Welcome!

Linux Authors: Esmeralda Swartz, Trevor Parsons, Sandi Mappic, Lori MacVittie, Carmen Gonzalez

Related Topics: Linux

Linux: Article

Is Linux Desktop-Ready Yet...or Not?

Point-Counterpoint Special on the state of the union so far as Linux on the desktop is concerned

Mark R. Hinkle: "Linux is ready for the desktop"

In my view, Linux on the desktop is a viable operating system.

It offers many features that are more innovative than commercial solutions. Virtual consoles, secure remote access solutions, true multi-tasking, and the ability to use robust journaling file systems all come to mind. Despite these advanced features, I have also noticed some parallels between Linux and some earlier versions of Windows. Let’s term these similarities as “growing pains.”

I do feel that there are many cases today where Linux is an inadequate solution, specifically in the area where James Turner's complaint lies - in laptops(docking is my pet peeve) and multimedia. However, I believe James to be a high-needs user; it’s my contention that much of the computing world comprises low-needs users. These terms should not reflect poorly on either group, but one group is definitely in the minority.

I think that Windows for example has made convenience an expectation of all users - but that comes with a price. Tight integration between office suites and the operating system have made viruses via Outlook a major productivity concern among MS Office users. Automated installation of software has made it so hard to remove some applications that there is a cottage industry dedicated to “cleaning up the OS.” Particularly insidious applications like spyware are difficult to detect and often even more difficult to remove. Centralized configuration repositories like the registry are often so complex that it's a major chore to fix or change settings that rip(out) and reinstall seem to be the only options. However, despite these serious usability and security concerns, Windows is considered to be “ready for the deskop” and is the unarguable market leader.

I believe that, since we have come to expect these problems, we as users have become inured to these obvious flaws. I liken this situation to automobiles. As I was growing up my father owned a car repair shop and auto sales lot. In those days it was not uncommon for us to fix a car in the driveway. Most anything could be repaired with basic tools. He and I were once incredulous at the fact so many people choose to pay to have minor repairs done. Now it’s almost impossible for the average person to repair modern cars because of the computers, sensors, and the complexity that includes features that my father probably would never have dreamed of when he bought his first car in the 1960s.

These features come with a price, as they have with my significant other’s car, a sporty German model with a glowing blue dashboard and features of all varieties. She recently had an annoying problem with her emissions sensors. The local repair shop ‘fixed’ the problem and she brought the car home. Once again the problem resurfaced and persistent error messages caused her to return for repairs. After multiple visits the solution was simply to reinstall all the parts because they were too complex to troubleshoot the root of the problem. This disposable mentality disagrees with me. This is the problem I have with Windows: it’s often too complex to fix the problem; the alternative is to try to rip out and replace. This method is often less than foolproof. With my Linux PC it’s very seldom that I can’t repair a problem and a re-install is often much less complicated than in the alternative “ready for the desktop” operating systems.

On my desktop I have installed many variations of Linux including Lycoris and Xandros. I have to say that after installing both of these distributions I had a much more pleasant experience than I ever did installing other OSes. Then again my concerns were very simple. I needed e-mail, Web browsing, office applications and instant messaging. One thing that I also liked was that I very seldom rebooted. In Windows, I felt like I rebooted constantly and memory usage for even the simpler apps could skyrocket right off the chart, grinding my PC to a halt.

As far as Linux on the desktop goes, I think the operating system is very good - it works well, despite some warts. And at the rate it’s improving, those "warts" are disappearing quickly. The limiting factor as I see is “application availability.” I think this is truly where James’ frustration primarily lies, as does mine. Today the availability of well-developed applications as compared to other operating systems is much lower. However, I have a “Field of Dreams” mentality for the Linux desktop, I can hear the whisper through the cornfields saying, “if you build it they will come.”

The key is to get application vendors, as the community has already done, to start to make software for Linux on par with their Windows offerings. I think there's a tremendous opportunity for commercial apps on Linux including legal DVD software, personal finance and sales contact managers such as ACT! and Goldmine. Not only do these applications need to address their intended purpose but they need to be easy to install. That end of the business is being addressed somewhat by Lindows with their Click-N-Run Warehouse, but there are not user oriented solutions such as Click-N-Run for Fedora, Mandrake, SuSE and others.

In summary, is Linux on the desktop today a universal solution that is appealing to all? No. Is Linux a solution that can address the needs of a large portion of desktop users? Absolutely. Will Linux on the desktop be the universally accepted solution of tomorrow? Maybe.


