The Law and the Linux Desktop

Can the Linux desktop succeed? Perhaps, but first it must hurdle a number of lofty legal obstacles.

The debate continues over whether Linux,
in any of its flavors, is ready for the desktop. If you’re an
Average Joe (like me), the answer is probably “No.” If
you’re much more technical or if your last name ends with the
qualifer “Ph.D.”, the answer may be “Yes.”
Why the disparity? Each constituency expects something very
different from the desktop.

Certainly, the graphical user interface has made my computing
life far easier. I eschew command-line instructions (ever since I
was forced to give up WordPerfect in favor
of Word in my law practice in the
mid-1990s), and my natural inclination is to look at those features
that are necessary to make the average user’s life on Linux
tolerable. However, many of the most requested and most needed
features — including WiFi, multimedia, proprietary drivers,
document formats, and fonts — are stagnating due to legal

Let’s explore why.

(The dearth of common desktop applications on Linux is a
separate issue and one not immediately related to law, unless you
dive deeply into competition law. But that’s best left for
another time.)

WiFi Woes

There’s no question that the lack of an open source WiFi
solution causes headaches for the Linux desktop.

WiFi drivers are typically provided by chip manufacturers, such
as Intel and AMD. At present, the drivers are closed source, either
in whole or in significant part. Intel, for one, has expressed a
willingness to find a solution for this problem, but government
regulation is proving to be a key drag. More specifically,
Federal Communications Commission Part-15
which apply to wireless devices, requires:

Except as follows, an intentional or
unintentional radiator must be constructed such that the
adjustments of any control that is readily accessible by or
intended to be accessible to the user will not cause operation of
the device in violation of the regulations.
(See I47 CFR

(This same sort of notion is also encompassed in FCC rules
governing software-defined radios.) Now nothing in these statements
expressly prohibits open source implementations of such controls,
but such a requirement strikes fear in the hearts of the device
manufacturers’ attorneys. Counsel is concerned that
implementing such controls in open source code, thus permitting
users the ability to make adjustments that may cause operation of
the device in violation of the regulations, will make vendors
liable for violation of the regulations.

Quite frankly, that’s not an unreasonable position.

A group coordinated by the Open Source Development Labs is
working to better define how this issue may be resolved. Could it
be as simple as getting the FCC to affirmatively state that a
control implemented in open source does not violate the regulation?
What about other countries where this same issue arises? To be a
part of that discussion, visit "http://lists.tuxdriver.org/mailman/listinfo/reg-legal" class=

Multimedia Malaise

Multimedia is highly dependent on compression/decompression
technologies (codecs), most of which are patented. Patents make a
pure, open source play difficult, unless content providers embrace
the OGG format. (I’m not holding my

Will GNU Public License Version 3 (GPLv3)
provide an answer? The Apache License? The Mozilla
Fluendo ( "story_link">http://www.fluendo.com/) has clearly made some
progress here, but unless an open source media player can be
matched to the codecs, most of which are proprietary, the lack of
media playback will continue to be a significant shortcoming of
Linux. Needless to say, there are many challenging patent issues

Proprietary Drivers Dilemmas

There’s been a long-running debate regarding video drivers
and the fact that the drivers are proprietary. While the open
source community has persuaded some hardware and board
manufacturers to open source particular drivers, the fact of life
is that many of the popular (and, some would argue, necessary)
device drivers aren’t open.

The question then becomes whether you take half a loaf and try
to win the other half in time, or whether you ship what many would
consider an incomplete desktop. Clearly Eric Raymond has weighed in
on this issue in favor of proprietary driver tolerance, but I have
no doubt that the Free Software Foundation feels just as strongly
that the battle will be sooner won by holding the line. What is
interesting is that this would, to a large extent, be a simpler
issue if it simply involved patents rather than code

Fighting for Open Document Formats

The Open Document Format (ODF) Alliance continues to make
headway on an international scale in its attempts to convince
businesses and governments alike to take control of their own
documents. Microsoft has attempted to neutralize this issue by the
promotion of its own, so-called OpenXML
standard and by promising to interoperate with ODF. However, what
you’ve not heard Microsoft express is a willingness to open
its historical document formats — "i">.doc,.xls, and .ppt, — so
content stored in those formats can be redisplayed by alternative
offices suites with full fidelity.

