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back to article The year GNOMES, Ubuntu sufferers forked off to Mint Linux

It's been a rough year for Linux on the desktop. More specifically, it's been a rough year for GNOME-based Linux on the desktop. But a glimmer of hope may have appeared thanks to a Mint-flavoured distribution of the open-source operating system. KDE, XFCE and other desktop interfaces soldiered on in 2012 in their stolid ways, …

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Happy

On the off-chance any of you missed it ...

... this has to be one of the funniest Ubuntu bug reports I've ever seen, (complaining that 'grep' does not automatically search Amazon):

https://bugs.launchpad.net/ubuntu/+source/command-not-found/+bug/1055766

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Re: On the off-chance any of you missed it ...

I missed that, thanks for the laugh. Reminds me of what went on in alt.sysadmin.recovery when usenet was still free of spam. Someone is trying to revive it, but I have no wish to go near Google groups without a lawyer - there are far too many people who cannot distinguish between black humour and serious intent. Not that I mind - keeps them frightened :).

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Re: On the off-chance any of you missed it ...

Simple - if something's posted in the monastery it's very black humour.

And if it's serious it's banned by the monastery's posting guidelines.

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Happy

Re: On the off-chance any of you missed it ...

Priceless! I almost felt sorry for the gnome people.

... almost, I say.

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@Fred (was: Re: On the off-chance any of you missed it ...)

Ignore dejagoogroups ... instead, install leafnode and ask a provider for a feed to whatever small number of non-binary groups you enjoy reading. I use my alma mater's, but search on "free news feed" if you don't have that option.

Contrary to popular opinion, Usenet is alive & well, despite the gootwats attempts to kill it.

http://leafnode.sourceforge.net/

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Re: @Fred (was: On the off-chance any of you missed it ...)

I've read all this article with a feeling of disbelief - my and mine have been using Linux happily for years without any of the problems and traumas depicted.

Only today I've edited a video, installed some bluetooth tools, converted the last of my vinyl disks to digital and done the usual e-mails etc. without any drama or bother - what is it with you people ?

Otherwise Happy New Year !

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Re: @Fred (was: On the off-chance any of you missed it ...)

The issue I have is not with Linux per se, I use it for servers and websites and it just works, and I have been doing that for *years*. The issue is that I need a couple of specialists programs to run on a sensible desktop, and no such thing exists for Linux because too many confuse Open Source with Free for everything. As a simple example, there isn't anything usable as a Visio replacement, and I really cannot spend all day doing all this manually. The other problem I have is that the moment I get comfortable with anything (KDE/GNOME), some idiot changes it all and I really don't have time for that (I now run Mint).

That's why I like OSX: I have a Unix based OS under the hood, and a stable platform where people still consider usability as important (it's not perfect, but it's the best so far - naturally, based on *my* needs, I cannot speak for anyone else). I use Omnigraffle Pro which gives me the required Visio capability, but much faster, more usable and more aesthetically pleasing as well. But here too I prefer OpenOffice because I'm familiar with it, and up until now they have resisted the urge to copy Microsoft and destroy usability with this stupid ribbon idea..

All I have now is a VM with Windows XP which takes 30 minutes of updating and patching and downloading virus signatures before it's anywhere near usable - only being switched on for maybe once every 2 weeks clearly shows just how much patching goes on. But that will at least stop now support is discontinued :).

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Re: On the off-chance any of you missed it ...

Nonsense, this so-called "akeane" is just a trouble maker looking for a cheap laugh!

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Re: @Fred (was: On the off-chance any of you missed it ...)

Support isn't discontinued. XP is supported until April 2014. If you want a year longer, go Server 2003 and you're sorted till 2015. Windows 7 and Server 2008 are supported till 2020 and Windows 8 and 2012 are until 2023.

