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back to article Desktop Linux: the final frontier

Depending on who you talk to, 40 to 75 per cent of the world’s web servers are Linux-based. That is some serious market penetration. But even in organisations running Linux on their servers the operating system is on just 20 per cent of desktops. Despite its success in the back office, Linux has not yet made such an impact on …

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“If it is there, people will use it,”

Not neccessarily.

I remember the netbook boom of 2-3 years ago.

People bought the likes of the Acer Aspire One, then came to the likes of me wanting Windows on it.

I politely declined, as I didn't have a USB CD drive at the time, and hadn't yet experimented with USB boot drives. Also, the fact that XP onwards really does need to have a licence bought.

But it just showed that people had Linux but wanted to use Windows. Despite the £50 or so Windows tax saving.

And this is coming from a Linux fanboy. When I eventually bought an AAO150, I liked the Linpus desktop (despite the detractors). I liked the speed of boot, the general lack of resource hogging of the OS, and the fact that most of what you want to do was on the desktop nearly immediately.

Though I have to say, I did later put XP on it, but that was more just for the sheer heck of it (as I did also put OSX on it too).

People were just used to their Windows clunkiness, and way of doing things (ie. in Windows download a piece of malware / yet another IE toolbar and you can double click execute the installer there and then. In linux, the install process is slightly more involved).

On the prettier half's laptop, we did use Ubuntu for ages because Vista was mostly broken and unusable.

However, I have noticed that since putting 7 on it (and an extra GB of RAM), it is the Windows partition that now gets most hits on the boot menu.

So yes, if it is there, people will try to use it. But some are too entrenched in their Windows linear way of thinking. Hopefully the next generation of tablet based consumer machines will help abstract away from the Windows desktop way of life.

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Anonymous Coward

Linux is defacto server operating system then why not it come to desktop

I do see a lot of potential in Linux to replace windows as preferred operating system they just need right design and implementation just like Apple did with there IPhone. Linux is defacto Server operating system and has earned a lot of credibility with everybody which will help him to do better.

Javin

http://javarevisited.blogspot.com/2011/03/10-find-command-in-unix-examples-basic.html

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FAIL

Canonical

Aren't those the guys who screwed up by forcing this Unity crap down the throat of their users?

They certainly lost me as user....

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I've been using Unity...

Since the official release.

So, far, and against all my expectations, I'm getting on OK. There are a few clunky bits that need work - network shares are awkward to get to for example, you need to get to a standard apps menu more easily, rather than remember apps names, and I keep going to bottom of screen to the non-existent task bar. But, on the whole, it's pretty good for the purposes I put it to.

Worth persisting with I think, and it can only get better. I hope.

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Grenade

Unity. What a pity...

Yes, they are those guys --- and it will put back the cause of "Linux on the desktop" by several years.

A great shame.

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Boffin

It never ceases to amaze me, but

When someone buys a PC, laptop etc, they expect it to have Windows, because that's what they're used to. All it generally gets used for is browsing, email, letters and maybe spreadsheets. And sometimes a game.

And yet, we will happily change our telly, car, mobile phone etc, because the new one has better features. And there's a new or changed UI to get the hang of. But because it's not a 'computer' people are happy to put up with it.

Public perception has to improve. Until the major manufacturers start shifting boxes, laptops etc to HIGH STREET RETAILERS (so that Joe Public can plat with it instore before purchase) preloaded with Ubuntu/Mint/whatever-distro-you-worship, people will still look for Windows (or Mac if that's the way you roll). Dell even tried shifting boxes and Minis with Linux. They seem to have stopped selling them in the UK unless you specifically ask your Account Manager.

Disclosure: I have run Ubuntu as my main OS since January, with Win7 and XP in VMs for those rare occasions I can't do something in Ubuntu/OpenOffice etc. Like play certain games...

V.

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Public perception is fine

Why should public perception have to change? It's a tool. As long as it does what they want they couldn't care less. Nor should they have to care what's under the hood. I don't much care what's under my car's bonnet as long as it gets me from A to B.

That's what's held Linux back on the desktop as much as anything else. Geeks trying to sell it to the public on the basis of technology. I have news for you - the public don't give a toss about computing technology. As for "Ubuntu/Mint/whatever-distro-you-worship" that just adds 'cliquey' to the list and probably alienates the small minority of the public who are vaguely curious about it.

