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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 Vice President of Community at Cloud.com. the maker of the open source cloud computing management software, CloudStack 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.

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Most Recent Comments
MEME 11/29/03 01:41:16 PM EST

Linux Desktop is ready for the market.

For business, we can replace all Window Desktop by using Linux Desktop. About Office, Linux have Open Office, KOffice... About Mail Client, we can choose Mozilla, KMail, Ximian Evolution... About browser, we can choose Mozilla, Konqueror Web... About Application, we can choose Java... I think 70-80% Business user can use Linux Desktop rather than Microsoft Desktop. You know, if these group deploy Linux Desktop, the remainder software supplier will join in and supply the application and most driver as they can. Such as Microsoft now.

Please look back to Apple II computer period, there are too many developer to write the software and game for Apple users because of there are market. Please look at Window 95, after Window 95 user group become large, the application supplier become more.

Therefore, why said "*LINUXWORLD SPECIAL* Is Linux Desktop-Ready Yet...or Not?"
The title must be changed. Only can say, Linux Desktop is ready but not easy to success. Still need time to improve the weakness and must be closed to user deeply and do they want.

***Not*** "*LINUXWORLD SPECIAL* Is Linux Desktop-Ready Yet...or Not?"

James C 11/29/03 12:49:42 PM EST

To James Turner,
Once again, (the third time, I call you)
I have a notebook and want to install Window NT4.0 Workstation but I can't success install all drivers for this notebook. Based on your assumption, the title should be "*LINUXWORLD SPECIAL* Is Window NT 4.0 Workstation Desktop-Ready Yet...or Not? It is so funny.
>>> James Turner's experience :
I have 15 years experience with Unix varients, worked for two major Unix-based hardware vendors doing technical presales work, wrote the software that BBN used to deploy Unix based web servers into their web farms, owned a Usenet node in 1984, have written three books on J2EE development and am a committer on the Apache Jakarta Struts project. What have you been up to lately.
James Turner, you have 15-20 years Unix experience... and many many experience in IT field and as a good writer in LinuxWorld. So, please tell me answer. Can you tell me the answer? HAHAHAHAAHA It is so funny and interesting. Your paper is so funny.
If answer is ready, why I can't download driver from vendor/anywhere for my desktop in past, now and future.
If answer is not ready, why Microsoft not tell us that their NT4 Workstation is not ready and sell it to market expensively and without any application in it.
Additional :
Window NT 4.0 Workstation not provide Delphi Development tools and Microsoft Visual C++ Development tools. Based on your experience, is it not ready for programmer/company to use? Then the title should be "*LINUXWORLD SPECIAL* Is Window NT 4.0 Workstation Desktop-Ready Yet...or Not?"
Well, James Turner, please give me the answer? You are many many experience and is a good writer in LinuxWorld. Please give me answer. Wait for your response soon.

howdyboby 11/29/03 12:13:20 PM EST

Is Linux Ready for the Desktop? Well imo it is, and is already there. I never have any problems getting anything running on it, but i also have no problems compiling and modifying code. Now is the Linux Desktop ready for the average home user, well that is to subjective to be answered. Most Home users i know have to call me when the simplest things happen, or if they get a new printer, and i know for a fact very few normal home users are going to know how to setup a wireless network, or network card with out at least a little guidance. From the normal home users that i know there are 2 that run a linux desktop, I setup there computers for them and honestly besides upgrades or installs of new software (thing windows users often also call about) i never hear from them, no virus to really worry about, they don’t run with root access so they never messup there own system. The only good thing about windows that i can see is if something goes bad it is easy to format reinstall and get setup again, linux take longer to install and setup, but never has to be formatted on a regular bases either. I understand the “importance” of getting the desktop more user friendly, and chances are that if the wireless card maker about had supplied the drivers for the card to the Linux Kernel development team it would have worked fine. So I would suggest instead of complaining about the card not working as soon as you turned on linux either to write your maker of your card or to code and send a patch (or even just reporting it if its is really a problem with the driver/kernel and not the newbie distribution you are running) to linus or who ever is currently maintaining the network section of the kernel. Other then that you can go back to windows, cause if you are not going to report these problems (yes I understand that this article is a form of reporting them) you should go back to windows, forget linux, and stop bitching about it, as you are not adding anything to the linux community and obviously don’t understand how linux, GNU, or community work to better something.
(telling someone to fix something cause you are not happy will get you something broken with no one to fix it, ask nicely at least once, and offer (valid)suggestions)
(Linux is only as good as its users let or want it to be)

Agnostic 11/29/03 10:54:16 AM EST

My sympathy to you James, you have entered into a discussion in which you could not possibly win. It is not because your challenges or your arguments are flawed, but it was because you are arguing with the "believer". Your argument would be akin to an attempt to tell a preacher that god do not exist :-).
Most of your attackers - whom are very smart people - failed to see the big picture - that the majority of the computer users are not geeks - that the majority of computer users just want to use the computer without much headaches and tinkerings.
So, until stores are selling and the "regular people" are buying Linux OS out of the box working with the same capablities of Windows machine today, I agree with you that Linux is NOT ready for primetime.
BTW - I see that no one actually accepted your challenge yet.

Mat Urban 11/29/03 04:52:10 AM EST

I hate this "does not work on linux", "can not do on linux"... stuff. You need to get deeper into the thing if you need to resolve it. Using email client also needs some basic knowledge, but that is obviously the best people can do by themselves! So can I conclude that people are stupid? No, just frightened of new things? Incompetent?

Well for those who praise Windows and their plug and play... HP Scanjet 3300C does not work on Windows 2000 sp4, but there were reports that some managed to do it. Well! In my case Windows is not ready for desktop.

dilznik 11/29/03 12:12:37 AM EST

1. Your mom doesn't know what the hell WEP is unless she's a sysadmin.
2. Try installing Mac OS X on that hardware, and tell me that OS X is not ready for the desktop. Then try using some hardware actually supported by the distro in question and you won't seem like such a warty troll.

