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Why are Free-Desktop Developers Wedded to Linux?

Cliff posted more than 7 years ago | from the it's-not-the-OS-it's-the-tool-chain dept.

Operating Systems 528

An anonymous reader wonders: "We have been hearing promising predictions like 'This year will be the year of Linux on the desktop' for the last decade. However, the Linux of today seems to be as far away as ever from realizing the expectations of mass adoption we once had for it, without significant growth in home usage since the late 90s. Clearly, if Linux is unable to reproduce a third of Firefox's end user uptake over a much longer time-frame, there are deficiencies with the direction the GNU/Linux/X/Gnome/KDE system has taken. Of course, almost all free software and desktop efforts and development remain unquestioningly oriented around Linux. Other free-desktop operating system projects which take different and innovative approaches like ReactOS, AROS, Mona and Syllable remain comparatively starved of developers and interest. An often cited reason for using a non-Microsoft OS is to avoid a monoculture, but free-desktop efforts have created a total monoculture around developing and promoting Linux, despite a decade of failure in supplanting Microsoft's proprietorial OSes with it. Why are free-desktop developers neglecting to consider an alternative to the penguin?"

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BSD (4, Insightful)

MythMoth (73648) | more than 7 years ago | (#17539848)

So, what's BSD then, chopped liver?

Re:BSD (1)

dosius (230542) | more than 7 years ago | (#17539910)

For a lot of these devs... Yes.

Every once in a while I try my code on NetBSD and it usually works, thank ghed, because I try to code for all systems, and not just Linux.

-uso.

Go Xfce! (2, Informative)

sofar (317980) | more than 7 years ago | (#17540152)

See also Xfce (www.xfce.org [xfce.org] ), which has several key developers who work using BSD and Solaris instead of linux.

patie de foi gras (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17541430)

BSD developers are force feeding geese?

Re:BSD (5, Insightful)

Cius (918707) | more than 7 years ago | (#17541444)

Cliff clearly suffers from a myopic conception of FOSS systems. He also demonstrates the danger in representing an entire ecosystem of software with a single moniker. Free and open source software is not 'Linux', but Linux is free and open source software. The distinction is important. Linux is just one piece of a grand and heterogeneous domain of software. On top of that, anyone can contribute to it, take it and do what they like with it. I don't think it quite qualifies as a 'monoculture' the way that Windows does. I also find the Gnome/KDE reference amusing considering that they use completely different toolkits and libraries.

Re:BSD (0, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17541448)

Chopped liver? No.

Dying? Yes.

Re:BSD (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17541746)

Then what's Gnome running on top of BSD or Mac OS? It doesn't exactly run great, so I'll say that both Gnome and KDE are probably developed almost exclusively on Linux (and the same is true for many other OSS apps).

Not really (4, Insightful)

VincenzoRomano (881055) | more than 7 years ago | (#17539878)

It is very unlikely that developers follow Linux only.
They support some well documented and mature standards like Gnu Libc, X window and POSIX, among others.
Infact, for example, most of the desktop software can be compiled and run under almost all OS that comply to those standards.
Sometimes even under Microsoft's OSs.

Re:Not really (5, Insightful)

kotj.mf (645325) | more than 7 years ago | (#17540218)

++

As far as I'm aware, neither the GNOME nor the KDE devs explicitly promote Linux as the sole underlying OS. The whole point of having an X-based desktop environment is to make it portable to different systems.

The question might as well be "Why do the GNU people spend all their time developing the Linux userland tools?" The answer is they don't - Linux distributors use the GNU/GNOME/KDE stuff, not the other way around.

Duh.

The reason you find the Linux kernel in most free desktop systems should be pretty obvious - it's currently better at handling the random hardware that desktop users throw at it than anything else out there.

Re:Not really (2, Interesting)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 7 years ago | (#17540830)

As far as I'm aware, neither the GNOME nor the KDE devs explicitly promote Linux as the sole underlying OS. The whole point of having an X-based desktop environment is to make it portable to different systems.

Not an X-based desktop, a GTK (or Qt)-based desktop. You don't need X. There are GTK+ and Qt for windows.

The question might as well be "Why do the GNU people spend all their time developing the Linux userland tools?" The answer is they don't - Linux distributors use the GNU/GNOME/KDE stuff, not the other way around.

On the other hand, it does seem that a majority of GNU developers do their work on Linux. And why not? It is arguably the "best" Unix out there. Yes, other Unices have features that Linux doesn't, but I don't think any of them have as many of them as Linux has that they don't. The BSDs are very close (some closer than others) but Linux is the "kitchen sink" kernel - of course you can modularize it or just not build things into it, so don't see that as a drawback. Besides, blowing a couple more megabytes of memory to have more functionality doesn't bother many of us any more.

Re:Not really (2, Insightful)

RAMMS+EIN (578166) | more than 7 years ago | (#17540994)

``On the other hand, it does seem that a majority of GNU developers do their work on Linux. And why not? It is arguably the "best" Unix out there. Yes, other Unices have features that Linux doesn't, but I don't think any of them have as many of them as Linux has that they don't. The BSDs are very close (some closer than others) but Linux is the "kitchen sink" kernel''

What about Solaris? What about OS X? Can anybody share why they do or do not prefer one of these over GNU/Linux?

Re:Not really (3)

Nicolas MONNET (4727) | more than 7 years ago | (#17541128)

Linux is arguably better than Solaris for the desktop, esp. as far as device support is concerned. In fact, Linux supports more devices than Windows out of the box.

Re:Not really (2, Interesting)

Lussarn (105276) | more than 7 years ago | (#17541340)

For one reason or another most OS X users aren't terribly interested in Free Desktops. As for Solaris, Sun uses a non GPL compatible license (last I checked anyways). The GPL still is the free software license to be compatible with. Suns license seems to be on purpose non GPL compatible, as it is a similiar copy-left license. I think it scares off users and developers.

But as it is GNOME (Sun makes considerable work on GNOME) and KDE works just as good at least on Solaris so I don't know what this article is all about.

Re:Not really (4, Interesting)

RAMMS+EIN (578166) | more than 7 years ago | (#17541366)

I can tell you myself why I don't use OS X (even though I do use an iBook). Mostly because it's slow and because it's a hassle.

It's slow mostly because it takes a noticeable time to start processes, and this bothers me, as it's something I do a lot. Also, the GUI takes up so much memory that there is less of it left to get work done with. Once this gets up to the point where it starts swapping a lot, obviously productivity is out of the window.

It's a hassle, because, although a lot of open source software technically works on it, not all of it is readily available. At least at the time I still used it (the situation may have improved since), there were fink, darwinports, and pkgsrc, each supporting some packages but not everything I wanted (pkgsrc worked best for me, but didn't provide binaries for OS X). Having to use different package managers and having to compile things from source are terrible time wasters. The software that Apple ships is either different from what I'm used to from other *nix systems, or it's the same software, but often an older version, which caused further problems.

Also keeping the software up to date is a nightmare when some of it is integrated with Apple's updater (which keeps pushing "updates" for software I don't have or want), some of it is integrated with some open-source package manager (fink and friends), some of it comes with custom updaters, and some of it doesn't have any update mechanism at all.

The final straw was that Tiger broke the ext2 driver, meaning the end of sharing files between OS X and Linux. Yes, Linux supports HFS+, but the interaction between the Linux HFS+ driver and Apple's fsck has given me...bad results in the past, so I'm not going there again.

Of course, none of this means that OS X doesn't look gorgeous and isn't a great OS if you just want to use the great software that Apple ships with it, and maybe a handful of third-party apps. However, for a command-line junkie like me, GNU/Linux beats OS X hands down.

Re:Not really (1)

arodland (127775) | more than 7 years ago | (#17541588)

1) KDE doesn't run (well) on OSX yet.
2) OSX is funky and breaks lots of Unix conventions for no good reason (yes, even compared to Linux)
3) IPC is sloooow.

Re:Not really (1)

orasio (188021) | more than 7 years ago | (#17541718)

I did like Solaris, but I like Ubuntu more.
Now that Solaris is free, or trying to be free, it's worth investing time in, but again, there is not that much of a reason to do that.
About OSX, it's not a free operating system, it would have to do lots of interest stuff in order to get some interest from me, in the form of trying it at a friends house.

