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Re: Why Linux Has Failed Beginners

  • Subject: Re: Why Linux Has Failed Beginners
  • From: "Rex Ballard" <rex.ballard@xxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: 5 Aug 2006 07:41:50 -0700
  • Complaints-to: groups-abuse@google.com
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Roy Schestowitz wrote:
> __/ [ Rex Ballard ] on Saturday 05 August 2006 04:43 \__
> > Au79 wrote:
> >> CoolTechZone.com - USA
> >>
> >> (Column) - Over the years, I've had a number of people asking me what I
> >> believe the problem was with further migration over to Linux by the public
> >> at large. ...
> <http://www.cooltechzone.com/Departments/Columns/Why_Linux_Has_Failed_Beginners_200608042419/>
> >
> > This is more Microsoft FUD.
> >
> > The fact is that Linux has a common core that is source code identical.
> >  The same source code is used or core components such as the kernel,
> > glibc, and most of the X11 libraries.
> >
> > There are also custom interfaces, but it's a bit like the controls on a
> > car.  Some cars have the gearshift on the steering column, others have
> > it on the floor.  Would you be unable to drive an automatic
> > transmission car because it had the shifter on the floor instead of on
> > the wheel.
> You sure favour the car analogies. Here you compare Linux to a car, whereas
> many would argue that car analogies are bad for Linux, primarily owing to
> manufacturing costs (in a different context for a different type of
> argument).

Analogies work well for some people.

My favorite analogy was from Bob Young.

He was speaking at a Linux event and suggested

Windows is like a chevy chevette with the trunk welded shut.  You can
drive the car, but if anything goes wrong with it, there's not much you
can do about it.

Linux is like a Corvette, that can be fixed by any mechanic with a high
school deploma.  It probably won't need much servicing, but you can
service it or customize it or tune it based or your specific driving

And Bill Gates loves the car analogy too.  I remember a humorous
Don't have it off the top of my head.

The problem with the computer industry is that nearly 90% of all
computer users have never used anything but a Microsoft based product
for more any period of time.  Sure there were the Vic 20, Atari 800,
and Apple ][ that we played with as kids or young adults, but very few
people ever got to play with a Mac for any length of time, and even
fewer ever got to play with an Atari ST or an Amiga.

The Microsoft monopoly has become so pervasive that most people can't
even think in terms of competition or choices anymore.

Linux has been offering a superior choice, but there are some huge
barriers to entry, probably the most significant of which is that,
until recently, OEMs were willing to use peripherals and hardware and
non-standards that they KNEW was incompatible with Linux, because they
could have their Microsoft license costs reduced by as much as 50%.
Being able to get Windows for $9 while your competitor is paying $60,
or getting Office for $20 while your competitors are paying $90
provides the opportunity to make a good bit of additional profit, or
last much longer in a price war.

> > In the past, the biggest problem has been the inability to know which
> > machines are "Linux friendly" and which are "Linux Hostile".  Microsoft
> > has tried very hard to create as much confusion as possible.
> Perhaps someone can remind me why the Wi-Fi Linux compatibility list was
> forced a removal, owing to Microsoft's involvement (it was there on Slapshot
> , with proof). For a while, The Web Archive (Wayback machine) could still
> bring up that page, but no more!

For a while, Microsoft had been going to the hardware vendors and chip
vendors and telling them that if they wanted to be on the Windows XP
compatibility list, and have their chipsets supported, they would have
to "protect" their intellectual property.  Microsoft would give them a
few hundred lines of code required to create an XP driver, and sign
their drivers for them, but they had to agree not to let others
"reverse engineer" the technology, nor could they publish specs which
would make it easier for Linux hackers to create Linux drivers.
Microsoft was hoping to do to WiFi, USB-2, and Serial IDE and DirectX
video, what it had done with DVD-CSS.  Use the DMCA and NDAs to prevent
the porting of drivers to Linux.