As it happened when Microsoft seized word processing dominance
from WordPerfect, end-users need the assurance that historical
documents can be redisplayed in perpetuity without a loss of
formatting. Microsoft will likely do this of its own accord when
such conversion is meaningless — that is when "i">Vista and the new, (highly-modified) OpenXML formats are
the dominant platform. In the meantime, it will likely be
government competition authorities that press for this change.

Finicky Fonts

One last little point of control that Microsoft has over the
desktop is the ubiquity of its most commonly used proprietary
fonts, Times New Roman, Arial, and
Courier New. Several years ago Microsoft
ceased making these fonts available for free download, thus further
reducing the potential of an open alternative. This is particularly
problematic because most of the same documents stored in
Microsoft’s proprietary document formats are also stored in
one of these proprietary fonts.

This problem, however, is solvable. It is conceivable that
metrically equivalent fonts, or fonts that are rendered with the
identical spacing of the Microsoft fonts, could be produced. Thus,
a line of text in Times New Roman would render exactly the same in
the metrically equivalent font. This is necessary for full document

These are just a few of the barriers to desktop Linux. While not
insurmountable, solving these issues will require innovation,
compromise, and widespread support. Without such a foothold, the
Linux desktop is bound to falter.

Comments on "The Law and the Linux Desktop"


ugh, that didn’t make it through…

i meant to say, why do you have to keep spreading FUD? it’s shit like this that makes me not want to read linux-mag any more.


utterly irrelevant drivel…
anyone who uses linux knows that this is irrelevant, so obviously aimed at scaring people away from using it. FUD.


Nonsense. What is this guy doing writing for a Linux Mag. He should be working for BG.


While I disagree with a few of his comments as regards Linux as Linux succeeding, issues of proprietary anything will deter companies like Dell from succeeding in selling Linux desktops. All of his comments are concerns Dell and other companies are weighing. Microsoft is already making 800-lb gorilla moves to counter the Ubuntu PC release, and Dell can’;t afford not to listen. Whether Dell continues to move forward in the Linux direction will depend on how these issues play out. DON’T count the fat gorilla out yet, guys.


While I disagree with a few of his comments as regards Linux as Linux succeeding, issues of proprietary anything will deter companies like Dell from succeeding in selling Linux desktops. All of his comments are concerns Dell and other companies are weighing. M$ is already making 800-lb gorilla moves to counter the Ubuntu PC release, and Dell can’t afford not to listen. Whether Dell continues to move forward in the Linux direction will depend on how these issues play out. DON’T count the fat gorilla out yet, guys.


Both my laptop and home desktop are dual boot Linux (Ubuntu 6.10). I have to say that the statment: “If you’re an Average Joe (like me), the answer is probably ‘No.’ ” is not worded strongly enough. With the hours, turned into days, that I have had to waste getting Linux to run on my two computers, rather than earning money, I could have purchased the latest Windows and all of the applications that I will ever need. Linux is almost at the Windows 3.1 stage of maturity.

I started out using Redhat on my laptop (paid $90 for support as well! – Of course they simply told me “not supported” each time I had an issue). I couldn’t use my built-in wireless network adapter without a WINDOWS driver to wrap around (Redhat is WONDERFUL as long as you have Windows to make it work). The display resolution wouldn’t work either (screen repeated itself part way across). After switching to Ubuntu, and about 8 more hours later, I can use my laptop with Linux. Oh, but I can’t play mp3 files. Same with my desktop regarding mp3s and screen resolution. Ugh!!!

