Fog Creek Software
Discussion Board




Oh, no!  Monoculture in jeapardy

Linux to have 20% of desktops within 5 years because, get this, it actually HAS a lower total cost of ownership unlike the lower tco espoused by some that bites you in port 135.

Nelson
Sunday, August 17, 2003

http://newsforge.com/article.pl?sid=03/08/13/1424212

Here is the link

Nelson
Sunday, August 17, 2003

"Linux to have 20% of desktops within 5 years"

Oh god I hope so. I mean, you cannot understand how much I hope that figure is close to the truth. Then maybe the "Microsoft iz a bad monopoly" zealots can STFU.

Philo

Philo
Sunday, August 17, 2003

So, in this case it is espoused by "Siemens Business Systems, the $6 billion global IT consulting and outsourcing company" who promises you a lower TCO on Linux in the desktop (oh, and their billed time and expense to pull it off). I could care less on the prediction, but I honestly don't think Siemen's executives and stock holders are after anything different than Microsoft's - Cash.

"McNutt went on to say that Ximian's suite -- consisting of a Gnome-based Linux desktop, Evolution mail and calendar app, a tweaked OpenOffice suite, and Red Carpet admin tools -- can be deployed in very large enterprises at lower cost and with no greater disruption than a Windows upgrade"

I think it is interesting that it takes a company like Ximian to provide direction in the desktop market.

Linux depletes my leisure time.

m
Sunday, August 17, 2003

Well, if you want a nice reliable UNIX-based desktop *and* a commercial OS with a variety of applications, there's an alternative to Linux...

Peter da Silva
Sunday, August 17, 2003

Linux on the desktop will mean we are one step closer to centralized computing.  There is no access like product either.  Woo hoo!!!!!!!!!!!!! The desktop as we know is dying.  It's been a long time coming.

640k
Sunday, August 17, 2003

"Linux on the desktop will mean we are one step closer to centralized computing. [...]  It's been a long time coming. "

You must be new to computing.

Robert Moir
Sunday, August 17, 2003

If Linux ever gets more than about 3% of the desktop, I'll be really, really suprised. Their GUI is mediocre compared to Windows. I mean come on, many systems can't even let you set a desktop wallpaper without editing some .conf file deep in the bowels of some folder that you need to be a Google-certified search genius to find. Right-click menus with every option, instead of the ones that are contextually appropriate. And case sensitive file names - my Mom will LOVE that on her desktop.

Meanwhile, MS is far from sitting on its hands. It's investing millions in R+D and UI design, it's refining and improving the user experience, and it's generally making the OS better and better. Linux doesn't just have a long way to go, it has to get to a place that's moving further away.

As for security holes, yes, there is no doubt that there are security holes in Windows. However, MS knows about the problems and is actively working to improve the situation. These things don't happen in the course of one year. It'll be 3 or 4 years before the effects are fully visible.

So don't hold your breath for a 20% Linux desktop share in 5 years. There's no way.

Tim Sullivan
Sunday, August 17, 2003

I think the Linux advocates should just give up on the desktop. Completely. Abdicate.

They should concentrate on their core strength - servers. Take all the energy they're wasting competing with WinXP and put it all into beating the crap out of Win2k & Co.

Personally, I'd have no problems working on a windows front end against a Linux back end. Of course that means Oracle [shudder], but you do what you have to do.

I'll learn Java, Python, or C++ if I have to. No biggie.

Philo

Philo
Sunday, August 17, 2003

The only way linux is going to get that kind of desktop marketshare is if some big company.. macromedia, adobe or some big CAD company decides to make a simple linuxdistro like lycoris et.al and start giving it away with their products.

This is not entirely insane, because some specialised applications could benefit from having a tailormade OS.
Im thinking dedicated audio or video or CAD stations etc.

Sure, redhat, mandrake etc are all pretty good, but they dont shield the user from the chaos of the OSS world. Many claim it does, but sooner or later youll run into a dependancy problem when you try to uppgrade something.

Eric Debois
Sunday, August 17, 2003

The only reason the graphical interfaces Linux use are even at the stage they are now -- which isn't very far, IMO -- is because they'ved had a peak at how MS and Apple did it.

