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Will Open Source Ever Become Mainstream? 630

Prabhu Ramachandran asks: "I am a graduate student at the University of California at Berkeley and as part of a course project I am trying to gather comments on the following question: Will the Open Source and Free Software communities develop software that will find widespread adoption amongst the mainstream, or is such software, by its nature, suitable only for sophisticated users? As part of my literature survey I found an academic perspective that seemed to indicate that open source projects do not reach the mainstream because the developers tend to listen only to their smartest customers. There also seems to be a lack of detailed documentation and an easy-to-use interface which normally attract the not-so-sophisticated users. I would like to hear the thoughts of Open Source developers and others on this issue. If you would like to view my references or the comments posted on a website hosted for this purpose, please visit my website." There have already been some interesting comments posted on his website. What is your take on this issue?
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Will Open Source Ever Become Mainstream?

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 27, 2002 @04:47PM (#4770622)
    Most of the net and probably most corporate and military servers runs apache and sendmail on GNU/Linux/BSD...
    • by Anonymous Coward
      You would be surprised by how many military web servers are running IIS. There are a lot of underqualified administrators out there and the military is no exception.
      • by t0qer ( 230538 ) on Wednesday November 27, 2002 @06:13PM (#4771329) Homepage Journal
        Amen brother... Let me lay some experience on ya.

        You would be surprised by how many military web servers are running IIS. There are a lot of underqualified administrators out there and the military is no exception.

        Ok I happen to be married to someone that runs a lot of goverment websites both internal and external. Last year she came to me asking about content management...

        I took it as an oppertunity to preach about how well postnuke had worked out for me, citing it's run without a hiccup 2 years straight without a glitch (check my sig)

        The sad thing is though, the branch of the .gov she works for would not accept it. Who will support it? Is there a # we can call if it breaks?? Is training material availiable??

        That was just for the web portion of it. Trying to convince them that a totally FREE linux/php/apache/mysql solution was better than M$ was like pulling teeth. Even though we could show them it ran on windows, it was so foriegn to them that they just flat out refused it completely.

        There was other issues too, they have an ancient database on this branch of the .gov and since there was no database connector for mysql (was one for MSsql2000) building that connector would have been another issue in developing it.

        There's both good and bad reasons why some .gov sites run on MS, but case in point, it's not because they have underqualified admins.
        • Why didn't you start a business supporting Postnuke for the government? You could have offered a training program, manuals, and support for the installation. Instead of offering to help them save a small licensing fee (note, $200k is the cost of two $60k/year employees for a year, not the small fortune you're making it out to be), why not offer them what they were looking for?

          You could have bid at $100k/year + $25k/year support contract and $25k/year in training, saved them money, and started a small business. You had your first client.

          Instead of complaining that they didn't want to save money, you'd have a business started. You could line up a few other government departments and been all set.

          Nobody wants open source. People WANT solutions. Offer to sell them solutions + support. Don't talk about free, talk about "cheaper, more powerful."

          Geeze, people willing to drop $200k on a solution aren't interested in "email some kid in Sweden for support and maybe he'll respond."

          Alex
        • Well I wouldn't use postnuke or any of the phpnuke derivatives either. Rather poor security track record. Sure postnuke is a bit better, but not by much. Just go look.

          Some people asked me for advice on phpnuke a couple of years ago, I took a look at the phpnuke source code and recommended they pick something else (I also emailed the author about a security problem encountered during my look and didn't get a very encouraging response).

          If they haven't changed the core design and architecture then I'd continue to recommend avoiding phpnuke and its derivatives. They haven't seemed to changed it. The response from the author gave me the impression that he's more or less given up on fixing things.

          They went for ezpublish in the end. Code looked pretty clean - even if something is broken, _other_ people can fix it. Just a few bugs to do with the common PHPism of stupidly mixing input filters with output filters - get backslashes in front of quotes everywhere.

          Open source doesn't mean it's better. Sure you get to look inside and see if it's bad or not. However most people don't seem to look in the first place, or even care.

          Example: you still have tons of people using the ISC open source products - bind, sendmail, dhcp. You won't even need to look just from the track record alone. Wonder if ISC really stands for It's Still Crap, or Insecure Software Company?
      • Why do you assume that someone who runs a Microsoft product instead of the corresponding Open Source analog is underqualified? Setting up Apache is by no means a measure of one's sysadmin prowess. You could train a retarded monkey to do it.

        - A.P.
    • by swordboy ( 472941 ) on Wednesday November 27, 2002 @05:30PM (#4771034) Journal
      Most of the net and probably most corporate and military servers runs apache and sendmail

      Linux on the server is mainstream but...

      I think what he is trying to ask is:

      Will Joe User ever be able to sit down at a given open source workstation (i.e. - Linux on the desktop) and find enough consistency with every other open source workstation such that he/she can get something done without spending countless hours reading HOWTOs, message boards, distribution-specific documentation and performing mind-numbing tweaking at the four corners of the operating system?

      I had the day off today so I installed Redhat 8.0 (SURPRISE!) and tried to get Mozilla 1.2 up and running with anti-aliased fonts. I wasted the whole day and I am glad to be back on Win2K (call me stupid or whatever... half the font stuff made me feel like a criminal - why isn't it *on* by default? I'll pay big bucks for that...). Linux is shooting itself in the foot with that respect. Everybody hears so much about Linux so they install it only to be disappointed to such an extreme that they'd never want to bother again (I know that I do not).

      WTF?

      I would be GLAD to give several hundred dollars to any company that can make a consistent, user-friendly, non-MS OS for my x86 hardware (all of it, not just some). Is this possible? Apple - where are you?

      Linux will be ready for the desktop when Gnome or KDE drop dead (I can't wait) and some consistency settles in. Until then, I'll run BSD on my servers (the documentation is much better as a result of the consistency) and Windows on the desktop.

      Cheetos!
      • I think so. It's surpassed Mac and Novell in the server share (I think I saw somewhere it was marching toward the 25% mark?). There are many articles here on how this country or that are moving away from proprietary and toward free or open source. Many other stories about how MS is starting to feel the heat. But the other day when I went into a school building I got into a conversation with a secretary there. She told me how her son had put Linux (mandrake) on for her at home and she really liked it. When it starts to trickle in like that, you know its starting to take hold.
      • Linux will be ready for the desktop when Gnome or KDE drop dead (I can't wait) and some consistency settles in. Until then, I'll run BSD on my servers (the documentation is much better as a result of the consistency) and Windows on the desktop.

        Actually my theory is that Linux on the Desktop will be "there" when KDE (or Gnome, but I expect KDE would do it first) drops X in favor of a simpler, less complicated and less legacy-encumbered layer which is easier to configure.

        Modularity is cool, but when the dependency list for anti-aliased fonts in a browser is 10 seperate projects long, 3 of which don't get along well because they don't like each other's licenses, then people say that $129 for Windows makes sense.
        • Actually my theory is that Linux on the Desktop will be "there" when KDE (or Gnome, but I expect KDE would do it first) drops X in favor of a simpler, less complicated and less legacy-encumbered layer which is easier to configure.

          There is a lot of power in X that your average user doesn't use. Ditching X support in favor of only supporting some sort of framebuffer output doesn't make sense.

          What is more likely IMO, is for the environment to support networked windowing systems like X as well as some sort of framebuffers as well. But hey, that is what we have GTK-framebuffer for, right?
      • by RevAaron ( 125240 ) <[moc.liamtoh] [ta] [noraaver]> on Wednesday November 27, 2002 @05:59PM (#4771232) Homepage
        I would be GLAD to give several hundred dollars to any company that can make a consistent, user-friendly, non-MS OS for my x86 hardware (all of it, not just some). Is this possible? Apple - where are you?

        One of the reasons Apple's OS works so well is that it's integrated with its hardware, designed to work with it not just on top of it. Apple is in the consistency biz, which is why they wouldn't be interested in selling a copy of OS X for the ugly monster that is PC hardware, unless of course it was their own x86-based design, with the advantages of current Mac hardware.

        Why not take that several hundred dollars and just save it- and use it to buy a Mac when your PCs outlive their usefulness in a year or two.
      • by Khalid ( 31037 ) on Wednesday November 27, 2002 @06:54PM (#4771527) Homepage
        Thanks to SUN which initiated a Gnome usability study; there are now explicit usability projects http://developer.gnome.org/projects/gup/ for Gnome and http://usability.kde.org for KDE. I feel that Gnome and KDE developpers have began paying attention to what heir usability contributors are saying, and there have been some (albeit) small steps in the right direction. But things will sure need some time to happen as is the always the case with open source. Open source need time. I am using Mozilla 1.2 right now, and it realy rocks ! IE 6.0 has been really left far behind ! in my opinion
      • by IamTheRealMike ( 537420 ) on Wednesday November 27, 2002 @06:58PM (#4771550)
        I had the day off today so I installed Redhat 8.0 (SURPRISE!) and tried to get Mozilla 1.2 up and running with anti-aliased fonts.

        Talk about jumping in at the deep end! Antialiased fonts are brand new to Linux, and although it's the best at them (no really, compare some screenshots, it beats OS X hands down), not everything supports it yet.

        To get Mozilla with antialiased fonts, uninstall the current Mozilla RPMs and use these:

        Redhat XFT RPMS [mozilla.org]

        On RedHat, it's that simple. I dunno what you were trying to do, but hopefully this will make it easier for you.

        verybody hears so much about Linux so they install it only to be disappointed to such an extreme that they'd never want to bother again (I know that I do not).

        Well, I'm sorry that you expected Linux to be perfect and then it wasn't. Remember that on Windows XP (at least on all the installs I've ever used) it doesn't even antialias most text, so that's hardly a mainstream feature. But yes, point taken. It's not perfect. It'll never be perfect, that's impossible. It is getting better very fast.