Yes, they do follow linux only. (1)

Generic Player (1014797) | more than 7 years ago | (#17540412)

Try using a BSD or solaris and see just how standards compliant most open source software is. There's tons of linuxism and gnuisms in not just the software, but also their configure and build setups. And glibc is not a standard. If you mean one of the C standards like C99, then no, lots of people write gnu/C.

Re:Yes, they do follow linux only. (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17540814)

Try using a BSD or solaris and see just how standards compliant most open source software is.

Gee, last I checked both FreeBSD and NetBSD come with PLENTY of GNU stuff built in that works JUST FINE! So I have no idea what rock you have been hiding under but I think it's about time you crawled out from under it...

As for Solaris, I'm not going to comment because I honestly don't know for sure.

You should check harder. (1)

Generic Player (1014797) | more than 7 years ago | (#17541162)

First of all, they come with very little GNU stuff, pretty much just the compiler/toolchain. And that is maintained as a patched version for the OS in question. Of course, I didn't say anything about GNU software, I said most open source software. Download some random software from sourceforge, half of it won't compile on anything but linux, and even then often only i386 or i386 and amd64. And the stuff that does compile is often subtly broken because of linuxisms or gnuisms in it. Hell, I've seen plenty of stuff that won't even work on all popular linux distros. Assuming broken glibc behaviour, or stupid GNU extensions is very common in open source software since most people writing it have never tried unix before, so they assume the entire world is just like their distro or choice.

Why? (1)

YrWrstNtmr (564987) | more than 7 years ago | (#17539886)

Because there are basically 3 alternatives: Windows, Apple, Linux. Only one of these is Free/Free.

Re:Why? (1)

Enderandrew (866215) | more than 7 years ago | (#17540050)

Except there are more alternatives. Your three alternatives are the largest out there, but not the only three.

Re:Why? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17540192)

Of those alternatives, which have support for more hardware than Linux? Which support Java, Flash (despise it, but have to have it), VMWare etc?

Personally I'd love a viable Free alternative to the Linux kernel. Especially one with a stable ABI so it wouldn't be neccesary to recompile drivers all the time. If only there was a Debian/OpenSolaris. Hopefully Debian/FreeBSD [debian.org] can get more support as well.

Re:Why? (1)

MoHaG (1002926) | more than 7 years ago | (#17540390)

Of those alternatives, which have support for more hardware than Linux? Which support Java, Flash (despise it, but have to have it), VMWare etc?

Personally I'd love a viable Free alternative to the Linux kernel. Especially one with a stable ABI so it wouldn't be neccesary to recompile drivers all the time. If only there was a Debian/OpenSolaris. Hopefully Debian/FreeBSD [debian.org] can get more support as well.

When it is finished ReactOS should have the same hardware and software support as Windows.

Except maybe for hardware support, Solaris is not far behind Linux (and probably ahead with Java support)

Re:Why? (1)

Anne Thwacks (531696) | more than 7 years ago | (#17541630)

I think FreeBSD is what you want. dont know about Debian/BSD but BSD is Unix as in "what Linux is (not) a clone of".

Yes its true, Linux is Free, but not as Free as BSD! (Not a lot of people know that). Read the BSD license: Its not the GPL - The BSD licence allows you to use it to make babies or kill money or is that kill babies and make money? Anyway "the hippies did it" - only two things to came from Berkeley (UCB) are LSD and BSD (Maybe Timothy Leary said that).

Re:Why? (2, Insightful)

ericrost (1049312) | more than 7 years ago | (#17540604)

In my experience, its because any project that wants to tap any sort of decent user base on a free OS realizes that Linux is the free OS out there that's got support. Although as pointed out before, the point of X and sub's is to be OS/Platform independent. Eric

Re:Why? (2, Insightful)

PopeRatzo (965947) | more than 7 years ago | (#17540974)

Great point. I'm sort of surprised we haven't seen a stronger emergence of free OS/Application packages for particular user groups. As a producer of various media (video, music), I had high hopes for BeOS. I'm sure people who only use email and surf the web (maybe write a document now and then), would love to see a package that is geared toward those uses without all the extra stuff a basic distro of Linux has in it.

Let's see a Balkanization of the Open Source OS community!

Re:Why? (1, Interesting)

LighterShadeOfBlack (1011407) | more than 7 years ago | (#17540756)

No. That's exactly the point of the article/question. There are far more than 3 alternatives, it is simply that the only Free alternative that ever gets any real attention is Linux, both from mainstream media and from open source developers.

One of the main problems with Linux is the vast number of distributions, all subtly - and often pointlessly - different. While I can understand the reason for why this happens and why it represents what a lot of people like about Linux, you also have to understand that it is one of the reasons that prospective Windows converts don't like it. So many choices, which one should they pick? Which is better between KDE, Gnome, XFCE, etc.? They don't know, and beyond a few fanboys for each nobody else does either because in all honesty none are truly better than the other. And while that's just wonderful for the guy who knows which is best for him, it's just another choice that the clueless average guy has to make blindly and another reason for him to go scampering back to that othe OS where there's no choices, just familiarity and stuff that works (more or less).

Unfortunately I think that if another non-Linux OS were to become popular developer-wise it might turn out the same way. More developers, more conflicting opinions, more forks. I think ultimately the succesful free OS might be one that's put together by a small core of developers who are able to make one solid desktop operating system. No "light version", no "enterprise version", no separate distributions, just one clearly branded and defined OS with all the requisite compatability and virtualisation to make other OS'es programs run on it.

Going slightly offtopic here but I think another issue with Linux is that it's not doing enough to bridge the gap for Windows users to jump ship. It's coming from the other side of the idealogical void from Windows and it seems too self-involved with it's "I'm Free and proud" baggage to really make something that's practical for Windows users to move onto. I'm not talking about applications here, I mean little things. The filesystem of course is one thing that instantly sets the two apart, /usr, /tmp, /etc, - these mean absolutely nothing to the guy that's been looking at c:\windows, c:\program files, c:\documents and settings, since school. I realise that those folder names have changed somewhat in different versions of Windows but they're always recognizable and while no doubt some of you are saying "so what, it's not important", you're wrong, it does matter. Yes it's a tiny thing. Yes it doesn't matter in the big picture sense. But yes, it is important. The little things like this are what makes an OS feel like home to a user and if the FOSS crowd really truly want to take people away from Windows they're going to have to wake up and realise that. /someOS , /programs, /settings anyone?

This isn't an anti-Linux rant. It's more of a Stop Thinking Outside The Box rant. Outside the box stuff scares people. Get back in the box and think how normal people think dammit.

Re:Why? (1)

dosius (230542) | more than 7 years ago | (#17540876)

The thing is that for a *x user, /bin, /usr/bin, /lib, /usr/lib, /etc, /usr/local are just expected to be there. This has been true since long before I was even born (1980), and isn't a Linux thing per se (why do you think it's the same damn way for all the mainline BSDs, Solaris, and all the key players in Unixland except for maybe OSX?).

-uso.

Re:Why? (1)

zippthorne (748122) | more than 7 years ago | (#17541306)

OTOH, a good question to ask is why does the standard *nix file system have such terse naming? I mean, most modern shells do some kind of name completion so speed of typing isn't an issue anymore.

Why put binaries in /bin? why not put them in /binaries

What is ../sbin for?
And what the hell is the difference between /usr/local/bin and /usr/share/local/bin (or is that /usr/local/share/bin or something else?)*

*I don't remember if these are even the exact directories, only that really similar naming in that area has bugged me to the point that I can't remember.

The point is that maybe it should be obvious where to put and find stuff because the names are intuitive. Perhaps the standard directories shouldn't even have names at all, but rather some kind of magic number, from which the names are chosen based on your choice of language.

Re:Why? (1)

metamatic (202216) | more than 7 years ago | (#17541318)

It's the same way on OS X too, actually.

Re:Why? (2, Interesting)

Count Fenring (669457) | more than 7 years ago | (#17540980)

Mayhaps they are thinking "Outside the box" because the box is a shape that is displeasing, and also is ON FIRE.



The windows way of handling filesystems and drives is more familiar to more people, true... but it's also kind of brain damaged (Example: No distinction between Hard Drives and Partitions in the naming schema). Also, people are either A)Technically illiterate, in which case they navigate the computer by set, static procedures, thus making ANY change of directory harder, but also meaning that keeping some similarities doesn't actually help. B)Technically competant, in which case, they can learn a new directory structure pretty quickly.



