Why Linux will never rule on the desktop

A good IRC-friend of mine recently announced he had decided to start using Windows on his desktop again, after being a Linux fan since the early nineties. The reason for this is that Linux does not give him what he needs: Drivers aren’t on par with their Windows equivalents, Linux lacks stability and he simply can’t find the desktop environment he is looking for. He hoped for years it would come, but gave up hope…

This made me think and I realised I recognise a lot of his ‘pain’. I have been looking for a new distribution for my desktop for more than a year now, but somehow I cannot seem to find it. Every time I try something new, I run into bigger or smaller problems that make me decide to continue to search for something better.

But what is the reason for this? When I analyse my findings, I see a few key-issues. Let’s take a closer look at them!

There are too many distributions
Does anyone here remember the Canterbury distribution? On April fools day 2011 Debian, OpenSUSE, Archlinux, Grml and Gentoo announced they would merge into one new distribution. Although meant as a joke, I honestly believe this would be the only possible way to give Linux a chance to become a serious competitor for Windows ans iOS on the desktop.
At the moment that I write this, there are no less than 322 active distributions mentioned on Distrowatch.com. And let’s face it: That’s ridiculous! All these distros need developers to keep their distro running. Talking about reinventing the wheel! Imagine how much better Linux could be if all these developers would work on, let’s say, 5 distributions! Imagine how much better these distros would become! If you look at the fact that 87 of these 322 distributions are based on Ubuntu, what can possible have been the reason that someone started a new distro when there already were 86 Ubuntu based distributions? Ofcourse the same has happened with, for example, Debian (60 derived distros), Mandriva (8) and Slackware (19).

Last week I spoke to one of the developers of a smaller, independent distro, because I ran into pretty big problems when I installed the stable release on my laptop. He told me the devs were aware of the problems, but a few people had left the project and no-one wanted to take over their work. The average Windows user, wanting to give Linux a try, would never have been able to use this distro. And the release I talk about was mature, soon to be replaced with a new one! Crazy, if you ask me! I do suggest that developers that find their project in this situation, do the only smart thing they can: End the project and join another distribution. Preferably one of the Big Ones. If you run your own distro, you have to focus on the user. Can you deliver him what he needs to be a happy customer? I believe that in many cases that’s not the case.

There are too many Desktop Managers/Environments
Have you ever noticed how many different Desktop Environments there are? I counted 29 of them on Distrowatch! Absurd! For example: who needs Openbox, Hackedbox and Fluxbox when Blackbox is already available?

Blackbox

Most users need a magnifying glass to notice a difference. Joining forces would create a much better result!
I can imagine that next to KDE and Gnome, you need an alternative for older hardware. But there are so many of them now, that we have the same situation that we have with distributions. People are working on exactly the same functionality for different DM/DE’s. What a waste of time! Time to consolidate! How many Desktop Managers do we really need? I cannot tell you, but I am 100% sure we do not need 29 of them!

Drivers, proprietary software and codecs
One of the bigger issues with Linux is the fact that the average PC hardware producer does not really think about Linux when he develops drivers for his hardware. More that once I have run into problems with unsupported hardware. I respect the men and women who have created drivers for Linux without support from the hardware producer. Reverse engineering is a time-consuming way to build drivers. And a never-ending story.

Then there is the discussion on proprietary software. There are quite a few distro’s that ship without codecs, because in a number of countries some codecs are forbidden. I respect that, as long as it is easy to add these codecs after the installation of the distribution. But I remember a time when I tried to setup an mp3 audio stream with MPD under Debian. No average desktop user will ever be able to do that! Is that the product we want to deliver to our clients? No wonder noone uses it!

Then there are these distro’s that want to be completely free. They refuse to supply proprietary drivers and software. Leaving you with a system that’s only partially usable. What are they trying to accomplish or prove? I really have no idea! The only thing I do know is that they deliver a product no normal computer user is waiting for!
These people do not understand why a company like Nvidia doesn’t open source their drivers. I do. They try to make money and do not want the competition to be able to look under the hood of their products.

Of course people will say something like “If you don’t like it, don’t use it!”, but I guess they fail to see what I’m trying to explain here.