        Linux will be ready for the desktop when Gnome or KDE drop dead (I can't wait) and some consistency settles in.

        Not going to happen. It's called competition, it's natural, healthy and good, and it happens in every other part of life. We manage somehow. As for UI consistency, that's improving in leaps and bounds too. In fact in RedHat 8 the differences between KDE and GNOME apps are marginal, mostly hidden. What was lacking in consistency for you?

        • Another reason Linux will never be mainstream.

          Neophyte: "I have spent all day trying to do something mundane because the documentation is abyssmal. Apparently, nobody gets paid to write it, and nobody cares to organize it, and there's no help file for it."

          Hardliner: "Oh, just download the XFT RPM and install the bin in the USR/local directory. i don't know what you were trying to do but it was a complete waste of time."

          Can you imagine if Apple treated folks that way? I can't tell you how many times I've been at the apple store and heard something along the lines of "No no sir...clicking the X button only closes the _window_. The program is still running. See, Apple does that so you can clear up graphical space on the screen without losing the ability to use your program."

          Explaining HOW to do something is always curt, and makes the new guy feel like a dumbass. Explaining WHY you do something always makes it easier to do next time. The problem is that so many of the WHYs of Linux are "well really you have a choice and could do it this way too but..." or "a long time ago a long haired libertarian named blah blah decided blah blah and so we called it Fnogl isn't that cute." It doesn't make sense.
      • "I had the day off today so I installed Redhat 8.0 (SURPRISE!) and tried to get Mozilla 1.2 up and running with anti-aliased fonts. I wasted the whole day and I am glad to be back on Win2K"

        I agree that it still isn't as simple as Windows or MacOS X but, at least in the case of Mozilla, and judging your level of computer knowledge from your post you should have been able to find the right RPMs.

        First, the RPMs for Mozilla 1.2 with antialiased fonts and for Redhat 8 are here:
        http://ftp.mozilla.org/pub/mozilla/releases/mozi ll a1.2/Red_Hat_8x_RPMS/xft/RPMS/i386/

        It took me les than 5 minutes to find them on the Mozilla ftp server but only because I saw a post on /. talking about their existence and mentionning Xft. I then went to ftp.mozilla.org and searched in /pub (but that already requires some knowledge that joe user doesn't have).

        For a guy like you the problems are:
        1. While there is an entry for the Redhat 8 antialiased enabled RPMS, it says "RPMS for Red Hat Linux 8.x with Xft support", so you need to knows what Xft is before knowing that it is what you are looking for.

        2. The ftp directory for the RPMs does not lead directly to the directory containing them but to a grandparent directoy containing a RPMS and a SRPMS directories. Given that most people who want these RPMs probably don't want the source ones and may even not know what these SRPMS are. Conversely, somebody who knows that he wants the SRPMs probably has enough knowledge to try and go up one or two levels to find the right directory.

        3. Given that the RPMS directory only contain an entry for i386 it would be less confusing for people less knowledgeable about Linux to find themselves in that directory when clicking "RPMS for Red Hat Linux 8.x with antialiasing support". Again, somebody needing RPMs for another Redhat 8 platform should be knowledgeable enough to click that "Parent Directory" link.

        4. There are many RPMs. To know which ones you need, you need to know the CLI command rpm -qa|grep mozilla, otherwise you need to download them all. In any case this is confusing for joe user.

        5. You need to know that you can install them using the command rpm -U mozilla-* as the root user in the directory in which they are.

        To me, it took me less than 10 minutes, excluding the download time, but while I am no Linux guru I know my way around it.

        So if you want to give it a second chance tonight or tommorrow do the following:

        1. Log in Redhat 8 (root user or not).
        2. open a terminal window.
        3. type: rpm -qa|grep mozilla
        4. Open mozilla.
        5. Go to the page: http://ftp.mozilla.org/pub/mozilla/releases/mozill a1.2/Red_Hat_8x_RPMS/xft/RPMS/i386/
        6. Download the same packages whose name the preceding command gave you but with the new version number. Make sure to note in which directory you saved the files.
        7. Wait
        8. Either open a terminal window (if you are root) or open a terminal window AND type the command su, which will ask you for your root password, to log in as root.
        9. Change your directory to the one in which you saved the RPM files. This is done by using the command: cd /path/to/directory, replacing path/to/directory with the correct path of course (for example, /home/sri/download/mozilla).
        10. type rpm -U mozilla* . Alternatively, if you have other files there than the one you just downloaded, type rpm -U mozilla*1.2-0*.rpm .
        Voila.

        Sorry if this list seems condescending or flamebaiting you but I tried to make as few assumptions as possible. I just assumed that you know how to use a keyboard and other basic computer skills, that you know how to open/launch a new terminal and that you know how to download a file on your hard drive using a web browser.

        Hope this helps.
      • Erm. Most windows users had to spend hours to learn how to do things the windows way.

        They did it because they had to. They bought a PC with in preinstalled, or their workplace forced them to use windows.

        Most good GUIs are easy up to a certain point. Then they just are different.

        And most people don't like different, because change means learning and learning takes time, and if it isn't an area they are interested in they'd prefer not to spend time on it.

        Anti Alias on KDE? Control-center->Look and feel->fonts -> Use Anti-aliasing for fonts. Seems ok to me.

        Sure it's different from windows. Doesn't make it worse. Just like ctrl+home/ctrl+end in windows scrolls to the top/bottom of page, whereas it's home/end for KDE.

        What I don't like personally about X is the legacy selection handling. Try selecting and _replacing_ a selection with the previous selection- this works on Macs and Windows. AND it makes life easier - it is a common thing to want to do. Fortunately most unix desktops allow it- just have to use the menus or keyboard shortcuts to do it. Unfortunately it is not supported by the shells and some other apps.

        But the real reason why Joe User doesn't have an open source workstation is not because of inconsistency, quality or whatever.

        It's because of network effects, execution and a bit of luck. A certain personal computer became popular and Microsoft managed to get their software on it and kept it using various means (some rather dubious). Now lots of software is written for it and runs on it.

        However lots of other software is being written for opensource platforms. Which is why MS is feeling threatened.

        In fact if I were a developer I personally would be discouraged from investing too much into the windows platform where the APIs are massive, poorly documented and where the APIs must and will change NOT for mainly technical reasons but for market reasons- otherwise MS will become just like one of the BIOS manufacturers. Low margin territory.

        However the opensource desktops battles aren't encouraging either. KDE seem to be doing a good job. I don't know about Gnome - I tried it when it was young and foolish. KDE at that time was better.
  • Nice work (Score:3, Funny)

    by ekrout ( 139379 ) on Wednesday November 27, 2002 @04:48PM (#4770629) Journal
    I never thought to have Slashdot readers write my graduate thesis for me.

    I guess it's time to fire the monkeys.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 27, 2002 @04:48PM (#4770630)
    You need Britney Spears on MTV talking about how all her boxes run linux and/or BSD.
  • I think it can (Score:3, Insightful)

    by dirvish ( 574948 ) <dirvish@@@foundnews...com> on Wednesday November 27, 2002 @04:49PM (#4770649) Homepage Journal
    I believe mainstream use is a potential. Look at Mozilla and Gnucleus, they both could become very mainstream.


    • Gnutella and all of these file sharing programs are introducing people to the whole concept of information sharing, slowly peoples minds and viewpoints will change until its easy for them to accept open source software.

      Software sharing comes after Music and Movie sharing, and the best way to share software is to share the code.

      If all of these Windows people can be coding on Gnutella together, and making p2p applications these same people could be using Linux, these same people who trade files in windows can one day decide to switch to Linux because its easier to share files.

      Windows will become harder to share files while Linux is becoming easier and more efficient, File sharing is the way to get the mainstream to go open source, Its why the mainstreams use Winamp, its why they like Gnutella, these same people used Mp3.com to download music files by the millions, Mp3.com when it first came out was as silly as Lindows when it first came out, both before their time, however 3 years later Mp3.com became the center of attention.

      As the RIAA and others continue to remove freedom, alot of teens and college students will switch to linux, eventually over time the older people will switch.

      This is how Mp3s and Napster took over, Linux could do the same thing.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 27, 2002 @04:50PM (#4770660)
    Some things are very mainstream like Apache. Other things like Mozilla have a potential to go mainstream as well. People love pop-up blocking, and I believe they'll love the spam filtering as much.
  • it is already (Score:4, Insightful)

    by malana-cream ( 546316 ) on Wednesday November 27, 2002 @04:51PM (#4770667)
    opensource already is mainstream, at least for the serverside of the world.
    just some of them (oh come on, i know you know more):

    apache, sendmail, qmail, samba, php, perl......
  • by Reality Master 101 ( 179095 ) <RealityMaster101.gmail@com> on Wednesday November 27, 2002 @04:51PM (#4770669) Homepage Journal

    It sounds like this guy is talking about end-user applications that would be used by "normal people".

    How many open source success stories are there, where the open-source solution is so clearly superior that it's used by everyone? Uh, zero.

    Well, how about open source application that are good enough to compete with proprietary software? Uh, one. Mozilla, perhaps.

    How many are "up-and-comers" that just need good word-of-mouth to take over from a proprietary solution? Uh, zero. (IE is already free-money)

    The only one that I can think of MAYBE for the latter category is Gimp, and the user interface on that thing is so horrible as to be useless for anyone but a true geek (at least, the last time I used it which was admittedly a while ago).

    Bottom line, I don't think proprietary software has much to worry about at this point.

    • by Anonymous Coward
      You're forgetting great applications like CDEx and LAME. Both of which are open source, and used by many many people. Most average users don't care where software came from as long as it works.
    • by sql*kitten ( 1359 ) on Wednesday November 27, 2002 @05:03PM (#4770796)
      How many open source success stories are there, where the open-source solution is so clearly superior that it's used by everyone? Uh, zero.

