Caitlyn Martin Points Out The Obvious, GNU/Linux on the Desktop Works for People

“Lately we’ve been treated to (or bombarded by) a slew of articles and blog posts proclaiming the failure and/or the death of Linux on the desktop. I could describe what I really think of these articles but my language would be a bit more colorful than would be appropriate. Suffice it to say it’s all bunk as far as I am concerned.”

via The Linux Works: Linux on the Desktop: New Opportunities.

Amen. The onslaught of “GNU/Linux Dead on the Desktop” stories is silly. Obviously many millions are using GNU/Linux on the desktop with great satisfaction. Many came to GNU/Linux by downloading or installing from a CD, others had some system administrator install it and many are now able to buy GNU/Linux on PCs on retail shelves. Pronouncing GNU/Linux dead is just silly. In my last position, desktop GNU/Linux saved my sanity. That other OS was close to needing full-time support for fewer than 100 PCs. Almost every school needs that many PCs and more. With GNU/Linux, I had my whole day freed for teaching or planning really neat projects for IT.

We’ve read of many migrations of organizations large and small who broke even on the task in a few months. I have done some that broke even on day one because the old machines became usable again. GNU/Linux is a winner in every way:

  • performance, less bloat and fewer irrelevant tasks means PCs work for the users not M$ and “partners”,
  • price, you can’t beat $0,
  • NO MALWARE! alone that justifies migration,
  • NO EULA! The restrictions on using that other OS create a huge burden. Not so with GNU/Linux, and
  • Sharing is good! It’s the right way to do IT. The world can make its own software and share it, minimizing the cost and maximizing the performance of IT.

The sad thing is that folks who have contributed a lot to FLOSS or GNU/Linux are some who write these stories. For instance, Jim Zemlin, the head of the Linux Foundation, seems to believe GNU/Linux has no place on the desktop:
“The thing people used to care about, and the reason they chose Windows, was because there was a huge number of applications available for the platform, so they had the inertia of having lots of installed users and that led to lots of applications users could use”

Wake up, people! Very few chose that other OS, M$ and its “partners” forced it on people by forcing OEMs to make nothing but Wintel PCs. It’s sad when people who should know better fall for such an obvious ploy. Fortunately, the Linux Foundation can just get out of our way after they release GNU/Linux. The GPLv2 licence gives us the right to run the software on our desktops no matter what Zemlin thinks.

About Robert Pogson

I am a retired teacher in Canada. I taught in the subject areas where I have worked for almost forty years: maths, physics, chemistry and computers. I love hunting, fishing, picking berries and mushrooms, too.
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30 Responses to Caitlyn Martin Points Out The Obvious, GNU/Linux on the Desktop Works for People

  1. DavidS wrote, “To use Linux is my choice. It could be a good choice for most of my friends, who usually use mainstream applications – basically a browser, a word processor and a mail client. Linux is perfectly viable for them. It is good system, as good as Windows. And the trend is clear: its use is spreading.”

    Thanks for your comment. There really should be no debate about things like that which matter. However, there are many axes to grind. Some hold FLOSS is not “the best” but there is no imperative in IT to use “the best”. If it works use it and why change what works. For me that other OS has not worked in many situations either because of cost or malware or crashes or restrictions in the EULA. Then there is the history of M$. One should not deal with businesses with such an unwholesome past and there is evidence that the same people who ran it in the old days have not changed their ways. Any of these is sufficient reasons to seek alternatives yet in many places like retail stores here in Canada there are no alternatives except smart phones and tablets. A few years ago those did not even exist. Freedom is on the horizon.

    On top of reasons to leave that other OS there are plenty of reasons to go to GNU/Linux like the package managers and SSH and scripting which make managing one machine or 1000 all the same. That other OS has similar features now but they are much more complex and costly, like their damned server licences and inActive Directory. One has to be an expert to use those properly yet anyone who knows how to administer one GNU/Linux PC can administer any number with simple tools. Then theirs freedom from malware. I have rarely seen that other OS without any yet GNU/Linux has never ran malware for me on hundreds of PCs I have used.