Bruce Hohl 11/28/03 11:49:53 PM EST

To: James Turner
If all you want is to play DVD's out of the box why don't you just buy a DVD player. There are a bunch of those on sale this holiday weekend for $30. Your criteria for judging desktop Linux is irrelevant to what most desktops require. Firstly, a wired desktop not a wire-less laptop, no entertainment - most are work machines that require wordprocessing, spreadsheets, web browser, accounting system and the like. clearly Linux can handle these functions.

Wynndyll Montero 11/28/03 10:42:48 PM EST

Linux is ready for the desktop.

We should not view it's readiness from the point of
view of the windows paradigm but of the Unix Philosophy.

If we consider the readiness of Linux based on it's
criteria, it is more than ready.

The problem is that we expect to make our computers
perform the job of a playstation or a DVD player. It's
just not fair. Unix was developed to solve complex problems
efficiently and end the tyranny of geography through net-
works. If you depart from this design, you wouldn't be
successful. The point is to use the proper tools for the
job. Anybody would consider using a playstation for spread
sheet work as improper just as using a knife as a flat
screw driver.

As to ease of use of Linux, it is very, very, very easy to
use --- IF (and that's a big if) you use it according to
it's design. In Unix, problems are solved by stringing
together small useful commands, programs, or scripts. This
approach is elegant compared to large monolithic apps
which aims to do many things at once (such as those found
in windows) because if there is a new variation of a prob-
lem, all you have to do is just rearrange the commands or
add or delete some. In the case of a monolithic app, you have to rebuild it (well, thats ok for the developer like
M$ because they will be assured of a market as long as
business needs change.). That is called flexibility. A
simple change of the piped commands is sufficient to
adopt to a different problem.

Take for example car repairing. If we take the windows
approach, we would have a big tool where you put your
car in and it would change the batteries. Another tool to
change the radiator. But in the Unix world, we only need an open wrench. For different sizes of bolts, we need only a different size of wrench (much like using a diff switch
of the same command. A simple open wrench which could be used in different ways to solve different problems.
That's the elegance of the Unix/Linux approach.

Moreover, the hardware comprising desktops are much varied.
You can use this video card with that mother board, ad infi
nitum. In such an environment, Linux is better than
windows. This is so because Linux is flexible. Windows won't allow you to tailor your OS to better squeze
performance out of your hardware. Your limited to what
software and driver are spoonfed to you. Not so in Linux,
because you can custom made the kernel and make your own
device driver. This is better because the OS cannot make
presumptions as to what devices are in your system
therefore it would be a general configuration which does
not take advantage of some of your setup. Although Linux
is also general when shiped, it can be modified and
boosted. Not so with windows.

In sum, Unix/Linux is the only OS for me. It doesn't take
so much of my resources just to make it easy for me (GUI)
because i dont need such asistance. I know where Im going
and I need to get there fast. I dont want the hassle and
expense of a tourist guide.

Peace thru Power;
Power thru Force;
Force thru Source.

ronald rogers 11/28/03 10:42:07 PM EST

i have Lindows 4.0.585 installed on both my laptop and my desktop everything works great on both of them. the cd/rom the dvd player plays movies the hp printer works everything works and it works better than MS XP.I love this os.i have suse on another comptuer and mandtake on another and i tried redhat none of them work as well as lindows and with Lindows i did not have to configure anything!

Fish 11/28/03 08:18:30 PM EST

I like Linux and I'm writing this on SuSE 9.0. Even so, the challenge before desktop Linux is probably a lot more forbidding than James Turner lets on. People are interested in applications - what they can do with a PC. I don't think they care about the operating system. To a non-technical user, the OS on its own is about as interesting as a block of wood. What most folks are going to ask about Linux is whether it will run their favourite apps (which will all be Win32 apps), their favourite games (ditto) and their favourite hardware (mostly ditto). So long as the answer is "no" or "yes, maybe, but", very few of them will stray far from Microsoft. Linux geeks never seem to understand this. They think the OS is what matters. But for most folks, it's an irrelevance.

Dave Kanefsky 11/28/03 05:47:56 PM EST

Most people just want to switch their computer on and use it to play games,surf the net and view Dvd.They dont want to have to learn to use anything new.
This is still not possible with Linux,
No progress will be made until it not considered a crime,by the linux community, for a linux vendor to charge for their software.
None of my non technical friends have ever downloaded windows patches or drivers,let alone service packs.
They would view the constant changes with linux as proof that Linux is not a finished item;and therefore not worth replacing M$ for

Sid Boyce 11/28/03 05:27:15 PM EST

Mike Pellicci says "I still 'fire-up' Windows to get 'real' work done". Quantity 4 linux boxes here, including 2 laptops.
I only have Linux installed and I have Crossover office installed more as a proof of concept so I can recommend it to colleagues. I do all the usual things workwise, including VPN plus an array of personal stuff, like hamradio VOIP, Flightgear Simulator as an adjunct to my private pilot activities and much else besides. I've used only Linux for quite a few years and I haven't missed Windows a single day. As a matter of fact, I leave colleagues who use Windows to admin Solaris systems standing aghast at what I can simply do with Linux. In summary - I fire up Linux when I have real work to do.

Mike Pellicci 11/28/03 04:42:15 PM EST

First, let me say that I'm a Linux fan. However, I must agree with much of what James Turner said. I have also been frustrated by Linux lack of support for relatively common hardware devices like wireless cards and DVD players.

