hypothetical article - Linus Microsoft Memo

Discussion in 'Other Operating Systems' started by Hamal, Jan 30, 2005.

  1. Hamal

    Hamal Member

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    I found this article linked from /. to be of some interest as, in my opinion, it highlights the one solitary weakness that Linux has in comparison to Windows.

    http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/13.02/microsoft.html?pg=1&topic=microsoft&topic_set=

    In the article, Linus Torvalds becomes an employee of Microsoft to work on a project porting the windows interface to a linux core system. This led me to wonder exactly what it is that Linux fails to achieve in comparison to Windows.

    I ruled out the interface as a significant weakness. Yes, there are many competing interfaces with noticable yet mild flaws, however these flaws are not (in my opinion) a major point of contention. The fact is that the interface is very usable as my family ranging in age from 5 to 40 proves.

    I ruled out application support as, while the current crop of major applications available to linux are still to reach full maturity, they are still very usable. While they may not be as well integrated and professional as applications available to Windows users, they are still functional and adequate.

    I ruled out interface and application configuration as the tools for this purpose are either already available or are very close to it.

    This led me to the one thing I can see that is stopping widespread consumer usage of Linux; software installation. The lack of standardisation between the multitude of Linux distributions is creating a sea of confusion and frustration to even the most hardened Linux users. If this one hurdle could be overcome then I fully believe that Linux would be ready for the masses.

    This one glaring failure is the only factor I have yet to discover that creates a significant barrier to the consumerisation of Linux. Minor matters are evident such as application support for certain features (colour management in graphic applications etc.), but these are application issues, not Linux usage issues.

    The reason I am posting this thread is to guage what the OCAU community thinks of my findings. Do you agree or disagree? Do you know of solutions that are in the process of becoming a reality? What technical issues do you see as important for a solution to this problem becoming a reality? Am I full of shit?
     
    Last edited: Jan 30, 2005
  2. stmok

    stmok Member

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    *kidding*
    You're full of shit. :D
    *kidding*

    You want all distros to install the same way?
    Why not just stick to one distro?

    For my family, I just stick to Fedora or Suse, that's it.

    I acknowledge and recognise there's far more distros, but I've stuck to ones that have a butt-load of info, for if I run into trouble, I can find at least 1 person in the world who has the same issue. (I got seriously annoyed with Mandrake when a minor bug regarding the mouse...You change and save a config file, it fixes it, Woohoo!...You reboot, problem reappears! D'oh!).

    On a more serious note...
    I think there is a few niggles that need to be addressed.


    (1) My annoyance with hardware companies...

    Instead of releasing info or source code that allows us to compile drivers or be add into distros, they give us binaries! (Matrox are doing it with their current generation video cards, Nvidia does it, VIA does it, etc, etc.)

    "What's wrong with that?" you say...

    Well, take VIA's EPIA platform (Mini-ITX)...If you want to get the video to work (OpenGL) or the chipset's features (CLE266's MPEG2 hardware decoding), you have to f**k around with kernel patches, dig for info, find the right combo, work around niggles (because there's bound to be some), work with the community to help test and maybe submit your own fixes, etc).

    Yes, there is work being done on making an open-source driver for it, but its not quite ready for folks that are coming from Windows.

    The reason for this, is because VIA decides it only should provide drivers for specific versions of distros of Linux...ie : Fedora Core 1 is supported perfectly...Core 3 isn't.

    To gain access to the source, you have to fill out an online form and give a reason as well as agree to an NDA! Not exactly opensource friendly is it?

    I know someone is working on developing open source video hardware, but that's miles away...(The 1st generation hardware will be 2D acceleration and basic 3D support...Most of it will require CPU to do some 3D work like Intel's DirectX 9-class integrated video...2nd generation will support the OpenGL 2.0 spec in hardware...But that's still being talked about). It won't be as fast as ATI or Nvidia solutions, but at least it will be fully supported by every distro from the word go.

    I know companies have to keep their secrets, but I wish there was a way where this issue can be resolved. (I don't want to steal anything from them, I just want my hardware to work well if I want to build my own distro for a specific platform!)

    I am most pissed off at those companies that don't even provide anything and folks have to "reverse engineer" and develop drivers from scratch! Yeah, I'm talking about you Sigma Designs! (Their Hollywood Plus and XCard are nice products to have, but are clear examples of this).


    (2) There should be free guides to walk newbies through basics.