And, again. ON FIRE. A Windows box (XP Corporate) that is not running signifigant antivirus and antispyware can be locked up and owned in less than 10 seconds, remote execution through webpage. I SAW IT HAPPEN. Before I updated it, user miskeyed a search site, got a hostile webpage, and BOOM. Had to reformat.

Re:Why? (1)

JohnFluxx (413620) | more than 7 years ago | (#17541042)

You know we did this for ubuntu in the last release. We added a .hidden file which basically hid /usr etc from the user (those folder simply didn't show up in konqueror).

Nobody liked it and it was pointless. Anyone who browsed to / (since there's no direct links to it in kubuntu) probably knows enough not to get scared by usr,etc etc
We removed it in the next release.

Re:Why? (1)

NorbrookC (674063) | more than 7 years ago | (#17541434)

The filesystem of course is one thing that instantly sets the two apart, /usr, /tmp, /etc, - these mean absolutely nothing to the guy that's been looking at c:\windows, c:\program files, c:\documents and settings, since school.

There is a Linux distro which takes that on. http://www.gobolinux.org/index.php [gobolinux.org] is an alternative that makes the Linux system look a little more "familiar" to a Windows user. On another front, I'm a bit disappointed that no one seems to be touting Linspire/Freespire as a distribution. It's one of the few that's really been targeting the consumer market.

Which is why I also think you have a point about the ideological baggage. A lot of initiatives (like the Linux Standard Base project) get bogged down or caught in the crossfire of the various faction wars. Ideological purity isn't going to move people over to Linux, it's going to be whether they can set it up with a minimum of fuss and have it work, and have the applications they want available for it. We can whine all we want about Microsoft's desktop dominance and how they strong-arm OEM's into installing it. Yes, that's true. It also means that if we want the average user to switch, we have to make it easy for them to install Linux on their own, and have it "just work." Otherwise, they're not going to bother.

Because it's about freedom! (3, Insightful)

jimstapleton (999106) | more than 7 years ago | (#17539976)

To choose exactly the same thing as they do.

I know this will get troll/flamebait, this community does not like criticism, even though taking it into account could cause improvements.

Seriously though, the thoughts are this:

(1) They are enamored by the GPL license. I'll grant for certain uses and purposes, it's an excellent license, even if I don't agree with it.
(2) Momentum - Linux is the first OSS OS to gain popularity, and it hit it off big for such things. What this means is that it has more support and developers, which provides a more feature-filled system which brings the people and culture more of what they want.
(3) Flexibility - I'm not sure the whole background of it, partially it's the GPL, partially it's the management, but the Linux system is highly flexible in terms of development, allowing people to develop their projects how they want to. Especially at the kernel level. It may not be a coders dream environment, but it's pretty close.
(4) UNIX Like. I know ReactOS isn't Unix like, I don't know about the others. I know BSD, which you didn't mention, but lacks 1-3 is also a Unix OS. Regardless, the Unix methidologies are very comfortable to developers because (a) they are relatively regular in setup. (b) They tend to be highly modular, making things easier to work with and build - lots of re-use of things you made or thigns others made. B can exist in other OSes as well, but it isn't as pervasive as in the UNIX environments.

Note, there's probably a lot more to it than this, but this is what I've gathered from what I have seen and read on the various topics. and discussions.

Re:Because it's about freedom! (1)

Je-Tze (877130) | more than 7 years ago | (#17540204)

Funny, but for the most part those aren't really criticisms.
You've enumerated several good, solid reasons why Linux is ahead.

Re:Because it's about freedom! (1)

jimstapleton (999106) | more than 7 years ago | (#17540280)

it's a criticsm if it's suggesting you are too stuck to them.

2 and 3 are particularly the criticisms...

2 - It's the same reason Windows is so big right now in areas where it shouldn't be
3 - It's great for the coders, but for the people who want to use it, but don't want to code, or for the people who may be good at writing code, but lousy at reading others, it's a major deficit.

Re:Because it's about freedom! (1)

gsslay (807818) | more than 7 years ago | (#17540352)

(1) They are enamored by the GPL license.


Are they ever! I've lost track of the number of Linux software packages I've downloaded that have a "read me" that goes into exhaustive and loving detail about the GPL, and absolutely nothing about the installation or use of the package.

Re:Because it's about freedom! (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 7 years ago | (#17540768)

Look, positive moderation! What's going on? I was modded appropriately yesterday myself. Strange things are afoot at the Circle K.

Anyway let's talk about your comment. You are absolutely correct on all levels. As you say 3 and 4 apply to BSD as well but it's the 1 and 2 that really put on the heat. I haven't been a big fan of the GPL over time but I'm coming around too. I have to admit that it really is a sort of LICENSE OF THE PEOPLE, maybe a little overbearing in some situations, but then it's about freedom and frankly you either care about freedom or you don't. The BSD is a wonderful license if you want to effectively place something in the public domain but can't bring yourself to accept that you might not get any credit for it... but IMO it's just a half-assed half-step towards making it PD.

The most important aspect is momentum, and what it provides. See, because linux has the momentum, it's the non-closed OS most likely to have drivers provided by the manufacturer. Because it has the momentum, and the other developers are usually writing things for linux first, if you want to play with the latest and greatest, you need to be using Linux, or be willing to do some porting which ranges from trivial to, well, non-trivial :)

Linux is also generally easiest to install and use. I know there's some BSDs that are making it much easier these days but nothing really compares to Ubuntu. This helps with the installed base, meaning that if you develop some linux software there's already a broad and ready audience.

Re:Because it's about freedom! (1)

jimstapleton (999106) | more than 7 years ago | (#17541014)

3 doesn't apply to BSD, which is probably the biggest reason why it didn't get the lift-off that Linux got, even though it had a much earlier start (as an OS), and slightly earlier start (as a OSS OS), and arguably was better than Linux for quite a while in all other respects.

The BSD people are quite strict about the code, comment and doc quality of what goes into the kernel in comparison to those who work on Linux.

Freedom is the ability to make a choide. The GPL is *not* about freedom. It's about Openness. It makes several huge restrictions on what a person can do with GPLed software in order to keep it visible to all.

I've found, provided you have supported, FreeBSD has been just as easy to install as Linux (though not as pretty) as of version 6. As for administration, it's a bit more work to get off the ground, but with the documentation quality, I've found it easier to get running than Linux if you want to make any modifications over the base install beyond adding users. I used RH/Fedora for four years, Tried FreeBSD 5.4, wen't back to Fedora because the installer was pretty flakey. I then was talked into FreeBSD 6.0, and within two weeks never wanted to see Linux again. I was talked into Ubuntu, tried it for a month, and after issues with it's installer breaking things, went back to FreeBSD. I gave Gentoo a try, it had the feel of FreeBSD, but portage wasn't as reliable as ports in my experience, so I moved back to FreeBSD again.

Re:Because it's about freedom! (1)

Bogtha (906264) | more than 7 years ago | (#17541590)

They are enamored by the GPL license.

I don't think that's remotely true.

GNOME is LGPL, not GPL. In fact, they consider it an advantage [gnome.org] to not use the GPL.

KDE libraries are LGPL, KDE applications are GPL [kde.org] .

XFCE uses a mixture [xfce.org] of the GPL, LGPL and BSD licenses.

Enlightenment uses the BSD license [enlightenment.org] .

GNUStep uses the LGPL [gnustep.org] .

As you can see, none of the major free operating environments use the GPL exclusively, in fact half of them don't use it at all. Hell, GNOME is part of the GNU project, the FSF recommends the GPL instead of the LGPL, and GNOME ignores them and use the LGPL anyway.

Sour grapes (1)

tfbastard (782237) | more than 7 years ago | (#17539978)

The entire summary sounds like a severe case of sour grapes.

As to why Linux is popular as a target platform, how about existing adaption, source code compatibility (well, almost) with a range of other UNIX- and UNIX-like operating systems, hardware compatibility etc.

The operating system is irrelevent... (3, Insightful)

Wdomburg (141264) | more than 7 years ago | (#17539994)

All the interesting stuff in supplanting Windows in the desktop is in, well, the desktop. The underlying operating system is irrelevent so long as it works, and Linux is going to continue doing that far better than upstart efforts.