I dumped GNU/Linux for Windows (I started with Fedora Core 3 and ended with Ubuntu 12.10) because it's regressed so much. The problem isn't so much the GNU/Linux part per-se, it's the everything else on top that sucks. Like Xorg being an insecure pile of vomit without any indication of Wayland having security improvements for protecting against the shatter attacks that Xorg is extremely vulnerable to. The fact that GNOME 3 sucked, KDE 4 is still bloated and Unity, XFCE, LXDE and the others don't even handle notifications consistently means you never have a "fully working" desktop. Not to mention the lack of QA, the only decent distro from my experience QA-wise is RHEL (or CentOS) and it lacks forwards compatibility - don't expect proprietary apps not certified for it to work very well if they're compiled on a newer toolchain.

If Mac OS X had the API and ABI stability of Win32 (all my stuff still working decades later to the point where no video game or crucial app will fail before it's safely VMable), a 10 year support period with guaranteed 5 years worth of backporting for forwards-compatibility with newer OS iterations (so new stuff works, even without having new features) and protection against shatter attacks, I'd sell my soul to Apple in an instant. Apple don't have formal EOL policies and don't maintain full API/ABI compatibility between 10.x releases either. I wish they'd fix these issues so I could finally switch to an OS that's fun again - even if it is gradually going the way of the walled garden these days.

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Anonymous Coward

Windows + mingw + GnuWin32 = job done.

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Anonymous Coward

Eww, just eww. Windows that don't maximize properly and don't let you select text (no, that abysmal mark blocks of uselessness mode doesn't count).

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+1

for Fedora + Cinnamon

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The one Windows machine (Win2K) has Cygwin on it.

Not certain why, it's only been used for AutoCAD for the last 13 years or so,

The one aging iMac has most of the GNU toolchain on it. Handy sometimes.

Everything else runs Slackware (users) or BSD (servers). Sorted.

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A good question

So why go out on a limb to turn on a feature that's largely useless, potentially offensive, may violate user privacy and is insecure to boot?

The only answer which makes any sense to me (and this seems to be consistent with the developers' attitude to those who don't like the way that the UI has gone) is that Canonical have made a conscious decision to break with the main community of Linux users and go for the masses who don't really care as long as they can easily 'get stuff' - because that's where the money is.

The big flaw with this approach is that the only way most 'consumers' will see Linux is if they know someone willing to set it up for them. And those helpful people will tend to be the ones that Canonical have pissed off, and they will most likely be setting Mint (or anything but Ubuntu) up instead.

That, of course, will all change when OEMs start providing PCs with Ubuntu pre-installed (but I wouldn't hold my breath waiting for that to happen).

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Re: A good question

Another explanation could be that Canonical are trying to move away from having a "desktop environment", to having a "computing environment". Beyond tradition, is there any reason why an OS search field shouldn't also search the internet? Why should people have to open a web browser to perform a search, when there is search functionality built into the standard UI? I see it as a step toward a ChromeOS-like experience, where "the network is the computer".

The problem that Canonical have is that, unlike ChromeOS (but like Windows 8, as it happens), they're trying to alter the core experience of an existing product, whose current users have ingrained expectations.

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WTF?

Ring, Ring is the 90's. It wants its slogans back.

But the network is NOT the computer, and won't be unless some serious security and cognitive problems have been resolved first.

Sure, it's fine to run some software which blurs the lines between local and remote, as long as it is done in a controlled environment. Like a Virtual Machine. Or, barring that, a browser.

> Beyond tradition, is there any reason why an OS search field shouldn't also search the internet?

Yes. If you are not interested in remote results, remote results shouldn't be retrieved or shown.

Why should there be a magic search functionality in the standard UI that throws the kitchen sink at you when you look for yesterday's documents? Beats me.

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Re: A good question

Beyond tradition, is there any reason why an OS search field shouldn't also search the internet?

It's not a both/and scenario, to me. It could be very useful to get internet search results, but only when I want them. If I'm searching for local files, I absolutely do NOT want internet search results. And vice versa. There may well be scenarios where both results would be desired, but surely that isn't the norm and it really needs to be up to each user.

Why is it so fucking hard to just make options available to the user? This is precisely why I'm still running Debian Linux and why I haven't bothered to move to a Mac. Give me choices, damn it!

