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What Killed the Linux Desktop (by GNOME founder Miguel de Icaza)

linux desktop dead?

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#1 +Frank B.

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Posted 30 August 2012 - 10:37

What Killed the Linux Desktop

True story.

The hard disk that hosted my /home directory on my Linux machine failed so I had to replace it with a new one. Since this machine lives under my desk, I had to unplug all the cables, get it out, swap the hard drives and plug everything back again.

Pretty standard stuff. Plug AC, plug keyboard, plug mouse but when I got to the speakers cable, I just skipped it.

Why bother setting up the audio?

It will likely break again and will force me to go on a hunting expedition to find out more than I ever wanted to know about the new audio system and the drivers technology we are using.

A few days ago I spoke to Klint Finley from Wired who wrote the article titled OSX Killed Linux. The original line of questioning was about my opinion between Gnome 3's shell, vs Ubuntu's Unity vs Xfte as competing shells.

Personally, I am quite happy with Gnome Shell, I think the team that put it together did a great job, and I love how it enabled the Gnome designers -which historically only design, barely hack- to actually extend the shell, tune the UI and prototype things without having to beg a hacker to implement things for them. It certainly could use some fixes and tuning, but I am sure they will address those eventually.

What went wrong with Linux on the Desktop

In my opinion, the problem with Linux on the Desktop is rooted in the developer culture that was created around it.

Linus, despite being a low-level kernel guy, set the tone for our community years ago when he dismissed binary compatibility for device drivers. The kernel people might have some valid reasons for it, and might have forced the industry to play by their rules, but the Desktop people did not have the power that the kernel people did. But we did keep the attitude.

The attitude of our community was one of engineering excellence: we do not want deprecated code in our source trees, we do not want to keep broken designs around, we want pure and beautiful designs and we want to eliminate all traces of bad or poorly implemented ideas from our source code trees.

And we did.

We deprecated APIs, because there was a better way. We removed functionality because "that approach is broken", for degrees of broken from "it is a security hole" all the way to "it does not conform to the new style we are using".

We replaced core subsystems in the operating system, with poor transitions paths. We introduced compatibility layers that were not really compatible, nor were they maintained. When faced with "this does not work", the community response was usually "you are doing it wrong".


Source and full post: Miguel de Icaza's blog


#2 ahhell

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Posted 30 August 2012 - 10:50

"When faced with "this does not work", the community response was usually "you are doing it wrong"."
That is the biggest problem with Linux.

#3 ichi

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Posted 30 August 2012 - 11:09

How can you blog about the demise of the Linux desktop while praising Gnome3?

"When faced with "this does not work", the community response was usually "you are doing it wrong"."


Apple should sue, they likely have a patent on that.

#4 B0mberman

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Posted 30 August 2012 - 11:19

Throughout the article he mentions things which make no sense what so ever, he generalises all over the place and this article feels like a hidden agenda. And Bingo, when I read the line "That day I stopped feeling guilty about my new found love for OSX." pretty much sums it all up. This is not a serious article, even the one liner of "When faced with "this does not work", the community response was usually "you are doing it wrong"" certainly isn't a linux community principle, and I hardly see how Gnome is solely tied to the 'linux desktop'. And lastly, he starts the article with "True Story", like there is already an array of BS being paraded as facts, hoping you won't notice and take his 'expert' advice because he's been part of one shell developing team.....yawn, get real please!

#5 fenderMarky

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Posted 30 August 2012 - 11:29

When Vista was released, i installed Ubuntu on my desktop and notebook and i became an "ubuntu enthusiast user". But i had to quit and the reason was this:

When faced with "this does not work", the community response was usually "you are doing it wrong".


Then i tried Windows 7 beta and the story changed for me.

#6 simplezz

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Posted 30 August 2012 - 11:31

Miguel de Icaza is Microsoft's go to boy and has lost all credibility in the FOSS world. He spends his time trying to convince GNU/Linux and FOSS users of the benefits of his dotNET implementation, of which there are none - it's not fully compatible with Microsoft's, nor does it contain the things most C# developers use, namely Windows Forms. Ballmer called GNU/Linux a cancer, and I retort that dotNET, with its precarious licence and Microsoft controlled standard is a cancer which has thus far been thwarted by FOSS. Miguel can continue to push it as long as he likes, but no one's biting. We have many FOSS languages and development platforms, we don't want a proprietary Microsoft controlled one thanks.

Regarding the question: "What killed the Linux desktop" - I say nothing because it's not dead, it's alive and kicking and doing extremely well. The level of desktop environment choice available to GNU/Linux users is unheard of in OS X and Windows circles.

#7 ~Johnny

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Posted 30 August 2012 - 11:31

This is not a serious article, even the one liner of "When faced with "this does not work", the community response was usually "you are doing it wrong"" certainly isn't a linux community principle, and I hardly see how Gnome is solely tied to the 'linux desktop'


Yes, you are quite right. They are more likely to instead suggest that you download the source and fix whatever problems you have yourself by writing your own code if you don't like how overly complicated or broken something is. For that is the beauty of Linux! :p

#8 Guest_LiquidCrystalMeth_*

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Posted 30 August 2012 - 11:33

How can you blog about the demise of the Linux desktop while praising Gnome3?



Apple should sue, they likely have a patent on that.