Is this a serious question? (0, Flamebait)

heinousjay (683506) | more than 7 years ago | (#17540032)

When has anyone ever known a zealot to change their mind? I can't believe this is even being asked.

Re:Is this a serious question? (2, Funny)

Skewray (896393) | more than 7 years ago | (#17540190)

My god your right! I am wiping my linux os's immediately and installing Minix! I have seen the light!

I not anymore a Linux User (-1, Flamebait)

denisbergeron (197036) | more than 7 years ago | (#17540092)

Once upon a time, I was a Linux user and zelote, and Unix admin.
Since 2000, with all the problem with RedHat not available anymore free, with two Mandrake version with full of problem. I now a Windows User.
Come on guy, you can have Firefox, OpenOffice, Gimp on Windows, but, you can't have Photoshop on Linux.
And you don't have any application like Photoshop on Linux (raw support, 32bit support, etc.)

Re:I not anymore a Linux User (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17540216)

you can have Firefox, OpenOffice, Gimp on Windows, but, you can't have Photoshop on Linux
... and that is exactly why friends of Free Software (should) never code for any non-free target platform, nor use LGPL, BSD or any other "I am turkey, eat me" license!

Re:I not anymore a Linux User (1)

jimstapleton (999106) | more than 7 years ago | (#17540838)

And what license would you suggest? A more open but less free license, like the GPL?

Freedom means being able to make choices and decisions. Suggesting that using GPL, which is more restrictive of the choices avialable, over the BSD/MIT/LGPL/etc. licenses is not a push for freedom, it's a push for openness, there is a difference.

Stand on your platform all you like, but don't call it a name that would fool others into thinking it's anything other than what it is.

Re:I not anymore a Linux User (1)

PingSpike (947548) | more than 7 years ago | (#17540252)

While I can understand your situation, Windows may meet your needs best...the crux of your example was photoshop, one application used for specific types of work. It hardly makes the case that only Windows can get the job done for computing...especially since its also available on the Mac.

Re:I not anymore a Linux User (1)

PinkPanther (42194) | more than 7 years ago | (#17540852)

A Unix admin who needs office and photoshop? What the hell kind of work are you onto?

Sorry, but I smell troll. Your post just doesn't make sense.

I have been able to do my work on either GNU/Linux or XP for quite some time now (except for some CE app development projects). I just cannot buy the concept that a "unix admin" feels that "Windows" fixes usability problems.

Too many flavours (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17540160)

The main reason why Firefox gained so much popularity compared to Linux is it's so easy to install and use. Linux has so many flavours that people don't know which one to pick and shy away from it.

I'm still looking for a Linux that's easy to install and use without having to "rebuild kernels, install hundreds of packages, etc". I tried Ubuntu and that never worked...

I'm sure I'm not the only one wanting to give Linux a try but it's so compilicated.

Firefox and Linux ... not really comparable (5, Insightful)

swanriversean (928620) | more than 7 years ago | (#17540950)

This is a bit of a red herring. Firefox gained market share for a number of reasons, some that may be applicable to Linux as well. But the single biggest reason for Firefox's market share is that you could install it on Windows.

I'm still looking for a Linux that's easy to install and use without having to "rebuild kernels, install hundreds of packages, etc". I tried Ubuntu and that never worked..."

Have you ever tried installing Windows from scratch? That is like two days effort (by the time you get all your drivers and programs installed, and everything set up as you like). I don't think Linux is worse than Windows, just different. And for certain setups, its better (consider all the good programs that are already available by most distros default install).

So, the main reason Firefox gained so much popularity compared to Linux, was that you could use it on whatever OS you were already using. Possibly this includes it being "so easy to install and use", but that is a misleading statement because you are implying a Linux distro isn't. Firefox installs like any other application on any supported OS, and is as usable as most mature programs. Linux distros are likely the easiest operating systems to install, but that doesn't really matter, because most people will never install an OS. Linux is quite usable, as long as you don't expect it to be the same as Windows or OSX and are willing to get used to it.

False analogy (4, Insightful)

Noksagt (69097) | more than 7 years ago | (#17540180)

Clearly, if Linux is unable to reproduce a third of Firefox's end user uptake over a much longer time-frame, there are deficiencies with the direction the GNU/Linux/X/Gnome/KDE system has taken.
This is a false analogy [wikipedia.org] .

Linux is an OS. Firefox is a desktop application. An OS differs from an application in many ways, including ease of installation and the impact to the rest of the desktop.

Perhaps this suggests "alternative OSs" should make it even easier to make use of virtualization on "popular OSs" (LiveCDs are popular & this would be the next logical step).

Of course the way to find the adoption of any software is difficult & the ways people look at browser usage compared to OS usage often differ.

Firefox can run on many OSs, including Linux. Unless another browser becomes very dominant on Linux or Firefox becomes unpopular in other OSs, it isn't a good point of comparison.

The fact that a browser was the basis for comparison is telling--server-side apps are becoming more important & many of these do run on Linux.

Re:False analogy (2, Insightful)

Chris Burke (6130) | more than 7 years ago | (#17540834)

Linux is an OS. Firefox is a desktop application. An OS differs from an application in many ways, including ease of installation and the impact to the rest of the desktop.

No kidding, I thought this was a ludicrous comparison when I read it too. Firefox achieved popular success because it runs on Windows. Can Linux do that? Uh, no, barring geeky stuff like vmware which itself doesn't have the same uptake as a web browser.

Plus when he talks about the Linux desktops being wedded to Linux even though Linux has failed to achieve Firefox-like success, he misses the whole friggen point of these desktops: to make Linux and other *nix more ammenable to being the "average user's" desktop! He's basically saying, give up on that, and try to be popular on Windows, assuming that's even possible.

The fact that a browser was the basis for comparison is telling--server-side apps are becoming more important & many of these do run on Linux.

Indeed, good point.

NO its not (1)

criscooil (653395) | more than 7 years ago | (#17541712)

It is not a "false analogy". Its not even any kind of analogy. It is a non sequitur [wikipedia.org] . This is not pedantic [wikipedia.org] . It is completely different [wikipedia.org] .

Some do (5, Insightful)

Enderandrew (866215) | more than 7 years ago | (#17540182)

Some do consider alternatives, and that is why programs like ReactOS exist. Most of the smaller alternatives aren't really designed to be desktop replacements for the world, but rather small niche desktops. Of all the alternatives, Linux is the best candidate to supplant Windows on someone's PC.

Firefox used aggressive marketing in quick blitz. It had a great name. And Firefox had rapid growth because of that.

Linux is associated with geeks and carries plenty of negative baggage with the average person. When Mozilla became Firefox, it was able to be reborn in a marketing perspective, and may someday win the fight that Mozilla never could.

If Linux gets a similiar marketing facelift, you could see similiar adoption rates that Firefox had. It is a much bigger adjustment for people, but in the wake of Vista, more people may be looking for alternatives. However, the majority of the Linux community is quite content to cater to themselves rather than try to cater to the outside market. For mass consumption you would really need:

1 major primary distro for home users.
1 major desktop
Easy conversion wizard to help people convert Microsoft documents, desktops and settings.
1 major form of package management, and thusly one major package repository

Remember the GetFirefox.com campaign? Remember all the CDs thrown around?

Imagine a LiveCD distribution campaign that did the same thing, but also helped you convert/migrate? Give it a snappy name, and a cute mascot and there you go!

Re:Some do (2, Insightful)

ericrost (1049312) | more than 7 years ago | (#17540790)

Only problem with that is the VAST difference in philosophy between distro's. I run Gentoo because its scalable, portable, and has the best package manager out there. However as any new Gentoo user will tell you, it's a bitch to get going the first time. It made me learn though. I had a technical background in computers and networking in the Windows environment and bloatware holds you by the hand so much that when you're faced with an OS that can do anything you want it to, you cry out for help. Once I got through the pain, I'm now running my system the way I want it to be run. The average user can't do this. The average user wants to click Yes and have everything run. There are a few distros out there for this, but they have their problems as well (security, portability, package management). There (at present) isn't a magic bullet out there in the Linux world for an end user's home PC. You have to be techinical to run a Linux system properly, and most people want an appliance, not a computer.

Re:Some do (1)

Enderandrew (866215) | more than 7 years ago | (#17540866)

Not trying to start a flame-war here, but I loathe Gnome. I point most "typical-users" to SUSE, but with the Novell fiasco, I'd point them to Kubuntu likely.

