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Ask Slashdot: How Would You Fix the Linux Desktop? 1154

itwbennett writes "Slashdot readers are familiar with the Torvalds/de Icaza slugfest over 'the lack of development in Linux desktop initiatives.' The problem with the Linux desktop boils down to this: We need more applications, and that means making it easier for developers to build them, says Brian Proffitt. 'It's easy to point at solutions like the Linux Standard Base, but that dog won't hunt, possibly because it's not in the commercial vendors' interests to create true cross-distro compatibility. United Linux or a similar consortium probably won't work, for the same reasons,' says Proffitt. So, we put it to the Slashdot community: How would you fix the Linux desktop?"
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Ask Slashdot: How Would You Fix the Linux Desktop?

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  • It's not broken. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Hatta ( 162192 ) on Friday September 07, 2012 @02:09PM (#41263347) Journal

    I've been using Linux on my desktop for 13 years now. It works just fine for me.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      You're part of the problem.

      If you want to help spread the Linux base, such an attitude doesn't help.

      If you don't care, then please continue as you are.

      • Re:It's not broken. (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Rob the Bold ( 788862 ) on Friday September 07, 2012 @02:21PM (#41263599)

        You're part of the problem.

        If you want to help spread the Linux base, such an attitude doesn't help.

        If you don't care, then please continue as you are.

        A satisfied user doesn't help "spread the Linux base"? Why not, I ask seriously?

        • by Anonymous Coward on Friday September 07, 2012 @02:26PM (#41263773)

          It depends on the attitude. A satisfied user who doesn't acknowledge there may be problems preventing wide-spread adaptation is a road block.

          • Re:It's not broken. (Score:5, Interesting)

            by jedidiah ( 1196 ) on Friday September 07, 2012 @02:33PM (#41263959) Homepage


            The main roadblock is that the market has been dominated by a single vendor since long before a single line of the Linux kernel was written. This dominant vendor was nearly able to kill off Apple with an OS that has no GUI and required MANUAL MEMORY MANAGEMENT.

            It seems like some people have not been computing long enough to realize just how BAD Microsoft products have been while being an overwhelming force in the industry.

            People put up with Microsoft because of it's perceived monopoly and just deal with problems as if they were unavoidable and inevitable. The same goes for companies and 3rd parties.

            Some people are under the delusion that magically turning Linux into a Windows clone or a MacOS clone would help anything.

            Even real Macs still have trouble getting traction.

            • by cpu6502 ( 1960974 ) on Friday September 07, 2012 @02:55PM (#41264491)

              >>>The main roadblock is that the market has been dominated by a single vendor

              Then the solution is to copy the vendor. Make the Linux look & feel like the XP/Seven OS that everyone knows and feels comfortable with, so the transition is near-painless.

              People don't want to relearn how to use a computer, just as they don't want to relearn how to drive car. (Notice how the hybrids make themselves have the same controls as standard cars, rather than separate controls for the gas engine & electric motor.)

              • by HaZardman27 ( 1521119 ) on Friday September 07, 2012 @03:22PM (#41265031)
                If the solution to Linux's "problem" is to turn it into the crappy OS that it absolutely strives not to be, then I would rather stick with the "problem." I think most of the Linux community would agree with that.
              • by Grishnakh ( 216268 ) on Friday September 07, 2012 @03:32PM (#41265251)

                Make the Linux look & feel like the XP/Seven OS that everyone knows and feels comfortable with, so the transition is near-painless.

                The problem is, this has already been done! KDE4 works very much like Windows Vista/7 with some minor differences, and is highly configurable and themable to make it look like a near-clone if you want. However, the Linux distros don't like KDE, and are either pushing Gnome3 or in Ubuntu's case, Unity, which are both radical departures from the XP/Vista/7 type interface that Windows users are all comfortable with. The distros seem to think they need to push something new and different and "bold", and that somehow this is going to make millions of Windows users dump Windows and switch to Linux, rather than providing an environment that's an easy transition.

            • by npsimons ( 32752 ) * on Friday September 07, 2012 @03:21PM (#41265011) Homepage Journal

              This dominant vendor was nearly able to kill off Apple with an OS that has no GUI and required MANUAL MEMORY MANAGEMENT.

              Well, to be fair, let's not forget that Apple was pretty much the last org out there to offer protected memory and true multitasking; MacOS before X was a joke, something that looked like a student project, and a poor student at that. These days, even OSX is crippled by stupid policy.

              • by Grishnakh ( 216268 ) on Friday September 07, 2012 @03:35PM (#41265291)

                Yep, I remember having to do a work project with Mac OS 9, and that also had MANUAL MEMORY MANAGEMENT. It took me a while to figure out why my Perl program wasn't working right, until I found out that I needed to increase the memory allocated to the interpreter. Huh? Since when do you need to tell an OS how much memory a program is allowed to use? I don't think even Windows 3.0 had this limitation.

            • Re:It's not broken. (Score:4, Informative)

              by Gadget_Guy ( 627405 ) on Friday September 07, 2012 @04:15PM (#41266057)

              The main roadblock is that the market has been dominated by a single vendor since long before a single line of the Linux kernel was written.

              Actually the key to Microsoft's success was exactly the opposite of what you said. They were not the vendor, at least not to the general public. It was the likes of IBM, Compaq, and Dell who sold computers that ran DOS. It was the fact that there were multiple vendors that drove down prices to make the PC compatible the affordable solution with the widest selection of software.

              IBM tried unsucessfully to stop the clone market. Apple too had clones, but they ended up more successful at eliminating their competition - and they ended up with a pitiful market share to show for it. By the time Apple started its official clone program to expand the Macintosh market share, it was too late.

              This dominant vendor was nearly able to kill off Apple with an OS that has no GUI and required MANUAL MEMORY MANAGEMENT.

              I think you are forgetting about the manual memory management of the original Mac OS. You had to specify how much memory each program would use. You are right about the lack of GUI. This is one of those times where being the better does not equal success. Being cheaper can often be more important. Of course, by that reasoning Linux should takes over!

              Some people are under the delusion that magically turning Linux into a Windows clone or a MacOS clone would help anything.

              Absolutely. If you attempt to look like someone else's product then people will only notice the differences as being inferior to the original. Linux needs to keep its own identity.

              And that is why it will never grow to become the new standard OS: there is not one single indentity. I said before that DOS succeeded because it ran on computers from multiple companies. If you turned on a PC compatible then you faced a familiar interface: C> This is not the case with Linux. Every distro does things their own way, with different windows managers and methods of installing software. It will never gain mainstream status while it appears to me hundreds of different operating systems.

              But it is this flexibility and configurability that is what is so good about Linux. If you search long enough, you will eventually find the distro that fits your needs. And if you can't find one, you can make your own. But this means that it will always be a niche market for people who like to tinker and experiment with their computers.

              So as others here have said, there is nothing wrong with the Linux desktop that needs to be fixed. All that needs to change is our expectations that the general population is ready and willing to put the time and effort into adapting to the OSS way of doing things when what they use now does everything they need.

