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Did linux just show up on the radar?

As you may know, Bruce Perens is leading a project called userlinux (www.userlinux.com). What separates it from other linux distros (all other afaict) is that it will not include tons of software, but standardize on a configuration. This has been done before, but the twist is that they will do it with all free software. Reading the material I get the distinct impression they are essentially trying to "do an OSX".

So far, not very interesting.

Well, now Bruce put his foot down and decided that UserLinux will not include any other GUI/desktop than Gnome. And boom, large portions of the linux community suddenly became Anti-uselinux. Gnome in it self is perhaps not very interesting here, but the fact that Bruce dare to piss a great many linux geeks off, in his effort to create a standardized distro is.

While reading slashdot comments along the lines of "KDE is much better, userlinux will suck" I couldnt help thinking, this pig might actually fly. ;-)

See what Im getting at?

Eric DeBois
Friday, December 19, 2003

"See what Im getting at?"

no.

_
Friday, December 19, 2003

OK, Ill spell it out then.

Given who Perens is and attitude he just demonstrated UserLinux may well reach its objectives. We will then have a standard platform that is free as in beer, and free to develop for. This includes commecial closed source development.

This would be an opportunity for ISVs to stake claims.

Eric DeBois
Friday, December 19, 2003

Yeah I'm not following you and I would like to please clarify what you're thinking.

?
Friday, December 19, 2003

OK so he put his foot down and if that means that this distro is adopted then it will be the standard distro that will allow commercial apps to be developed if the main reason commercial quality apps are not avaiable is because of the difficulty in supporting so many distros.

So was the stuff about the angry linux community a red herring? Is it not relevent then?

?
Friday, December 19, 2003

It show that Bruce has a vision and is a strong leader. But i think its more important that he has connections with novell. novell might back userlinux?

Dude
Friday, December 19, 2003

I dunno, but with 3 hundred distros  I think it is difficult to highlight anything *really* new.

Is Linux advancing to a point where vapor wares for it are emerging ? :)

Dewd
Friday, December 19, 2003

Actually, the choosing of a desktop is a big deal in it self because the abundance of gui toolkits has keept commecial desktop app development down. But the big deal is that Perens is doing some "real life" pragmatic thinking about UserLinux and about what is needed in order to get widespread adoption.

(Speaking of novell, they reasently bought Ximian, makers of Evolution (Outlook-a-like) that runs on gnome. Could this perhaps have played a part in Perens' decision?)

Eric DeBois
Friday, December 19, 2003

Eric, I read the same article tonight
http://www.newsforge.com/software/03/12/16/0029234.shtml  and believe that Perens might be the person to dictate that no we don't want 47 text editors here and so on.  I think he has a handle on what businesses want.

He makes a couple points that I think are critical for Linux to become a popular desktop and have longterm viability.

1."So, in order to get any Free Software into businesses, our Free system must promote the creation of a large collection of proprietary solutions that do not exist today."

Developers! Developers! Developers!

2. "It's important for us to get more Free Software into business, so that businesses will be sympathetic with us when we need to ask for legislative changes to support the long-term viability of Free Software. You know the issues: software patents, DRM, etc. Today these are seen as business vs. fringe-party issues, and we're on the losing side. The extent to which our software penetrates the business world will govern our effectiveness in getting the legislative changes we need."

From this I gather he sees a limit to what Linux can do without having to rely on technologies currently locked up in patent?

Without a doubt the first Linux article that shows Linux with a sense of direction as far as the desktop is concerned.

Mike
Saturday, December 20, 2003

>>(Speaking of novell, they reasently bought Ximian, makers of Evolution (Outlook-a-like) that runs on gnome. Could this perhaps have played a part in Perens' decision?)

Novell also recently bought Suse which is a KDE based distro.  While there have been rumors that Suse will switch to GNOME, nothing concrete has been said to my knowledge.