Both show great promise to that end. If the community weren't so completely fractured, we could develop a magic bullet.

Re:Some do (1)

ericrost (1049312) | more than 7 years ago | (#17541054)

I completely agree that those are the distros that work best for end users, but take a look at the installs, huge bloated OS's that aren't stable and don't have good package management. With the built in bloat they just don't run as fast as the hardware could/should. The flexibility and optimizations for my hardware are what led me to Gentoo. Although it may not have been the most user friendly (In my view Gentoo's biggest "drawback") I was able to get it going with the documentation (80 page install guide) available and there's a HOWTO for everything you want to do to get it running and then tweak it. And that fact that almost everything is compiled from source optimized for my architecture and not including support for hardware/features I don't need makes up (to me) for the fact that its a bit of a shooting match getting things correctly configured. But anyway, there's a good reason there are different distros, and that's because there are different user bases. But like we've said already, there isn't a magic bullet. I would hate to get a call from someone who doesn't know what they're doing trying to set up Gentoo, but I don't know that I'd recommend Ubuntu or openSUSE because of the lack of effective package management when they're trying to get a new application running.

Re:Some do (1)

Enderandrew (866215) | more than 7 years ago | (#17541572)

I'm a big advocate of Gentoo as well, though lately I've been frustrated with the lack of updates in Portage for certain packages. They sorely need more package maintainers.

But Gentoo is not the magic bullet to spark the Linux revolution for the typical user.

Re:Some do (1)

MagicM (85041) | more than 7 years ago | (#17541504)

Isn't this exactly what Ubuntu is doing (minus the easy conversion wizard)? They "throw around" CDs [ubuntu.com] , and even try to send you more CDs than you need so you'll hand them to your friends.

So all they need is a snappy mascot. I nominate him [ubuntu.com] .

Re:Some do (1)

Enderandrew (866215) | more than 7 years ago | (#17541710)

They are making installing Linux fairly easy, though I think Suse has the best installer, and YAST is great for new users.

I don't think Ubuntu is a sexy name, the mascot isn't sexy, and I don't care for the color scheme. It seems to be the fastest growing Linux distro on the planet, but I don't think it is a marketing home run either.

Why Linux will never be a major desktop OS (4, Funny)

itwerx (165526) | more than 7 years ago | (#17540198)

Here's the Flamebait/Insightful reason why Linux will never be a desktop OS: 99% of the development is driven by developers. Developers are geeks. Developers have their friends and the rest of the OSS community test their stuff. If they ran it by their grandmothers once in awhile maybe we'd make some headway...

Re:Why Linux will never be a major desktop OS (1)

kotj.mf (645325) | more than 7 years ago | (#17540362)

Here's the Flamebait/Insightful reason why Linux will never be a desktop OS:
Wrong flamebait. We're supposed to be explaining why Linux has so much of the desktop market. Get with the program!

Toy OSes... (1, Flamebait)

kosmosik (654958) | more than 7 years ago | (#17540214)

That is because these projects are not finished and stable operating systems. Linux is quite mainstream now the others you mention are just toys with no real future really. Maybe that is why people tend to prefer running Linux than not running some Toy OS which does not work.

what about cygwin, fink? (1)

davek (18465) | more than 7 years ago | (#17540232)

I know that the question concerns other operating systems, but I've had the same questions concerning the portability-layer projects like cygwin (windows) and fink (osx). I tried in vain for a few months to get stock garnome to compile and run on cygwin. As for fink, KDE seems to run, albeit in a crippled state.

IMHO, if the desktop layer of OSS becomes too coupled with the kernel, then we've shot ourselves right in the foot. However, if OSS can continue to develop a somewhat uniform desktop system across multiple platforms...... now that's a developers dream :)

-dave

The're not wedded to Linux.. but are to Unix (3, Insightful)

HighOrbit (631451) | more than 7 years ago | (#17540234)

I disagree "free-desktop efforts have created a total monoculture around developing and promoting Linux" because KDE, Blackbox, XFCE, etc, etc.. all compile on pretty much any implementation of Unix, of which Linux is just a clone. Solaris now runs Gnome (branded as Java Desktop System) as the prefered desktop.

Unix is probably popular with developers because it is "open" and standardized in the specifications and widely know and taught in computer science departments.

So the "failure" to catch on is wider than Linux. Solaris/SunOS alone has been deployed in probably every large corporation in America and Western Europe since the '80s, but has never broken out of the specialist server/workstation market and into the general desktop market. And during all that time, SunOS/Solaris has gone from OpenLook, to CDE, to Gnome. The various X-Windows desktops really didn't get off the ground in a meaningful way until the mid-1990's with CDE (which was announced in 1993, I first saw it myself in 1996 on HP-UX), by which time Win3.1 and Win95 were already entrenched. Also, compare Win95 and FVWM circa 1995, and you'll see why Windows was the only desktop game in town at the time.

Windows owes it sucess to the ubiquity of MS-DOS in the 1980s-early 1990s. MS-DOS owed its ubiquity to the "street-credit" granted to it by IBM's endorsement. Had IBM implemented their PC with Xenix or some flavor of Unix capable of running on an 8088, then we would all have unix desktops.

If they could just cooperate more (1)

paltemalte (767772) | more than 7 years ago | (#17540256)

I know this is slightly off-topic for this question, but I still think that all the people and developers who keep talking about the 'ability to choose' is so great - is the big reason why Linux on the desktop never gets anywhere.
If all the bright minds of KDE, gnome, QT, the people behind xfree etc would come together, and work out one single system that they all afterwards work on together, I think Linux could stand a chance again. They should focus on what apple has done and how the MacOSX desktop works and try and copy and/or improve on that.

I as a simple user frankly don't care about having 2 or 3 or 15 mediocre different choices of desktop systems.
Give me just one good choice instead and I will be happy.

Re:If they could just cooperate more (1)

Yvan256 (722131) | more than 7 years ago | (#17540384)

They should focus on what apple has done and how the MacOSX desktop works and try and copy and/or improve on that.
Indeed. I've switched from Windows to Mac about two years ago, and now every time someone shows me their Linux box, I have the impression to see something from 5-10 years ago.

If Microsoft is trying to copy OS X, and the Linux community is trying to copy Windows, they'll never be ahead and stay in 3rd place. I'm talking desktop users, not servers.

Why copy the copier when you could copy the original? OS X is your target, if only for the inspiration on how to interact with and present information to its users. Make it easy to use, allow programs to talk to each other (OS X drag'n drop or copy/paste style, not "Windows-that-allows-worms-to-spread" style). I don't care if it's "hard to code", if you want more users then you need to fill the needs and wants of those users.

And yes, I know some people will reply with the usual "those fancy users just have to code their own stuff" and "we don't want to fill the needs of dumb users". Don't bother, I'm not talking to you, I'm talking to those who want to spread Linux adoption.

Re:If they could just cooperate more (2, Insightful)

jonasj (538692) | more than 7 years ago | (#17541066)

How about this: Don't think of "Linux on the desktop" as one single competitor to Windows and OS X. Instead, think of GNOME, KDE, XFCE, etc. all as competitors on the same level as Windows and OS X. If you look at it that way, suggesting that KDE and GNOME merge to develop a single desktop makes as much sense as suggesting that KDE and Mac OS X merge.

The goal of the GNOME project, for example, isn't to spread Linux desktops -- it is to spread GNOME desktops.

Userbase critical mass (4, Insightful)

Coryoth (254751) | more than 7 years ago | (#17540274)

I think the simple answer is critical mass: you need a sufficient number of developers developing not just the platform itself, but applications to run on it. Without a sufficient base of applications you're going to inevitably be perceived as a minority player and fail to attract many users, and hence many extra developers. Past a certain threshold you can be roughly self sustaining - Linux is across it, and so is MacOS X, but I don't think the projects you mention are even close. There is simply too much software built up on the GNU and X11 toolchain (and increasingly on GNOME and KDE) that people would have to leave behind to move to a new open source OS - it just isn't that tempting when the alternatives look so application poor.

