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June 2, 2006

Will Linux Rule the World?

I posted earlier that Google builds Linux ports for Picasa and Google Earth, or actually improves Wine to support them. The post has generated interesting comments:

What I said:

"Many Linux users think Google should build native versions for their software, instead of using Wine, but if Wine becomes powerful enough to run (almost) any Windows software everyone will gain: more people will adopt Linux because they can use their favorite applications and companies will have a wider audience for their software."

What my readers think:

"And the software would suck as much as it does on Windows. The idea of Linux is to have a better alternative to Windows. Not to implement all their design-mistakes."

"Personally, I am not a member of the audience of those companies. And be sure - your favorite applications will never make it to my desktop. Picasa managed to stay about 30 minutes, just enough to make sure that it completely sucks."

"A lot of applications exist in the windows world, and/or are superior to their Linux counterparts, simply because of the larger user base it enjoys. I'm all in favor of getting Wine to be as powerful as possible, since application support is the only reason to use Windows. When Wine becomes perfect, that's not an argument anymore."

Linux has many applications that are clones of Windows applications (for example, XMMS is a Winamp clone), so if you could run the same setup on Windows and Linux, install the applications and use them, you wouldn't need to build native versions for each operating system. Of course, in an ideal world, you would have the source code for every application, you would compile it for your platform and run your optimized version.

Another problem for Linux is hardware support. I found a Linux distribution (PCLinuxOS) that has different builds for different graphics cards, but I couldn't find another Linux distribution that works on my Acer notebook: all crash in the setup phase. Ok, maybe I didn't try every distribution, but I tried to install Ubuntu, Gentoo, Mandriva, Slackware and many other small ones. I'll keep burning boot CDs and DVDs until I find a decent distribution that works with my notebook.

I think open source it's great, but most users don't want open-source software. They use Firefox because it's fast, secure and better than Internet Explorer, not because they can find the source code and change it. So we shouldn't say: I don't like Picasa because it's not open-source. It's Google's decision and that shouldn't influence our opinion about the software itself, which has a very nice interface and it's very easy to use.

So how do you think Linux will rule the world? Or, at least, my world and my notebook's world?


  1. I've tried Fedora Core 3 with no success.

  2. They use Firefox because it's fast, secure and better than Internet Explorer, not because they can find the source code and change it.

    That's true, but have you considered that Firefox is better and more secure exactly because it is open source? I'm not sure, but i think it's an obvious option.

    From what i learn by talking to people and reading Linux messageboards (i'm a Linux-user myself), is that Open Source makes you somewhat an idealist. As long as i'm using free software, i'm not supporting monopoly, and that makes me feel good. That's why it wouldn't work by using Windows software on Linux with Wine.

    My main reason to use Linux is the massive and easy access to all the software i need - when i need it. So... Wine is not the solution for me, now that i've become used to get my programs through apt-get.

  3. @romerican
    The rest the world could give two spits and spunk about line command and config files and rpm packages and such. It's a joke.

    Sounds like it is decades ago you've tried a major Linux Distro mate ;-)

  4. Windows Vista is Linux made perect. It has excellent hardware support, it protects users from themselves (and really, you can do a lot more damage on Linux than Windows a lot easier), it has a lot of software and Windows isn't unstable anymore, we've had 98 and ME crash on us before but XP doesn't do that often.

    Open Sources means nothing to me. I think some people use Linux to be different, others may have legitimate reasons to use it but come on Open Source does not mean better - its just a word thrown around to make something seem cool.

    If I bought a naked PC or one with Linux installed - I would go pay for Windows, because its better in every possible way for me - why would I want to spend hours installing broadband by messing with etc's and .conf's and maddness? Because I can claim I am a fan of Open Source or because I can get to use some 'not quite Windows' software like kUseless or xCrashesAlot?

  5. Linux is the fastest growing operating system! Off course it will rule the world.

    Linux is easy to use. The problem is that there are too many "mickey mouse" IT staff that know nothing or little of Linux.

    Moreover, Windows could have been more secure if it were not for the incompetent *Windows only* staff. They don't know much more than use setup wizards and point 'n click.

    Real IT professionals can work in heterogeous IT enviornments. Those who find Linux difficult, should consider a different career.

  6. The free software is good, I use a lot of that - but only because it is free and as useful. I don't want to pay for that stuff, but a whole OS is different and Open Source means nothing more than free to me.

    I could set up a DSL modem in 10 minutes on Windows, it would take hours on Linux - if I could even get it to work, and I have tried - my modem company even prodives linux files, but compiling and editting files is a pain in the ass.

