Free download:

Software Wars, the Movie

Soundtrack for the book:


If you enjoyed the free download, a donation of the cost of a newspaper would be appreciated.



The best book explaining free market economics:

The best explanation of how we can build a space elevator in 10 years:


Book explaining a political solution to our economic problems:


10,000 bugs away from World Domination

I am an ex-Microsoft programmer of 10 years who hadn’t spent 10 minutes with any Open Source code till I left Microsoft–which is actually very typical for MS employees.

After leaving 1 year ago and spending it with Linux (most of that time with Ubuntu) I’ve gained tremendous respect for the Open Source world as a whole but more than that, had an epiphany that Linux on the desktop is 99.999% ready to go. Linux is lean, stable, polished and extremely rich. All of the pieces needed for world domination on the desktop are there. If every Microsoft employee installed Linux, the attrition rate would double–which would be considered a catastrophe. If Bill Gates were to install Linux, he’d hire someone to smash one of his plasma TVs.

When I first investigated Linux, many of the obvious stuff I thought would be problems were not:

  • Linux supports a wide variety of PC devices. The driver support in Linux is as least as good as Windows and must represent an enormous effort by a veritable army of programmers.
  • The modern GUIs have all the nice features you’d expect: a clean, rich, stable, customizable & dynamic shell, consistency and interoperability among applications, and administrative UIs for all essential features.
  • Linux supports laptops now with sleep & hibernate, power management, Wi-Fi, external monitors, ability to plugin USB keys and cameras, Cleartype (LCD sub-pixel smoothing), etc.
  • Linux has all the important apps: FireFox, Thunderbird/Evolution, OpenOffice, GAIM, games, accessories and multimedia apps.
  • Excellent interoperability with Windows: SAMBA file sharing, Office file-format interop, WMA/WMV codecs, dual-boot, NTFS resize on install, MSN IM protocol support, WINE, and probably much more I haven’t discovered yet.

In fact, Linux hasn’t just reached parity with Windows, it has significant functionality that Window doesn’t have:

  • Linux distributions contain thousands of applications and installing them requires just 1 click. The market for 3rd party apps on Linux is much healthier than the 3rd-party market on Windows today and it is almost all free! Computing has become fun again because I can download all kinds of cool tools and instantly start learning and creating.
  • I never run into walls with the ability to grep through essential system logs, tweak and re-compile code, google the actual development design discussions, jump into a rich command shell, have lots of choices for tools when one doesn’t meet my needs because of either bugs or missing features, and I can browse excellent support forums. My mom won’t use all those options but they are great to have.

An important point here is that Linux already has all the needed desktop features. What is holding it back is not features anymore, but bugs. Here are a few of the bugs that I see on my one English install: (UPDATE: I could probably file 50 bugs if I had the time and expertise and had a clean room setup to repro them in)

  • Multimedia often skips or doesn’t display properly in the browser
  • Sleep and hibernate don’t work on my hardware yet
  • Gnome will mount NTFS, and create an icon on my desktop, but I can’t browse it because of permission problems
  • Enabling external monitors isn’t easy
  • Remote printing requires manual textfile configuration
  • Installing non-free software or drivers requires lots of manual work
  • Driver bugs, some hangs and crashes
  • apt-get dist-upgrade hosed my machine (had to do a fresh install)
  • ogg-vorbis is 5x slower at encoding a CD compared to Windows Media

These things are problems, but most are really just bugs. For example, the kernel and shell UI support hibernation, but it doesn’t yet work on many laptops–each problematic chipset is a bug. Gnome can detect and mount my NTFS partition and it actually understands the complicated NTFS format, but I am forced to jump to the command line to view my files. These problems can usually be worked around by a Linux guru but they shouldn’t exist and in many cases are just tiny bugs breaking a scenario from being easy.

My diagnosis is that the problem with Linux is that it doesn’t have anyone pushing to get the newbie bugs fixed first. At Microsoft, we had Program Managers and one of their responsibilities was to be customer advocates to prioritize the bugs for the devs to fix. In many open source groups, it sometimes appears that bugs get fixed when the dev decides to work on it, not because an important user scenario is broken. The Wi-Fi tool was broken in Gnome for many months, but the bugs just sat there languishing in the database. Microsoft or Apple would not have shipped a Wi-Fi UI that was completely broken in that way.

I believe the Linux development process overall is working just fine, shipping high quality code on a regular basis, so I think the problem is simply an issue of socalization. Many bug databases allow people to vote for bugs, and that might be an interesting democratic way to go about it, but I also think that having more focus and vocal user advocates would be enough.

One of the reasons why I like Ubuntu is that because it is being run on a wide variety hardware by newbies like me, it is building up a knowledgebase of these issues.

How much needs to be done? My estimate is that Ubuntu needs on the order of 10,000 bugs to be fixed to get that last .001%. If you want to make your own number, here one place to start: Ubuntu bugs. How long will that take? If we assume it takes 1 day per bug, then 10,000 bugs is 50 man-years. By Microsoft standards, 50 man-years is tiny: Windows Vista will probably have 5000 man-years of effort beyond Windows XP. In other words 10,000 bugs is 1% of the effort MS will spend on Vista.

The bad news is that while 50 man-years is small, it is still large for an organization like Ubuntu which I estimate has the equivalent of 30 full-time devs. In addition, many of their bugs exist in other codebases manned by volunteers.

How and when those bugs get fixed, or whether another distro will get there first, I’ll leave as an exercise for the reader, but I do feel that the big guys should jump in a bit and help out. IBM claims to be a big supporter of Linux, but their employees all run Windows, which shows you what they think about Linux on the desktop. It is a shame because IBM could lose 50 employees under the cushions of their couch.

Linux on the desktop is very, very close and can happen as soon as we want it to.

Update: Only 21 DiggsDigg it?

Update 2: The 10,000 bugs number is just a back of the envelope calculation. I looked at the Ubuntu bug database, but also at the kernel, Gnome, and OpenOffice bug databases as well. I looked at Debian’s ‘Release-Critical’ bugs, but think I could ship with all of them–there may be wisdom with Ubuntu just snapshotting Debian-unstable to start a new release.

I actually think fixing just the right 1,000 bugs would move it forward a huge amount for me at least, but I still imagine that running Ubuntu on 100 million different desktops around the world would bring out more issues with a much wider variety of hardware, software, .DOC files, other writing scripts, etc.

Another approach: I think I could file 50 Ubuntu bugs, yet I don’t believe that my testing is 1/20th of the Ubuntu codebase but I do imagine that it is at least 1/200th.

When I realized that Ubuntu is just getting going, that many people don’t file bugs, and that 10,000 bugs is a relatively small number, I quit work on estimating. If Ubuntu could fix the right 10,000 bugs, it would be a superb system indeed.

Update 3: I just posted an Open Letter to the new Debian Project Leader about the ‘complicated’ relationship between Debian and Ubuntu.

121 comments to 10,000 bugs away from World Domination

  • Ratteler

    When will people wake up? The only thing the Linux desktop needs in order to make the jump from geekhobby to mainstream is APPLICATIONS!

    No one cares what OS they use. They want to know if they can run the programs they need too.

    Once I’m in Photoshop or the other Adobe Suite apps I use, or Lightwave, or Maya, it really doesn’t matter what OS or platform I’m using.

    Linux WILL NEVER CROSS OVER until the community invests in getting these apps on the linux desktop… or… invests in turning things like GIMP, and Blender into PERFECT and possibly illegal clones of those apps.

    The reason Linux has dominated in the server market is not because it’s a great OS, but because it provided the tools IT people needed.

    When it does that for the desktop, Windows and MacOS will face a slow painful extinction.

    Stop worrying about how the icon I click on flashes and concentrate on the program it loads.

  • Interesting perspective. I’ll agree that Linux in general is not perfect yet. But as you mentionned it’s ready for the desktop as soon as we want it. Now we’ll have to consider two important things about the Linux community; since it’s mostly “fan based” no one is pulling in the same direction. It creates diversity but also slows down the process of refining a product. It will sound heartless but if it works on mainstream the ones that get some bugs have to wait on the side. It’s not like if Linux had as much time as Microsoft or Mac to developp their OS. I feel like we had an accelerated growth in order to be a viable alternative. By becoming more present manufacturers will finally consider Linux users as consumers and ship their products with Linux drivers as well as game designer will think about that fan base that is not using paid OSs. With Vista coming next year, Apple dragging their feet and Linux taking more place the next 5 years will be really derterminant…

    We might have to sit back and see what happens…

  • Bob Robertson

    Interesting that the majority of the “bugs” you mention have to do with hardware manufacturers not playing nice and providing clear specifications for their devices. I’m not saying that’s not a bug, but I will assert that it is not a *Linux* bug. It’s not that Linux-based systems are 99.999% ready for “the desktop”, the fact is that 99% of the users are ready for Linux systems. Looked at under the same microscope, and (as with Linux) with spotty hardware manufacturers support, Windows SUCKS in comparison.

  • dinotrac

    You’d be amazed at the progress if you had seen Linux 5 or 10 years ago. It’s come from being a geek-toy that could be put to serious work, to a serious os that doubles as a geek toy.

    The biggest problem with Linux on the desktop is not applications per se, regardless of what some people say. The biggest problem is your point precisely: Linux is the product of developers and has long been the domain of developers. That is a very good thing on the server side, but only mostly good on the desktop.

    First and foremost, developers don’t use their machines the same way non-computer types use theirs. It’s just difficult for some of the very talented people doing this work to see the desktop the way a “mere user” does.

    Second, and, thankfully, fading into the social quicksand, there has been a tradition of “How dare you complain? If you want it done differently, crack open the code and do it yourself.”

    Not so bad for an audience of programmers, but sure to invoke blank stares from everybody else.

    Linux already makes a very capable desktop for people who know how to get that last .1% going, or who have friends/support staff to do it for them.

    For everybody else…the time is coming.

  • KeithCu

    I agree that hardware manufacturers need to do a better job in standing behind drivers for Linux. Driver support is superb already, but I agree it is still an impediment.

    However, this is an ongoing process and in the meanwhile, the drivers just need to be fixed.

    Users are ready for Linux and dissatisfaction with Microsoft is growing, but Linux needs to ‘just work’ for that to happen. It is just not ready for me to hand a CD to my brother and feel confident he’ll get it going.

    My bug listing is just a sampling and not necessarily representative of the last bugs needed to be fixed.

  • bozo_the_clone

    Many good and valid observations in the article and the followup responses.

    One thing that is obvious, GNU/Linux momentum – regardless of distro and usage profile (server or desktop) has not abated and (if anything) has increased in many scenarios.

    All the major distros (Fedora/RedHat, Novell/SuSE, Ubuntu et. al.) are making strides forward. Some may call them incremental updates (valid), some may call them playing catch-up in the desktop arena.

    However – when you look at the complete body of F/OSS work (Linux kernel aside), there is a undeniable trend. F/OSS systems (including the *BSD family) are advancing at a blistering pace.