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@ Victor

Well there is a learning curve and there is all that purchased software... People hesitate to jump

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Paris Hilton

Public perception

Point well made. Another fact is that many users don't want "flexibility." They just want _A_ way of doing things that accomplishes their goals. When someone like that encounters linux with all its distinct desktops, they can feel overwhelmed with the available choices. Showing the better half how to do things I learned long ago to leave out the "...or you can ..." parts.

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The reason 98% of the worlds pc use Windows is Linux!

Seriously though, Linux still is not as smooth and polished a user experience as Windows and for the average user it's not the best option. (I use both at work, but only Windows at home)

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For me, the other way round

Have to use windows at work, but use Linux at home, and compared to the other half's Vista desktop, I'm a very happy bunny indeed - even with Unity, which is quite polished considering its age.

Also, my aged parents use Ubuntu on a Acer Revo and have no problems at all.

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@Pointer2null

Cue downvoters there.

I'm in the opposite position, Windows only on the desktop at work and both at home. I have to agree with your analysis though. The distros have come on leaps and bounds since I started with it, but it still lacks that end-user-suitable polish.

ONe of my favourites: When the little context-sensitive help widget, invoked via the question mark on a KDE window, pops up saying there is no help and offering you the opportunity to contribute to the community by writing help text for what you're trying to find help on. I find that one even more risible than the "hit 'Start' to shutdown" of Windows.

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Smooth Linux

Linux is quite smooth nowadays, but I had to replace the pre-installed rubbish with Linux Mint to enjoy my 1st generation netbook.

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"compared to the other half's Vista desktop"

Would you also argue that a Lada is a perfectly fine car because it's more efficient and easier to operate than a Stanley Steamer?

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@Aaron Em

How did you come to that impression.

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Unhappy

@ James

I work with people everyday who still have never heard of Linux.

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Linux

Windows is more polished?

"Seriously though, Linux still is not as smooth and polished a user experience as Windows [...]"

Where I work some of the more senior support people are moving away from Windows (and Windows 7 at that) because they're sick of fighting with Windows. I've been quietly extolling the virtues by having networking that works, printing that works and machines that run quickly and people have noticed.

It's going to take a while for Linux to become seriously mainstream, not least because the corporate IT have chosen a voip solution that only works on Windows. Oh yes, and for some reason they seem to think running a server distro on a laptop is a good idea. And yet, in spite of the obstacles, Linux desktop usage is growing because it is more polished, not less.

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Lada

Have you ever driven a Lada? I have, and while it's nothing special, it was a fairly solid performer. It was cheap too, only £300. I towed a trailer with it and it was very smooth and comfortable. It was eventually left in a rusting heap in the car park of the local garage, having been part-exchanged for something newer (and more expensive).

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Mint

Yes, my netbook ended up in Mint condition, as did all my other Linux machines except the server, and that's only because I can't be arsed to rebuild that.

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Anonymous Coward

Lost potential

I would gladly trade performance for a netbook with a 10+ hour battery life running on Arm. Sadly, even though several were announced I have not seen an actual shipping product. Maybe HP's Compaq Airlife 100 will be the first from a major manufacturer.

As for people choosing to install Windows instead, that's just inertia kicking in.

People don't ask for Win mobile to be installed when they buy a phone/tablet with android/ios on it do they? I never thought I'd say this but it's mostly a marketing problem. A product marketed as a laptop alternative makes people think of, well, laptops. Since the vast majority have used laptops with windows that's what they expect. Small, 10" netbooks with 10+ hours of battery life are better marketed as mobile devices instead, with all the mobile device goodies people expect ('app stores' etc).

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get you fatcs straight

win mo can't be installed on an android phone without extensive modifying

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Anonymous Coward

Exactly

Neither can windows be installed on an Arm netbook. Which is kinda the point.. Also, I'm not Rafa, didn't mention any fackts.

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Battery Life

My AA1 with 9-cell battery and Linux Mint claims a 10hr battery life. I suspect it's closer to 8 but that's still good.

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Why Linux is not popular for home users

It doesn't look like Windows, it doesn't run Microsoft Office, and it doesn't run iTunes.

Remember that I'm talking about your average home user. They are using Windows at work. They've used Windows for years. It's friendly. It's familiar. It's what they know.

You can't just chuck the Microsoft Office disk into a Linux machine and be using it 5 minutes later.

You can't download iTunes from the Apple website on Linux.

Basically if the end user can't do something on their own within 5 minutes then they're going to go running back to Comet to replace it with something that can. And they're certainly not going to go crawling around web forums in order to learn how.

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And nor should they have to.

>And they're certainly not going to go crawling around web forums in order to learn how.