    We're talking about "holding their hand" and guide them step by step until they are comfortable with things like the Terminal (Command Prompt).

    People like my sister and mum are absolutely terrified of the Command Prompt until I run the basics with them...Then they're fine! Now they can do their usual stuff they did on Windows, but with Linux.


    (3) Updated documentation!

    We know documenting everything is a tedious job that no one wants to do, but it must be done!

    I think newbies would be especially thankful if they can fall back on a guide that covers a majority issues that they may encounter. (It also allows developers/programmers time to work on the project instead of busy helping every person around the world.)

    So basically, the hard work you put in initially pays off in the long run!

    (If you don't think so, look at Microsoft. For the last 10 years or so, they have promoted features upon features upon features, with a complete disregard to security...Look at them now...Dealing with security like some PR problem. They take months to release patches. Some fixes aren't fixes, but are just disabling the very features they carelessly slapped in! If they took the effort and time to develop a solid product in the first place, they wouldn't be in such a mess when the issue of security is concerned!)


    (4) Too much choice!

    We know choice is good...But too much choice is bad. Newbies get confused or don't even have the time to try a few distros. If you recommend one distro, someone will always come along and suggest another...A newbie is literally bombarded with too many choices!

    I don't mind, however, if a specific distro fulfills a role that no other does. Say, Damn Small Linux (its only 50MB, but very functional)...You can install it on a USB flash stick, boot it up and install it onto a hard disk! (So old hardware without CD-ROMs can work with Linux...Heck, its been shown that Damn Small Linux works on a 486! We're talking modern day web surfin and such...This is also good for the environment as old PCs don't end up as landfills...PCs are NOT biodegradable!)


    (5) Regular folks need to be educated that Linux isn't "just for geeks".

    I think its a psychological thing, that folks think Linux/BSD/Unix are for the "elite geeks or techno folks".

    Take, for example, my cousin. He ain't no tech person, but I guided him through "this and that" on stuff he wants to do, and everything is fine. And he never heard of Linux until I mentioned it! (He's happy that he can step away from Windows and the malware that comes associated with it when you connect to the web...And he doesn't have to pay for it!)

    It ain't that hard if you know how. :)


    I think opensource is a great thing to work with. You've got incredible flexibility that no closed source product can match, security features that make Windows look like a joke (because the overall effect is that you are far more resistant against attacks and nasties), and you don't have to wait too long for security updates!

    But there's those problems that it needs to resolve before it can go "prime time" for the average folks. Once addressed, then yes, I think Linux can take a good chunk out of MS's market domination...(And MS knows this...Why do you think they like to spread FUD.)

    Heck, if someone comes up with a distro that is just as good or even better than Apple's Mac OS X, then word will spread quite quickly about the new distro...Quick adoption. (It shouldn't "just work"...It should "work very well").

    Of course, my ramble is just about home users, not business...That is, as they say, "another story". :)
     
  3. ConundruM

    ConundruM Member

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    most people just dont care.
    sure, people in this forum care about their PC's and whats running on them, but your average person doesnt.

    its why they stick with windows and IE, and rarely upgrade anything until their next PC purchase.
    People buy a new PC.
    the PC does what they want it to do (mostly).
    its very similar to what they have used in the past.
    so why change ?
     
    Last edited: Jan 31, 2005
  4. Techtoucian

    Techtoucian Member

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    I think Linux just isn't newbie friendly enough. I've heard rave reviews about Ubuntu because it _is_ apparently, but that aside I don't know a single person that's got Linux working without a lot of messing around with config files. Sure, someone else could set it up, but most people just aren't willing to help out when people have problems. Damn, even I hate having to trudge all the way to my brother's place every time he can't open Outlook Expresso and that's under Windows where every problem can be solved by digging through the registry or uninstalling crap! Imagine what I'd be like if I had to actually do something when people give me a shoddy problem.

    Windows is just so much easier to get going. All the drivers for everything are written for it. It works(Albeit poorly) out of the box a guet 80% of the time... What's there not to like about it? (Hah, ok.)

    On a similar note, I will never be able to switch my father over, because he is heavily into video editing. I've heard pretty unpleasent things about video editing under Linux. Seriously I think the only way you could get someone to use Linux is by lowering their usability expectations so low that they'll end up impressed when most stuff works. ;-)*

    * Honestly, I love Linux. Please don't flame me: these are honest opinions from my experience.​
     
  5. Techtoucian

    Techtoucian Member

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    Tell them that Microsoft are just about to stop supporting their pirated copies of Windows, and their machine will end up a virussy pile of junk without the updates unless you pay $500 for a license....

