How my wasted roommate dodged Linux and other lessons

Open source grandma

Letters As expected, our recent story on desktop Linux generated plenty of complaints and a few compliments.

Our suggestion that Linspire would turn over control of the Desktop Summit if more companies would get involved was a particular point of contention. We're pleased to bring you Linspire President Kevin Carmony's perspective on this issue along with a few of your letters.

In your story, you said:

"From what we can tell, Linspire would gladly give up control over the event and even provide a forum for its rivals if the desktop idea as a whole could garner more attention."

I just wanted you to know that this is ABSOLUTELY the case. WE BEG all the other companies to come (Red Hat, IBM, HP, Xandros, Mandrake, etc.). The only reason we do as much as we do, is because SOMEONE HAS TO LEAD OUT HERE! Linspire is happy to be that leader, but WE ANXIOUSLY AWAIT the day where more and more follow.

Kudo's to AMD, Novell, Via, Real and others who ARE stepping up.

This is our 3rd year for the show, and it has gotten bigger and better each year. You have to start somewhere, and Linspire is happy to help. We hope it's twice as big next year, and are already planning the event to insure that is the case.

Kevin Carmony President, Linspire, Inc.

My lawyers secretary is a freak?

Come on! For anyone doing a little web browsing (legal sites), e-mail and legal style word processing tell me where the difference between Windows 2000 (preceding system) and Fedora Core 3 lies?

Read my lips: no virii or spyware, less spam (spamassassin), no blue screens... Oh you were talking about games and listening to music and...

Desktop use is split into categories and Linux is just as good (some think even better) than Windows in some of these categories. A good title may have been "Desktop Linux cracks Freak Mainstream Home User".



Tony Grant

I think you are missing what is going on with desktop linux.

It is true that the average home user might have some trouble with it. However, the big push is desktop linux in corporations. That works just fine for a large proportion of workers because IT installs it, configures it, installs the applications it has decide the worker should have, and then locks it down. Plus IT is a phone call away if any help is needed.

The only problem is custom or proprietary apps. However, often these can be run remotely off a server.

Speaking of which, the real killer for reducing TCO is using Linux as a thin client. IT departments love this, as it gives them back the control they lost when the PC was invented.

Analysts have been saying for years that the home desktop will come after the business desktop, and I think they are right.

Les Brunswick

Heh, I can't let the grandma comment go.

FWIW my mother (who is a grandma) is working quite happily with Linux. The problems we have been an Epson Inkjet (replaced with a Samsung Laser Printer) and the broadband connection being flakey (BT line problems) and Hotmail being unhelpfull. She moved from Windows due to malware (which rendered the 56k modem utterly useless as well as a liability) and her ancient Corel suite not groking contemporary Word files.

Well, admittedly, I did set up the machine for her, but then again that's exactly the same situation as her Windows/Corel machine (all preinstalled)... However the difference is that she hasn't had to call out me or her usual tech support bod since the install back in October. That has saved her (and me) time and money. Granny Distros really don't need to be anything special, in fact the less clutter and features the better. Most computer folks (myself included) just don't grok this until they've seen someone like my mum timidly poking at the mouse. The problem is that Sale & Marketing scritters won't take this on boad beacuse their whole mindset is geared around piling on the feature sets to sell stuff.

I will probably be looking at Linspire when I swap out the ancient hard drive. I suspect Robertson and his crew can produce systems that are good for grannies. Microsoft & Dell don't have a clue IMO.

Cheers, Rupert Pigott

Good article.

A couple of years ago I wrote Joe Barr and pointed out that WIndows was getting more complex to install and the crossover point might have been reached. It was and resulted in two articles.

Now thanks to developers being incontinent with KDE (Kollapsed Design Enforcement), most Lin dists are larger than to install, slower than to run, but sill easier to install, than Windows.

One has a choice between piles of manure.

btb, some grannies are using Lin, like in a Knoppix or MEPIS, turnkey live edition. Their geek offspring boot, install, say click here for email, and there for browsing, and say call me if it breaks. The user usually breaks before the Linux.

James Nickson

If you'll recall, the Desktop Linux Summit was originally cosponsored by community leaders and by Linspire (nee Lindows), but Linspire pulled rank and exerted total control. It is highly unlikely Linspire would give up control of their pet event.

Dan Kegel

Desktop linux? Whats that? What software runs on it? More importantly, how do you keep it updated. How do you set your screen at 1280x1024 at 85Mhz refresh rate huh?

Look, lets get real here, I've done the linux thing since I'm a guru with computers but I also have a keen understanding of computer users including some engineers at JPL. Like it or not, Two companies understand users, they are MS and AOL and a couple of mouseclicks keeps Windows updated and choosing your favorite screen settings is easy and simple. Linux has none of these features. It's an interesting distraction for nerds such as myself but the average users I meet would never be able to keep up with the latest innovations nor know how to.

I have a strong Unix background so I know what I'm talking about. I'm not saying Windows is a dream since I can't burn my CD images of Solaris 10 to disk because there's no provision to make bootable disks in the windows wizard and the morons who wrote Nero didn't think to use the bootable portion of my C drive to make the CD's instead it thinks the OS can be found on my M drive which is my Smart Media card reader. My 25 years of experience in the industry just leaves me cynical. Anyway, what are you doing in San Diego? What a boring place, a bit like computers huh?

Ian Yates

Everyone misses the point, you are comparing uninstalled Linux to preconfigured and fully tweaked OEM.

Windows not pre-installed is not ready for Grandma, or 80-90% of the general population. Windows pre-installed and configured, no brainer. Linux not pre-installed is not ready for Grandma, or 80-90% of the general population. Pre-installed and configured, no brainer. The perk, 40+ general user installs later for friends and family, no re-installs, virus or stupid "this just stopped working". Give me your desktop/laptop with compatible hardware (hey, kinda like an OEM would), your four year old will be able to use it (and WON"T be able to break it, happened to my sister 3 times with Windows), everything will be perfectly preconfigured, and it will just work and work and work for years. I'll even back it up and burn the CD/DVDs should you lose a hard drive.

Come to think of it, I honestly can't remember the last "helpdesk" session, which was almost daily before Mandrake/Suse (depending on the technical caps of the person the computer is for) Linux only policy. My Mom, linux for 3.5 years, Mandrake 9.0 on a 500 Mhz, ZERO maintenance. Nuff said. She won't let me touch it or upgrade it because she likes it just the way it is.

Kevin Mills

Your article is a shining example of how not to support an argument.

Your conclusions are that "Desktop Linux is still in a dismal state," and it "isn't ready for Grandma." You support this with a coy ad hominem at ESR and a description of a weak vendor-supported trade-show.

One of the strong points of The Register is that it backs up opinions that are unorthodox in the extreme with thoughtful (if sometimes inflammatory) discourse. This article is just flamebait.

Sean Callanan

"Kool Aid-filled reporters used to straight out lie to their leaders and proclaim Linux ready for grandma. Like anyone else, the reporters rooted for the underdog and did what they could to push it along"

Used to?

They Still do.


A couple of years ago I had a stoner roommate, on whom I ran a little experiment. I configured my computer to dual-boot Windows 2000 and RedHat and a win95ish theme, with big fat icons labeled "Internet", etc. Then I configured it to randomly load one or the other on boot.

A few weeks later I asked him if he was having any problems. "Not really, works great", he says. Kewl. The Age of Tux is at hand! Or so I thought.

It turns out I had simply trained my stoner pal to keep rebooting until Windows came up.


Tricky stoners. ®

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