Yes, “probably” is not the right word for “is Linux ready.” DEFINATELY NOT is accurate. Linux is still only for the experts with a LOT of free time on their hands. And, YES, I am a Linux fan. I am also realistic about what it can and can’t do (Linus does crash) vs. what Windows can and can’t do.


In my opinion, Linux will always be Linux and Windows will always be Windows. Afterall, let’s step back here a second. Linux was not originally designed with a GUI. While I’m sure that the GUI’s could really use some major improvements, the core of Linux remains a reliable and secure piece of software.

Trying to sell Linux with pre-packaged pc’s will never make sense, because you can just as easially download it and run a dual-boot. Why would you buy a brand new system with a piece of software that’s redially available? Tell me why that makes sense? Who is Dell trying to appeal to?

Linux will always remain Linux
Windows will keep morphing itself until we simply can’t recognize it anymore.

It takes a lot to change.


The font issue was fixed prior to the date of your article here. https://www.redhat.com/promo/fonts/

In fact, you wrote an article about it last month.

Were you faced with a word count requirement in this current article which caused you to misrepresent the font issue?


Gar Nelson> the Red Hat column came after this one even if it’s only now that it’s on the website.

For the rest, the biggest stumble for me is the hardware specifications device makers keep non-disclosed. Remember, that was one of the reason Stallman went into this whole stuff in the first place.

In fact, it would be enough even if they never open sourced their drivers.


Actually, many of the issues in this article are dead on the money. Anybody who has read what I write about MS knows that I am far, far from being a MS lover, but it isn’t FUD to note that e.g. broadcom wireless hardware requires major, complex surgery to get to work under Linux, that sound cards and video cards (to a lesser extent) have similar issues, and so on. Especially on laptops. I just purchased a lenovo laptop (C3000 N100) and although the machines itself is lovely, I cannot get the broadcom to work native even with firmware surgery from WinXX drivers and the sound card doesn’t look like it will work at all. To get the monitor to work I had to use the latest 915resolution tool.

I’m a linux/unix expert and CAN make it through all of these problems (however much I still think of them as being major PITAs) but most users or buyers of systems cannot and will not be able to resolve this kind of thing. And yeah, the codec issue is another major pain of a different kind — one that nailed MS itself to the tune of a billion dollar judgement against them over MP3s. Not trivial issues and in any way ignorable, but when my own son has a music performance on the internet radio, for better or worse the only way I can listen is by finding a tool that has the right codecs installed, and such tools don’t exist for linux for many of the alternatives.

There is a major advantage to having a company like Dell sell systems with linux. Any linux, as noted. If it is sold with linux, it has linux-compatible hardware. If it has linux-compatible hardware, you can reinstall it to run whatever linux distro you like and it will still work. It forces the vendor to consider this when configuring the hardware, and encourages the vendor to make lin-friendly choices when choosing between (say) Intel and Broadcom wireless.

Linux is perfectly lovely at the desktop now, IMO, for nearly anything that one needs to do, on systems that have hardware it supports, and provided that you don’t want to watch movies, play WMA or MP3 music feeds (although one can manage the latter with a bit of effort still — in six months when Apple loses ITS 500 million dollars or settles on the mp3 case I think we’ll see no one willing to tackle distributing mp-whatever even under the table.

The thing that makes the emergence of Linux as the ultimate winner (no matter what) in the long run is that it is infinitely adaptable and cheap and efficient. Microsoft has attempted corporate Hari-Kiri with Vista, for example — even my kids who love MS for playing games find that Vista renders most of those games unplayable, even after turning off “transparency” and so on. Every customer that leaves MS leaves forever, and they leave at a pretty steady rate.



I’ve been running Suse 10 on my desktop since it came out, no problems that are significant have been encountered. I boot Win98 SE on my laptop every once in a while to run some loging programs, for my ham radio operating, that I can’t run on Linux.
Basicly, Windows suck’s, the only system that Billy came up with that was any good was DOS.
Linux DeskTop forever!!!!!!