  2. DavidS says:

    I don’t quite understand the debate — I used Windows for years, it has his qualities, but some distros are much better OSes than Windows. I also understand why somebody has to use Windows: there are specific applications you may need, that are not available under Linux. A migration is not always an easy thing to do, neither was it easy for me to manage.

    But FOSS and free software, in general, is quite useful in Windows too. Before migrating to Linux I already used OpenOffice, Ghostscript, SMPlayer, Foxit pdf reader, Inkscape, Xnview, GIMP, Scribus, Avira, free fonts… It happen gradually over the years, and it helped me to reduce the cost of my software. I don’t understand how people don’t care about the price: to run a useful system is not cheap, far from it.

    Using free software helped me a lot, and I lost some of my fears. It also helped me to evaluate my real needs: I needed a word processor, but not the “newest and greatest”, since my needs remained the same. Then, there was always a trick: I liked Windows 3.1, but I had to stop use it because it couldn’t work with huge hard disks. I loved AmiPro, but I was suddenly forced to save in .doc format. Since I am working in multilingual documents, I had to comply to Unicode suddenly, change the word processor and find adequate fonts… It becomes rapidly a never ending story. And money flows: 50 euros here, 280 euros there, 30 euros more… Perhaps it is not much, but for me, it is relevant.

    To use Linux is my choice. It could be a good choice for most of my friends, who usually use mainstream applications – basically a browser, a word processor and a mail client. Linux is perfectly viable for them. It is good system, as good as Windows. And the trend is clear: its use is spreading.

  3. Ted says:

    “Not in my dictionary.”

    You know what I meant.

    Would “fairy tale” be an adequate substitute for “story”?

  4. Ted wrote, ““Anecdotes” and “stories”, there’s a difference.”

    Not in my dictionary.

    Story – “A narration or recital of that which has occurred; a description of past events; a history; a statement; a record.
    [1913 Webster]”

    Anecdote – ” A particular or detached incident or fact of an
    interesting nature; a biographical incident or fragment; a single passage of private life.
    [1913 Webster] “

  5. Ted says:

    “Surely bad RAM would also affect GNU/Linux…”

    I had presumed that the Windows system was separate, but he does imply that Linux freezes too. As Windows Vista/7 uses most of a system’s memory for cache/prefetch data, it follows that problems with memory would be more prevalent than on a Linux system where data is not prefetched as aggressively or at all. Every byte is sacred, and all that.

    And you may have missed the final sentence. He’s probably just making it up. “Anecdotes” and “stories”, there’s a difference.

  6. Ted wrote, ““Windows still freezes on me exponentially more than Linux.”

    Check your hardware – you have bad RAM. Or you’re making it up.”

    Surely bad RAM would also affect GNU/Linux…

  7. Ted says:

    “Windows still freezes on me exponentially more than Linux.”

    Check your hardware – you have bad RAM. Or you’re making it up.

    “even runs that pissoff called Nvidia Optimus by utilizing Bumblebee.”

    The usual. Doesn’t work correctly on Linux, works on Windows/Mac, so it must be crap.

    “Compiz has always been rather beta software, but I stopped using it years ago.”

    Looks like KWin is no better.

    http://askubuntu.com/questions/163787/video-tearing-with-kde-compositing
    https://bugs.kde.org/show_bug.cgi?id=258971
    https://bugs.kde.org/show_bug.cgi?id=203116
    https://bugs.kde.org/show_bug.cgi?id=193187
    http://osdir.com/ml/kwin/2009-05/msg00457.html

    All from page 1 of lots.

  8. Dann says:

    Why all the hate against X anyway?
    Windows still freezes on me exponentially more than Linux.

    Gentoo + X + KDE has been damned reliable, even runs that pissoff called Nvidia Optimus by utilizing Bumblebee.

    As for tearing, I have not seen it on my machines. I don’t use Compiz, I use KWin (with vsync disabled at that). Compiz has always been rather beta software, but I stopped using it years ago.

  9. oiaohm says:

    Thorsten Rahn
    –Video tearing on Linux is usually caused by whichever godawful compositor is running in any given distribution. Compiz is usually the worst of the lot. Here’s an old thread from 2009 discussing the problem.