      Well, everyone is probably an exaggeration in some cases, but not in others. Are there any closed-source, proprietary DNS servers, for example? But a sendmail/pop3d/imapd combination is competitive with some proprietary mail solutions (if you aren't into workflow/groupware it's usable in place of Exchange/Lotus etc).

      Basically, it all depends how you define mainstream. GCC and xemacs and make and perl are all used by "mainstream" Unix software developers for example. But there's a long way to go before StarOffice is used by mainstream secretaries, or Moray replaces Maya anywhere.
    • by Procyon101 ( 61366 ) on Wednesday November 27, 2002 @05:15PM (#4770923) Journal
      >How many open source success stories are there,
      >where the open-source solution is so clearly
      >superior that it's used by everyone? Uh, zero.

      Well, as a developer, I see cygwin or mingW on just about every windows platform because nothing beats a goot GNU toolkit for development. As seperate projects that have each stomped all the competition, bash, grep, sed, etc are clearly dominant. Yes, most of these tools are clones of proprietary solutions, but most of them have come to completely replace their older cousins for reasons of quality, standardization or availability.

      >Well, how about open source application that are
      >good enough to compete with proprietary
      >software? Uh, one. Mozilla, perhaps.

      Same answer as above. Add apache to this list which is still the dominate web server. MySQL has a nice following and scares the poop out of SQL Server.. a huge Massively Multiplayer game (Dark Age of Camelot) runs it as it's backend because SQL Server and Oracle seemed to be just to expensive for the feature set they had beyond the Open Source solution. Back Orifice 2K WAS a popular remote admin tool for windows boxes, but the virus scanners kill it now .

      >How many are "up-and-comers" that just need good
      >word-of-mouth to take over from a proprietary
      >solution? Uh, zero. (IE is already free-money)

      If they need more word of mouth, then you probably haven't heard of them yet. There are some open source graphics engines which are up and coming and near ready to compete with their proprietary cousins.. gnutella has been a very nice architecture for one of the dominant P2P networks, which are very big with end users.

      >The only one that I can think of MAYBE for the
      >latter category is Gimp, and the user interface
      >on that thing is so horrible as to be useless
      >for anyone but a true geek (at least, the last
      >time I used it which was admittedly a while ago).

      uhh.. it's proprietary cousin's interfaces are just as bad. Face it, anything more complex then MSPaint is a geek tool and needs a geek interface.

      Open source solutions fill a huge niche that needs filling. Many things in computer science need to be done, but there just isn't a nice $$ stream in it, so it gets neglected, or are simple enough that why pay for the solution when you can write it yourself, as is the case with alot of smaller tools (cat for example). Open Source projects typically don't dominate on the client side because 1) this is the biggest market and competition is fierce, and massive $$ goes into funding development for these platforms, and $=RAD. 2) Open Source projects don't advertise, since there is no profit motivation, hence the uninformed user remains uninformed. Therefore, there are few client side apps that are open source, because why support a project for free that is doomed? But don't knock the development model which gives us an excellent and protected public resource of shared pre-developed systems that don't need to be purchased or developed from scratch.
      • by binaryDigit ( 557647 ) on Wednesday November 27, 2002 @05:53PM (#4771195)
        He was referring to software for "common folk", he says so in the first line of his comment. Apache, MySQL don't count in this regard. There are five things people do most often:

        1. Surf - IE dominates, hard to knock off when the thing is sitting right there on the desktop of every machine sold. The common user would have absolutely no reason to bother to download anything else.

        2. Email - Again, Outlook/Express, dominates for the same reason.

        3. IM - Here AOL rules the roost, but MSN Messenger is making some headway.

        4. Office Productivity - MSOffice is the king here. Potential for OS inroads since MS does not bundle/force OEM's to put it on every desktop. Licensing can get quite expensive so OS could have a compelling value proposition. Plus only about 10% of MSO features are utilized by the average user anyway.

        5. Games - well the funny thing is that no one seems to be crying for OS games. Funny that, as it's the one area that the supergeek is similar to the typical end user, they just want to use the software (i.e. play the game) and don't give a flip about having any source available to "fix bugs" or to "improve the software by having a million eyes looking over it".
        • All IMHO:

          1. Surf (IE)
          Correct. IE is on every box, websites are designed for it, and it's FAST. IE with mozilla's tab handling and browser configurability (being able to disable pop-ups, pop-unders, etc) for example would be heaven, but no amount of features could ever make up for the fact mozilla is slow and often makes a right mess of some sites.

          2. Email (OE)
          I'd disagree with you on this point. Email clients with no exceptions require configuration. If I were able to dictate its use, I'd have all my windoze-based users running Agent (www.forteinc.com). It's just as easy to use for a complete noob, and forces users into good netiquette. On this point, OSS can score just as highly as windoze.

          3. IM (AIM/MSN)
          I wouldn't say AIM rules... ICQ has a massive userbase and has been around for ages. OSS IM clients are usually less troublesome than their windoze counterparts (compare icq to licq for example...). There are decent OSS clients for any IM platform

          4. Office Productivity (Office)
          Fair enough, MS Office is indeed king. Abiword/gnumeric and the like are good substitutes, but only for people who have time or knowledge to get round broken documents ("strings arseyletter.doc > readable.txt")

          5. Games
          Recently the games scene hasn't been too unkind to linux users. RTCW, Q3A, UT, UT3K, etc are undoubtedly the biggest games of the past few years, and have all got linux ports which alledgedly (i either run xp or *bsd, not linux) run within a few fps of their windoze counterparts. unlike the categories listed above, games are sold to a non-captive market - the developers will go with what the public want rather than what they want the public to have, so the more people who use linux games online will directly influence the popularity of linux ports. Given the recent popularity of linux, i can't imagine the trend of releasing linux clients will die for some time, however installing games under linux is definitely a lot more difficult than sticking the cd in and clicking install, next, next, next, ok, play. For this reason, it'll be quite some time - if at all - i imagine before linux gamers will reach anywhere near the number of windoze gamers
    • As fas as open source applications that are good enough to compete with proprietary software, Gnucleus is probably the best Gnutella client for the end user--easiest to install and upgrade, best documentation, best UI, best user experience in general. It's not used by everyone, but it's clearly good enough to compete with proprietary software.
    • The only one that I can think of MAYBE for the latter category is Gimp, and the user interface on that thing is so horrible as to be useless for anyone but a true geek (at least, the last time I used it which was admittedly a while ago).

      Apparently you've never tried, or you HAVE been trained on, Photoshop or Quark. I've used computers for almost 20 years now (and I'm 28), and I've had just as much trouble getting Photoshop to do what I want, as I've had with The Gimp.

      These are applications that do complicated things, and sometimes that just can't be dumbed down to intuitive.

    • by EZmagz ( 538905 ) on Wednesday November 27, 2002 @05:27PM (#4771020) Homepage
      I hate to say it, but you're right. Currently, open source software isn't ready to be adapted by the mainstream. That's the problem most of the /. folks have...not EVERYONE is using the open source software that they're using.

      I recently asked a friend of mine (non-techie) ask me why I fired up Moz to show him something instead of IE. I told him it was open source, and that I liked that (and that IE wasn't). "Well shit, I can't read the code anyway...why would I care if it's open source?" he came with. Only after I showed him how tabbed browsing worked (and how insecure IE can be) did he even think about trying it.

      My mom sure as hell isn't gonna care if she can see how linked-lists are implemented in IE! She just wants to check her email, and if it works, then that's all that matters. For her the term "Open Source" is just one more buzzword she has to ask me about.

  • by pete-classic ( 75983 ) <hutnick@gmail.com> on Wednesday November 27, 2002 @04:51PM (#4770678) Homepage Journal
    I found an academic perspective that seemed to indicate that open source projects do not reach the mainstream because the developers tend to listen only to their smartest customers.


    Wow. There's a recipie for failure.

    -Peter
    • Well said. The tradition in the software industry is that you get paid for listening to stupid customers and for writing documentation. It's customary.
    • Take suggestions from dumbasses?...Wow. There's a recipie for failure.

      I have to think that it is not being suggested that software developers take design or implementation suggestions from dumbasses. That would be a bad idea. Instead, we are probably talking about listening to the dumbasses to find out what they want, then making that happen. That is a good idea. Give the dumbasses what they want, and they will use it. And keep in mind that just because a dumbass wants it doesn't mean it will be a bad product or inherently flawed in some way.
    • I'm a dumbass! (Score:3, Insightful)

      by twitter ( 104583 )
      If I had more brains and fewer ethical concerns, I'd be like Bill Gates [uni-muenster.de].

      If by "mainstream" he means dominant and common, Uncle Sam gave us the answer, illegal monopoly. Yep, if free software came installed on PCs right out of the box and enjoyed it's obvious price advantage, it would be dominant by now. There's nothing more difficult about maintaining a Linux box than an M$ infected computer that the end of anti-competitive practices would not prevent. New M$ junk won't even run on some of my computers. As someone else pointed out Apple has taken Open software and sold and supported it without any technical problems. We can also point to the fact that there are just as many, if not more happy Linux users as there are happy Mac users.

      It's happening anyway. Despite the best efforts of the "entertainment" industry to push DRM, people are turning from M$. They are willing to put up with the possible inability to listen to new music formats (WMA) and watch digital movies for the sake of ownership of their computers and their information. That is mainstream! Joe sixpacks is not going to go for the $1,000 stereo that breaks every two years that is WinXP. If that's all Joe is interested in, he may abandon computers alltogether for set top boxes. The rest of the computer using population will continue to move towards free software for it's superior tool sets. It's so simple even a dumbass like me can see it.

