "the only way". Frankly, I don't even think it's the "best" way for me right now. It's what I use, though, simply because Debian is so much more stable, slick, and capable than idealistically "better" alternatives like *BSD. What I'd rather see than the current state of affairs is *BSD, BeOS, ReactOS, and an OPENSTEP implementation dominating the personal computing market. Unfortunately, this isn't likely to happen any time soon. One of these days, though, I'll get around to getting as comfortable and capable with *BSD as I am with Linux. I mean it, darnit.

You're right, though, that neither Windows nor Linux is the "ONLY way". Linux is certainly a better way than Windows, though, since Windows is the main weapon in a war to destroy options, while Linux will always allow competition. The GPL requires it.

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Not "as-is"

by dmarston In reply to Is Desktop Linux software ...

I have posted this under a couple of other threads, but I will post here as well::
My Rant:

This thread (and countless others like it) is a prime example of why Linux (any and all distros) will never become the dominate O.S. for everyday users.
With all its power and configurability comes it's weakness. Let's face it, Aunt Betty and her quilt knitting friends will NEVER edit config files or compile source code. Nor do they want to! (The same can be said of most business users, the Accountants, Salesmen, H.R. folks, etc. etc.)
Average users want to be able to turn it on, read email, print pictures, and create documents. M$ Windoze and Mac accomplish this flawlessly. RedHat is getting closer to this level of "newbie proof", but even RH needs tweaking to get everything to work right. And unless you?re a geek, most Linux documentation might as well be written in Swahili. (Ironically, in some distros you have to be a geek even to find the documentation by using the CLI MAN commands)
A while back I read a piece about some guy trying to print to a shared printer (on XP), it went on to describe his efforts digging through the documentation, setting up SAMBA, dealing with dependencies, etc. until he got it working.
Super! He got it working!
Unfortunately, he left Aunt Betty WAAYYY back there somewhere in the MAN pages; Way before he figured out he needed SAMBA, let alone figuring out dependency trees.
If Little O?l Betty can?t just "point and click" and have it work, she WILL use something else.
The same thing goes for installing applications. In Windoze, you put the disc in, double click ?setup.exe? and it auto-magically does its thing. Linux users have to deal with dependencies, Tar balls / RPMs /packages, kernel versions, compiling from source, etc. etc. etc.
So herein lies the point; If (and only if) Linux programmers start thinking about Aunt Betty and her book club buddies, Linux will always be for "Geeks Only".
YES, Linux is better
YES, Linux is more secure
YES, Linux is cool
YES, M$ Windoze sucks
NO, Linux (as is) can not, and will not become mainstream.
So, To all developers (and end users who influence developers);
Just because some functionality can be added in, doesn?t mean that is should be added in.
Get a picture of the most computer illiterate person you know, tape it on your monitor, and with every piece of your software ask yourself? would (insert name) understand this??
Think about USEABILITY first! Then you can give the options for advanced functionality and tuning. Just because your printing software can support 14 different formats, doesn?t mean the end user should have to choose among them! If the printer hooked to the computer can only use format # 3, then show (and default) to format # 3!
Aunt Betty has no clue what any of these things do, and she DOESN?T CARE! She wants to print this weeks quilt pattern. That?s it, Period. Whether or not this driver supports 47 different configurations or not, is absolutely irrelevant to her.
(This applies to ALL software, I know I?m picking on printing, but only because it illustrates the point well)
Once your software is ?Aunt Betty proof?, and accomplishes its primary goal (i.e. the printer auto-magically prints), then you can make the advanced features available through either config files or plug-ins or whatever.
Secondly, make the documentation ?Aunt Betty proof? by using plain English and make it easy to find!
Thirdly, Make installers that include everything your software needs to run!
If you can?t grab it off the shelf, rip off the shrink-wrap, and install it, neither will Aunt Betty!

Well, that?s my rant..

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Stop carpetbombing.

by apotheon In reply to Not "as-is"

Carpetbombing a discussion forum is rude and annoying. Stop it.

That said, I'll repeat here the same thing I said in response to your horribly underinformed rant in the "Linux in the real world" thread:

When you've supported as many end-users trying to install Windows from scratch, or trying to resolve issues when hardware gets replaced, as I have, then perhaps you'll realize that Windows is at best no better than Linux for issues like this.

"Aunt Betty and her quilt knitting friends will NEVER edit config files or compile source code."
They'll never hack the Windows Registry, flash BIOS, or resolve driver conflicts through the Device Manager, either. The real difference is in the fact that it's harder to find vendors that sell complete systems with Linux pre-installed and pre-configured.

"in some distros you have to be a geek even to find the documentation by using the CLI MAN commands"
Funny, I never realized you had to be a "geek" to type "man" and hit the Enter key. That's news to me. In any case, I'd rather have obscure documentation than none at all.

"A while back I read a piece about some guy trying to print to a shared printer (on XP), it went on to describe his efforts digging through the documentation, setting up SAMBA, dealing with dependencies, etc."
Funny, with Red Hat using KDE (for instance), I just click Control Center > System > Printing Manager and use the GUI printing configuration tool; this is very like the way Windows handles it. On Mandrake with KDE it's slightly more complex: I open the Mandrake menu and go to System > Configuration > Configure Your Computer > Hardware > Printers (which is made a little more obvious by the fact that the icon for Hardware shows a printer). It's similarly easy in GNOME. While I wouldn't throw a user who'd only used Windows previously into CLI printing configuration without waterwings, even it is not too difficult on distributions like Debian (my favorite).

"The same thing goes for installing applications. In Windoze, you put the disc in, double click 'setup.exe' and it auto-magically does its thing."
Jeez, that sounds pretty much like a pain in the arse. You have to have a CD? I just type "apt-get install [packagename]" in Debian, or "urpmi [packagename]" in Mandrake, or "yum install [packagename]" in Fedora Core, and it installs, dependencies and all. Even better, unlike with Windows applications, installing a new one using "apt-get install" doesn't tend to break other applications that use some of the same libraries (DLLs in Windows-speak).

"Just because some functionality can be added in, doesn?t mean that is should be added in."
Gee, I've been saying that about Microsoft for years, and they're still not listening to little old me. Next time you decide to say something like that, maybe you should have a look at the broken-*** mess of "features" that MS calls "Office" first.

"Once your software is ?Aunt Betty proof?, and accomplishes its primary goal (i.e. the printer auto-magically prints), then you can make the advanced features available through either config files or plug-ins or whatever."
Well, good. Then we're done. See above, re: KDE and GNOME configuration of printing. By the way, "config files . . . or whatever" is what's going on behind the scenes, just as Windows Registry settings, MIME type configuration, DLL dependencies, and so on are going on behind the scenes when you configure printers for Windows. This isn't "extra functionality" that gets added on later. This is what makes it all work in the first place. The point of using plain text config files rather than a Windows Registry is to make it easier for an expert to troubleshoot when Aunt Betty completely screws something up.

"Make installers that include everything your software needs to run!"
Ooh, bloat. Good plan. More complexity. Less secure software is fun. More broken software is fun. Oh, yeah, and even Windows doesn't do this as much as you think. Luckily, unlike Windows, major Linux distributions provide massive software package repositories that allow you to ignore things like dependencies and just say "install this thing", and it installs and automagically works. I'm guessing you haven't actually tried this stuff out, though.

"If you can?t grab it off the shelf, rip off the shrink-wrap, and install it,"
Why would I want to do all that? I can just skip the "grab it off the shelf" and "rip off the shrink-wrap" steps and go straight to "install it".

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