          • He clearly said he thinks it works for him. It also works for me and all my coworkers. I guess it doesn't work for other people but what do I know. I know I had to put some hours into making it work for me, I encourage others to do the same. I am not a road block.

        • by betterunixthanunix ( 980855 ) on Friday September 07, 2012 @02:59PM (#41264571)

          A satisfied user doesn't help "spread the Linux base"? Why not, I ask seriously?

          Maybe we do not want to get stuck doing tech support for our entire social circle. It's unfortunate, but it is true: we are still at the point where if we install GNU/Linux on someone's machine, we take on the responsibility of solving their problems (and that ultimately means solving problems that are unrelated to their OS -- an unplugged cable, an overheated router, a power outage, etc.). LUGs are dying and cannot provide useful community help, and online forums are full of bad, contradictory advice. We are still not bothering to educate anyone about computers (except how to use a speciifc company's product in specific ways), and so most computer users remain helpless.

          This is not merely an uphill battle; it is more like an attempt to reach escape velocity.

      • by Anonymous Coward on Friday September 07, 2012 @02:30PM (#41263881)

        There's no problem. For many a rock is exactly what they need. For many linux is exactly what they need. For many, windows or mac is what they need. Everything has a function.

        For me personally, linux is far more functional than Windows in my day to day as a web developer. The only thing I pay yearly licensing for is VMWare so that I can run multiple servers and testing environments.

        Linux doesn't need to change to be useful to many people. As people get more bathed in technology from birth, the barrier to entry is going to decrease. We're already seeing that. Distributions like Ubuntu you can almost completely avoid the command line and have an app-store like experience- this lowers the barrier even more. We're there right now. This is the time.

        If your concern is foisting Linux on people who are fine with the tools they're using, that's a different problem. You have to overcome in that case. People will come to linux when the price is wrong for other things and when their needs relative to their dollars aren't met.

        Don't push linux. you're no better than the assholes that parade around foisting their religion on you. Linux is a tool and it is a religion. It will be found by people who seek it, and every day more and more people are doing that. Linux isn't a foreign term to almost anyone who has an android phone or reads the news. People are less and less afraid of it as they know more and as it looks more like what they know.

        Give it time.

      • by simplu ( 522692 )
        No, you are THE problem. Why spread Linux base? I like it and I use it. There are a lot of things (music, books etc) which I like and most people don't. Would I change them for people to like them? No! If you change Linux to be loved by everybody I probably won't like it anymore.
      • by rastos1 ( 601318 ) on Friday September 07, 2012 @03:39PM (#41265385)

        I've been using Linux on my desktop for 13 years now. It works just fine for me.

        You're part of the problem.

        If you want to help spread the Linux base, such an attitude doesn't help.

        Me: I don't have a drinking problem.
        You: It's worse than I thought. You are in denial!
        Me: ???
        The truth is, that I'm also a happy Linux desktop user for over a decade. And the only thing that it does not do for me is to compile code using Win32 API. Meh.

    • by CodeheadUK ( 2717911 ) on Friday September 07, 2012 @02:20PM (#41263563) Homepage
      That's nice, but you're not the target of this question.

      It's the learning curve that puts most people off. If you can get the average user through the first few weeks with minimal problems, you'll set them on the path to become a beardy 13 year Linux veteran just like you.

      However, most people's experience of Linux is a troublesome couple of days trying to get some obscure bit of hardware working properly followed by a full on feet-eating system meltdown due to excessive fiddling in the wrong places. People (right or wrong) have short attention spans and things need to 'just work' or they'll go elsewhere.

      • by SQLGuru ( 980662 ) on Friday September 07, 2012 @02:40PM (#41264099) Journal

        I don't think it's the learning curve. I think it's that there's TOO MUCH choice. I've made the argument many times over various other similar posts, but there isn't a lot of help for people unfamiliar with Linux to lead them to the right choices. If I ask one person, they'll say "Fedora is the best" and someone else will say "Ubuntu is better" and yet another person will say "No! It's Debian." or any other three distros that you want to pick. Same goes for desktop environments (GNOME vs KDE).

        I'm a technically competent person (I've been coding since C64. I've built my own machines. I've installed Ubuntu via PXE.) But I don't want to spend hours and hours installing a distro, playing with it, and figuring out if it meets my needs.....only to turn around and blow it all away to try out the next one. There's too many choices and no guidance about what a particular distro does best.

        I know each version of Linux is capable of the same things in the end, but some are better (by default) at certain things -- less configuration, less hunting for an obscure package, whatever. There's a reason a fork was made. If even just that was detailed, it might make it easier to pick a distro that matches your needs.

      • by aussersterne ( 212916 ) on Friday September 07, 2012 @03:24PM (#41265095) Homepage

        "a troublesome couple of days trying to get some obscure bit of hardware working properly followed by a full on feet-eating system meltdown due to excessive fiddling in the wrong places"

        That is not a learning curve. That is refusing to separate the role of developer from the role of user, which is the primary characteristic of the Linux community.

        This comes up every time there's a story about security on Slashdot ("they shouldn't be allowed on the net without first learning...")
        It comes up every time there's a story about a Linux project ("...don't like it, you can write your of open source...what have you coded...")
        It comes up in every story on GNOME or KDE ("...fixed by extensions...prefer choices to no choice...")

        Blah, blah, blah.

        Users are not developers. Every product that wants to be successful amongst users must treat them as users. Users want:

        1) Full functionality out of the box.
        2) To apply tools toward other problems (not to apply their own labor toward tool maintenance/creation).
        3) A sensible basic tool configuration/set of properties that never needs to be changed.
        4) Respect for what they're trying to accomplish.

        Linux provides none of these, 20 years on. From the user's perspective, it is thus broken.

        - In many cases it doesn't work out of the box.
        - In most cases *some aspect of the system* doesn't work out of the box.
        - Their requests for help are met with instructions to apply themselves toward learning more about how the tool is/was made and toward improving the tool itself.
        - The defaults are almost always wacky. No distro or desktop has really ever shipped with good (non-ideological/non-developer) defaults to this day.
        - Users are constantly condescended to, as though anyone whose primary task isn't Linux software debugging/development is a worthless n00b.