Stephen Depooter
Saturday, December 20, 2003

If you read Perens' argument for GNOME over KDE it boils down to one simple point:

The license for QT/KDE is GPL.  This means you cannot link to it to build closed-source applications.  You can, however, buy a license from Trolltech, the makers of QT, to get around this restriction (and some expense).

The license for GNOME/GTK is LGPL.  This means it can be used to build closed-source applications.

The point of UserLinux is support commercial interests in Linux, so GNOME is the obvious choice.  I personally feel that KDE is technically superior (and Windows developers would like it more) but you can't argue against its uselessness for commercial development because of it's license.

Almost Anonymous
Saturday, December 20, 2003

Another major reason to choose Gnome over KDE is that Sun has embraced Gnome as their platform of choice and is dumping CDE for Gnome.  As much as the slashdotters thumb their noses at Sun, the reality is that Sun matters in the marketplace.  There are a lot of applications developed on Sun systems, both commericial shrinkwrap and internally developed Solaris apps and choosing Gnome for the desktop lowers the bar for Solaris developers to produce Linux ports of their software.

anon
Saturday, December 20, 2003

This is an unavoidable step if a standardised desktop and environment is going to happen on Linux and thus be acceptable and make sense to the average consumer.

Those large organisations, governmental bodies, that have switched to Linux have also defined, or laid down the requirements, of a standard desktop and environment.

That its Bruce Perens making the point only underscores the sanity.  The licencing of Gnome isn't a small element in making that the standard desktop, there'll be some raising the standard for KDE, or KY Jelly or whatever other interface they love but I don't think the sound and fury will come to much.

After all if they really love their favourite that much they can bolt it on afterwards.  Standardising a distribution is the point.

Simon Lucy
Saturday, December 20, 2003

Good quote by Alan Cox:

"There's a measure of community of people, where you can take the people to the computer, so to speak. But there's a large community of people where you have to take the technology to the people and give it to them in their own terms. There are lots of people who don't have a PC, or who have a PC but don't think of it as a personal computer - it's their Internet thingy."

http://www.itwales.com/cgi/showsite/showpage.cgi?998973

Scot Doyle
Saturday, December 20, 2003

I have no idea who this Perens guy is, but I doubt if he will have any success, and doubt even more if he deserves to.

All Linux distributions give you both KDE and Gnome. Why the hell do you want to get rid of one of them, particularly the better one?

May I suggest we standardize on common sense. People want to write an app for Gnome they do so, and every Linux user fires up Gnome to use it; and if they want to write one for KDE they do so, and every Linux user fires up KDE.

Stephen Jones
Saturday, December 20, 2003

--
I have no idea who this Perens guy is
--

He's a major contributor to debian, and used to consult for HP on Open Source.  He should probably be grouped with people like Eric Raymon, and Richard Stallman, but he's definitely a lot more thoughtful about what he says, and how it will come off to people reading it, in my opinion.

The issue isn't whether Linux people will just restart the next window manager to use a program.  UserLinux isn't aimed at them, its aimed at corporate desktops.  And you know a corp. wouldn't use it if they had to switch desktops everytime they needed to check their email or write a document.

Andrew Hurst
Saturday, December 20, 2003

BTW, does someone know
1. how many APIs make up Windows today?
2. why the Wine project is still unable to provide 100% compatibility?

Until Linux offers a 100% binary compatible API for Windows, I'm not sure Linux will go very far on the desktop, even with the best GUI in the world.

Frederic Faure
Saturday, December 20, 2003

The point is that this guy is not going to standardize the whole Linux community on Gnome. There are simply too many things that work on KDE, and it is generally considered to be more advanced and better than Gnome.

It seems silly to me to throw away all the stuff written for KDE while waiting for somebody to write the same for Gnome.

Stephen Jones
Saturday, December 20, 2003

Stephen,

It doesn't matter how superior KDE is to GNOME (and I happen to agree with you on that).  It cannot be used to develop commercial closed-source applications.  UserLinux is a distribution geared towards the business community.

Futhermore, supporting two desktop environments is a royal pain and definitely hurting Linux's chances on being adopted on the desktop.  The choice to go with GNOME is a no-brainer because of the licensing issues.