To succeed you really need some base to start with (as Apple had when they moved to MacOS X, although even they lean on X11 and apps built on the GNU toolchain to some extent), or you need to support the toolchains of the applications (see OpenSolaris and BSD, which lean on X11, GNOME, KDE, etc.). Depending on what it is you wish to get rid off things can go from easy to very hard. Just ditching the Linux kernel is feasible - see the BSD and OpenSolaris options, among others. If you want to get rid of X11 as well... well that's trickier, but if you have a graphics system that will run GTK+ and or QT you might get by because you'll still have the rich supply of GTK+ apps, and can probably get KDE ported. If you want to ditch everything up to GNOME and KDE... well that means rewriting all your applications from scratch, and really that's a huge and incredibly daunting task. It's not just the big applications like web browsers and email clients, its all the different little niche applications that make the environment so rich. Its that that keeps many people on Windows - the one little application that few other people have any interest in, but happens to be vital to them; because everyone has a slightly different vital niche program it adds up to a lot of applications to reproduce before you can truly draw a large user base.

Linux has crossed the first threshold: it has enough users and application developers working on it that its self sustaining. It has yet to cross the next threshold where it provides a rich enough ecosystem of applications to entice the myriad of home users. It is, however, slowly crawling toward that goal.

ReactOS is an abortion of an OS (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17540278)

Other free-desktop operating system projects which take different and innovative approaches like ReactOS, AROS, Mona and Syllable remain comparatively starved of developers and interest.

What's so different and innovative about ReactOS? Isn't it just a Windows NT knockoff that can just barely run Solitaire? Plus isn't there still unresolved issues [slashdot.org] regarding its legality? Seriously, what's the point of ReactOS?

Re:ReactOS is an abortion of an OS (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17541734)

ReactOS is one of the more interesting projects around. Like FreeDOS, ReactOS fills an important niche in the free software family tree. A free NT/2000/XP clone would be extremely useful for many individuals and organizations. Plus, there is a lot of knowledge to be gained by the mere act of trying to do this. Certainly there has been cross fertilization between the ReactOS project and WINE.

I'm a Linux user, and am happy with Linux for my purposes. But I will be giving ReactOS a try after its next release. It won't replace Linux for me, but complement it.

Linux doesn't only exist to overthrow MS (2, Insightful)

Elentari (1037226) | more than 7 years ago | (#17540452)

From the tone of the summary, it seems that a failure to challenge the Windows monopoly - and to do so succesfully - is grounds to abandon a project you enjoy contributing to.

I use Linux because I prefer it, not because I want to spite a business. Same reason, I think, that many developers work on Linux. They like the system; they don't (all) feel the need for penguiny desktop domination.

poster clearly isn't a developer (1)

blackcoot (124938) | more than 7 years ago | (#17540482)

why am i not interested in developing for platforms other than linux? a short list:

- linux is what i use on a daily basis for work. if i'm going to write software on my own time, it's going to be for a platform that i use
- i know enough linux apis that i can be useful (e.g: posix, qt, opengl, etc.) whereas with most of the alternative OSes that you've listed, i'd have to start from scratch learning pre-alpha APIs. no thanks.
- i have the right tools under linux to get the job done, while the OSes you've mentioned are still playing catch-up to get pretty basic things in place
- i have a plethora of documentation and easily accessible expertise readily available to help me with linux development

if those other OSes gain linux-like momentum in the next two to five years, i'll reconsider. until then, no thanks.

Re:poster clearly isn't a developer (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17541188)

These seem to be exactly the same reasons people don't move away from Windows

2 answers (4, Insightful)

mnmn (145599) | more than 7 years ago | (#17540496)

You have posted two questions, why are all free software developers headed towards Linux and why Linux has not supplanted Windows as a Desktop OS..

Answers:
1) Most free software developers I know gravitate towards standards, not an OS. Their programs will run well on a GNU BSD system and cygwin. That's their goal. Every developer whose motivation for development is philanthropy or ego will aim to maximize compatibility rather than being exclusive to Linux.

2) Linux cannot take over the desktop for a few simple reasons. First and foremost is the lack of standards. Theres gnome AND kde. And there are several popular distros to develop and test for to make sure installation is smooth and seamless like in Windows. Windows is a single distro and extremely predictable in that regard. Developing and deploying a desktop app for it is much easier.

Secondly there is a lack of opensourced drivers and directx doesnt exist. DirectX makes things much easier than opengl plus other api.

Once a real and effective standard is settled upon in Linux (api, distro, installation and package maintenance mechanism) I suspect Linux would be much more popular on the layman's desktop.

Re:2 answers (1)

BecomingLumberg (949374) | more than 7 years ago | (#17540922)

"Theres gnome AND kde. "

I think you make a good point here. Moreover, i really wish app developers would try to make apps that have kde and gnome flavors, at least. I prefer Gnome, but i love Amarok. I know that i still can install amarok, but it gets a little squirrelly using it in gnome. It would be nice if there was a direct port to the different desktop (not a knock off like listen or exaile, although they are nice).

Re:2 answers (1)

cyclop (780354) | more than 7 years ago | (#17541548)

I never understood this "I like app X but it's for desktop A and I run desktop B so it's bad". Not in the last 2 years, at least. I run a Gentoo desktop with XFCE (based on GTK), I run GTK based browser and mail client (firefox+thunderbird), but most other apps I use are KDE apps (Konqueror, amaroK, K3b, Kate) etc. - they all play nice with each other. At work I have a Kubuntu KDE desktop where I use GTK apps (firefox,thunderbird,synaptic,inkscape,gimp) inside the KDE desktop. Seriously, where is the problem?

Re:2 answers (2, Interesting)

BecomingLumberg (949374) | more than 7 years ago | (#17541758)

Many of the direct interfaces do not work as well. In KDE, you can do some intuitive things - like dragging an .mp3 from the desktop into the playlist. From GNOME to Amarok, I found there was some difficulty. Admittedly, it has been more than a year since I used Amarok in Gnome. I've been using listen, which would be my second choice...

I know this is not a very detailed answer, and certainly this is not the only thing that i saw that wasn't quite right. Its the best example I can think of this far down the road.

Re:2 answers (1)

DaveV1.0 (203135) | more than 7 years ago | (#17541280)

Once a real and effective standard is settled upon in Linux (api, distro, installation and package maintenance mechanism) I suspect Linux would be much more popular on the layman's desktop.


I don't see that happening any time soon. Too much ideology wrapped up in those things.

Re:2 answers (1)

jonasj (538692) | more than 7 years ago | (#17541350)

Linux cannot take over the desktop for a few simple reasons. First and foremost is the lack of standards. Theres gnome AND kde. And there are several popular distros to develop and test for to make sure installation is smooth and seamless like in Windows. Windows is a single distro and extremely predictable in that regard. Developing and deploying a desktop app for it is much easier.

I'm gonna sort of repeat what I just wrote in reply to paltemalte earlier in this thread: What if instead of thinking of "Linux" as one thing that wants to take over the Desktop, you think of GNOME and KDE as two projects each wanting to take over the desktop, that is, consider GNOME, KDE, OS X, Windows to be on the same level.

And similarly, maybe try to think of the different distros as different operating systems in their own right? Instead of thinking "Windows, OS X, Linux (with many different distros)", think "Windows, OS X, Fedora, Debian, Ubuntu, etc".

It's all about different levels of abstraction, really. Parodying your argument, one could even argue that UNIX-like systems could never take over the desktop because "first and foremost is the lack of standards. Theres linux AND os x". You see my point?

A world of projects, but only few winners (2, Insightful)

JanStedehouder (1038416) | more than 7 years ago | (#17540504)

Linux was developed around a very open and collaborative concept and it succeeded in drawing the attention of tons of developers and a growing number of end-users. NeXT was an innovative concept, supported by the some of the brightest minds around. But it did not succeed. Some it found it's way in other desktops. BeOS was a great concept. It is one of the fastest desktops ever with a very high performance. Yet, it did not succeed in the market place (MonaOS looks like BeOS). Amiga? Same thing.

We can't blame Linux for being more succesfull in attracting the workforce. The question should be: "Why are the projects you mention unable to attract the same kind of attention?" Maybe there is no answer, maybe some of their good parts will one day merge into what is now considered the main stream (like the BeOS developer that is now hired by Microsoft).

What is the non-web-only market share? (1)

_iris (92554) | more than 7 years ago | (#17540654)

For the past year or two I've half-jokingly told people that I think that Linux has as much as 35% marketshare when you discount people who use nothing but a web browser (since in this case the OS doesn't really matter, so the user doesn't have to make a choice). I'm curious what the real number is. Does anyone here know how to find out?

