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Enduring Roadblocks to Linux Acceptance Linux article
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Linux has some fundamental problems that will endure, because they come from the nature of the beast. These are freedom-loving developers, competing technologies, and poor standardization. These problems hinder technical progress and acceptance, but (amazingly) Linux has become a strong alternative to Windows in spite of this.

Developers

Linux is largely built by independent developers who love their freedom. There is no overall management, roadmap, or quality control. Each application and each Linux distro takes care of itself, and the quality varies. Not surprisingly, chaos happens. However, many technical methods and conventions have been established from experience and by natural leaders, so the chaos is somewhat contained.

Technologies

There are two main areas of competing technology: diverse package management systems and diverse windowing systems. The packaging diversity makes it difficult for developers to create applications that easily install and run on most Linux distros. The windowing diversity means that developers and users must choose from several competing systems that manage the desktop and windows. When their choices differ, an application does not integrate perfectly and has a foreign look and feel (if it runs at all). There are also other incompatibilities in the diverse Linux distros, and these can make applications fail or require additional work for developers to overcome.

Standards

There is a Linux standards body, LSB, but there are two big problems:
LSB included most pre-existing practices (conflicting, overlapping) in the standards, and LSB is mostly ignored. Making RPM the standard
packaging system has not converted any DEB-based distro into using RPM (and the adapter program "alien" is handicapped). Even among distros using the same packaging system, diversity in package naming, package boundaries, libraries, etc. prevents any sharing of packages.

Ubuntu

This is a factor that could ultimately contain the chaos. Ubuntu threatens to become the dominant Linux distro, which would set "de
facto" standards for application developers. Other distributions would feel pressure to conform or be left out. This has already started to
happen. The impending appearance of a new Linux flavor from Google could wreck this possibility - or strengthen it by replacing Ubuntu
with a more widely available and accepted standard.

Fit and Finish, Quality

Quality in free software does not come from competition in the marketplace, but more from a sense of mission and pride of authorship. However, some developers seem remarkably unconcerned about usability, bugs, and documentation. Many volunteers work on finding bugs and generating better documentation, but this is not adequate. Bugs may be fixed slowly or not at all. Community documentation tends to be disorganized, incomplete, poorly written, and full of outdated junk. When everyone is responsible, no one is responsible.

Freedom and Choice

Many Linux advocates claim that development freedom and the resulting plethora of choices is good. Freedom of choice is not always good - what if each driver decided which side of the street to drive on? Freedom FROM choice (i.e. standards) is sometimes better. It is often hard to know where the best tradeoff lies. For example, the many windowing systems for Linux are both a force for good and a force for evil. We want competition and alternatives, but not confusion, compatibility problems, and fragmentation of development resources. IMHO, the diverse windowing systems do more harm than good. The world would be better off if Gnome and KDE joined forces.


Applications

Linux can fully meet most needs, but some things are still missing. Photoshop, MS Office, and many other proprietary (usually expensive) applications are not available, as well as most games. Adequate free alternatives are often available (e.g. Gimp instead of Photoshop, OpenOffice instead of MS Office). OpenOffice has been semi-compatible with MS Office in the past, but Microsoft is moving MS Office away from standard formats to prevent interoperability, while claiming the opposite and working aggressively to destroy the relevant ISO standards process. They will probably be successful and their customers will not run away.

Microsoft

Quality, security (viruses and other malware), and ethics problems are driving a few Windows users to Mac and Linux, but not many. Users are reluctant to change and need to run compatible applications, and this effectively protects Microsoft's monopoly. Those willing and able to change to Linux can reduce expenses for software and remain free of malware with almost no effort.

Bottom Line

In spite of its problems, Linux is a solid operating system with many excellent applications. It is improving rapidly. The desktop market share is only about 1-2%, but this is slowly growing. It is easy to install (esp. Ubuntu), and some PC vendors are starting to offer pre-installed Linux. You should not be afraid to try it out. You will have problems adjusting, but if you are persistent, you will be successful.








