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Linux and Innovation ... where is it?

I'm working on a project to redefine the workstation desktop for a very large corporation currently standardised on WindowsNT and Office97.

Two technology sets are up for consideration: Linux and Microsoft. One of the drivers for the corporation is that they want a desktop which demonstrates innovation and leadership.

I keep seeing comments that Linux is all about meeting these drivers, but to my mind Linux is only about copying a platform 10 years old. Our tests show that it doesn't support a wide range of the customer's existing hardware, won't run many of their applications, and that the Office software, while adequate, is only the equivalent of very old versions of MS Office.

Where is the DESKTOP innovation? What new products, features or ideas has Linux presented ON THE DESKTOP? Are there any new ideas or products which will truly demonstrate a new and innovative approach to end user computing?

HeWhoMustBeConfused
Thursday, January 29, 2004

Linux demonstrates extensive innovation in vapor ware promotion.

me
Thursday, January 29, 2004

Desktop Linux is a weird parallel universe which everyone thinks is "Linux".

Linux is about servers- desktops are boring anyway.

Sassy
Thursday, January 29, 2004

"One of the drivers for the corporation is that they want a desktop which demonstrates innovation and leadership."

thats possibility one of the woolly-est and stupidest things Ive ever heard...how on earth do you judge innovation and leadership?

pretty much all software these days uses ideas that someone dreamed up years ago....even .net is 'merely' a well done rehash of some older ideas.

"Our tests show that it doesn't support a wide range of the customer's existing hardware, won't run many of their applications, and that the Office software, while adequate, is only the equivalent of very old versions of MS Office."


which surely shows pretty clearly that it doesn't even come close to meeting your needs, so why on earth are you even considering it?

"Where is the DESKTOP innovation? What new products, features or ideas has Linux presented ON THE DESKTOP? Are there any new ideas or products which will truly demonstrate a new and innovative approach to end user computing?"

more stupid and woolly questions.
There are a bunch of new ideas in linux (at least as new as any of the ideas others seem to have)
from virtual desktops (love that) to serious implementations of the bayesian spam control (IIRC OSS was the first to take a serious walk down that path), Linux has taken advantage of many of the innovative ideas of its developers.

Is it any more 'innovative' than MS?  how the hell should I know?  even if we could take every new idea thats appeared in both OS and line them up, how do we judge them?

seems to me that either you or your manager is going about deciding which desktop environment to use in a particularly incompetent fashion.

maybe you have a budget that you want to get through?

FullNameRequired
Thursday, January 29, 2004


This week's "innovation and leadership"  will become last week's stale bread.

njkayaker
Thursday, January 29, 2004

The only arguements I have heard for Linux on the desktop is one of cost or that it isn't Microsoft.

Technically Linux has no Desktop.  Gnome and KDE are the big ones and are seperate projects.  I run both of those on my Sun Worksation, not Linux.  Oh yeah, you could run KDE or Gnome on Windows too!

I think you can only appreciate the latest desktop environments is if you once used some of the old desktops.

I really like the tabbed console on Gnome! Is that good enough?

Bill Rushmore
Thursday, January 29, 2004

For the love of god, please think up a more interesting meta-discussion to pursue. is linux innovative? is windows innovative? who fucking cares?


Thursday, January 29, 2004

Linux is good on the server.  End of story.

Crusty Admin
Thursday, January 29, 2004

I thought all the innovation was over at Apple.  :)

It's nice to see that being "innovative" is more important than being "useable", though, or even being "cost effective". That's really impressive.


Thursday, January 29, 2004

A few comments on responses to date:

1. It isn't about spending some hidden budget, I've got over 40,000 desktops (and notebooks) to change to one platform or the other.

2. Innovation/Leadership is ONE of three drivers. The others are reduced cost, and reduced support. A full evaluation means considering all three.

3. Linux is under consideration because the CIO thinks it is a good idea. I'm looking at it because that is the assignment for which I was contracted.

4. I asked the question because I was looking for something others might have seen that I have not. If you don't like the question, don't waste your time answering *smile*

HeWhoMustBeConfused
Thursday, January 29, 2004

So, it's not about who's innovating, it's about guessing who's going to be better X years from now?

A couple of things are certain. Microsoft is going to continue to put out new versions with new features, even if they aren't things you care about.

OSS will contiue to be developed and continue to fragment. You will need to pick the Desktop you like, plus the OS. No good if you go with one and all the great new stuff is on another.

Oh, and if someone in OSS puts in neat enough features to impact MS, they will copy them in a heartbeat.

pdq
Thursday, January 29, 2004

Just two examples:

GNOME Storage: http://www.gnome.org/~seth/storage/

Dashboard: http://www.nat.org/dashboard/

Giovanni Corriga
Thursday, January 29, 2004

"2. Innovation/Leadership is ONE of three drivers. The others are reduced cost, and reduced support. A full evaluation means considering all three."

