I've pinpointed exactly why desktop Linux isn't taking off

In the evolution of Desktop Linux no one drew a line of where the OS stops and applications begin. It could easily be the root of 90% of user complaints.

Problem 1: No truly universal installers. Even though we have .deb and .rpm as and advancement of tarballs, they still require downloading dependencies. This also practically requires that users have access to broadband. On top of that, package managers merge the line of OS and application.

2: 3rd Party software support is terrible, often it’s .tar.gz and the dependencies are obsolete, had a change in name, merged into something else, whatever…

3: Uninstalling often requires me to keep track of what dependencies that were installed.

And many others.

Solution (A Modest Proposal style, because I’m sure you’ll find it that horrible.)

Draw a very strict line between OS and application software.

Create a list of what packages will be part of the OS, specifically gutting any user appications. (system monitor stays, Firefox goes.) Package managers become a tool strictly for updating the OS, while the user and the applications themselves take care of updating application software. This solution allows for truly universal install files, no need to download dependencies, easily uninstall software, and numerous other good things.

The bad side is that this would take a few packages, and declare them to be for desktop and any package not made for it isn’t for desktop Linux.

It will break tons of compatibility, but is more than necessary if desktop Linux will ever be up to par with the usability of the competition.

Why yes … Linux is not perfect, though I cannot agree with you on that last line. Linux desktop is already a part of the competition. A big part. Trust me, unless Microsoft somehow gets a huge success with that new project, they’re going down, baby.

Even the CEO of Red Hat doubts its relevance: Red Hat CEO questions desktop’s relevance in Linux debate | InfoWorld | News | 2009-03-25 | By Paul Krill (I find this somewhat hilarious since he’s clearly asking the wrong crowd.)

Along with the fact that developers are prefering Mac means it’s not something that should be brushed off lightly. Doing nothing is a huge tactical mistake. Right now the only thing inflating Linux market share is netbooks, and that’s artificial inflation. Go ask for opinions at the store, they aren’t good.

wow first ever post and already telling us how to make linux successful. but since i have a couple minutes free i suppose its time for some flaw hunting in your logic.

the problem of dependencies is very rarely the case because more than one program may use the same dependancy not to mention they are(for the most part) smaller files ie lib files that i have rarely seen go over 1 mb.

second linux does not require broadband being deployed in iraq i know this for a fact because i’m rarely able to get a connection allowing for speed of more than maybe 13-14 kbps

third and most preposterous of all is the entirety of your solution, in essense to turn linux into a free version of windows, there is no need to separate packages or to allow for “universal” 1 click installers because even the one click installers require a root password which means someone could access the system files just as easily as use the one click so the logic of that being an issue is severly flawed. you openly admit that this would damage compatibility inside linux(a major selling point for quite a few users) linux is built for ever growing compatability and networking, what you suggest takes the whole principal and reverses it.

if your going to post on how to “fix” linux please remember that this is not windows and there fore needs to be regarded as such with its own plus’ and minus’ instead of trying to make it a microsoft spin off

I never said Microsoft, Both Windows and Mac are capable of the features I mentioned. Also the compatibility that would be crippled is most user applications like firefox and handling them would have to be redone., things like dhcp would end up in the OS. This is just instructions on how to bring Linux up to the level of the other 2 players.

Linux is a completely different mindset that M$ Windows. A prevailing reason most people go to linux is for control, reliability and the ability to cater the OS to their exact needs and wants. Unifying or standardizing Linux would strip most of that away. As far as developers “preffering” Mac, I would too if the only thing I had used was Windows! And when you start incorporating services like Web Browsers into the core OS, is when you will start seeing Linux invent a BSOD. Most everyone that really uses a computer has had a Windows update kill IE7 or IE8 and unlike Firefox, you can’t just uninstall it and reinstall it. You get to spend hours repairing the installation, but that is a “feature” of Microsoft.

All of that would only be stripped away temporarily until the tools become compatible with new scheme. What Microsoft does with it’s applications is highly irrelevant to the discussion. Firefox works on Windows too after all.

What Microsoft does with it’s applications is highly irrelevant to the discussion.

actually its not… the type of changes your talking about have long been a selling point for windows but in the same way its a feature it also becomes a slippery slope to “features” like ie7 and ie8. especially when you separate the os from the applications, a single decision in making that list and you have another ie7 that won’t let you simply uninstall and reinstall whereas in an undivided rpm system the same issue doesn’t pose the slightest hinderance to the users choices

Considering you are comparing it to Windows, I think it is completely relevant.
“Package managers become a tool strictly for updating the OS, while the user and the applications themselves take care of updating application software”

Yeah, more overhead and software starting on boot! Sorry, I like having one centralized update location.

