Linux: when Yes becomes Nooo

Linux: when Yes becomes Nooo

Summary: Almost everywhere I go these days I run into people who are turned off on Linuxbecause they, or a trusted source such as the nitwit on the next barstool, have hada negative experience with it.

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TOPICS: Open Source
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In thinking about what Linux in particular and Unix in general needs to succeed against Microsoft, I've come up with a couple of questions where more talkback contributions could be helpful.

One of those is the concept of the killer problem - modelled on the idea of the killer application (on which more tomorrow), but backwards. What's the basic issue slowing Linux adoption?

My candidate for this is misplaced expertise. Almost everywhere I go these days I run into people who are turned off on Linux because they, or a trusted source such as the nitwit on the next barstool, have had a negative experience with it.

In my own experience there are failed, or failing, Linux installations all over the place with a plurality of personal experiments failing mainly because the graphics subsystems are misinstalled and a majority of business failures happening because the people who set them up already know everything they need to about computing and so implement Linux as a second rate Windows substitute to perpetuate all of the costs and inefficiencies of the technology they know while getting none of the benefits of Linux.

My friend "Liz", for example, is a very bright, hardworking, and extremely knowledgeable Windows systems administrator who, at my suggestion, loaded Debian on a spare home PC - some kind of higher end HP box. At first I got positive reports, but after a while it became clear that she never actually used it - just sometimes turned it on, let guilt drive an hour or two of struggle, and then turned it off to work with XP on another machine.

So why? I could never get a straight answer, but when I finally convinced her to let me see the machine the reason was immediately obvious: GNOME looked horrible and ran with the ponderous agility of an oil tanker. What had apparently happened was that the default install hadn't quite got the graphics hardware or the (third party) monitor right, and she had known nothing to suggest that the resulting mess didn't fairly represent a Linux GUI.

And then there's "Larry." His business card says he's the "Manager: Internet Server Operations" and he has a staff of four to look after an e-business site running on several racks of IBM Xeons with Red Hat and a big EMC.

This is a websphere custom implementation that cost his employer more than a few hundred thousand to set up, but completes only a few thousand fairly simple transactions every day with fewer than a hundred thousand daily accesses to the front page.

So here's part of what I can't figure out: what do those people do all day?

Larry's busy - at least he's usually not available to take my calls. His people must be too, since service requests generally go unanswered until blessed by a steering committee - but what do they do all day?

I know I haven't a clue. Do you?

Topic: Open Source

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Talkback

306 comments
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  • but what do they do all day?

    Hang out on forums bashing Windows all day would be my guess! It is a religion you know.
    HerbieHightower
  • Because they have

    Things more important than babysitting an operating system that can't even get something as simple as a graphics configuration correct.

    You keep blaming the people and not the product, and THAT's the problem.

    I'll tell you what I tell all the Linux people. Go use OS X for a month to understand how a user-friendly UNIX system actually behaves, then go back and fix Linux.
    baggins_z
  • The "killer problem" is Linux itself.....

    I wonder, if 'Liz' had installed Windows XP on that same machine, I bet it (XP) would have correctly identified both the graphics hardware and monitor and set them up correctly.

    See Paul, you can make as many excuses as you like, blame the end user, blame the experts, blame the wind speed, but in the end it always ends up the same:
    LINUX IS THE KILLER PROBLEM.
    Scrat
    • Not necessarily

      [b] I bet it (XP) would have correctly identified both the graphics hardware and monitor and set them up correctly.[/b]

      You have nothing to base that on except prejudice. I've had at least as many problems installing XP and 2003 Server as Linux, depending on the age and type of hardware involved. Troublshooting why something doesn't work positively takes longer on XP, especially networking issues close to the network level. And XP doesn't give the average user much latitude to fix things. My last Windows horror experience was trying to hunt down 2003 drivers for a laptop modem. Try that sometime.

      If you have a Linux box built with known supported hardware, you'll never have an easier installation experience with any non-embeded OS. Expecting every distro of Linux to support every crapass combination of off the wall hardware ever assembled and optimized for a different operating system is both unreasonable and ignorant.

      Yet that so many distros do just that as well as they do is absolutely amazing to anyone who knows how difficult that is to code. Especially considering that many manufacturers don't support Linux (that's changing very fast) and the developers have to reverse engineer their own support.

      Your screen name is appropriate to the level of your expertise.
      Chad_z
      • Huh?

        [i]"My last Windows horror experience was trying to hunt down 2003 drivers for a laptop modem."[/i]

        You installed Windows Server 2003 on a laptop??? And you were surprised that it didn't support the modem? Unelss you're building a RAS box, I can think of few circumstances where you would want a modem on a server...
        Real World
      • Installed Server 2003 on a lappie???