Correct, praising Gnome3 in the same context as bemoaning whats wrong with other facets of Linux is asinine. Gnome3 is awful.
Dont even get me started on Unity, or as i prefer to think of it, Metro for Linux. Its completely wrong, and the reason i avoid Ubuntu completely now.

I also dont think he has a well enough rounded grasp on the driver issue, as one who used to have to hack his own code for devices under SCO Unix in the dark ages, i think he undervalues the effort that has gone into device support. And without myriad developers (who according to him are doing everything wrong in Linux) where does he think we'd be exactly.

Waste of Neowin forum space......

p.s. careful using the word patent, rumour has it that Apple owns the concept of patent, completely avoiding prior art. I say this carefully, as i am looking at Neowin's CSS and noticing the rounded corners :)

#9 togermano

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Posted 30 August 2012 - 11:33

I think Haiku will have a chance to beat windows in the desktop market..... Everything that is wrong with linux haiku does perfectly....

ANother thing with linux is that a developer cant just list one binary file for someone to download they gotta do it for every disto.....

#10 Guest_LiquidCrystalMeth_*

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Posted 30 August 2012 - 11:36

Yes, you are quite right. They are more likely to instead suggest that you download the source and fix whatever problems you have yourself by writing your own code if you don't like how overly complicated or broken something is. For that is the beauty of Linux! :p


Well said.

Perhaps, though, the author thinks a closed source, dictatorial approach is better.
Maybe i should shout him a copy of WIn8 :)

#11 ~Johnny

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Posted 30 August 2012 - 11:40

Well said.

Perhaps, though, the author thinks a closed source, dictatorial approach is better.
Maybe i should shout him a copy of WIn8 :)


I didn't actually mean that as a good thing. :p Rather, as an entirely ridiculous thing to ask an end user to do! Download the entire source code, and compilers, spend hours trying to find out where the actual problem is, spend hours actually building it, hoping it works? That's not the way to win anything meaningful - certainly not the appreciation of customers and end users.

#12 simplezz

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Posted 30 August 2012 - 11:46

I think Haiku will have a chance to beat windows in the desktop market..... Everything that is wrong with linux haiku does perfectly....


Haiku is okay, but it's way behind GNU/Linux in terms of support.

ANother thing with linux is that a developer cant just list one binary file for someone to download they gotta do it for every disto.....


That's why we have 'make dist' (distribute source tarballs). ./configure && make && make install isn't so hard is it? Some people even provide scripts to do that :huh: . We don't distribute binaries because we use package managers in Linux. It's easy enough to make a deb, rpm, and source tarball.

#13 Guest_LiquidCrystalMeth_*

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Posted 30 August 2012 - 11:47

I didn't actually mean that as a good thing. :p Rather, as an entirely ridiculous thing to ask an end user to do! Download the entire source code, and compilers, spend hours trying to find out where the actual problem is, spend hours actually building it, hoping it works? That's not the way to win anything meaningful - certainly not the appreciation of customers and end users.


Why isnt it a good thing, how do you think developers get involved and in turn Linux progresses.

I remember trying to get a TV card working on Suse not too many years ago, i had to, to get it to work, shock horror, download the source for the driver and look for and actually adjust the code. What terrible harm did it do to me, i lost maybe an hour or two of time, but gained a bit more knowledge.

The problem with all these new smart devices and tablet OS's is that the populace is becoming the spoonfed generation and intellectually lazy.....

One of the first things any new Linux user should do, in my twisted world, is to compile their own kernel. What i think is wrong is the Ubuntu ecosystem where people treat it as a windows replacement, its easy to install and theres no incentive to ever peek beneath the hood. And Unity, in my opinion, is a further death knell for encouraging any peeking as it effectively dumbs down the interface to make it a faux tablet device.

And as for the "certainly not the appreciation of customers and end users" ....are we all just going to be end users, and stop encouraging involvement and increasing not only the community, and the skills it has


And thats it for me, its gone a bit off topic, but still better than the original topic :)

#14 togermano

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Posted 30 August 2012 - 11:48

Haiku is okay, but it's way behind GNU/Linux in terms of support.



That's why we have 'make dist' (distribute source tarballs). ./configure && make && make install isn't so hard is it? Some people even provide scripts to do that :huh: . We don't distribute binaries because we use package managers in Linux. It's easy enough to make a deb, rpm, and source tarball.

Haiku is getting there though.. I didnt say it has a chance now.... It would also make a great phone platform
What if developer doesnt wanna give out source? Dont give me that stupid looking smiley i am much smarter then you are.
PS I bet your brain runs on the dos kernel x

#15 B0mberman

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Posted 30 August 2012 - 11:49

Yes, you are quite right. They are more likely to instead suggest that you download the source and fix whatever problems you have yourself by writing your own code if you don't like how overly complicated or broken something is. For that is the beauty of Linux! :p


overly complicated? Nope. Logically laid out? Yes. All the time? No. But hey linux also requires the user the get an idea of what they are using, how it works and fits together to some extent. Alot of mainstream shells now, pretty much alot of them have good support, and hang around the right blogs areas will help you out with fixes and community instructions how to tweak things. You are just over portraying a common stereotype by computer users who are lazy and unable to get their way with linux, they expect other developers/programmers to fix all the problems, without even moving a muscle to really help out...afterall it is a community effort, no one works full time and sits on massive development budgets...



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