Mickey Petersen
Sunday, August 17, 2003

Philo: You will do yourself a lot of good learning Python even if you only ever use it on Windows. It makes programming fun and effective again. Really.

Eric: I had a similar thought, except I believe games will best enjoy a tailored O/S. There isn't even a need to install an O/S to disk - Knoppix has made it quite clear. It's not yet ready for games, but in time, it may.

For those who are not aware of Knoppix - it's a bootable CD that doesn't need any kind of setup, drivers, or configuration. You put the CD in the drive, boot, wait 15-60 seconds (depending on how fast and recent your hardware is, my 3 year old 800Mhz machine takes 40 secs), and you have a working system with tens of applications already installed and waiting to be used. A hard disk is NOT required, you can store configuration and documents on a USB key. It's a way to try linux without having to reformat your disks or sweat in any way. It's also an extremely handy recovery toolkit, and a good hardware detector for all that 3-year old hardware whose specs you've lost long ago.

Ori Berger
Sunday, August 17, 2003

"A hard disk is NOT required, you can store configuration and documents on a USB key."

Assuming you don't boot Knoppix on a 512+ MB RAM machine, you'll still need a harddrive for memory paging. And no, you will not want to swap to a USB storage device.

Satanic Cultists' Operation
Sunday, August 17, 2003

*nix is the future of servers.  Connect to it via a nice windows or mac desktop.  It just irks me that MS considers themselves as having a server OS

Not
Sunday, August 17, 2003

Linux is 90% of Windows, with only another 90% to go.

omg
Sunday, August 17, 2003

Missed your summer course? 90% + 90% = 140%.

wtf
Sunday, August 17, 2003

Just a couple things:

How can anyone, even if you think Windows is the bee's knees, not want Linux (or some other OS) to take away a generous chunk of MS marketshare?  Even if you like Coke, don't you want Pepsi around to keep Coke affordable?

And do you really think MS will put resources into "innovating" (hee hee), without competitors to light a fire under their rear?  If you do, you have more blind faith than the guys who fly planes into big buildings.

Secondly, to the poster who observes Linux has copied much from Windows, your point is what, exactly?  Windows copied everything it could from NextStep and MacOS.  My only complaint is it didn't copy them better.

Thirdly, (I know, more than a couple), to those mocking Linux for lacking feature x, y, or z, don't you remember those who made fun of Windows 1.0, 2.0, 3.1 etc. for missing feature t, u, or v?  Linux is catching up fast, (in both features and usability) and many here will be shocked to wake up one day to find it's getting hard to tell what exactly Windows offers  that Linux doesn't.  Looks like MS realizes this, and is battling Linux legally through proxies like SCO instead.

Jim Rankin
Sunday, August 17, 2003

Oh yeah, one more question:  is the lack of an "Access equivalent" a feature or a bug?

Jim Rankin
Sunday, August 17, 2003

How can anyone view Linux as a serious server OS after this -- http://ftp.gnu.org/MISSING-FILES.README ?  If GNU can't keep a Linux server secure, what's the likelihood that the typical admin can? 

SomeBody
Sunday, August 17, 2003

The market gets the OS it deserves, anyway.

Johnny Bravo
Sunday, August 17, 2003

I found this quote from the article interesting:

"McNutt says that Linux reduces administration costs in large installations of 1,000 desktops and up because it is more scriptable and well-documented than Windows. 'With Windows, there's always some feature that you can only get to through the GUI,' he says."

This is something very structurally different between Linux and Windows, that would be very hard for MS to "fix".

Jim Rankin
Sunday, August 17, 2003

What feature can you only get to from the GUI? 

SomeBody
Sunday, August 17, 2003

System Administrators unite! Why just administer the Servers when we can have access to everybody’s desktops and administer those too? Imagine the cool Beowulf Cluster we could build after hours.

I am just as comfortable in Windows as Unix and I can always impress my Unix friends by building shell scripts in Windows – ohhhh ahhhh! They do get sad when they realize that there are not fifteen shells to choose from on XP. How short sighted those Windows folks are.