 
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Comments about this article
Congrats!
writen by: alucard on 2009-09-08 17:00:17
Kudos to you, kornelix. That was an accurate and well written description of how things are in the Linux community right now. And unlike many Linux supporters, you are honest in describing the handicaps involved in the usage of open software. I really appreciate that.



RE: Congrats! written by alucard:
Speedbumps, not Roadblocks
writen by: RobertP on 2009-09-17 10:50:34
The issues described in the article are important but are not roadblocks. The current share and rapid growth of GNU/Linux on the desktop are proof. The usual 1% number trotted out are web stats from very unrepresentative samples. M$ admits GNU/Linux has a 7% share on the desktop. Assuming less than 90% share for M$, and Apple's published unit sales of about 3% leaves 7% for GNU/Linux. BRIC countries are rapidly adopting GNU/Linux.

The release by ARM of a dual-core 2gHz processor that runs on 1/4 watt changes everything. It will be hot on the netbook and nothing prevents its wide adoption on notebooks or desktops. M$ does not run on ARM with XP or "7" so another window of opportunity like Vista is opening.

2009 has been an excellent year for GNU/Linux and there is no slowing down. Many OEMs produce GNU/Linux machines and RedHat, Novell, and IBM all promote it for government and business.

The problems mentioned in TFA are speedbumps, not roadblocks.
RE: Speedbumps, not Roadblocks written by RobertP:
Fedora Movement
writen by: freitsma on 2009-09-17 11:17:57
Excellent article, highlighting the Speedbumps!!!!!
I recently spend time on following the Fedora projects, which I found has an excellent track-record of delivery. I was missing this flavor of Linux in the article. The Ubuntu packaging borrowed a lot from this movement, and it is hard to credit one group vs another. What is needed to succeed in the Open source Movement are stable packages for the end-user on easy to monitor / maintain platforms. Google may have a good tack at this with their adaptation. Nokia is another company following the same logic in user acceptance with their netbook.

Only time will tell who will be the winner of the bunch.
RE: Fedora Movement written by freitsma:
Good
writen by: KenJackson on 2009-09-17 12:35:54
Very good, kornelix. I appreciate your insight into the state of Linux.

One detail, though. IMO KDE and Gnome provide value in being separate choices pulling in their own directions. They become standards against which to compare each other. With two, it is possible to kind of ignore Windows instead of setting it up as the standard to be compared against.

Your point about applications is true, and this should be used as a basis to advocate freedom from proprietary software. There are many, many governments and companies that have tied themselves to Microsoft products. They should divorce themselves and use open standards.

For that matter, it is very sad MSWord the defacto standard for resumes.
RE: Good written by KenJackson:
Growing Opportunity
writen by: philwalk on 2009-09-17 15:04:52
Great article and comment!

I rarely hear it said, but Freedom FROM choice (i.e. standards) is sometimes better.
It's good that we've had a period of competition between KDE / gnome and RPM / DEB, etc.
But currently, the cost of developing an application for the "Linux Desktop" is either double (distribute binaries for RedHat
RE: Growing Opportunity written by philwalk:
Growing opportunity (continued)
writen by: philwalk on 2009-09-17 15:11:49
(I think my use of an ampersand in the previous post caused it to be truncated!).

Great article and comment!

I rarely hear it said, but Freedom FROM choice (i.e. standards) is sometimes better.
It's good that we've had a period of competition between KDE / gnome and RPM / DEB, etc.
But currently, the cost of developing an application for the "Linux Desktop" is either
doubled (if you distribute binaries for RedHat and Ubuntu)
or quadrupled (binaries for KDE, gnome, RedHat, and Ubuntu).

One company that distributes separate binaries is Nomachine (very cool free NX server and client!).
But the cost of developing software on Linux, as inexpensive as it is WRT tools, is needlessly expensive if you want to hit a majority of the Linux 7% (as reported by RobertP).




RE: Growing opportunity (continued) written by philwalk:
If Gnome and KDE joined forces
writen by: archtoad6 on 2009-09-18 07:19:28
"The world would be better off if Gnome and KDE joined forces." I completely disagree.