(Raises Hand) AROS Dev (2, Informative)

cyclomedia (882859) | more than 7 years ago | (#17540716)

Though i've lived an internet connectionless home life for well over a year now, so havent actually had anything to show for it for a while. The goals of AROS, aside from promoting a warm fuzzy feeling amongst amiga stalwarts, are a small, efficient, multitasking, modular OS. and by small we mean less megabytes than you can count on one hand. and by multitasking we mean being able to process more than one thing at once, which lets face it, windows sucks at 20+ years after AmigaOS 1 came out.

Open Source desktops not limited to Linux (1)

arevos (659374) | more than 7 years ago | (#17540754)

Of course, almost all free software and desktop efforts and development remain unquestioningly oriented around Linux.

No, no they aren't. No critical functionality in KDE or GNOME relies on the Linux kernel, and both desktops will run happily in the various BSDs. So maybe a more accurate question for Ask Slashdot would be, "Why are Free-Desktop developers wedded to the X Window System?"

I'm not particularly knowledgeable about the merits of X, but there are a number of advantages to using it that I can think of off the top of my head:

  1. It's based on an open standard.
  2. The most often used open source implementation of it, X.Org, supports a large number of graphics cards.
  3. X.Org 7.1 and up support hardware acceleration via AIGLX, allowing for window distortions, particle effects, alpha blending, etc.
  4. It's already used by a lot of other projects and is in active development.
  5. It's network transparent.

An often cited reason for using a non-Microsoft OS is to avoid a monoculture, but free-desktop efforts have created a total monoculture around developing and promoting Linux, despite a decade of failure in supplanting Microsoft's proprietorial OSes with it.

I'll mentally sustitute "Linux" with "X" here. What exactly makes the equivalent GUI layer on Windows significantly better than X.org? I can't think of anything; so it would seem that we cannot blame X.org for Linux failing to achieve a large market share.

Indeed, it's debatable whether the desktop is to blame at all. I'd have thought it was more to do with lack of compatibility with Windows applications, and that again would seem to be a problem that's largely independant of the kernel or the desktop. You can run Wine or Mono applications on KDE, GNOME, Linux or BSD; the problems with Wine or Mono aren't anything to do with the systems on which they run.

a simple theory (2, Interesting)

Yaddoshi (997885) | more than 7 years ago | (#17540844)

LINUX has readily available development tools that do not cost the software developer anything beyond hardware and an internet connection to access, therefore they can maintain the lowest possible overhead while developing their free desktop applications, and because LINUX can be run on older computer systems, the cost of hardware can be kept significantly low as well.

When you are creating something that is going to be offered to the general public as "free", the only significant investment you wish to commit is time. Oddly enough, time is the only resource we as human beings will always run out of, plus we do not know how much time is allotted to any of us, and therefore its value cannot be calculated (even though lawyers sure seem know how to put a price-tag on it).

Bollocks (1)

RAMMS+EIN (578166) | more than 7 years ago | (#17540936)

Excuse me for saying so, but the submission is a load of bollocks.

``However, the Linux of today seems to be as far away as ever from realizing the expectations of mass adoption we once had for it, without significant growth in home usage since the late 90s.''

Where do you get your numbers? People all around me have switched to GNU/Linux, and some more are currently making the switch. Ubuntu, in particular, has worked wonders. If the fora are any indication, a lot of people have started using Linux thanks to Ubuntu.

``Clearly, if Linux is unable to reproduce a third of Firefox's end user uptake over a much longer time-frame, there are deficiencies with the direction the GNU/Linux/X/Gnome/KDE system has taken.''

That's not so clear to me. Switching web browsers is a much smaller step than switching operating systems. That seems a simple and plausible explanation of why Firefox could be more popular than Linux.

``Of course, almost all free software and desktop efforts and development remain unquestioningly oriented around Linux.''

Most, perhaps, but there's a lot going on around FreeBSD, Solaris, NetBSD, OpenBSD, Windows, and ReactOS, too, as well as around some smaller operating systems.

``Other free-desktop operating system projects which take different and innovative approaches like ReactOS, AROS, Mona and Syllable remain comparatively starved of developers and interest.''

That is true, and it's probably a combination of factors. Particularly, the fact that GNU/Linux is a known quantity; it implements APIs that have been around for decades, whereas innovative APIs have yet to prove themselves. Secondly, the fact that many of these OSes don't stack up in terms of usability means that many people don't get past the stage of taking a look and going back to whatever they were using. Thirdly, "Linux" is very well known by now, thanks to hype generated by both advocates and the press.

``An often cited reason for using a non-Microsoft OS is to avoid a monoculture, but free-desktop efforts have created a total monoculture around developing and promoting Linux,''

Now, that's really outrageous. First of all, GNU/Linux implements many standard APIs which are also implemented by other operating systems, meaning that monoculture, if it exists at all, is more of a choice made by users than something forced by developers. Secondly, some of the operating systems implementing said APIs are also Free, notwithstanding your suggestion that all free-desktop efforts are about Linux. Thirdly, people do actually use other Free OSes besides GNU/Linux. Fourthly, as long as Windows has the lion's share of the market, any increase in market share by another OS, including GNU/Linux, is likely to reduce monoculture.

``despite a decade of failure in supplanting Microsoft's proprietorial OSes with it.'' ...in some market segments, and among certain groups of users. Linux has made major inroads in segments other than the desktop, and even on the desktop, it's slowly but surely replacing Windows. I don't recall that I was walking into rooms or offices and seeing devices running Linux a lot a decade ago, but nowadays, it happens all the time.

``Why are free-desktop developers neglecting to consider an alternative to the penguin?''

To the extent that they are, I would imagine it is because Linux works so well. This causes people to use it, and some of these users contribute to it.

Mu (5, Insightful)

swillden (191260) | more than 7 years ago | (#17541018)

The premise of the question is that Linux' lack of desktop market penetration indicates some failing with Linux. I think that premise is flawed. I think Linux has achieved more desktop market share than could reasonably be expected in the time elapsed, and that all of those who have predicted more widespread use were simply fooling themselves.

See, every bit of desktop market share that Linux achieves must be taken away from the Microsoft desktop monopoly (plus maybe a bit from Apple, but that's a tiny corner of the market and one that is very hard to crack). That means that Linux has to deal with the fact that pretty much all of the desktop software in the world, and all of the PC hardware in the world, is built for and around Microsoft Windows.

Look, for example, at the reasons why people here on /. commonly say that they don't want to (or can't) switch to Linux:

  1. Hardware support. Some bit or piece of their system doesn't work properly under Linux. While these problems are rarer than they were in the past, they'll never go away completely until Linux is big enough that hardware vendors do what's necessary to make sure their hardware is supported on Linux.
  2. Software support. Whether it's games, photo or video editing tools, Microsoft Office, or whatever, the other major complaint about Linux is that it doesn't have whatever app the user wants. The Linux community's response has been to try to build Free versions of everything the user might want. That's great in many cases, but in many others what the user wants is *exactly* the particular app they like on Windows, rather than something similar.

Looking beyond the slashdot crowd to the more general PC user base, Linux has another, even bigger obstacle: Most people don't install their own operating system, ever. They buy a PC with an OS already on it, and that's what they use. What OS comes on every PC on the shelf? The latest version of Microsoft Windows, of course.

Given that these are the real problems holding back widespread desktop adoption of Linux, what is some other OS, that supports less hardware and has less software available, and even less mindshare among PC vendors going to do to fix the problem?

Not a damned thing, obviously.

Desktop Linux will make its breakout, if it does, in exactly the same way that Desktop DOS and Windows achieved theirs -- via the business desktop. In the more-controlled corporate environment, where hardware is less varied, the IT support staff is better educated (i.e., there is an IT support staff), application sets are more limited (e.g. no games), and there is a stronger focus on cost containment and security, Linux is beginning to make some inroads, and will continue to make more. Linux is getting serious attention as a preferred desktop platform by governments, both for reasons of openness and for reasons of cost management.

When a significant percentage of the world's desktop PC users use Linux at work, then you'll start to see significant home market penetration as well. And that business desktop penetration is happening, but it's going to be a long, slow process because it's a fight against a very deeply entrenched and very powerful monopoly.