        Here's how to fix the Linux desktop:

        - Stop focusing on OS development pie-in-the-sky and call the core OS and desktop implementations and APIs good enough. Stabilize them for a decade at a time in this "good enough" state and allow bugs to become "known issues with workarounds" that can be used for a decade at a time.
        - Pour development hours into consumer-level/user-level stuff: multimedia, graphics and audio support, broad-based hardware and driver fixes.
        - Stop "shipping early and often." Ship late (i.e. once bugs have been fixed/stabilized) and rarely (no more than once every couple of years).
        - Stop providing "learning curve" instructions. If they have to resort to dotfile edits or man/info pages, just say "Linux can't do that yet for users" instead. (Yes, it can do that for developers, but developers are not users.)
        - Stop the "free software" puritanism. If something that's needed can be licensed and included on a "free as in beer" binary basis, and it can't practicably solved with OSS software in time for ship date, include the "free as in beer" version. This goes double for vendor-supplied hardware drivers.
        - Create a desktop kernel fork. Linus & co. are not in the business of writing/maintaining a desktop kernel. Their goals are larger (and smaller) than that. The desktop kernel can track the mainline kernel, but shouldn't adopt every latest ABI or other change—just do a major update every 3-5 years.
        - Value polish. Stop making fun of "flashy" and "shiny." Consumers buy shiny things. I buy shiny things. People here may prefer a rusted out pickup truck with a working winch to a shiny new performance sedan, but the market for rusted out pickup trucks is relatively small. People want a clean, neat, orderly world, and their computing world is a part of that. The non-developer that keeps clean windows and clean carpets wants a clean and beautiful desktop visible in their living room (and living in their consciousness), not a cluttered black console screen or rainbow-technicolor KDE icon sets with twelve different sets of widgets for twelve different apps. Visuals matter to people and are part of the larger c

        • by serviscope_minor ( 664417 ) on Friday September 07, 2012 @04:36PM (#41266409) Journal

          Users are not developers. Every product that wants to be successful amongst users must treat them as users. Users want:

          Speak for yourself. I develop stuff on Linux, so I'm a developer and user. Much of what you suggest would make it an inferior system, or are plain wrong.

          Users are not developers. Every product that wants to be successful amongst users must treat them as users. Users want:

          1) Full functionality out of the box.

          Um, you get this more with Linux than anything else. With many good distros, lots of useful things are installed out of the box. On other operating system one has to go hunting around for programs or "apps" or whatever.

          Did you know that neither Windows or OSX come with a compiler out of the box? Talk about lacking full functionality.

          2) To apply tools toward other problems (not to apply their own labor toward tool maintenance/creation).

          Linux provides plenty of tools and is basically solid and maintainance free.

          4) Respect for what they're trying to accomplish.

          Quite. I only get this under Linux. Other operating systems have all sorts of stupid restrictions, that generally end up getting on my nerves in short order. Linux lets you do anything you like with it.

          Linux provides none of these, 20 years on. From the user's perspective, it is thus broken.

          That's crap. Of the things you've listed, Linux provides 4/4 while all other systems provide a grand total of 1/4.

          - Stop focusing on OS development pie-in-the-sky and call the core OS and desktop implementations and APIs good enough. Stabilize them for a decade at a time in this "good enough" state and allow bugs to become "known issues with workarounds" that can be used for a decade at a time.

          Er, you mean like the core kernel syscall interface and X11? They've been extended in the intervening 10 years, but they're still fully backwards compatible.

          Oh and BTW, I don't particularly relish the idea of being stuck 10 years in the past.

          - Pour development hours into consumer-level/user-level stuff: multimedia, graphics and audio support, broad-based hardware and driver fixes.

          "multimedia" ceased to bew an issue years ago, as did audio. On many laptops (i.e. Intel hardware) graphics works perfectly out of the box. On others (NVidia) the graphics... works perfectly out of the box. I don't own any AMD graphics, so I can't comment.

          - Stop "shipping early and often." Ship late (i.e. once bugs have been fixed/stabilized) and rarely (no more than once every couple of years).

          You are aware that that is how most distros operate?

          - Create a desktop kernel fork. Linus & co. are not in the business of writing/maintaining a desktop kernel. Their goals are larger (and smaller) than that. The desktop kernel can track the mainline kernel, but shouldn't adopt every latest ABI or other changeâ"just do a major update every 3-5 years.

          What on earth would that achieve? And what is the difference between a "desktop kernel" and a "server kernel" or whatever.

          etc blah.

          • QED. (Score:5, Insightful)

            by aussersterne ( 212916 ) on Friday September 07, 2012 @04:51PM (#41266627) Homepage

            Between your post and mine, the dichotomy/disagreement has been made clear.

            There are two views of users, computing, what computing is for, and what useful computing actually is at work in this discussion. Another way to say what I was saying is that broader Linux community's ideas of what computing is for and what a user is like are very different from the ideas that are in the economic mainstream.

            Rather than respond to your points, I'd like to draw them into relief and point to them. You've made good points with respect to a particular set of goals and a particular value system. But the continuous questions about Linux on the desktop that we see on Slashdot suggest that there is some ambivalence in the Linux world about the ways in which meeting these goals and these values does not seem to lead to widespread adoption.

            The stalemate (a decade-old, at least, one) is crystallized by the way in which the Linux community does not want to change its goals and values, yet wants somehow to enjoy widespread adoption. The two are not compatible; to enjoy widespread adoption, Linux must share the goals of the people walking around Best Buy right now. If the broader community wants to distance themselves from these people and these goals, it is destined to fight windmills for a long time when it comes to widespread adoption.

            Better, to my eye at least, to simply concede on that point and enjoy the system that exists, understanding that for the limited userbase that it has, it is probably currently the best choice.

            Or: You can have users that are not developers or you can have users that are also developers, but there is a distinct limit on the degree to which you can have both groups with the same product.

    • How about trying something that other people are not really doing? Let's get radial menus (there was one WM that had this, but I forget the name) instead of continuing to cling to inefficient linear menus. Let's find a way to make arbitrary compositions of GUI applications, the way we can arbitrarily compose applications in our terminal (KDE3 was a step towards this, but we could have done a whole lot more).

      In other words, let's take a risk and try being innovative. What is the point of copying Apple?
    • Re:It's not broken. (Score:5, Informative)

      by Beardo the Bearded ( 321478 ) on Friday September 07, 2012 @02:25PM (#41263737)

      And that right there is the problem.

      Works on My Machine. []

      There are so many different configurations for computers and new and emerging tech, and the testing and documentation so spotty, that you've got to run through dozens of websites to get your computer to work. It took me a YEAR to get support for an Elan touchpad. Someone else decided that the ath9k driver should fill with a random number after sleep or hibernation. What the fuck is wrong with that person? Oh sure, I could fix it by bringing up a window, rmmod / modprobe ath9k, but that was seriously every time I closed the lid.

      Other problems were solved with one of the following:
      "LOL get a new computer."
      "It's not a problem with this part, it's a problem with THIS part. Report it to them."
      "Sorry, my part is perfect, so you must be a crazy person. You could try this patch though."


      And I'm not a slouch here, the post where you figure out how to add my particular computer to the specific commands to allow Fn functionality was mine. (Someone else did the heavy lifting, I put the last pieces together.)

      So what would you do to fix it? The easiest thing to do would be check the hardware during the install process or as part of the Live CD. "This touchpad is giving a weird answer to the magic knock, support may be limited."

      Then actually allow for easy tweaks to the UI. How do you change the login screen? What about sounds? Your average user wants to be able to do this. It's a motherfucking nightmare to do this in the Super-Friendly distro.

      If you have to get anyone anywhere to press CTRL-ALT-T to install a repository, then you've fucked it up. End of story.

      • by Zero__Kelvin ( 151819 ) on Friday September 07, 2012 @02:52PM (#41264413) Homepage

        "Then actually allow for easy tweaks to the UI. How do you change the login screen? What about sounds? Your average user wants to be able to do this. It's a motherfucking nightmare to do this in the Super-Friendly distro."