    Then take their hand and show them a pretty Gnome desktop on a livecd. 'Slong as they're not gamers I'm sure they'd just gobble it up. :p

    [Appendum: I usually hate it when people double post like this. Sorry, guys... I don't know what came over me.]
     
    Last edited: Jan 31, 2005
  6. 0oBelialo0

    0oBelialo0 Member

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    1) Windows has huge market share - people use it at work, it comes free and installed with their new Dell.

    2) As already mentioned, people don't care. Either option is essentially free, and Windows works and is already there.

    Sure there's other things, like newbie friendlyness, paid support etc, but I think most of these are address pretty well by various distros.

    The 'too many choices' argument doens't fly either - most people think 'linux' is synonomous with 'redhat'. I had someone at work a while back say that they were just downloading 'linux 9.x'... and this is someone in IT.

    Most importantly (this adresses point 1) is the lack of support for corporate apps. People are comfortable with windows because they use it every day at work. Until that starts to change, home usage isn't going to. Yes, there are *some* corporate apps that have linux ports/equivelents, but the migration cost for any organisation with more than a browser, email and Office installed is hard to justify. Especially true if there are in-house apps.

    My (worthless) prediction is that within the next 10 years (maybe 5) the move towards n-tier web-based applications will make the OS somewhat redundant. Anything that can run the latest web browser will be all that's required. I can see linux making some *serious* gains on the corporate desktop when this happens.

    Of course, that won't help the home user much ;)

    Ben
     
  7. Fodder

    Fodder (Banned or Deleted)

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    Got it in one. Easy EXE files, straightforward install wizards, shortcuts automagicked into a simple, logical 'start menu'. It's not that hard!

    There is one other problem with Linux though, and that's militant Linux users campaigning against any attempt to achieve the above.
     
    Last edited: Jan 31, 2005
  8. Anakist

    Anakist Member

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    I would love to get into Linux but I can't because I don't want to stuff my box. Can I play MP3's etc on *nix? Will all my progs work? Etc. I need a hold my hand guide to do it and I will be there!!

    James
     
  9. 0oBelialo0

    0oBelialo0 Member

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    Try one of the 'live cd' distros so you don't have to do anything to your box. Of course they're considerably less responsive than a HDD install, but still good to play with.

    Either Knoppix or Slax would be good I'd say.

    Ben
     
  10. GreenBeret

    GreenBeret Member

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    Yeah I don't understand why they are so against simplicity and prefer a million choices instead.

    I think the day Linux will succeed as a true desktop alternative/competitor to Windows is the day one can use and control HIS own computer without having to touch the command line at all. Just like MacOSX: the newbies can point and click and things just work for them; the nerds can type like hell on the shell.

    Right now I don't see Linux ever get to that stage...

    Don't get me wrong, I love the Linux shell especially when I can manage my webserver with it from 10K miles away, but I realise that the majority of users HATE it.
     
  11. OP
    OP
    Hamal

    Hamal Member

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    I can't agree more, but I really do disagree with the theory that it will never happen. I can see that Linux is really cutting its teeth right now, trying to figure out the best solution.

    Personally, I think there are a number of things that can really get the ball rolling, most of which has been heavily publicised lately.

    They simply have to get some standardisation. Right now there are two major packaging standards, RPM and Deb's. There are others, but none as ubiquitous as the above (/me paints flame target on butt). RPM is close to what I imagine as a working solution, however it has horrible dependancy resolution even with package managers like YUM. Repositories are just an awful cludge to attempt to solve the problem. An RPM should be downloaded on its own and simply install with a minimum of fuss, no other downloads required.

    The problem there is that too many linux software developers seem to have some insatiable desire to use some weird and kooky software library that the majority of distributions do not have pre-installed. GnuCash is an example, I can't blame it too much for being a GTK 1.x program as they're trying their darndest to get it ported to GTK 2, however what was going through their head when they decided to use the SCHEME scripting language? Couldn't they have chosen a more standardised library? Why are linux developers so hell bent on shooting themselves in the foot?

    There needs to be core componentry in linux that developers should be strongly motivated to use. This needs to be ubiquitous amongst the distributions to encourage its use. People with influence need to be making decisions that people respect and want to comply with.