  • django

    My feeling is that Linux on the desktop is being hurt by the lack of drivers. That doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the fault of linux…..because the manufacturers only see one pc platform and that is windows.

    I’m a very happy Ubuntu user on the desktop but I own this nice nokia 7710 smartphone but can’t use that phone on my ubuntu desktop because Nokia didn’t provide a linux version of their application. I couldn’t get it to run under wine either because Nokia gave me this flash cd to install the software. Flash on linux is a problem already, so flash under wine…..I gave up:-(

    Then I have this friend who is a teacher. He doens’t know anything about pc’s so I’m his personal helpdesk. The last time I threathened him regarding his windows machines. I’ve installed Ubuntu on one of the two and told him in that way I could manage his pc from a distance (through ssh). However, after only 1 week, he called me up and told me to get ridn of the ubuntu thing because he wants windows xp back. He has this windows mobile phone/PDA with tom-tom navigator software and he can’t use it with ubuntu.

    So, I think…..it is my humble opinion, that linux is not ready yet if people keep throwing a lot of devices at it like a nokia phone or a windows mobile phone/PDA and can’t get it to work. They will move on to windows as soon as possible again.

    For myself I have changed my attitude about the devices I’m buying. IF IT DOESN’T SUPPORT LINUX OUT OF THE BOX, THAT MANUFACTURER WON’T HAVE DEAL!!!

  • […] Linux in the Eyes of an Ex-Micro$oft Programmer I saw this blog (with the help of LXER). It seems that this blogger is impressed with GNU/Linux in general (yipee! ) There is one negative note though. According to him, it’s the bugs (on Ubuntu), more promptly, how long the bugs are fixed in relation to the number of dedicated developers. My view on this is that it does not matter if the number of dedicated developer is a few, there will always be volunteer developers that will help the full-time developers, which can be a lot. Remember, this is open source. […]

  • Tristan

    How can it need 10000 bugs fixed to make it just right, there are only 9501 bugs open at the time I write this, and most of them are only small things for a tiny handful of people.

  • Ostendbeach club

    Well the good news about IBM is that IBM is about 2-3 months away from starting a mass redeployment of the employee desktops/laptops to a redhat derived Open Client for Linux.

    A few thousand people are already running it as early adopters.

  • Just reading your list of bugs, some of the solutions to your problems (such as Java) can be found in the Ubuntu desktop guide. You can either check it out on http://help.ubuntu.com or via System -> Help on your Ubuntu GNOME desktop.

    Hope that helps!

  • SuperMike

    Good to see another MS convert. I’m an ex-Microsofter, myself, sort of. I worked at Avanade before I got sick of Microsoft and jumped ship to the other side. I was sick of getting backstabbed on contract gigs.

    From one developer to another, I highly recommend you look at getting the following installed and try to see if you like it:

    – PHP (use 4 or 5)
    – PostgreSQL
    – PHP API for PostgreSQL
    – Bluefish or Screem editor, whichever you prefer or both
    – pgst – from sourceforge, unless you actually prefer command line psql commands to PostgreSQL.

    Now read a tutorial on the web on how to get PostgreSQL unlocked (by default it is locked) and to do some sample database inserts, selects, deletes, etc., from PHP. I think you’ll enjoy this.

    On the issue of bugs, the 50 years thing is not a big deal. Let me put this in perspective:

    * In the FLOSS (Free, Libre, Open Source Software) arena, the source is exposed, so many more bugs will be reported (and often with great advice) because the source is seen. In the MS world, the source is hidden and so fewer bug reports may actually get noticed. Therefore, if truth were told, Vista probably has a good 100/200 years ahead to fix all its bugs. Maybe not, but you get the point, I’m sure.

    * Bugs are more easily reported in the FLOSS arena. You just hop on Sourceforge and report them, or hit the homepage and report them. Most use Bugzilla or some other system that is pretty intuitive.

    * Bugs are fixed not by the 15-20 on-staff Ubuntu developers. Because it’s FLOSS, Ubuntu actually only handles just a small piece of this. The rest comes from GNU/Linux, and this is fixed by an army of thousands of developers, working 24×7 around the globe.

    —-

    About your gripes. Yeah, some of these are true. I’ve seen them. If you want to add to your list, go here:

    http://www.nuxified.org/forums/viewtopic.php?t=4&postdays=0&postorder=asc&start=30

  • vruz

    I think you’re right on most topics, though you will probably agree that my grandma and my neighbours don’t know what NTFS is, and what it means to “mount” a hard disk partition.
    Chances are someone already did that work for them on Windows, and it shouldn’t be different in Linux, if you want to do an apples-to-apples comparison.

    Now, about the Linux desktop being ready, you’re totally right, or… let me rephrase it… it’s more than ready and others (Windows and Mac OS X) will be playing catch up next year.

    If you haven’t already done so, I highly recommend giving Kororaa Linux a try.
    1) “it just works”
    2) it’s beautiful
    3) the eye candy is useful for something

    you just have to see it to believe it.
    http://kororaa.org/

  • Tordenskjold

    With regard to hardware manufacturers not releasing interface information to Linux developers, let’s not forget that it’s an open secret that a certain OS vendor is wont to strong-arm hardware manufacturers into supporting their OS exclusively or lose the good-will they (the manufacturers) depend on to compete in the mass-market.
    Prior to the release of that same OS vendor’s much-fanfared new OS (around 1996), Taiwanese system manufacturers were bullied into paying a license per CPU (as opposed to a license per HDD with that particular OS installed).
    Despite court rulings and 10 years of hard-won experience, little has actually changed.

  • jdn

    Shouldn’t this have been posted April 1st?

  • MSK

    Linux is not ready for the desktop. Linux is not ready for the desktop? I have heard this for a long time and it is not true. The majority of the reasons that “Linux is not ready for the desktop” are the result of a double standard.

    Linux doesn’t have the driver support – Actually, most base Linux installs come with more drivers (that work better) than the alternatives in any other desktop system.

    Linux doesn’t have the applications – Most main stream distributions come with substantially more of the applications required for making a system a “usable desktop” than any other system. Mac OS X comes with some cheap word processor designed to be crappy (so people will use a real one) and the closest Windows comes is an intentionally injured WordPad.

    GNU/Linux is made by developers and not designed for the end user – Yet we have Gnome and KDE, from which Microsoft and Apple have “borrowed” numerous features. Of course, let’s not forget that a developer knows more about what an end user needs than an end user does.

    There need to be more games for Linux – Who is the “best” game developer? Many would say Blizzard. World of Warcraft can be played with WINE, though I doubt Blizzard will ever officially support their games on Linux (judging by the fact that I was banned from their forums for suggesting that). Others would say Id Software. Id Software is one of the few companies who officially supports the use of their products on Linux.

    Linux should just work out of the box – If you buy a system with a GNU/Linux OS preinstalled, it will. Otherwise you will have to install yourself. I don’t think that anyone could honestly tell me that the Windows XP installer is easier to use or more convenient than the Fedora Core or SuSE installers.

    “Bugs are features.” Everyone who has heard anything about Microsoft knows this. Microsoft implies its products are better than the free alternatives because Microsoft patches its major security holes. Ignoring, for the moment, that Microsoft is often slower at patching vulnerabilities than anyone else, this relies on people expecting that Microsoft’s products are bug-infested: one reason people choose not to use Microsoft products.
    For Linux to be “ready for the desktop”, do bugs need to be fixed or disguised as features?

  • kig

    Agreed. Linux drives me nuts. But the sad thing is that OS X and Windows drive me nuts as well. All of them have their own areas of expertise, and trying to use one outside them is a painful experience.

    Linux is good for: coding, file management, network access, scanning images, viewing images, unicode fonts

    OS X is good for: making the computer look happy, double buffered graphics, nice GUI animations, wifi, input methods

    Windows is good for: graphics work, gaming, playing media, managing mobile phones, browser plugins

    Outside of these niches, I wouldn’t really use them… So what the Linux desktop needs is what the others have. And vice versa.

  • csg

    “When will people wake up? The only thing the Linux desktop needs in order to make the jump from geekhobby to mainstream is APPLICATIONS!” – Ratteler

    Completely false. The vast majority of home users use their computer for nothing more than word processing, web surfing, music, and IM. Most business users do little beyond this other than spreadsheets, presentations, and some more word processing. Firefox and Gaim (as well as many other programs) cover web surfing and IM quite well – both have been completely stable for me the past several years. OpenOffice.org has its flaws, but I use the 2.0 beta on a regular basis for presentations, word processing, and spreadsheets, and have no problems with it. If the beta satisfies me this much, I expect the final product will shine. Linux has more music players than most people can deal with – VideoLANClient can do just about anything for audio or video with proper codecs, and is damn stable. So I would argue, for most people, the software already exists. All this, and with most major distributions’ package systems, these are all very easy to install.

    The problem is, as stated above, hardware support and configuration issues. I’ve been using Linux for 5 years now as my main desktop OS, and I have to check driver support before buying new hardware. Configuring network printing is still not something I can do with any ease. These are not things novices want to deal with. These are not difficulties I want to deal with. When these are fixed, enough user demand will develop that developers will start focusing their attention on Linux the way they currently do for Windows and Mac OS X. At that point, the popular software the more advanced (and frankly, less common than the stereotypical “my mom”) computer user expects, such as Photoshop, will be forthcoming. Particularly with ports from OS X, this won’t even be an issue, since any software using primarily POSIX and common UNIX system calls, and standard libc functions compiles on each platform with minimal tweaking from the other.

  • ealm

    Mostly all the bugs you are mentioning are dist-related. Try Linspire and you’ll find them solved.

  • […] An ex-Microsoft employee has written a blog entry on how Linux is 10,000 bugs away from World Domination.  Some issues I have with his post though: […]

  • Yoyo

    Cool. Now please spend another year using KDE. I suggest you try PCLinuxOS first, since:

    1. It’s a distro that targets desktops.
    2. It has all the codecs to play all kind of media installed by default.
    3. It’s a live CD + installation CD.

  • John Drinkwater

    I understand your need as an ex-Microsoft employee to want .doc support;
    but how can you blame Linux devs for not having a 100% feature complete reader/writer for it. Its a closed standard, one that many people don’t use because of that. Linux devs do have better things to do with their free+paid time, maybe supporting the actual open formats that we use already ?

    The nice thing about open source, is that anyone can contribute. Why doesn’t Microsoft offers to flesh out the implementation for them? :)

  • nzjrs

    I thank you very much for your article. This is written better than most distro reviews.

    I encourage you to stick with Linux.

  • Good article , I agree that your reasons are many of the reasons Linux is not ready for Users.

    The people here who say Linux ‘is’ Ready for the Desktop and therefore the masses are just wrong.

    No Offense but for you to have read the article and replied means you understand Linux, the masses do not understand their computer at all and why would they want to?
    They will say they’re too busy and just want to check their emails browse the web and play games?

