Chasing Windows

To me it is an unfortunate trend that Linux is heading to a path of convergence with Windows. Several months ago I was at The Peninsula Linux Users' Group and there was a conversation discussing Linux's functionality as a desktop in comparison to WinXP.
The conversation went something like this:
"We need widget integration across application"
"We need full compatibility with MS Office"
"All system configurations should be handled via a graphical user interface"
And on and on...

I just sat there and bit my lip.

It seems to me that both of the the two main Linux Desktops are rapidly trying to position themselves somewhere between OS-X and XP with lots of whiz-bang eye candy and the RAM use to prove it -- systemr equirements be damned.

I know I am offending some here, but why concentrate on a desktop that runs poorly with a 1GHz processor and 256M of ram? The way Linux will gain a foothold is by running well on legacy hardware, Linux desktops should run well on hardware that is at least 5 years old.

Obviously, it can be done, and the experienced Linux user can set up basically any distribution with hand picked applications and windowing environment. But the typical newbie isn't going to do that -- he's going to put Mandrake or Fedora on his old 500MHz P2 with less than 128MB of ram with the default KDE or Gnome. Right, it is going to run like a pig, and the newbie is going to say, "I thought Linux was suppose to be efficient?" and walk away.

It goes past this too, I feel like "First World" OS developers are turning their backs on the Developing World, what main stream Linux distribution would be a good desktop choice for the typical computer found in Brazil or rural South Africa?

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perhaps it's not so bad

I believe I understand your concern. Making linux act like and look like Windows, and take on all the monolithic traits of Windows, is exactly not what I'm hoping for.

However, Linux retains something which I think will prevent it from going off the edge. The user has a choice of what to do with it. As long as the choice is there, The Windows-centric users will not define what Linux is. I don't think we can prevent unwanted changes if these changes are welcomed by a large number of users, but we can choose for ourselves whether or not these changes will benefit us. Some changes may be good, and some not is our choice to assimilate with those changes we want, and reject what we don't need or want.


The thing to look at is this....XP looks like XP to everyone using XP...MacOS looks like MacOS to everyone using MacOS...but linux could look like a lot of things to a lot of people.

You can stay command line, you can use a lite gui, you can lay it on thick with every gnome widget ever made, you can make linux look like XP, AmigaOS, wahtever you want.

Some folks want that option, some folks who will never use the option but like that its there.

And that is the real make or break thing for me, the option to choose your look, feel and what is under the hood to make them both do what is important for you to do.

Choice..linux is all about that.


Leapfrog Win/Tel

I think it is a mistake to require compatibility and functionality with "legacy" hardware. I fool around with DSL and Fedora 3 on older systems, e.g. AMD 350MHz, 256K, and while the functionality is there, the performance is not conducive to a good "newbie" experience.

For most 3rd, or even 1st or 2nd-world end-users, there is no need to replicate the look and feel of Windows on a high-end system. Instead, what is needed is access to a functional, efficient computational environment for the end-user. DSL is the best I have seen lately (anyone remember GeoWorks?). But in the same way that the third world has access to radio broadcasts via "wind-up" radios, I think that very inexpensive PC's will replace legacy equipment more efficiently.

Instead of exporting antiquated (potentially polluting) equipment from 1st-world to 3rd-world countries, perfect the light OS running on a PC the size of a deck of cards, with a small LCD video device, and with low power requirements.

DSL is perfectly placed for this new paradigm.

(DSL contributor and admirer)

Re: chasing Windows

I acknowledge your point, I think it's fascinating that moden Linux distros (with modern computing capabilities) can run on old hardware, and in environments like 3rd world countries this is a necessity. Because of individuals like you it's even *possible* to give such people access to modern computing.

I wouldn't be surprised of the people you mentioned who compared the Linux desktop experience to Windows were concentrating exclusively on the average home and business class user with modern hardware (1 GHz, 256 MB RAM, etc.). From that perspective I think their arguments hold some value.

Linux and surrounding technologies are already approachable for developers, network pros and real power-users, but in my opinion the points cited in their conversation would really accelerate Linux penetrating the desktop. I don't think it's so unreasonable to expect that these kinds of improvements would promote Linux adoption to everyone's benefit.

If this can happen without making the OS and surrounding technologies impractical for the low-end hardware, I personally applaud the effort.

Rob Gamble

re: re: chasing Windows

Even comparing the two systems on modern hardware shows a drastic difference. One thing Microsoft seems to enjoy doing is using faster processors and more ram as an excuse to throw in more bloat. If you follow the progression of Windows over the last several years you might notice that as computers get faster and better, the Windows system bulks up to fill that extra elbow room. This makes having the latest and greatest hardware parctically pointless if the operating system is just going to use up all your extra resources. These resources would be better used to increase the performance of applications rather than getting sucked up by the OS.