:) you dont see a problem with the 3 drivers?

honestly, you are never going to find all 3. 
As your original question reads its clear to me that you already have an opinion on Linux...if nothing else the cost of upgrading all the hardware you claim it wont work with is going to be prohibitive.

If you have a company that size to upgrade, it seems to me that your cheapest option would be to taker a token look at Linux, tell microsoft that you are doing so and wait for the discount offers to roll in.
<g> thats assuming that you and your company have the moral integrity of a small furry creature with no moral integrity.

"3. Linux is under consideration because the CIO thinks it is a good idea. I'm looking at it because that is the assignment for which I was contracted."

So..the questions becomes how are you actually going to judge the Linux offerings?  doing it based on 'innovation' is clearly stupid, and Im entirely unclear on how you judge the 'leadership' of a desktop.
Microsoft will prolly be bringing out new features forever or until it spontaneously combusts...its fire and motion and thats what it does..does that represent 'leadership' or 'innovation'?  beats me.
MS is based on one particular development model and has a large number of indecently intelligent developers working on it for fun and profit.
Linux is based on an entirely different development model, and  has a large number of indecently intelligent developers working on it for fun and profit.

I have seen some exceedingly stupid ideas emerge from both and I have seen some extremely good ideas emerge from both.
(how does a O(1) scheduler sound?  does MS offer such a thing?  I have no idea....)

Prolly if I had a gun to my head and a madman screaming at me to ignore the stupidity of the question and choose one platform that offers 'leadership' and innovation more than the others; it would prolly be apple.  OTOH its definitely more expensive than the others.

Costwise with productivity factored in, Id prolly choose Linux...the various office replacements are increasingly good value, and with the number of companies and government departments all  over the word beginning to use them they are going to get a real amount of work done on them over the next year or two. (not saying that the number is large in itself, just that it represents a huge increase over what it used to be and that theres nothing like users screaming in pain to fastfoward development)

Email and web browsing on the Linux desktops is as good or better as anywhere else.
OTOH theres a bunch of other applications that your company may be using that have few or no replacments in the OSS world....if any of those are in wide use then you just cannot upgrade cost effectively.

Seems to me that judging the various offerings is difficult enough without having to assign a value to the 'leadership' of the desktop....its a stupid question and a stupid way to judge an operating system.
:) unless, just maybe, you can define exactly what you _mean_ by: "a new and innovative approach to end user computing"

FullNameRequired
Thursday, January 29, 2004

I think you're asking this question to the wrong audience.

Regardless, in certain situations (i.e. Country of Largo, FL) i've read of Linux absolutely florishing as a enterprise desktop. From my own personal experiences, due to 99% of all the enterprise apps installed on the client-side being written FOR Windows, you have NO other option but to use Windows-based desktops. Not only this, but many of the enterprise apps don't come with contractual support from the vendor for Linux, so using any Windows emulation software is out of question.

Ian Ashley
Thursday, January 29, 2004

Why do you care about innovation?

I think it shows a bias - that you assume all innovation is good. It's not. Sometimes new ideas are bad. Sometimes they're downright awful.

Evaluate technology on its merits, not on how new and shiny it is.

Sum Dum Gai
Thursday, January 29, 2004

/nitpick

What's with "prolly"?? Is that a real word? See it too many times these days.  Do people have really have that many problems spelling "probably"??

prolly wants a cracker
Thursday, January 29, 2004

"Do people have really have that many problems spelling "probably"??"


<g> nitpicker...

its just fewer letters, so its easier to type, and fewer syllables so its easier to say.

Remember..the english language is a living thing...it breathes...ah god it breathes...

FullNameRequired
Thursday, January 29, 2004

Grammar Nazi. Go polish your jack boots..


You couldn't even think of a better argument than that? You are no troll sir! You are a wannabe.

trollbooth
Thursday, January 29, 2004

Try OS X.

It's incredibly stable. It's nowhere near as prone to viruses as Windows. The UI is much easier to use, and the user experience is better (the old Apple chestnut: "It just works"). You can get MS Office, which is apparently better than the Windows version. The hardware-OS integration is much better than Windows can achieve (since Apple can test every system with their OS, while MS can only test a sample). They are good value for money (not necessarily cheaper, and I'm pulling this out of the air, but I'd bet the TCO of OS X is much lower than Windows -- how many man-hours have Windows viruses alone wasted?). Their XServe servers and RAID storage servers are extremely good value for money, particularly considering the unlimited client license. It will network with Windows very well, and will obviously also network with UNIX well, too.