Things have been improving. The first breakthrough was when I installed SuSE 8.2 Pro earlier this year. Not only did SuSE do a good job of recognizing my hardware but the desktop applications were very complete and well integrated. I was pleasantly surprised a couple of weeks ago when I installed Fedora (Redhat) Core 1 on my IBM ThinkPad X20. Everything -- including a Linksys wireless card -- was recognized and configured automatically. Linux isn't perfect (yet), but things are improving very quickly.

I still 'fire-up' Windows to get 'real' work done, but I can clearly see the day (not too long from now) when I'll be able to do everything I want to do in Linux.

Mike Pellicci
Technical Architect
Nakoma Consulting Ltd.
Calgary, Alberta, CANADA.

Rodd Clarkson 11/28/03 04:41:08 PM EST

James Turner is inconsistent, so it's no wonder he's hard to please.

Yes, he makes some interesting points, most of which related to a lack of support by some hardware vendors and also to rediculous laws designed to protect the wrong parties, but I'll give him his points. It would be nice to have DVD and 11g just work although I'm not sure that these two things alone are blanket enough to write off Linux on the desktop for everyone. If he's right, then I'm going to have to find a new desktop, because Fedora just works out of the box on my HP laptop.

However, when he gets down to requests for a better Linux desktop it seems that Mr Turner would like to have his cake and eat it too. In his list of requirements he demands that the "distribution must ask no questions during install that my mother can't figure out" and then in the very next point says that his "SMC2835W 802.11g card must be up and functioning" including having "been asked for my WEP information". I promise you Mr Turner, you're mother doesn't understand what WEP is.

More importantly, isn't this a double standard? The version of Windows XP install on my laptop doesn't ask any of these questions, and it doesn't give any clues about how this might be set up either, so why would you expect that Linux should. OR, is this just an example of how Windows really isn't ready for the desktop either, but the requirements we have of it aren't as tough as the ones we have of other OSes? For example, why should the install matter at all. Nobody ever worries about the installation of Window in assessing it's desktop readiness, and having recently installed both, I'll bet that your mother fares a lot better installing Linux on a laptop than she does Windows XP. Don't ask her to do a dual boot, just give you a hard drive without any data on it and let her have at it. The disk preparation alone for Windows will leave her wondering how anyone gets any work done on Windows. ;-]

Bob Henkel 11/28/03 03:11:13 PM EST

I think before you can answer the question you need to define what ready for the desktop means. Everyone from grandma to a neural scientist use a desktop. What some people need is different then what others need. I think in many cases Linux is ready for the desktop. Unless you love to play games at full speed without out using a duck tape approach to running them with mixed performance and results. The Linux Zealots need to open there tunnel vision and see that Microsoft has created a system that is easy for grandma to use yet in most cases powerful enough for a mad scientist to use. And on top of that they have created development tools that knock the socks off anything Linux has making developers flock to it. I’m sorry while Kdevelop is nice and all it doesn’t compare to the Visual Studio .NET and if you argue that you are having tunnel vision. Linux still has rough edges that must be cleaned up before it’s on the same level as Windows for all kinds of users. Now these edges will be cleaned up it will just take time.

R. Allen Sanford 11/28/03 12:39:42 PM EST

I feel that if MicrosoftLinux is what you want then try looking here at this http://www.mslinux.org/
But for me I have a huge problem in giving my money to a company that "crys" about software piracy, least we forget Mr. G4t3s profited on a product he had not properly obtained the rights to, of course he did eventualy.
> Any way for me I will stick with Fedora, Mandrake, Suse ....... . . and they are ready for for the desktop.
> I kinda like not having to look at the blue screen of death at least once a day.
> And I like the fact that I can choose what i want my system to look like.
> And I like not having to disclose my system info without my knoledge to the company that release virus so you have to down load a patch to fix there screwup because they don't want to admit it.
> Oh yeah lets not forget that each year you have to pay 400 dollars to get the new version that does the same as last years with exception that they changed the gifs for the buttons. The reason ou keep forking out the money is because they droped support for last years version.
> Last but not least I thought that computers were about imagination, not conforming to some company's idea about what you what, instead shouldn't they listen to what you want not you listen to what they want.

Guy Denruyter 11/28/03 11:43:14 AM EST

I am quite new to Linux, and certainly not very technical. Nonetheless, I managed without any problem to install SuSE 9.0 on my laptop (Toshiba Tecra), including auto-detection of all hardware (incl. WIFI card) and a huge set of applications. Same story on a desktop. Funny thing is I also tried to install XP on the same machine, and this was quite a headache (e.g. during installation, there was no way to make XP point to the correct CD-ROM drive, so I had to manually copy a lot of files - not to speak about the time required to install additional applications).

Moreover, Mr. Turner, my parents were complete computer novices (never did a mouse 'double-click' in their life). I bought them a desktop, installed SuSE, and they are using it without any problem - so (SuSE) Linux definetely has become (grand)parent-proof.

Regarding DVDs, films, realvideo etc, I admit, some work needs to be done. It doesn't run everything out of the box. But then, does XP come with a synthesizer, sequencer, and sampler out of the box?

James C 11/28/03 11:20:17 AM EST

To James Turner,
Once again,
I have a notebook and want to install Window NT4.0 Workstation but I can't success install all drivers for this notebook. Based on your assumption, the title should be "*LINUXWORLD SPECIAL* Is Window NT 4.0 Workstation Desktop-Ready Yet...or Not? It is so funny.
>>> James Turner's experience :
I have 15 years experience with Unix varients, worked for two major Unix-based hardware vendors doing technical presales work, wrote the software that BBN used to deploy Unix based web servers into their web farms, owned a Usenet node in 1984, have written three books on J2EE development and am a committer on the Apache Jakarta Struts project. What have you been up to lately.

James Turner, you have 15-20 years Unix experience... and many many experience in IT field and as a good writer in LinuxWorld. So, please tell me answer. Can you tell me the answer? HAHAHAHAAHA It is so funny and interesting. Your paper is so funny.