And where does this all lead to?
Like my friend wrote in his blog: Too much of a blessing can become a curse. And that’s exactly what has happened with Linux. Being an Open Source project makes it easy for someone to pick up all the code and start a fork. And in some cases that might be a wise thing to do. But whether you agree with the Document Foundation about forking Openoffice or not, you will have to agree with me that having  OpenOffice and LibreOffice next to each other does not necessarily mean we get the best free office suite! Competition is a good thing, but combining the two powers could theoretically lead to a better product.
We haven’t discussed the Human Race yet. When people work together, soon rivalry, politics and power play their role and lead to destruction a less than optimal result. When companies are involved, the effect is even bigger. And so we end up with 322 distributions and 29 Desktop Managers/ Environments.

Windows screenshot

We can decide for ourselves if we want Linux to make it on the desktop. I believe the road we are following is not the right one.

For all those developers out there I have this message: Most of the popular software that is available under Linux is available for Windows too. LibreOffice, The Gimp, VLC, Inkscape, you name them, they’re all there! So in the end no-one really needs Linux. Windows has become pretty stable and guess what? Billions of Windows users use the same Desktop Environment!

Unbelievable, isn’t it?

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51 Responses to Why Linux will never rule on the desktop

  1. binskipy2u says:

    I’ve been saying this for a few years now.. choice is linux’s biggest strength and even GREATER weakness.. Openoffice/libreoffice is not Ms office, gimp is NOT photoshop, and others.. there are NO KILLER APPS.. killer choices and choices that are killing Linux.. between that and the egos on forums, IRC, and w/in the old guard of the linux community , specially those behind that comment “if you don’t like it, don’t use it” and this overkill of choice for distros, apps, uses, etc..It will NEVER be Year of the Linux Desktop… maybe the moment, second, minute, maybe even a good hour.. but NEVER a year.. that’s my .02 now I’m broke!

    • I do not believe MS Office is better than LibreOffice. I believe 99% of the MS Office user could work with LibreOffice just as well. I do believe Microsoft has a larger marketing budget and it has the advantage of being around for a long time. And indeed, GIMP is not photoshop, but I work with it regularly and it does what it’s supposed to do very well. I dó believe there are as many open source killer apps as there are commercial ones.

      • Windows User says:

        But who cares? Every one of the programs you just mentioned is available for Windows as well! It doesn’t matter whether someone thinks MS Office or LibreOffice is better. On Windows, they can use both! There’s literally nothing that Linux provides that users can’t also use on Windows.

      • In my article I already mentioned that most of the succesful open source programs are available under Linux AND Windows.

    • mick moore says:

      I use OpenBSD and Debian to solve this issue. These are less proprietary and based on “world wide” development.

  2. Orlando Quiros says:

    I have been looking for a Linux distribution for my netbook but gave up since the ones I tried did not meet my needs. I installed Windows 7 and my netbook works fine.

  3. Zaan says:

    You make one big logical mistake: you assume that development work will improve in step with addition of new developers. I believe that is not so. There’s only a fixed number of people (often just one) that can work on one specific problem at any one time.

    Another issue is that of perception: what is ‘good’? I happen to use openbox and am happier than I could ever imagine being under either the big DEs (gnome, kde, unity, …) or the smaller tiling DEs. Yet I recognize that each of those have their fans. How would application of more developer hours fix this situation? Would it make me like something I’ve tried and left behind?

    The last issue I’d mention is that of leadership. To successfully steer the work of many developers, one needs good leadership not devoid of vision. That is not a common good. Many people working in the ecosystem are often working on pet projects on the side of actual paying jobs. They have no lofty visions of contributing to a Windows killer, and (IMO) they shouldn’t have those visions.

    To end: “Billions of Windows users use the same Desktop Environment!” You may be right in saying this, but please remember why Linux users often have moved to Linux: because they want choice. Because they are sick of having too many things decided for them. Because they often are advanced enough to know that there is a choice!