        Windows is not a "distro" actually. (You were talkinmg about Windows, right?) ;-) I really like how you complain that the GUI tool do do it on most Linux distributions doesn't jump out and bite you on the ass whenever you think about doing it when Windows requires a registry edit to do the same thing. []

        "And I'm not a slouch here,"

        Yes. You are. In fact you are worse than a slouch, because by your own admission you should know better, but you claim to be an authority and then spout off about shit that can happen with any OS that supports a huge range of hardware.

      • by Dadoo ( 899435 ) on Friday September 07, 2012 @02:55PM (#41264485) Journal


        Sorry, but I'm strongly inclined to believe you're the asshole. When you buy a Windows machine or Mac at the store, you're getting a machine that was designed, from the ground up, to run Windows or OSX. If you want proper hardware support, either make sure the machine you buy supports Linux, or buy a machine with Linux pre-installed. You have no trouble doing it for Windows or OSX. But no, it's a Linux problem...

        Just out of curiosity, have you tried installing a generic copy of Windows on generic hardware? I have. It's not a pleasant experience.

    • by Enry ( 630 ) <.ten.agyaw. .ta. .yrne.> on Friday September 07, 2012 @02:40PM (#41264115) Journal

      #%^#%$$ n00bs....I've had a /. account longer than most of you have been using Linux.

      20 years this year. I started using Linux on my desktop as my primary OS in 1992.

      You know what Linux needs to be 'successful' on the desktop? Stability. Same look-and-feel for the OS across the same distribution over a long period of time. Same set of applications that get installed. Every time I upgrade my OS (and I've done a *lot* of upgrades) the interface changes. Every 6 months I have to install a new OS. Sure, the LTS Ubuntu make it a bit easier, but that just means a larger gap between what I'm running and what is current and what everyone else is using.

      But that's the appeal. I mean, I'm the kind of person that wants the latest-and-greatest (not necessarily bleeding edge, but functional). So I grit my teeth, upgrade to Unity, figure it out like I've figured out Motif, Enlightenment, fvwm, Gnome, KDE and every other windowing system/environment and get back to doing work. That works for people who want to use Linux, but doesn't for everyone else. Look at how OS X and Windows have looked over the past 10 years. The look-and-feel is basically the same. There's changes (replacing the start button with a windows logo), but they're nowhere near as drastic or often as you see in Linux. Maybe Windows 8 will change that. Haven't used it yet.

      Now what can really be fixed? There's a lot of rough edges that need attention. Bluetooth support is horrible, but doesn't matter so much anymore since everyone has gone with wifi. Ability to view and edit Visio documents, or do real calendaring (I've never gotten my Linux desktop to get a calendar from an Exchange server).

      There, done yelling at clouds. Now get off my lawn!

      • by Hawke ( 1719 ) <> on Friday September 07, 2012 @03:04PM (#41264687) Homepage Journal
        (Hey man, long time no see)

        This. Like Enry, I've been using linux since pre-1.0. Unlike him, I've lost my desire to constantly upgrade versions.

        The "KDE/Gnome are both Windows 95/XP look-alikes" era was probably the top of the usability as far as I can tell. Newer KDE never got back to the same level of usability, and newer gnome makes me turn giant and green. (Look, my monitor is not 1024x768. Stop making UI decisions that only work on tiny-ass monitors.)

        And unlike most here, I think that is reasonable. Normal people won't use Linux until the app they want is only available on it... and that won't happen until the developer likes it enough to run it as their default platform. So YES, make it nice for neckbeards first. And once it's (back to being) nice for the neckbeards, THEN go ahead and try and make it nice for your grandmother too... but DO NOT break it for the neckbeards.

        And then you declare the basic desktop DONE for 3 years or so, and work on apps. Maintain the desktop in terms of bug fixes, and internal reworks and anything else you need to do, but religiously keep interfaces static for 3-10 years. And instead of going all 2nd system on the interface, work on other things. Maybe those are easier app-building tools? Maybe those are actually just killer apps. Maybe those are better tools for configuring the system, or for managing large numbers of desktops. Maybe that's "work on something completely different that doesn't affect the desktop". Whatever. Maybe that's "work on something completely different, like servers". I don't really care, as long as you stop breaking perfectly working desktops.

      • by aussersterne ( 212916 ) on Friday September 07, 2012 @03:51PM (#41265629) Homepage

        the same set of things I suggested above. Kudos to you.

        I started using Linux in '93 but stopped in 2009 because, frankly, I was exhausted. I had forgotten that in 1993 I started using Linux because it let me do the things that I wanted to do at a cost (free) that significantly beat ($thousands) what was on offer in the Unix world at the time.

        In 2009 when KDE took a shit on everyone and news that GNOME was about to do it, too, hit the netwaves, I suddenly realized that the situation had become inverted. Now being a Linux user kept me from doing the things that I wanted to do—not in theory (in theory, everything is possible—hell, you can design and fab out your own damned CPU and architecture and create a platform port for it if you want), but in practice. I was spending 10 percent of my time re-learning every major subsystem in Linux that changed every 6 months to 1 year, and another 20 percent of my time constantly fighting to get apps installed, keep them installed across distro releases, support my slowly evolving hardware (which required upgrading to new distro releases or doing backports by hand), and getting those apps to do the things that commercial apps could do easily.

        Linux was no longer saving me many $thousands, since consumer-level OSes were now adequate to my needs and the applications I needed to use were only in the $hundreds camp. The capabilities that I wanted—working multimedia, powerful apps that shared file formats with the rest of the world, set it and forget it tools that I didn't need to build myself and that could manage my data—were right there, on the shelf at affordable prices, in every way that they weren't in 1993.

        It was like a light bulb went on over my head—and I suddenly realized that Linux was holding my real career back, rather than enabling it as it had done in the early '90s. Bye-bye, Linux.

        The culture of Linux remains the culture of 1993 mid-range computing—but we no longer live in a world in which CS students can't afford the hardware/software they use at school and mainstream OSes can't do the fun stuff. Quite the opposite. It's funny to think back at how thrilled I was to have X11 on the desktop (compared to Windows 3.1) versus how I feel now, twenty years on, comparing KDE or GNOME on Fedora or Ubuntu to OS X 10.8. The tables have been exactly turned. Linux is still essentially the same in architecture and philosophy, while the rest of the world has moved to a completely different paradigm in which computing is essentially appliance-driven. In 1993 Linux was ahead of its time. In 2013 Linux is a decade behind.

        These days, I want an complete, polished, turnkey appliance at low cost and with no labor time investment, not a set of building block. Today's appliances are fast, intuitive, stable, durable, powerful, and integrated like the iPad (which I do, yes, use for serious work about 5-6 hours a day). For most users (which is where I have always ultimately fallen), Linux is solution in search of a problem that no longer exists.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      Linux works for me too, but still it's 'broken' in various ways:

      • Lousy support for software that's not in a distro's repository. Like: 3rd party closed source software. Linux could be a lot more popular on the desktop if it was EASY to install 3rd party software (in particular: recent / popular games). Right now it's child's play for in-repository software, get ready to be hurtin' for anything else.
      • Cross-distro compatibility. Right now that's basically trial-and-error, hit-or-miss, no guarantees whatsoev
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday September 07, 2012 @02:11PM (#41263367)

    I would shut linux down and give the money back to its shareholders.