      What kind of graduate student would be asking questions like this and holding forth such eleitist attitutdes? Let's look at the page. Hint one, name of course, " New Product Development." Product? Oh Lord! He's a Mechanical Engineer [berkeley.edu] like me. Here's some help, Prabhu,

      • Front page does not comply with W3C or IEEE specs, so I can't read the buttons on your page [berkeley.edu]. Try Bluefish [openoffice.nl].
      • The differences between Open and Free software are a source of contention, but you can find a good opinion here [gnu.org].
      • Don't Slashdot [extreme-dm.com] your page!
      • When you need software for your Mechanical Engineering Project, hire someone with a BS in CS, or find a reputable consultant. If they mention M$, keep looking.

      Good luck with your paper.

  • Apache? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by w42w42 ( 538630 )
    Or does the question refer to just client software only? I think that in time, Open Office and Mozilla will gain more converts, as will Linux itself. The only thing the above two lack in my opinion is exposure, not features in their respective interfaces. Exposure without a marketing campaign takes time.
  • by Carnage4Life ( 106069 ) on Wednesday November 27, 2002 @04:52PM (#4770680) Homepage Journal
    Open Source software is already mainstream both for regular users (look at Apple's OS X) and developers (look at all the work IBM's been doing in this area). What else is there to be done before it is considered mainstream? Grandma submitting a kernel patch by sending in a diff? W
  • by boaworm ( 180781 ) <boaworm@gmail.com> on Wednesday November 27, 2002 @04:52PM (#4770682) Homepage Journal
    This of course depends on the definition of mainstream..


    1) Mainstream = "The biggest/largest/greatest".. then probably no

    2) Mainstream = "Widely accepted and used amongst normal people" then yes.. this is today.


    Look at companies like IBM and Dell.. would you call them mainstream ?.. most likely.. So if they offer PDAs/Servers/Workstations with Linux or any other OSS product on.. then it is mainstream already.

    • you know as far as mainstream goes, it depends on your audience. My wife came to linux (because she didn't have a choice!) when we got married from AOL and windows and such. Most of what she did was hang out online and shop online and play games and whatever. She's told me several times she just doesn't notice the difference when she uses linux. I showed her once where to go to load konqueror and how to customize and she thought that was the coolest thing (you know setting her windows a certain way... making everything pink and such... eesh... its frightening but I have to support freedom... I have to support freedom). Anyway one of my friends and I used to play Koules for hours at a time (man that's a cool game) and now we play lbreakout and so does my wife. She thought all the games that came with kde were really neat. She didn't miss windows for that. So if my wife is anything like a number of people who aren't hardcore gamers and like to hang out online, they aren't missing much when they switch (and they probably won't notice the difference unless they make it all pink!)

      Of course the only bad part about bringing her over is that she gives me a hard time when I slip and call it lihnux instead of lienux. I've always called it lienux (you know like before that recording), but I figured I'd go with the mainstream at work and call it lihnux so nobody gets confused. But it just sounds less manly, so to her I'm being a wussy when I say lihnux, and ... well it is pretty funny... and nobody wants to look like a wussy to his wife, eh?

  • by Blindman ( 36862 ) on Wednesday November 27, 2002 @04:54PM (#4770699) Journal
    First off, the motivation of a an open source developer tends to differ from that of a closed source developer. The closed-source developer is doing it at least partially for the money, so they have a great incentive to make it easy for customers to use. An open source developer generally creates software for some other reason. It is not that an open source developer wants to make things hard for people to use it, but since it isn't a goal it tends to be overlooked.

    My understanding of the general flow of open source projects is that somebody writes some code for their own needs. They think it is cool, so they show it to some of their friends who may also be developers. The friends have some suggestions and pass it on to some of their friends. Soon you have a project written by developers for developers. If somebody else wants to use it, that's fine too.

    Obviously, not every open source project starts this way, but the enduser generally isn't the first consideration.
  • by Cap'n Canuck ( 622106 ) on Wednesday November 27, 2002 @04:54PM (#4770703)
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    And don't think that technical subjects are the only card up our sleeve. No! You can also try pseudo-science, advertising (blatant and subliminal), geek subjects (Trekkies & Star Wars), even religious wars (Trekkies vs Star Wars).

    As an added bonus, try our Slashdot Effect (tm) server loading services at no extra cost!

    Slashdot - serving all your information gathering and server loading needs. (See CmdrTaco for the latest rates)
  • by Uhh_Duh ( 125375 ) on Wednesday November 27, 2002 @04:54PM (#4770707) Homepage
    Open source -- as we know it today, has so many things wrong with it I can't even begin to tell you..

    1> Documentation is usually 2nd priority. In my world, if there's no documentation, there's no product.

    2> The product is usually 2nd rate. Because there's often no money on the line, my experience has been that the programmers take less accountability for their efforts. Big bug? Guess you have to wait until the programmer (or someone else) gets around to it. Big bug in a program you paid thousands of dollars for? My experience is that enough screaming can get you a patch in very little time.

    3> The user interace is lacking severely. Bigger companies hire people who specialize in usability to the design the UI. Open-source projects have HORRID user interfaces (A perfect example of this would be Request Tracker -- the software rocks.. the documentation sucks, and the awkward user interface effectively makes the product useless for large-scale deployments).

    Open-source definitely has it's place. It's fabulous for the "quick fix it" jobs and the "I've got lots of time on my hands to figure it out and fix any problems I find" solutions. Sadly, however, my experience has been that this stuff is only truely free if your time is worthless.

    Don't get me wrong.. I love open-source software. I wouldn't be able to do my job without it -- but with these drawbacks, it will never take the place of the mission-critical elements where I can hold someone responsible with I don't get what I need. :) (yes, those things cost money -- sometimes money needs to be spent).
    • by nuttyprofessor ( 83282 ) on Wednesday November 27, 2002 @05:04PM (#4770813) Homepage
      I find OS software bugs to be found and eradicated
      much quicker than comercial software (in many
      critical cases anyway).

      The weakness of OSS, which is also its strength,
      is its dynamic nature. You constantly need new
      library versions or new kernel versions. Only geeks
      like to keep building new kernels to keep up -- this
      doesn't fly in the mainstream.

    • by b17bmbr ( 608864 ) on Wednesday November 27, 2002 @05:09PM (#4770857)
      documentation and the documentation in windows is so stellar? it is mostly non-existent. oh, that's right, go out and buy teach yourself win..., or win... unleashed, or whatever. and try to find help on line. if FOSS docs are 2nd rate, windows docs are 4th rate.

      product is second rate which products are you using? hell, if you download and install a 0.6 beta, yeah, you're helping to work out some bugs. but you would rather be a paying beta tester, only to have improvements come out in the next release (um...windows) by the time apps get to 1.0, Mozilla, OO, they are first rate. i wonder what Office betas look like. we just never see them.

      user interface i have both a linux desktop and ibook. i love both. windows was never, and still is not "easy". riding a bike easy? no, but you learned it. like windows. it's what people know.

      maybe you should give some examples of your "quick fixes, and why it is only worth it if your time if worthless. i'm sure the good folks at ibm, dell, oracle, sun, and many others think it is "mission critical".
    • by blincoln ( 592401 ) on Wednesday November 27, 2002 @05:42PM (#4771106) Homepage Journal
      The user interace is lacking severely.

      There are a few exceptions, of course, but in general I couldn't agree with you more.

      UI design is one of the most important parts of a project, and the vast majority of OSS projects seem to slap it on as an afterthought.

      It's *possible* to use software with a geek-oriented, unfriendly interface (*cough*mainframes*cough*), but it doesn't *invite* users.

      Putting a pleasing, intuitive UI on a product is the equivalent to looking nice for a job interview. It's *possible* to get hired if you come in with ripped jeans and scraggly facial hair, but you limit your audience severely.

    • 2) The product is usually 2nd rate. Because there's often no money on the line, my experience has been that the programmers take less accountability for their efforts. Big bug? Guess you have to wait until the programmer (or someone else) gets around to it. Big bug in a program you paid thousands of dollars for? My experience is that enough screaming can get you a patch in very little time.

      If you are dealing with a custom-built bit of software, then yes, paying for it gets you a LOT of accountability and attention from the developers, very fast. But that isn't true of shrinkwrap commercial software. If I had to rank them in order of speed of response to bugs, i'd go:
      1. (fastest) expensive custom closed source software built on contract.
      2. (middle) open source software.
      3. (slowest) commercial shrink-wrap software.
  • What is your graduate degree going to be in? Prescience? Psychic readings? Fortune telling? Technology speculation?

    Is that an acceptible topic for thesis work these days - what's the future going to be like? How do you get reviewed on this: we'll let you know in a few years if your predictions pan out.

    Maybe my science fiction novel will get me a masters in physics!!!

  • by IGnatius T Foobar ( 4328 ) on Wednesday November 27, 2002 @04:55PM (#4770715) Homepage Journal
    If you want to see mainstream adoption of open source, you have to look outside of the USA. If you follow the Linux news sites you'll see lots of foreign organizations, particularly governments, looking to make big switchovers to Linux and other open source software. Bill and Steve have been doing a lot of travelling lately, offering what basically amounts to bribes to keep these organizations on Windows.

    So yes, the world has already started the mainstream move to open source, but the United States is the last place you'll see this effect -- because we're too heavily entrenched in Microsoft crap to be among the first.

    This parallels other technology shifts. Why do other nations have wireless networks that are so much better than those found in the USA? Because they didn't become heavily entrenched in landlines the way the USA did, so they were able to leapfrog. It's the same way with software: fewer installations of Microsoft crap mean an easier deployment of something else.