If answer is ready, why I can't download driver from vendor/anywhere for my desktop in past, now and future.
If answer is not ready, why Microsoft not tell us that their NT4 Workstation is not ready and sell it to market expensively and without any application in it.

Additional :
Window NT 4.0 Workstation not provide Delphi Development tools and Microsoft Visual C++ Development tools. Based on your experience, is it not ready for programmer/company to use? Then the title should be "*LINUXWORLD SPECIAL* Is Window NT 4.0 Workstation Desktop-Ready Yet...or Not?"

Well, James Turner, please give me the answer? You are many many experience and is a good writer in LinuxWorld. Please give me answer. Wait for your response soon.

Stoney 11/28/03 11:08:39 AM EST

I don't know what you do with your xine and make it sound so hard to have it to work. I'm using a Prostar laptop with PIII 1Ghz and 512 MB RAM loaded with RH 9 for past . I have had no problem installing and running xine at all. I just downloaded and installed the packages from xine site, and voila, it has run without a hitch. It plays enscrypted and unenscrypted DVD's.
Cheers to Linx

ispal 11/28/03 11:04:51 AM EST

God! How stupid can you be... Jesus!

The fact that i'm reading this using a Compaq Armada laptop with a DVD reader, which, by the way i can use to watch movies, with an Orinoco wireless card, all of it working just fine with the Debian testing destribution, should give you a clue that maybe you should try a little harder!

If something is not working, at least i can troubleshoot, and most of the times i will get it right. With other OS, you just accept it as fait and reeinstall it.

Want to be dependent on MS humor? Be my guest! I prefer to recompile my slim-mean-kernel-machine any time i need new harware, to having it consuming resourses with drivers it has no use for.

sjoseph 11/28/03 10:48:01 AM EST

I think what most people miss in this debate on Linux vs Windows for the desktop is that Windows comes preinstalled on a computer and Linux for the most part doesnt. What this means is that hopefully the Windows computer will work out of the box most time without any additional work on it. Having worked in support for Windows based machines I can tell you that most people would be just a clueless reinstalling their Windows operating machines as Linux. It still takes some work to get everything working on a Windows based machine if the OS is reinstalled , although XP has made it quite a bit easier. Linux is probably at the Windows 98 stage where drivers and whatnot are needed to get a machine running up to speed. So yes Linux may not just work on any particular machine but if the machine came preconfigure with Linux to begin with, with all drivers available then I believe it would be just as simple to reinstall...Lets compare apples to apples.

Warren Ayling 11/28/03 10:40:52 AM EST

Contentious issue I believe. Mr Turner is quite right in his summation, but it should be noted that laptops (unlike their PC equivalents - with the exception of the latest models) typically employ specialised hardware. The domination of Windows means that drivers are most likely to appear first there (this is more of a marketing issue than technical).

It's rare to say Linux can't run with the new hardware. The open source of Linux means that a skilled engineer can get most hardware working.

Looking for Linux endorsed products helps here. I am fairly new to Linux (1 year now) but have managed to install and configure gateways/routers/Oracle database servers/WebSphere App Servers with only some pain.

If you look at Windows WiFi/bluetooth capabilities six months ago and now, you'll find massive differences.

Six months ago would have needed sound knowledge of Windows to get them working. The same I find is true of Linux. In fact, Linux affords better understanding of key principles. It is a very good platform on which to learn and build solid computing/IT understanding (much more so than Windows).

Today's pricing/marketing and fabrication means that new technology is reaching the typical end-user much faster now than it used to. Where before specialised users and groups would iron many of the warts before a technology/product became mainstream, this is sadly being eroded away.

This in turns (IMHO) means the end-user should be more knowledgeable/competent of the product/platform on which it is targetted if wanting to use such technology/products. The adage that computing should be made easier can surely only be applied to a certain extent; new technology must be except, no?

In fairness, KDE/Gnome go much further than Windows in usability. Given a PC that is 1+ year old, Linux is surely to install with little more interaction than Windows install process - in fact, less so, because on some older kit I have failed miserably to install Windows owing to its dependency on "big hardware". Linux has come to the rescue here.

You should never look at Linux being a replacement for Windows, but look at the two as complementary. The same applies equally to Linux being a complement to existing UNIX flavours like, Solaris and AIX, in the mid-server range.

My opinion. Linux is ready for the desktop. But business desktop, not home desktop. Microsoft has, and will continue, to dominate the home market. No matter what grudge anyone may have, Microsoft are good at delivering solutions for home users - simple and fun.

zettberlin 11/28/03 10:06:10 AM EST

James Turner wrote:
The scary thing is, even with all that experience, I still struggle to get everything hunky dorry when I install stuff onto Linux boxes. There are just too many interdependencies between various release levels of various packages, and you can spend forever getting everything compatible (if you can at all...)

I must agree, the dep-issue is the major flaw of Linux, still its is true also, that if you buy a mature commercial Distro (Mandrake 9.1 is, SuSE 8.2 also, SUSE 9.0 appeares not...), and stick to its Packagemanager, you get a Desktopsystem as comfortable and reliable as could be.

Dear J.T.: i understand that you are upset, but if you state, Linux is generally not ripe for the Desktop, because
SUSE9.0 was not perfectly ripe for your Laptop you act like a 2nd class consumer-stupid.

Don`t let the tears of rage blur your judgement ;-)

best regards
(Mandrake ist better...)

HZN/Berlin/Pb

Singleton 11/28/03 09:58:01 AM EST

Strange...

Coincidentally I recently installed Suse 8.2 on my laptop without a hitch.
I don't have a DVD player but I do have an SMC network card that works
perfectly. I did have to set this up my self but it only involved opening
Yast and going to the appropriate section. Choosing to add a network
card and checking the PCMCIA checkbox whithout specifying anything
else. Done. It works perfectly.