    Under linux (Most dists) I get a choice of Browsers, choice of email clients choice of everything, the above mentioned people do not want a choice, the reason they don’t want a choice is they don’t necessarily know which application they selected last time and starting a new Browser means I have no Favorites from my last session, same with Email and it goes a whole lot deeper than that. What if I want to install an Application? its not easy and there are many different methods possible, the only acceptable method is ‘Click and Drag’ or ‘Double Click’ – remember we are talking about Joe User here not Enthusiasts.

    I worked for a Technology company that developed a product and recently sold to a very large US Software company and one thing I’ve learnt from the Developers and the way they think does not directly translate to something a user (Joe User) can understand and Linux falls into that catagory – I have to sell to Joe Users and what is easy to me is not easy to them, infact it is sometimes astounding how little some people understand and really why should they have to as its not their Job – they simply want the tool that makes it easy.

  • Velthuijsen

    There is also a more subtle problem at work with Linux adoption by the mass market.
    To much choice. And no that is not a joke.
    The next bit is a really short (1 paragraph or so) description of a psychology paper about this.

    There are several problems with a lot of choices for most people, and that increases if choices are similar.
    People don’t want to invest (a lot of) time having to figure out what is the best option. The more choices, that look superfically similar, they get the bigger the chance they do not chose at all and stay with what they know.

    I have two solutions to this:
    Keep it simple. There is Windows and there is one Linux with only one program to match each program running on Windows. Then when people get comfortable with that gradually introduce other similar programs.
    The other is to play mentor, that is do all the work to choose the apps & Linux flavor needed based on what is needed. At the same time explain that there are more options out there if people wish to explore for themselves but that what they have now is good for their needs.

  • what are you talking about when you mention remote printing is hard to setup?

    i’m using KDE on Gentoo, i just entered kcontrol (KDE’s control center) and added my schools network printers, and after a few clicks with my mouse, the printers worked.

    you ought to try KDE out sometime.

  • Rich

    ogg-vorbis is 5x slower at encoding a CD compared to Windows Media

    Only because ripping software on Linux tends to use cdparanoia which performs extra checks to avoid errors when ripping. Switching them off in the options restores your buggy but fast ripping speed.

  • Abaddon

    No problems with permissions under KDE. I encourage you to switch desktop environment to KDE.

  • The biggest issue with GNU/Linux at the moment, is not really a technological issue, but a socialogical one (for the record, I use GNU/Linux almost exclusivly and I’m a programmer).

    GNU/Linux does not have the market share to be taken seriously by companies who consider the 95% market share of windows to be good enough and thus won’t support or anything else (it doesn’t help that Microsoft has strongly encouraged this mentality).

    The result is that while GNU/Linux has excellent hardware and compatabilty support given the conditions it has faced, its mostly been an uphill struggle.

    As an analogy, it wasn’t until Firefox grabbed 10%+ market share that firefox started to enter the mainstream press and many mainstream websites started to take stock of standards compliant and cross-broswer HTML – as opposed to everybody (95%+) uses IE, so why bother creating extra work for yourself.

    I suspect that when GNU/Linux combined hits that magic 10-15% market share on the desktop, we will start to end of the only one-OS mentality. (Even MacOSX and FreeBSD adoption are helping in this regard)

  • What a briliant article, I really enjoyed reading it – Bill Gates should read it.

    May I suggest:

    What mostly is missing to get Linux on every average Desktop is education. The understanding of how FOSS works is essential. Additional we should motivate the big businesses who profite from the open source community to assist us in this task. IBM was mentioned already above, a good example for a company that could love to refresh and strengthen their public image with such educational activities.

    For the mentioned (mostly GUI) bugs we should understand, that after our users are educated, we could setup a pledging system for those Desktop user related bugs. Most of this Gui stuff is low priority for programmers, because in most cases it is not interesting and complex to fix them – it’s just boring work. ;-)

    If there is some – always needed – financial reward collected from such pledges for fixing a boring bug I guess it will move up the ladder.

    Also important would be to encourage existing Linux users to properly report bugs. It is still up to us to make this much more easy for them than it is now.

    Greetings,
    Chris

  • mmmh, i hav to mention too that you cant compare ubuntu to a ‘normal’ linux, ubuntu is far away from standards. :) the distros differ a lot, each has its own homeprewn structure and utils, but if doesnt matter you shold be able to set up linux on every box :) more or less depending on the driver status, and last but not least on the manufacturers which make their specifications open to the world to let programmers write good drivers instead of redeveloping…. :)

  • Richard Callan

    You make a number of comments that on the face seem to be valid, but with a little analysis can be seen to be facile.

    I used to dual boot my K6-2 500, 128 meg, 4 gig HD system with Windows 98 and Mandrake 10. The Windows did not even detect to Ext3 or Rfs partitions. Does this mean that Win98 was not ready for the desktop? Of course, the system I mention would not even run XP at any acceptable speed, if at all, Win98 used to be very unstable, BSOD’s, auto re-boots and GUI crashes were a daily event. Under Mandrake the computer just sits and hums away, no crashes or auto reboots.

    The only problem I had when setting up Mandrake was remembering to de-frag the disk because Windows wanted to use it all, even though very little was on it, and no support for the LT Winmodem. Installing a real modem (Sirrus in this case) solved that as Mandrake included the driver. Win98 does not incidently.

    I am a 55 year old non-geek, and consider changing to Linux the best computing decision I ever made. I conclude that Linux is more ready for the desktop than Windows, including the, in my opinion, ghastly WinXP

  • Paolo Berti

    You didn’t mention poor KDE/GNOME performance comparing to Windows. And slower booting as well. But, things are getting better, fortunately. The new GNOME 2.14 increased performance, and I can’t wait AIGLX and XGL to become stable since that will increase GUI performance.

  • Jean-Jacques Bonvin

    Thank you. Interesting article. I’d like however to mention a few flaws which don’t allow me to use linux for my job:

    – No OCR. Strange, nobody seems to realize that character recognition is an important part of the work in universities, libraries etc.

    – No real spell checker, I mean a checker capable of correcting grammar and typography, as ProLexis does in French.

    – No ‘small’ database – like FileMaker. Using MySQL is pretty interesting to learn what a DB is, but don’t ask any windows user to get close to it. And if you need PHP…

    This flaws – and others of course, but you wrote about them – make linux non usable for *hundreds* of people around me (working in *one* university).

  • […] function wpopen (macagna) { window.open(macagna, ‘_blank’, ‘width=400,height=400,scrollbars=yes,status=yes’); } __ » 10,000 bugs away from World Domination […]

  • […] 10,000 bugs away from World Domination I am an ex-Microsoft programmer of 10 years who hadn’t spent 10 minutes with any Open Source code till I left Microsoft–which is actually very typical for MS employees. I recently purchased Yellow Dog Linux 4.1 and installed it on my powermac. My number one issue with linux in general is that installing software and configuring software requires so much terminal work. Setting up Mac-on-Linux, a program that is supposed to be installed by default, has no GUI icon to click to make it run or GUI preference setting or configuration panel. It just doesn’t work. Is linux ready for the desktop? You tell me. Install linux on your computer and see how long you keep it as your main OS. Honestly I’m more likely to switch to Windows than use Linux… […]

  • Alan B

    “Linux distributions contain thousands of applications and installing them requires just 1 click.”

    Ahem. Well, if we’re talking Ubuntu and there is a Synaptic package for whatever application it is, then yes it’s sort of ‘one clikc’.

    If not you will very quickly be mired down in installing dependencies, and maybe even building from source. Same is true of any Linux distro I’ve looked at. Contrast with the Windows world where everything is either Installshield, Inno Setup or similar, and they nearly always just work. That’s what Linux has not achieved yet, despite what people will claim. It’s getting better.

    Note that I love Ubuntu and miss no opportunity to promote it when I can, and I hope it *does* start to seriously chew into Microsoft’s dominiation.

  • Many people only use e-mail, web, office (for business add agenda, for home add games, IM and a media-player). All these things are well covered by free software.

    Many people buy a computer pre-installed, and buy or steal MS Office with it. If only the shops would show a cheaper PC pre-loaded with a rich distro next to it.

    Many people don’t have exotic hardware.

    Microsoft Certified Engineer (MSCE) was the thing to be. Now companies are stuck with people having a job based on that certificate, therefore not choosing free software.

    The European and the International Computer Driving License together make sure that almost everybody receiving education will get this almost 100% Microsoft course at an early stage.

    Most people don’t even know there’s something different than Windows. Just as they don’t know what browsers, Internet Explorer and Firefox are. The internet is the blue “e”.

    If this information finally reaches people, in between the monopoly bombardment of everything Windows, Linux will get a major player on the desktop. Technology is not the problem. Communication is.

    Maybe this is an idea that can help: http://applications.linux.com/comments.pl?cid=88309&sid=36465

  • SpongeBob

    Okay, yes Linux is probably 99.9% ready for the desktop. Those 10K bugs shouldn’t be a major hurdle either, even with only 30 full time devs.

    But I think people keep missing the point of what is preventing Linux from becoming a big splash on the desktop. And its not the apps, games, or oddball bugs. The major hurdle is that Linux is not being installed as the base OS on HP, Compaq, Dell, or Gateway PCs and laptops when they are sold. 99.9% of people are not going to go through the trouble of installing Linux when they already have Windows up and running. Unless this changes, which I seriously doubt due to the Microsoft tax and the company’s iron grip on the PC vendors, Linux will not become a mainstream desktop OS.

  • Distributed Bugs-R-Us…

    I have a decent idea for an open source application. This could be one of the most important pieces of software to assist open source in a long time. I don’t have ideas often for software apps but when I do, normally they’re good ones.However, I …

  • Aaron

    Look at how much Linux has changed over the last 5 years, and look at how much Windows has changed over the last 5 years.

    Linux went from being a barely-talked-about option (for desktops anyway) to “close enough that MS should be worried.”

    Windows went from Win2K to WinXP. Frankly, I prefer Win2K, so it’s basically running in place.

    If Ubuntu could sign up just one major OEM to ship it (which could mean taking MS head on, not a fight many OEMs would want to do), you’d see 20% market share in 2 years.

  • Gundam Sed

    Just 4 words, “Linux is not Windows”. Now repeat after me, “Linux is not Windows”.

    http://linux.oneandoneis2.org/LNW.htm

  • Ken Merritt

    The thing Linux needs most of all, IMHO, is better hardware support. I’ve tried several of the Linux distros and NONE will support either my network card nor my sound card!

  • An interesting article, I do agree with your points here, especially in terms of relative man-power.

    Have you ever considered joining the Ubuntu team? Membership is open to anyone who can wield a text-editor and knows their way around a programming language or two.

    http://www.ubuntu.com/community/processes/newdev

    We’d certainly welcome your help :-)

  • Looks like you got more than 21 diggs now :-)

  • secular

    I like Linux, too–but certainly not all distros.

    Many of your problems would be solved by a better distro. Just because Ubuntu is most downloaded, do not think it is the best–it is just the best funded and best advertised.