    Just give it time. Basic economics will work it out.
    • You forgot one of the main reasons that the United States is the last place you'll see this effect, and it's related to your first paragraph: Bribes.

      They've managed to essentially weasel out of their anti-trust suits by being big contributors to the government. Here it's called a campaign contribution, everywhere else it's called a bribe.
  • by DenOfEarth ( 162699 ) on Wednesday November 27, 2002 @04:57PM (#4770740) Homepage
    Should open source software developers be bothered to care about their software becoming 'mainstream'?

    My Answer: It's their prerogative. I use open source software because I like the philosophy, and I am computer literate enough to handle its inherent insanity, but I also know people that like the philosphy behind the free software movement, yet don't want to use it because it sucks(i.e. isn't as easy to use).

    does this bother me? Yeh it kind of does, but I understand the rationale behind my choices, and I also understand the rationale behind theirs. Since this is all about freedom (isn't it?) shouldn't the developers also choose what they want to focus on, as though they want to use their code themselves? Damn straight they should.

    I see the occasiaonal annoying post on here that goes along the lines of 'why don't we have a unified linux?', 'why don't we have easy to use this, or easy to use that?' The reason is simple. Freedom. If you want mainstream acceptance, go to a commercial software vendor and try to prvoide a product more people want to use, and use the money they pay you to make it better.

  • My prediction... (Score:2, Interesting)

    No, they will not become mainstream. They would, were it not for the fact that the law and the corporate media distributers and such are restricting many of the popular uses of an operating system and software. DRM and security protocols will continue to make matters worse. It would be like buying a toaster that you're not allowed to make toast with or that Wonder Bread designs their bread to go soggy in. It would make a good paperweight!

  • Are you kidding? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by automag_6 ( 540022 )
    power geeks will write things for people like themselves. It only makes sense to invest your time into things that will either benefit you, or interest you.

    When the mainstream writes thier own software (read, yea right) then they will write to the masses.

    Maybe I'm closed minded, but I'm not holding my breath.
  • by knowbody ( 183026 ) on Wednesday November 27, 2002 @04:59PM (#4770760) Journal

    Open Source development is done on free time, except for the lucky few who are sponsored. That makes it a hobby and hobbies are for fun.

    Dealing with non computer literate people is not fun; it is work. Given this contradiction I doubt that "pure" Open Source will ever become mainstream.

    However, I can see the possiblity of the hybrid open source / commercial groups succeeding in that area. These organizations (such as SuSE) pay people to do the boring stuff like write documentation targeted at non-techies and so forth.

  • "There also seems to be a lack of detailed documentation and an easy-to-use interface which normally attract the not-so-sophisticated users."

    In regards to the user interface, I find _many_ (no, not all) open source contributors are computer programmers (duh :)) and college and university students/grads -- who _must_ have studied user interfaces at some point!! (I hope -- I studied them in high school.) My point is, I think user-interfaces are have improved and are improving. The foundations of UNIX-like systems allow for modular additions (like X Window System) and take a look at the huuuge amount of work going into KDE and Gnome. Yes the command-line stuff is UNIX stuff - can't be avoided, but it can be _built upon_, and this is happening.

    So I think this aspect of open-source is on the rise. I'm a Debian user, but I checked out Redhat Linux version 8 the other day, and wow! I don't run a desktop on my Debian machine (pwm baby!) but the Gnome desktop under Redhat is astonishing! It is a _USER_ desktop, WITHOUT all the Windows shit (you know what I'm talking about -- legacy support since 1982 :)).

    I'd consider putting the new Redhat on my ma's machine and spending a few hours showing her the ropes. I have no doubt it'd go well (but don't challent me to it just yet -- I'm still finishing up my exams).
  • Short list (Score:5, Insightful)

    by carlmenezes ( 204187 ) on Wednesday November 27, 2002 @05:01PM (#4770780) Homepage
    Mainstream :
    Apache, Sendmail, Pine (used in almost every university of the country), GCC.

    Potential Mainstream with primary need:
    Mozilla - word of mouth and improvement in stability
    Ximian Evolution - word of mouth and hands on use.
    OpenOffice - word of mouth, universal office document format
    Linux -
    for the general internet browser :
    better GUI, fonts, documentation, games and more applications.
    for the new power user :
    better GUI, fonts, documentation
    for the professional :
    better documentation
  • I think that Open Source/Free Software could become "mainstream," even at the home/small business desktop level, if and when such software becomes easily available pre-loaded. The pre-loaded OS hasn't always been around, and is probably the primary reason for the success of Windows. "Too hard to install" and "too hard to use" are very different things. I have friends for whom I've installed Linux who are very happy with it, because Mozilla, Open Office, and Ximian Evolution are fairly easy even for average "end-users."
  • by PaddyM ( 45763 ) on Wednesday November 27, 2002 @05:04PM (#4770805) Homepage
    While I'll admit that copying in X isn't exactly the most friendly thing, I found myself using Gnome and having the same kinds of complaints that I have using windows. Namely, there's a bunch of stuff that makes no sense to me as to why anyone would want things to be that way. I don't understand why windows is mainstream. I avoided it in college, and now that I use it more often at work, I bang my head on my desk in amazement at how difficult it is for MAINSTREAM users to use. Anytime I FIND a problem in windows, I can't ask anyone how to fix it, because most likely, they don't know. Why does Alt-F4 in Powerpoint XP close only 1 window, when ALT-F4 in any other office app closes all the windows? Why does hitting the OUTSIDE X in powerpoint XP close only 1 window? That's right, if you somehow ended up with 1000 powerpoint presentations opened, you would have to click 1000 times or hold down ALT-F4 until they all went away. Mainstream users seem to be able to put up with this sort of behavior though. And when I used gnome and saw how utterly similar it was in all the pain aspects of windows, I had the cynical thought, "Let 'em suffer with their easy-to-use interface."
  • by jhouserizer ( 616566 ) on Wednesday November 27, 2002 @05:04PM (#4770814) Homepage

    I'm the "lead" of a couple open source projects that will never be mainstream, for two reasons: (1) The products target application developers (not lay-men) and (2) I don't have time to donate for the sole purpose of helping "stupid" users.

    While reason (1) kind of makes my posting a little off-topic, reason (2) I think is true of a lot of open source projects - including those for products that do not specifically target the tech-savvy.

    The reason is that open source is nearly always built from "donated" time, and most of us coders just don't have enough time to spend on such low-priority (as we see it) things as making the product easy for "dummies" to use. Sometimes I struggle to even respond to mailing-list questions that are obviously written by "dumb people" - I just think "it's not worth my time"!

    This attitude probably even affects open source projects that are actively trying to target the mainstream. I'd imagine for most developers it's a constant battle between their personal attitude/desires and the project goals.

    I'd say Mozilla and Evolution are the two best examples of success in making open source software that is usable by the main-stream. Kudos to those developers!

  • Yes and No. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Omega ( 1602 ) on Wednesday November 27, 2002 @05:05PM (#4770817) Homepage
    Yes I believe Open Source will become mainstream, but no it will not under the direct developer->user model.

    I believe it will be the companies which package the software and pretty-up the UI and features who will deliver it to the consumers (think IBM, RedHat, The Kompany, etc).

    I think it's unrealistic to think that everyday computer users will become more computer savvy (why should they?). So don't expect to see grandma checking out freshmeat.net any time soon. But now that Walmart is selling Linux preinstalled on lost cost computers the doors for exposing non-technical people to open source are open.

    The use of published, universally accessible standards are exactly what makes open technology flourish over proprietary systems. Think VHS vs. Betamax. Think Internet vs. Novell. Think 8086 vs. Macintosh. Free and open standards always beat proprietary technology.

  • by HotNeedleOfInquiry ( 598897 ) on Wednesday November 27, 2002 @05:05PM (#4770821)
    "Will the Open Source and Free Software communities develop software that will find widespread adoption amongst the mainstream, or is such software, by its nature, suitable only for sophisticated users?"
  • The majority of the net infrastructure is open source... and everyone uses that. Right? A more modern example of an open source success story is dmoz.org. That site is quickly becoming a large part of the back-end infrastructure of many search engines (such as google).
    --

    Sex where? [tilegarden.com]
  • Linux will never live on everyones desktop. It will never be much more than a 'tolerable' desktop environment.

    Now, with all the open-source hoobldy doo and work going into wine, samba, etc, why has noone started a project to copyleft *the* defacto desktop standard we all know and love, Windows.

    I mean really, whats so taboo about starting with an open source kernel, binary compatible with the NT kernel, then a desktop manager and supporting apps, functionally compatible with Windows. Port all that wine nonsense over so you have compatible APIs to build from.

    The drivers and hardware support is largely supplied by the hardware vendors anyways, so thats already done.

    Add your own window manager, simmer and stir, and you've got yourself a compatable OS.

    And no whining about how 'insecure' and 'crappy' it is - because OS developers wouldnt make mistakes, right?

    Someone tell me why I'm wrong, and a reason other than the obvious: the OS community doesn't have the resources and skill set to do what Microsoft spent years and billions doing.
  • And the fundementals of the Internet are all open source.

    Some that I can think of off the back of my hand:

    bind, sendmail, telnet, ftp, ssh, apache, mozilla.
  • There are alot of Gnutella opensource clients out there.
    What about divx codecs? Im sure OGG Vorbis would also count, its in many video games now (wc3(divx)/serious sam/unreal2k3/etc)...
  • What about Tivo? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by mjh ( 57755 ) <mark@h o r n c l a n . c om> on Wednesday November 27, 2002 @05:18PM (#4770943) Homepage Journal
    Doesn't the Tivo interface indicate that open source in general and Linux in particular is not just ready for the mainstream, but already in use by the mainstream?