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Pirate

Re: A good question

".....That, of course, will all change when OEMs start providing PCs with Ubuntu pre-installed....." So what's to stop the PC vendors cutting their own search portals into the desktop insetad of Amazon's? Imagine the power it would give the PC vendors to be able to go to Google, Amazon, eBay, etc, and say "Hey, we're shipping x million PCs pre-installed with disto X this year, would you like us to link our built-in desktop search to your search results by default, it will only cost you x$m per year...?" Commecialising Linux makes you subject to the big boys' rules, and even Cannonical isn't big enough to face them down.

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Pint

Re: A good question

>>Canonical have made a conscious decision to break with the main community of Linux users and go for the masses who don't really care as long as they can easily 'get stuff' - because that's where the money is.

The big flaw with this approach is that the only way most 'consumers' will see Linux is if they know someone willing to set it up for them. And those helpful people will tend to be the ones that Canonical have pissed off.<<

Ubuntu is one of the few Linux distributions with strong OEM support.

Canonical is well known for making practical concessions to the reality of big box retail like the licensing of H,264.

Google Product Search returns about 1,000 hits of interest to the Ubuntu novice. Amazon.com --- perhaps not surprisingly --- about the same. in a search of books alone.

If the FSF or a LUG has a significant off-campus presence in upstate New York, I've seen no sign of it in almost fifteen years.

I doubt I could attract a Linux geek to these premises if I baited the trap with a keg of beer and a girl from one of the border town strip clubs.

The point being that, if Linux adoption is dependent on personal contacts or the "kindness of strangers," it is doomed to failure.

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@westlake - Re: A good question

Ubuntu does indeed seem to have a close relationship with OEMs. The question is - how far does that translate into products available to the masses with Ubuntu pre-installed? From the perspective of the home user, the choices still seem to be almost entirely between versions of Windows.

Something has to give in order for Ubuntu to become visible as an option to the average home user - Caonical need to turn this close relationship with OEMs into actual installations available in the shops.

And maybe Matt Bryant's observation above is a valid one - the OEMs could do their own deals with Google etc. to divert searches their way. At least it gets Ubuntu on machines.

For what it's worth, the only way I can see Ubuntu succeeding is if they can persuade OEMs to offer Dual Windows 8/Ubuntu installations.

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LDS
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Re: A good question

"Beyond tradition, is there any reason why an OS search field shouldn't also search the internet?"

It doesn't search the Internet. It searches Amazon, which is not the Internet. Mixing search results with ads to buy something looks to me really a very stupid idea, unless Canonical is very desperate about money.

And anyway I should be able to tell my PC when to search locally, when to search on my LAN, and when to search in the Internet or a combination of the above. If I know a damned file is on my diks, I can't see why it should 1) tell Amazon 2) search the whole Internet....

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having a "computing environment"

The excuse for Windows 8 is that MS want to sell phones and make lots of money like Apple...

What is Canonical's excuse for creating unusable crap?

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Re: A good question

If the computer is in a legal or Doctor's office the search could leak private info if you make a specific search.

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Re: A good question

I see it as a step toward a ChromeOS-like experience, where "the network is the computer".

Ah yes, the thin client. Those didn't really work in the '90s either.

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Pint

Re: @westlake - A good question

>>For what it's worth, the only way I can see Ubuntu succeeding is if they can persuade OEMs to offer Dual Windows 8/Ubuntu installations<<

The fundamental problem here --- the elephant in the room that no one ever talks about --- is the lack of compelling programs which are Linux only.

Which is perfectly evident in these official screen shots of the Ubuntu Software Center:

http://shop.canonical.com/index.php?cPath=19

Maintaining two operating systems. software libraries, and skill sets has all the appeal of root canal without general anesthesia.

You have to deliver a really big pay-off in return for all that pain and suffering.

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Re: A good question - @Captain Save-a-ho

Have an upvote - you typed pretty much *exactly* what I felt.

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Re: A good question

"Why should people have to open a web browser to perform a search, when there is search functionality built into the standard UI?"