(hmmm… does 15 Shells worth of documentation add up to more than windows?)

m
Sunday, August 17, 2003

Linux probably WILL grab something like 20 percent of desktops in a few years time.

I can't wait to see this, because it wil be nothing like what the oss zealots expect. As with the Siemens case, there will still be giant corporations earning massive fees.

Except they will be the IBM's, the Siemens, the Accentures, the Fujitsus and the Tata's that have not been able to develop their own successful software platform. As always, those people will inveigle their way into corporate and government accounts, put hooks in, and shovel the money out.

Second, as Linux faces the acid test of general users, all its little problems will be exposed. Windows went through this a long time ago.

I think a lot of the Linux fans will start to drift away in a few years time, and they will certainly stop contributing for free, when they see their work is making other people rich.

Really real
Sunday, August 17, 2003

" If GNU can't keep a Linux server secure, what's the likelihood that the typical admin can?  "

If Microsoft can't keep a Windows server secure, what's the likelihood that the typical admin can?  http://news.com.com/2100-1001-982305.html

Excellent point somebody

STFU
Monday, August 18, 2003

Guys guys guys.....

If Linux gets 20% of the desktop then all our apps will have to portable.

Porting isn't fun.

Go Windows! :)


PS: Stop smirking Java weenies.

Andrew Reid
Monday, August 18, 2003

Oh how I hope so.

It is not very good for innovationj for have a monopoly on the desktop. And the prices MS charges....are not cheap.

Ram Dass
Monday, August 18, 2003

No, our apps won't be running on the Linux desktops. Those desktops will be locked up by the big outsourcers charging a fortune for custom development.

Why install packaged software when you can charge $2 million to do the same thing, and earn ongoing maintenance for five years?

Also, it's a liong time since I saw Java weenies doing anything but hack, hack, hacking away, and whinging about the poor performance on Windows.

Really real
Monday, August 18, 2003

It is a good thing to have some competition to keep Microsoft on their toes.

However, there are great benefits to having a monoculture on the desktop.

I shudder at memories of trying to please both IE and Netscape 4.

My personal dream is that Wine does the job, and we keep the desktop monoculture while loosing the company monopoly.

Ged Byrne
Monday, August 18, 2003

There's a mistake I think in assuming that in order for computers to be effective for users that their desktop, their basic GUI, has to be consistent to the point of monoculture.

In truth an experienced user quickly overcomes differences in UI behaviour and a novice user doesn't meet enough different ones to matter and when they have they've already become experienced.

There are some standard syntactical pieces that need to be in place.  Having a different meaning to a left and right mouse click; putting important items at the far right and the bottom of lists (in roman systems);using the tab key for a different navigational purpose; all would make the most experienced user balk at using that desktop, but they would be able to use it in much the same way as someone forced to wear a helmet with lenses that inverted what they saw would learn how to perceive up from down normally.

If this is wrong then how do games survive?  They all write their own UI from scratch (to largely obscure results I'll admit), but users lock into that UI when they play the game.

Simon Lucy
Monday, August 18, 2003

yawn

Ben
Monday, August 18, 2003

1. The desktop application monoculture is probably a bigger problem than the OS monoculture. The vast majority of virus infections, almost all email based ones, have been Word macro viruses or "cross zone" exploits taking advantage of the poor compartmentalization between Microsoft's HTML control and the applications (IE, Windows explorer, outlook, etc) that use it.

2. Linux isn't "just beginning" to deal with this problem. The kinds of problems Windows started running into in the late '90s as networks spread and it had to really deal with a multiuser environment and hostile users... these issues were the norm for UNIX right from the start. Linux, as an implementation of UNIX, has hard firewalls between processes and application instances that Microsoft is still in the process of retrofitting to Windows.

3. Netscape 4 wasn't an argument for the monoculture, it was just a bad design. They jumped the gun on style sheets and implemented their own based on Javascript, and when the W3O didn't follow they wrote a hack to convert CSS into their Javascript style sheets. The best way to deal with Netscape 4 is to treat it as a dumb browser (like Mosaic or Lynx) and not give it any style sheets.