    Try pclinuxos at http://www.pclinuxos.com for one. Others are good, as well.

    Most of your problems listed are not found in that distro.

  • How about reporting those bugs?

    Register here:

    https://launchpad.net/+login

    Get the newest Ubuntu test CD

    http://www.ubuntu.com/testing/flight6

    Download a LiveCD and test for your bugs there.

  • Jesus

    2 cents: I run six boxes on a home LAN. I changed the laptop from Mandriva to Ubuntu. The options are the following: keep Mandriva but not ACPI functions do not work; keep Ubuntu but mediaplayer and other such related items do not work. Installed Debian on a removable drive as a test (Mandriva keeps raising the price of the club so I plan to change) but, I have an nvidia card and the driver is anathema to the debian developers so I have to do my own config. Once you install Ubuntu and you want KDE you must find and edit the sources.list file. At least gedit is available in Ubuntu; debian is hard core so the choices are vi, vim, … In Ubuntu calling admin functions from kde GUIs invariably results in a bad user/passwd; the installer does not give the option to set LAN/interface parameters… an so on.

    These are not state of the art machines. No, my wife and kids do not care about learning how to change configuration files or the fact that so many wonderful tools are available. They just want the system to find detect the camera, open a web page without a ‘plugin’ problem, etc.

    Is it good? Yes. Desktop ready? The jury is still out.

  • i say, all that needs to be done is fixing suspend2 and, as far as im concerned, linux is perfect

    of course, im just speaking of my own experience.

    looking very much forward to what kde 4 is going to be like.

    a bit more coordination in the linux community would be a good thing, but on the other hand, thats the price you pay for diversity… which is Linux’s upperhand.

  • Nathanael

    Jesus wrote: “At least gedit is available in Ubuntu; debian is hard core so the choices are vi, vim, …”

    Nah, I use gedit in Debian all the time.
    The thing about Debian is that it’s very much a bazaar; there are a gazillion options, and very few of them are installed by default. The very first thing to learn on Debian is how to install extra packages — it will get you a very very long way. :-) Personally I use dselect to do so, but aptitude and synaptic are just as good. Or if you’re comfortable with the command line:

    su root
    apt-get install gedit

    Also, if you don’t care about the high-end graphics acceleration features of your NVIDIA card, use the ‘nv’ driver which comes standard with Debian. It’s a lot easier to set up, and I’ve actually been quite happy with it, except for playing graphics-heavy games (and how many of those are available for Linux?): it’s plenty good enough for watching movies.

  • George

    Bugs or not bugs but that phrase
    “Driver bugs, some hangs and crashes”
    Kills it.

    I do not care whose fault it is. All I want a stable environment. And Windows provides it for me. I go for a weeks without rebooting and no problem whatsoever.

    So no matter how good this article sounds Linux is not there yet. And i am afraid never will……

  • Supermike

    Two pieces of advice:

    1) Contribute to Linux since you seem to know C++ and perhaps other languages.

    2) If you don’t like the command-line options, just create a wrapper for them in the “VB” of Linux — Python, PyGTK, and Glade XML GUIs. That’s what I do.

  • I think this posting’s comment stream is a bigger reason why linux has trouble on the desktop. Say you’re having problems with a linux install and you end up with:

    Try distro XYZ it’ll fix everything.
    KDE rules, Gnome sux.
    etc.

    A typical linux desktop suffers from having way too much crap in it. (WRT normal people). All those packages that geeks love the average g-ma just doesn’t care about. All those application options are just confusing.

    A distro that gets that and bundles something like iLife will be ‘mainstream’ enough for grandma. The desktop linux crowd should be looking at osx rather than windows for it’s inspiration.

  • IBM gives the possibility to all workers to run a Linux Desktop, called client for e-business. I do. But it’s free choice, and most of the people running Linux have a dual boot.

  • zerohalo

    Well written observations, and I generally agree with your conclusions. In looking at your list of Ubuntu bugs, I would recommend you upgrade to the Dapper development version of Ubuntu (currently stable, I use it for my daily work), as some of the things that you mentioned have been fixed. In particular, progress has been made in WiFi and Suspend support. However there is still no easy way to connect to 802.11 networks using WPA instead of WEP. Apparently that’s coming in the next release of NetworkManager.

  • PenguinMan

    Out of all the Linux distributions I have tried, I settled on PCLinuxOS because it just works. PCLinuxOS is a creation of Texstar, and what an amazing piece of OS work! It is stable and always up-to-date too, which makes it even more appealing to an end user. It is also simple enough for a new Linux user. Updating software through Synaptic is very easy, and rarely is there a problem when downloading/updating software.

    I don’t know how Texstar does it, but my hat goes off to him. He deserves every donation headed his way IMHO.

  • Here’s my added Linux functionality,
    custom sawfish window manager settings.

    http://perfectwm.blogspot.com/

  • […] » 10,000 bugs away from World Domination (Via) […]

  • phil martin

    Excellent article.
    And even though Kubuntu is ready for my own desktop (my 11 year old daughter can play her mp3s off the xp partition from KDE), I think the author is generally correct in his assessment.
    regards.

  • an ex-microsoft employees view on Linux and the open source community…

    an ex-Microsoft employee’s view on Linux and the open source community

    ……

  • Man, I almost made it a whole day as a spectator here…congrats to Ken and George. Two things caught my eye.

    “The thing Linux needs most of all, IMHO, is better hardware support. I’ve tried several of the Linux distros and NONE will support either my network card nor my sound card!

    Comment by Ken Merritt — April 10, 2006 ”

    I agree with you whole-heartedly, especially in the wireless areas. I am surprised you did not mention them. You may not have tried a wireless connection though. Wireless is a MAJOR weakness in Linux. However it all comes down to which is more important to you.

    Make you a deal. If Sixty dollars of simple hardware is all that is keeping you from using Linux, hell, just say so and I will send you both items and pay for them myself. OR…use what New Linux Users from 12 year old jr high kids to 84 year old great-grandmothers are using, PCLinuxOS.

    When little kids and senior citizens are installing, setting up, and exclusively using PCLinuxOS on a daily basis, well…it’s kind of hard to be the one to admit you are having trouble with it. Not that everyone has success with it, but over 90 percent of the people who use it have it work out of the box for them, 3D acceleration and all. Even SeaScape LLC is pre-installing it on their new computers. When a manufacturer sees the ease of it, that should tell us all something. I’m serious about the hardware btw.

    “I do not care whose fault it is. All I want a stable environment. And Windows provides it for me. I go for a weeks without rebooting and no problem whatsoever.

    So no matter how good this article sounds Linux is not there yet. And i am afraid never will……”

    Just what is it you really want? Distro’s like Mepis and PCLinuxOS have become point and click Linux. It really is becoming Linux for Dummies. There is rarely if any reason to ever go to the command line for anything with these distros.

    Linux IS there for most people who try it. Those that make such blanket statements as you make either are too invested in having learned Windows and no longer have any capacity for learning something new, or you tried one or two distros, had to work at something new and just blew it off because it was too difficult. Oops, wait…that’s just like the first example. My bad. It all comes down to the same thing.

    You are either too lazy or too committed to Microsoft. The second option is actually worse than the first. “A few” distro’s is hardly enough exposure to make the statements you make. Anyone swearing allegiance to someone who makes it a practice to screw their customers AND their competiton will eventually fail. I would actually feel bad for someone like this should I ever meet them.

    Linux has its faults, and no, it is not for everyone. those who dislike a software company who can observe your entire hard drive and even shut off your computer at their whim doesn’t much care for them. Those who think a few hours or a couple of days in learning a better way also would not have an attraction to MS. Personally, I have a bit of trouble buying a product from a company that is a convicted monopolist, but hey, some of us just have different standards

  • ranji

    use PCLINUXOS. This is the most complete distro in the block.

  • numbercruncher

    This mail is written from a dual boot XP Pro/SUSE 10 Notebook.

    99% of the time I choose Linux, but some days I like to use Google Earth?

    Please can we have googleearth for Linux?

  • hobie

    What is needed is a celebrity endorsement! When there is a SpongeBob Linux, people will switch

  • […] A fellow ex-Microsoft employee recently had this blog entry on why Linux is “10,000 bugs away from World Domination.” His premise is interesting but I’m not sure it is correct. […]

  • gregp

    I’m glad someone brought up the issue of dealing with a company that has destroyed many other companies. They are, as noted, convicted of crimes. They are currently engaging in behavior that was found illegal by the European Union, and are trying to weasle their way out of the penalty phase, as they successfully did in the USA. It was not good engineering that brought us the Windows near monopoly on the desktop, it was illegal businnes practices.

    So Gnu/Linux has to deal with that reality, from rendering MS Office documents to dealing with things like winmodems, which would never have come to exist if it hadn’t been for the monopoly behavior. And it does a great job at dealing with it, but it’s a huge handicap.

    But onto the points of your article. Clearly, you failed to learn some basic things about Linux distros. First, you need to pick one that works for you. Clearly ubuntu is not doing that. So look around until you find one that does. I haven’t seen a distro that didn’t support read operations on ntfs natively for at least 1, maybe 2 years, but it looks like you managed to do that.

    I make life pleasant on myself, I buy hardware that will work well with Linux, no big deal, plus I tend to end up with things working. I don’t use wireless networking, so I never have any networking issues. All of my hardware except my nvidia card was detected natively out of the box by Kanotix. The nvidia driver install is handled by a installer script, simple command line operation, now I think there’s a gui for it, not sure. As if having to type in about 12 characters into a console is somehow going to end the world.

    Some things are harder to configure, but then again, those same things now work better for my box then their windows software equivalents did, fan speed control for example comes to mind.

    Will you be able to follow any whim of the moment and install anything anytime? No, it’s not going to happen. But that’s a model I’m trying to get away from anyway, I just need my machine to work, and it works. I don’t need to play with a never ending stream of the latest consumer trinkets and toys, sorry, I just don’t see that as a meaningful criticism. And for people who like that lifestyle, windows is your platform.

    I prefer having a rock solid server os under my fingers, that handles complex stuff in an incredibly stable manner, and that can be running at basically 100% cpu levels with almost no discrernable slowdown.

    It’s also nice not having to deal with antivirus stuff, but that’s just a pleasant bonus.

    On the windows front, did I miss something here? Where is the quality bootloader that recognized my existing os installs on my box? Where is the native ext2/3, reiserfs, etc, filesystem read support, let alone write?

    How come I only had to install one single driver on my cutting edge mobo when I installed kanotix? Same box I had to do about 10 reboots when I installed xp. Each reboot for one driver. Why was my scanner recognized out of the box by debian? What’s up here?

    I read up on the hardware, I picked quality stuff that would work, but I was surprised that basically everything does in fact work, unlike with windows.

