[CS-FSLUG] Linux Today - Is desktop Linux too fragmented to succeed? A friend tells it like it is!!

Timothy Butler tbutler at ofb.biz
Sun May 3 15:08:15 CDT 2009

>> Simply put, McAllister hits on points I've been saying (or being told
>> by users) for years. It was interesting he mentioned tax software.
>> How many people do I know that struggled with WINE or had to boot up
>> VMware to do their stupid taxes? It's those sorts of little things
>> that help to disqualify Linux by the death of a thousand
>> qualifications.
> Huh? In my country I can do all my taxes on GNU/Linux. Usage of Free
> Software and fair access to all browsers for the tax agencies is a
> matter of national policy. The point is too U.S. dependent.

	I could do my taxes online with Linux. I'd much rather use a software  
program that only submits needed sensitive information online, rather  
than the whole enchilada.

> Mac OSX is not an option due to cost. I know that there are good  
> price-
> conscious choices on OSX on the U.S., but in most Latin American
> countries, and glaringly so in mine, AFAIK, Macs are horribly  
> expensive,
> overpriced machines. Perhaps before, when they had a great RISC cpu,
> they were worth the price; but with a good PC you can get several  
> times
> the bang for the buck. Paying top dollar for a great UI doesn't make
> economic sense here.

	Admittedly, Mac OS X has a limited market. At least in the U.S., and  
I think in Europe, though, it is priced similarly to other systems.  
For example, while I can get a 15" laptop for a lot less than a  
MacBook Pro, I cannot get a similarly spec'ed unit for much less than  
the MBP.

	(One thing people typically don't consider with Macs is that they  
maintain value much better than PCs. If you keep one for three years  
and then sell it, you are far more likely to get a nice percentage of  
return with a Mac than a Dell or HP.)

> As for GNU/Linux, I have a problem replicating the common user
> experience, but this is because I'm just getting old. Things such as
> video, webcams, digital camera and photo management, management of
> massive music collections with playlists, etc., are things that do not
> interest me. But when I carried a digital camera to take pictures of  
> my
> vacation trip, I just plugged the camera, and voilá! it was  
> automounted
> and I could manage and process the pictures.

	Did it automatically import the pictures into a photo management  
program or process RAW files automatically?

	Here's my typical workflow: I shoot maybe 500-1,000 pictures at a  
time, all in Canon RAW. I plug in the memory card (or camera) and  
iPhoto pulls them all in, sorts by date, processes the raw files,  
orders them using timestamps by event, and (in the latest version)  
uses facial detection to group them by person. If I merge them with  
GPS data, iPhoto will also work with that geocoding.

	I wouldn't underestimate the appeal of photo management and music  
playing for folks much older than you. My mom, much like many others I  
know, shops on iTunes Store to buy music, has a large (and legal!)  
music collection, has tens of thousands of photos in iPhoto, etc.  
iTunes Store was one of the things that she immediately fell in love  
with on the Mac after her stint using Linux; but dismal state of photo  
management was much of what scared her off of Linux.
>> IP constraints are real. I can boot up a new Mac, and not only will
>> it be (by most people's admission) the most beautiful looking desktop
>> available, it will also play virtually any media file I throw at it
>> without having to download or configure anything. This is powerful.
> I can do the same in Slackware. No downloads ever.

	In the U.S., I can't... Admittedly, this does vary based on things  
like the DMCA.
>> They want to install TaxCut directly
>> from the CD with no tweaking (unless the system does it
>> automatically).
> It won't work, but it also won't work in different Windows versions in
> too many occasions. Besides that, I think it's acceptable that  
> different
> systems should have different software.

	The problem is that it is hard to get people to switch programs on  
something like this. I don't want to reenter all of my tax information  
so I can go to Linux. Whether I'm on Mac or Windows, TaxCut carries  
most of the work over for me from year to year. Even more so if I  
bothered to use Quicken.

>> I think McAllister's other point is valid too. One person uses
>> Ubuntu, another uses Kubuntu, another insists on openSUSE. You can't
>> just pick up a single book and learn how to do everything in each of
>> them, because each one works differently. Fragmentation has been a
>> major issue for years.
> This is a non-issue. Each distro should be well documented and that's
> it.

	I'm not so sure. I know lots of people who love to go to the  
bookstore and buy a book on how to do something. Say, David Pogue's  
Missing Manual for Mac OS X. They don't need it, but Pogue is a far  
better writer than almost anyone writing documentation. When they go  
and pick up a book on Linux though, it isn't that simple.

>> That most distros have centered on GNOME (and
>> KDE marginalized itself with version 4; in the words of a friend,
>> managed to do the impossible feat of making Vista look good) doesn't
>> solve it.
> I think you are not fair with that. You should really try KDE 4.2.2.
> There is nothing marginalized with that version.

	I need to try 4.2.x. I still think it is sad they copied the look of  
Vista, however. GNOME's default theming (as well as Ubuntu's custom  
theme), in my opinion, is one of its strong suits -- it doesn't look  
much like anything else.
>> A few observations on what Linux needs:
>> 	1.) It needs someone to pour millions of dollars into WINE and bring
>> it up to the point that it can run current versions of Photoshop,
>> TaxCut, Quicken, etc. It then needs to be tied into the DE so closely
>> that the end user is blissfully unaware of the compatibility layer.
>> Focus on apps that really cannot easily be replaced with something
>> already on Linux and only worry about currently supported versions --
>> no one cares if Office 2002 runs on Linux any longer.
> A great suggestion, but wrong on one point. I do care if "Office 2002"
> runs on Linux. There are many installations with Office 97, 2000, and
> the like in my country. Many businesses purchased one, and just one
> version of certain software packages, and their business depend on  
> them.
> WINE should be very friendly to old software (¿maybe forking Wine into
> two releases, one for older software, and other for the state of the
> art?) Visual Basic is a must, in several versions, and so are XBase
> engines, such as Visual FoxPro, and others like Genexus.

