Desktop GNU/Linux

“Until somebody can figure out a surefire way to monetize a desktop distro, GNU/Linux will continue to be primarily used by free software advocates, people who demand the best on their desktop, those trying to keep an older machine productive and by those who’ve had-it-up-to-here with Microsoft.”
See Why Desktop Linux Still Hasn’t Taken Over the World
Christine Hall has a point. In the business of supplying PCs to the public, money begets money. If a business is not selling a product for money, there’s not much reason to do so. Still, an OEM can do the maths a different way. They can choose to advertise, distribute and support GNU/Linux on the desktop seeing the product costing very little and being able to make a profit selling it for a little more. Which way will the bottom line benefit more?

Folks are genuinely annoyed by Wintel and the endless costs of keeping systems going. That’s why Apple had some success. That’s why Android/Linux had some success. That’s why GNU/Linux has had some success. The first ~1% of usage may be due to DIYers and FLOSSies, but we are long past that. Schools and governments and individuals are loving GNU/Linux, not just fans. We are in a situation where “10” despite lots of expensive advertising is not seen as a “must have”. That’s because while advertising/promotion/usage has familiarized the world with the product, widespread usage has familiarized the world with malware, slowing down, re-re-reboots, the damned EULA,… So, people are equating Wintel PCs with a loss of productivity, not a gain. Wintel has besmirched the reputation of the PC and that may not be undone for a generation.

Enter GNU/Linux. When folks discover one way or another that GNU/Linux does not have the cost and waste of Wintel, they will buy it or install it on the waste left over from failed copies of TOOS. Today, there’s even Odroid-C2, a tiny PC that’s powerful enough to do the desktop tasks yet costs ~$100 delivered to one’s snail-mailbox. Open the package, plug in the SD-card, fold up the tiny plastic case, and plug in to a world of trouble-free computing. It just sits there getting warm and doing wonderful things. There’s no EULA, no endless re-re-re-boots, yes, just like their smartphones. Hardkernel can spend money promoting Odroid-C2 and GNU/Linux because TOOS does not run on the device. It’s still a PC.

Around the world, GNU/Linux has made an impact. It’s widely used in schools, a few offices and millions of individuals. Governments in Europe are actively promoting FLOSS as an efficient means of operation. The fact that $millions are not being spent by OEMs promoting it slows down adoption. It does not prevent it. Adoption of GNU/Linux is happening. In Europe there are several countries with around 3% usage. Uruguay has about 13%. Folks who encounter GNU/Linux at school or at work will spread the concept by word of mouth. The idea that a PC must have Wintel has taken a huge hit. Obviously other operating systems are out there and billions know it. It’s just a matter of seizing opportunity to make it happen. That does not require a business set in the ways of Wintel to accomplish just motivated citizens and groups.

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.
This entry was posted in Linux in Education, technology and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

13 Responses to Desktop GNU/Linux

  1. IGnatius T Foobar wrote, ” There is no such thing as “GNU/Linux” except in the imagination of communists like Richard Stallman.”

    You mean I just imagine gcc, GNU tools and a bunch of other stuff running on Linux around here? Of course GNU/Linux exists, fool. On Beast, I have installed 32 Debian packages with GNU in the name, and 190 begin with “g”. Then there are many others from GNU. I count 391 current packages in GNU, enough to make a decent computer with Linux as the kernel. Are there other packages installed on Beast? You betcha, thousands, but they are mostly applications and their dependencies. Much of that software was created with GNU tools on GNU/Linux systems.

  2. You mean “desktop Linux.” There is no such thing as “GNU/Linux” except in the imagination of communists like Richard Stallman.

  3. oiaohm says:
    For those that don’t know using Windows you will find every OEM has a page like this one. There is in fact a number of monitors that are not broken that different versions windows will fail with as well that they just declare broken. HDMI to VGA adaptor some of those have the issue of not sending solid ID codes.

    So one fault Robert hit was in fact no worst than pulling a Windows PC out a box and plugging everything in old hardware you have laying around dougman.

    Something dougman does not understand is people wishing to design and mess with physical hardware have no interest in tinkering around to get software to work unless it directly relates to what they are doing so for products like begalbone black, raspberry pi, Odroid-C2… to sell they must provide Linux distributions on SD cards and as downloadable images that work out box close to perfectly. As Robert said you can order the SD card pre installed with software ready to go as much as a windows machine is as soon as you plug it into these devices.

    For those wanting to dip toes in Linux and have min amount of fighting these small board systems are ok ish. Of course you will run into some annoying performance limitation cause by lack of ram and other things. Also don’t expect these boards to run any OS other than what they list in the spec sheet at first so if you are debian user you look for debian listed. One of the limitations as debian developer setting up arm build farm found out quite a few prototype boards are not rated to run 24/7 at full load again read specs before buying.