    • vrm says:

      And you are lying when you say linux users have choice. Their choices in many respects are made by those who >think< they know best. I have also seen that meritocracy does not necessarily work in open source projects and the egos, debauchery, FUD etc are all present in these projects as well. A few people in RH, canonical and formerly novell have made choices in many important areas for the users. And their choices have and do suck and their judgment severly impaired by headiness and stupidity; the result is for all to see – few people actually use linux for any productive work.

      These "nitpickings" aside, I have never understood the rabid, irrational insistence on having only open source drivers for h/w. The OSS radeon driver has been in development for over a decade and it still doesn't support 90% of the features of a decade old chipset/GPU. And what happens when new h/w comes along, as it does every 6 months ? Even when we are lucky to have AMD and nvidia support linux with drivers that are far better (features such as more openGl support, better P.M. etc) and stable than the OSS version, all I ever hear is idiotic ranting by kernel and xorg developers ( largely kernel devs who want everything OSS and in the kernel).

      IMO, we should let the h/w manufacturers provide binary drivers when they want to and offer them every help possible to make it smooth. Also device a mechanism where users do not have to recompile for every minor revision of the kernel. There- I said it.

      • People do have a choice. If they do not like the way their distro is going, there are 321 others to pick. That’s alot of choice!

        I agree with you when you say that open source drivers often cannot compete with proprietary drivers from the h/w manufacturer. However, if the manufacturer does not see a reason for creating a linux driver, you have no other option but to use the open source driver, of buy other hardware. I always go for other hardware in these cases.

      • vm says:

        that is like saying there a any number of ford focuses to choose from – they come in dozens of colours. But they are all same under the hood and ford made the choice of what is under the hood.

        And I AM talking about devices for which proprietary drivers are available. I think that graphics cards are one peripheral in the system that can greatly enhance the user experience ( if the software can also take advantage of the drivers). We have serious issues in this area – in the beginning, it was the lack of good drivers and we had to do with FB graphics but now it is politics.

  4. smooth says:

    This must be a joke , a prank maybe. Have you ever (even for a couple of hours) , used a linux distro ?

  5. dogbert0360 says:

    I agree with most of your assessment. But you forgot to mention all of the malware that Windows users have to deal with too. I’m a extremely happy Linux distro user (Sabayon 9) and I don’t miss it at all.

  6. hpb says:

    Yes, unbelievable: “When people work together, soon rivalry, politics and power play their role and lead to destruction a less than optimal result. When companies are involved, the effect is even bigger”. So, let us not be absurd and let Windows rule! Stop the all the opensource-communities! Stop working together on freedom! Stop the diversity! Lets praise $MS and totalitarism!

  7. herodotos484 says:

    The relevance of arguments depend on the main thesis that Linux will never rule on the desktop, but you could as well question whether that’s a necessary and/or good goal. Why should Linux rule the desktop if as you see it Windows is fairly stable? In that context I see a few viable arguments, for example that tougher competition could potentially serve the interest of users better. Personally I’ve several reasons to at this moment of technology choose Linux, but choose to leave that out of my reply, to instead comment, not necessarily refute, a few things.

    Among the active distributions listed on Distrowatch only 105 are meant for the desktop and with support of i686 and x86_64 and a standard desktop environment like Gnome, KDE or xfce. Beyond those criteria you unavoidably start to look for some kind of specialisation; old hardware, specialised tasks or certain desktop environment. What’s possibly ridiculous is why some are named distributions when we’re actually talking about remasters. Hence you don’t get X developers for each so called distribution.

    There’s a strange twist in arguments when one of the main argument against Linux is that your friend “can’t find the desktop environment he is looking for”, and at the some time you question the number of DE’s and VM’s available, and when the conclusion is that “billions of Windows users use the same Desktop Environment”. The solution to the environment he couldn’t find is to not offer any choice? You seem to propose that folks who have the knowledge to create their own preferable desktops shouldn’t share their code, just to avoid “unnecessary” diversity and “confusion”? I don’t think you get more results by forcing folks to work on stuff, in this case desktop environments, they don’t like or wish to use. People aren’t working on the exact “same functionality for different DM/DE’s”. Some fill a need, like the tiling window managers, some with very good support for the use of multiple screens. To question Openbox is a big surprise to me, since it’s a fairly unique option, unusually customizable.