No, the world would NOT be better off; because many of the best developers from each project would quit
RE: If Gnome and KDE joined forces written by archtoad6:
RE: If Gnome and KDE joined forces
writen by: archtoad6 on 2009-09-18 07:22:40
[caught by the ampersand]

"The world would be better off if Gnome and KDE joined forces." I completely disagree.

No, the world would NOT be better off; because many of the best developers from each project would quit
Reply to archtoad6:
Reply to archtoad6
writen by: archtoad6 on 2009-09-18 07:24:19
[screwed by the ampersand again]

No, the world would NOT be better off; because many of the best developers from each project would quit and their talents, time, and energy would be lost to Linux desktop development. Some are paid, but many are volunteers; and it is easier to herd cats than to make a volunteer do something. I know: I "own" cats and I work with volunteers. I can on occasion herd the cats, I've never had much luck giving orders to volunteers.

My friend and original Linux mentor Steve Musacchia also used to complain about the confusion that Linux diversity brings to new users. He would suggest that Gnome had proved its point and KDE is now under a Free License, and therefore Gnome should disband and its developers join KDE. In his mind this would eliminate confusion, duplication, and wasted effort. He forgot that much, if not most, of Linux and Linux software is the product of love of the project. The existence of any given project within Linux creates the time and energy devoted to it, and doesn't take anything from other projects. To think otherwise, to believe that volunteers' time is finite or limited, is to apply the wrong economic model to volunteerism.

As long as Linux and its software uses the GPL and other free licenses, this will be true. Diversity cannot be prevented. This is by design. Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer might say with malice of forethought.
Reply to archtoad6:
Reply to archtoad6
writen by: MC707 on 2009-10-31 21:13:18
And don't forget that there is preference. I absolutely love Gnome, while I really don't like KDE; I just feel at home with Gnome.
Reply to MC707:
Reply to archtoad6
writen by: MC707 on 2009-10-31 21:13:28
And don't forget that there is preference. I absolutely love Gnome, while I really don't like KDE; I just feel at home with Gnome.
Reply to MC707:
general proposition
writen by: krul on 2009-09-20 03:48:32
Would it be usefull to organize Linux-clubs with workshops-- so that members and guests can receive practical help with their own computers and accessories?
Thank you for attention---Victor, 70 years old pensioner, Sydney,Australia. 20/09/2009.
RE: general proposition written by krul:
I agreee with alucard
writen by: johncon on 2009-09-20 16:45:27
alucard has expressed my sentiments as I would myself. The "Enduring Roadblocks to Linux Acceptance" article is clear, concise and real.
RE: I agreee with alucard written by johncon:
I agreee with alucard
writen by: johncon on 2009-09-20 16:45:28
alucard has expressed my sentiments as I would myself. The "Enduring Roadblocks to Linux Acceptance" article is clear, concise and real.
RE: I agreee with alucard written by johncon:
Lack of brand advertising
writen by: Dalani on 2009-10-08 20:31:01
Yes it's true..Linux doesn't advertise..every other competing operating system out there has huge advertising budgets..
Until we see the Linux penguin at soccer games, mainstream and print media, Linux isn't going anywhere..
RE: Lack of brand advertising written by Dalani:
Good realistic article
writen by: retamamatorral on 2009-10-29 13:43:29
A major problem with Linux is the lack of realism of advocates.

Premises as "MS is evil and makes software the worst it can be made" or "Linux is always the better software can be done" are really harmful for Linux development.

I have worked with UNIX
RE: Good realistic article written by retamamatorral:
Good realistic article
writen by: retamamatorral on 2009-10-29 13:45:47
The ampersand caused the post to become truncated...

A major problem with Linux is the lack of realism of advocates.

Premises as "MS is evil and makes software the worst it can be made" or "Linux is always the better software can be done" are really harmful for Linux development.

I have worked with UNIX and Linux for more than 20 years and I sadly admit that now Linux continues to be anchored in past with the same drawbacks it had in the 90's and Windows has become stable and more and more efficient.

Sad to say that Windows XP performs better on my desktop than any flavour of Linux. I'm speaking on raw performance on resource access.
Before powering on flame throwers, I have taught on Operating Systems design for 15 years at university and have used Linux sice 1992 but finally I decided to keep it only in my servers, but not on the desktops because of many of the reasongs that this article comments.

