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Old 18th December, 2009, 07:37 PM
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Linux and the Mysterious Netbook-to-Desktop Gap

Written by Daniel
Friday, 18 December 2009 18:29

Linux netbooks are blazing along, but the Linux desktop languishes. What's up with that? The biggest problem for Linux on the desktop, Slashdot blogger David Masover opined, "is getting manufacturers to support it properly, which includes both shipping everything put together, and dealing with complete newbies looking to migrate from Windows."
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Old 19th December, 2009, 03:30 PM
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It's not that mysterious of a gap. People just don't expect complete desktop functionality from a netbook. Linux is a perfect fit for a netbook, I would imagine that it could add functionality above and beyond windows through the ease of installing applications, plus the no cost option of those applications. I know I couldn't see buying $400 worth of software for a machine I paid $299 for.

They also keep taking about the death of desktop which I don't see happening anytime soon. I could see netbooks going away in the near future though. My phone has basically the same functionality as a netbook.
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Old 19th December, 2009, 08:41 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ccperf721p View Post
It's not that mysterious of a gap. People just don't expect complete desktop functionality from a netbook.
But what is "complete desktop functionality"?

How many people actually use it?

I'd say the gap has more to do with the fact that most people don't change their OS from that which was pre-installed (ever). The majority of people still take their PCs for a UKP100 re-image at PC World should they break it, or buy a new one when it catches the inevitable Windows 'flu.

Netbooks show success with Linux because they were sold with Linux. Every time desktops have been sold in Walmart or equivalent with Linux preinstalled, MS has scared the manufacturer off the idea. The market traction from pre-installation inertia isn't there.

(As a little experiment several years ago, I set up a grandparent, a friend's grandparent and a neighbour, with SuSE Linux, KDE with an XP theme and MS Office installed inside Crossover. I set YaST up to update automatically and set it on its way. Previously they'd do something stupid that caused me to lose an afternoon fixing it about once a week. It took them several years to realise they weren't using Windows, and then only because the help requests dropped to about once every 6 months. Most people are ignorant about their computer. Most people don't care what it uses, so long as they can get their email and preferred web pages).
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Old 20th December, 2009, 01:04 AM
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I think the term average pc user needs to be updated. The days of the Mom and Pop internet box are pretty much over. Almost everyone I know that I would consider an average user, has at least one pro level app that makes it not possible to run linux. I used to run my Mom on Suse, but she needed applications that required Windows so I was forced to move her back.

I was recently in a position where I had to make a choice between learning to program or going back to windows due to the quality (more precisely, the lack of quality) of open source alternatives. Specifically CAD/CAM and numerical control software. End result was going back to Windows, using software that was designed by people that make a living designing software.
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Old 20th December, 2009, 01:39 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ccperf721p View Post
I think the term average pc user needs to be updated. The days of the Mom and Pop internet box are pretty much over.
I agree that people understand their computers better now, but I don't believe that with the knowledge comes any particular enthusiasm.

Out of a cast of 600 (Western) engineers, designers, admins and construction workers on site over the last year, plus a few hundred more TCNs, I'm the only one to run Linux. One person bought a Mac. Three people that I knew of had actually tried to install an OS. One was to upgrade Vista to XP, the other two to reinstall after downloading the "desktop dancing girl". (That didn't end well).

Anybody else that lost their machine to the desktop dancing girl or similar unfortunate software simply gave their laptops to the company IT department, plus a crisp SAR100, and got the IT guy to fix it.

These are not stupid people, but the thought of having to reinstall Windows brought them out in a cold sweat. A few of them wanted Linux, but again, only if someone else would set it up for them.

It may not be right for them in the end, or the software may not be quite what they're looking for. (And I do take the point about the "killer application" - the thing you really need that just won't work in Wine). The point I'm failing to get across is that the "desktop divide" has nothing to do with the failings of desktop linux as an operating environment and everything to do with the fact that people will make use of what's there and nothing else. If it's not preinstalled, it doesn't get used. Simple.
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Old 20th December, 2009, 05:07 AM
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I understand completely, but I'm not convinced that it is that simple. You are right that people don't care what OS is installed on their computer, as long as it does everything they need/want it to. As it stands right now, I don't think linux has the depth to cover a significant portion of the need/want of most people.

I'm not trying to be down on linux. I use it / have used it for 6 years, but, given that I am a 39 year old mechanic that received his first hand me down computer when he got out of prison 12 years ago and linux is unable to keep up with me, I don't see how it could possibly even try to keep up with the current generation of users.
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Old 20th December, 2009, 06:53 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ccperf721p View Post
I understand completely, but I'm not convinced that it is that simple. You are right that people don't care what OS is installed on their computer, as long as it does everything they need/want it to. As it stands right now, I don't think linux has the depth to cover a significant portion of the need/want of most people.
Again, I have to question what it is that "most people" want and need to do. From looking around the office and from what people have asked me wrt my Linux install, the list seems to reduce to:
- Web browsing and email
- Watching movies and listening to music
- MS Office
- Skype/VoIP
- Chatting
- iTunes*
- Citrix virtualised apps
- Games(1)
- Watching the desktop dancing girl*
- Specialist engineering software* (Intergraph bugware).

I've marked with a * the bits that definitely don't work. iTunes is a bit of a pig to make run under Wine and breaks big-time with each release.

Y'see, I do understand the criticisms levelled at desktop linux: that it's fragmented and unfinished, but for the most part, your complaints about Linux's weakness are levelled at a few apps that are by-definition a bit specialist and not what "normal" users use.

You may just be too modest to accept that you're actually working at well above the level of "Joe Normal" - the strength of your other posts on these pages reflects that.

(For the record, I think the near future's in multiple guest OSs. I don't think anyone will ever produce an OS that gets it right all the time. I do still have a Vista partition. I don't use it very much - the 10 minute boot time is a bit... off, but it's there for a couple of specific activities and games that I can't do as well in Linux).
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Old 20th December, 2009, 07:31 PM
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I find it fascinating that there are people, educated people, that have a vested interest in computing, i.e. their jobs depend on how they use their computers, that know less about OS's than I do... I have always looked at installing an OS as the price of admission in computing... I guess if I had really thought about it I would have known better...":O}
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Old 20th December, 2009, 09:09 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Daniel ~ View Post
I find it fascinating that there are people, educated people, that have a vested interest in computing, i.e. their jobs depend on how they use their computers, that know less about OS's than I do... I have always looked at installing an OS as the price of admission in computing... I guess if I had really thought about it I would have known better...":O}
And how many carpenters do you know that could build a circular saw? How many mechanics could build an air wrench? How many electricians could build a voltmeter?

For the vast majority of the people that use computers every day in their work, the computer is just a tool, nothing more. They don't need to know how the tool works in order to do their jobs, all they require is that the tool DOES work.
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Old 21st December, 2009, 04:56 AM
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As I said ...if I'd thought about it...":O}
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