    Well, Amarok sure crashed a lot of Mandriva 10 - WMP can hanlde my mp3s, and by clicking File - Open it is unlikely I screwed up and it came installed with the OS!

  7. i'd rather use IE through wine on linux than use native ff. Why? Because it's dog-slow. I am 100% certain that i wouldn't had stayed in linux if it wasn't for the excellent opera product, which alert readers will see isn't an opensource product, which kind of sucks since small bugs creep in from time to time which could have been fixed faster, BUT nevertheless is the best and fastest browser out there!

  8. I think that until linux world has not develop a Ilife suite in a bundle (itune, iphoto, imovie, idvd, GarageBand, iweb) in open source, it will not interess common people. All bicks exists (execpt Imovie), but they are not integrated. That's will make the difference for linux world.

  9. From my point of view, OS won't matter in the future. When we see Google releasing all these services, we can think who needs to install skype on the PC since we have Gtalk... The point is the user will have less and less product difference according to the choice of the OS. It won't be like Mac and Windows 10 years ago. Linux rules on some part of the computer world (like web servers). But, if Macromedia doesn't release the latest version of Flash for linux, it will be a real obstacle for the Linux desktop conquest. So, there is no need to port evverything, you just need to offer a way to run things. The perfect OS is not in sale on Earth anyway.

  10. Well, I have used new distros, and even had installed just Linux (Fedora) on my machine a week or two ago. I was really going to use Linux by itself. I am back at Windows. I like Linux, and love its overall structure, lack of Swap File usage, and it is easy to set up. I think for many people, who do nothing more than use the internet, email, word processing, and download viruses and spyware, would do fine on a Linux system at work. Probably save some IT headaches.

    But at home, no way. My video never worked as well as it should, even after following the nightmare to get the NVidia drivers up and running. Sound was not as good either, and both Amorak and Rythmbox (?) ran a little too high on the CPU chart and were unstable. The newest WMP beta runs less on CPU, opens faster and is far more slick. ITunes is a memory hog, but ran less on the CPU. Five button scroll mouse? Don't even start me there. That should be standard. Palm T|X? WOn't work, or too much work. IPod, I know there is a way to do this (Amorak) but the app crashed too much.

    The point is, that although Linux is great (and easy) in many ways, it is not for the faint of heart.

    One other trouble is that one of the selling points of Linux is its security and stability. My current machine is a five year old Dell 8200. It came with an XP re-installation disk, so I can keep off excessive junk and install a plain XP followed by sp2. I have never had a problem with the machine. I never, literally, have had a BSOD. I never get viruses, or Malware. I am careful, use a firewall router, use Firefox and Eudora email (and Gmail). I know people at work who can pick up spyware in ten minutes on their machine. I am forced to use IE at work and never get spyware. They need Linux. I would love to use it, but it doesn't make my life easier. I hear from Linux disciples how they use Linux because of the insecurity of Windows, yet ironically, your average competent Linux user, could switch to Windows (or just use what comes with your next machine you buy) and set up their system so that it uses the full power of the hardware, configure the Windows system so that it is secure, safe, and all with far less trouble then setting up the average Linux system.

  11. On the "Linux will rule the world" thing:
    Hardware compatibility is a problem. Professionnal software is a problem too. And games. They will be difficult to solve for linux.
    I'm quite optimistic when it comes to games support. It's making progress. I don't see developpers moving away from DirectX, therefore it sounds like the Wine project is the only way to go.
    For software designed for professionnals (sound/video editing, graphics design, 3D modeling and animation, etc.) it's a bit of a catch-22. I'm less optimistic. I don't think Wine is the solution in this case. Even if the program runs, it offers poor desktop integration, which is becoming more important. I hope that businesses will get more interested in linux (reduced costs maybe?), thus creating a real demand.
    Finally, hardware support is a real problem when it comes to switching. A lot of hardware isn't supported yet, isn't working as tightly, or isn't even planned on being supported ever. Once using linux though, non-compliant hardware can simply be avoided.
    The Mac somewhat suffers (suffered?) from the same problems, but they managed, by targetting precise groups of people, like graphics designers, to create a platform suitable for them. They provided adequate hardware and hardware support, as well as tight software suited to general use, and graphics design.
    Otherwise it all depends on the hardware manufacturer, software companies and game developpers willingness to support alternative platforms. And, as I believe philanthropy isn't quite the trend these days, the demand must first be created, which is the difficult part.
    Will linux rule the world? I don't know. Does it matter? To me it doesn't. I'm using linux, my computer illiterate parents use Ubuntu (I set it up for them though, but it's not like they could install Windows either), and everyone is free to use whatever they want. More linux users is always nice, but not vital to me. The speed at which WoW (which I never played, I hope some other games will get as good support through Wine as what I've heard of WoW) has been supported by Wine shows the advantage of having many people wanting something.