Downsides: you need Apple hardware, but it's very well engineered. You may not find direct equivalents of some of the software you need (but you may find better solutions; you could also keep a few Windows machines). You might need to buy people two-button mice :-)

If you want an innovative desktop OS, OS X is the best going. Linux on the desktop is a joke. You need the resources of a large company to add the polish, documentation and testing that a desktop needs -- even Sun couldn't manage that with GNOME. GNOME and KDE are OK, but there like rough-and-ready versions of the Windows 95 interface. It's a bitter pill to swallow, but I really don't think the open source development model can deliver a decent UI. (I think Mozilla is an exception to this rule, but even that needs a little polish.)

C Rose
Thursday, January 29, 2004

If you want innovation on the desktop, then Apple OS/X gets my vote.

However, I see no reason why a corporation would give a rat's behind to standardise on a desktop based on innovation.  That has got to be the stupidest [sic] idea I have ever heard.

Who could possibly give a crap that the desktop is "innovative".  Wow lookit the cool 3 dimensional eye candy and the really cools gizmos.

Isn't the point to get your job done and then go home?  Dumb and dummer.

hoser
Thursday, January 29, 2004

Revisiting the original post, the criteria were "innovation and leadership".

One can be innovative in many ways, it doesn't have to come down to technology. For example, it may be innovative to set a policy to follow and help define technology standards. Leadership doesn't have to mean "most popular", it may mean "setting a good example".

C Rose
Thursday, January 29, 2004

You need to switch the cart and the horse.

"We want innovation on the desktop" - what's your line of business? What do your users want? What would make their jobs easier?

<spiel mode="sales">
Office 2003 has a customizable research pane that can pull lookup data from any data source you care to offer ("Frank, what's the line item for Waznozzles again?"). It has built-in integration with Sharepoint, which can improve the collaboration in your company. With Visual Studio Tools for Office, you can use .Net to build "Smart Clients" out of Word or Excel. InfoPath and Biztalk can give you rich client forms that can be laid out by a layman, then manage workflow through approvals.
</spiel>

My point is that there's a huge amount of innovation available, but it does you no good to buy Office 2003, install it, and just have users using Word like notepad and Excel as a glorified calculator - you have to determine your needs and figure out, based on those needs, what technology is the right fit.

Find a business problem, then solve that problem with the technology available. "Buy me an innovative desktop" ranks up there with "get me a blue car."

Philo

Philo
Thursday, January 29, 2004

While I agree with the sentiment that OS X is perhaps the home to the most recent innovation, in terms of both polish and functionality, Linux, particuarly KDE (which is my day-to-day environment at work and home) has caught up with and surpassed Windows as a user interface.  For example, the KIO framework (similar to GNOME's VFS) provides a filesystem abstraction layer that allows all applications to treat remote WebDAV servers, FTP servers, SSH shell accounts, even IMAP accounts like any other filesystem.  SVG-based icons make the desktop aesthetically pleasing at any resolution.  The Universal Sidebar allows quick access to the filesystem (including the KIO stuff I talked about),  conveniently tucked away, appearing when you need it.  KDE has a standard notification and key binding system, to make sure each application is customizable for your particular work style.  File previewing is handy, and any file type that has an associated KPart (like an ActiveX control) can render itself as an icon.  Then there are more leading edge apps like Dashboard, Karamba, and Slicker.

Windows hasn't signifigantly changed from the UI point of view since Windows 95.  Hopefully Longhorn will take the lessons learned from OS X, KDE, and GNOME, and raise the bar.  As it stands, the Windows UI is showing its age...

joev
Thursday, January 29, 2004

> Linux, particuarly KDE (which is my day-to-day environment at work and home) has caught up with and surpassed Windows as a user interface.

Randomly select a person, let them use linux for a month and let them judge which has the better UI...

SC
Thursday, January 29, 2004

Actually, that would be very interesting.  I would guess that most people would give it a day or two at most, before going back to the more comforting realm of Windows.  But given a month, I imagine many of them would miss at least some of the features they had in KDE.

joev
Thursday, January 29, 2004

Does Apple's MS Office have a database like Access?

Matthew Lock
Thursday, January 29, 2004

Go talk with IBM, they are planning to replace their own internal desktop/laptop infrastructure with Linux.

Mark Tetrode
Friday, January 30, 2004

Depends on what your customers want/need.  I have a hard time believing that this old hardware isn't supported.  If all they're using is Outlook & Word, then you can DRAMATICALLY decrease your costs by going to Linux based alternatives.  You don't have to pay license fees, you don't have to upgrade that hardware to meet the minimum requirements of XP compared to win95/98.

You can set up a desktop using IceWM that will run perfectly on a p1 and looks and acts identical to win95/98.  You can install three icons in the quicklaunch - mail, word processing, and a browser.  You can remove everything else.  Your workers will be more productive because they don't have all that other crap to play around with.  Your it staff will be more productive because all those outlook virii will be things of the past.  You only have to support a few applications, and by virtue of being Linux, these people don't even have access to mess with files they shouldn't be.