Few people investigate what's happening at low levels and get things confused:
-Windows desktops use to become slow because of a myriad of small pieces of software that each application installs. Tenths of updaters, quick launch icons, etc. However, Windows kernel drivers offer better performance for any hardware than Linux. This is not a point of view. You can blame MS's NDAs with hardware manufacturers, but it's quite real that Linux developers have few information about hardware. They do their best, of course, but not enough.
-Linux window managers are usually quite fast and efficient, but they lay on top of a kernel which losses performance compared to Windows kernel because of lack of hardware information.

Going back to the first argument, the lack of realism, many developers still answer you that performance doesn't matter as hardware is faster and faster each day. I smile at a KDE fan telling that a 500MB working set only to open a user session was nothing compared with 1GB of RAM of his desktop!! What else do you want RAM for? This kind of complacent answers are quite common. Even some software designers forget that some people use computers for something more that having a screen full of nice applets. But:
a) Particulars don't change their hardware each year. Many potential Linux users remain with the same computer for 5 years.
b) Linux is also suffering from software bloating. Even more than MS.
c) Amdahl's law has hidden this loss in performance, but each time the penalty coming from software bloating compensates improvements in hardware.

I thing that Linux developers lack of self-criticism to separate good ideas from junk. And junk is not discarded because of egoistic reasons. Somebody stated something that I would simplify as: "many developers wouldn't participate in a project in which they would not feel the leader".

From KDE and GNOME I always said that the actual reason for having two competing "goodwilling" projects is that if they joined "there will be too many roosters in the same roost".

Of course it's a pitty that a nice thing like having plenty of volunteers wishing to do something free and useful can not be coordinated to do something really good. But look at armies. Democracy is good for living, and command chains are good for efficiency (sometimes, not all the time).
RE: Good realistic article written by retamamatorral:
yes but...
writen by: perkunas on 2009-10-31 08:54:29
I'm using Ubuntu 9.10 on my laptop and I'm in love with it, had a little trouble with my wireless but found solutions, It's so fast I can't believe it.(it's a big step forward tnx.)
The problem with Linux desktop acceptance is; as bill gates put it, people have the brains of a spider monkey. I've spent 3 days configuring things and it's still not 100 percent. Proprietary drivers are the big scary boogie man, so they change them to non proprietary that work poor, or don't work at all. Even better they flash something across the screen like you are using proprietary hardware so some things won't work during start up. Funny how that just happens to be my web-cam, printer, wireless card, Mic. and Ethernet so I can't even access the INTERNET to even try to fix it. Codecs are not options, you need then to open web pages properly, so I can read how to fix things.
Then of course you have microsoft that wants you to fail, with the money and power to screw things up bad. I really saw no future for the Linux desktop (just look how net-books are all running windows now) then they hit you with Ubuntu 9.10
Thanks guys
RE: yes but... written by perkunas:
Focus not on Microsoft but the end user
writen by: Darkwater on 2009-11-18 19:36:41
Microsoft commands so much of the market that, in the desktop segment, that it doesn't see Linux as competition. To gain acceptance in this segment, Linux should have a more end user focus. Too many people programming Linux distros program not for the computer end user but for other programmers or IT professionals.

End users want to turn on their computers, run their programs, surf the net, read and send emails and not ever have think about the operating system. They see the computer as a tool not a passion. They may want a tool to do something in a slightly different way but are not going to take the time nor have skills to modify it. They will take it out of the tool box, use it, maybe grumble and put it back.

An end user will turn the computer on, complete their task, maybe grumble and turn it off. They are not going to spend the time nor have the skills to modify the distro. An end user can do that Windows and OSX. They don't have to think about the tool, just use it.

There is power and flexibility realized in writing code or in using the Command line but an end user doesn't care. OSX has terminal to provide such abilities but would you imagine that more than 5% of OSX end users have ever opened it?

You can bet that Google understands this. Google's operating system will be end user friendly from the start because market share will be their goal. Here may well be the best chance for a broader acceptance of Linux. Then Google will call the tune.
RE: Focus not on Microsoft but the end user written by Darkwater:

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