It should be noted that it's unlikely anyone (Sun) would have gone with GNOME except for the licensing issues.  Now GNOME has all the corporate backing.

Almost Anonymous
Saturday, December 20, 2003

Of course you can develop commercial closed-source applications for/with KDE.
KDElibs themselves are all LGPL (in fact, they have to be or they wont be accepted in KDE), buy a QT commercial License and you are set.
http://www.kde.org/whatiskde/kdemanifesto.php

Namtar
Saturday, December 20, 2003

"KDE supports and always has supported commercial uses of the desktop environment. All KDE core libraries are published under the LGPL.

KDE is open to commercial use."


From the KDE manifest.

Brazilian Dude
Saturday, December 20, 2003

Yes, you can buy a commercial QT license. I think however that  Perens' scheme involves the whole world and not just western europe and the US. I.E I think he wants to get the ball rolling in eastern europe and asia where even the modest price of the QT license may stop some ventures.

Eric DeBois
Saturday, December 20, 2003

How much is it?

Brazilian Dude
Saturday, December 20, 2003

I havent verified this but last I heard its $1500 USD per year.

Eric DeBois
Saturday, December 20, 2003

Here's the pricing:

Single Platform
(Either Qt/Windows or Qt/X11 or Qt/Mac)
Prices per developer. Includes one year of support and maintenance. See also the Professional/Enterprise Comparison Chart

Developers Professional Edition Enterprise Edition
1 $ 1550,-  $ 2330,- 
2 - 5 $ 1400,-  $ 2100,- 
6 - 10 $ 1320,-  $ 1980,- 
11 - 20  $ 1240,-  $ 1870,- 

Now that is not per year; you can pay maintenance per year if you want to. Here are the prices:

Maintenance and Support - Single Platform
(Either Qt/Windows or Qt/X11 or Qt/Mac)
Prices per developer. Includes one year of support and maintenance. See also the Professional/Enterprise Comparison Chart

Developers Professional Edition Enterprise Edition
1 $ 480,-  $ 720,- 
2 - 5 $ 430,-  $ 650,- 
6 - 10 $ 410,-  $ 620,- 
11 - 20  $ 380,-  $ 580,- 


Is anybody seriously suggesting that a big commercial company building apps for corporate America can't afford these prices? They are comparable to prices for Windows tools.

This thread still amazes me. Somebody announces he's going to make yet another Linux distribution and suddenly everybody is pretending that the KDE/Gnome fight is solved, and everybody is going to throw away the distros they have been successfully using for years to jump on the bandwagon.

There are three or four big players in the Linux distro market; Red Hat in the States and Suse elsewhere, whilst Mandrake is hugely popular among individuals and Debian and Slackware have the vote of aficionados. Of these Red Hat has announced it is putting the desktop on a second footing and Suse and Mandrake both use KDE, though Mandrake also gives you Gnome. What makes people think Perens vaporware is going to have any effect.

Stephen Jones
Sunday, December 21, 2003

there's more to licensing issues than pure cost alone, for example:

1) lag time when a new developer joins - could take a week or three to purchase the new licence(s)  - it's not uncommon at my place of work to install a demo version of some software whilst waiting for all the purchase order stuff to get authorised. (Note can't do this with QT, you can only develop free stuff under the QPL version, commercial with the commercial licence - can't switch from QPL to commercial licence mid-development.)

2) auditing of available licences - I don't know the details wrt auditing for licences etc - only it takes some manpower and if you get it wrong you can end up with a large fine ...

blargle
Sunday, December 21, 2003

dear Blargle,
                    What you are saying applies to developers tools under any OS or Windowing system. It might be an argument for using freeware whereever possible, but it has little relelvance to the matter in hand.

Stephen Jones
Sunday, December 21, 2003

Query, how much does the MS Windows API cost, and how much does the licence cost to develop  windows applications?

Answer.  Nada, Zilch, Zippo, Nowt.