    Dougman what is the average prototyping time for hardware to produce first proof of concept to get go ahead for future work. The answer is 8 hours so there is absolutely no room in these small boards to be messing around. If something like a Odroid-C2 took days to config and get working it would be totally not acceptable to the hardware developers market heck taking longer than 30 min is a problem.

    All device prototype boards come with some form of pre configured software to allow item to demo it full functionality in under 30 mins. Could be Android, could be a generic linux(mostly Debian), could be like the arduino with pre done up software or it could be all of the above. More boards are all of above to target as many types of hardware developers as possible.

    Really I would love to see bigger systems being more like the prototyping boards hardware developers use.
    dougman if you go here you will see there are many boards. All the boards here have at least ubuntu and debian server images ready to go. But you will find something interesting. Most proto boards if they come with a Desktop Linux is Debian. Forget having Ubuntu, Fedora or anything else in most cases unless you are willing to go to hell manually adding graphics drivers. Prototype board default desktop OS systems Android or Debian if they provide enough hardware to run a anything that can be used as a desktop OS.

    Debian out of all the Linux distributions have the most broad hardware support.

    People ask why recommend Debian most cases if Debian does not work you are stuffed trying anything else.

  4. dougman wrote, “that isn’t what happened, is it? More like, you plugged and configured for days.”

    It worked with every bit of hardware except one monitor. I didn’t fiddle to see how to get that working. It could have been a problem with the HDMI to VGA adaptor. The Odroid-C2 is a fine machine.

  5. dougman says:

    “That’s my point.”

    But that isn’t what happened, is it? More like, you plugged and configured for days.

  6. dougman wrote, “Isn’t that the case with any “real” computer these days?”

    That’s my point. Odroid-C2 and GNU/Linux are a real PC. That’s why I chose it over several other reasonable choices. I judged it the best of the lot. In a few months, I might have made a different choice, but Odroid-C2 looks good today. It can function well either as a thick or thin client. When my Cello arrives I might try it again as a thin client but for now TLW is satisfied with it except for the reluctant video. It certainly does her office work and browsing quite well despite the small size, cost and complexity.

  7. dougman says:

    “I mean you can plug in an SD-card, keyboard, mouse, Ethernet cable and TV and have a working PC.”

    Isn’t that the case with any “real” computer these days?

  8. dougman wrote, “I am failing to understand your semantics to the phrase “plug and play””.

    I mean you can plug in an SD-card, keyboard, mouse, Ethernet cable and TV and have a working PC.

  9. dougman says:

    “That’s not true at all. These things are plug and play.”

    I am failing to understand your semantics to the phrase “plug and play”, perhaps you mean “plug and pray” as Windows 95 was.

  10. dougman wrote, “I would NOT recommend the Odroid-C2 or a Raspberry Pi for general use, unless said person enjoys tinkering with software and hardware for days on end.”

    That’s not true at all. These things are plug and play. You can even buy the SD-card with a variety of OS already installed. The chief disadvantage for the random user is that these things are very small and fragile. ie. You can easily destroy them. They are so small they can be mounted under a desk, behind a monitor, on the wall… That mounting process might be the biggest challenge. I would recommend Crazy Glue and some dowels for feet…

  11. dougman says:

    I would NOT recommend the Odroid-C2 or a Raspberry Pi for general use, unless said person enjoys tinkering with software and hardware for days on end.

    BTW, did you know that the majority Muslims hate free speech?

  12. dougman wrote, “your experience with the Odroid took days to setup”.

    I think I tried 3 distros. They were all usable immediately. I did add stuff to minimal distros to reproduce the familiar desktop of TLW. I did add some NFS to give her access to her old file-system. That’s a few minutes’ work. The rest of the time I was testing the hardware. As far as I could tell the hardware works very well. Performance is about ten times better than her old thin client and about the same as her last thick client. Sound was perfect. Video a bit slow but acceptable for browsing. I used 3 different TVs. They all worked but one would not do 720p for some reason. I tried a 20″ monitor through an adaptor. That seemed to sync but had a black screen. Finally she demanded I stop playing with her PC. Next month I’ll have another one for my own use. Neither the Odroid-C2 nor GNU/Linux gave any particular problem except video and a really dark theme for an Ubuntu-based distro. I guess the developers work in the dark and are under 40… I have no hesitation to recommend Odroid-C2 for general use. It’s far superior to Raspberry Pi which school kids and IoT people love.

  13. dougman says:

    Ewww, I do not know who is uglier Christine Hall or Mary Jo Foley. More on topic, why would some dimwit still be discussing this?

    Linux has transcended the desktop, we have Kindles, Android, Chromebooks and plethora of Linux devices that are being used each and every day.

    “Open the package, plug in the SD-card, fold up the tiny plastic case, and plug in to a world of trouble-free computing.”

    Now Robert, lets be truthful, with all your infinite Linux wisdom, your experience with the Odroid took days to setup. There were no “trouble-free computing” scenarios in your case were there?

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