This is one of those things that pops up every so often and typically fails to gain much traction. Think back to Watson and Apple's copy Sherlock which was replaced by the desktop search utility Spotlight. Essentially they were just a metasearch that grabs info from both the local filesystem and internet search engines. For some reason they aren't very popular but I'd hazard a guess that most folks prefer a clear delineation of different searches and search tools.

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Re: A good question

I suspect here's where they got sucked into their own misconceptions: tablet interface means no user generated content (because a tablet's a difficult place to generate content) therefore the only content we expect people to want is on the network.

Something like firefox's "search provider" icon or hp touchpad's "search provider" list should have been used. If there was a click box to use search amazon which wasn't on by default, I'm sure most people would have been glad for the feature. Now they just look creepy.

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Re: A good question

>> I doubt I could attract a Linux geek to these premises if I baited the trap with a keg of beer and a girl from one of the border town strip clubs.

Beer and ho's? Hey, I'll come.........

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@Greg J Preece (was: Re: A good question)

Personally, I run many of the ultimate "thin clients". Serial terminals, to be precise. Un*x is funny that way ... with the right drivers/shims, you can send a login to any text terminal. Down in the machine-room/museum/mausoleum I have a bank of eight 3151 amber on black terminals & Model M keyboards connected through an Arnet D-sub "connector box"[1] wired into a proprietary card via an IBM cable (DB62HD? Has been a lot of years ...), which in turn is plugged into a similar vintage PS2 running AIX, which provides thin-net access to the rest of the system. It's sister card controls eight more terminals, four here in the office & four in the Wife's office in the barn.

Glitter doesn't get work done.

[1] http://www.plccenter.com/Buy/ARNET/CHS0165004

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Re: @westlake - A good question

The fundamental problem here --- the elephant in the room that no one ever talks about --- is the lack of compelling programs which are Linux only.

Yep, which takes us back to the original point - Canonical still need the good will of those who install Linux for friends and family.

Perhaps when gaming support really takes off things will change, but until then I just don't see any improvement in prospects.

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Re: @westlake - A good question

"The fundamental problem here --- the elephant in the room that no one ever talks about --- is the lack of compelling programs which are Linux only."

For me there was one compelling application which was Linux only - trust. And Canonical broke it. I've moved to Mint+MATE.

But, actually there was a compelling software application in my line of work (education) which wasn't just Linux only - it was pretty much Ubuntu only - the Shuttleworth Foundation's SchoolTool (http://schooltool.org/). They've definitely killed that for us now.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: A good question

we should start our own distro with blackjack and hookers...

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Linux

Re: A good question

> Beyond tradition, is there any reason why an OS search field shouldn't also search the internet?

Performance.

The further you get from a register in the microprocessor, the slower things get. The slowness grows by multiple orders of magnitude each time you move outward. By the time you get to an ethernet jack or wireless antenna, you've gotten to a snail's pace and high response times (latency).

Go beyond your own router and it only gets worse.

The privacy violations are just an added bonus.

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Linux

Re: A good question

> Canonical is well known for making practical concessions to the reality of big box retail like the licensing of H,264.

So that's why Mint gained so much traction by installing things like h264 support "out of the box"?

Your portrayal of Canonical is divorced from reality.

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Re: @westlake - A good question

The fundamental problem here --- the elephant in the room that no one ever talks about --- is the lack of compelling programs which are Linux only.

It's a fair point, though I would argue that those programs do exist. As a novice video editor (but an experienced computing geezer) Kdenlive is a great video editor. It's a piece of piss to use, has a simple interface, but still has a lot of functionality, and supports a wide range of formats.

Also, K3B is the best CD ripper/burner going, hands down. KDESVN is the best Subversion client I've used, and you don't realise just how good tools like KRDC, KSnapshot or Kompare are until you try them against other such tools (or lack of tools, as is often the case in Win/Mac).

(If you've noticed that these are all KDE apps, that's because KDE is awesome.)