    Re software: again, what’s up. Windows comes with basically no useful software at all. Gimp, Krita, OpenOffice.org, Firefox, Konqueror, etc, all come standard on my KDE distro. Using Gnome to compare to windows isn’t a good comparison, it’s not designed for the same things, it’s lighter weight. Compare windows to KDE, and windows will start fading quickly.

    Some things are harder to install and get configured, that’s true, definitely. I see that as a reward, since the finished desktop is so nice.

    When will windows start offering virtual desktop support, with mousewheel scrolling to alternate desktops? I have 6 on my KDE, I can barely even use windows any more, it feels too constricted.

    I did get a very basic multi desktop thing on windows using nvidia drivers, but it wasn’t very user friendly, nothing compared to the native stuff pretty much all the windows managers have.

    Pluses and minuses, look for more pluses and some of those bugs might stop being so annoying.

    I like the Gimp, I like gwenview, I like digikam, digikam for example saw my digital camera with no driver install, and it’s a way better program, more stable, than the free junk my camera came with.

    and so on.

    But I do development, programming, dealing with technical issues doesn’t bother me.

    I’m glad there are distros like pclinuxos or whatever that cater to the newbie windows migrants, that’s a great thing, and simply shows yet another strength of the Open Source model: you’re free to take existing code and modify it and use it for your own purposes.

    Lastly: the inevitable complaint that somebody posted: when you are asked to contribute to fix a problem, realize that many projects are not ‘linux’ that should really ‘fix their issues’, it’s somebody like Jeff Jones who spends his free time making a piece of software that he likes. Some people also like it, and help him out.

    Demanding that Jeff take his volunteer time to help you scratch your particular itch is ridiculous, he doesn’t make money off the project, he just does it because he feels like it.

    There is no ‘linux’, there is no ‘they’, thare is just a huge collection of people, and now some corporatations as well, that do the stuff that is of interest to them.

    Don’t mistake this model for the commercial software, close source model, it’s not the same.

    I work with open source stuff, and when it doesn’t do what I want it to do, I make it happen, and if I like the fix, I publish it.

    If you’re not a programmer, there are many other areas you can help, forum support for people who know less than you, documentation, publish howtos, etc.

    But please, don’t demand that groups of volunteers make something to satisfy you. The gimp works great for me, if it doesn’t, photoshop works great in Wine, buy a license and you’ll be fine.

    If you spend money on a commercial desktop, then you have more rights to demand x or y feature, but otherwise, it’s just a gift as far as I’m concerned. The more I learn about how this gift works, the better I like it. And the better I get at computing.

  • Charles Robinson

    One of the reasons IBM does not have everyone on a Linux desktop, and the reason they dual boot, is there is no Lotus Notes client for Linux… yet. That is changing with the next release of Notes and Domino. In that release, due out in early 2007, the Notes client will be deployed as an Eclipse framework application and will run on any platform that supports Eclipse. That is when you will likely see IBM start pushing linux harder. For now their own internal tools don’t suppport it.

  • Lunarcloud_88

    The reason encoding stuff from a DVD is slow, or the reason transferring and/or DVD playback is slow is due to DMA being DISABLED by default. I run gentoo and only recently did I discover that little speed-saver.

  • Abe Burnett

    As “Jesus” pointed out above: the problem with Linux is that it is inconsistent in all the ways that drive newbies away. I’ve tried various distributions of it over the years, waiting and hoping that it’d eventually grow up and become usable; usable for someone who just wants to use the system–not figure out why it doesn’t do something it’s supposed to.

    Linux doesn’t JUST WORK. Say what you want about Windows, but they’ve gone to a lot of effort to ensure that if someone plugs in a camera it’ll be detected, wants to print a document they’ll be able to. In essence, they’ve ensured that the user experience is relatively glitch-free. Sure, Windows crashes, but on the whole it works and doesn’t give me headaches just doing simple tasks.

    Two things that have always driven me to uninstall Linux EVERY time I try it: 1)printing support. In Windows printing is easy. Printers are automatically detected, and configured. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to setup the printer, then go into a browser window and print a page. In Linux it’s WAAAY too much of a headache to find different drivers, figure out how to configure them, and so on. If Linux wants to be accepted by the mainstream they HAVE to make printing a non-issue. 2)Hardware support. Everytime I’ve tried Linux I always run into issues with hardware support. SOMETHING ALWAYS isn’t correctly detected, if detected at all, and drivers can be a pain to find and install. Remember, when it comes to my operating system I’m like most of the mainstream; I just want it to work. I don’t want to spend a portion of my day every day tweaking my OS. No thanks. It seems like a lot of Linux folks like doing that a lot. They take great pride in running a system that others consider “hard” or “difficult.” This attitude is frustrating to new users, and ultimately is probably the reason why Linux will never be the world’s #1 OS.

    In order for Linux to be accepted by the masses it’s programmers have to start caring about what the masses think. And that doesn’t seem too likely to happen anytime soon.

    My next computer will probably be (at long last) a MacBook–after 15 years of Windows. Apple cares about making things AS EASY AS POSSIBLE for their users, and THAT is why THEY are a challenger to the Microsoft throne, and Linux is not. How’s that for truth?

  • So many people claiming Linux *must* do this, *must* do that. And what have you done to drive the community effort ? (with “you” I don’t mean the author of the blog, but the whiners) Even if you can’t code, join a project, help with translating, documentation, posting bugs, whatever. It’s a collaborative effort, it’s not just sitting there and criticizing without taking action. You *can* participate in that effort, you *can* make Linux better. You are not dependend on a single vendor that doesn’t care about you.

    The point with “is Linux ready for the desktop?” is that:
    a) desktop != desktop, there isn’t one single definition of what a good desktop environment is supposed to be – for some it’s gaming, for others it’s development, or internet access, or word processing, etc… – so IMO the question is wrong in the first place
    b) people are always reducing it to considering weaknesses of Linux, and don’t often mention its strenghts, that are numerous and strongly outbalance the problems (IMO). Yet, no one mentions all the issues faced when using Windows or MacOSX, so the comparison often appears flawed. Do you really expect to have a perfect operating system for whatever tasks you want to use it for ?
    Operating systems are software too, and software is never perfect.

    BTW, would you PCLinuxOS fanboys please stop that pathetic propaganda? The topic here is Linux as a whole, it’s not about Ubuntu, PCLinuxOS, Debian, SUSE, Fedora, Mandriva or whatever.

  • gregp

    Pascal Bleser:

    I’d say it’s legitimate to point out a distro you feel works for average users.

    The author of this article, after all, used a series of weaknesses and flaws with ubuntu to suggest that ‘linux on the desktop is not quite there’, in so many words. I knew that ubuntu isn’t quite there, that’s why I don’t use it. Many parts of it are, but some aren’t.

    It’s not actually valid to talk about ‘linux’ per se at all, there is no such thing, there are kernels, there is GNU, there is KDE, there is GNOME. None of these things are linux itself, except technically speaking the kernel.

    different kernels have different features.

    To me, users of GNU/Linux would benefit from understanding this simple point. It’s a very dynamic system, it is NOT OSX or Windows XP. It’s a different system. People who are attracted to the difference, and like the strengths that difference offers, use it.

    There is a single OSX, a single XP, more or less. This is not the case with Gnu/Linux. There is no comparison between a gui-less server and a full blown kde desktop. To me, there is little comparison between kde and gnome, for that matter.

    Each is for a certain type of user, and satisfies a certain set of needs.

    And, to repeat: free software that is distributed for free has little motivation to expand its market, it costs more in terms of server bandwidth etc, more pressure on often unpaid developers etc by newbies demanding that feature x or y ‘just work’ they way they want it to.

    I applaud the commercial types who are willing to try to deal with that part of it, and I’m glad they are creating business models that makes it worth it. Personally, nothing annoys me more than people complaining that something they get for free, and have put no work out to support, just work [this means: work the way you want it to. It already usually works the way the developer wants it to].

    Anyway, glad a microsoftie got his first taste of what’s interesting about gnu/linux and free software, now take the next step, and find a project that rings your bell, start contributing. That’s when you really start getting the open source model I think.

  • I would have said there were 11,000 bugs left in Ubuntu, but you’re probably less picky than myself. I completely agree though, and I use Ubuntu on everything: Laptops, desktops, servers, VMWare host servers, etc. Love it, but it does have a ways to go yet. Still prefer it to anything else.

  • John

    “Remote printing requires manual textfile configuration”

    Not my experience. Linux finds (CUPS) printers better than OS X or Windows do.

    OTOH wireless sucks.

  • Simple and nice observation! I am not a religious or pious devotee of one OS. Ohh yeaah each of them have a lot of BUGS! Each audience have their own preferences. As a web browser I like windows works perfectly fine and for development I am stuck to Linux. I think at the end of the day it boils down not to how many bugs, bcos I do not care as along as my gcc and firefox do not crash :)

  • KeithCu

    Gregp:

    1. I never said Linux doesn’t read NTFS. Please re-read what I said.

    2. Yes there are pluses to Linux and I mentioned many in my posting. But its the minuses holding Linux back.

    Also, I don’t think Linux needs to have more than one different desktop. Gaming is just Linux with the 3-d drivers installed. Development is just Linux with a debugger.

    In my experience, Linux does a better job with hardware detection than Windows retail. I always need to install a bunch of OEM drivers (if I can find them on their website!!) to get a Windows box to work. In Linux things generally work right off the CD. If not, I’ll need to compile some code :-)

  • One thing I wish could be fixed is webcam support. I know that sounds trivial; but, I keep up with my Marine Corps buddies and we like to talk via the webcam. My 4 year old just thinks it is great to be able to see himself and another person talking that way on the computer.

    Tom

  • gregp

    Keith: Gnome can detect and mount my NTFS partition and it actually understands the complicated NTFS format, but I am forced to jump to the command line to view my files.

    That’s your quote, that’s what you said. That’s either a gnome or an ubuntu issue. If it’s an ubuntu issue it should be fixed by dapper drake, next release.

    Welcome to open source by the way.

    ====== Also, I don’t think Linux needs to have more than one different desktop. Gaming is just Linux with the 3-d drivers installed. Development is just Linux with a debugger. ====

    again, the sooner you learn that linux is the kernel the better off you will be. So, to be clear: linux is the kernel. Gnome is one desktop that runs on that kernel. KDE is another one. IceWM is another one.

    These desktops also run on other operating systems, freebsd for example.

    If it makes you feel any better, it seems like the opinion that linux per se needs only one desktop per se is a common newbie belief, I had that same opinion, it fades as you work with different desktops.

    gnome is simplistic, annoying, hard to configure. kde has tons of features, and can overwhelm users sometimes with obscure menu options, fluxbox is quite popular among more advanced users who only need basic windowing support.

    Keep playing around, it’s a learning curve, you’re on it.

  • This analysis is a knowledgeable breath of fresh air.

    Before reading it, one might expect just another round of MS bashing. Instead the article contains insights which are quite valid.

    In the realm of bug-fixing, go for the problems most worrysome to new users first. It’s a bitter pill to swallow, but lack of professional management within the Linux community causes a lot of chaos.