3rd Party software support is terrible, often it’s .tar.gz and the dependencies are obsolete, had a change in name, merged into something else, whatever…

I guess this would depend on what you are installing. Any common program usually has great support as far as documentation, updates and security fixes. Owner and name changes are nothing new. Look at Veritas, Linksys, 3com, etc…

How so? My eee feels pretty real to me.

Anyway, the beauty of open source software is its innate capacity to vary and evolve. If your idea is a good one - personally I can see some merit in it for certain niche systems - someone will make it. And it will or will not catch on.

Telling linux how to install software is rather like telling animals how many limbs they should have. Good luck.

Telling linux how to install software is rather like telling animals how many limbs they should have.

i really think thats the best response in the world… anyways i have a feeling this debate could rage for a while and there are many things still to be learned^_^ so i’m off to the land of open source and choice once more :wink:

Actually it’s ability to evolve usability wise is practically gone because of politics like this. Now if you were to consider whether it was your job to make it into something everyone wants or something you want, you would come over to my side rather quickly.

Very possibly this thread should have been ‘Soapbox’.

One thing is for sure. Idiot proof installers don’t IMO make an OS better or easier. The very mention of OneClick installers under Linux is all just too M$ for me. Launch one of those and all Hell breaks loose.

If you can’t find an .exe in Windows, you are kind of stuck. You almost certainly can’t legally re-write the code to make it work or alter it. And third party .exe 's whilst prolifically available - Are in huge measure infected with Malware.

I’m slightly with you on the High Speed eth. I wouldn’t like to be without it. But it’s not difficult to arrange your system to manage without. It would just require you be prepared to stick (mostly) with only OS ‘Updates’. If you have a Laptop of course you can use WiFi and update say at a Internet Cafe.

I think the spirit of your posting is on target. I have been an avid fan of Linux for over 10 years and I think the Linux effort has been a remarkable achievement, but something is missing and it is not as simple as writing off Windows as “Microcrap”. The model of Linux as “an open source, free OS plus applications” can only take Linux to a level just beyond where it is today. Look at Mac as a model; it still only has a 5-10% market share, even though it is a well engineered proprietary system built on an open-source kernel. On the bright side, with IBM and Novell support of Linux, obviously Linux is here for a long time, but in order to truly grow Linux market share into serious competition to even Mac, much less Windows, it will not be a better KDE or GNOME which does it.

I mostly disagree with the OP’s analysis.

Problem 1: ‘Difficulty distinguishing OS from apps due to package management’

This is an education problem, rather than an OS problem. Many people using OS X & Windows (and other OSes that employ universal installers) don’t know where the OS/App divide is either. They don’t know Garageband is an app on OS X rather than a part of OS X nor can they tell you where Windows ends and Microsoft Office begins. I see salespeople move units of MSO all the time because consumers are shocked, “you mean it doesn’t come with the machine?!?” Just like how many “open the internet” rather than recognising they are really opening an internet browser.

Many people using a computer see a unified appliance that happens to do different things (like a swiss army knife), they do not see the reality that it’s really a hardware + software stack with each layer providing difference functionality to create the whole experience. In just the same way they see a toaster (even a washing machine!) as a unified appliance, not a self-contained electronic/mechanical system with interdependent sub-systems which combine to provide the intended function(s). People recognise that there are ‘parts’ to mechanical devices if they stop to think about it, but in everyday living it often does not occur to them. I’d bet more people would recognise the fullness of a washing machine’s ‘part-ness’ than that of a computer system when pressed to think about it - “the window boarder thingy is a separate program? Really?”

Problem 2: ‘3rd Party support is poor’

Many 3rd parties are looking to make money. It’s true that market fragmentation hurts adoption because there are not strong enough standards, but the companies that think they can make money on Linux provide the software. Take Wolfram’s Mathematica, it’s pretty serious software - and it’s available on Linux. Why? There’s a large enough market of academic and business users on Linux to justify it. They even publish a version for Solaris.

Any other vendor could do the same and if desktop Linux marketshare rises in their niche, they will. Right now the marketshare is seemingly so low (especially in countries with stronger cultural norms of paying for software) that many 3rd parties don’t bother because it doesn’t pass cost/benefit analysis. I don’t doubt a unified installer would help, but I do doubt dropping a unified installer on such small marketshare would start a frenzy of porting apps to Linux.

Problem 3: “Must track dependencies on uninstall”

I can understand this frustration, but I think the concern is a bit overplayed. In the case of universal installers, apps have to bring their own dependencies with them. This means if you installed Pidgin and GIMP you’d also have GTK installed twice, add AbiWord and you get it a third time and on and on. So in the end you’re likely to have more wasted space under a universal installer system than the shared library system Linux typically employs.

A default openSUSE 11.1 install is around 3GB, a default Windows 7 install is 6GB+ and by default lacks much of the functionality openSUSE has out of the box. This means you’d need to accumulate at least 3GB of dependency cruft before reaching the size of a bare Windows 7 install (which itself is smaller than a bare Vista install).