And nor should they have to because it's a monumental waste of their time. When I bought my car I didn't have to spend hours calling garages to get it modified nor download specialist instructions. I just sat inside it, and drove off.

That's what so many Linux fans still don't understand. Computing is only fun to a small %ge of the population. And here's a shocker - even those who thought it was fun once tend to grow out of that eventually. It becomes just an obstacle to what you really want to do.

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God bless you, sir!

Someone talking sensibly about Linux on the desktop? In *my* Reg comments thread? It's likelier than you think!

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FAIL

You are missing the point

No, you took a lot of lessons to drive that car, remember?

It just depends on how you started- why do you need iTunes, when there is Ubuntu One?

So, yes, you could start your Linux comp and have everything you need and most of what you want.

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Anonymous Coward

@Kirvos...

Way to prove the point... I use Fedora, so no Ubuntu One for me. Also whichever way you look at it, Ubuntu One isn't iTunes, I don't use iTunes but that is what people who use iTunes want.

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The best 150 million dollars Microsoft ever spent

Was the 150 million they invested in Apple in 1997. This helped Apple get into their phase with OSX - this provided enough 'Shiney'!!!' for the Unix weenies to effectively kill Linux on the desktop by providing something (a) Shiney!!!!!! (b) not teh ebil Micro$haft (c) Unix underneath for people so inclined.

The 20% of desktops on Linux figure seems deeply implausible to me, we have, I believe, been asked 3 times in 15 years if our desktop software runs on Linux. Maybe when the questions get down to one every 4 years or so we might consider it.

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I have 2 questions...

1) What is your desktop software?

2) Does it run on Linux?

Maybe Linux users aren't attracted to your software, or maybe your website tells them it doesn't work and they don't bother to ask. Surely you should do some actual market research if you're really interested, rather than assuming customers will come to you.

It's like only making Nikon fit lenses and not Canon because 'no-one asks for them'. Why would they ask when they can get them elsewhere? doesn't mean you wouldn't sell like hot cakes if you made them.

That said, I use Ubuntu at home and at work and think it's great, but also find 20% a difficult figure to believe.

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Anonymous Coward

20%

The 20% desktop figure is in relation to those enterprise who ALREADY use Linux on their servers, and not an overall general % if that is what you were thinking.

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Misguided much?

Microsoft spent that money to keep Apple alive so that they (Microsoft) could avoid being accused of having wiped out all the competition.

In 1997 Linux was serious hobbyist territory only and was absolutely no threat to Microsoft at all.

"The 20% of desktops on Linux figure seems deeply implausible to me, we have, I believe, been asked 3 times in 15 years if our desktop software runs on Linux."

Ah, the old "I haven't experienced what you're talking about therefore you're wrong" argument.

Next!

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Linux

Linux

Linux is excellent but, as others have mentioned, inertia will prevent most people from straying too far from Windows. This is the same reason why people put Windows on a perfectly good Mac machine.

When people are forced to use Linux on their office machines, things might change, but until then - when the overwhelming majority of people get most of their computer experience at work - windows will dominate the "computer."

It is interesting, again as others point out, that a significant percentage of die-hard Windows on the Desktop people are happy to use Android / iOS on their phones and tablets.....

Just as importantly, despite what some may think, there is more to Linux than Ubuntu. Its not even the best distro any more - since about 9.10 / 10.4 is has been pretty pants.

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Gates Halo

Inertia or Functionality?

Name one thing you can do on Linux desktop which you can't do on Windows.

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Vic
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Re: Inertia or Functionality?

> Name one thing you can do on Linux desktop which you can't do on Windows.

Middle-click paste.

Vic.

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Stop

rewrite/improve it?

(no, I've never done that before you ask)

Download it legally for free.

Run it on a clapped out old PC.

Give it to my kids without worrying they might break it.

Those are the obvious things, I'm sure there are others, but you only asked for 1.

Conversely, there's nothing I can't do on Linux that I care about, so why pay for windows?

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Linux

RE: Inertia or Functionality?

Not pay for software that doesn't work properly.

We get lots of our own stuff that doesn't work properly, for free! :-)

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apt-get dist-upgrade

Or the pretty graphical version "click the button that says upgrade".

I don't see any option in Windows XP or Vista that lets you upgrade to 7, outside of paying Microsoft a lot of money.

Don't forget that UAC is a poor rip off of the sudo/gksu/kdesu commands.

Oh and.. boot from a CD to grab files from a b0rked OS install. BartPE does not count, as it is illegal.