    Or are you talking about GUI's? The Tivo gui is proprietary, as is the Apple GUI (another example of an opensource project out in the mainstream).
  • It can be (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Apreche ( 239272 ) on Wednesday November 27, 2002 @05:19PM (#4770952) Homepage Journal
    Just most isn't. A good example is something like CDex. It's a small open source free software project that is relatively mainstream. The reason it is so successful is because it serves a useful function, is for windows, is easy to use and easy to install. It is also one of, if not the, best CD audio ripping program there is.

    The reason that OSS isn't mainstream is because most of it is for linux, most of it is hard to use, and most of it is hard to install. Most of these have to do with the nature of being for linux.

    Stuff like Mozilla, gAIM, CDex, etc. can become mainstream. But Open Source programmers make things for themselves, and generally don't have the public in mind. Companies that make commercial software have a primary concern of profit. They will only profit if their software can actually be used by lots of people. OSS programmers don't have this as their primary concern. When they do their software will become mainstream.
  • Distribution (Score:4, Interesting)

    by DeadSea ( 69598 ) on Wednesday November 27, 2002 @05:20PM (#4770959) Homepage Journal
    Many users only use the software that is given to them. Until computers start shipping with open source software to mainstream users, open source software won't be mainstream.

    So what is preventing this from happening? Microsoft

    • Microsoft has a monopoly in operating systems.
    • Microsoft does not bundle any open source software with its OS (although it has plundered open source, returning nothing when the OSS license allows (BSD))
    • Microsoft prevents large computer manufacturers from selling PCs with other OSes. (The "Microsoft Tax")
    All that users get is a Windows computer with no source. Many users are content with this.

    Widespread open source adoption will depend on the efforts of distributors, such as RedHat, and the downfall of Microsoft as a monopoly. Open Source software will not stand on its own merits (although I believe that it could).

  • Who cares? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by koreth ( 409849 ) on Wednesday November 27, 2002 @05:20PM (#4770966)
    The implicit assumption here is that OSS is driving toward mainstream use, and can be judged a failure or a success based on how widespread it is. Which I think is dead wrong. In the commercial world, if you sell a billion copies of your software, you've succeeded since your goal is to get money from as many customers as possible. The motivation of a typical OSS project is completely different: to solve a particular problem. Popularity is nice for ego gratification, but it really isn't a goal of very many OSS projects.

    As someone who's written several free applications that "compete" with commercial apps, I can say with authority that I'm not interested in bringing down the commercial vendors. In each case I saw a problem that wasn't being addressed the way I wanted, solved it for myself, and if anyone else wants to use my solution, they're welcome to it. If they want to use one of the commercial alternatives, they're welcome to that too. Makes no difference to me. The question, "How can I make my package so attractive that other people will choose it instead of the competition?" has nothing to do with why I develop open-source software.

    Some might say, "Well, yeah, and that's the problem with open source. You'll never appeal to a mass audience that way." Which to me is like walking up to a lion tamer and telling him he's never going to grow any oranges holding the chair like that. A statement which is both perfectly true and utterly beside the point.

    Unless it's made illegal, I'll keep writing software and keep releasing the source code no matter what the rest of the world thinks of the concept of free software. I'm not doing it for them.

  • Mainstream? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by LoRider ( 16327 ) on Wednesday November 27, 2002 @05:21PM (#4770975) Homepage Journal
    Before I drone on about why open source software is the way it is; open source is mainstream just no one knows it.

    How many people surf the web without querying a DNS server running Bind? How many send email and have that email get touched by a sendmail server or some other open source application? How many people visit web sites running Apache with PHP and MySQL or Postgresql?

    People are using open source software every day and have no idea they are.

    I hope open source software doesn't start pandering to the lowest common denominator with regards to the intelligence of it's users. That is the beauty of open source software, it's for people that want to do cool shit rather than do something easily. It's a question of power over ease of use. What is easier to use Notepad or Emacs? Notepad is much less sophisticated and much easier to use. Emacs is extremely powerful but requires a tremendous amount of affort from the user to learn all of it's features (and I still don't know half of it). Now granted Notepad wasn't designed to replace emacs, but I think my point is still valid.

    What many people fail to recognize is that because open source is not Microsoft, it doesn't need to gauge it's success in the same way. A commercial software company has to sell a certain amount of software in order to have money to pay all of it's people, support the users and create a new version. Open source has none of these limitations. Open source software is successful when people use it and benefit from it. My open source project gets about 600 downloads a month, is it successful? I think so.

    Everyone is always looking for some measuring stick to gauge the success of Open Source as if millions of people using it aren't enough. People talk about success meaning that your grandmother can use it. The open source community is selfserving; we make software that we want, not software your grandmother wants. We make software that is not that user-friendly but kicks ass if you take the time to learn it.
  • by Crag ( 18776 ) on Wednesday November 27, 2002 @05:22PM (#4770986)
    While it's true that Libre Software developers work more closely with the users who contribute back to the project in some way, and those users tend to be the smarter, geekier users, the biggest difference between free and proprietary software is that free software encourages users to become smarter.

    The value in learning the nitty-gritty details of a proprietary product are lost when the vendor makes incompatible changes to scare off potential competition. The proprietary vendor wants no help from the users. He wants his users to send him money on a regular basis and not ask questions unless they will pay for answers.

    The Libre developer doesn't give a rats ass what the user does with her software. That's what makes the software free. The developer prefers to get something back for her effort, so she has a motive to make her software approachable and to provide her users with means to contribute back to the project, and often that means encouraging the user to get smarter, directly or indirectly.

    This is a gross over-generalization, but /. is not the forum for full-blown research papers as comments, so I won't defend my thesis further.
  • Fix the Interface! (Score:5, Informative)

    by alue ( 253363 ) <alan.lue@PASCALgmail.com minus language> on Wednesday November 27, 2002 @05:25PM (#4771013)
    I think you're confusing the open source paradigm with one of its traditions. Open source projects have traditionally developed software that's efficient but hard to use, hence its attractiveness to a relatively intelligent crowd--or at least one that can accept tedious documentation-reading. Consider GNU Info, GnuPG, Emacs, Vi, lynx, Tex/LaTex, or even the manual page mechanism.

    Open source projects like Mozilla and OpenOffice, on the other hand have a friendly self-documenting 0-learning-curve interface; simultaneously they're the software items that open-source advocates tout will break the mainstream barrier.

    What it comes down to is a matter of interface and documentation. From the user perspective, open source software has worked like this:

    read manual -> practice -> read more -> use

    Mainstream software works more like this:

    try using -> use

    Mainstream software is not something I'm going to have to study in order to use; rather it's something that I can learn by trying out.

    Fortunately open source software is already becoming more intuitive. For example:

    I use Red Hat 8. How do I...
    • write email?

      Menu > Internet > Email
    • browse the web?

      Menu > Internet > Web Browser
    • send instant messages?

      Menu > Internet > Instant Messenger
    • scan a document?

      Menu > Graphics > Scanning
    • write a document?

      Menu > Office > Writer
    • draw a diagram?

      Menu > Office > Diagrams
    • change the desktop background?

      Menu > Preferences > Background

    Anyway, I don't think there's anything inherently wrong with the open source paradigm; it's all a matter of choice of interface, and one can see already that in the newest distributions--like Red Hat 8.0--that the interface is becoming more acceptable for mainstream use.
  • by skintigh2 ( 456496 ) on Wednesday November 27, 2002 @05:31PM (#4771040)
    I'm sure you were thinking bigger than this, but just about everyone who owns an Archos MP3 player and who has tried the Rockbox OS has switched to it.

    Slashdot covered is a while ago: http://slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=02/06/04/001825 9&mode=thread&tid=100

    The Rockbox OS replaces the standard OS on the MP3 player. It's completely open source, and yes it's completely legal, too.

    Version 1.4 is out now. Except for recording functions that are due in the next version (and may already work in the daily builds) and a few file functions, Rockbox does everything the shipped OS does, and does it better, and does alot more. Rockbox supports threading, where the Archos OS freezes to think all the time. Rockbox supports text files and new fonts and many languages. Archos OS supports 1 font and 1 language and no text files. Rockbox also allows one to customize the while-playing screen to display any and all info about the song. Rockbox is also much better at handling play lists and randomizing them. The one time I tried to make a playlist with the Archos OS my MP3 player froze for over an hour.
  • Why wouldn't they? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Kjella ( 173770 ) on Wednesday November 27, 2002 @05:33PM (#4771049) Homepage
    Certainly, if all the people who were pirating actually had to pay for Photoshop, they'd probably consider Gimp instead. Some might still have found they need it, but most would settle for something free, or something cheaper. Unless you have ethical or juridical (think:companies) concerns with not having a legal licence, Photoshop is, and presumably will be superior to Gimp for a long time.

    "Free" copies of Windows, MS Office etc. is what is keeping free software from the markedplace. And I think Microsoft knows this. Noone is going to feel that they've "hurt" Microsoft by not adding another 0,000000001% to their bank account. I don't think there's much software that a majority needs and would be willing to pay for. 50%+ don't need Photoshop. But if they can have it anyway, why not. It's like having an off-roader without ever going off-road. It's not that you actually do it, but that you could do so.

    I know. At a work place I had to make do with Paint to make some simple figures, because there was no budget to get me anything better. Ok it was simple lineart, but still... I'd want nothing more than to install Photoshop/PSP/whatever, but I couldn't.

    Kjella
  • define mainstream (Score:4, Insightful)

    by timothy ( 36799 ) on Wednesday November 27, 2002 @05:33PM (#4771051) Journal
    If you could buy something in a Texas Wal-Mart a couple of years ago, would you say it deserves the name "mainstream"?

    If yes, then it's too late for Linux to escape, because I've done that.