    When you talk about Openoffice and Libreoffice I’m quite certain that the main developer force jumped ship to Libreoffice. What can you do when a behemoth like Oracle have a track record of killing, quickly or slowly, projects and when developers of Openoffice felt threatened? How do you combine two forces when Oracle already chased away some developers which created the other force? Even if we try to find simple solutions the picture often is more complicated than we wish.

    I leave this without a conclusion.

  8. fiddlestix says:

    You assume that there is a fixed number of developers and they would be willing to abandon their own projects to work on a sanctioned project. This is such a fundamental mistake that it frankly raises a question about your intelligence. Just because you are bewildered by the number of alternatives and can’t bother to spend 5 minutes reading about them does not mean we should abandon valuable projects.

    The assumption that the goal of Linux is popularity is also wrong. It’s been very successful in meeting the needs of many of its users and that is enough. Popularity will necessarily mean bending to the desires of the average user and a typical Linux user now is much different than an average user. Let us hope it stays that way.

    • I do not believe it is useful for several people to develop exactly the same software. Perhaps they cannot work together to create the same software, but they can contribute to the development of other software. In that way them can really improve Linux and its distributions.

  9. Rambo Tribble says:

    Those with technical expertise often look for technical reasons behind the supposed “failure” of Linux to heavily impact desktop market share. This presupposes that technical merits determine user/buyer decisions. That is an illusion. Neither MS DOS nor Windows gained their dominance by technical excellence. Marketing and user support, (whither documentation?), bought Microsoft their success. It is in these aspects that most free software has fallen down. Initial buy-in is an emotional decision; staying with a product is usually a practical one.

  10. Jhon connor says:

    How can your friend be a Linux desktop operating system fan since the early nineties?

    I mean, the linux kernel was released on 1991, and it was not useful for normal day to day user until mid 1992 or 1993

    In 1993 was released the “first distro” – slackware i think with CDE for a desktop enviroment, that would be the first linux desktop operating system, yet not intendeed for normal day to day user.

    So how come your “friend” being a “linux fan” since the “early nineties” who comes from an era when Linux was really difficult to use, and now that it’s really easy to use “gives up” just like that.

    That doesn’t make sense at all.

    • Hi John,

      thanks for giving your comment. I suggest you read my friends blog. There is a hyperlink in one of the first sentences. It will answer your questions.

      With kind regards,

      Marcel

  11. Brian C says:

    its for everyine tio use, no favoutrites … no MS$ to say this is the way it is … relax

  12. ix says:

    Your problem is with freedom, that people have the freedom to create their own distro, their own desktop environment/window manager, their own software. They have probably created it for themselves, but are giving it away for free in the hope that it will be useful to someone else. You are just bashing those people because they are deciding to share their software and have the freedom to do that. No problem, you are not forced to be free. I like freedom.

    • Yes Ix,

      I like freedom too. But unfortunately it leeds to 322 distros! So it does has a down side!

      • ix says:

        Ubuntu has the vast majority of users anyway, so what do you care about the other hundreds of distros? I prefer Debian with openbox/fluxbox. Talking of which, I’ve read your friend’s post and I found the “stability” part silly. There are very stable distros, like Red Hat and Debian. I’ve never had stability problems with Debian stable, I can’t say that about windows, but, as they say, “de gustibus non est disputandum”.

  13. MerReady says:

    Wait until your friend has been using Windows for 6-12 months and then lets see how stable windows is vs Linux. Its easy to say how stable windows is on a new install because windows is very stable. However wait until that registry gets loaded up after being used for a while then try to convince us how stable windows is.

    Another thought on your fiends stability issues. You failed to mention what distro or distro’s he has been using. If he has been using “Bleeding Edge” distro’s then I understand his frustration. Because there are so many choices I think its unfair to label “Linux” as being “not as stable as windows” with out giving us any references to what distro’s you or your friend has been using!

    • I am curious how long he will be able to stick with Windows too. He has been using it for about 3 months now. He uses several tools for the defragmentation of his disks and the registry.
      My friend has used many distros. In his list you will find both bleeding edge (Archlinux) and very conservative (Debian) distros.