In any event this is a bit of non-issue since deb-based systems have the deborphan program and rpmorphan is in development. Additionally, some package management teams are working on dependency clean up as well.

The Solution: ‘Employ a universal installer to achieve the same level of usability’.

Let’s not mistake “familiarity” with “usability”, we could go round and round about which is better. Personally I think I could persuade many users that a “Google for getting applications” that lets you update everything from one place is a better idea rather than running from site to site getting apps piecemeal, having a number of updaters in the background slowing the computer down, and getting different looking pop-ups from each updater asking for permission seemingly at random.

It’s all in how you present it. And besides, outside of Microsoft Office there aren’t that many unavailable-on-Linux apps that the typical user actually uses. “But what about Photoshop?” you say? In 2008, the average desktop PC cost $550 and the average laptop cost $700 (USD). Adobe Photoshop CS4 costs $700, even the student discount price is $300 (USD).

Sure, the inability to run a pirated version of Photoshop CS4 probably hurts Linux to some degree. I suppose the software thieves will just have to settle for CS2.

In any event, universal installers do exist in the FOSS universe. The klik system has been around for a couple of years, PC-BSD employs a universal installer method as well. Neither of those projects wound up capturing huge adoption, nor did 3rd parties rush to ship their apps via those methods.

So after all that…I’m not saying a universal installer would be totally useless, indeed it has some strengths, but I don’t think those strengths outweigh the weaknesses. If we look at the cellular market, the wild-west-rope-an-app-from-different-fields method has been completely displaced as the standard by the ease of centralised “app stores”. I doubt this ‘new’ distribution method is going remain ‘only on smartphones’ forever. And while it could be argued the apps carried do not have dependencies in the same sense as Linux apps, at the very least we can agree it’s a mark against the idea that ‘centralisation blurs the line and that’s bad’.

Ok, I’m done now.

Correct me if i’m wrong but the only reason you don’t need to install any dependencies in Windows is because in most cases the application has the libraries inside. (think about Winsx folder in Vista which grows considerably when installing even the smallest stuff and the reason it is so big is because it has so many different versions). In Linux packages are built against one set of libraries. Compare the installation size of Vista and Linux??

Another pretty serious software that has great support on Linux is Labview (I use that as a development platform, Measurement and Control Products for Linux - National Instruments ) and their associated hardware drivers for VISA, GPIB and DAQ which are industry standards.

They support RHEL, Opensuse and Mandriva officially for Labview and the hardware…and Labview by itself works on any version of Linux, unofficially.


For everyone saying if it’s popular it must have support: “Citrix client”. Plenty of old, outdated documentations and the install manual isn’t great. Very popular among large corporations deciding on application servers and not popular among the community.

A lot of other people: You’re pretty much saying “But no, that’s how Microsoft does it so it’s clearly wrong.” I hear even Mac can drag a single file into an application folder and it is installed, but I haven’t actually checked.

Surprisingly PCBSD has already implemented the type of system I am talking about, but for a lot of hardware compatibility reasons we need it on Linux. (PCBSD developers admit they have a terrible time following their own standard, though.)

Also come to think of it, it won’t have to break compatiblity, It could be like Fink for OSX and offer a download of the current package managers for “legacy support.”

i can’t help but wonder if you’ve taken the time to read a single thread other than this one… or even the posts in this thread. no one has said anything was wrong because “its how micro$oft does it” verifiable facts such as install size and methods of program installation have been used as valid counter points to your suggestion(kinda the purpose of an open forum)

having yast as an option such as “legacy” support undermines the purpose of having centralized repositories, not to mention the implications of trying to make the choices between this “legacy” type system management and your proposal of making system management have a windows type feel, any way you try to slice it you run into the same issue of increased install size and system overhead by having all dependencies(which are currently shared and used by multiple programs with only one file) placed inside each program.

as for popularity meaning it has to have support, this is SuSe… look around you and see where the vast majority of our support and documentation comes from(and we don’t HAVE to pay for support… although those that can should donate to the cause)

microsoft makes a product that works very well for tons of people, that is not in question or being attacked in any way. it is however possible for contributors the world over to build (although over time) something that gives us the CHOICES we want and need. instead of simply bowing down to the features that can’t be turned off or removed because of what a company decided that we needed. the debate is not its wrong “because” microsoft does it, its a question of are we willing to continue to pay hundreds of dollars every time the put out a rehashed version of the same core system with a couple “features” tossed in as appeasement

This forum offers a feast for trolls. Why do osf-members always have to feed them? There’s no point. We don’t need Linux to ‘take of’. It’s good the way it is for a certain amount of people, let the others use Win or Mac - so what?

I’m using computers / Linux for three years now, every year since then I’ve read and heard that this very year will be the one Linux will have its breakthrough on the home-desktop. I even found likewise articles which stated the same eight years ago.

Again: so what?