While we're at it, I still have yet to see a Windows firewall with the functionality of iptables. Geeky and technical, yes. There are graphical front-ends though, and Windows still is hopeless compared.

Oh, you also can't run Compiz in Windows.

Also, plugging a wifi adapter in without fucking about with drivers.

Also, connecting to a wireless network without having to right-click "troubleshoot problems" to kick the thing into life every other time you try to get online.

That enough things? I'm sure various people can think of more things that various Linux distros do, that you can't do in Windows.

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There're many uses for Middle-click in Windows that doesn't exist in Linux

Like opening another tab, close a exsting tab, free scorlling etc.

So this is not a function problem, it's just preference.

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counters

"Download it legally for free."

don't kid yourself pal.

"Run it on a clapped out old PC"

ever heard of something call Windows for Legancy PC?

"Give it to my kids without worrying they might break it."

suppose you don't run Linux as root, then Windows only does it better if you don't run it as Administrator.

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Pint

Browse grumble.

Without any problems

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Inertia or Functionality?

> Name one thing you can do on Linux desktop which you can't do on Windows.

Run multiple desktops.

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Hmmm.

> Middle-click paste.

http://www.ghacks.net/2006/09/11/copy-paste-with-middle-mouse-button/

Posted in 2006. Oh and I can do it with my aging Logitech mouse. I push the scroll-wheel down and whatever is in the clipboard is pasted. Or is it something more complicated than that?

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"Run multiple desktops" oh ho!

It's called 'Virtual Dimension'. It's free to download from Sourceforge, which is not exactly a barrier to the sort of person who uses multiple desktops. It doesn't suck.

Try again!

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Troll

Re: Inertia or Functionality?

"Name one thing you can do on Linux desktop which you can't do on Windows."

I think you have missed the point a little here.

It may well be that there is nothing you want to do on your desktop that cant be done in Windows and vice versa but this makes it more likely to be inertia that prevents users switching.

You can do everything you want to do in Windows on a Linux desktop for free. Plus, you get access to loads of other odd things so that if you have the time and inclination you can actually learn to do more things. At best, windows is a halfway house between the hand-holding of Apple products and actually using the tool you have bought with Linux....

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Re: Inertia or Functionality?

@ AC 13:23hrs

How about recompile the kernel so that it does something different than it did when I downloaded it?

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djs

Name one thing ...

Okay, I'll bite the troll-bait ...

There is nothing you can do on *nix that you cannot do on windows without a little thought. However, if you know *nix WELL, there are things that you can do very easily and naturally that are neither easy nor natural on windows.

Two examples from my real life:

Several years ago, I was asked to rename all of the (few thousand) image files in a directory so that they had the string "_dpr" between the stem and the extension. I came up with a bash incantation looking something like this:

cd /path; for ext in jpg png gif; do ls | grep "\.$ext$" | while read file; do mv "$file" "$(basename "$file" ".$ext")_dpr.$ext"; done; done; cd "$OLDPWD"

(On windows you'd either spend all week on the task or install cygwin and use a *nix style shell to run a *nix style command, so it's possible, but not particularly natural).

A few weeks ago, a friend and I wanted to exchange a few GB of data. With no USB sticks to hand, we fished out a length of crossover (because the wireless network would have been painfully slow) and used netcat (he typed 'nc -l -p 1234 >file.dat'; I typed 'nc 10.0.0.3 1234 <file.dat'; it took about a minute, maybe two)

On windows you might manage to find a native build of netcat, or you might set up a one-off FTP server, or you might go out and buy a USB stick, so you could do it, but it would be neither easy or natural (and it would probably take you longer than a minute (including faffing about time), even with a length of crossover).

I have a few more (increasingly boring) anecdotes in a similar vein. I tend to acquire one every couple of years.

It may be that the converse of my thesis is also true, that there are things you can easily and naturally do on windows that are neither easy nor natural on *nix, but if there are, I am yet to find them. Perhaps you could furnish us all with an example or two, that you have experienced in your real life?

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@Field Commander A9

"don't kid yourself pal."

What is being kidded here? You really can download Linux desktop software for free. Seriously.

(does this surprise you?)

"ever heard of something call Windows for Legancy PC?"

Nope. But if you mean Windows Fundamentals for Legacy PCs then you have to be joking. Are you trying to compare that to a linux distro running on the same machine? Srlsly?

"suppose you don't run Linux as root, then Windows only does it better if you don't run it as Administrator."

I double dare you to make sense here.

Linux has SUDO which wipes the floor with windows UAC

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