    Apparently the problem still persists three years later. Well, it’s Linux, so it was to be expected.–

    Not even close. The compositor is not exactly the problem. When DRI1 was design I will be truthful the developers screwed up this is March 8, 2000. They believes you would only want 1 opengl application the screen at the time. So you got the best performance.

    This is pre the idea of compositor.

    2007 DRI 2 starts. This include the idea that many opengl applications might want to render to screen at once. DRI 2 also introduces kernel mode setting.

    Reality most of the open source video card drivers that lack performance that are having to be reversed don’t have Video tearing because they are DRI 2.

    Basically Linux guys in closed source driver provides are stuck in the year 2000 stone age. Really I would expect windows users also to be really upset. This is why you here Linus and other say bad thing about Nvidia. In the year 2000 Windows 2000 would also tear videos.

    In some ways compiz should refuse to run on crap drivers for tear resistance. Wayland Compositor that is fully based around DRI2 is 100 percent tear free always.

    Thorsten Rahn its not compositor alone. It is the down right suxing closed source drivers causing the compositor to having to lot of voodoo to make one opengl output many.

    Really if told you that you could only use drivers from the year 2000 in design you would not be happy.

    Thorsten Rahn does this explain where the motivation in the FOSS world to build there own drivers is coming from.

  10. Thorsten Rahn says:

    Video tearing on Linux is usually caused by whichever godawful compositor is running in any given distribution. Compiz is usually the worst of the lot. Here’s an old thread from 2009 discussing the problem.

    Apparently the problem still persists three years later. Well, it’s Linux, so it was to be expected.

  11. Ivan wrote, “The fact that I’m not the only one that has noticed these problems in multiple distribtutions tells me that you are being dishonest.”

    Or not.

  12. Ivan says:

    What’s video-tearing?

    You’re a savvy individual, STFW.

    I cannot remember the last time X froze on me. I think it was back in 2001. Really, try a modern distro on normal hardware and you won’t have any problems with it.

    WorksForMeâ„¢

    The fact that I’m not the only one that has noticed these problems in multiple distribtutions tells me that you are being dishonest.

  13. oldman says:

    “Ha!”

    HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!

  14. oiaohm says:

    TM Repository its like writing a binary under windows using its direct syscalls instead of ntdll.dll to talk to system. Microsoft gives you no promises they will not hurt you if you do that.

    The path you choose is the path of pain.

    TM Repository
    –The experience on desktop Linux sucks, many have said so, but rather than demanding the real contributors fix the issues, you apologize endlessly for them as if you’re worried we’ll somehow offend the open source gods.–
    The reality is here you cannot ask someone to fix a problem if you don’t know what it is.

    I don’t apologise for flaws. Lot of times what you think the flaw is and what the real flaw is are two different things. Like your claims that Linux does not have a stable ABI. There is a stable ABI and a framework to use it. That provides ways of coping of some distribution does not follow the pack and you need to run on it. Basically get you nose into the Linux Standard Base SDK and see how many times hard you made it for yourself going the Ubuntu path. Particular how many of those update that broke your application you could have worked around simple by placing a copy of the working .so with your application. No rebuilding no major pain. So most of the crap you did was incompetence and been too stuborn to step back and go hey adobe flash over here would not be going threw this insanity nvidia and ati is not going threw this insanity what in hell am I doing wrong to have this much trouble.

  15. oiaohm says:

    TM Repository
    –What bias? I wanted to port one of my applications to the Linux desktop a few years back but the build broke literally 3 times during development due to “mandatory” regressions in the kernel, Ubuntu updates, etc. It eventually had to be abandoned because it was taking too much time away from mainline development.–

    Define a few years back would not be more than 7 year chance. Before ABI checking was enabled on a lot of Libraries. This is what I take about time moves on.

    Even so Linux Standard Base was in existence it. It existed before Ubuntu did. List of stable ABI’s existed all the time back then. Means to use you own libraries as well to limit possible harm from system was also possible.

