Robert Pogson

One man, closing all the windows.

Understatement of the Year by Linus Torvalds

  • Jun 09 / 2011
  • 25
Linux in Education, technology

Understatement of the Year by Linus Torvalds

Here many commentators tell me that thin clients will never fly and that desktop PCs must have that other OS but refuse to believe that my GNU/Linux terminal servers and thin clients are much less expensive and have better performance than thick clients with that other OS. In an interview, Linus Torvalds said, “A lot of people end up spending a lot of time waiting for that traditional rotational media”

Yep. That’s the secret. Linux file systems cache stuff that every user needs to log in, open popular apps, open the next window, etc. and Linux, being a multi-user OS, shares executables so well that the next user can open stuff much faster than the first user. It’s an amazing difference. On a thick client, folks are just getting close to that performance when they use an SSD. My students and teachers have experienced this for years even when hard drives were smaller. They see things happen 2 to 5 times faster with GNU/Linux when tons of files are cached in RAM. On that other OS, when you boot or log in your expensive 6-core RAMed-out system is no faster than your hard drives… and that other OS makes you wait, please wait before you can actually use that desktop on your screen. Side by side demonstrations are convincing to end users.

Chuckle. I so much enjoy it when people actually see that other OS is holding them back from doing what they want. Some compensate by going for coffee or signing in but they still see the result every time they click on something…

Use Debian GNU/Linux and experience what a real OS has been doing for people for more than a decade while you have been waiting.

25 Comments

  1. Contrarian

    “You call that nothing?”

    I don’t call it anything myself. Web stats vary all over the map and do not even address the main connection mode of phone apps other than browsing. Unattributed statistics sources are not very compelling either. The simplest thing to do is count the money in the system. Microsoft basically has it all. Apple gets a lot of profit margin from not having to buy an OS license, but they have to pay a lot for internal development, so it is hard to follow that money either way. Microsoft does not get any from Apple, but they get all the rest. Even people who use Linux often buy a new computer with Windows and just replace it with Linux, or so I understand.

    When you count Microsoft’s money as presented in SEC documents, you do not see any sign of them being on the road to ruin.

  2. Contrarian

    “If “7″ is as good as folks are saying (I am not one of them), then we could say that M$ took twenty years to produce an OS that is still not as secure as GNU/Linux was ages ago. ”

    You could say that, but most people do not seem to care. The reality is that Windows 7 today does not suffer from the widespread complaints that accompanied Vista and nothing particularly harmful happened to Microsoft along the way. That only proves the general theory about the market leader having the time and freedom to respond to product deficiencies as necessary and so be able to keep their lead. The longer the lead, the more leniency shown.

  3. Robert Pogson

    non-FREE versus FREE is not about quality of code. One can produce lousy code or good code in either system. However, a supplier producing non-FREE software does not have to be open about his bugs and can keep selling the bugs until the next release “fixes the problem” or provides “new, improved” features. Code quality will improve more rapidly in an open system like FLOSS than in a closed system. For example, M$ keeps its fans saying the current release is much better than the prior release. They even did that for Lose ’9x, ME, XP and Vista. That clearly was false. ’98 crashed just as often as ’95. Both shipped with 50K bugs and no security. If “7″ is as good as folks are saying (I am not one of them), then we could say that M$ took twenty years to produce an OS that is still not as secure as GNU/Linux was ages ago. FLOSS just takes a shorter development time and gets better sooner. Being part of the monopoly does not make software better.

  4. Contrarian

    “Why do you think companies like Microsoft have been repeatedly dragged to court for antitrust trials?”

    Because they dominate a huge business area and have to obey special rules that have been set for such situations. Until the litigation occurs, there is no adjudication as to the monopoly power existant, so there has to be either a trial or some court recognized settlement. That is how the system works.

    You can split hairs all day long about whether one program or another is better. Everyone has their own criteria for “better” and all sides are always right in their own frame of reference. The business itself is the final arbitrator, I believe, and what people buy is what is best for them. You may say that people don’t choose Windows; the OEMs choose Windows. But that only means that the one who can choose does choose Windows in most cases.