None of that is innovative, but it sure will save a lot of time and increase productivity.

saberworks
Friday, January 30, 2004

"Does Apple's MS Office have a database like Access?"

It's not Apple's software, it's Microsoft's software. It's a port of Office that uses the OS X look and feel, and the product is called "MS Office v. X for Mac". MS announced the imminent availability of Office 2004 for OS X at the recent MacWorld, and this may have Access.

C Rose
Friday, January 30, 2004

I understood MS Office for Apple never included MS Access because of Apple's (or maybe Claris') FileMakerPro which is at least as good as Access. You can also buy FileMakerPro for Windows 2000 and XP and PalmOS.

http://www.filemaker.com/

Please correct me if I'm wrong...

W. Schreurs
Friday, January 30, 2004

HeWhoMustBeConfused, here, you want a reason not to use Linux -- I got that impression from your post -- here you go, from a Linux guy and a LAMP/web developer:

The Top $NUM Reasons Not To Use Desktop Linux:

1. It's hard.  You have to be able to use Wizards to install software, and you even have to use the commandline sometimes.

2. It's old technology.  Linux desktops, like X and KDE, still use point-and-click interfaces.  You still have to drag'n'drop objects.

3. Open Office is old.  All it can do is word process, handle a spread sheet system, run a database (that sits on an operating system that runs a database server), and interaoperate with Office.  Plus, if you want to use the API, you have to know C.

4. There's no defined drivers for it.  All Linux has are a million-odd hackers working on, creating new, and updating drivers as they can.

5. It's secure.  If you use Linux, be careful.  You may not have as many contracts to come back and plug security holes, wipe off viruses (I got it right!), and edit the registry.

Bah.  I don't mean to blow off steam or come across as a jerk, but your talk about "innovation" bugs me.  You want innovation; Linux is open to work with, free to install on as many systems as you need, has a community of hackers and developers behind it, and has proven time-and-again to work as a desktop system, a server, and more.

If you have apps that run on Windows (as I do at work) use Windows (as I do at work).  However, don't discount Linux because it's desktop software isn't innovative.  Show me ANYTHING about desktop software that's been created in the last few years that's innovative, and I'll bet I can show how Unix, Multics, and PDP's were doing it thirty years ago.

If you need Windows, if your choice comes down to "Well, we could use Linux and we'd need to rewrite this accounting package, which would take us a month; or we could use Windows" then use by all means use Windows.  I will point out, though, spending a month and writing an accounting app that doesn't exist fr Linux, an app you could turn around and sell (ala FogBUGZ), is pretty darned innovative.

Andrew Burton
Friday, January 30, 2004

Strange how multi-million dollar decisions are based on rubbishy premises.

Leadership and innovation on the desktop. Jeez!

If they want a one size fits all, then go for XP. Some people will need it so you have no choice.

If you want an otpimum set up consider replacing targetted computers with Linux, and possibly using SAMBA instead of a domain.

The platform decision is going to affect all of your apps. It's going to be impossible to do a straight shift from MS to Linux

Stephen Jones
Saturday, January 31, 2004

I personally have found KDE to be very innovative and easy to use, and now cannot use anything else on a regular basis. With Mandrake Linux, everything is very integrated and straightforward, and I can control every aspect of the working environment with ease.

Just a few examples:

1. Mozilla and Konqueror let you define web shortcuts where you can say "gg:hello" or "gg hello" and search Google for "hello".

2. gvim is a superior text editor which is very highly configurable.

3. You can easily manage your fonts with the drakfont font installer.

4. Shortcuts are text files and as such don't suffer from the 256 bytes limit of Windows (or at least older versions).

5. Drag and drop works wonderfully, across all applications.

6. gaim is a very convenient integrated multiple-protocol instant messaging client. (with file transfer only in the works, though).

7. Applications behave and don't still each other file associations.

8. Everything is themable and configurable and has a very attractive look and feel.

9. You can configure KDE to behave like Windows or like itself or like Macintosh or like GNOME or like whatever is your particular preference.

10. A superb command line which can accomplish many things that are very difficult to do with a GUI in a reasonable time.

Shlomi Fish
Sunday, February 01, 2004

Are you serious? What kind of company would want an "innovative" desktop? Corporate desktop environments are (or at least, should be) one of the most conservative products of user interface design.

I think you need to reconsider what you are looking for. Both Windows and Linux will most probably provide a stable desktop where you can get your work done over the next 5 years. Which one you choose should depend on what the total cost is.

Do you have an installed software base?

Competence among the network admins?

Pro Linux
- No virus problems
- Hardly any desktop security problems
- Fewer admins (if they are experienced)

Pro Windows
- MS Office a de-facto standard format
- More base competence among users
- Easier to find specialised software

Jonas B.
Monday, February 02, 2004

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