Zair 11/28/03 07:56:38 AM EST

Problem with the no attitude is that, if you take a generic PC or laptop, give the user a Windows XP CD and an MS Office CD and ask them to install their system. There is a fairly strong chance that they will not have a working install without finding specific drivers for their hardware, once they identify what hardware they actually have. They will also need to get any other software they need. As for no hardware support, Windows users may need to wait a long time for hardware to be supported if they upgrade Windows version - simply because the manufacturer has to write them.

The parallels are not identical, but I'm sure that the average Windows user wouldn't have much of a problem using KDE/Gnome if they had to use a system that was pre-configured. Most PCs that end-users buy have most of the software they need pre-installed and ready to use. They do not have to figure out how to install it.

Waylena 11/28/03 06:52:00 AM EST

Hmmmm. He said that he doesn't want anyone to tell him to buy hardware made specifically for running Linux. Yet the laptop in question was made specifically for running Windows.

I understand that the average joe's mom wouldn't understand or care, but why is the author complaining about lacking autodetection features to us, the Linux community. Shouldn't he be raising this ruckus with manufacturers of components and assembled systems?

If device manufacturers could be cajoled into supporting Linux with drivers, and system retailers would pre-install Linux as they do Windows, it would be a different world, indeed.

UglyMike 11/28/03 06:40:37 AM EST

There are some many things wrong with the 'No' scenario, it's difficult to decide where to begin...
Definitions: "Ready for the Desktop" What does this mean?? No definition is given but is seems to mean "Ready for my Granny to install on a random laptop and have full functionality without downloading squat (incl drivers or apps)"
"Linux" Is it the Kernel? Any "generic" distro? A specific distro ? with a standard install? with a set-up of sources for Apt, URPMI, CnR...?
Windows: Windows XP Home? Pro? Windows 98,2K? Preinstalled? Other MS apps included? non-MS apps? Which ones?
So we don't know what is being tested nor what the base line is.
As for the findings themselves, well the guy has a point with the NIC. If the kernel doesn't include a driver and the manufacturer doesn't provide a loadable module, you have problems (although with the developments of wrappers in this area, a 'fix' might be possible) No use saying it is not Linux' fault, it is reality. On the other hand, insisting that one should not have to bother with HW requirements is a bit silly. As for the DVD stuff wtf is his problem? He says linux cannot read commercial DVDs but then that Lindows can. Ergo, as Lindows is Linux this means Linux can read commercial DVDs out of the box. If he now says "Yeah, but my MY distro doesn't" than I say "Well, MY Win98 doesn't either!" Like I said, he never defines Linux or Windows, so we are both right. And so on, and so on. Can't be bothered anymore...

UglyMike 11/28/03 06:40:10 AM EST

There are some many things wrong with the 'No' scenario, it's difficult to decide where to begin...
Definitions: "Ready for the Desktop" What does this mean?? No definition is given but is seems to mean "Ready for my Granny to install on a random laptop and have full functionality without downloading squat (incl drivers or apps)"
"Linux" Is it the Kernel? Any "generic" distro? A specific distro ? with a standard install? with a set-up of sources for Apt, URPMI, CnR...?
Windows: Windows XP Home? Pro? Windows 98,2K? Preinstalled? Other MS apps included? non-MS apps? Which ones?
So we don't know what is being tested nor what the base line is.
As for the findings themselves, well the guy has a point with the NIC. If the kernel doesn't include a driver and the manufacturer doesn't provide a loadable module, you have problems (although with the developments of wrappers in this area, a 'fix' might be possible) No use saying it is not Linux' fault, it is reality. On the other hand, insisting that one should not have to bother with HW requirements is a bit silly. As for the DVD stuff wtf is his problem? He says linux cannot read commercial DVDs but then that Lindows can. Ergo, as Lindows is Linux this means Linux can read commercial DVDs out of the box. If he now says "Yeah, but my MY distro doesn't" than I say "Well, MY Win98 doesn't either!" Like I said, he never defines Linux or Windows, so we are both right. And so on, and so on. Can't be bothered anymore...

Martin Laberge 11/28/03 06:23:04 AM EST

The readyness of a system being measured by the ability of Mothers to do an install, I have to tell you that Windows is NOT ready for the desktop, as my mother, and many mothers I know, can't do an install, upgrade, or repair of any version of Windows. In fact I do not know any OS that is ready for the desktop in this regard.

Roy 11/28/03 05:57:36 AM EST

James Turner will tolerate no excuses. Windows Xp and previous versions of Windows get help in the fact that Hardware Manufactures, if they want the market to except thier hardware, makes sure that their device works in Windows. Laptop vendors usally supply drivers for devices installed on their hardware, or have the OS pre-installed. If you add hardware to ypur computer,you would get a floppy or CD with detailed install instructions that would require his mother to install that device. Not all hardware to be used in Windows will run out of the box. I admit though, I stopped using Windows at Windows 2000 and don't have experience with XP, but I am sure Microsoft has the support of all hardware manufactures to make sure that theier hardware works with XP right out of the box. Linux as yet does not have that support. Chickens and eggs come to mind as far as James Turner requirements for Linux being ready for the desktop is concerned.

A N Other 11/28/03 05:00:24 AM EST

"In the current situation, you often find that your distribution doesn't have a precompiled version of the driver you need, meaning you need to build it from sources."

Maybe the trick is:
- just don't let the user know that they are compiling the driver?