    Here’s hoping a lot of people read this analysis.

  • Driver support is important. Very important. However, I feel that some people are missing the point.

    Under Windows and OSX, driver support is generally excellent – Windows because it has a large database of drivers and OSX because the hardware choice is predetermined.

    For most computers on Windows, even without specific drivers, the computer still “just works” after installation. Linux has pretty good driver support, but some things don’t “just work”. Video drivers (insofar as 3D support) is problematic. Wireless and bluetooth support is patchy. Audio support is still sometimes dodgey.

    The other difference is in how the desktop user handles a problem that requires a third party driver. In Windows and OSX, the installation of a third party driver (e.g., a new printer or an updated video driver) is a trivial process. It is by large wizard driven –> load installer, wait, perhaps a reboot, good to go.

    The same is not true for Linux. Finding a driver is often difficult. Even when one is available, it cannot be installed as simply as on Windows and OSX.

    These are serious usabiility on Linux and they are not even “bugs” as such.

    Yes, Linux can possibly used as a desktop PC but and it does have some features which are better than Windows and perhaps even OSX. However, there are hundreds of other little shortcomings and usability issues that all add up to a less enjoyable experience. WindowsXP and it’s GUI is actually quite polished. Mac OSX more so. The current versions of desktop Linux still have some way to go.

    Regards,
    Michael Tam

  • Nice post but one sad thing. You had to leave MS to get to know Linux. That proves MS doesn’t know about computer and OS engineering. Linux is a good example of the way things should be done when doing computer stuff. Linux comes from Minix, which was only created for education purposes. MS consistently broke about every rule that you learn in school. Windows is the good counter-example.

    Now… did I say it was a sad thing? Maybe not after all.

  • roughty

    A few years ago Linux was more stable and more usable than Windows. It lacked application support. Now, Windows is more stable and usable than Linux. And Linux still lacks application support.

    If you want stability and a lack of application support, at least go join the FreeBSD camp. They’ve had both for years (even the Linux binary-only softs run under FreeBSD, so although its application support is crippled compared to Windows, it’s certainly no worse than Linux). And although you might try really hard, you’re certainly not going to find even 5% of 10,000 bugs in any given release. At least those guys care about release quality.

    Bleh. Linux. 10,000 bugs. What a mess.

  • mclaren

    Linux isn’t close to ready to conquer the desktop yet, and the reason is simple. Linux lacks a one-click install.

    Let’s take a typical application: Planet CCRMA, the computer music system put out by Stanford.

    Here are the 6 pages of instructions involved in installing Planet CCRMA on your computer:

    The install process involves winners like this:

    You can use the following template as an inspiration for what you have to add to modprobe.conf. Be aware that there will be more lines in your modules.conf file, including “install” and “remove” lines for the soundcards that Kudzu has configured, leave those lines alone:

    alias snd-card-0 snd-CARD_0
    options snd-CARD_0 index=0

    alias snd-card-N snd-CARD_N
    options snd-CARD_N index=N

    In this template “…” stands for more lines here, one for each extra card (don’t copy the dots! :-) “CARD_N” is the name of the kernel module that corresponds to the card you want in position “N” (N=0 is the first card, usually the default device used by all programs).

    In the case of USB soundcards you will have to add the “alias” line manually as kudzu does not include it in modprobe.conf:

    alias snd-card-N snd-usb-audio
    options snd-usb-audio index=N

    Here is a filled in example that includes three cards (this ommits the “install” and “remove” lines):

    alias snd-card-0 snd-ice1712
    options snd-ice1712 index=0
    alias snd-card-1 snd-ens1370
    options snd-ens1370 index=1
    alias snd-card-2 snd-usb-audio
    options snd-usb-audio index=2

    And this is how the audio part of modprobe.conf looks like in my laptop configuration (wrapping of the install and remove lines added to better fit the width of this page):

    alias snd-card-0 snd-intel8x0
    options snd-intel8x0 index=0
    install snd-intel8x0 /sbin/modprobe –ignore-install snd-intel8x0 && \
    /usr/sbin/alsactl restore >/dev/null 2>&1 || :
    remove snd-intel8x0 { /usr/sbin/alsactl store >/dev/null 2>&1 || : ; }; \
    /sbin/modprobe -r –ignore-remove snd-intel8x0
    alias snd-card-1 snd-usb-audio
    options snd-usb-audio index=1

    After you are done editing the file, use depmod to parse it again and determine module dependencies:

    /sbin/depmod -a

    You can now restart the sound driver to test it. If you are logged in into X you probably want to logout first and do this from a text console, as stopping the alsa system will kill the audio control panel in Gnome. Note: this will not test what happens when hotplug find an audio device early in the boot sequence, you will have to reboot to test that.

    /etc/rc.d/init.d/alsasound stop

    Then start it again:

    /etc/rc.d/init.d/alsasound start

    It should load all the modules for all your soundcards in the specified order.
    ———

    Come on, folks. No end user is going to go through that to install a piece of software. Want to know the process for installing a piece of Windows software?

    [1] Double-click on the SETUP icon.

    That’s it. No six pages of gobbledygook. No modprobe. No using grep to find the right conf file and then using vi to edit it.

    Until linux gets a one-click install, ordinary human beings can’t install new software. If ordinary human beings can’t install new software, linux is dead in the water.

  • Reality: business PC use drives the home desktop market… file compatibility, UI compatibility , application compatibility, etc. Without clear compelling ADVANTAGES over Windows, business and home users will not use desktop Linux, as it currently stands.

    Open source app developers are wonderful, altruistic people doing great work and buliding a viable business model. But the collective body of Linux OS developers are like the Borg after Captain Piccard has launched a photon torpedo into the central brain of the Borg mother ship… totally directionless, from an end-users perspective.

    Remember all the UNIX System V flavors? AT&T, DEC, Data General, HP, SCO… No wonder OSF couldn’t beat MSFT! Right now, Linux is just a collection of weakling Bantusian states.

    I hate Windows, ambivalent about Mac. I’m a former application programmer from Unix System V days who STILL uses the Vi editor (GVIM) and other UNIX tools on Windows XP. Why Windows? it’s forced on me at my day job, beyond my control.

    For me to use Linux desktop instead of Windows at my office, my employer needs ADVANTAGES over Windows.

    For my my sideline photography business, I need color management built-into the Linux distro, 16-bit GIMP with color mgmt, real RAW conversion/workflow with color mgmt (UFRaw and dcraw are hacks, as is LCMS) . As it stands, Linux is written by developers FOR developers, not for businesses and end-users.

    As a potential Linux desktop user, I detest the “code, configure, compile it yourself” arrogance of the Linux developers when it comes to porting applications.

    It’s simply easier to pay the $99 Windows tax on new PCs and get plug-and-play, phone/email support, and certification of apps by vendors.

    I have neither the time nor talent any more to write my own apps. And I’m not alone in that regard. My time, for the hours I might spend researching distros, locating that one missing driver, configuring color management myself, waiting for real-world photo software, trying to get color mgmt AND dual monitors working under WINE, etc. is FAR MORE expensive than the Windows tax.

    I’ll pay that trivial tax for for load-and-go convenience, since I have to pay far more for proprietary applications anyway, since the real innovation in business apps is NOT on Linux.

    I’ll gladly pay reasonable $$$ for proprietary software that solves my problems on Windows. Windows sux, but not enough to make me masochistically fetishistic about Linux.

    Want me (and millions of others) to switch to Linux? Then give HW and SW vendors one plug-and-play Linux that has end-user ADVANTAGES over Windows, not just “as good as Windows” (i.e. give me zero cost PLUS all the plug-and-play propretary apps that solve my business problems, not just free incompatible clones of Office, Outlook, Photoshop, Messenger, IE).

    Linux distros will remain niche products until businesses have real incentive to switch. Home users will not switch until business switch. Neither home or business users will swtich until the real apps are available. Real apps will not be written for Linux until there there is ONE Linux distro, like there is ONE Windows.

    If all the effort in creating and maintaining all the @#$%^& permutations of Linux distrubutions was concentrated on ONE distro, Linux might stand a chance as a desktop environment.

  • “This is the Year of the Linux Desktop!”

    I’ve heard that from pundits and gooroos every year since 1995. I’m still waiting..

  • Well all said. But Mac is much better then Linux. DOnt u think that? :)

    So here we have a fight between

    1. Microsoft
    2. Various Linux Distros. (Funny that they fight among themselves too)
    3. Mac OS X

    I have heard Google is also jumping in this field.

    I have used
    Linux for 3 years
    Mac OS X for 2 years
    Windows For rest of my life.

    I find Windows 2003 better then anything. The best part is whatever software we have for Linux are available for windows too but the reverse is not true

  • Friede

    One open source software defect fix every six minutes:
    http://www.indicthreads.com/news/430/open_source_software_defect_fix.html

    “World domination” in around 40 days?

  • I enjoyed the article , keep it up!

    But I definitely didn’t enjoy the fact that you were begging for Diggs. Diggs will automatically come if your article is good enough, which in this case was!!

  • phil

    Linux does enough for me. Just had to say it.

    There are others like me that find Linux quite adequate. Yes its not perfect. When did perfect become a requirement to use something. Is your car perfect? Is your tv, toaster, stove, etc.? So why get all wrapped up about perfection?

    The thing is what does it take to get you to switch to a new product. If you buy Ford trucks and have for years, what would get you to change? For many its nothing will make them change.

    With Linux, as with Ford, its not technology. It a very complex mix of things including your experience with Ford the company and Ford trucks.
    So if you like Windows and don’t want to change, stick with Windows. If you are ready for a change, look at Linux.

    Its really not a technology choice as much as a desire to sample what is available.

  • Steve Kayner

    Years ago when Windows 2000 was nearing release, Microsoft posted a webpage touting the new OS by saying it was better than NT and it’s 10,000 bugs. The URL was being passed around the non-MS world for a day or two before the web page was removed. “Try the new version. The old one was buggy as hell.”

    -=s=-

  • This is a very astute summation of the state of Linux on the Desktop, and your observations are ones that seem to slip by a lot of people.

    But, I think there’s a couple points to be made about why these bugs *aren’t* getting fixed:

    * Generally, fixing something like removable media handling involves making changes to KDE or GNOME, changes which might not make it past the broader community. No vendor wants to fork these desktop projects, and the developer communities don’t want changes “foisted” on them by vendors.

    * Most vendors would rather focus their efforts on fixing GNOME, which has a lower entry cost, rather than KDE, which (may) require an expensive Qt license per developer. However, there are enough KDE users out there that vendors are forced to support both platforms. Nobody wants to have to fix the same bug in two platforms. Yet, the problems you list are mostly common to both.

    I think the sad fact is that these changes *have* to come from w/in the respective KDE/GNOME communities, and not from vendors. And, as you said, the developer communities are slow to respond to the problems of newbie users. GNOME and KDE developers also have to maintain focus on cross-platform issues; they can’t just support Linux to the exclusion of everything else.