You might have to spend money on tools but nothing absolutely nothing to distribute your application.

Simon Lucy
Sunday, December 21, 2003

You do of course have to pay the same amount of money you have to pay to Qt simply to have the Developers kit with the OS licenses to test out your application.

And it costs zilch to develop for Linux under KDE unless you want to make a closed source commercial application.

Stephen Jones
Sunday, December 21, 2003

Developing a commercial app

1) under KDE: need licences, costs money, requires audits, purchase orders etc.

2) under Gnome: n/a

blargle
Sunday, December 21, 2003

So what! Develop a commercial app under Windows and you have to pay for the OS's to develop under and then for the IDE. But there are a load more people developing for Windows than for Gnome.

Stephen Jones
Sunday, December 21, 2003

To overcome the barriers that are present because of the extensive presence that Windows has, low cost is an important consideration.

T. Norman
Sunday, December 21, 2003

Stephen, I think you missed my post above. And, sure, development isnt free on windows, but thats beside the point.

The point is to get as low an entry threshold as possible to make liux development more attractive than windows development. Especially in non western industrialised coutries.

Its not like KDE is going away either. One can just install the debian KDE packages if they are wanted.

The idea is to create a focal point for commecial development and with a bit of luck its going to have a bandwagon effect.

And, yes it is still vapourware. But considering that development has started and most of the distro will be comming straight from debian, Im will to bet on a beta release within 6 months.

Eric DeBois
Sunday, December 21, 2003

No, I didn't miss your post above. I just think your whole point is wrong.

You're saying we going to get a bandwagon effect of vapourware, as opposed to the four or five recognized distributions which are all backing the other horse.

And commercilal developers are going to start developing apps for third world countries too poor to pay for them?

Stephen Jones
Sunday, December 21, 2003

Actually, I dont have a point as such. I was just looking for opinions but I felt that you were basing yours on a missunderstanding which is why I argued.

Eric DeBois
Sunday, December 21, 2003

To be perfectly honest, the whole KDE vs Gnome thing is a load of fertilizer.  The fact that the argument exists at all is a major hurdle for development of GUI apps on free UNIX.

The inability to determine which GUI libraries are going to be available has been a major hinderance for lots of programmers, myself included.  I'd love to produce GUI apps for UNIX.  But there's no way to know which set of libraries is installed. There are also major incompatibilities between versions.  It's also not practical to distribute updated library versions with applications.  This pretty much kills the ability for binary software distributions, a necessity for successful commercial development.

Picking a standard, any standard, would improve the GUI situation on the free UNIX distributions.  Kill the other GUI platform in its crib and get on with building applications on top of it.

Clay Dowling
Sunday, December 21, 2003

The two platforms are a mess for desktop apps; but you aren't going to standardize by doing away with one of them, because you will then have to wait until the apps that the other had are ported over if ever.

What would be nice is some kind of agreement amongst distribuitions to freeze each GUI every eighteen months or so, so you would be able to tell what is or is not installed. Anyway I thought that both Gnome and KDE were installed by default by most Linux distros.

Stephen Jones
Sunday, December 21, 2003

What I like about Perens is that, unlike most Linux geeks, he understands both technical and marketing issues. It's about bloody time that someone high up the Linux tree decided that there should be one default standard for office suites, GUIs, scripting languages and email applications. Finally, somebody, without a commercial motive, starts to care about the Linux end-users and developers.

Dumping QT (KDE) in User Linux is a no brainer. If Trolltech were selected as the default GUI (read gets the monopoly) they as a commercial enterprise would have a enormous power, if not a stranglehold, over Linux. I would not be surprised if the 2005 Trolltech shareholder meeting decided to up the price of QT development licenses to $10,000. After all that would increase their short term profits. Economy lesson #45b: Never give a commercial enterprise a monopoly.

Linux has mainly been egoistical software. Geeks created the tools and environment for themselves and other geeks. In one sense this is a bad thing, because aunt Anny, the end-user, suffers as Joel lucidly explained. Another result is that they don't care about commercial (binary only) software. "If you want your software to install on all current Linux versions, just provide the source code". Yeah right, that will make the commercial software developers flock over to Linux.