...wget http://somewhere/y.tgz, tar -xvzf y.tgz, cd y, ./configure --with-whatever, make, make install

And show the user 'Installing driver Y' in a nice gtk/qt dialog box with a progress bar? [and a 'more info' button for the curious].

wazoo 11/28/03 04:07:44 AM EST

Few aspects to linux on desktop:
It's masochism to watch movies with computer, also compact DVD-players are cheap, so why use PC?
MOST grandmothers don't install software, not even in winblows-enviroment (same applies to common user also), it's done or should be done by some geek friend. Most winblows-systems are installed by a hardware vendor, why are you expecting that linux-systems should be installed by end user? (ain't working now, but if and when linux is commonly in use like redmontOS)
Linux is more than ready for standard corporate desktop and also for home desktops for geeks and "common sense"-users. That's because they don't need all those neat whistles and bells to mess up things. "Common sense"-users and corporations hardly update their systems and geeks now how to do it.
Linux isn't ready for advertising agency, for technical designers and printing houses because of their special applications and defacto standards.
Linux isn't ready for users with exotic or new peripheral devices or user's who wants their computers to be an audio-visual playground rather than a computer. Linux also isn't ready for user's who can't live with limitations.
After all this matter is basically as black an white as anything else in this world.

Charles Hill 11/28/03 03:38:39 AM EST

1. DVD playback -- Funny, Windows XP DOES NOT PLAY DVDS out of the box. The DVD decoder codec is provided by your DVD player manufacturer. I ran into this the other day when updating an IBM laptop from Win98 to WinXP Pro -- no DVD capability. Shucks, I guess WinXP isn't ready for desktop usage. (http://www.microsoft.com/windows/windowsmedia/windowsxp/dvdplay.aspx)

1a. Depends on your distro. Try Lindows and their "Click-n-Run" warehouse. Amazing... a single click to install DVD player with licensed codecs to play ALL ENCRYPTED DVDS. $4.95 for members, $39.95 for non-members.
(http://help.lindows.com/cgi-bin/lindows.cfg/php/enduser/std_adp.php?p_si...)
(http://www.lindows.com/lindows_products_details.php?id=11804)

2. 802.11g driver. I've had lots of Windows boxes that don't recognize my hardware out of the box. I am (almost) always prepared with the manufacturer's disk and drivers I downloaded on a different machine. Can't find the driver for your lovely 802.11g device? How about $19.95 for Linuxant's wrapper for the WinXP driver? (http://www.linuxant.com/driverloader/) Works with 802.11a and 802.11g equipment in most manufacturers.

So, either download your .isos or get them from a friend and pay nothing for your OS. Then shell out $60 for the software to run the DVD and 802.11g -- still cheaper than $99 - $299 for WinXP.

Or... use Lindows ($60) and shell out the $25 for the extra software and have the benefit of "Click-n-Run" -- which is about 10x easier than Windows software installs.

Mom will be spoiled.

Oh, yeah. No compiling, no kernel configs, no nothing but simple button clicks for the can't-figure-out-the-VCR-clock crowd.

jeff 11/28/03 03:33:33 AM EST

You said "desktop" but what you really tested was "laptop". Laptops support is a lot less robust than desktop support. Who cares about watching DVD's on a computer? Can't you just use your $29 dvd player for that? Come on? What do you really use your computer for? You should test that, not DVD's.

Mattias 11/28/03 02:27:36 AM EST

Illegal to download decss? Has there been a ruling I don't know about? It was reverse engeneered in norway, where the guy was found not guilty of the charges he was presented with. And decss doesn't infrig on any patents... so where is the crime?

basia 11/28/03 02:27:30 AM EST

Qestion is badly addressed: the hardware producers should supply drivers for operating system, not a community of volunteers, who perhaps has to break some idiotic laws. Your DVD player should come with Linux driver, not obligatory open source, but driver.
It is sometimes amazing, how hardware producers ignore 10% of their possible increased market. Should we continue the theory of conspiracy?
It should be any anti-trust procedures started.

Greetings
Basia

basia 11/28/03 02:27:16 AM EST

Qestion is badly addressed: the hardware producers should supply drivers for operating system, not a community of volunteers, who perhaps has to break some idiotic laws. Your DVD player should come with Linux driver, not obligatory open source, but driver.
It is sometimes amazing, how hardware producers ignore 10% of their possible increased market. Should we continue the theory of conspiracy?
It should be any anti-trust procedures started.

Greetings
Basia

James C 11/28/03 01:37:22 AM EST

To James Turner,

Additional :
Window NT 4.0 Workstation not provide Delphi Development tools and Microsoft Visual C++ Development tools. Based on your experience, is it not ready for programmer/company to use? Then Title should be "*LINUXWORLD SPECIAL* Is Window NT 4.0 Workstation Desktop-Ready Yet...or Not?"

Well, James Turner, please give me answer? Yoyu are many many experience and is a good writer in LinuxWorld. Please give me answer. Wait for your response soon.

James C 11/28/03 01:06:51 AM EST

To James Turner,

I have a notebook and want to install Window NT4.0 Workstation Now I can't success install all drivers for my notebook. Based on your assumption, The title should be "*LINUXWORLD SPECIAL* Is Window NT 4.0 Workstation Desktop-Ready Yet...or Not? It is so funny.

If answer is ready, why I can't download driver from vendor/anywhere for my desktop in past, now and future.
If answer is not ready, why Microsoft not tell us that their NT4 Workstation is not ready and sell it to market expensively and without any application in it.

>>> James Turner's experience :
I have 15 years experience with Unix varients, worked for two major Unix-based hardware vendors doing technical presales work, wrote the software that BBN used to deploy Unix based web servers into their web farms, owned a Usenet node in 1984, have written three books on J2EE development and am a committer on the Apache Jakarta Struts project. What have you been up to lately?

James Turner, you are 15-20 years unix experience... and many many experience in IT field and as a good writer in Linuxworld. So, please tell me answer. Can you tell me answer. HAHAHAHAAHA It is so funny and interesting. Your paper is so funny.

Nils Valentin 11/28/03 12:39:56 AM EST

Hi Bob Robertson, seems like we are in a similar region. how about keeping in contact ?