Ironically, Linux is a huge driver for after-market enhancements, so
many of these same companies kept their promise to Microsoft, but they
also began developing "Linux Friendly" product lines independent of the
"Windows Only" products.  For example, OpenGL accelerator cards, Linux
friendly WiFi cards, even Linux friendly SIDE controllers and USB-2
controllers.  Initially, their thinking was that they would generate an
after-market market.  People who wanted to upgrade their machines to
Linux could buy upgrade graphics cards and peripheral cards.

The OEMs began looking an these Linux-friendly peripherals and chipsets
for "High End" machines.  Windows machines had become such a commodity
product that most OEMs were actually losing money on them.  These
machines were very vulnerable to price erosion and price wars.
Furthermore, given the same amount of memory, it was very hard to
distinguish much difference between a 1Ghz XP machine and a 3 Ghz XP

Some of the OEMs started offering Linux friendly machines and even
announced that they were Linux compatible (to Linux oriented crowds and
publications, of course).  Even though the machine was sold with
Windows, these high end machines could be upgraded to Linux in less
than an hour.

The interesting thing is that Linux machines DID give a noticible
improvement when used with these higher end devices.  Because of the
way Linux managed memory and disk buffering, Linux was less "Disk
bound" than Windows.  The applications took longer to start (due to the
xrdb/x-defaults initialization sequences), but once started, they were
often much faster than Windows counterparts.

When Microsoft first released Windows XP, they also tried to triple the
price of the support contracts.  Furthermore, they tried to demand that
corporate customers renew these new support contracts immediately or
forfiet the remainder of their contracts.  They didn't even have to
install the new software, but they did have to agree to the new license
terms and pay the higher rates.

At the time, corporate customers were unprepared to make a "mass switch
to Linux", and weren't prepared to be "on their own" without at least
security patch support.  They didn't know that Microsoft would be doing
automatic updates to everybody's machines, and they really didn't
expect that they would have to BLOCK certain patches because of their
tendency to break third party software considered critical and
strategic to the company.  They often negotiated and signed at reduced
rates, but they also began planning their ability to make a rapid
exodus from Microsoft software in general as well as Windows.

One of the key decisions was to order only "Linux ready" hardware.  If
the OEM wanted to throw in Windows, that was fine, and since they
already had support contracts for XP Professional, they could easily
image the new machines to run XP.  But, these new corporate machines
are ready to be upgraded to Linux at the first sign of trouble from

When Microsoft began declaring Windows 9x, NT 4.0, and ME "Obsolete"
and "Unsupported", and started pitching customers for very expensive
upgrades. kUpgrading an NT 4.0 server to 2003 could cost as much as 20
times the original license fee for NT.  Corporations had already been
planning ahead and quickly migrated those applications which couldn't
be migrated to Unix or LInux to Windows 2003 on the fastest hardware
they could buy.  The old NT machines almost instantly became Linux

> > Meanwhile the "Linux Hostile Machines" weren't selling.  The prices
> > collapsed.  Machines initially offered for $1200 were selling for as
> > little as $300 on clearance sales.
> And eventually, inevitably, these were thrown out the Windows (pun). Machines
> that restrict the owner are passed over without hesitance. There is /choice/
> as far as vendors are concerned. But there still need to be some laws that
> force inclusion of a sticker (or an alternative thereof) that indicates
> compatibility with Linux. Here in the UK, this is already being done for DRM
> (labelling), at least at a litigious or propsal level.

One of the big challenges for OEMs was that because Microsoft insisted
that all machines be sold with Windows, and that when a machine was
sold with Windows, it had to be configured exactly the way Microsoft
wanted it configured, nearly all Linux deployments were being done