Actually, based on that, I'm going to contradict what I originally said. I don't use Linux for the 3rd-party apps. As you rightly pointed out, I can set up Netbeans, Firefox, Skype and the rest on Windows just as readily as Linux. I use Linux for everything around the 3rd-party apps. The superior file and task management, shortcuts, interface customisation, widgets, command line, etc. Put it this way:

Firefox in Windows and Firefox in Linux are the same.

Explorer in Windows and Dolphin in Linux are most definitely not the same.

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Happy

Re: @westlake - A good question

> The fundamental problem here --- the elephant in the room that no one ever talks about ---

> is the lack of compelling programs which are Linux only.

Agreed - but NX comes close for my money...

I run a Linux box which is always online with good connectivity - costs about £5/mo.

I have NoMachine installed on it, and on my work laptop (which is MS).

Fire up an NX connection and I have all my *nix utilities (including the one game I play, which is running under wine because Win7 doesn't support it) available. That's nothing special - but various other family members can do the same thing, at the same time (so that £5/month is getting cheaper) and if my connection drops I can just pick up where I left off later.

I can run either a remote desktop or just run an xterm and fire up other programs on demand.

It's also a secure connection, so work doesn't get antsy about my network usage, 'cos I'm using my own connection.

Had to set up a Windows box recently and I somewhat floundered with various tasks I used to consider "easy and obvious" - I could do them under *nix, not windows any more. Inertia is the main reason most people continue to pay M$

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Mint FTW

I switched to Mint back in 2008. I'd gotten fed up with Fedora and the frequent upgrade cycles and so had a look at Ubuntu in various flavours, which didn't quite fit. Then I tried Mint and things just worked in a way I was happy with. It's a shame they dropped the LXDE variant, because Mint 9 with LXDE was my preferred small machine choice, with KDE for multi-monitor desktops.

Of course, the irony is that Mint is piggy-backed on Ubuntu and uses its repositories for support, it's just that they're listening to users a bit better and are producing what people want rather than the "we know best" approach pioneered by Microsoft and taken up by Canonical/Ubuntu.

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IT Angle

Re: Mint FTW

I'm still using LXDE, you can do a workaround to get LXDE on ver 14. How much of a difference is there between LXDE and the current LMDE??

http://www.linuxmint.com/download_lmde.php

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Linux

Re: Mint FTW

LXDE and LMDE are two completely different concepts.

LXDE ("Lightweight X11 Desktop Environment") is a lightweight alternative to Gnome, KDE, XFCE, etc.

LMDE ("Linux Mint Debian Edition") is the standard Linux Mint stack built on top of Debian Testing, rather than Ubuntu. It's a rolling-release distro (with large update packs every ~6 months), and something of a gateway drug to running pure Debian Testing (or it was for me, at least).

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IT Angle

Re: Mint FTW

My story mirrors yours exactly. I had just built a new NAS so I installed the newest version of Ubuntu (when they first came out with Unity) and was wondering what the hell was going on. I was running away from Windows Vista and 7 & 8 and thought I would be safe with Ubuntu (like I always had been), only to be slapped with the same "we know best for you" attitude of "here's Unity". I can't tell you how sick I am of have the flavor of the week interface being shoved in my face. For crying out loud some of us just want the start-bar of Windows XP, and a menu-based program launcher attached to it. In the end I found the LXDE favor of Mint (after trying Cinnamon, hell I was trying anything that wasn't Unity) and felt at home again.

Thank for being there Mint.

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Thumb Up

Re: Mint FTW

Number6 said: "it's just that they're listening to users a bit better and are producing what people want rather than the "we know best" approach pioneered by Microsoft and taken up by Canonical/Ubuntu."

You nailed it. Disregard of user privacy is a secondary problem. The deeper issue here is that Canonical, like too many other development organizations today, have stopped listening to their user base. In fact, they're acting as though it is somehow 'macho' to ignore any preferences expressed by the customer. I hope they enjoy eating their own dog food, because company's not coming...

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Unhappy

We don't mind bugs.

"Cinnamon isn't perfect. In fact it can be quite buggy at times, but at least it's heading in a direction roughly opposite to GNOME and Unity."