    At some point there was a real choice made based on some criteria and subsequent choices have depended somewhat on that original choice and prior subsequent choices. If you are the loser in that chain of events, you call it “lock-in” and if you are the winner you call it “choice”. It is the same thing.

  5. Linux Apostate

    But does that explain *every* instance where a non-free program is apparently better than a Free one?

  6. Rowan Thorpe

    @Linux Apostate:

    > If commercial software appears to be better,
    > then either it isn’t, or the company making
    > it has somehow cheated.

    In my opinion you answer your own speculation with the second of the two options. Why do you think companies like Microsoft have been repeatedly dragged to court for antitrust trials?:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_v._Microsoft
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/European_Union_Microsoft_competition_case

    What do you think of Apple’s behaviour in this case?:

    http://www.theregister.co.uk/2011/06/08/apple_copies_rejected_app

    I hope you are not naïvely implying that these companies actually selflessly put moral standards and “the greater good” above the unending pull of their shareholder’s wallets. Such companies and their inefficient/spaghetti-code products are yet another artefact of the collapsing Market-economy fundamentalism that is causing the social upheaval we are presently witnessing around the world. They manage to maintain such patchwork content by way of monopolising the host-OS and hardware (proprietary drivers) market, and other nefarious practises. Have you read about how Microsoft openly attempted to hijack legitimate use of the Wine emulation layer?:

    http://www.astahost.com/info.php/Ms-Blocking-Wine-Users-Legal-33_t2903.html

    I don’t praise their developers one iota, I only praise their lawyers abilities (but most certainly not their lawyer’s moral fibre).

  7. Linux Apostate

    Richard Chapman. Projection much?

    The worst thing here is how you read only what you want to read in everything I post.

    You remember me, but you do not remember that I use Linux and have used it for 14 years, and that I use it not just at work but also at home. These are iconvenient facts. I may even know more about it than you, though who knows? You may also be an expert.

    I am a former zealot. I was once a serious FLOSS advocate. Later I changed my mind and became a critic of your FLOSS revolution.

    The FLOSS cult fascinates me now. I had forgotten how you think; returning here reminds me. For instance, I’d forgotten how angry you get at any suggestion that commercial software could be better than FLOSS. To me it’s self-evident that commercial software is often better – this is why people pay for it. But the FLOSS cult doesn’t allow such thinking. It is what you call a “blind spot”. If commercial software appears to be better, then either it isn’t, or the company making it has somehow cheated.

  8. Linux Apostate

    Again, all that stuff about Pixar is beside the point. I’m just going to let you win that one. Know that you would not have won it had you been arguing in meatspace, because as soon as you said “These guys actually run programmes for a living and likely leave them run all day long so the users rarely get to see the OS” it would be obvious that you hadn’t read what I wrote.

    And this (Jun 9th, 2011 at 11:39 am):

    “If that were true, someone would have written something that was up to snuff. There are so many millions of people using FLOSS these days that someone would have filled the deficiency.”

    Again, do you actually think this is true?

  9. Richard Chapman

    “Your ability to do that is seriously constrained if you force all your artists to use Linux…”

    Picture perfect: A person in denial. All humans have a blind spot. We go about our lives without ever noticing it. That doesn’t mean other people cannot see our blind spots. I’m looking at yours LA. Do you realize that if you continue to marginalize GNU/Linux you will never see its success? It will be over before you know it. If you haven’t been keeping sharp with GNU/Linux and FLOSS skills in general, you’ll be left holding the bag. You’ll never see it coming because you have a blind spot right over it. It’s always the same to you. Never changing. Never improving. You have a blind spot LA and it’s going to kick you in the rump some day.

  10. Robert Pogson

    These guys actually run programmes for a living and likely leave them run all day long so the users rarely get to see the OS. Why should they, the end-users, care about the platform? OTOH the folks who write the PIXAR-spcialized stuff love GNU/Linux because it is an OS designed by developers for developers. PIXAR may well have used a lot of FLOSS stuff to build their software. Because they don’t distribute it they don’t need to give back. That’s their choice. PIXAR likely has leveraged lots of COTS FLOSS in the development.