    On the "does opensource actually matter?" thing:
    To me, the linux desktop experience is vastly superior to Windows. Wine is great for games, but not for applications. Desktop integration and programs interopability is the new thing, and open source programs shine at it. They all can be modified and are generally plugin friendly. Their file formats are open and can be used by other applications. Great standards can arise.
    Closed source often lags behind, companies have to make complicate deals and concessions for their programs to work together.
    And it's in the smaller apps and general desktop feel too. See, I'm forced to use Windows at work. Where are my middle-click copy/pasting, my tomboy notes, my deskbar applet, my uncluttered menus, and my virtual desktops? They're not gimmicks when you get used to these.
    The different philosophy often shows, too. Open source programs generally don't ask you for donations, don't suddenly offer ads (well, ok, that would be silly), not even on their website, and developpers are more open to the suggestions of their users. They also don't have a problem with using some code from other open source programs, improving their usefulness and cutting down developpment time.
    I'm also quite tired of the Microsoft gangrene. The system itself rots, gets slower with time. The adware and spyware riddled windows freewares are sometimes difficult to avoid (like when installing a new version of a previously trusted program). MSN messenger too, which was "the new thing", and here in some countries of Europe dominated the world of IM in a matter of days, is now filled with ads and useless extra (paid) features. Now people are stuck with it.

    So, yes, even with the ideological aspects put aside (which aslo matter to me) open source makes a difference.

  12. Hi, it was my comment you were qouting about. "..implementing the same design mistaking as windows.."

    But I feel it was taken a bit out of context.
    You said there existed many linux clones of windows programs. Which is true, but that was not my point. A good program is a good program: only if it integrates well within the OS.

    Not just the visible stuff (the native themes,the native icon set), but also the interface stuff (open/edit dialogs, default home folder), the localization stuff (the language you choose at login time), the automatic system-wide install/update stuff, the clear seperation between user and system data and not to forget the accessibility stuff.

    The problem is: a lot of these things will never be possible with wine, simply because they are no common design decisions and integration on the windows platform. How can you make a windows app aware of user rights management on linux? How can you make it aware of the language and accesibility options choses at login time? All these things are dealt with by the operation system if you're running linux, but not with windows.

    So, (and _that_ was my point), if all our popular apps are running through wine, it will be either 'just as good' as windows, or worse. It can't be better because we're aren't enforcing any interface, localisation, security nor packing-management. If would come to that: i would rather just run Windows.

    Let's not make their design mistakes again! Even they are stuck with having to create an operating system that is backwards compatible (which is 90% why Vista is not going to be what was promised: it would just brake too much current legacy applications). Microsoft could create much better OS (and even has prototypes of such systems), if it didn't need to support legacy applications.

    But we already have windows. We need something new, something _better_. Linux has _recently_ become somewhat superior to Windows. Its pretty young still, and growing everyday. The gap left by Microsoft, by not providing a new Windows for so many years, has given Linux a chance to catch up. And they did. A recent modern linux distrobution, despite what some idiots here have been saying does not require command line tweaking of any sorts.

    Sure: you can tweak and get even more out of linux if you open the hood. But saying Linux is more complicated, is like saying that a car, of which you can open the hood so you can alter its engine, is more complicated than a car of which you're not allowed to open the hood. You want Linux to be as simple as windows: just replace everyline on every forum about some cool weird tweak you can do on the command line with the following phrase: "this is not possible". And it'll be just like with Windows. :-)

    For all it's worth, i know two kinds of people: people that can operate a preinstalled operationg system such as linux or windows, and those that can actually install, setup and tweak both these systems.

    Some semi-nerds will claim Linux is more difficult, but they either tried some weird distro, or they tried it a long time ago. The last year things really changed. We have liveCDs, that can install graphically with one click. Try Knoppix, Ubuntu or even Linspire for all its worth.

    As for the hardware support, you are absolute right. But its getting a bit better. The thing is: its a chicken/egg type of problem. Drivers are supplied by the company that manufactures the hardware. They provide windows drivers because most people use Windows. If most were Linux, they would be providing Linux drivers.

    Also to comment on the video-display issues. You problely (just like on windows) need codecs. If it were legal to put them on a free linux cd, we would. But it's not. You have to pay for them. Often you already have, in which case its legal to install them on linux as well. How to install these easily differs per distro. On ubuntu its means installing a bunch of packages called gstreamer0.10-plugins-***** .. what will always work is to download mplayer, and get a codec pack from the mplayer site. Google is your friend here. Your problem ss not about video drivers. You need codecs. And the most used codecs have software-pattents on them: so they can't be coupled unless someone pays for them. The commercial variants of most distro's pay this for you, and supply them. The free versions don't. But you can still install them easily, esspecially if the codecs are already liscended to you.