[email protected]

Dear newt_eye, nice comments and so true !!

Rob Thomas 11/28/03 12:13:33 AM EST

James Turner Says:
>---------------
>
>I have 15 years experience with Unix varients, worked for >two major Unix-based hardware vendors doing technical >presales work, wrote the software that BBN used to deploy >Unix based web servers into their web farms, owned a Usenet >node in 1984, have written three books on J2EE development >and am a committer on the Apache Jakarta Struts project. >What have you been up to lately?
>

Sounds good. Looks like you have experience... Maybe even as much as I do.

>The scary thing is, even with all that experience, I still >struggle to get everything hunky dorry when I install stuff >onto Linux boxes. There are just too many >interdependencies between various release levels of various >packages, and you can spend forever getting everything >compatible (if you can at all...)

Sure you have all that experience? My son with just a few years of experience has no trouble with the RH distro's. Even grabbing source code and getting it to work for exotic stuff - no big deal. Indeed with your experience I am surprised you would admit to having so much trouble unless you deal with other distro's. Some of them can be toxic waste indeed (put those spears down... not going to say which ones). State your problems with which distro. One hint is don't make things. Keep it standard unless it is absolutely necessary. Get out of the compiling business.

Getting stuff to work under the win os's can be a chore too. I put a bunch of stuff on ebay because the later win OS's simply don't support some of the old hardware. Even then, getting drivers to work right often is not easy. Usually the problems there have to do with USB devices.

>I'm quite aware that DVD viewing is dependent on DMCA >issues, but why are there no commercially available Linux >DVD players (except under Lindows?) A desktop machine >without consumer applications may be a good office desktop >machine, but it's not gonna fly at home.

Again, if you are who you say you are you should be very familiar with the problems with DVD and Linux (or BSD for that matter). It is not a technical one, it is a legal one. Microsoft decided to pay tribute (big bucks) to use the code. Linux by being open makes it really hard to put in an enforcement mechanism so the man keeps control (Hollywood). It is all about control and a failed business model. They keep doing the same thing, the Sony suit in the 1980's with vcr's, casette tapes before that and so on.

>
>And why is anyone who criticizes some aspect of Linux >automatically a Microsoft apologist? Go look at some of my >online columns, I call Microsquish to task on a near daily >basis. But I call 'em as I seem 'em, and right now I don't >see Linux as something my mom would feel comfortable trying >to use.

Sort of like being anti-war and therefore being pro-saddam in the eyes of others. If you say that neither Linux nor Windows is ready then you seem like a jerk. Common, put your cards on the table. Do you think anything is ready for the desktop? If not then don't say anything at all... didn't your mother teach you that one (if you don't have anything good to say, don't say anything at all)?

The real world out there has business to get done. Is Linux secure - for the most part yes. Sure there is something to be found, however generally it is secure. Is it reliable? Sure thing. If I don't do anything at the kernel level it is very difficult to crash, if at all. My biggest problem keeping the Linux machine up is power to the machine. Is it functional? Sure, I can and do business on them every day. Letters, faxes, web pages, phone systems and so on.

The Largo government seems to do fine with Linux. Do you really want to say that you are not as competent as the secretaries in Largo (and a number of other cities) are? You are supposed to be the man! They seem to PREFER Linux to Windows. If they think it is ready, why don't you? After all, they are the general targets of a desktop.

If you have concerns then say them - Linux is ready, however .... and be definitive.

>And for the record, WinXP Home and Pro install without a >problem on the same laptop that Linux struggles with.

And that laptop is....(dell, compaq/hp, 5 guys... you didn't say). Didn't you take any writting courses? It isn't nice to do that to readers. This is a totally unverifiable statement and is therefore suspect (like it or not). You installed both home and pro on the same laptop? Uh huh. I wonder why would you do that, like to pay M$ money or something?

If money is the issue, you really can send money to the free software foundation. They will gladly take it.

-Rob

Linux User in OKC 11/27/03 11:28:33 PM EST

Mr.Turner,

Although I dream of being able to install Linux on any Desktop/Laptop [you used a laptop] without any glitches, I don't think that will be true until there is more support from the hardware manufacturers. I respectfully disagree with your evaluation for the following reasons:
1. Installing Linux on the latest laptops has always been problematic. That is due directly more with the Hardware Manufactures than Linux developers.

2. DVD reading? In the whole scheme of things, that is really the fault of the DCMA and the MPAA, period. The fact that they are encrypted in the first place due to pure greed. The MPAA is still giving Johansen grief.

3. Is Linux ready for the Desktop? Yes it is, and it has been for a few years. The real reasons Linux is having a problem with becoming adopted on the Desktop are the propaganda from M$, and its supporting venders, but also the *perception* of the average desktop user. Look at the division lines between MS Windows and Apple. It's more a matter of what people are used to. People don't like to change. They would rather suffer the agony of viruses and worms at the risk of learning something new, more secure, more stable, and having the freedom to edit its code. I am not going to waste my time trying to convince Windows users they need to switch to Linux. It's like a frog on a lilly pad. He's not going to jump to another one unless there is something he likes on the other one or there is something he fears if he stays.

4. I would ask a counter question to MS windows users. I Windows ready for the internet? Given its desktop's susceptability to virus or worm every time you turn around. Given its Win 2k/SQL servers nearly crippled the internet in the first part of the year. Ready for the internet? Not until it grows up.

Linux has come light years ahead in technological development and growth much more than MS Windows in the past few years and I expect to see even more in the next.

I hail all the open source developers. I have been using Linux for 6 years and exclusively for 4 years. I have never regretted it for one minute.

James Turner 11/27/03 11:05:32 PM EST

Nope, I'm talking about Windows XP bought at CompUSA. Sure, I had to download and install some drivers to get everything to work, but it was a matter of going to the vendor's web site and downloading and running a program, in all cases.