Until about 2 years ago, the common practice was to purchase a new
machine to run Windows, and then convert the old machine to Linux.
This provided very little incentive to OEMs to make sure that all of
their machine were "Linux Ready".  About 2 years ago, the trend
changed.  By the middle of 2004, most people had XP machines, and they
were fast enough to do what they needed to do.  In late 2004, however,
there was a shift in buying habits.  People were paying more for higher
quality machines that had "Linux Ready" hardware. There were "white
lists" of which machines were "Linux Ready" and could be converted to
Linux in less than at hour, and machines which were "Linux Friendly"
and could be configured to run most functions within an hour.  There
was also a blacklist of machines which were known to be Linux hostile,
especially those with DirectX video cards, certain WiFi cards, and
certain sound cards.  The list was informal, but OEMs did not want to
have too many of their machines on the wrong list.  Being on the
blacklist meant that you would be selling your $1000 PC for about $300.
 Being on the whitelist often meant that people would be buying a
"base" machine for $1000 and upgrading memory, drives, and even WiFi
cards - to Linux friendly options.  Live-CDs like knoppix made it very
easy to see which machines were "Linux ready" and which were not.

By 2006, there more linux systems being deployed than PCs being sold by
the "big 5" OEMs together.  In many countries, vendors would upgrade
machines pre-sold with Windows to Linux right there in the store.
Knoppix made it easy to test the machines, and Ubuntu left a little
"signature file" to show that it had been tested with Ubuntu.  When
nearly all of the showroom machines were suddenly showing that they had
been tested with Ubuntu, the first reaction of some retailers was to
"Lock" the CD drive.  But the stores that did that suddenly stopped
selling PCs.  The shoppers wouldn't come and they wouldn't buy.  It was
very obvious that at least some number of people were buying new
machines for the purpose of running Linux on them as the primary
operating system.

Also in 2006, VMWare released their free Player.  This suddenly made it
possible for hundreds of millions of Windows users to take different
Linux distrubutions for a "Test Drive" without giving up Windows.  They
could download preconfigured "images" which could be booted and
operated like a full-blown Linux machine.  In most cases, the systems
booted into a "default user" but documentation included gave the user
the root password so that they could do administrative tasks under the
various administration tools such as YAST.  Because the image was
configured to the virtual machine, there was no hardware configuration
required, and network configuration was relatively simple.

> > This year, most of the "high end" machines are now optimized for Linux
> > instead of Windows, and they are selling very well.  They are still
> > sold with Windows preinstalled, but   can easily be upgraded to Linux.
> >
> > This growth has also been global.  China, for example, has 120 million
> > new internet users.  Some countries now have as much as 40% of their
> > users using Linux.
> China forces all vendors to make their machines Linux-friendly, IIRC.

If they want to sell machines to government controlled institutions,
they need to be capable of running Linux.  Since so many businesses,
schools, and organizations are controlled by the government, that's a
huge market that companies like Lennovo don't want to ignore.  China
has overy 120 million new PC/Internet users, and a large portion of
them are running Linux.  In some countries as many as 40% of all
internet users are now running Linux.

Ironically, the very nature of the Infrastructure in the US makes it
nearly impossible to accurately count Linux deployments.  Most Linux
internet users now use firewalls or wi-fi routers such as D-Link,
NetGear, LinkSys, or Belkin (Linux powered of course), and these
routers typically automatically renew the DHCP address and are almost
never unplugged long enough to get a new DHCP address.  As a result, a
Linux user may have a single DHCP address for a year or more (I had my
last one for almost 4 years).

Windows users, on the other hand, usually connect directly to the
Internet or cable modem, and get a new DHCP address every time they are
turned on.  If you have a desktop machine that you turn on in the
morning for an hour, then turn on at night for an hour or two, then you
could have over 600 DHCP addresses in a single year.  If you take your
laptop to work, and have lunch at Panera and stop at Starbucks for a
coffee and a blog-fix, then go home and work from there, you could have
6 different IP addresses in a single day.

Sites such as Google and Yahoo, are able to watch the trends very
carefully, because they can track the various users via their cookies
and identities.  More and more sites are dropping the traditional
ActiveX controls and other "Windows only" features because they can see
that more and more of their visitors are dropping in with Linux.
Demographic information of this type is now very valuable and is
usually sold at "pay-per-viewer" rates of as high as $5,000 per viewer.
 Microsoft still has the majority of the business, but FireFox visitors
are as much 20% of the viewers, and as much as 40% in some countries.
Linux has also increased by nearly 150 million users world-wide,
including tens of millions here in the United States.

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