This geeks-for-geeks disadvantage is at the same time Linux strongest selling point. Masses of users and developers are constantly being pushed around by the commercial companies. It's not you, but Microsoft who decides when it's time to kill your favorite office application, development tool or component set. Just like Borland's management thinks that they will make more money by ending Delphi for win32. Or Redhat that thinks it is a good idea to totally wipe out there current product line and force you into a 10 times more expensive new version without an easy upgrade path. You won't see that happening with community driven open source software like Debian, FreeBSD, Python. Simply because they don't have the money motive.

It is a gross generalization and I do apologize to all companies and managers out there that do feel a moral obligation to their end-users, but the main problem with commercial software companies is that they play politics, because their stock holders go before their end-users. I don't blame them for it, but Microsoft, Borland, Redhat and many others have proven that maximizing short term profits is more important than maximizing end-user satisfaction. Of course, in the end the latter leads to more profits than the first. But managers, like politicians, have never been known for their long term vision.

Mind you, I am not a free-for-all only communist. And I don't mind and do pay a significant amount of money for good tools. I just get ticked off by brainless managers taking away my favorite tools when they feel like it.

Open source seems like such an attractive alternative, if only Linux would care for me more by defining a standard and not breaking my binaries with every minor release.

Hopefully this will be exactly what Bruce Perens is doing.

Jan Derk
Sunday, December 21, 2003

"Somebody announces he's going to make yet another Linux distribution and suddenly everybody is pretending that the KDE/Gnome fight is solved"

I think Bruce is trying to solve it for corporate America.  Nothing is stopping the hobbyist from running anything they want for a wm.  Corporate America likes simplicity for systems as much as possible.  If he sticks to his guns this distro could reach businesses in a state other than DOA

Mike
Sunday, December 21, 2003

"And it costs zilch to develop for Linux under KDE unless you want to make a closed source commercial application."

Ah, but we are talking about building closed source commercial applications!  Forget everything else, this is not about building GPL apps.

There are two issues:

1) Cost.  QT costs money.  To quote blargle "need licences, costs money, requires audits, purchase orders etc."

2) Control.  If you are building an OS do you really want a major conponent in the control of a 3rd party?

Stephen, your Windows example is not correct either.  It doesn't cost anything to develop for Windows.  I don't need to buy my developer tools from Microsoft to build Windows Apps.  I can use free open source tools to develop for Windows for nothing.  Or I can purchase tools from a 3rd party (Borland).

Certainly this doesn't mean that KDE is going away.  Currently KDE is used for a lot of commercial purposes and installed in a large number of companies because it has a complete range of tools (browser, office suite, etc).  BUT commercial developers will not touch it.

Almost Anonymous
Sunday, December 21, 2003

How about running GTK apps on KDE? How do they do it? Mandrake does it. Are there legal problems involved with that? Otherwise just ship KDE with the GTK toolkit installed and voila, you're not really using QT, right?

Brazilian Dude
Sunday, December 21, 2003

What matters is what library you are linking to.  KDE apps link to KDE/QT libraries (which are GPL'd).  GNOME apps link to GNOME/GTK libraries (which are LGPL'd).  It doesn't matter which desktop environment you run them under.

You can run KDE apps under GNOME and vice-versa.  You can actually run any X-windows application under any window manager.  However, the integration is more seemless if you run the apps under the right environment.

Almost Anonymous
Sunday, December 21, 2003

Why do I have to keep repeating this? Somebody making a closed source commercial app for corporate Linux is expecting to make a lot of money out of it. A large software company  is not going to be put off by the prospect of having to pay $1500 per developer one off payment for the toolkit.

The only people put off would be those wanting to make a small commercial closed source shareware program.