    Basically you picked one distribution and decided to port to it and never used any frameworks to isolate yourself. Ubuntu is also know for having one of the most Unstable Linux kernels out there. Due to the number of patches they apply that have not gone through the mainlining process.

    Lot of case of people being hit big kernel regression when you get deeper you find they are using syscalls market GPL only/internal usage only. Userspace interface really does not change.

    Linux Desktop is not just Ubuntu. You were building for the Ubuntu Desktop alone so you got burnt.

  16. kozmcrae says:

    @ldman wrote:

    “Stop putting words in my mouth or stand revealed as a liar.”

    Ha!

  17. Pogson: “Your experiences are tainted and compromised by your very large and very evident biases.”

    What bias? I wanted to port one of my applications to the Linux desktop a few years back but the build broke literally 3 times during development due to “mandatory” regressions in the kernel, Ubuntu updates, etc. It eventually had to be abandoned because it was taking too much time away from mainline development.

    I’m platform agnostic. I’ll use anything and develop for anything as long as the experience is good. The experience on desktop Linux sucks, many have said so, but rather than demanding the real contributors fix the issues, you apologize endlessly for them as if you’re worried we’ll somehow offend the open source gods.

    The Django project gets it, why can’t you? If something yields a bad experience, people aren’t going to want to use it. And since you can’t contribute and “fix it yourself”, why not actually bring attention to the faults, rather than hiding them.

  18. oldman says:

    “Let’s see: calling users of FLOSS parasites even though they use FLOSS under licence given by the creators of the software. ”

    I have called YOU a parasite because of your attitude towards commercial software. I have explained to you why I have said this. Yet you so consistently misrepresent what I have said that I think you are either being dishonest or you have a reading comprehension problem.

    Stop putting words in my mouth or stand revealed as a liar.

  19. e-mails and IP addresses do not reveal identities

    That hardly matters, I think. It is extremely likely that none of us are authoritative in our own right and knowing which faceless poster is which doesn’t affect the reality of the world. Your blog exists, I think, for the express purpose of making Windows or Microsoft fans feel bad about their choice and a number of those who comment are simply showing that they are uncowed by what you post and often returning the favors with Linux diminishing of their own.

    Is it worth all this effort?

  20. We know who I am and who Caitlyn Martin is…

    Sort of, Mr. Pogson, I believe she is the one you were citing as an authority on how Linux had a much larger market share than most people believe. Her “proof” was some ancient reference to a Dell statement about “a third of our minis” or somesuch phrase. Dell was saying that out of the three models pesented, 1 had Linux and 2 had Windows XP (Subsequently, all 3 had Windows 7 Starter.), but that was taken to mean something about shipping volume that was not in evidence.

    She is just another lone blogger at the end of the day, though. Curiously, she claims 32 years of experience in IT although her posted resume’ starts in 1985, some 5 years short of the mark. Nothing in her list of jobs makes her much of an expert on the technology or the market of anything and she doesn’t claim any sort of academic background, so citing another uncredentialed blogger is not very authoritative.

    You might as well cite Mr. O.

  21. oldman wrote, “Have you forgotten that you have access to our true names and emails? And in my case you know who I am Pog. I have no trouble questioning your credibility, because in the end your experiences are tainted and compromised by your very large and very evident biases.”

    e-mails and IP addresses do not reveal identities.

    Your experiences are tainted and compromised by your very large and very evident biases. Let’s see: calling users of FLOSS parasites even though they use FLOSS under licence given by the creators of the software. That’s a pretty strong bias, evidently. Calling FLOSS itself crapware, neglecting the presence of much excellent software in FLOSS. Oh, and the insistence that one gets what one pays for regardless of evidence that sharing happens and it works very well. Your experience of excellence by M$ defies credibility in light of many obvious failures and outright illegality.

  22. oldman says:

    “We know who I am and who Caitlyn Martin is. Who are you to question our credibility?”

    Have you forgotten that you have access to our true names and emails? And in my case you know who I am Pog. I have no trouble questioning your credibility, because in the end your experiences are tainted and compromised by your very large and very evident biases.

  23. Ivan wrote, “Have they bothered fixing video tearing yet? Does X still require a restart, causing you to lose all you were working on, when it freezes?”