	I probably should hone my point: the focus should be on quickly  
supporting the latest apps. The problem is that WINE is always a  
generation or two behind. When 2000 was current, you could get 95 to  
work and maybe 97. The user coming over from  Windows may already be  
up-to-date and they don't want to move backwards.

	I really -- actually -- don't think Office should be the focus. Most  
people will live with OpenOffice.org -- even many Windows users. But,  
very few dedicated Photoshop users will go to the GIMP (I saved  
literally hours per projects when I switched to Photoshop), few are  
going to switch accounting programs, etc.

>> 	4.) It needs to come with pre-installed, licensed codecs for MPEG-4,
>> QuickTime, DVDs w/ CSS, etc.
> Or not. This would be true only when you have some law such as the  
> Anti-Circumvention clause. But everywhere else in the world, if you  
> have
> a legal right to play media, it's up to you how you play it. So  
> instead
> of "licensed", I would put the emphasis on "Free Software codecs".

	My point is to make things seamless. I have a relatively modest  
library of 2,700 songs on my computer, but there's no way I want to  
rerip them. And, for that matter, I want something that is compatible.  
If you use Ogg, you can't play your music on the iPod (which makes up  
the vast majority of music players), most other music players, the  
PlayStation 3, the Xbox 360, most (all?) car stereos, etc.

>> 	5.) It needs to come with one best of breed app for every job, never
>> two sort of OK ones. If one cannot stand by itself, don't bundle any
>> (except through a download service, see below).
> That would be nice. But offer the alternatives, not on a download
> service, but on a CD. Bandwidth is scarce and expensive in the rest of
> the world.

	Yes: maybe an "optional" CD. The big thing is just to make things  
simple to begin with.
>> 	Likewise, Canonical could sign a deal with Amazon to build in the
>> Amazon MP3 store (think as it is on Android, which in turn is copying
>> iTunes) and perhaps even Amazon Unbox. Integrate shopping directly
>> within Rhythmbox so that it is as good or better experience than
>> iTunes on Mac/Windows.
> The problem is that this product would not be free. (Free as in  
> freedom)

The Amazon MP3 store doesn't use any DRM, so it surely could be free  
as in freedom inside a GUI. Unbox, not so much, but I'd argue that  
making it easy to use will create a larger amount of freedom overall.  
Is it better to keep people that want to rent movies only on the Mac  
and Windows, or make it so they can run on an almost entirely free  

>> 	One last thought, while I'm busy musing. Linux needs a killer app.
>> Apple has the iPod. Windows had Office. Neither was totally unique,
>> but both gained a following that drove people to adopt the platforms
>> they worked best on. Linux needs something that people want. Linux
>> needs to be aspirational rather than utilitarian. That'll sell.
> Oh man... All we have is just Emacs. :^) Nothing else ... That's  
> bat. We
> really need something like that. Perhaps some of the KDE ioslaves  
> magic?
> A real GUI frontend for LateX?

	I think I'd think bigger. What is something, the next something, that  
people are going to really want but no one offers yet (or at least not  
in an easy to use way). Let's say, for example, that KDE was able to  
replicate what Palm has in the Pre: seamless integration of Facebook,  
regular and other social network contacts. Make it so that one's  
flickr album showed up in the photo manager. YouTube could be browsed  
on from within the standard media player. That Kontact would show the  
activity stream of Facebook, YouTube, Flickr, Plaxo, LinkedIn, etc.

	That might sell.

	Something that people would immediately, with very little  
explanation, say, "I must have that."

> This is gread food for thought, but some of the points are not  
> entirely
> correct. I am especially adamant on insisting that KDE 4.2.2 is a
> terriffic desktop environment, and perhaps the best desktop the world
> has to offer now, be it Free or proprietary. Marginalizing it would be
> an awful strategic failure, IMHO.

	I shall try it in a couple of weeks. I wish you were near by and we  
could put it up against Leopard. I'm betting on my horse, err, cat.

	KDE needs two things, I think, to be what it really should be  
(because it has always been technologically sound): stable and simple.

	Stable in this sense: In 10 years, KDE has broken binary  
compatibility 3 times. GNOME and Mac OS have broken it once, and both  
with sufficient ease of running older library side-by-side that few  
people noticed it. Windows has not fully broken it ever. KDE ought to  
commit to insuring ABI integrity for 10 years -- even if it means  
eventually having multiple versions of the libraries, so long as one  
configuration tool can manage all of them. With Qt now LGPL'ed,  
businesses might consider it -- rather than their traditional  
preference for GNOME -- but they'll want assurance that KDE is serious  
about business first.

	Simple in this sense: even if you do provide massive configurability  
to the user, it should be hidden in advanced dialog boxes. The basic  
configuration boxes should be simple enough that a novice can feel  
confident changing basic settings without reading a manual.


Timothy R. Butler | "Because philosophy arises from awe, a philosopher
tbutler at ofb.biz   | is bound in  his  way to  be a lover of myths  and
www.uninet.info   | poetic fables. Poets and philosophers are alike in
timothybutler.us  | being big with wonder."
                                                      -- Thomas Aquinas

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