  • by Stumbles ( 602007 ) on Friday September 07, 2012 @02:11PM (#41263369)
    Put Linus in charge of everything.
    • Re:Simple (Score:5, Interesting)

      by demachina ( 71715 ) on Friday September 07, 2012 @02:38PM (#41264067)

      I don't think Linus is interested in owning the desktop. Its pretty clear he wants his desktop to be geared towards his workflow as a hard core coder/developer , and that is not the same desktop you would want for ordinary people. That is a key problem with the Linux desktop, the only people that care about it and develop it are hardcore geeks/programmers and the stuff they want is diametrically opposed to what ordinary people want in a desktop. Its seriously got old 10 years ago listening to Linux heads demand the Linux desktop be a few windows with shells in them, or listening to them as they forked and developed 100 different window managers almost none of which gain critical mass and none of which will ordinary people use.

      If you want Linux to succeed with the general public my suggestions would be to:

      A. Get rid of some of the fragmentation, relgious wars, and wasted time caused by the GNOME vs KDE conflict in particular. I understand why the split happened but its done nothing but damage over the years and its time to stop it or Linux will never succeed on the desktop.

      B. You need very well written core API's because everything else flows from those. A good IDE helps too, Eclipse is OK but its not great, Xcode is awesome, DevStudio is pretty good.

      C. All apps need to use the same API's so they interoperate and look and feel the same. Constantly writing variations of existing API's. and fragmenting them, is not a wise thing to do on the desktop. A lot of Apple's success can be tied to the fact that Cocoa and Objective C are very well done in a lot of areas, and they make it easy and a joy to develop applications. If its a joy to write apps, more developers will do it and the a quality of the apps for the time spent is consistently higher. Writing apps on Linux by comparison is a poke in the eye with a sharp stick, its painful, inconsistent, there is constant wheel reinventing, everyone does their own thing and it shows in the inconsistent apps that don't interoperate.

      D. As much as I hate to say Qt is probably the best API you have but you need to wrest control of it from the people who've been developing it, and stop the major code breaking changes between revisions. The core API's need to develop like Apple develops them, add new things carefully, deprecate old things gradually, and STOP breaking code doing huge somewhat, gratuitous changes. GTK is just not a good API to base a desktop on.

      E. Miguel De Icaza needs to be cut out of his position of authority. His track record in recent years, his Microsoft affiliation, his blaming the desktop on Linus recently, has shredded any credibility he had to lead Linux desktop development

      F. You have to fix audio and video so they just work like OSX and Windows. This is a steep challenge. The ALSA audio API was a total mistake. An API that contorted, hard to use or write drivers for never should have happened. Linus is partly to blame for that. Getting good audio drivers is a hard problem, everytime a new audio chip comes out you have to start over making drivers for it. Making video work tends to end in a lot issues with patents, proprietary codecs, etc, which isn't easy to solve in open source.

      In summary, the chances of Linux happening on the PC desktop are slim. None of these inherent structural flaws are likely to be remedied. Besides which the PC is rapidly starting to fade except for content developers and coders. Everyone else is switching to phones and tablets. Linux is already winning with Android on thosse, and IOS is Unix underneath. Rather than fight a losing battle for Linux on the PC just switch to Android.

  • Fix the Kernel (Score:5, Interesting)

    by steevven1 ( 1045978 ) on Friday September 07, 2012 @02:11PM (#41263371) Homepage
    Fix all the drivers for basic stuff like WiFi and graphics cards FIRST. I'd rather have a desktop with little bugs and more basic features than a laptop with only partially-functioning WiFi and reduced battery life due to a poor graphics driver (as I do now).
  • Android (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday September 07, 2012 @02:11PM (#41263379)

    By adopting the Android desktop.

  • Steam (Score:5, Funny)

    by geekoid ( 135745 ) <> on Friday September 07, 2012 @02:14PM (#41263423) Homepage Journal

    will fix the desktop.

  • by realsilly ( 186931 ) on Friday September 07, 2012 @02:17PM (#41263487)

    What, that's not the right answer?

  • by edit ( 92578 ) on Friday September 07, 2012 @02:17PM (#41263505)

    The Linux desktop is far better than Windows used to be.
    But we already know ways to make every desktop, including OS X, far better than what we have today.
    The Humane Interface by Jef Raskin gives good ways to start:

  • by rtkluttz ( 244325 ) on Friday September 07, 2012 @02:18PM (#41263515) Homepage

    I don't see why anyone would want it. I would rather lag behind with open source application support and have security knowing that my apps are not working against me. I want to know that my softwares motives are my motives. So much commercial software now is about artificial limits and openly working against the owner of the PC. Either to sell functionality piecemill or because they are under the thumb of some watchdog like the RIAA or MPAA. I'm not a programmer, but I would hazard a guess that 50% of the coding done in todays software is to LIMIT you in some way, not to enable you to do all you can do even/and especially if it wasn't planned for by the author of the software.

  • by hawguy ( 1600213 ) on Friday September 07, 2012 @02:18PM (#41263535)

    I know I'll get flamed for this since it goes against the Linux philosophy, but how about getting rid of competing Gnome and KDE (and now Unity) desktops and agree on one standard desktop with a single API for everyone to write to. And maintain backwards compatibility for the API so an application written for GnoKDE 2.0 still still run unaltered on GnoKDE 3.0.

    I know that having multiple desktops gives users choice, but there are many talented developers on the KDE, Gnome and Unity teams, and it seems like they could make a much more polished and usable product if they worked together instead of coming out with separate products. Oh, and stop pushing out alpha releases (I'm talking about you, Ubuntu/Unity) as the default desktop and telling users that it's for their own good.

    But hey, don't trust me, I use Xfce since it does everything I need in a desktop.

    • by gl4ss ( 559668 ) on Friday September 07, 2012 @02:39PM (#41264077) Homepage Journal

      Standardizing on xfce would be the sanest thing to do really.

      At least you don't need a manual for it - unlike the ui experts seal of approval(tm) "innovative" shit that gets pushed by some distros.
      it's no good trying to take over the desktop with ever moving research project beta ui's that nobody knows how to use.

      clean, simple ui and working drivers(user doesn't really care where/how the drivers end up to the machine as long as they do).

    • by Dadoo ( 899435 )

      how about getting rid of competing Gnome and KDE (and now Unity) desktops and agree on one standard desktop with a single API for everyone to write to

      I'll half agree with you: I'd still like to see multiple desktops, but they should all have the same API. The Desktop should be the user's choice, not the programmer's. (The programmer shouldn't have to worry about it.)