    What’s video-tearing? I cannot remember the last time X froze on me. I think it was back in 2001. Really, try a modern distro on normal hardware and you won’t have any problems with it.

    From 2000 to 2011, I worked in many different schools on random hardware, often three or four types of PCs from name-brands and others and only a couple of times did I have any issues with any drivers of any kind.

    Like unknown visitors on a blog site are unbiased sources…

    We know who I am and who Caitlyn Martin is. Who are you to question our credibility?

  24. Ivan says:

    Because someone with a “linux consulting” business is an unbiased source about the failings of desktop linux.

    Have they bothered fixing video tearing yet? Does X still require a restart, causing you to lose all you were working on, when it freezes? Is the display still a server-client that makes oh so much sense on a workstation? Does wifi still die after a kernel update because some brainwashed jackass doesn’t like people using the hardware they bought?

  25. iLia wrote, “No contradiction here?”

    Nope. None at all. It has been more than a decade since M$ was able to dictate “rules” to OEMs. Now they rely upon lock-in and bribespromotional funding. The slaves will make PCs for food. Fortunately many OEMs now realize they don’t need M$’s funds if they don’t pay M$ for licences. They realize M$ was bribing them with their own money. That’s why most OEMs will ship GNU/Linux in bulk. It’s the retailers who are the lock-in these days.

  26. Thorsten Rahn wrote, “she leaves the reasons why it ain’t so unexplained.”

    A government department considering switching to GNU/Linux is her reason, clearly.

    “During my recent travels I had the opportunity to talk to a manager in a cash strapped part of government. Linux has been making inroads there not only on servers but also as a thin client solution. One high point of the discussion was when he showed me a magazine article, one I had already read, about how unsuitable Linux is for the desktop. He had read several articles like that one and had bought the oft repeated conclusion that Windows is still the only option for doing real work. Once again, it’s all bunk.

    I was able to seize upon the opportunity, talking about my experience with Windows to Linux migrations I had seen in companies I have worked with. I also could point to a few large corporations that had made the change and had saved millions of dollars in the process. There is a real possibility I may be able to do a demonstration project using openSUSE. If that is successful it could lead to a significantly large enterprise migration, one I would get to participate in. This particular piece of government already has largely replaced Microsoft Office with OpenOffice so that’s one piece of the migration which would be simple for them.”

    I have seen this many times. Folks go from knowing nothing about GNU/Linux to using it as a result of side by side demonstrations. Seeing is believing. FUD about use of GNU/Linux on desktops dies when people actually use it.

  27. Thorsten Rahn says:

    FLOSS-tards citing FLOSS-tards. The never-ending cycle continues. I want to believe!

    It’s interesting, Rob, that you chose to merely cite the first paragraph of Caitlyn’s “thinkpiece”. It’s almost as if you believed that hollow catchphrases like:

    Suffice it to say it’s all bunk as far as I am concerned.

    are arguments. Well, in your world they probably are. Caitlyn’s article is nothing more than a glorified fluff piece. It mostly consists of repeatedly stating that the assertion that Linux lost on the desktop is “bunk”. But sadly she leaves the reasons why it ain’t so unexplained (almost like you in every article you ever wrote). Instead she indulges in layman economics and layman psychology to prove her point. But at the end she’s proven nothing.

    Windows is top dog. And Linux changing that is just wishful thinking.

    Amen to that, Brother Rob.

  28. iLia says:

    Neither Amiga OS is dead.

    OK, call me an Amiga Inc and Hyperion Entertainment shill.

  29. iLia says:

    M$ and its “partners” forced it on people by forcing OEMs to make nothing but Wintel PCs

    and

    many are now able to buy GNU/Linux on PCs on retail shelves

    No contradiction here?

    Loongson in China? And how Apple managed to promote an OS running on the PowerPC? And why Windows runs on AMD CPUs?

    Only on the Macintosh, due to Apple’s persistence, did the PowerPC gain traction

    The onslaught of “GNU/Linux Dead on the Desktop” stories is silly.

    Neither Amiga OS is dead.

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