    I tend not to value your judgment because it is so different from my reality. Cinelarra cannot be the worst piece of software you have used if you are old enough to remember Lose ’9x or ME.

  11. Linux Apostate

    So what about this? Jun 9th, 2011 at 11:39 am:

    “If that were true, someone would have written something that was up to snuff. There are so many millions of people using FLOSS these days that someone would have filled the deficiency.”

    Do you actually think this is true? Think carefully.

    All the stuff about Pixar is beside the point. It seems to me that if you run a movie studio, you should leverage off-the-shelf software wherever possible to save money. Your ability to do that is seriously constrained if you force all your artists to use Linux, because they must use second-rate software and thus take longer to get things done. If the studio has already developed all the software in-house, as you claim Pixar has done, then this does not matter. But most studios are not in that situation. Therefore it will save them money to buy Macs or (Windows) PCs, along with professional applications. Which part of this argument do you think is wrong?

    Incidentally I have used Cinelerra, and it is probably the worst piece of software I have ever seen, on any platform. You really do a disservice by recommending it. Please, try it out. It’s in Debian.

  12. Robert Pogson

    Now, that makes no sense. Why would they run the same software on a Mac more cheaply than on a Linux box?

    Why is it that you feel its OK to argue that no one makes malware for GNU/Linux because the market is too small but when we find people actually do video on GNU/Linux you claim no one makes software for it…? Are you in denial?

    Pixar writes their own video editting/animation software. Here is a snippet from an ad:
    “Summary of Position:

    The Studio Tools Department is responsible for developing and maintaining Pixar’s in-house, movie-production software. This position requires a deep understanding of application engineering, an ability to collaborate with a large team of world-class engineers, skill in designing and developing robust, easy-to-maintain code, and an ability to provide excellent support to users in Production.

    Responsibilities:

    · Develop, implement, test and support Pixar’s proprietary software suite
    · Work effectively with many different teams within Studio Tools: Engineering, QA, Build, UI Design, Documentation and Project Management
    · Work with artists and TDs in Production to solve technical challenges and debug high-priority issues

    Qualifications:

    · Strong software engineering skills in C++, C
    · Experience with modern scripting languages, Python preferred
    · Experience with UI development toolkits such as Qt
    · Linux or UNIX Operating System experience”

    Notice they ask for Linux/Unix experience, not MacOS…

    Have some lemonade.

  13. Robert Pogson

    Amen. I had some students use Blender last year and they were able to do amazing stuff after a few weeks of practice. I found the widgets too small for my eyes… but a bigger monitor might have fixed that.

    I had one young lady do just about everything with Gimp. For a test I had her change all the colours in a scene radically. The result was beautiful. The young lady often had a smile on her face while editing. She found it an escape from teenage angst and all that.

  14. twitter

    See Cinelerra and Blender for free video editing and animation software. Both are first rate. For excellent illustration work there’s inkscape and scribus.

  15. Linux Apostate

    “If that were true, someone would have written something that was up to snuff. There are so many millions of people using FLOSS these days that someone would have filled the deficiency.”

    A circular argument. If $X doesn’t exist as FLOSS, then it must be because nobody needs $X, because if anyone needed $X they would already have written it.

    This is a fallacy, because developing something that was “up to snuff” might be prohibitively costly. It could be developed as FLOSS, but only if someone was willing to pay for thousands of man-years of development. Since the software could be bought off-the-shelf for a tiny fraction of that cost, there would have to be a very special reason to remake it as FLOSS.

    It’s well known that movie studios use Linux for rendering, which is carried out (as Contrarian says) with non-free rendering software. Meanwhile the artists’ workstations are PCs or Macs, because they work out as less expensive even when the software is paid for.