    • Different user interface configurations such as the standard Unity, Gnome, or KDE desktops, should be relegated to some sort of theme file that describes what assets to load and where to put them. Plugins should be used to supply the various functions. That way if you want a lightweight desktop that loads fast like XFCE, you can have one. If you want a more full featured desktop, or one designed to make the best use of screen real-estate for touch devices, you can have that too. I think E17 actually cov
    • by Misagon ( 1135 )

      The problem is not that there are two APIs. The problem is that the two desktop environments are vertically designed "environments": the user has to choose between the two and can not mix apps between them. That is contrary to the Unix Philosophy that each program should do precisely one thing, and do it well.

      The desktop environments should be broken up into apps that are more independent of one-another.
      The environments should agree on using the same underpinnings: not just the Linux kernel, but also what l

  • by treadmarks ( 2528414 ) on Friday September 07, 2012 @02:21PM (#41263593)

    Normal people don't care about the OS, the "desktop environment," the openness of the kernel or its ABI stability. They don't even know what those things mean. People don't use computers for the sake of computers, only nerds do that. People use computers because they do things like write documents or fix vacation photos. If Facebook only worked with Linux, then everyone would use Linux. Writing some killer app and only ever releasing it on Linux is the only way a programmer can get people to switch. Otherwise your best bet is a businessman like Steve Jobs to come along. Look at all the people using iOS. Do you think people are buying iPhones because OMG iOS!!! No.

  • Focus and Polish! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Wattos ( 2268108 ) on Friday September 07, 2012 @02:22PM (#41263637)

    I love my linux world. The only part which I would appreciate is more polish in the software. Most software has a great set of features but it seems that all these suites are always missing the last 5% of development (e.g. making the application feel very polished).

    To me it seems that the only way we can fix the desktop is to throw money at it. The last 5% of development work is usually boring (finding and fixing all the corner cases, etc...). I think that the only true consumer ready desktop right now is Ubuntu (yes, with the Unity interface). It has become a very polished and stable package with a lot of focus (maybe a bit too much?) on the right things. Don't get me wrong, I am a huge KDE fan (I contributed code), but to me it seems that it is missing the last 5% of development work (e.g. Kwin crashes occasionally, the panel wont stick to the top and will sometimes be in the center of the screen, Kwin seems to be slower than compiz...).

    Canonical has the resources to provide a really solid desktop experience (and it already does) for most average users. For the rest of us, there is still Arch, Mint, Fedora, etc which allows for more customization. The problem is, that most people want their machine to just "work" and not tinker with the OS to just get it perfect.

    Good job Canonical!

  • by Bookwyrm ( 3535 ) on Friday September 07, 2012 @02:22PM (#41263663)

    It is not "We need more applications" -- that is easy enough.

    Getting people to create hundreds of (cr)applications for Linux is trivial and is not a solution and may in part be one aspect of the problem.

    A somewhat more accurate strawman would be "We need more *good* or *compelling* applications" -- that's challenging. Still only a part of the answer, but closer. It requires answering "What does 'good' or 'compelling' mean in this context?", etc.

  • by petes_PoV ( 912422 ) on Friday September 07, 2012 @02:23PM (#41263671)

    The one thing Linux does not need is more applications - how many DVD rippers or MP3 players does one desktop O/S need (BTW, the answer is: just 1. But it needs to work intuitively, simply and flawlessly - not attributes Linux apps are known for).

    What Linux needs is professionally designed and written apps. Ones that preserve a "look", a common and familiar set of controls and deep, deep integration. It would also be nice if there was documentation, starting with an idiot's guide and going all the way up to "this is how to modify the automated test suite" (and to actually HAVE an automated test, and acceptance suite).

    However, we'll never get to that level while the distributions are reliant on hobbyists writing code because they like to, then tossing it over "the wall" and calling it a Linux application. That's what distinguishes Linux and the apps it comes distributed with from commercial operating systems and the apps people are willing (and, admitttedly, have to) pay for. The old excuse of: hey, don't complain, it's free! is no help whatsoever when the time-cost of getting some downloaded junk to work is far higher than the price of a piece of commercial quality software.

  • Audio (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Issarlk ( 1429361 ) on Friday September 07, 2012 @02:25PM (#41263741)
    Fix the damn audio and stop shoving a new sound daemon/system down our throat every year.
  • by pstorry ( 47673 ) on Friday September 07, 2012 @02:27PM (#41263819) Homepage

    The problem here is the assumption that something is broken.

    Generally, the Linux desktop is fine. There is a choice of UIs, sure - and recent developments in KDE then Gnome haven't helped much. Big changes made people say it was broken - but over time, it seems to settle down.

    And with the competition (Apple and Microsoft) also making changes to their desktops, Linux is hardly unique here. We seem to be in a time of change, where people have been challenging the old paradigms. Apple are being the most conservative, Microsoft the most radical, Linux is somewhere in between.

    Hardware support? Not necessarily a desktop job, but I'll address is anyway. Linux can't do jack here without more support from manufacturers. When I installed Windows 7 on a (then) new Sandy Bridge motherboard, it found NOTHING. It literally booted into a low res desktop with no sound or network. Only the large collection of driver CDs saved the machine - Windows had nothing to do with it.
    Support of Windows from the manufacturers was the key factor.

    So let's not bitch about Linux's support of hardware - let's get it right, and bitch about hardware manufacturer's support of Linux.

    Apps? We've got plenty, and are getting more. Some commercial apps (Corel Aftershot Pro, Sublime Text 2, VMware are ones I personally use) support Linux as well as Mac/Windows. It gets better every month, when it used to get better every year.

    And I guess that's my key message. "You've never had it so good". You may not feel that way, but Linux is on a roll right now, and the question is not whether or not it becomes a 'usable second option'. It's already usable.

    The question is whether or not it becomes a SUPPORTED second option - by OEMs, hardware manufacturers, and software companies.

    And the signs are getting more positive as time goes on.

  • by neminem ( 561346 ) <> on Friday September 07, 2012 @02:29PM (#41263853) Homepage

    By which I mean, instead of the sort projects have now, that say "I am a ux expert, and I like [insert totally unintuitive feature in the name of "prettiness", or "looking like [Apple|chrome|a phone|whatever]", so that is what it has to look like"... instead the real kind, that goes and does useability tests with a wide range of its potential userbase, and then designs based on that.

    Once you have a great product that people actually want to use (and yes, I know Linux is technically the kernel, not its window/file managers/etc., but the UI is what people actually -see-), more people might actually want to use it (I am aware that this is a tautological statement, but shut up.) More people using it = more desire for programs = more better. At least assuming some of those application developers also go the route of doing proper useability testing.

    • by 0123456 ( 636235 )

      You mean the kind of people who, after numerous studies, decided that we should remove the Start Menu and make users type in the name of the application they want to run, or pick them from a scrolling screenful of huge icons?

      That kind of 'UX expert'?

      • by neminem ( 561346 )

        No, I mean rather the opposite. Just because Linux UIs were always crap and keep getting worse, doesn't mean Microsoft is pure of that either. They were just better at their peak (though still nowhere near perfect).