    I want to go to a software developers website, download the package and have it working like a charm. I don't want to download source, compile my own package and then hope to high heaven that I don't loose that package and have to repeat the whole process over again. I also don't want to have to download a multitude of obscure libraries that are only ever used for the one application and potentially become victim to the 'death by bloat' syndrome windows users suffer from.

    But anyway, getting back on track. I can see by the responses here that the problems are very evident and current attempts to solve the problem like APT, YUM or Gentoo's package management system are testament to the desire to solve these problems. I think the problems are far more fundamental though, and not many people seem to discussing these core issues with any enthusiasm. I was hoping some of you would lead me to emerging technologies and policies that are leading the trend towards a comprehensive solution. If they are there then I hope they gather more support from the Open Source community. Applications are always on the move and will always improve, but if the core technology becomes the critical point of failure then it's quickly going to become a matter of 'why bother'?
     
  12. fo3

    fo3 (Taking a Break)

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    I agree completely. That's what stops me using it. Every few months I try a different distro, I install it no problems, play around with it and have fun. Then invariably I have to upgrade some software and can never get it right. fedora hides everything in unusual places, ie. (you install something, find general info of the software on the net, and it's not there because fedore/RH/rpm etc is not the linux standard install paths. On the other hand do it yourself or use a different distro and you gen stuck in circles with dependancies. Seriously WTF, it all installs fine from the cds painlessly, everything should be there. But for some reason its really difficult to install any programs yourself, you end up going in circles with scouring the net for these dependancies, untar, compile, get the error for another dependency, look for that one, get confusing compile errors saying you don't have xxx-1.0, when your manual search finds xxx-1.1 but the program compiling can't find that. AAAAHHHH! I hate linux for program installations, and for that it will never be my desktop OS
     
  13. GreenBeret

    GreenBeret Member

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    That seems to be the general sentiment, I think. For example, the other day I was installing a XFCE plugin, i8k, which is supposed to give me fan control on my Dell i8600 laptop. The package itself is about 250KB. I urpmi'ed it (Mandrake 10.1) and it gave me some dependency issues and told me to upgrade one particular package - zlib, I think. Then it took me about 15 mins to set up more urpmi sources (ftp and http) so that I could urpmi those things. After zlib was done, I was advised to upgrade freetype libraries (and I have NFI why this has anything to do with a fan control software).... One thing leads to another and I ended up downloading about 200 MB of shit just because I tried to install a 250KB software package :p I went with the flow as I wanted to see what it would lead me to.

    There are more examples with other distros I've tried as well, but at 4am I cant remember all of them :p
     
  14. 0oBelialo0

    0oBelialo0 Member

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    It's a tradeoff between simplicity and modularity. If every package contains everything it needs, you'll end up having
    1) Huge packages
    2) Multiple versions of 'shared' compenents installed

    I guess I'm not being very positive, but to be honest I don't care if linux is successful on the desktop. Actually, if it means that it turns into some windows/osx hybrid, it'd prefer if it wasn't successful!

    God help me if RPM becomes a ubiquitous standard. If that happens, I'm moving to FreeBSD. What on earth is wrong with the systems that already exist that solve this problem?

    The best that I've experienced is debian's apt-get. How hard is it to just select the software you want to install from a list in a GUI (like synaptic) and install it? I've heard that Gentoo's emerge is just as good (some say better). Swaret (used in slackware) isn't quite as good as apt, mostly because it's a tack-on. Slack packages don't contain dependency informaiton, so someone has to keep dependency lists up to date. That being said though, it works almost flawlessly.

    What really needs to happen is for OSX to be released for x86. Hell, I'd even PAY for that.

    Ben
     
  15. barney

    barney Member

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    The overwhelming problem I have with trying to install Linux is getting my POS Ati 9800 installed. Ati are just not interested in drivers for Linux. I have now tried installing on Mandrake 9.2, 10.0, Fedora Core 3 and now Suse 9.2 I can get everything else working except 3d acceleration. I sent Ati a feedback email telling them how crap their drivers are............no respsonse. Screw you Ati, hello nVidia.

    I'm by no means a guru, but people ask me for computer advice all the time, and if I can't get a video card installed, there's no hope for joe average.

    Also, as Hamal states, the software installation just plain sucks. I don't give a flying fcuk if I don't have the 0.2-beta.b.something library installed, I'm here to install a game, not fucking rebuild by kernel ffs.
     