  14. KenP says:

    The reasons stated, IMO, are secondary. The primary reason is that Linux desktop does not offer ‘comfort’ level in a typical office environment, a la Windows.

    I use Linux at work and although my company allows it, I have to use numerous workarounds just to read email or connect to internal messenger. Same with using office documents, which, let’s face it, are dominated by MS Office formats.

    Often, I have to boot up my Windows VM just so I can do something Linux does not yet do in the expected manner.

    • Hi KenP,

      I am able to perform all normal office work with Linux. There are thousands of packages with good software available. I agree that the interchangeability between MS Office and LibreOffice is not perfect yet. But that is the only hiatus I can come up with.

  15. Tshepo Mgaga says:

    I completely agree with this article from an end-user perspective. But as a developer I love Linux for the opportunities that it offers to create something big. Using Linux is always refreshing and exiting, and it always sparks my imagination on what is possible.

    • My blog was written with the enduser in mind. One question: As a dev, is it satisfying to create something that has been done many times before?

      • Dave says:

        I think so, yes. There are lots of reasons, not limited to:

        * Simply trying to understand the problem and solution. Sometimes it’s easier to start from scratch and encounter all those problems, learning as you build, than to try to wrap your head around someone else’s solution and its warts. It helps you understand how the more mature products got to be the way they are.

        * Sometimes you think you can do it better. Sometimes you’re right. New concepts, different decisions… It’s sometimes the difference between evolutionary and revolutionary.

        The problem you’re running into is that people experiment, they optimize for a given use case, they chafe at authority when they’re just working on a personal interest project. Not every distro is intended for general use, and not every developer wants to work on a general solution. If you took away their pet project/distro, they wouldn’t necessarily work on what you decide they should work on. They might just go do something else entirely, lose interest, or throw their hands up in disgust at the inherent politics and decide its just not worth the trouble. You’d have destroyed what got them interested in the first place.

      • If you talk about a hobby distro I can understand it. If you develop with the end user in mind, on a general purpose distro with a large number of users, I don’t.

  16. smooth says:

    I’m a civil engineer and I’ve worked with AutoCAD on windows many hours. When win 7 came out , AutoCAD frequently crashed with a Fatal Error message (still does-just less frequently). Very annoying , since you can’t save the file every 5 minutes! On an other pc in the office , I installed Ubuntu 12.04 and for cad files , I installed DraftSight (for testing). Ubutnu is very stable , no viruus (so no need for heavy anti-virus programs) , no crashes , and DraftSight is working very well , it hasn’t crashed yet (never will) , I’ll diffidently buy it. All the codecs were easily installed. Can’t say the same for windows though , because you can’t install all them at once (you CAN on linux . terminal or software center). Don’t want to be rude , but could you tell us details of your linux distribution installation?

    • You are running Ubuntu. This one of the largest distros for desktops there is, with a large number of devs. This should make Ubuntu stable. This count for a small number of distros. But there are 322 active distros. Many of them work with a small group of devs and it is difficult to create a mature product with a small amount of people. In my blog I try to point out that Linux will become better if we stop maintaining 322 distros and focus on just a few distributions. When maintaining 322 distros, important issues have to be done 322 times, once for each distro. If we had, let’s say 10, distros, the same work would only have to be done 10 times and the energy we didn’t have to invest in the work for these other 312 distros could be used on other work. This way, the endproduct could improve.

      Of course Windows is not perfect and you can always give examples of things that do not work. But I know quite a few people at my work that work with AutoCAD in combination with Windows 7 without issues.

      • ix says:

        You are right, the less split a community is, the more effort goes into a single product, or a few products, but how do you plan to do that? It’s not like there’s one company to rule them all, one company to bring them all and in the darkness bind them. Bringing Linux developers together is like herding cats. Moreover, there is no proof that they actually want to work together on a single distro or a few distros.

        I think the only chance there is for such a fantasy is a big company which would hire lots of developers and make a great product. People will still make lots of respins of that distro, just like Ubuntu based distros, but they won’t matter, because the vast majority of people won’t even hear about them. Anyway, I think that one big advantage of Linux is precisely the fact that it’s not ruled by a single evil company. Windows and Mac OS X aren’t split like Linux precisely because they are not Free.