        Yes, I'm aware that MS -claimed- to have done ux studies of Win8, but from what I can tell that pretty much boiled down to "we showed it to some people, didn't give them any other options, then took the results we wanted to hear."

        Reminded me of a great story from a Dilbert book, where the free so

  • Finish GNUstep (Score:3, Informative)

    by WillAdams ( 45638 ) on Friday September 07, 2012 @02:31PM (#41263911) Homepage

    I can still recall when it was described as being the graphical environment for GNU software.... lost a lot of interest when that went away.


  • by Gideon Wells ( 1412675 ) on Friday September 07, 2012 @02:33PM (#41263963)

    For it to take off you need the masses to accept it. Windows has that through usability, brand recognition, and being everywhere. You are familiar with it. Apple, in its comeback, did it by becoming the chic OS. In other words, Windows is the four door coup and wood paneled van. Mac is polished corvette. Linux, however, prides itself on being usable anywhere and workable on everyone. In other words, that thing built on weekend in the garage.

    Now it might work great, and does work great. There is one key problem to it. There is a guy I know who is really gung ho linux and open source. Was bashing M$ left and right in how inferior their product was. He needed a keyboard and mouse because in his rush he forget his behind. I offered him what I had on hand as a spare, a wireless keyboard and mouse with a fob. I had used it just fine on Macs and various windows machines from XP to Win 8 preview. He froze for a moment with dread/fear in his eyes.

    "You don't have a wired keyboard and mouse?"
    "Somewhere maybe, this won't work? You don't even want to try?"
    "It will eventually, but it's Linux. Unless I have the driver's on hand it might take longer to check and double check, find, and finally get that working than to do what I need to do."

    That's the problem. The people you need to get to use a Linux Desktop for it to take off are the people who are an anathema to what Linux stands for. Linux by design is meant to be fragmented, tinkered with, altered, improved. You need to hook people who barely want to be bothered taking a car to get an oil change, let alone changing oil period.

    • by snadrus ( 930168 ) on Friday September 07, 2012 @03:35PM (#41265289) Homepage Journal
      A friend of mine uses Ubuntu & his wife has a Windows machine (just married). She bought an all-in-one for its scanner. After hours of both of them fighting Windows drivers, they were out of time so the plugged it into Ubuntu, opened "Simple Scan" and hit scan. It worked of-course.
      Plug-in a new mouse while you're in a game on Windows 7? It won't work. Works fine in Linux (for any game ran in any way).
      WinTV card? I have my choice of apps to use it with in Linux that cut commercials, reencode, etc. In Windows it's WinTV.exe (worthless) or nothing. (and most of those cards work despite being obscure hardware).
  • How about whatever the fancy desktop UI you make you have an option to have a gold old Applications/Places Menu. No search, no frequently used apps display, just a list of whats there where you can select it. After that would be a user configurable bar where they could put in what they want.

    I find most of the grief in the new UIs that have come out is you cant get to what you want quickly. Sure floating lists and poofing icons are cool but when I wan to get to synaptic package manager, or qavimator, I don't want to search for it. I just want to quickly launch it - most people have the same thoughts.

    Should not have a fancy search up-front for installed apps, that is only useful for the first time you are looking for something, once you are there and decise to use it, all you want is to quickly launch it. The fancy searches should be part of help not the major application launching component of a UI.

    Lastly I want user configurable boot animations and startup sounds like the computers hackers - that would be awesome!

  • by gestalt_n_pepper ( 991155 ) on Friday September 07, 2012 @02:40PM (#41264123)

    Actually, the Zorin distribution already has a very nice Windows 7 like interface, with Wine, pre-installed.

    The real problem is the Linux community attitude. Linux users like to solve problems and know how things work. Everyone else wants to think about their computer in the same way they think about their toasters (i.e. Not much as long as they work). They want it to turn on immediately without a log-in, work, connect to the internet reliably, not shove message dialogs in their face, run everything, including their Windows programs and shut down immediately.

    Linux tends to serve its own user community at the expense of regular (i.e. nontechnical) users. Many Linux users have contempt for non-technical users and/or people who do not have an "always on" internet connection.

    So Apple wins, in the long run. They serve users, not themselves. Jobs enforced that maturity on the Apple ecosystem and it paid off. I doubt that anything comparable will happen with Linux.

  • by FranTaylor ( 164577 ) on Friday September 07, 2012 @02:41PM (#41264145)

    A successful computer needs SUPPORT from the manufacturer.

    The users NEED a place where they can get their problems fixed.

    This is why Apple succeeds, despite their prices. They provide clear avenues for help and assistance, both hardware and software.

    Linux has no such support from manufacturers. If you put Linux on your computer, they will void your warranty and/or find reasons to avoid dealing with you, if you've installed Linux on their hardware. Their tech support people are not trained to deal with you. You are a total money sink as far as they are concerned, because every support call must be escalated.

    OSX is stealing away the desktop by nothing more than basic competence.

    When I fire up my Mac and run software updates, I am confident that my system will keep running. When I have Linux on my desktop, software updates are always frightening. Will my wi-fi adapter still work afterward? Will the VMware drivers compile? I've lost many hours of work, backing out linux software updates that trashed my ability to get work done.

    For another, every single terminal program on Linux is just crapola compared to OSX terminal. Really even the old-fashioned shell users are much happier on OSX. Try developing on OSX for a few weeks, gnome-terminal seems little better than xterm.

    Until these problems are fixed, linux on the desktop is doomed.

  • by sootman ( 158191 ) on Friday September 07, 2012 @02:46PM (#41264265) Homepage Journal

    ... and then I erased it, because I don't feel like having this same discussion that I've been having since 1998 again.

    Short version: make refinements--not drastic changes--every year. But that's boring, so no one will do it.

  • by crrkrieger ( 160555 ) on Friday September 07, 2012 @02:47PM (#41264287)

    The problem with Linux on the desktop is seen in a microcosim with the question asked. The post suggests that we need more apps and that we should make it easier to build them. That is only half right. Sure, more apps would help a lot. Sure, making them easier to build would be nice. However, even if they are enormously hard to build, developers will flock to Linx in droves if it is PROFITABLE to build apps for it.

    So, does making it hard to build apps cut into profit? Sure. But what really cuts into profit is the fact that there are so many different versions of Linux out there. Think back to the bad old days of CP/M. There where lots of flavors. Then along comes MS and creates DOS, of which there was essentially one flavor. The functionality of MS-DOS was not a lot greater than CP/M, but it sure garnered a lot of interest from developers.

    So, to make people write apps for Linux, thereby driving the adoption of the Linux for the desktop, you must solve the economic problem. Making it easier is a small component of the economic problem, but making Linux uniform is the bigger issue. If you make Linux simple to install, and uniform from a developers point of view, then it has a chance. If you have a million different libraries, you are dead in the water.