Steve M answer me one question please. Why! didn’t you buy the latest Windows (Vista) and all of the applications

Vista is not without it’s big big problems when it comes to drivers, do your research in to some of the problems users are having with their Vista Premium Version costing $299.00 and still can’t get support from MS, and their Hardware Vendors.

nuff said


This article reminds me of my experience attempting to install and configure Debian Linux several years ago. Now most of this is out of date, hyperbole, or both. These days you don’t need to PhD to configure or manage Linux especially the user friendly distros like Suse and Ubuntu; you just need to be a little bit savvy. And given the lack of virus and spy ware issues it’s probably easier for the “average Joe” to use. (Though if you really want easy shell out the extra $$$ for a Mac)
Wifi has been huge a problem but it has made huge strides in the last few months. Consider that the current version of Amarok supports WMA, MP3 and AAC before griping about multimedia support. It took me about 20 min to get my Suse box to play any media content I or the web can throw at it. In 3+ years of running Linux at home I’ve yet to have a problem moving between Linux Open Office at home and Windows MS Office at work. As for drivers check what’s supported and what’s not before building/converting your box. I’ve built or converted 3 boxes to Linux in the last 3 years and the only hardware that has given me a headache has been TV cards (remotes in previous years, but not recently). Everything else has been sniffed and correctly configured by either the OS or NVIDIA’s Linux graphics driver. As to the user comments about bad support from companies, don’t buy it; it does suck. However, there is a giant community of Linux users on bulletin boards who are willing to help you for free.


Not only am I running Linux on my desktop, but my desktop is a laptop. I’ve had a Linux laptop (on my second) for two years and EVERYTHING works! Almost right out of the box with SuSE 10. I recently switched to Kubuntu and the tweaking I had to do was minimal – it took a while to figure out how to change the laptop lid behavior. About the only thing I didn’t have out-of-the-box is DVD playback but hey, mplayer, need I say more.

Granted, I’m not your average Joe User, but it really is close enough. Let’s face facts, if Windows didn’t come preinstalled, how many people would be able to get it up and running perfectly on a laptop?


FUD! I’m tired of this kind of “linux is for nerds” attitude. I have installed linux on more than a few machines used by the average everyday idiot. I have never installed linux on a machine where the owner asked me to remove it for any reason.

I doubt he has a PHD.. maybe he meant he has “Permanent Head Damage”? That would explain his need for Windows?


Hi Mark,

(disclaimer: I work for Fluendo)

I didn’t understand your comment about multimedia. First of all, I have no idea how any of the licenses you mention could solve the multimedia problem.

Second, there are open source players matched to the Fluendo codecs. The codecs plug into GStreamer, GStreamer is LGPL, and any free software application can link to GStreamer and use the codecs. Totem does it, Rhythmbox and Banshee do it, and so do a host of other applications.

As for the codecs being proprietary, nothing that can be done about that. For some formats, by definition, you can’t have both “legal/licensed” and “open source/free software”. But hey, you pick either one until those codecs are obsolete.


I had to double check the date of the article. I can’t believe this has been written in 2007, but I’d rather think in 2002-2003!

I’m using (K)Ubuntu (previously Debian, Suse, RedHat and Gentoo, besides some specialised distros like IPCop) on my PCs, my laptop and my servers. I am proud to say that I’m completely Windows clean!

Not a single Linux distro ever destroyed the OS during a remote update…Windows did!

On older machines I can run Linux headless (without graphical interface)…I cannot with Windows!

The last Windows installation was made unusable by a virus scanner update (yes, I paid for that!)…no such problem on Linux.

I like doing video editing, on Linux I use Kino, which is rock stable…not so on Windows, all programs I used where uttely unstable!

I find everything I need within seconds using tools like grep, locate…not so on Windows where Explorer took minutes to find files and the grep-like function was in my experience completely unusable.

I find the way Linux is organised very logical (user data in /home, configuration in /etc….), not so with Windows (everything mixed IMO).