        Freedom means you can make hundreds of distros. Nobody is stopping them from joining Debian, for example, but if they want to do their own thing, nobody can stop them. It will be difficult to reduce the number of distros while maintaining freedom and I think you want to maintain freedom. So, good luck with that. 🙂

      • Hi Ix,

        Good question! In my blog I only explain the reason why Linux will never rule on the desktop. I see what is happening in the Linux world, but I cannot prevent it from happening! I can only hope that many devs read my article and realise what happens everytime something is forked or a new distro is started.

  17. jtfish34 says:

    Primary colors of red, yellow and blue allow you to create a box of 64 crayons. It makes it easy to not have to blend yellow and blue to make green, when it’s already been done for you. It’s cool to take Arch or Gentoo, add all the needed software and the desktop of your choice. But if someone else had the same idea and has already put it together along with DVD support, I’m up and running instead of trying to reinvent the wheel. I like windows, I like linux, and BSD has an argument too. What’s to stop me from triple booting? Now, they all have their flaws. The coolest thing about Linux is FREEdom of choice. The entire BSD community has focused on one system, and their support for drivers are for worse than Linux, IMO. If there’s is an open source software that $MS would normally charge me for, and I can accomplish the same end result without issues, I’m all in. I currently dual boot with Windows 7 and Fedora 17. 99% of my time is on Linux. Throw in my Android custom ROM phone, Rooted Android 10 inch tablet, and my google tv, and Linux has enhanced my entertainment in ways MS never will.

  18. herodotos484 says:

    Your “322 distributions” is repeated like a mantra, even though it’s a proven flawed figure. Settle on about 100 distributions and you’re argument becomes sane. In a list of modern distributions (for i686 and x86_64) with complete DEs (Gnome, KDE and Xfce) you still find over 10 focusing primarily on specific language support, some openly made as remixes, some for specific educational purposes, some for music-studio tasks and yet others which primarily support server solutions even though functioning as multi-purpose distributions with a typical desktop.

    So exactly how many top class developers, making a difference for global linux based desktop OS, do we get? I suppose the figure is disappointingly lower than expected. Some I know since before they become classified as distributions on Distrowatch, and it all started like a fun student project with the aim to learn and having fun. Learn and having fun is of course a terrible vice! How do you know if such a “developer”, after having gained experience and knowledge, isn’t becoming an important figure in some major distributions?

    Some operating systems are designed to be corporate only, while linux more or less went from “let’s work on this together” to “cool this actually could generate profit for corporations as well”. Your complain should hence be with why linux was developed in the first place, and why Linus was “stupid” enough to choose a license allowing anyone on the planet to engage, and/or why there existed GNU stuff with similar licenses available to modify and extend.

    If we close down linux (even though impossible) it would send a lot of experienced users away looking for something else. Among the users of a distribution I use, even though being among the major ones, I know that many would jump ship if linux went in a direction they don’t like. They use linux for the reasons you point out as problematic (cure would become poison). While corporations need constant income to produce something, linux as a desktop system won’t exist longer than its users are ready to support it. There aren’t any company making profit on linux desktop, even though Canonical try to (Mandriva failed to both make profit and connect with the community). Red Hat doesn’t even want to take risks and only support linux desktop as a “complementary tool” for their main products. Still Red Hat is more crucial for company support than Canonical. In the shadow you have a lot of companies dependent on linux, even though not officially shining as linux desktop supporters, but nevertheless put pressure to or develop pieces improving the linux desktop experience. In that context, what does it matter if some hundred not-really-developers work on different stuff, for low spec computers for poor countries or some specific task?

    Your goal could be admirable, if “Linux ruling on the desktop” could be seen as a blessing for humankind. However, are you communicating with the ones actually making a difference?

  19. manmath sahu says:

    Hi dear blogger, I agree with most of what you said. But you really missed some very important points.

    You mentioned choices in linux distributions are so bewildering that it leads to choas. Absolutely right. Also linux doesn’t create compelling demand when most of the open source software are already available for Windows, and most often they work better.