        Why???
        No_Ax_to_Grind
        • Traveling salespeople

          who need a local MS-SQL server for their demonstrations do it sometimes. A salesperson for one software product we were interested in used 2000 server (this was a few years ago) on a laptop for that reason. A slow WAN connection to a SQL server would have severely damaged his demonstration, seeing as we would have needed a local SQL server if we used that product anyway.
          Michael Kelly
          • Do you need a Server OS

            Do you need to a Server OS to run SQL Server 2000? I've installed it only on Server OSes and never tried on a Client OS. I have installed Oracle on Windows 2000 Professional and XP with no problems. If you can't do that with MSSQL Server then that's a definited drawback to using MSSQL over Oracle.
            voska
          • Actually I don't know

            if you need a server to run MS-SQL. It just happens that this guy did. It could have been simply because MS SMB server was cheaper than a regular SQL server running on Win2K.
            Michael Kelly
          • MSDE

            For XP/Pro and 2000 you can use MSDE which has almost all of the features most applications use. There are some more advanced features like full text searching and large database support (2GB maximum), but for the most part it'll run perfectly for any demonstration. It syncs up nicely with any SQL server so you can work with the data offline, and is free of cost.

            On a side note... Windows XP and Windows 2003 use the exact same drivers. Windows 2003 has far fewer drivers than XP does because they were trying to shift away from some really old legacy components like SoundBlaster cards from 1995. Even then if a driver isn't available on a website because they say it's included on the XP CD, just pop in an XP CD to get the driver.
            Yensi717
          • SQL Server desktop

            is probably all that was required to install for that purpose and it works on all supported MS OS's.
            balsover
        • Because of Windows

          Like what if you wanted DHCP. Can't do it on Windows XP so you're forced to go Windows 2003 server. But Linux you could do it with the desktop install. You just add DHCP.

          There are plenty of little server tasks that you may want to do from mainly client PC be it a laptop or desktop. Windows does not allow you to add components to the OS so you're stuck with what you get and in some cases you need to install a Server OS on a Laptop. Silly as that sounds it happens. But what can you do when you need services that Micrsoft decreed will only be on thier Server OSes?
          voska
          • I assume you mean a DHCP server

            because all flavors of Windows that I'm aware of support DHCP as a client. I have to ask, why would you need DHCP on a XP machine? I can see no reason in the enterprise, and for the home, just use a simple (and inexpensive) router.
            Real World
          • We had a reason for it

            Just needed a DHCP server in secured subnet for a couple of lap tops that would change on regular basis.

            Now that's really not worth spending a grand to buy Windows 2000 Server license. Especially when you can do it with Linux on older hardware for nothing.
            voska
          • I'm not arguing against your choice of Linux

            but isn't there a third-party Windows app that you could have spent far less than $1000 on? I agree, this is a situation where Linux is ideal, and I love being able to use an old Compaq Deskpro as a server at home (Gentoo, no GUI).
            Real World
          • DHCP server on a laptop???

            So what does the rest of your network do when you take it on the road?
            3D0G
          • I've seen this

            Gamers do this. It makes it easy to set up lan games. One person's laptop has DHCP server. So the rest of the network is on the road with him.

            I saw a recent bus trip where college students were using wireless to play WarCraft 3 as they drove.
            voska
          • Salesmen also do this

            if you are selling a network software product the salesmen often have DHCP enabled and carry a hub with them so that he can demostrate the software on site.
            balsover
      • Not prejudice, experience...

        [i]You have nothing to base that on except prejudice. I've had at least as many problems installing XP and 2003 Server as Linux, depending on the age and type of hardware involved. Troublshooting why something doesn't work positively takes longer on XP, especially networking issues close to the network level. And XP doesn't give the average user much latitude to fix things. My last Windows horror experience was trying to hunt down 2003 drivers for a laptop modem. Try that sometime.[/i]

        I tell you what Chad, lets get Paul Murphy to ask "Liz" to install XPSP2 onto that same machine, and we will see if it recognises the hardware and monitor correctly. As I said, my BET is that it will. As for saying that I have nothing to base that on, I have installed both Windows (from 95 upwards) and Linux (SuSE 5 upwards) on machines of various ages, and almost everytime it is Linux that fails to recognise hardware correctly. Moreover the problems continue when Linux does recognise the hardware, but there is no support for it.

        As for your comment about 2003 drivers for a laptop modem, I find it odd that you would choose to install a server OS on a laptop, however should you need to I would suggest searching for a WDM XP driver for the modem. W2K3 is partially able to use some XP drivers so you might be lucky there.

        [i]If you have a Linux box built with known supported hardware, you'll never have an easier installation experience with any non-embeded OS.[/i]

        Nice utopian idea but how many computers out there are built with known supported hardware? - A typical Linux counter-argument here. Linux couldn't identify the hardware, therefore it is the hardware's fault.....