  • by Hollywud ( 2387102 ) on Friday September 07, 2012 @02:49PM (#41264351)
    You need to be asking this on some other board. Slashdot users are power users and thus cannot bring themselves to get into the 'everyday' user experience. I know they use systems other than Linux, but it's the mindset that is different. I teach this very thing at a University and it is extremely difficult for developers to get into the 'user' experience. That's not a bad thing, it's just a different animal - most users don't understand the things that most Slashdot users will take as common knowledge. If you really want to know then take a survey on a more general site.
  • how to get linux widely adopted as a desktop solution.

    i have been using both windows and linux for some time and i have to say im not ready to switch 100% because of the lack of quality apps but also that linux just can't match some of the things in windows that are very handy and very easy: such as remote desktop. its so easy to use and so handy. with linux, i still struggle getting a vnc connection run smooth, stable and easily. also, linux just isn't as convivial. windows and linux are exact opposite: windows is a gui first and a patchwork command line second. linux is a solid command line first and gui second. so long as people still HAVE to know about manually editing the configuration file and such you know that linux won't be going mainstream. its getting better though. so, how to fix the desktop? well, to begin with, make the desktop itself a managed experience that doesn't require the least bit of command line.

    second, in my opinion, the way to fix the linux desktop is by making people want to switch to linux, use whatever mcguffin that works... gaming is one of them, get good games on linux and not thru wine! once people (young first) starts spending $$$ on linux games, the rest of the industry will follow, they just go where there is good money to be made after all. facebook and smartphones have this in common that they benefited from games to expand. perhaps linux could have a unique twist on its app store?

    Third, make it clear that not all software on linux needs to be open sourced. Free (and more importantly, open) just isn't a model that works for most private companies yet, so if they cannot sell their software on the linux platform, they just won't go. Most people associate linux to free and open source, so if they want to develop a software they intend to sell, linux is not the obvious choice.

    Fourth and not least, stop the elitism. Granted, Linux communities have evolved but it is at least still composed of 50-50 between genuinely helpful people and those thinks newbs are simply intruding on their turf, are clueless and stupid - even on help communities. Because, again, not everyone has an interest in getting up close and personal with sudo, nano, ls and chmod many help request end up with very common replies such as "Search the forums" or "man up".

    On a closing note, given all this, i think the linux community needs to answer this question: do you really want to be mainstream? Is it in Linux's best interest to become even more popular /user friendly, going this road obviously leads to a heavier OS, more complex, more bug-prone... I think linux's popularity to those that can handle it is the level of control it provides and inherent's security model. As linux works toward mainstream acceptance, its going to have to let go of some control precisely, to the detriment of its original user base. is this what linux wants?

  • by darpo ( 5213 ) on Friday September 07, 2012 @03:20PM (#41264995) Homepage
    All modern desktops are more or less equivalent. What matters more is software compatibility (can I run app Y and game X on my OS?), hardware compatibility, and support/user experience (bring your Mac into the Apple Store and get a replacement the same day). Even if you made the Holy Grail of desktop UI/UX perfection, no one would care, because your Linux OS won't run Call of Duty 5 (or whatever they're up to now) and doesn't have an associated store in the mall.
  • by TopSpin ( 753 ) on Friday September 07, 2012 @03:20PM (#41264999) Journal

    Stop alienating power users. We're not the problem. We're the beginning.

    If I and hundreds or thousands of others tell you that your desktop doesn't provide the configuration capabilities we need then listen and provide the configurability we're asking for. If we tell you your crazy bloated akonadi/nepomuck/whatevertheflip is too big (a mysql instance in my home directory??) then listen and rethink your design. When we complain that your latest major release is a fabulously buggy mess (KDE 4.0) then listen and don't do that to us again. When you hear from people that want a regular orthodox file manager then listen, provide one and don't deprecate it in favor of some granny-safe photo album browser.

    It's not hard, really. It just isn't a lot of fun. Which is why it doesn't happen.

  • Too much choice. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Atzanteol ( 99067 ) on Friday September 07, 2012 @03:31PM (#41265233) Homepage

    Linux suffers from diversity... Seriously - it's a bad thing sometimes. If you want Linux to succeed on the desktop then take one distro and kill the others. It won't matter which - just so long as there's one. People will bitch and complain but it would simplify *everything* (package management, sound systems, GUI layout and functionality, etc.).

    When sound isn't working you shouldn't first have to figure out which of the myriad sound systems you're using. When you want to install an application from a site you shouldn't need to figure out how to convert RPMs to .DEB or tgz's.

    The community can't consolidate around a single path forward. This is what happens when there is no clear leadership. And this is exactly the way the community likes and it and why it will continue to be third-rate as a desktop platform.

  • NIH (Score:5, Funny)

    by Zaurus ( 674150 ) on Friday September 07, 2012 @03:38PM (#41265375)
    (Sigh) I guess I'll just have to rewrite the whole thing from the ground up. I'll just avoid making any bugs or bad design decisions, and make sure everything loves all aspects of everything I code. I'll just write a new bootloader, kernel, drivers, utilities, compiler toolchain, windowing system, desktop productivity software, and some cute cat apps.

    Should take a week or two.
  • Make it a day job. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by hessian ( 467078 ) on Friday September 07, 2012 @03:40PM (#41265405) Homepage Journal

    Volunteers view their time as hobby-time, which means they want to work on what interests them.

    Paid employees do that, and also the un-interesting stuff, like documentation, drivers, non-critical bug-fixes, interface standardization and so forth.

    If you want to fix Linux on the desktop, imitate those who are succeeding (Microsoft and Apple): be customer-driven, not developer-driven.

    Work on what the customers need. To do that, you may need to make the volunteer community a paid one, or at least one where there are consequences for not doing what is necessary, and leaders to implement those strategies.

    Heresy, I know. But heresy that works, and would have avoided the absence of market share that Linux desktop solutions now experience.

    For a little bit of background:

  • by RobertLTux ( 260313 ) <.gro.nitramecnerual. .ta. .trebor.> on Friday September 07, 2012 @06:55PM (#41268255)

    1 every X releases have some sort of LTS release and then fix everything DON'T EXPERIMENT WITH NEW BETA STUFF
    and have it work as much as possible (so no switching to some new version unless EVERYTHING is working in that version)

    then use the run up to the next LTS to get everything ready

    2 if you are in the Thou Shalt Not Use the Root Login EVER camp then eliminate every time something needs ROOT you can
    (set automount to mount portable drives READ WRITE WORLD not Read Only Root Owned (unless that is set in the drives meta data))

    3 even if its a Python clicky shell eliminate the need to go to the Command Line Shell as much as possible

    4 have the desktop "control panel" slurp any generic control panels it can

    5 God help me for this one: Have in the Help system some sort of Clippy type Agent that you can use to invoke "wizard" type things for the times you have to do stuff across multiple control panel items

    6 any person that uses JFGI in your distro forum WITHOUT GIVING A CORRECT SEARCH PHRASE should be banned and if an employee does so that person should be fired.

    7 and finally INSTALL A LOCAL COPY OF THE HELP FILE WITH ALL APPLICATIONS never assume that your user currently has a network connection

"If it's not loud, it doesn't work!" -- Blank Reg, from "Max Headroom"