I think Linux is doing an excellent job of getting there. The Free desktop environments and application suites are in excellent shape, and are continuing to improve rapidly. I think KDE and GNOME are both much *more* usable than MS Windows, each in their own way, and I can cite numerous Free applications that rival or even exceed the best of their commercial competition. Linux is *ready* for the desktop, and has been for quite some time. But being ready isn't enough to displace Windows. There have to be other advantages, to counter the massive juggernaut of Windows inertia. And there *are* other advantages, but even so, it will take time. Lots of time.

People don't focus much on the other alternatives because, fundamentally, there's nothing wrong with Linux, and the alternatives are too far behind it. It's a good thing that people are working on the alternatives, of course, because that's how we develop new ideas. But Linux' position with respect to those alternatives is something like Windows' position with respect to Linux. Inertia dominates. The fans of those other OSes can take heart in one thing, though -- if Linux can make the breakthrough, getting hardware vendors to support open source drivers, and getting software vendors used to supporting multiple operating systems, then the other Free OSes can ride Linux' coattails to increased usage themselves.

But any attempt to displace Linux with one of the other alternatives is just taking a dozen steps backwards, and no steps forward, because the other alternatives only exacerbate the problems that are holding back Linux.

Re:False Problems (1)

mpapet (761907) | more than 7 years ago | (#17541610)

The problems the stated will get non-win32 operating systems nowhere.

No one *wants* to change simply to substitute one OS for another. No one! They switch when there is a problem with their computer that they get so sick and tired of dealing with, they go to another platform.

    My Dad (an aol user no less) switched when I told him I won't fix his Windows box any more. Switched to Linux, got AOHell working and never looked back. He wanted a new PC, so he got a mac mini. Why? Because I won't support windows.

In his case he was compelled to switch, as nearly every user that actually switches. There are many many people that talk, but few actually do. Copy-cat applications will never drive adoption. Apple is a visible example where the applications are driving adoption.

Today's lesson: It takes a compelling application, not one that already exists in the Windows world to make people switch. The variety of apps is the fertilizer out of which a killer app will come that will make people switch.

Linux, FTL (1)

TheDoctorWho (858166) | more than 7 years ago | (#17541292)

Linux is simply too complicated for the mass user. There are also way too many Distros to care about. And it simply does not work like Windows, therefore massive penetration into the market will always be a thing of dreams for the linsux fanbois. Linux supporters can be loud as they want, few are even listening.

This is retarded (1)

inaneframe (971456) | more than 7 years ago | (#17541386)

How in the hell can any of you talk in definites in an industry shown to be indefinite? How can you give one or two examples/reasons, weak ones at that, and then hyperbolize them into some "universal principle" of the software industry and somehow indicative of the future? You give weak comparisons and draw weaker analogies. I can count but two or three other main replies to this article that make any sense. You should all be hung, drawn, and quartered. Fucking retards, sorry but this shit is stupid!

Firefox is a browser. Stop. Linux is a popular kernel for free software distributions. Stop. How do you begin to compare the two?

Over half of the world hold to the Christian faith, very few people are Atheist. Does that mean that there is some inherent flaw within Atheism?

Most of the world eats meat. Does that mean that Vegetarians need to rethink their approach?

You call Linux developers and free software proponents zealots, look at yourselves! The free software movement is not here to replace your hated OS, it is not here to be the next big thing, or the newest golden child and it most definitely is NOT just GNU/Linux. It was never meant to be the golden child and any one who expected that is clearly dillusional. It is not here for the immediate future, they are not looking at some commercial strategy, they don't need to reinvest in their packaging and they are not interested in competing with a dying operating system.

If you are so convinced that GNU/Linux/BSD/Free Software are not going anywhere and will never go anywhere than stick with your bloody mass of a bullet ridden dying operating system. Free Software is not qualified to compete on those grounds, the same that Microsoft is on. If the market wants to run Free Software, it needs to change the way that it operates or move on. Free Software will not go anywhere, it will still be here no matter what.

Sorry if GNU/Linux is not meeting your expected quotas Mr. CEO's. Let us all strive to do a better job of marketing less this board of the chair of Free Software cancel Linux!

pre-installed... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17541410)

Yeah right, people go to the store and shop for an OS - they don't even know what an OS is. Might as well ask, "Which is better, Beige or Translucent computers.". If somebody wants linux to be cool then Gnome & KDE need to special order a bunch of pc cases with nice power supplies.

Haiku (3, Informative)

11223 (201561) | more than 7 years ago | (#17541438)

Don't forget Haiku [haiku-os.org] , the free BeOS reimplementation. What's been done so far is impressive for the number of developers working on it; if a few more developers joined the progress, I (personally, IMHO) think R1 could happen this year.

Reactos is being ignored? I don't think so. (2, Informative)

kimvette (919543) | more than 7 years ago | (#17541488)

Other free-desktop operating system projects which take different and innovative approaches like ReactOS(snip) remain comparatively starved of developers and interest.


It seems to me, in theory at least, that every Free/Open Source Software project developed for/ported to Windows is in effect developed for or ported to ReactOS - at least once ReactOS actually works.

Maybe the reason it is not well supported and tested is that the driver installation process is an absolute beast. Ever try to get an All in Wonder card set up in ReactOS? I got partway through and quit out of sheer boredom.

Why?

Here is the process:
  - Install a clean Windows installation (Win2K for this situation)
  - Dump the registry
  - Capture a file listing of the entire system. Don't forget to include meta data such as file size, date, and version
  - Install the All in Wonder drivers/software
  - Dump the registry
  - Capture a file listing of the entire system. Don't forget to include meta data such as file size, date, and version
  - Diff the registry dumps, create a patch file (a properly-formatted .reg file)
  - diff the file listing, figure out which files $vendor changed, note location
  - Import the registry into ReactOS
  - manually copy the files over
  - watch it croak. Use depends or another dependency checker to figure out what else needs to be copied from Windows to ReactOS to make it work (and if you do not own a Windows license, at this point copyright law becomes an issue, especially if you want to offer a "free" and *cough*"100% compatible"*cough* Windows alternative to customers)

Why does ReactOS enjoy more support, including developer, tester, and user? Gee, I don't know. That's a tough question.

It's called "momentum" (1)

betelgeuse68 (230611) | more than 7 years ago | (#17541502)

A simple principle that holds up when the bull (real one) is charging at you as well as metaphorically.

The road is littered with technology panaceas spanning the gamut from programming languages that are the "greatest" and "will make developers far more productive" to operating systems that never went anywhere, e.g., BeOS.

Call me jaded, who cares about the others you mentioned. LINUX still sucks on the desktop for average users, largely because the software ecosystem that surrounds Windows is so massive and is quite hard to ignore. Just let me listen to music and play games (and no, I don't mean "checkers"). I want to install and run iTunes without thinking about downloading emulation software. I want to play cutting edge games.

I like LINUX on the back end but that is about it (as far as its proximity to my desktop). My strategy has been to leverage open source technologies on Windows, Cygwin, PERL, etc., etc. Besides I can always fire up the X window server and view graphical applications on Windows. Kudos to MIT for such prescience two decades ago, i.e., "the network s the computer."

-M

Monopoly Lock On the Desktop (2, Interesting)

codepunk (167897) | more than 7 years ago | (#17541554)

In order to dominate the desktop the monopoly currently strangling the market needs to be removed. The linux desktop does not dominate only because of the noose on the OEMs and it is also the reason BEOS got no where.

I am no Mac fan but I actually think that apple currently has the ability to shake the market to it's core. They now have a intel version of the operating system, increase the driver support and put it on the shelves and I think it could really create a explosive impact on the home desktop industry.

X11 sucks, that's why! (1, Insightful)

Temkin (112574) | more than 7 years ago | (#17541564)



X11 was great back in 1990. But we've stuck with it for too long. The various widget sets built on top of it (motif/gtk/etc...) are just lipstick on the pig.

Look at OS X... Throw out X11. Implement a nice clean OO GUI desktop, and add a rootless X11 compatability layer back in for the legacy apps.

Its simple. (1)

dilvish_the_damned (167205) | more than 7 years ago | (#17541644)

Linux sucks less. Mostly.
Besides, did you have a better plan? And why is it better? Anyhow most mature OSS projects strive for some measure portability, so this question smells pretty rhetorical.

Argh (1)

magicrobotmonkey (948047) | more than 7 years ago | (#17541702)

I wish i could delete this question from my brain
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