    However, the most important points why Linux never win desktop are two:

    #1 Bad Integration of core and subcore components. Every component (kernel, gnu utilities, desktop environments, window managers, configuration utilities and application software) is excellent in their own aspects. But the platform is badly integrated when combined everything together. There are many reasons for it – maintainers of these individual bits and pieces have no co-ordination with each other, they never sit together how to put them well for a better and cohesive whole.

    #2 Bad quality/stability. In linux world feature gets more priority than stability. Everybody is busy in getting new features, none bother to fix the annoying bugs. This creates a situation where the users have to fix things that should not have been broken in the first place. There are many instances of it such as corrupt xorg, grub failure, network manager malfunction, pulse-alsa disagreement, kms-vesa syncing and whole lot others. In short, GUI along with the subcore components is highly unstable in any which way you choose to put them, when you choose kde, gnome or xfce, you never know when the DE will fail or when you’ll get some ugly surprise related to audio, graphics, network or other device connectivity.

  20. Lupus Furyo says:

    1. Why so many distros? RedHat, OpenSUSE, Ubuntu, Rosa (Russian) and many others are commercial companies, often located in different geographic regions/countries (like US, EU, UK, Russia or elsewhere). Different countries often need their own distros. 322 distros? Hm, “show me the code” (how many out of these really contribute their code to the linux project? I would count only those who do). Otherwise, I can easily “create” my own “distro”, too – like I can tinker a desktop code, too.

    2. Why so many desktops? Gnome is supported by RHEL, Unity is supported by Canonical. KDE may have SUSE’s support, and their plasma project is aiming at Tizen (Samsung/Intel), etc.
    Devs from these projects are payed for the work. You may also also think of similar reasons like Apple not being interested to have their devs to work on improving M$’s Win and vice versa. (Regarding the old one’s Blackbox is not supported anymore, while Fluxbox is).

    3. I should, however, agree with the Author’s comments regarding the lack of hardware vendors support for the linux drivers (not trying to blame them, however).

    4. What is the point in releasing a *nix distro without a proprietary drivers/codecs? Author could think about guys who initially coded just to have a free server (like Debian, CentoOS) or FreeBSD and SmartOS.
    P.S. I do understand Author’s friend switching back to Win, even if I am not intending to do, so. The latter choice may depend on what one does on their desktop. And some may even switch to OS X, it is their choice after all.

    5. This is not early 80ies or 90ies anymore, people have less free time to code for free (if you think of a new full fledged free desktop, or a free, adequate alternative to OS X’s).

    While the Author touched a few important issues, there are some other reasons, perhaps even more important ones, as to why Linux is not going to make for desktops. You may find interesting reading about them in the article bellow.
    http://www.techradar.com/us/news/software/operating-systems/is-the-linux-desktop-becoming-extinct–1146963

    • Thanks for responding! I like a good discussion, so here is my reaction:

      1. I believe that if all these people, creating these 322 distros, would combine their efforts, they could build the best OS available on the planet. Working on 322 distros, the wheel keeps being invented….

      2. The same goes for desktops! I can imagine you need a light and a state-of-the-art desktop environment, but this many?

      4. What’s the use of having a distro that does not work? Let’s face it: Nouveau performance still is lightyears behind the official Nvidia driver. If you force yourself not to use the videocard you purchased, you do not need the Nvidia driver, but why buy the card then?

      5. I hope and believe the individualisation of our society is on its way back. People like being part of a community, and Linux is more popular than ever.

      And the Linux desktop? It will rule one day! 😉

  21. BitItsOnlyAKernel says:

    Thanks for the article.

    I’ve been seeing a lot of articles, blogs,…, lately. lust like this one.
    It’s alarming, but then the “truth” mostly is.
    For Servers, embedded devices,…, sure Linux, BSD’s,.., have already made it over 10 years ago.
    Just look at the Andriod today. It’s basically a “fork” of the Linux kernel, with everything proprietarily being “closed” around it. Was that an accident ? -Lol.
    Apples, iPhone, iPAD, are also built around “BSD”, as was MacOSX,
    …Google, Apple, Microsoft are a for-profit corp’s -and don’t forget it.
    Comon, just look at the $Billions they put into their proprietary/commercial OS’s and hardware,

    However, the Linux Desktop, has had over 20 years to finally make it -but it still hasn’t ?, and likely never will, for the average User, like almost all of us.
    The sad part is, those giant Corporations profited the most from a “free” Linux, whereas. the User and his Linux desktop has been totally ripped-off.