Speaking to the developers here: there's things you can do to ensure that your applications will be part of the solution rather than part of the problem.

1. Avoid the Microsoft HTML control, if you can. If you can't, make damn sure that you control all the links in any documents that are presented to it, and that another application has no mechanism to provide fragments of HTML that you might pass in to the control. Don't even think of trying to frame external websites... call the user's preferred browser directly instead.

2. Handle permissions errors, and don't do things that are likely to cause them. Don't keep user state and preferences anywhere but the logged in user's profile or HKEY_CURRENT_USER. Don't try and fiddle with anything under \windows or your own directory. If there's a reason you need to save global preferences, handle the error if the user's blocked from saving them and drop back to the profile or HKCU. (principle of least privilege)

3. In creating web pages, use as little "active" content as possible. Restrict that to Javascript, or if necessary Java or one of Macromedia's plugins. This both follows the principle of least privilege and avoids locking users in to specific browsers.

4. In designing protocols, think about how they're going to be used. Can a system administrator forward your protocol through a firewall safely? Can they apply policies to it? If the protocol can't be proxied though HTTP or HTTPS proxies, provide a description of the protocol... at least as far as the initial negotiation, so a proxy can be implemented for it. Best, provide such a proxy as "C" source for a Socket API (preferably both UNIX sockets and Winsock).

5. In designing file formats, think the same thoughts. What happens if you get an older file? A newer one? Can a user write an application to extract data from, update, or create new files without your application? XML can be useful there, but you have to think beyond "it's XML so I'm done".

Peter da Silva
Monday, August 18, 2003

Excellent post Peter

Mike
Monday, August 18, 2003

On designing file formats:

The first field in any file format you design should be a format version number. This allows you to unambiguously detect older/newer versions.

Andrew Reid
Monday, August 18, 2003

Good point, Andrew!

Also, tagged and bounded fields. Don't just have a version number, have a code that means "version number, 4 bytes". And keep the same format in later versions. XML is good for this, and so is the Electronic Arts interchange file format if you're using binary files. Midi File format (MFF) and the PNG graphics format are both derived from IFF.

http://public.planetmirror.com/pub/textfiles/programming/FORMATS/iff.txt

The 11-level version numbering seems limiting, except that this is for major version changes only: changes that break backwards compatibility. For example, I don't know of any extensions to the FORM chunk... you could argue that PNG is the first non-backwards-compatible FORM [1]. If the format is properly designed, that shouldn't be necessary. Minor version changes are handled by adding new chunks or extending fields beyond the previous end of older chunks.

One of the things that Microsoft has done that is useful are their old style property-list files. You know the ones:

[application]
Name = MyApplication
Installer = C:\Program Files\My Application\install.bat
Uninstaller = C:\Program Files\My Application\uninst.bat

[anotherblock]
somethingelse = somethingmore ...

These are easy to parse and generate in software, and to read and edit for humans. You can do a lot worse. Though I recently had a hell of a time getting a Regedit 5 file read in Regedit 4... since Notepad renders Unicode and ASCII the same way I couldn't figure out for the life of me why Regedit on NT4 was choking on a file I'd created on my Windows 2000 box. :)  A perfect example of an INsufficiently tagged format!

[1] I was on the PNG design list and argued unsuccessfully that PNG be a properly tagged IFF FORM... which would have made it FOR1. I also wanted PNG to include Macromedia-style layer animation (this was before there was such a thing as Flash -- I was basing my ideas on earlier layer-animation schemes), which would have made about 90% of the plugin animation on the net unnecessary. Ah well, antimatter under the bridge now.

Peter da Silva
Monday, August 18, 2003

Hello Mr Format Desiderata and Palsy Commendations ... have you seen what the subject of this thread is?

Really real
Tuesday, August 19, 2003

Spelling mistakes? The banana crisis? Software development? Hey, if you design your application formats and protocols right, you'll be sitting pretty when the Linux Gestapo force you to switch. :)

Peter da Silva
Tuesday, August 19, 2003

*  Recent Topics

*  Fog Creek Home