See next page for the Counterpoint by James Turner...
Linux Is Nowhere Near Ready for the Desktop

More Stories By Mark R. Hinkle

Mark Hinkle is the Senior Director, Open Soure Solutions at Citrix. He also is along-time open source expert and advocate. He is a co-founder of both the Open Source Management Consortium and the Desktop Linux Consortium. He has served as Editor-in-Chief for both LinuxWorld Magazine and Enterprise Open Source Magazine. Hinkle is also the author of the book, "Windows to Linux Business Desktop Migration" (Thomson, 2006). His blog on open source, technology, and new media can be found at http://www.socializedsoftware.com.

More Stories By James Turner

James Turner is president of Black Bear Software. James was formerly senior editor of Linux.SYS-CON.com and has also written for Wired, Christian Science Monitor, and other publications. He is currently working on his third book on open source development.

Comments (198)

Share your thoughts on this story.

Add your comment
You must be signed in to add a comment. Sign-in | Register

In accordance with our Comment Policy, we encourage comments that are on topic, relevant and to-the-point. We will remove comments that include profanity, personal attacks, racial slurs, threats of violence, or other inappropriate material that violates our Terms and Conditions, and will block users who make repeated violations. We ask all readers to expect diversity of opinion and to treat one another with dignity and respect.


@ThingsExpo Stories
The Internet of Things will greatly expand the opportunities for data collection and new business models driven off of that data. In her session at Internet of @ThingsExpo, Esmeralda Swartz, CMO of MetraTech, will discuss how for this to be effective you not only need to have infrastructure and operational models capable of utilizing this new phenomenon, but increasingly service providers will need to convince a skeptical public to participate. Get ready to show them the money! Speaker Bio: Esmeralda Swartz, CMO of MetraTech, has spent 16 years as a marketing, product management, and busin...
Samsung VP Jacopo Lenzi, who headed the company's recent SmartThings acquisition under the auspices of Samsung's Open Innovaction Center (OIC), answered a few questions we had about the deal. This interview was in conjunction with our interview with SmartThings CEO Alex Hawkinson. IoT Journal: SmartThings was developed in an open, standards-agnostic platform, and will now be part of Samsung's Open Innovation Center. Can you elaborate on your commitment to keep the platform open? Jacopo Lenzi: Samsung recognizes that true, accelerated innovation cannot be driven from one source, but requires a...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Red Hat, the world's leading provider of open source solutions, will exhibit at Internet of @ThingsExpo, which will take place on November 4–6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Red Hat is the world's leading provider of open source software solutions, using a community-powered approach to reliable and high-performing cloud, Linux, middleware, storage and virtualization technologies. Red Hat also offers award-winning support, training, and consulting services. As the connective hub in a global network of enterprises, partners, a...
P2P RTC will impact the landscape of communications, shifting from traditional telephony style communications models to OTT (Over-The-Top) cloud assisted & PaaS (Platform as a Service) communication services. The P2P shift will impact many areas of our lives, from mobile communication, human interactive web services, RTC and telephony infrastructure, user federation, security and privacy implications, business costs, and scalability. In his session at Internet of @ThingsExpo, Robin Raymond, Chief Architect at Hookflash Inc., will walk through the shifting landscape of traditional telephone a...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Matrix.org has been named “Silver Sponsor” of Internet of @ThingsExpo, which will take place on November 4–6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Matrix is an ambitious new open standard for open, distributed, real-time communication over IP. It defines a new approach for interoperable Instant Messaging and VoIP based on pragmatic HTTP APIs and WebRTC, and provides open source reference implementations to showcase and bootstrap the new standard. Our focus is on simplicity, security, and supporting the fullest feature set.
BSQUARE is a global leader of embedded software solutions. We enable smart connected systems at the device level and beyond that millions use every day and provide actionable data solutions for the growing Internet of Things (IoT) market. We empower our world-class customers with our products, services and solutions to achieve innovation and success. For more information, visit www.bsquare.com.
How do APIs and IoT relate? The answer is not as simple as merely adding an API on top of a dumb device, but rather about understanding the architectural patterns for implementing an IoT fabric. There are typically two or three trends: Exposing the device to a management framework Exposing that management framework to a business centric logic • Exposing that business layer and data to end users. This last trend is the IoT stack, which involves a new shift in the separation of what stuff happens, where data lives and where the interface lies. For instance, it’s a mix of architectural style...
SYS-CON Events announced today that SOA Software, an API management leader, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 15th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on November 4–6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. SOA Software is a leading provider of API Management and SOA Governance products that equip business to deliver APIs and SOA together to drive their company to meet its business strategy quickly and effectively. SOA Software’s technology helps businesses to accelerate their digital channels with APIs, drive partner adoption, monetize their assets, and achieve a...
From a software development perspective IoT is about programming "things," about connecting them with each other or integrating them with existing applications. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Yakov Fain, co-founder of Farata Systems and SuranceBay, will show you how small IoT-enabled devices from multiple manufacturers can be integrated into the workflow of an enterprise application. This is a practical demo of building a framework and components in HTML/Java/Mobile technologies to serve as a platform that can integrate new devices as they become available on the market.
SYS-CON Events announced today that Utimaco will exhibit at SYS-CON's 15th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on November 4–6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Utimaco is a leading manufacturer of hardware based security solutions that provide the root of trust to keep cryptographic keys safe, secure critical digital infrastructures and protect high value data assets. Only Utimaco delivers a general-purpose hardware security module (HSM) as a customizable platform to easily integrate into existing software solutions, embed business logic and build s...
Connected devices are changing the way we go about our everyday life, from wearables to driverless cars, to smart grids and entire industries revolutionizing business opportunities through smart objects, capable of two-way communication. But what happens when objects are given an IP-address, and we rely on that connection, sometimes with our lives? How do we secure those vast data infrastructures and safe-keep the privacy of sensitive information? This session will outline how each and every connected device can uphold a core root of trust via a unique cryptographic signature – a “bir...
Internet of @ThingsExpo Silicon Valley announced on Thursday its first 12 all-star speakers and sessions for its upcoming event, which will take place November 4-6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in California. @ThingsExpo, the first and largest IoT event in the world, debuted at the Javits Center in New York City in June 10-12, 2014 with over 6,000 delegates attending the conference. Among the first 12 announced world class speakers, IBM will present two highly popular IoT sessions, which will take place November 4-6, 2014 at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, Calif...
Almost everyone sees the potential of Internet of Things but how can businesses truly unlock that potential. The key will be in the ability to discover business insight in the midst of an ocean of Big Data generated from billions of embedded devices via Systems of Discover. Businesses will also need to ensure that they can sustain that insight by leveraging the cloud for global reach, scale and elasticity.
WebRTC defines no default signaling protocol, causing fragmentation between WebRTC silos. SIP and XMPP provide possibilities, but come with considerable complexity and are not designed for use in a web environment. In his session at Internet of @ThingsExpo, Matthew Hodgson, technical co-founder of the Matrix.org, will discuss how Matrix is a new non-profit Open Source Project that defines both a new HTTP-based standard for VoIP & IM signaling and provides reference implementations.