And since someone asked, it was SuSe 9.0 I was trying (I finally did get the DVD to work, but the thing is still having difficulty with the network, and may have just crashed because of the driver. I'm going to try going to 2.6 sometime this weekend and see if it fixes anything.)

James

Tim Dinkins 11/27/03 10:28:02 PM EST

I don't think that the author has tried to install Windows XP. Obviousely he is referring to Windows XP preinstalled. I have install Windows XP recently and it doesn't do the following:
1. Play encrypted DVD's.
2. Detect and install a driver for my network card.
3. Install my printer without me downloading drivers.
4. Come with any real productivity tools.

It takes many hours of work to get a Windows XP install working the way you like it. It can also be a real pain to get all of the drivers working correctly (sound card?).

On the other hand, Suse 9.0 did all of the above without a problem with the exception of playing encrypted DVDs.

James Turner 11/27/03 09:43:35 PM EST

First off, Mathew Tedder said "I can tell you are not very technically inclined. Your networking issues are very likely not Linux's fault. "

Well Matthew, not to get into a pissing match, but...

I have 15 years experience with Unix varients, worked for two major Unix-based hardware vendors doing technical presales work, wrote the software that BBN used to deploy Unix based web servers into their web farms, owned a Usenet node in 1984, have written three books on J2EE development and am a committer on the Apache Jakarta Struts project. What have you been up to lately?

The scary thing is, even with all that experience, I still struggle to get everything hunky dorry when I install stuff onto Linux boxes. There are just too many interdependencies between various release levels of various packages, and you can spend forever getting everything compatible (if you can at all...)

I'm quite aware that DVD viewing is dependent on DMCA issues, but why are there no commercially available Linux DVD players (except under Lindows?) A desktop machine without consumer applications may be a good office desktop machine, but it's not gonna fly at home.

And why is anyone who criticizes some aspect of Linux automatically a Microsoft apologist? Go look at some of my online columns, I call Microsquish to task on a near daily basis. But I call 'em as I seem 'em, and right now I don't see Linux as something my mom would feel comfortable trying to use.

And for the record, WinXP Home and Pro install without a problem on the same laptop that Linux struggles with.

James
Senior Editor, LinuxWorld Magazine

None of your business 11/27/03 09:02:20 PM EST

I didn't bother wasting my time reading the debate. The title of the article should have been - Is Window Desktop-ready...or not? I have had enough aggravation installing windows hardware and software (and all of the spy and shit ware out there) that I can honestly say that NO operating system is desktop-ready, particulary if desktop-ready=moron-ready.

Rob Thomas 11/27/03 08:56:34 PM EST

Hoser Joe:
X handled Cyrilic, Chinese and the other characters when M$ was still just a program loader and Windows was a wish by Bill. X uses a special type of coding that uses 16 bit to represent a character. You have to tell it that you want to do this of course. My Linux setup has no trouble with the other character sets. On the flip side, it is often a chore to get it to work right in windows.

-Rob

Valter 11/27/03 07:32:18 PM EST

Machine: Toshiba satellite 2450
OS: Suse 9.0
Linksys 802.1b wireless card
DVD/CD-RW combo
Install: flawless, all hardware recognized; no post-install issues
My point (as few previous ones): it's very subjective to generalize "Linux install" by one user's experience.

My point 2: "Is Linux ready for desktop?" has nothing to do with "Is Linux installation ready for my mother to install on her laptop?". I am sure my mother would have same trouble installing either Windows (any) or Linux.

Rest my case.

Sid Boyce 11/27/03 06:23:51 PM EST

The difference between a cult and a non-cult is the size of the following, which proves nothing in my book. I haven't ever been able to subscribe to the idea that I should eat carrion on the basis that zillions of flies can't be wrong. Linux has a disparate following that is pretty rough on software authors - at times even Linus has been savaged. I can't see these guys ever putting up with crashes, blue-screens-of-death, viruses, worms and such like - we are a pretty ugly bunch in the face of such things and we have had been burnt by what passes for the de facto desktop. I can truly say that if those problems dogged Linux and not that other operating system, we wouldn't go near it.

Bob James 11/27/03 04:42:22 PM EST

I think it's high time to stop using that tired old "mythical Mom" argument: that Linux will not be ready until my mother is capable of installing it on the first try on any piece of hardware that she happens to have.

My mother has a computer, true. But that computer was purchased at a local Best Buy with Win98SE installed on it. She did not set the computer up, nor install the OS, nor even so much as install a single piece of software. She would not have the slightest idea *what* a device driver is, nevermind how to get one. She will categorically refuse to open the case for any reason whatsoever. If the antivirus was not set up to autoupdate, she wouldn't do that either. All of her setup and maintenance waits until either I or my brother visit her... and I live 9 hours away. My brother is an hour further than that.

Would she benefit from using Linux? Probably not. She uses AOL for her service provider, on dialup. Would she ever switch to Linux? Perhaps... if every component were set up *for* her. Otherwise no, and she is typical of most users. So you see, the Mythical Mom argument is a straw man. The argument has nothing to do with utility on the desktop, and is therefore specious.

In a later comment, Mr. Turner also points out the cultlike behavior of some of the free software crowd, likening the FSF to a cult, due to some of its adherents's "blind obedience and immediate ridicule and character assasination of anyone who dares to suggest there are ways in which [Linux] could be improved." I'm sure he is not absolving Microsoft adherents from the same; if he's ever been in a meeting with non-technical folks whose sole exposure to the debate over software has been watching the multi-million dollar ad campaigns from Microsoft, then he's also seen people adamantly proclaim that "we *need* Microsoft [fillintheblank]" when they have absolutely no idea what alternatives there are, and they don't care. They only know they "need" Microsoft.