  13. Eventually, Linux will die after the first stable release of the GNU/Hurd system, though some fanatics will still use it, but nothing less, nothing more.

  14. Maybe I am one of the idiots you mention above. Yes, Linux does work right out of the box. As I said, it is a good operating system and does many things better than Windows. It is also, I agree, a little unfair to blame Linux for decisions companies make concerning their software and drivers.

    You mention video, maybe partly because I mention it. Out of the box, Fedora Core 5 does not provide full NVidia support. Even with the downloaded driver, I do not get the resolutions and refresh rates, or just basic desktop responsiveness, that I do in Windows. You can tell me where I can tweak this without a command line, or even what specific command line tweaks I should make to give me the resolution and refresh rate I get with Windows, because even with Google, I cannot get it to work.

    Yes in Windows, I need codecs, just like Linux. Sometimes I actually have to deal with the "word" codec in Windows, although usually in music programs. But Windows provided good Nvidia support for my current video card five years ago when I first bought XP (it is not bleeding edge, nor was it when I got the computer). To upgrade, I download one file, double click, and reboot.

    This is not Linux's fault, but it is a fact. Grandma can have a good Linux experience out of the box, but she is also someone who does not normally worry about graphics, or music codecs, or downloading new programs. She is less likely to have typical Windows problems with Linux. But if she wants super easy access to online music stores, use her IPod, or Palm, she better have someone to help her--or I hate to say--get Windows.

  15. I spent a lot of time at the forum. It was helpful in some ways (particularly if you line the command interface--which I do and used a lot in DOS 15 years ago) but frustratingly cryptic in others. And I did everything recommended to get my video up to snuff, from changing configuration files to automatic set up through downloads. There was never a agreement on what to do to get full video power, and I never could. This has no bearing on whether Linux is better (it is) but does speak to whether Linux will ever rule.

    Overall, my video is OK. My main concern was with scrolling in Firefox. Again, I am sure there is a solution, and I am sure if I had the time I would find it. But I don't have the time to get video, my ipod, my palm to work at the level that I get out of the box in Windows.

  16. I think I'm with the cynics on this one, but
    - It may be unrealistic to think which OS is best. The question is best for what? Linux is fantastic for running servers etc. It is fantastic for geek hobbyists and companies with IT departments. Unfortunately it is less than fantastic for non-geek users running 'interesting' varieties of hardware. People say driver support is there, but it is too hard to find: especially when for eg your USB ADSL modem is not supported by the OS, makes downloading the right drivers pretty tricky. I was stoked to run some Windows apps under WINE in Slax the other day, but we're a long way off most users meing able to instantly substitute.
    - Open source software has presented a fantastic dose of 'competition' to Microsoft. I'll probably upgrade to Vista, but at least I'm having to think long about it first.
    - Linux could help a lot in government, education and developing countries.
    - Linux could carve a useful niche (especially with some helpful development resource nudges from the googles of the world)in running the basic PC/thin client platform which is enough for many ie internet surfing, basic multimedia playback, email, office and all those snazzy AJAX-run apps people are getting into.

  17. Folks...!!!
    We should remember onething here, with companies like Google providing Software as service and over the internet and most surprisingly for free, all you need is a stable OS and some minimal applications to start with, rest is available on the net. So, I see a bright future for Linux and its flavours. There is a day in near future where you'll feel your lightest Origami also a heavier one when your kids start using a cell phone to browse internet and start editing documents and sharing the spreadsheets and presentations. I'm sure Adobe should be working on something similar to this Office Live.
    Go to: to see what's happening to Windows Empire.

  18. Hi,

    First I love linux and use nearly daily at work...
    I was a big fan of Mandriva but always had problems configuring the thing properly on my Thinkpad... whereas I finally found THE distribution that also can help you sort out the problems you are facing ... namely OpenSuse 10.1 ... It has a great hardware support (this is the first distrib that allowed me to do a hibernation "out of the box" on my laptop), there is also some "futute" feature (as MS is plannint to put on Vista next year ...) like XGL (desktop managed by Graphic Card instead of CPU...) really great...
    And I would also look forward to enhancements to Wine as some application can sometime work better under wine than under Linux (ever tried MS Office under Wine ??)
    As for those talking about security on Vista ... they made it so wrapped that you are bugged with endless question and confirmation and ... everytime you want to do something... talk about security ... after the 10th question, users will just answer "yes" to anything they are prompted...
    Under linux, normal users just CAN'T do harm to the system ... (yes you have to create a user other than ROOT... )
    Hardware support is getting better and better as the providers are embracing the linux world... this does not mean that they must be open source... it is a nice feature but not necessary ...