Stephen Jones
Monday, December 22, 2003

Userlinux (as described in this tread) makes sense up to a point.
- It seems to promote a healtier business mindset.
- it simplifies the platform
- it welcomes closed source

what remains unchanged: Linux interest is purely cost driven. I know some if you will disagree, but ask beyond the BOFH's, and you will find nothing but dollar signs in the eyes of those considering "Linux" while their whole being is shouting "half the IT budget!!!". If you dig in, all the rest is truly excuses (appart from a small "religeous" minority).
Problem is that this "everything is free" expectation first runs into some harsh realities at the base level (OS turns out to be even more expensive, training buget increases etc.), so by the time we get to "buying some apps." stage, the cost cutting search has turned vicious. Not really a nice place to be in as a commercial package developer.

Just me (Sir to you)
Monday, December 22, 2003

Stephen, I think you miss the subtlety that good apps often start out small, without much upfront design.  These are the spontaneous apps where license issues dominate tech choices.

Also, copying bits is restricted more by legal issues than technical ones (at least in the US).  So a license is part of any code you'll use, and it's part of its "code quality."  This is why Gnu probably doesn't like the GPL; it's a coercive license but it attacks copyright.

I don't feel bad for Trolltech because their libs are easily worth the 1.5k they charge.

Tayssir John Gabbour
Monday, December 22, 2003

While the repeated back and forth about whether the price of KDE/Qt commercial licenses is important or not is very interesting, I think that it's all missing the point.

The point isn't which widget toolkit/desktop that Perens picked. The point is that he picked one.

This is the main point that diverges (or will/might diverge, the vapourware accusations have some validity) userlinux from the other major distributions. This is a big break from past linux distribution practices and will have important implications (if it gets off the ground).

All the issues around what exactly Perens picked are, to a degree, red herrings.

Bill Tomlinson
Monday, December 22, 2003

Stephen,

You covered my point #1 (Cost) but you didn't cover point #2 (Control). 

KDE would be a pretty hard sell for Perens.  What could he say: Pay me $xx per month for support of our OS -- oh and if you want to develop for it, you'll have send money to this other company.  Nobody buying an OS wants to hear that!

Almost Anonymous
Monday, December 22, 2003

Dear Almost Anonymous,
                                        How many people develop for Windows using a text editor?

                                        And while we're at it, how many companies that buy Windows do any development for it at all. And don't come to me with all the little Access programs and Excel macros people make because if the app you develop doesn't go outside your site you can develop for KDE completely for free.

Stephen Jones
Monday, December 22, 2003

Dear Bill,
              Correct. If he'd picked KDE then everybody would be complaining that the Gimp wouldn't work.

              However the fact that userlinux has picked one is likely to ensure it won't get off the ground. Do you think that if Spielberg had announced that all his films were only going to be issued on betamax it would have made a difference?

              And at least people know who Spielberg is. The target for userlinux quite likely doesn't even know who Linus is (well he does actually; he's a character in the Peanuts cartoons). Do you think they are going to be impressed because a piece of vaporware has been produced by somebody most geeks don't even know about?

Stephen Jones
Monday, December 22, 2003

Well, once its produced, its vapour no longer.

Eric DeBois
Monday, December 22, 2003

I feel I must elaborate on this a bit more.

Stephen, you seem to be arguing out of an assumption that it is about limiting the choices, which its not. KDE will only be a download away.

Its about creating a center of gravity. Buissness people like that. A main stream. It doesnt have to be huge, just a little bigger than all the other streams. I think it might work.

Eric DeBois
Monday, December 22, 2003

--" I think that this type of discussion is specifically for those who have nothing better to do than hear themselves speak. Go to Slashdot. "----

Yea, it becomes shelf-ware.

---"Its about creating a center of gravity. Buissness people like that. A main stream."----

The strength of gravity is proportional to mass and the inverse square of the distance. A distribution that doesn't include the most popular window manager and has no discernible business backing behind it fails on both counts.

The Main Stream is IBM, Red Hat, Mandrake and SuSe. That's why this idea is falls into the class of wishware.

Stephen Jones
Monday, December 22, 2003

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