    One more point: you say “Linux distributions contain thousands of applications and installing them requires just 1 click.” This is true, but I strongly feel that all Linux “package managers” are by definition too complex for ordinary users. Most people’s eyes glaze over when presented with thousands of options (usually in a complicated tree view, to boot.) Also, GUI applications typically aren’t separated from their CLI counterparts in any meaningful way. Vendors need to embrace projects like Autopackage that work more like Windows and OS/X installers.

  • Steve

    You people with the IBM comments have no idea what’s going on internally. I’ve been running IBM’s Linux client for e-business for over 2 years now. I did dual-boot for about 6 months, at which point my hard drive crashed. Since then, I’ve been 100% Linux, baby. IBM’s internal web applications are now nearly completely compatible with web standards, therefore Linux browsers. IBM now has an internal helpdesk trained to deal with the Linux client.

    With regards to Notes, IBM’s C4EB has been running Notes under WINE all this time. It was ugly, but we did have access to Notes. Now, we’re transitioning to the Workstation client, which is Eclipse, with a Notes plugin. Not that great, but the bugs are being worked out.

  • georgi

    Is Linux ready for the desktop?? I have been using it for 3 years for my daily work. My family has too and we are alive and doing fine with all of our computing needs.

    I ran an install the other day on windows for yahoo messemger and I had to install the beta because it is free and that is what I should have according to yahoo. When I boot my Windows I get 50 solicitations to buy something etc. before I can do anything else.

    I was so happy with the internet as I could choose my advertisements, buy when I want to what I want to no pop #$@@#!, and having used Linux for so long forgotten what kind of a struggle people have on-line.

    The answer to the question is dependent on who you ask and frankly the more I think about it the less I care whether Linux is ready or not according to everyone the DAUs … after all I am happy and everyone else seems to think they are OK sticking to their “choices” so the world is a good place. Will Linux eventually move MS out…definitely it does not compete on the same level as MS and yet it does offer the same “product” if you will so it will..

    As far is choice is concerned I don’t believe in dumbing things down so I can get everyone using it…that would be Windows and I would be opposed :). I like change if most people dont with Linux they can just choose to stay at version 1, it is their choice. I also like options one day KDE the next day GNOME then Enlightenment and so on. I don’t care what statistics or any other science tube-filling guy has decided for me… It is about choice it is about having your shoes to your size for you feet it is about having the best possible something industry should be trying to achieve but they have found the bliss of economies of scale and monopoly and with a full stomache it is really hard to think any way :)…

    Yes someone will say don’t rewrite I agree most program are build on components reuse those but the implementations can still be different and if you want to rewrite toi learn, make it better, more secure etc. you should be able to too.

    Best wishes to you really nice piece. Is Linux ready that is 3 year old question for me… it rocks :))
    georgi

  • John

    I was a very early Linux driver developer. I largely agree with you, but I must point out that there isn’t just one level of distribution for open source software. Generally, there are at least 2 levels: one for authors of individual packages, and another for distributors of assembled system packages. And these are, I think, necessarily different. Mozilla, Apache, GNOME, etc., thus have different priorities from, say, RedHat, SuSE, or the Ubuntu contributors. And because of integration issues and the like, what an author develops may not ever be exactly what a system distributor makes available pre-built and pre-installed.

    There’s a level of software in the middle, that I think hasn’t gotten the attention it deserves, and I think it’s at the root of your 10K bugs issue. RedHat became prominent among early Linux distributions, I believe, because the RPM format took a good stab at the problems at this level, but the issues are larger than what RPM alone can address (it’s still, IMO, a very important part of the Linux picture).

    When something is evolved that adequately fills in at this level, those 10K bugs will not only become manageable at all levels and across individual open source projects, but convenience functionality for users will be able to be built and standardized across distributions. And then, e.g., safe automatic software updates directed at fixing particular bugs, and similar functionality, will make Linux a much less frustrating environment for users at all levels.

    The first problem, though, is for the open source community to start to see this forest for the trees, and realize that there’s a problem to be solved here.

    A case in point that I’ve stumbled across lately. I’ve gotten into writing Python, and recent additions to its software base include a fancy new distribution utility suite, that automatically downloads and installs packages. Perl’s CPAN network has been doing this for some time. The problem with these is that they are language-centric, not broad enough in scope, and system integrators on the level of a RedHat or SuSE have to fight against these facilities to some extent, because they subvert the management of a system by other means (e.g., such as RPM provides). Python’s new setuptools, for instance, has a “legacy mode” option, “–old-and-unmanageable”, that a system level distributor pretty much has to use in order for a package to use, e.g., RPM’s much more comprehensive management instead of what setuptools provides only for Python packages. Someone doesn’t quite get the big picture yet, IMO.

    Changing the subject, your power management issues with Linux may be partly Microsoft’s fault: I’ve run into similar issues with desktop machines. As I understand it, the software MS wrote and makes available for ACPI BIOSes isn’t entirely compliant with Intel’s standard (Intel also makes such tools freely available). So if a motherboard vendor uses the MS tools to develop their ACPI BIOS and you run Windows on it, no problem, but Linux follows the Intel standard and has issues with the latent bugs in ACPI BIOSes built with the MS tools; it may not know how to get the ACPI BIOS to do what it wants. (This is off the top of my head – see the Linux ACPI-HOWTO for details.)

  • Matthias

    Your analysis is to the point: When I switched from Windows to Linux in 1996 it was because I wanted a stable OS. Today, when I want to be sure things work (for presentations or so) I have to switch back to WinNT or WinXP. It is that bad.

    There is one problem you haven’t mentioned yet and that is diversity: The Linux/OSS world today is way to diverse to be properly supported and debugged:

    * As a user, I DO NOT WANT 4-5 different sound systems that need to be configured, again and again, after each system update.

    * As a user, I DO NOT WANT numerous multimedia players, none of which plays all my files properly. I just want 1 that works.

    * Same goes for webbrowsers, window managers, printing systems.

    This kind of diversity adds nothing to the user experience. It makes debugging and distribution of Linux harder. (Admittedly, it can be a good learning experience and fun for the programmer to re-invent the wheels.)

  • […] Šiandien aš pamatęs tokį pasisakymą http://keithcu.com/wordpress/?p=24 nusprendžiau atsakyti jam tuo pačiu. […]

  • JHA

    I am still using Microsoft at work…

    OpenOffice and StarOffice still are not up to par with Microsoft. Graphing and other functions that work fairly well in Excel are pretty poor in O.O. and S.O.
    Document compatibility is still not great. Docs created under various proprietary programs either can’t be opened, or open incorrectly. This is not OpenSource’s fault; after all, various versions of MS Word and Adobe are not compatible with each other, either… Still, if you bring work home, or are emailed a document, you should be able to OPEN the damn thing and read it! Why do things get corrupted simply moving them from one machine to another?
    We are still nowhere near the “refrigerator” stage of simplicity and reliability, where cold food can go from one fridge to another fridge, without “perishing” in the process…and THAT is what it will take.
    There are just too damn many formats out there for ANYONE to deal with, let alone OpenSource.
    Stability is OK. GUI’s are OK, except we need to get rid of “mounting”. Applications aren’t bad, but why can’t they have names less cryptic than
    “Gimp”? What the hell does THAT mean to an average person, except a bum leg? Does anyone in the OpenSource movement understand that is not as important to be in love with your own cleverness and cryptic-ness, but that when you name something, you are COMMINICATING, and the important part of that is to be UNDERSTOOD.

  • I dont know if anyone pointed this out already (to lazy to reed all the comments) but here it goes:
    The hardware “bugs” (like bob robertson said) is not a linux bug. being a former m$ programmer, i guess youd try to install windows on a pc, without 3th party drivers, windows is totaly useless (like the nforce chipsets or almost every other chipset for that mather), while companies do write drivers for windows, linux in most cases doenst have that luxury (exept nvidia and some others), and still out of the box, linux has far better hardware support than windows.
    In my opinion, it isnt the linux developers duty to make all those drivers work, as more and more people switch to linux, the hardware companys will have to pay attention (for software companyies to offcourse)
    So its not that its not ready for the desktop, but when people will switch in large numbers it will be the last big “evolution”.

    But thats just my opinion, Anywais even while i dont agree with everything you wrote, its nice to see the (moastly positive) thougts of a ex ms programmer on this subject (ill bookmark the blog ;) )

  • Fufu Fang

    Well, I agree with you that Linux has got “clean, rich, stable, customizable & dynamic shell”.

    However, the bugs you described is very true on most computers. Most Linux developers or experts fix them on their own after reading loads of books. You have to use commands to operate Linux efficiently. I am just a computer newbie. I don’t want to memorize too many commands. I don’t want to look up how to use a command in a console window. I don’t want to fix driver problems, sleep and hibernate problems by re-compiling kernel. I want to know how to enable essential functions easily, without looking up so much stuff. I don’t like driver bugs, hang and crashes after doing what numerous ‘instruction’ on the internet says. I want to enable my external monitor without installing any other garbage except the graphic card driver. I don’t want set up remote printing by using some nearly incomprehensible manual text files. Moreover, Virtualboyadvance for Windows + WINE runs smoother than Virtualboyadvance’s Linux native version!!! This kind of things are very often.

    I do like diversity of programmes on Linux. Can you find one program that works great easily? Many programs are programmer oriented. Programmers write them for themselves. If you want to change, you can, there is source code. But how a newbie do it? I really want a easy way!!!

    And yes, you can work more efficiently on Linux provided you are a Linux guru.

    Finally, at the moment, Linux is only for geeks. We, newbies don’t have a proper guidance. When you find a problem about Linux, you search on internet. Guru 1 says 1, Guru 2 says 2. One of them provided easy configuring way to solve the problem although it is not efficient, one of them provided efficient settings but none of us know how to do it. Then, you find that some random masters tell you a even easier way. Using Linux is just like launching Apollo spaceship without guidance.

    Configure your own Linux properly, let it run smoothly, then persuade other people to run it. (When you finish configuring the essential services, you are tired and you find yourself love commercial operation system such as Windows and Macs.)

  • CVD

    If Linux is ready for the DEsktop.. Why we are talking about this?

  • David Pastern

    Linux is NOT ready for the desktop. At one time I thought it was, and I was an avid Linux supported, but now, I know it isn’t. There are too many issues with Linux, and the way that it’s developed, and until they are solved it will end up having the same old issues. I don’t see any light at the end of this tunnel.

    I’m back to using Microsoft Windows XP and it works, and works well. Those that blast XP and say “BSOD” etc haven’t used Windows in a long while. Sure, it has security issues, but then, so does Linux. If you’re trying to tell me that Linux doesn’t have security issues, you’re full of it.

    When I was using Linux, I had freedom. But not how to use the PC how I wanted to. With XP, I have freedom, but not the same type of freedom that Linux offers, but I do have freedom to use my PC the way I want to.