  16. Robert Pogson

    “RenderMan is a renderer only, designed for rendering photo-realistic levels of detail in feature film animation and visual effects. RenderMan products do not offer modeling or animation capabilities and generally our customers use 3D applications such as Maya to model and animate scene data before exporting it to RenderMan Pro Server for final rendering. To provide an accessible and attractive interface, Pixar sells RenderMan Studio as the “bridge” between Maya and RenderMan Pro Server. Other 3D applications such as Houdini, Massive, and Cinema 4D also include their own RIB (RenderMan Interface Bytestream) outputs that are fully compatible with RenderMan Pro Server.”

    Maya also runs on Linux but other editors may be used to produce input to Renderman.

    So, there’s no need for that other OS to make movies or animations. Enough people use Linux that even AutoDesk of AutoCAD fame, makes editors for Linux.

  17. Ray

    They should’ve, but they didn’t. And Pixar used Linux boxes for rendering, which is different than movie editing, and should not be confused as such.

  18. Robert Pogson

    JohnMc wrote, “Yep, there are several areas of FOSS that aren’t up to snuff. GIMP won’t replace FinalCut5, or the current incarnation of Illustrator. FOSS video production is lacking.”

    If that were true, someone would have written something that was up to snuff. There are so many millions of people using FLOSS these days that someone would have filled the deficiency. Disney/Pixar and others do use GNU/Linux for editing/rendering. Would they use something second-rate? I doubt it.

    “Since the late 1990′s, LMA and their development partners have been developing Linux based solutions for media processing while consulting on specific media management systems and solutions for various contracting organizations including major motion picture studios, broadcast networks, production studios, Universities, Security and Defense contractors, and the United States Department of Defense.”
    see Linux Media Arts

    They ship Cinelerra

    “Over 1 million successful downloads of Cinelerra make it a leader in media software publishing —- more than AVID and Final Cut Pro combined. LMA also offers content artists and publishers a complete solution for the distribution of secure, high-quality digital video content. Driven by an award winning team and award winning software, we are a globally recognized brand which encompasses a passionate community of professional users from all levels of the production experience. LMA is in the process of simplifying the studio design experience to enable everyone to create like they do in Hollywood.”

    Source code is here.

    There are packages for many distros here.

  19. JohnMc

    Oldman,

    Yep, there are several areas of FOSS that aren’t up to snuff. GIMP won’t replace FinalCut5, or the current incarnation of Illustrator. FOSS video production is lacking.

    But, those are rare instances and not in the general suite of typical business usage. Libre Office is on par with MS Office. Calligura office is nearly there as well. Between the two that covers 90% of what most offices do. Add either Thunderbird or Zimbra and you are up to maybe 95% of what most offices do.

    FOSS has the tools right now to give MS the willies. 75% of all MS OS purchases are for the sole purpose of running MS Office Suite. The lightbulb just needs to come on.

  20. Robert Pogson

    My users gained productivity because they had some very useful web application added to the LAN as well as the usual desktop productivity apps. They had things like 100K recipes and a gigabyte of text on the LAN where it was much faster than the web to access. So, they got more by switching to GNU/Linux and running the old hardware than if they had bought new hardware with that other OS on it.

  21. Caitlyn Martin

    Hey,oldman, which “shortcomings of FOSS” are you talking about? Could it be the inability to run certain software? You know, like all those cool viruses, trojans, worms and other malware. Could it be the lack of the high price tag? I mean, like, do you make your living selling proprietary software?

    Linux has been my primary OS at home since 1998 and at work since 2000. It has only increased my productivity and I somehow don’t seem to be lacking anything with FOSS software either.

    Hmmm… a nebulous statement with no specifics doesn’t make much of a case in my book.

  22. oldman

    “Chuckle. I so much enjoy it when people actually see that other OS is holding them back from doing what they want. ”

    Your problem Pog is that it is far simpler and less disruptive to throw hardware at application performance issues than it is to do the forklift upgrade. My current portable has an SSD and everything runs like greased lightening, and I can still use the applications that I am most productive with.

    Your way I get to lose productivity as I get to make up for the shortcomings of FOSS.

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