Saturday, September 30, 2006

Why is Linux still unknown?

Introduction

We've recently celebrated Linux's 15th birthday. Nothing like first billion of users, or highly improved wireless support. No-thing. Imagine a birthday without gifts - It isn't nice by far. Compare this to Windows' 20th last year - there already was a hype about Vista, even if it only comes two years later. But we're not going to talk about Windows™ and make comparisons. We've to focus on Linux!

Bad startup

Linux was a toy at the beginning, a toy of Linus Torvalds', who's just started exploring the whole new Intel 386. Now pick up your fantasy, and imagine you're a beginner and are reading a book about Linux. First paragraph tells you that Linux was initially written by a rookie (an 386 rookie, I mean - no offense Mr. Torvalds) - does it sound good? No, for goodness sake! Here (so not two chapters later, when the reader is getting bored) should always be mentioned that Linux's gone through major changes, and it's totally been rewritten since v. 0.01. Also should be mentioned that Linux tried to meet the latest technology from the first line of code. Frankly, I haven't seen any description which describes it that way.
And do not believe I'm just a poor mortal. Nope, nope! I came from the Andromeda galaxy few millions years ago, and arranged the terrain for men.. (really, I have to laugh when those goofy scientists say dinosaurs were killed by a meteor) And I can also read minds, yours too. I see your brain changing color randomly every millisecond (yeah, my MindReader'95 track milliseconds, and then I replay it slowly), thinking about BSD's startup. It was okay, the problems appeared later, and still continue, in form of letters, where maintainers admit that their projects suck (see NetBSD).

Word of mouth is killiiiin' me! Help!

Ask a Linux user "What is Linux?"! The average reply:
- Well, Linux is a great thing, ya know.. it's the best alternative to Windows™ around.. and it has alternatives to all Windows software, except gaming.. Oh, and I almost forgot, Linux is all about customization.

Let's analyze this answer:
"best alternative": Frankly, Linux should not be treated as an alternative. Does Microsoft treat Windows CE an alternative for wireless devices? Hell, no!
Solution:Linux is a full-featured operating system, which lets you do everything, guess what, in an even cooler manner.
"it has alternatives": Same problem. Linux doesn't have alternatives. It just rules.
Solution: Linux has dozens of software, which lets you do everything the way you want!
"all about customization": this sounds like "Beware, once you've got your Linux thing, you'll have to dive in the command line, and configure it!". Is the command line friendly? Well, some more experienced users say it's user friendly, but it's not ignorant-friendly. That's it. Linux is not widely used because many user ignore it. Why? Because it's presented to the users as a dark tunnel, a mysterious room, an unfriendly operating system.
Solution: Linux is easy-to-use, once it's installed on your computer it's ready to go: you can surf the net, listen to music and play. Also, if you'd like to fine-tune something, you're in the right place - there's nothing better for customization than Linux.

Second question to the experienced user: "I need an office suite.."
Typical answer: Well, there's OpenOffice.org. Basically you can do anything in it, and it also supports alternative formats.
User: Does it run on my old Pentium II?
Answer: Well, not really. It uses Java too, which is a known memory hog.

Let us solve this one too:
"not really": OpenOffice doesn't use Java to make a carriage return, or to print a page. It uses it for complex things.
Solution: For typical home usage, you'll probably won't meet any problems, but since OpenOffice uses Java (which Virtual Machine consumes a lot of memory) for some more advanced features, you'll probably have to wait until a certain operation completes.. But don't forget, the more, the better.

Have it your way!®

Linux? Er, you probably mean distributions, right? Well, that's another problem too. When one asks what distribution should she choose, the experts tell her that it depends of her taste, what she wants, and in most cases that's all. Newbies don't have a taste, maybe doesn't even know what she really wants.
There shouldn't be thousands of distros, clones of each other, and everybody shouldn't make a new distro which can't offer anything new.
Solution: Look ma, you have distribution X, if you want entertainment. You have distribution Y for office work, and distribution Y for development. Oh, and of course, you have distribution XYZ if you want everything at the same time, but that is a bit slower - you have to sacrifice some memory and processing time if you want everything at the same time. If you're ready to customize, you have distribution Q, which is really basic, but it'll become your best friend once it's ready.

Conclusion

The problem isn't Linux, as many state - nowadays we have Ubuntu, SUSE, between others, so Linux is accessible for everyone now. Users just don't dare to switch to it, because it's bad marketing model. Linux guys should encourage people to try Linux, and possibly remain using it!

2 comments:

Eugenia said...

Users don't switch to it because they can't find in it what they are looking for. In my case, I can't find the phone emulators I need in order to write mobile web sites for my work. Others can't find Photoshop (Gimp is a joke), and others can't find 3D Studio Max (Blender doesn't do it for them).

And most "free" distros don't come with DVD or mp3 support and this kills it for the rest of the people who don't have work requirements like the ones I mention above. Doing terminal work just to install that stuff is out of the question for these users. If they are going to switch, that would be OSX, not Linux.

Only a few geeks and university students would give Linux a fair try as a desktop.

GuyFawks said...

Thats the crux of the situation, linux gives you freedom to do what you want, yet people dont want or have the time to do it

Its a shame as now people have opened up to the reality that a operating system tailored to their needs is far better than a one shoe fits all, its like a person wanting to have a Ferrari, yet the only option is a minivan, had have to spend unnecessary time and dollars to make the minivan fast enough for his needs, its just not economical. I think it may be Canada, but linux is well known and everyone (exempting a few) have heard of it, through either the media or various word of mouth efforts that have been going on, but people have heard of it. And now linux is entering the handheld arena, with the gamepark console, linux for PDAs and heck people have even been cracking roms. Linux i have realized is just a name that has been used to fit all efforts to abolish propirety efforts. Im sure you would realize that the gameparks CPU is far different than that of an intels. Anyways thats my rant.