  16. OP
    OP
    Hamal

    Hamal Member

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    APT and all other centralised package managers are not the solution. There are a number of reasons for this. APT repositories are in no way monitored or standardised. Editing a sources.list isn't a great way to add a new repository. What if the application you are looking for is only held on a private repository? What is a repository drops of the face of the planet? This centralised approach is dangerous.

    Another issue is that applications must be vigorously maintained in order to keep modern versions on popular repositories. I wanted GnuCash V1.8.10, yet the repositories only had 1.8.9 available. Where do I go from here? Is there a repository somewhere in the murky wastes of the net with that elusive version available? How do I find it? I was better off learning how to bloody compile packages from source. I'd like to see JoBlo do that.

    There is still the bloat issue even with package management.

    Oh yeah, I hate Synaptic. Having thousands of applications in a confusion drop-down list with ambiguous or technical descriptions related to every aspect of it is just daunting. It's option and information overload.

    Like I said before, these package managers are good in that they show that the problem is known and they are trying to find solutions. However, the problems are more core-related than an externalised package management system.
     
  17. VZey

    VZey Member

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    There in lies your problem. I'm fairly competant with computers, yet I have no idea what Fedora or Suse is. Nor could I care. Windows is so good because it is do standard, and, arguably, easy to install and use.

    As for the first poster, you ruled out many factors that are important. By themselves they may not seem that important, ie, not mature programs, not the best interface etc... but combined they're pretty good reasons not to touch linux. Look at games support too, driver support, other apps support. Also linux screams geek a lot more than windows does.
     
  18. Natronomonas

    Natronomonas Member

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    I would also pay to have an x86 OSX.

    The main hurdle of linux, software installation, is gone, plus, it looks nice : )

    It's also pretty stable (better than WinXP, but not perfect) and responsive.

    On the standardisation of distro issue, I believe the big 5 (mandrake, debian, redhat/fedora, SuSE and another I can't remember) are now working together to standardise install paths etc because of exactly the problems everyone is mentioning - no consistency. It will mean software developers can just write one version, one installer or whatver that will work on all (or most) distros.
     
  19. bluedreamer

    bluedreamer Member

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    Hehe. Did you install fc3 with an nvidia card? That caught me out last week, fresh install and it hangs on first startup. Why did I have to go to an 'unofficial' fedora faq to find out that nvidia cards are a problem, why did I have to have a direct internet connection (what would telstra heartbeat people or dialuppers do?), why did I have to download all these lists of headers I don't need (thankfully my uni hosts a local ftp mirror for the major respositories), then download a kernel that's in "testing" and not in the "stable" folder, to get a basic gui up and running. It's insane. Then to get my dual monitor set up working again, had to go update my X86 config file because the basic gui display setup just didn't work. And why are the options underneath this box not anti-aliased... hmmm guess I missed something *puts on to do list*.

    Fedora is supposed to be a relatively easy distro, yet it takes too much effort to setup and configure properly. I see many people struggling with basic windows installation packages (e.g. click yes to license agreement, select next for default directory default installation etc, click finish, run the damn program), there is no chance in hell that the average user can self-learn a distro like this unless someone had the 'perfect' setup for them, and that's one in a billion, you'll always have niggles and you should always be keeping up to date except the latest version is stuffing everything so you install something else or edit the config file..
     
  20. OP
    OP
    Hamal

    Hamal Member

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    While I agree that linux still has a way to go to bring itself up to the usability and feature standards that windows has, that is not to say it is still a very functional operating system.

    Put it this way. A lack of a feature is a sign of its immaturity, not a mitigating factor that threatens the uptake of linux altogether. These programs will follow on through their evolution to become good programs, however the installation issue is much more fundamental. Programs will eventually grow up, however the installation issue seems to be aborted altogether. The solutions that are available will never reach a mature level. The philosophy is just plain wrong.

    You are right though, is a program doesn't fulfill a function then it isn't worth considering. What I have found though, is that while not as slick as Windows alternatives, most of the major applications are functional to the point that they approach or exceed a professional level. You seem it to be is saying 'is it as good as x?', whereas I am simply saying 'Is it good enough?'. The majority of the mainstream Linux Distro's are good enough when it comes to the software and it's functionality. Both KDE and Gnome are professional interfaces. Open Office, Evolution and other software are professional office applications. Gaim, Evolution and Firefox are professional internet applications. The installation systems are still no where near a professional level, and it is this that has become the defining factor in Linux' broader market acceptance failure.
     

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