Most Linux users don't mind things being buggy. We hate things being crippled. Hence the dislike of everything Ubuntu is becoming.

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Facepalm

Re: We don't mind bugs.

Most consumers don't like things being buggy. We hate the user experience being crippled. Hence the like of walled-gardens like Apple and Microsoft, and consumers will pay serious money for it.

There, fixed it for you. But you'll just have to fix that narrow viewpoint yourself.

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Re: We don't mind bugs.(Matt Bryant)

Errm, yes.

You state you don't like your user experience being crippled, then praise "walled garden" ecosystems where the user experience is crippled and enforced by design.

Nicely done.

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Paris Hilton

Re: We don't mind bugs.

Anecdotal evidence holds this to be quite true, consider that tablets and smartphones have been available for years but never gained wide acceptance until the iPhone epoch. Apple for all their faults were successful because they gave the masses what they wanted.

I am not one of those consumers but the reality of it is I am in a minority.

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Linux

Re: We don't mind bugs.

"Anecdotal evidence holds this to be quite true, consider that tablets and smartphones have been available for years but never gained wide acceptance until the iPhone epoch. Apple for all their faults were successful because they gave the masses what they wanted.

This, undoubtedly, is true, but it is also a strawman argument. The article is concerning why existing Linux users are deserting Ubuntu. Ubuntu may become popular with the masses because of its Applefication (though I doubt it), but those of us who like and use Linux because of its freedom and configurability won't be along for the ride.

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Linux

Re: We don't mind bugs.

What Apple innovated was CHEAP.

Tablets were not CHEAP until the iPad came along.

This wasn't about "usability" or the "walled garden", this was about CHEAP.

No one wanted $2000 tablets. Many of us fixated on the notion of an x86 Apple tablet gravely misjudged what the iPad would be. We were thinking MacOS tablet rather than a scaled up iPod (like the Archos 9).

CHEAP is what tablets have going for them. This greatly reduces the risks involved in trying something new. It can be a total bust and you aren't really out much.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: We don't mind bugs.

"walled garden" ecosystems where the user experience is crippled and enforced by design

It's exactly these sort of comments that I dislike. I don't care what OS you (evidently blindly) root for, but to declare the choices of other people as nothing more as some desire to belong to a club instead of a deliberate choice after weighing all argument for and against is somewhere between flat out ignorant to seriously insulting, especially on this topic.

For all its faults, one of the major issues to solve to wean people off a Windows platform is the usefulness of Outlook (astonishingly, even after it had the ribbon treatment). Only Kontact is starting to make inroads - I'm not going to insult anyone by calling "Evolution" a useless abomination, I think. If you want to give a newbie a machine and have them productive in minutes, you give them an OSX desktop and applications. For the gazillion choices on Linux, NONE of the desktops comes close to that, and even if they did, most of the applications built on top of them such as well re. usability because they were made by TECHNICAL people, not through any discussions with end users (do I need to mention GNOME 3 or Metro here?). Want to have a child use a computer? Well, the iPad does the job.

If you want to see crippled I invite you to compare Dia, Visio and Omnigraffle Pro, just as an exercise. The Linux desktop is crippled by a lack of decent applications ("decent" as in "usable by normal human beings without having to read a million interdependent HOWTOs or man pages"). That doesn't mean someone else may not come to a different conclusion, but this religious ignorant "my platform is better than yours" bleating that keeps returning is so juvenile that it's irritating and, well, stupid.

Yes, I know you dislike Apple products in any guise. Thank you. If you could actually come with some sensible arguments instead of regurgitating the same old rubbish you could even contribute something to a decision process that favours your precious ("preccccioussss") platform.

It may be worth reminding you that Apple actually didn't invent anything new with its iPhone, but was able for the first time ever to make phone companies hand over cash (novel in its own right) for hosting it by improving usability - walled garden or not, all the Open stuff hadn't come near that yet. And as for Open Source delivering uncrippled usability - do I need to mention the switch to GNOME 3, or Unity?

So there. And Happy New Year to you too.

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