    Try this test – go to a mall with a few PCs. Give them Linux installation disks (not just Linspire, but Debian Sarge, Slackware, Suse, Fedora, Ubuntu etc etc) and see how easy they find it. Don’t help them at all. Just let them do it themselves. You’ll find that very very very few will finish the installation process. Repeat and rinse with Windows XP, you’ll get a working installation 99% of the time.

    Linux isn’t bad, but it doesn’t do what I need it to do, how I need it to do it, and that’s the same for many, many, many others in the world.

    From a business point of view, Linux isn’t cheap to run in a corporate environment. Whilst Microsoft tells a few white lies, Linux distributions tell more than their fair share as well. Redhat Enterprise support? It costs a LOT more than Microsoft support. Suse Enterprise support? Same thing. Solaris 10 for x86 is a lot cheaper, and more robust, but lacks device driver and application support imho. Of course, that doesn’t really matter in a corporate environment, where the hardware isn’t as diverse.

    Linux has a long, long, long, long way to go to this so called “market dominance”. Maybe if Microsoft does nothing to protect their market share, and maybe if they don’t develop their operating systems and applications any further for the next 50 years, and governments mandate open source, then maybe, it’ll get somewhere. But until that happens, it’s always going to be a hobbyist system, used by a small percentage of people who are technically capable of running it and configuring and maintaining it.

    As it stands, OS X is the one to watch. Reliability and security on a par with Linux, and bettering Windows XP out of the box. Very usable, and very easy to configure. Has good hardware and application support. I expect it to grow, and hit 20% market share within the next 5 years. Possibly even higher. I know many people who were using Linux and have now moved back to Microsoft Windows for similar reasons to myself, or have moved to OS X. Linux has hit around 4-5% and that’s about all it’s ever going to get. Anyone believing must simply believe in Santa Claus and the Easter bunny.

    Cheers,

    Dave

    PS there’s nothing like a bunch of rabid Linux advocates raving like lunatics. Makes me wonder why I was ever one of them, I’m usually too sane for that sort of thing.

  • Hi. Would like to express my appreciation of your site. It was very enlightening!

  • Still, if you bring work home, or are emailed a document, you should be able to OPEN the damn thing and read it! Why do things get corrupted simply moving them from one machine to another?

    This has not been my experience. I’m using NeoOffice – an OpenOffice branch for OS X – to all Word and Excel docs at work. Nearly everyone else uses Word or Excel. No compatibility issues here.

    Mind you – I’m not using Linux in either place so YMMV.

  • Wow, great article! It’s very refreshing to see an honest point of view from an ex-microsofty.

    If I only had more time, I’d love to work on some of these bugs. My regular job just doesn’t pay me to hack on Linux, unfortunately.

  • Steve Szmidt

    Yes, this is a nicely written article. Reading the comments is also quite telling about the typical scenarios different people run into.

    I’m an old timer (programmer) who never learned C or C++. But I specialized in making my (application) software intuitive. If the user needed a manual then I did something wrong. Things like screen layout, work flow were tightly integrated with my design.

    Linux became my choice after getting too fed up with blue screens. I looked around for a good alternative and stumbled onto Linux back in -95.

    Since then I’ve been using Linux for all but commercial games.

    Professionally I often migrate server rooms to Linux. (I’m a systems & network engineer too.)

    What I immediately see lacking is the definition of Ready For the Desktop. It’s been ready for me since about -96. The biggest flaw is in integration. Sometimes it’s easier than falling out of a tree to install something, while other times it sucks. Sometimes things like CUPS lack the foresight to be helpful and make it easier for the uninitiated to get that new printer working. Or to be shared with other computers.

    Fedora Core 5 has actually made very nice inroads in the area of adding and removing s/w. It’s a new step upwards.

    I routinely install Linux desktops for various people. If all that they do is running what you give them it can be a very worthwhile experience. From a management viewpoint it’s far easier to manage a floor of Linux desktops than windows. But you got to know how, just like with anything else.

    Moving to Linux was heaven sent. Not that I don’t swear at stupid things at times, but it has that real promise of getting better. I feel that my time invested in Linux will pay off either immediately, or at any time. I hate investing my efforts into something which continuously back stabs me. Like I feel windows does.

    You know that you are working with something which has its problems, but there is so much good with so many applications, that I’m willing to suffer through the smaller stupid things.

    In short Linux has a stronger promise of a positive future than windows does. That is an experience earned by each the hard way, by using it for years.

    The bug fixing with windows is a top contender for ruining the windows experience. You install and fix up a server to work just right. Then you add a patch that solves something else, and crashes your server app. You install a security patch to fix a hole and the next patch, for a different hole, undoes the previous patch.

    Windows is simply too expensive to maintain. You need to limit all servers to only run one program or they may kill each other. Its “standard” in the windows world that you never run more than one app on a server. Little do they know of what can be done.

    Under Linux you don’t seldom need to worry about anything but ensuring the resources are big enough to cope with the load. If it’s not mission critical you can actually do patching on live servers and be pretty safe in that all will still work as expected after the patch is applied.

    Back in the 90’s I had a box which was my office (on demand) dial-up server, firewall, router, email server, intranet web server, file server and print server and could even run the GUI (X-Windows) albeit slowly until I added another 8MB of RAM. It was a 486 with 8MB RAM.

    We could happily do our development work and were never aware of this small box as a bottle neck.

    Windows 98 could not get close. Or remain up and running for that matter. Neither could NT which actually had a setting to automatically reboot the computer every so many days. It was a pull down menu and you could choose it to reboot up to as many as 31 days. (!!!??) That was the maximum expected up-time MS had. My Linux box never crashed over the year or two that we used it. Not once. Nor did we reboot it, except after kernel upgrades.

    Windows users have developed this standard debugging tech of rebooting. Except it does not fix anything. The original problem is still there. Not that you CAN fix the problem even if you know how. Which is another plus point for Open Source.

    Steve Szmidt

  • zelsa

    典型的离职牢骚。

  • fromchina

    It is impossible! I think you should think it carefully before saying out! If not ,you are very naive! Linux is very good but it is not based on most people! 说话不是用嘴的!

  • 程序员喜欢的往往不是普通人所喜欢的! 普通人并不研究010101010101代表什么东西,也不在乎VI有多么的好用! 因为计算机对他们来说只是工具,而不痴迷于她的技术!

  • JP

    Good article, but I must disagree with just one point. Ubuntu may not have “people” that look out for a customers interest since it’s business model is not for profit, however at Novell we are looking out for our customers (and shareholders) by doing just what you state is not being done.

    is doing just that. We are not only doing case studies with various users, but also finding and fixing the UI type bugs that annoy the people that are “resistant to change”.

    SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop 10 will be the culmination of this effort and already is blowing the minds of the “hard to convert”.

  • Undead_bxg

    向你的方向去吧,你自由软要这样的精神。我何常不是这样做呢,技术是我们的唯一!!!!

  • i wish more ms guys can investigate linux,open source world! the world should be this.

  • Nice post, very to the point.

    The nice thing about Ubuntu is that they are making a *serious* effort to make their distro usable by beginners. I’ve been freely recommending Ubuntu to one class of user: people who aren’t geeks but who know what they want to do with a computer, and are sick to death of Windows’ flakiness. They take to Ubuntu very enthusiastically indeed.

    The last thing keeping a lot of people on Windows isn’t the OS or major apps – it’s the million tiny apps written five or ten years ago, where you won’t even *find* the programmer, let alone get them to open or port the app. And those are running increasingly well under Wine, which I am amazed to find feels like a “shaky but interesting beta” rather than a horrible alpha. Try random obscure apps under Wine 0.9.11 – that bear dances amazingly well.

    Now. Do you have a way to get Ubuntu Live CDs to half the Microsoft developer teams? :-D

  • Hi dude,
    please try Suse enterprise and am sure you will halve your queries.

  • steve

    For me the one things that stops me getting rid of Windows and installing windows is: games! If the latest commercial games were available for linux, I would have have been using Linux exclusively for years now.
    I have heard that Sony’s PS3 will run linux. Games + PC functions in one unit — this could be the best hope yet for linux, it could remove a key reason holding people to Windows.

  • airshipjones

    I think that what is holding back Linux, in just about all its various distros, is the lack of enterprise management tools. As far as I know, the only thing close to this is Zenworks, whihc was ported over for SuSE by Novell. Without tools to make the Linux desktops easy to manage accross and enterprise, few businesses can afford to spend the time to set-up each machine and do all the updates, mods, and such. And while this doesn’t stop the average home user from using Linux, they don’t get exposed at work, which is where most average users get their primary training with the OS and software.

  • 网摘-2006年4月…

    英语口语8000句告诉你一个真实的Google10,000 bugs away from World Dom ……

  • […] » 10,000 bugs away from World Domination There are a combined total of 10000 listed bugs for various modules of Linux – is that what stands between Linux and the average desktop.. i don’t think so. What stands between Linux and the average desktop is MS-OFFICE! (tags: linux adoption) […]

  • […] After leaving Microsoft a year ago and spending 1 year with Linux I â��ve gained tremendous respect for the Open Source world as a whole but more than that, had an epiphany that Linux on the desktop is 99.999% ready to go. How much needs to be done? My estimate is that Ubuntu needs on the order of 10,000 bugs to be fixed to get that last .001%…read more | digg story […]

  • un peu de tout (ça faisait longtemps…)…

    Une série de news et de liens intéressants recoltés sur le web… (sans classement ni hiérarchie)

    décoder un signal morse envoyé sous forme de fichier audio [via]
    la photo d’une femme… pas mal, mais complètement numérique, faites sous….

  • Tadashi

    Linux is not ready for desktops, Ubuntu is not ready for desktops. Windows works on desktops because hw and sw manufacturers supports it, but not “by default” in the way people asks Linux to work, so Windows is also not ready for desktops. Right now Ubuntu needs a lot of things, first of all needs more beautines (people don’t see the WoW factor with it), needs more hardware support by default (I mean automatically configure wireless, sd cards, … even if drivers are binaries/illegal), needs more software (basic software such as good MSN client with video-voice, a clone of iLife, Adobe applications, …). In other words, Ubuntu needs the help of everyone to go on. If people installs Ubuntu and vendors perceive it as a market player, they will develop drivers and applications. If Ubuntu is used in business, Canonical and other brands will receive money, and more developers will work on it (also fixing bugs). Believe me, is very easy to switch to Ubuntu, and the benefits are more than the things to miss from Windows. I think, the most part of people still stays with Windows because they are lazy to change, because in some way they are illiterates and doesn’t know about Linux (someone should start getting money to put Linux commercials on TV and stores). And over all the things, people developing FLOSS should start organizing together, there’s no sense on having three different Office applications developing, a hundred number of IM clients (and no one of them good enough), … I mean, variety is good (Gnome vs KDE, SUSE vs Red Hat, …) but sometimes, some projects should benefit from others if people just decides to do it together, and Linux is the great example of this because there aren’t two different kernels (for example).