    Nicely boxed, manual-included Linux distros have been around for years (in national chain stores), and "open source" covers things a lot less radical, like say the Phoenix browser. Lots of Windows users don't think of themselves as too far from the mainstream justs because they're using a better browser than IE :)

    tiothy
  • by ChaoticCoyote ( 195677 ) on Wednesday November 27, 2002 @05:51PM (#4771183) Homepage

    What's wrong with software for "sophisticated users?"

    Nothing.

    Somewhere, pundits have declared that Open Source and Free Software must appeal to the masses in order to be a "success."

    If anything, the desire to attract the masses is a primary reason why commercial software stinks. It's bloated, complex, and wasteful -- because it tries to be everything to everyone.

    Open/Free Software, on the other hand, lacks the financial incentive that dilutes creativity and effectiveness in commercial products. "Free" has many connotations, including the freedom to be original and precise.

    Open/Free software can not be treated as a monolithic block; "popularity" means very different things to developers of various projects. Where KDE and Gnome care deeply about being popular, many (many) other projects do not.

    Freedom is about choice -- some projects chose to chase popularity, while others focus on being the best available tool for a discerning audience. Trying to declare a goal of "popularity" for all Open/Free software is myopic at best and counter-productive at worst.

  • an agnostic reply (Score:3, Insightful)

    by kraksmoka ( 561333 ) <grant.grantstern@com> on Wednesday November 27, 2002 @06:10PM (#4771319) Homepage Journal
    Microsoft has done what they had to do to penetrate an uneducated market for their products. Open source has the luxury of listening to the power users for the simple reason that as more children grow up with everyday computing from an early age, this demand will increase dramatically. Bottom line, people that are over the age of 25 today, and this becomes more pronounced as you get to the age of 35 are either barely machine literate, or at worst do not know how to operate a mouse. It has become eerily similar to simple reading literacy rates, 30-50 years ago in this country. We take for granted the high literacy rate in the US because it has been a mainstay of our society for so long. In another 20 years, computer literacy will be the same way. Go ahead, ask any 18 year old today what life was like before the internet. Unless they grew up in the bottom 5% of the socio-economic spectrum, you'll hear quite a bit of, I don't know. The balances are just begining to tip. This is not to say that Open Source today is user friendly, but to say that computer users will only become more sophisticated as they start earlier.
  • by zogger ( 617870 ) on Wednesday November 27, 2002 @06:28PM (#4771407) Homepage Journal
    ..way back in the olden daze, you used to be able to buy 'a car'. cars where large and weird looking, had personalities of a sort, but were 'square". people wanted pizazz, they wanted "more",including more power.

    Enter the geeks.

    Car geeks chopped channelled and lowered cars, made them high compression and short stroke, tweaked this, tweaked that, result-hotrods.

    Flash forward a coupla decades, "hotrods" become factory built, you could literally walk into the dealer and drive out with 400+ HP "hotrods".

    Did detroit do this on their lonesome? Did some marketing guy thunk this up all by himself? Nope, it took millions of young car geeks simply doing it to the consternation of staid marketing, eventually-and I mean eventually-they bingoed to the phenomena. They were partly driven by-surprise-the car geeks-the kids in a lot of cases- turning into the engineers at the plants, working on the assembly line and talking cars on break, at the dirt tracks all over, this drove the industry in a direction it didn't want to go at first, they were square and wanted to stick with the gold old tried and true bloatware boats, but eventually the sheer mass and enthusiasm of cars as cool and powerful enablers of humans took hold and the main stream acceptance of "hotrods" became as much a norm as anything else.

    Computers aren't any different. Young people today who are the hotrodders-the tinkerers, the geeks, will be driving this industry. We ARE at exactly that point now near as I can tell. It's not going to be anything else BUT the enthusiasts because they are the ones going into the hotrod computer industry. The masses who just play games occassionally and do email and work as drones in some office and don't even 'get it" with computers are just along for the ride, and that's it, evne the 'bosses' now who don't get it will be forced into it as all their people below them startytelling them the same thing over and over again. The establishment controls the now but aren't the ones who will drive what is accepted, because they lack the enthusiasm.

    People with enthusiasm make the new software, overclock the hardware, design the custom cases, think up new ways to "do things", and as such will automagically become "the industry".Money will get there somehow, one little company at a time, one new box that is tried as an "experiment" at bigco to shut up the young sysadmin, one piece of open source adopted over closed, it'll just happen.

    They get jobs, they are given tasks, the way their brains work they will always migrate to what they are the most enthusiastic about, DESPITE being ordered otherwise to remain square and "normal". They are fanatics, and will have their way, it's just human nature.

    To use a very old expression that fits, it's not the dog in the fight, it's the fight in the dog.

    So to answer you, yes, the enthusiasm for open source is a factor of ten or one hundred times the level of the enthusiasm of the borg or closed source. They will win then, it's just common sense and a logical conclusion. You might argue about the timing, that's about it. I am guessing we are almost exactly at the tip over point. Most industry "experts" are saying closed source and the borg OS will dominate for years and years and years. I disagree. I disagree a lot.

    Remember, the same exact guys said that about the dotcom stock market boom as well. Open source has gone right through the dotcom boom and while all sorts of other things techish evaporated, it just kept on cruising, didn't it?

    Look at the enthusiasm of users, not from any paid industry experts as to trends. Experts get paid to parrot already established market forces, the term "shill" is over used, but the basic idea is still correct. Look around corporations in the trenches, where is the enthusiasm at? The young folks entering the workforce now grew up with computers, they didn't learn them as adults. It's not a chore to them it's not hard drudgery. Those people are open source enthusiasts by and large, mostly all do things like file sharing and mods, they code for fun as well as money, they really push envelopes. And they are overwhelmingly adopting open source, so...there ya go.
  • by kfg ( 145172 ) on Wednesday November 27, 2002 @06:38PM (#4771441)
    who only got her first computer this year uses my Mandrake/KDE box right alongside her own Mac without any problems. In fact she prefers it because of the wide range of software freely available for her to use and she's asked me to build her one.

    It's got all the pretty icons, buttons, clicky things the Mac does. They work just as well. They're just as "intuitive" to her and the Linux box actually crashes a bit less often than her Mac.

    It lacks a bit of "fit and finish." Geeks seem to always leave off at the "rubbing out the finish endlessly" stage, but KDE has made particular strides along that line recently and don't look to be slowing down.

    Open Source software is already perfectly acceptable to "Joe User." There's nothing "geekier" about Kword than there is about MS Word.

    This is not the same thing as being accepted however. Although the press still seems to take cracks at the "geekiness" of OSS those cracks are almost always a couple years out of date and tends to harp on the CLI even though that's a none issue ( and the same press praises Apple for putting the command line back. Go figure). They effect the perceptions of said "Joe User" though.

    Given time though I'll bet you anything that in the future the idea of a propriatary OS or WP will seem just plain doofey to the average Joe. Times change and perceptions change and OSS just keeps getting better and better without ever "forcing" expensive and pointless updates. Schools are starting to use it and as Apple proved getting it into the schools creates a user base. That's why Bill will send Steve to "Joe Blow Elementary School," or even go himself.

    You never saw Jack Welch going there because they used Phillips lightbulbs instead of GE.

    Here's a test you can do if you're so inclined. Take two Windows boxen and a KDE box and load up Word/Kword/OOWord in one of each. Take an average Joe and set them down to play with each. After he's played around for an hour or so ask him which one he wants, this one for $400 or one of the other two for free? Bet you the only functional difference he sees between the three is the price.

    Ok, what's the catch with my mom? *I* installed the Linux. Not her.

    But then she didn't install her Mac OS either.

    KFG
  • Documentation (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Angst Badger ( 8636 ) on Wednesday November 27, 2002 @06:55PM (#4771531)
    There also seems to be a lack of detailed documentation

    That's it for me in a nutshell. Forget the "mainstream" -- the lack of good documentation renders a lot of otherwise nice software useless in the IT workplace.

    Look at it this way: if you pay an admin $60/hr., every hour he or she spends struggling with your fragmentary docs or (much) worse, reading the source to figure out what's going on, reduces the cost-competitiveness of your software versus a commercial product by $60. In a big project, multiply that by the multiple admins and developers who have to struggle with it, and it's not long before your free-as-in-speech software is much more expensive than the free-in-no-way commercial alternative.

    Forget the broader social issues, forget the long term. Management does not think that way, and they have compelling incentives not to. And most of all, forget the dollar cost of the software. Cost of software is almost always trivial compared to the cost of the labor required to maintain it, even with expensive packages like Oracle and (may god pity you if you have to deal with it) Interwoven. The real question from a "straight" business perspective is: how long will it take us to have Package X up and running smoothly? From a business perspective, that's the whole issue.

    The idea that businessmen can be persuaded on a large scale to make decisions on something other than relatively short term ROI calculations is a fantasy. That's what federal regulation is for. If you want to move product -- and that includes free software -- you must understand your customers' needs and satisfy them better than the competition. Free software, by and large, does not do this.

    "Intuitive" GUIs only become a major issue when you're talking about non-technical users -- not that it wouldn't be nice for plenty of server apps. When it comes to ordinary end-users, you can probably skip the docs because they won't read them. The GUI becomes absolutely critical then. Again, stop thinking about whether the end user can figure out the interface, or whether it's documented -- ask yourself, "Is my free package as easy to use as the competition's non-free package?" If your answer is no, go fix your interface problem.

