Windows versus Linux or why Linux has no chance as desktop platform?

Karsten Malcher debian at
Thu Feb 16 14:10:48 UTC 2012

Hello together,

sorry for the big distribution list.
I am writing to you because i want to share my observations and 
experience of the last years.
The second reason is that i am a really convinced user of Debian and 
open-source software at all.
At least Debian is the only really free distribution and base of many 
other distributions.
That's a big responsibility!

Recently we can observe a weakening in the popularity of Microsoft, but 
you can see no adequate increase of Linux as desktop platform.
Maybe that's no problem for an idealist, but Linux is to good an usable 
now for such a shadowy existence.

On the other hand i personally see open-source software as a fundamental 
base for progress and liberty in the future. Patent wars even more and 
more substitute progress and innovation.
So now the right moment has come, where Linux must overstep the critical 
threshold in the mind of the people, to show the right way for the 
future. And you can turn the mind of the masses only with a desktop 
solution and not with a ideal server solution.

The positive thing is that the current versions of window-manager are 
really attractive and more powerful in the usability and flexibility as 
every windows version.
That could be also validated in my experience of persuading people to 
use Linux instead of Windows.

The destructive property of the common Linux distributions is still a 
insufficient support of this four basic pillars:
1. Graphic including 3D functionality
2. Sound
3. Multimedia
4. Printing

Of course there was much progress in the last years here, but in my eyes 
it is not running so good as it could be.
The problems regarding this 4 pillars are still the main argument not to 
use Linux for people who have tried it.
And the same problems are my perpetual companion on nearly all PC's i 
use or i have installed Linux.
It's also not easy to find solutions for it, because felt 80% of this 
problems are filling the forums.

Specially in Debian i can't understand why packages are modified so that 
they are not running so good as from the original sources.
I will show this in some examples:

I have many different video cards from Nvidia and ATI, but none of them 
are working with the complete functionality from the start. And the 
problems will come back with every new distribution version.
Normally the easiest solution here is to use the original drivers.
It's far to inconvenient to follow instructions like this:
Any normal user will stop with Linux when he must start to solve 
problems on a text console, or if he just get's a blank screen.
On the other hand Knoppix is showing that it is possible to get Video on 
nearly all graphic cards from the scratch. Could this way be adapted in 
Why it is not possible to have minimum graphic with a resolution of 
640x480 or 800x600?
Maybe the graphic system Wayland will be the future or it will increase 
the problems?

Yes - i respect the DFSG - but now i could solve nearly all the 
different sound problems on different PC's with different sound cards 
just by compiling and installing the original ALSA sources.
So there is not really a problem with the sound, but with the debian 
When you don't want to include certain pieces of software in the 
distribution, there should be a simply way to include them for instance 
with special "download and compile packages" in the non-free part.

Since KDE4 sound often only works partial. Annoying if it is missing in 
playing flash.
Even you can't play a DVD - that's not acceptable for a normal user.
It's not obvious that you must include repositories like to solve this problem.
Here it would be very helpfull to ask and inform the user in the process 
of installation, if he wants to add a multimedia repository.

I have a Multimedia-PC running Squeeze and it is working better under 
all circumstances than using Windows.
But it was hard to get it work with Dolby digital and satellite TV and 
so on.
I need to compile the original drivers for Geforce, ALSA and s2-liplianin.
Now i lost the comfort of a simple system upgrade, it is too much work 
to compile everything again with a new kernel image or if something is 
overwritten. That makes no sense for me.
There maybe a workaround, but it is not obvious and in case of doubt 
also more work than the risk of holding the system up to date.

Only printers of HP and Kyocera really print with less problems.
Additional problems with the copyright of fonts are not understable for 
users in the same way as there is no driver support from the producers.
It is not easy to understand the differences of emulations and drivers - 
often it is try and error to find the best settings.
In the future Cups 1.6 seems to support Linux less than before.

The extensive problems with the copyright situation and ignorance of 
producers cannot be solved.
So multimedia and printing will keep problematic as it is.
But the situation would get better if there are more Linux desktop 
installations - so the industry cannot ignore Linux.

In the past there was a better hardware support in Lenny than in Squeeze.
There are also additional problems like loosing the ability of using 
bluetooth in KDE 4 now.
Such problems should only be temporarily and not permanent.

For the graphics there should be always a working fallback.
When working original drivers exist, they should be integrated in Debian 
without loosing "working quality".
It's the same with the ALSA sources for the sound.

I think the problems can be solved now to get a better acceptance for 
Linux as desktop OS.
But more sensibility for normal users and their "simple problems" is 

Linux and open-source software generally should not be reserved for experts.
Please remind that this can be a puzzle part for a better world.

Best regards

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