SUNNYVALE, Calif., Oct. 20, 2014 /PRNewswire/ -- Spansion Inc. (NYSE: CODE), a global leader in embedded systems, today added 96 new products to the Spansion® FM4 Family of flexible microcontrollers (MCUs). Based on the ARM® Cortex®-M4F core, the new MCUs boast a 200 MHz operating frequency and support a diverse set of on-chip peripherals for enhanced human machine interfaces (HMIs) and machine-to-machine (M2M) communications. The rich set of periphera...

SYS-CON Events announced today that Aria Systems, the recurring revenue expert, has been named "Bronze Sponsor" of SYS-CON's 15th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on November 4-6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Aria Systems helps leading businesses connect their customers with the products and services they love. Industry leaders like Pitney Bowes, Experian, AAA NCNU, VMware, HootSuite and many others choose Aria to power their recurring revenue business and deliver exceptional experiences to their customers.
The Internet of Things (IoT) is going to require a new way of thinking and of developing software for speed, security and innovation. This requires IT leaders to balance business as usual while anticipating for the next market and technology trends. Cloud provides the right IT asset portfolio to help today’s IT leaders manage the old and prepare for the new. Today the cloud conversation is evolving from private and public to hybrid. This session will provide use cases and insights to reinforce the value of the network in helping organizations to maximize their company’s cloud experience.
The Internet of Things (IoT) is making everything it touches smarter – smart devices, smart cars and smart cities. And lucky us, we’re just beginning to reap the benefits as we work toward a networked society. However, this technology-driven innovation is impacting more than just individuals. The IoT has an environmental impact as well, which brings us to the theme of this month’s #IoTuesday Twitter chat. The ability to remove inefficiencies through connected objects is driving change throughout every sector, including waste management. BigBelly Solar, located just outside of Boston, is trans...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Matrix.org has been named “Silver Sponsor” of Internet of @ThingsExpo, which will take place on November 4–6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Matrix is an ambitious new open standard for open, distributed, real-time communication over IP. It defines a new approach for interoperable Instant Messaging and VoIP based on pragmatic HTTP APIs and WebRTC, and provides open source reference implementations to showcase and bootstrap the new standard. Our focus is on simplicity, security, and supporting the fullest feature set.
Predicted by Gartner to add $1.9 trillion to the global economy by 2020, the Internet of Everything (IoE) is based on the idea that devices, systems and services will connect in simple, transparent ways, enabling seamless interactions among devices across brands and sectors. As this vision unfolds, it is clear that no single company can accomplish the level of interoperability required to support the horizontal aspects of the IoE. The AllSeen Alliance, announced in December 2013, was formed with the goal to advance IoE adoption and innovation in the connected home, healthcare, education, aut...