        [i]Expecting every distro of Linux to support every crapass combination of off the wall hardware ever assembled and optimized for a different operating system is both unreasonable and ignorant.[/i]

        ...and yet Windows XP does a very good job of this out of the box. Again, Linux cannot do it therefore asking it to is unreasonable and ignorant....

        As for my screen name, im sorry you didn't get the humor here (I thought it was pretty obvious, I guess I was wrong).
        As for my level of expertise, I would like to quote you here:

        [i]"You have nothing to base that on except prejudice.[/i]

        Oh, and a seething hatred for anything non-Linux...
        Scrat
        • Reply -> Not prejudice, experience...

          Hi there scrat hehe..

          You seem to be quite a "windows" worshiper, and
          chat seems to be a "linux" follower hehe.. Here's
          an opinnion from someone who has learned
          computers on windows, and made a living at
          maintaining person/commercial based systems on
          windows, but to go even further back has always
          loved dos and the power of the command line.

          I would agree with you that linux is not quite at
          the level that windows is as far as ease of use
          for a typical computer "idiot". First of all I am
          not comparing linux as in the "kernel"
          technically that all linux is... I am referring
          to a linux distribution that is fairly well put
          together available as a workstation / personal OS
          such as Suse and Fedora Core series, you get the
          the idea.

          I think there are some concepts that are very
          relevant to this argument that were not
          mentioned. Namely, understanding the background
          of both linux & windows. Linux being a
          "offspring" of unix which was used mainstream in
          commercial network envirnoments, and windows
          ofcourse coming from the opposite end of that
          spectrum, that being an OS designed for the
          average Joe as a workstation.
          I don't know if saying that alone is enough for
          you to start seeing glimpses of the picture I am
          trying to reveal here but what that says to me is
          that in theory, linux should be a much more
          effecient/secure operating system for the
          commercial/network perspective, and windows
          should be a musch more solid platform for the
          average user seeking a GUI, but lack in the
          server end of things.
          In my opinnion that is exactly how it is. In most
          cases the windows gui on a server machine
          consumes probably somewhere from 30-80% (maybe
          more) of the system's resources (depending of the
          hardware used ofcourse) on the GUI alone, before
          running any other server processes (which really
          is the main reason for having a server to begin
          with).
          So in my humble opinnion linux takes the gold
          when it compares as a server OS. If anyone would
          use the arguments that linux is to complex to
          configure/understand for a server machine, then I
          would say they should not be a technician,
          perhaps a graphics designer or such.

          Linux as a strictly GUI workstation is lacking in
          certain areas, understandably (back to the
          background)... but my point here is it's
          "evolution". If you're to look at the evolution
          of X-windows based desktop management systems
          available to use depending on your style, it has
          come a LONG way in the last 5 years or so... I
          mean in huge leaps. Reason I say this is because
          I have been trying to make a "full" linux
          conversion on my person system since probably
          1997, or 1998 or so.. and I have finally made a
          full conversion about 6 months ago. I have tried
          many times during this time span, and almost
          every time it felt "too early" ... as a server I
          have ran it since the late 90s.. but not as GUI.

          I am running Yoper v2.1 right now.. originally
          decided to try it out simply because of it's
          claim to be optimized for performance and for
          it's blazing speed, and with that I have been
          really impressed, they did an awesome job at
          that. Ofcourse there are still quite a few bugs
          to be worked out, but to look at it now, and to
          remember what linux as a gui used to be, I can
          only smile and say it really will put a dent in
          microsoft's market share. It might not happend
          tomorrow, but it's innevidable.

          Anyways... I can go on rambling about this issue
          forever, I'm not sure there is a "post" that will
          answer it all on this issue. I believe windows
          has it's advantages, namely for the gamers out
          there, and certain users that need some sort of a
          software package that right now is available on a
          windows platform only, but for everyone else...
          linux is just about ready to be discovered.

          The root of this argument ofcourse was "the
          compexity and lack of 'intelligence' in the whole
          system install process" .. that I think is one of
          the hardest points to defend on either side,
          especially with all the hardware variance out
          there. In my years or system administration I
          have seen literally nightmare of installs of both
          windows os and linux based os especially when
          win2k just came out.

          I think any EXPERIENCED tech would agree that the
          end user should not be responsible for that part
          of owning a computer. It is our (administrators)
          jobs to either decide on windows, or linux (in
          which case u gotta chose a distro as well) get to
          know those, and offer a customer a professional
          service of getting their system to a usefull and
          effecient state for their needs. In this
          situation I believe windows to be slightly ahead,
          but losing the battle very slowly.

          Thanks for taking the time to read this, looking
          forward to your reply.

          Take care,

          Paul
          pasha_yoper