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*The Linux Desktop, the future now



The 3D Desktop

It is a delicious insider joke in the linux community that most outside people don't get:
When Microsoft announced that they would include a 3d Desktop in Microsoft Vista (then codename longhorn), the Linux community thought that this would be a nice feature for Linux to have too, and implemented it, tested it and now it has been available for almost a year, beating Microsoft that is still (as of this writing 14. Nov. 2006) unavailabe.  We are still waiting for Vista and have been for several years, although it is due to arrive for sure in beginning of 2007.
So Linux basically beat Windows to the finish, which used to be the reverse.

The fact is that Linux has overtaken Windows in many aspects.
There was a time when using Linux meant to be out, behind and idealistically helping the OS, while all the new cutting edge stuff was presented on Windows. But this time is definitely over, Microsoft is now playing catch up and I partly use Linux because here I can see the newest stuff, the new trends and ideas that get developed.
I am currently enjoying my 3d desktop on the machine I am writing this and is it really really cool, I was suprised myself. Using it, while somebody walks past, usualy stops them in their tracks, especially when rotating the cube. This is something they did not see before. It puts the "ahhhh" effect on the computer again and I watch myself having to tell non-tech people that want to have it too, "sorry, you can't. Does not run on your XP, only on Linux. But you can get it on Vista, some of it, if you got a really really powerful GFX card.".
Well, by then, Linux will already be on to the next thing.

(see below screenshots)

I am currently filming a little video narrated by me to show the capabilities of the new 3D desktop and how it can help work more efficient and really get more done, which is why we use computers in the first place.

Below you see the result of it, please be patient since this video is high quality and will take some time to load:

[Video coming soon]



Crappy drivers

Now you might have heard that Linux is a real pain when is comes to device drivers and unfortunately these rumors are true, with a focus on the desktop.
And the reason is pretty simple:






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The manufacturers don't really care about the Linux desktop. So usually, no drivers are released and if, they are very sloppy done.
The community usualy tries to reverse engineer them, out of desperation of having no drivers whatsoever. But this is hindered in many cases by the totally non-existent documentation and the frequent changing of chipsets.
This is especially true in the case of wireless cards, where you can buy the exact same model 2 months later and still have another chipset inside, which will in turn break the existing Linux drivers.

Graphic cards from ATI and Nvidia also suffer from this, giving even the professional user a real pain trying to get 3d acceleration running on their system. They do release drivers, but keep them highly restricted, eyeing the "strange open" architecture of Linux and probably fearing that somebody might figure out how their chips work and copy them in turn.

So let me put this correctly: It is not Linux and OSS that is to blame for the crappy driver support, but the companies that just refuse to deliver proper working drivers for Linux.
What is true in fact is that Linux desktop uptake and market share of all desktops is very small and that is why they don't take it serious.
Interesting enough, on the server side, where Linux is already a big player, no hardware manufacturer would even dream of not releasing their drivers for Linux, since it would be a death sentence, since all other manufacturers do too.

The biggest problems to expect in desktop devices are with:

WinModems, usually internal laptop modems or very cheap PCI cards, that rely heavily on drivers that are not released or documented for Linux.
Wireless cards
Anything highly proprietary and closed, usualy combination devices like cellphones and devices that will not follow any standard.



I suspect that part of the problems that exist with working drivers is also caused by Microsoft.
Microsoft has been fighting the Linux desktop like the pest, because their domination started on the desktop and it is the absolute core to them. If Linux is able to make inroads there, it might be the beginning of the end for them. Once people are used to be able to get the OS for free, who will pay for Windows anymore, cutting into the core of the MS revenue stream.

On this note, did you ever notice how manufacturers religiously quote "[manufacturers name] recommends Windows XP professional"?
Why would they have any interest of recommending it? What would be the advantage for them? None. All they care is that they sell the hardware, with which OS, who cares? Well, Microsoft does care and so all the manufacturers now quote the above slogan and although some have "explored" the Linux preinstall, all of them have dropped it again and not quite without pressure.

Most manufacturers do have a problem and conflict of interest when it comes to Microsoft. In order to sell their desktops or laptops, they need Windows, because the majority of their business is done with it. If Microsoft is "unhappy" with them for offering also Linux preinstalls, they might suddenly get much worse conditions which will put them out of business for good.
So most of them would be happy to offer Linux, but cannot since Redmond will be unhappy with them.
If you check out Dells webpage, there is no mention of Linux anywhere and trying to get a Dell computer without sending money to Microsoft (i.e. with Linux preinstalled)  is an impossibility.
But if you enter through the "backdoor", going to the URL http://www.dell.com/linux, they act like the invented the thing.

Unlike these companies, there are already big players that can do totally without Microsoft, IBM for example. They offer Linux on all their systems and many of them so large that Windows would not scale on it anyway.

If Microsoft would stop selling Windows to IBM for resale to customers, nobody would care, since any server software will run on both Linux and Windows, many times with more performance on Linux.
And when it comes down to it, nobody cares on which OS a thing runs, as long as it provides the functionality, it is just a commodity.

Bias

Many people are actually biased towards Windows, seeing it easier and always doubting Linux. This can be clearly seen when you let totally unbiased people evaluate it. A very interesting report here, where a father has noticed his children to favour Linux, since it comes with so much cool installed software that is made for them, while Windows, naked and empty of expensive software does not much really.


So, talking about this, and considering what Ubuntu is doing and how easy it is to install, I expect the Linux desktop to slowly take off. There are of course the nay sayers, but if you are looking for support these days, you find Ubuntu posts almost everywhere. The German magazine C't released a DVD that has the newest version on it and there are lots and lots of people playing around with it, seeing how easy and cool Linux actually can be.



this document was created on:
09. Nov. 2006
updated on:
29. Dec. 2006