    Here’s a (condensed) example:
    A manager friend of mine, had been in IT since the middle 90’s. He started out, technically, in Unix/Linux sys adminitration. networking, security, databses, web programming, … you name it, he’s done it, and most especially, he tried in the Linux desktop arena.
    Only recently he finally left the IT ratrace. He started his own Jewllery making business. The only “Computer” he uses today is a cnc one to control the machineing/engraving of jewelery…
    He uses Windows, only because of the expensive application he needs for his small business.
    He laughed saying, 20 years of hating Windows, and hoping Linux would really take off, only to end up needing Windows, because Linux doesn’t have the App he needs. -It’s over now.
    He’s glad he’s out of this IT, Linux rat-race, it’s brutal with not much money to be made in it.

    “The Internet, Linux as a desktop,… it’s all just a springboard for programmers, and developers.”
    I had to think about that one for awhile.
    The old saying of “nothing is free” is well understood here.

    Linux, as a development, programming platform fine, but that’s all it’s ever gonna be.
    Don’t you think that if Asus, or Dell could have sold more systems by going to “Linux as a Desktop” they would have by now ?
    Trust me, Microsoft would have been a forgotten word by now. Bill who ?
    20 years is too long for “excuses”.

    I agree with the author, so where are the Linux Drivers, …, already ?.
    Sure we’ve had opensource software, but where was the OpenHardware/Desktop to go with Linux ???
    Maybe Torvalds, in all his wisdom, could have tried to promote this a little better.
    Oh wait, that’s right, “…I’m just a Linux Kernel Inventer, and Programmer.” -yep, thanks a lot.
    Or, how about Stallman/GNU. -I mean, so how’s all that working out these days for “Hardware” stuff for Linux ? … ehhhm.

    Notice how all those “Linux Desktop” things never really appeared, and if they did, they disappeared just as fast, got closed, snapped-up,…, pretty darn quick, and with a slew of broken excuses.
    In other words, all the Linux programmers, developers,…, ALL end up eventually working for some “commercial” company, if their lucky, or moving on to a different career, and can you blame them ?
    Nobody works for free. -do you ?

    “Linux as a Desktop”, “BSD as a Desktop”, will NEVER happen, and if you’re gonna argue with this, then you haven’t been around the last 20 years to watch it ALL, never really happen ?.

    But hey, I’m still faithfully waiting,
    😉

  22. Gotta tell you, this has been enlightening….I think, maybe. Whew!
    I’m a 67 year old technophobe who has had at least 1 computer since at least 1984,,,Never had any desire to figure out how, just wanted them to do what I wanted. So, I have 2 old Dells, a d430 and d1100 (or de 50) both running XP. I also have a MacBook, for what it is worth. I hate waste, my Dells work great, no issues. And the last virus I had was on the Mac 3 years ago. I got to looking at a cheap way to keep them up and running so I turned to Linux, OMG, I think I”ve looked at 1/2 of the distros….I know you will find this hard to believe, but I got confused! No, really. All I want to do is the basic stuff, email, surf, write something, read, maybe calculate every once in a while. So, is there anything there for someone like me? Or is it time to donate to the Salvation Army and get a new computer? God bless

    • Hi Bruce,

      don’t throw these computers away yet! For a person new to Linux I suggest you give LXLE a try. You can find it at http://lxle.net/ .
      A nice version derived from ubuntu, made for older hardware. With 1 Gb ram (if I am correct that’s in your D430) it will fly.

      Good luck and let me know if it worked!

      Regards,

      Marcel.

      • Lupus Furyo says:

        Its an excellent advise, Marcel… thanks for it. I got HP Compaq nx6110 from 2004, it’s still working well but I am going to upgrade its RAM : )
        P.S. I lost the link to this blog earlier. Sorry for a late reply. I again found it today, after searching on google.

      • No need to appologize for giving a nice comment 🙂

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