    Finally -- and slightly off-topic -- the notion that point-and-drool idiot-proof interfaces will cripple a program is nonsense. Sure, some things don't translate to GUIs well, but a lot of stuff will, and you can still provide a CLI/config file interface to the advanced users.
  • by vga_init ( 589198 ) on Wednesday November 27, 2002 @06:58PM (#4771545) Journal
    It's becoming a disgustingly popular trend in today's society that computers should be owned (and therefore paid for) by people who shouldn't have them. These people now constitute a large bulk of the computing population, however, there are also another group of people who own computers, and that group is the people who are educated on them and well versed in their use. Many of these people might be called geeks or hackers, but you need not be either of those things to be on the "deserving" end of the technological consumer continuum. I now use these groups to present two cases:
    1. Your average human being:
      These people, originally feerful of computers and other things associated with magic, have been succored into buying and using computers because of flashy and glittering promises made to them either by corporations through advertising or from boastful or misunderstood friends/family members. They have very little patience; they want computers to do what they want, and they want it done immediately. A good many of them have given into the superstition that computers are some sort of life form capable of making deicisions and doing work for them, often becoming extremely hostile and bitter when the opposite becomes obvious, though they continue to deny the fact. These people, however, are not picky, and are willing to accept quick-fix solutions and botch jobs which would have otherwise been found unacceptable if they had actually done the work. Therefore, they flock to software that is easy to use and that gets something done (though what, they care little) regardless of reliability or effectivity. Therefore, this "mainstream population", flocks to over-priced software, often convinced that you get what you pay for (an example of faulty logic, their favorite kind); they are not concerned with open source software, usually either not knowing what it is or already having been convinced by their "friends" that it's somehow unhealthy.
    2. Knowledgeable folk:
      These people range from hobbyists to professionals, generally having a good understanding of the form and function of computers. They buy computers with precise knowledge (usually) of what it is they want their computers to do for them, and how they are going to get that done. This computing culture has a great deal of experience with open source software, which has always been present throughout its development with good consistency. It's perfectly acceptable not to use open source all the time, and many might prefer commercial products of particular virtue, though most probably favor some open source programs to others. Only a small portion of these people are open source fanatics, the rest simply using open source software because it is particularly useful for their purpose. Needless to say, a great deal of open source software is considered mainstream among this group.
    I, for one, am perfectly content with the current state of affairs; the former community can stick to its foolish and lemming-like ways, while the latter and more important will continue to use OSS, which is already mainstream to them.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 27, 2002 @07:01PM (#4771564)
    I've been a programmer, consultant, and writer in the computer field for a long time, including a long stint in the Linux arena, and I'm convinced that free/open software will never go mainstream until the people creating it undergo a major (and I do mean major) shift in their approach to end users.

    Throw rocks at MS and the other closed source companies all you want (and they definitely deserve it, as we all know), but the bottom line is that when your weekly paycheck depends on getting mainstreamers to pay good money for your software you have a very different view of the world than when you're listening to the geek crowd and pleasing just your peer group.

    We all know the reasons why Linux won't ever make it on the mainstream desktop--crappy docs, too much required tinkering, spotty hardware support, and not enough compatibility with the programs those would-be customers really want to run. There's one more reason, one that the /. crowd is loathe to admit: Windows has finally become a really decent OS. Sure, it took them way, way too long to get there, and it's still far from perfect, particularly on the security and privacy fronts, but WinXP is solid and highly usable.

    There was a time when it was a race: Could Linux (already highly stable) become usable before Windows (acceptably usable) became stable? The race is nearly over, and Windows has such a huge lead that it will take a techno-miracle for Linux to catch up.

  • Depends (Score:3, Insightful)

    by CaptainSuperBoy ( 17170 ) on Wednesday November 27, 2002 @07:08PM (#4771602) Homepage Journal
    I think the open source model, at least its most popular implementation, has proven that it can write great software but is unable to make it 'mainstream.' This is understandable if you take a look at the number of great programmers working on open source and compare that to the number of graphic and UI designers as well as product managers. Yes, every project needs good management and not every programmer is a good manager or designer. A manager must decide what features are needed, how to make the user's experience consistent, and how to unify the goals of the project. Often this isn't done in open source programming and you end up with overlapping, hard-to-use features and multiple ways to accomplish the same task. Some would call this power, I call it confusion.

    I'm assuming that by mainstream you mostly mean it has a good UI. They've made great strides but I think the problem is one of control. Even a large distributor like Red Hat doesn't have much control over the contents of the individual packages. They just don't have the manpower and the business model to allow them to customize every software package to fit in with their vision of the end-user experience. So you end up with a distro that ships with 5 or so shells, 2 good window managers with completely different interfaces, and thousands of free applications each with their own quirks, UI, and configuration file. Folks, this is not mainstream. It's not the fault of the developers, it's a problem inherent in the open source model.

    Now switch gears.. if our word 'mainstream' means widely used, well it already is. Look no further than Apache/PHP. Also tons of mainstream, non-free software includes free components such as OpenSSL. There are also individual packages that I would consider mainstream such as VirtualDub. Maybe Grandma isn't going to use it, but VirtualDub is widely accepted as a great package for video processing.
  • by Badanov ( 518690 ) on Wednesday November 27, 2002 @07:38PM (#4771760) Homepage Journal
    I have looked over many of the anti-open source remarks. Their arguments seem to say that proprietary software is better for the massive offerings they have in applications, all of them including browsing, mail, office, etc... And so they are. But even the most fanatical MS groupie has got to admit that the Linux desktop and many of the applications are stable and usable enough for the mainstream; they are not very well marketed, mostly becuase that was never the point for Linux.

    Many of the open source arguments fail to mention, from what I have seen, is that every Rehat Linux distro comes with no fewer than two programming languages, and if you want it all, there are many many other languages which come with a typical Linux distro, MS would be loathe to load upon thier own OS distro.

    Those languages are already there ready to rock and roll, for those who want to fully customize their computer using shells sripts and the like; and I am talking only about bash commands and perl, not some of the other languages such as gawk and the like. Of course many like me have seen their fair share of glazed over eyes when you look into those eyes to tell them these as reasons for using Linux.

    These are fantastic, wonderfully flexible mechanisms for people to make their computers do what they want when they want in the manner they desire, in a secure and stable manner. Last time I looked, I had to rely on MS's thinking on the subject, which is basically, we know better than you and what works well for you, so no perl for you.

    Now, I will grant you not every human being on the face of the earth would like to learn programming, and I believe that a simpler Redhat distro targeted towards those who want an inexpensive OS so they can do internet stuff would probably be a better in for the Linux community to expand Linux for the average user.

    So I guess the answer would be, Linux will probably not become mainstream for the average computer user. MS with their Xbox and this coming concept of a universal household computer appliance (all running MS products exclusively of course) will see to that soon enough. But Linux's existance has been demonstrated not to be tied to MS's concept of what computing will be, but rather what it should be: the freedom and the absolute right to tell your CPU which code to run and under which language.

    I happen to be the tech person at my family's company and I am sold on Linux and open source solutions to business matters, and am moving our business computing towards Linux and away from MS for our basic tasks.

    I guess I have rambled on about all this. But every chance I get I try to get people to try Linux, frustratingly to little avail, not, albeit, owing to the quality of Linux product, but to the deviously simplicity of MS products.

    Jeez, probably shoulda shut up. Oh well...

  • by BeBoxer ( 14448 ) on Wednesday November 27, 2002 @07:54PM (#4771855)
    Everyone is missing the single biggest and most obvious reason that Open Source projects don't generally reach the masses. There is no marketing!!! The masses don't buy what's best. And they don't even manage to buy what they need most of the time. They buy whatever the flashy ads tell them to buy. They buy whatever the retail tie-in's dump right in front of their face when they walk in the store. They buy whatever the commissioned salesperson tells them they need to buy. And that's why Open Source solutions don't hit the big time. Nobody is spending millions (or billions in the case of some large commercial software vendors) to put Open Source solutions in front of the masses. Ever seen an ad for RedHat on network TV? Didn't think so. Do I even need to ask if you saw an XP ad during it's launch? Didn't think so.
  • by kaeru ( 245396 ) <(khairil.yusof) (at) (gmail.com)> on Wednesday November 27, 2002 @08:41PM (#4772078) Homepage
    Cost of commercial applications (mostly from the US) can be prohibitive for a lot of small companies of up to 50 employees. A lot simply cannot earn enough to justify everybody having MS Word, or a 50 usr license of Exchange.

    What I'm seeing now is that more and more offices are converting to Linux for servers especially for file sharing, printing and emails. What's really surprising though is that interest is also picking up on OpenOffice. We're getting more and more calls daily from companies looking for OpenOffice training for their staff.

    I guess that covers business mainstream. As for consumer mainstream, it's not quite there yet. RH8 is coming close, but I'm still having problems with a lot of consumer devices. People don't usually buy on features not by OS. They ask for things like, "I want a colour printer to print my photos, that I take with my digital camera". Then they expect a simple installation disk and almost plug and play setup with nice "easy" instructions.

    So until you rush out and buy a digital camera, and it has linux intructions in the box, you're not likely to see it adopted for the consumer mainstream just yet.

  • Missing something (Score:4, Insightful)

    by wfrp01 ( 82831 ) on Wednesday November 27, 2002 @09:56PM (#4772357) Journal
    Every time this discussion comes up, the presumption appears to be that free software lacks mainstream appeal because of interface issues. While such considerations play a role, de-facto standard proprietary data formats and communications protocols play a far greater role in establishing the entrenched 'mainstream' computer interface with which people are familiar. Unless and until people wean themselves from their dependance on .doc, .xls, SMB, .NET, .mov, .wma, etc. they will find themselves locked into the familiar "mainstream" operating systems and applications. That is the crux of the matter, not pretty buttons and widget layout. With the MS anti-trust farce behind them, and palladium ahead of them, expect no mercy on the proprietary format front. Free software has a very tough row to hoe. Which is why free software's ultimate victory will be so much the sweeter...

Duct tape is like the force. It has a light side, and a dark side, and it holds the universe together ... -- Carl Zwanzig

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