    (just one thought ... why has NASA chosen Linux for their spacecraft ???? I wonder ...;-) )

  19. Well people i tried Ubuntu. It totally sucked. I couldn't even install my USB modem. My modem setup CD has a folder for linux with some script file(says when opened in Ubuntu) but i clicked it nothing happened. Why is it so hard everything in Linux. Why its always programmer based? There are simple users like me who use computer to make life easier. Why it can't be simple.......?

  20. mmm...i say windows isnt as unstable as everybody says it back off...xp rocks...

    not to mention that "FREE" software isnt professional...not even a little...its real impressive when you goto open an excel document on openoffice calc and everybodys like, "whats open office?" and ur like, "oh its a free microsof works." when ur really thinking.."damn i should have just paid the 80 bucks for excel..."...ya...been there done it...

  21. People are just used to windows and the mac os. If we had all grown up using Linux then it would all be different. Once upon a time we all sat down in front of a new os and learned how to use it, and linux is the same way. It's too bad the author is having problems with his Acer notebook. Dell and HP seem to work the best, but you can't blame the linux folks. It's the corporate kids who don't want to release the source to the OSC, making things very hard. I use all three (Windows, OsX and Linux) because I beleive in the right tool for the right job.

  22. I used to be a Windows user. I wanted to change to Linux but always had the problem of having-to-read-a-lot-to-configure-anything. That was until I tried Ubuntu. Maybe I was lucky, buy it detected everything automatically in my laptop and I had it up and running in no time.

    Simpleness. That was what I was looking for. And I agree with some people here that Linux will become popular when it becomes easy to use (where popular really means popular).

    And, about Windows, I don't know how it is in your countries, but in mine (Argentina) Windows is massively used because only a few pay for the license. Pirate copies of Windows are everywhere. I mean, people use Windows because it is free for them...

  23. people use windows because they get all major professional expensive software FREE (piracy) and that's all

  24. "They use Firefox because it's fast, secure and better than Internet Explorer, not because they can find the source code and change it."

    This is quite a stupid statement. :) U just don't get it, do u? Firefox is faster, more secure and better than IE precisely because it is open source, and developers can improve the source code.

  25. I am a daily user of Linux, but I have very strong mixed feelings for it.
    Why ? I hate it because it seems the developers have all the fun tweaking
    the source codes. They have no agenda at all except it seems trying
    to make the world a better a place. Even though the installation seems
    to be easier for standard hardware, but if someone is not careful and bought
    some stupid or very new hardware in one of the computer components,
    then all sorts of troubles will follow. To give you an example.
    I have a computer with Intel onboard graphic card (Mobile GM965 chipset).
    When I bought it in Jan 2008, my server friend recommended RHEL
    clone CentOS. However,
    the CentOS 5.1 cannot even give me a native 1280x800 res.
    I went to Intel web site, and they give some sketchy build, and I tried to
    follow. Ha, what happened is a long late nights for a few months. I had not
    learned to give up.
    Basically I see there are a few important issues:
    (1) The Linux kernel number is changing too fast. Some distros are trying to catch up
    and some are lagging far behind (e.g. RH). No one seems to bother the one in
    the middle. If you have a problem, you cannot solve it, you are asked to
    change to a distro that will fix a problem, but then other problems
    will appear if you stress some parts.
    This pattern will go on and on.. But the time you know it, you either go
    bold or the hair turn white..
    (2) Is Linux doing something to the fact that the computer that a person
    buys is >90% preinstalled with Windows. This means even though Linux tries to
    change the world, they have already fattened Windows. The moment an average
    person buys a computer and tries to put Linux in it, that's seems silly and
    self-contradictory. You are throwing something that is preinstalled and
    trying something so uncertain.
    (3) My intel onboard experience tells me that the closed drivers provided
    by nvidia or ati is probably a good model that Linux should adopt. Intel
    leaves some half-cooked drivers that does not really work if you stress
    it a little bit. In the name of open-source, they can choose to ignore you
    if you trying to stick to a less popular kernel number/distro.

    Conclusion: I think there is no hope for Linux to compete with Windows.
    The only hope I can think of for now is for Mac OS. The hardware seems uniform,
    so it should be easy to install Linux on it. Of course, now you are paying
    money to Steve, but I think it is worth it.


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