Installation went perfectly well in about 30′, including faultless hardware detection.

I’d consider myself as being a power user, but definitely not a guru or Linux nerd. My wife and kids (8 and 4 years!) are using Ubuntu as well without any problem. And they’re certainly no “specialists”.

For what we’re using computers for (Internet surfing, email, watching DVDs, video editing, photo & graphics editing, software development, office stuff), Linux serves us perfectly well. Better than Windows, at least for me.


Risible nonsense. Ubuntu and SuSE are excellent desktop platforms for commercial deployment. We are actively replacing all of our current business apps and any vendor foolish enough to try and mandate MS to this company on the desktop is advised that the door is the wooden thing in the wall. We require choice, flexibility and value for money; none of these words sits easily in the same sentence as .NET.


I have to agree with the other negative comments about this article. I’m thinking the author of this article doesn’t even use desktop linux. I have been using desktop linux for about 5 years. I don’t even have a copy of windows. Everything I have is working fine. All you have to do is buy linux friendly hardware and software and it’s all good. Most everything linux friendly and an increasing amount of things non-linux friendly work right out of the box. I’m not sure what your talking about when you say wireless is a problem. I have never had wireless problems. Most of the time, I have an easier time than most windows users. My connection is totally automated. I think you need to check the facts before you write these things. Maybe you should actually use linux first before you write about it. It doesn’t sound like your even a linux fan or even really tried it.


As far as the first paragraph goes, there is another opinion, that of the many young children who are Computer Literate, capable of running and booting LiveCDroms or even installing Linux on computers, to the delight and amazement of their parents.

Some are as young as four years of age, and it is my thrill to have helped over 5,000 businesses, schools, parents, teachers, and children, to all switch to a very reliable OS.

Linux makes their computers immune to the “114,000 Microsoft Virus Malware Definitions” and exempt from the “Trusted Partner” protection racket and cartel.

Will there be some issues, bugs, and minor glitches? Well, IBM invests over $1 Billion per year, and is only one of the Fortune 500 corporations supporting Free Open Source Software developers!

The man years invested in GNU/Linux, *BSD, FOSS, is many hundred fold greater than what Microsoft can fund.

Having advocated GNU/Linux and *BSD, as appropriate for the competence ability of the users, I acknowledge that some people, even lawyers and other professionals, might have trouble comprehending what is so very easy for my elementary school kids.

At issue is not the IQ but rather, the ingrained rejection of change, that is so normal to humans who are programmed to believe the advertisers and media trolls.

Perhaps that is why the Third World has embraced FOSS, while rejecting the Microsoft cartel. No baggage, no emotional ties to some ‘legacy’ program or game.

1 billion Chinese, and 1.25 billion Indians, 1 billion Asians, can’t be wrong in their enthusiasm for the freedom of Open Source, as they have the Source Code and full freedom to create their own software inventions.

The demographics of the developing nations, on top of the quest by the peoples of the world for technical advancement, added to the rejection of market ‘imperialism’, make all of Microsoft’s profit motives, media influence and FUD efforts pale to insignificance.


Hi carling,

The answer to your question “Why! didn’t you buy the latest Windows (Vista) and all of the applications” is that Windows XP came installed and working on both my laptop and desktop. I have no need for Vista. And yes, I have purchased all of my apps for Windows already. Many I can’t get for Linux.

I’m not against Linux (why would I have both of my systems dual boot if I were?). I’m a realist and don’t hate Windows simply because they pay their software engineers salaries to develop their code (evil, EVIL, paid engineers… Argh!!!). As for Linux, I got into it because here at NASA it is being used a lot in the labs (ASIST runs on it, etc.). It also takes a team of Linux GURUs to maintain (yes, Windows machines do as well). The last time I mounted, used, then unmounted my USB flash stick in one of NASA’s Linux boxes it wiped the stick.

So, yes, I still say that Linux isn’t ready for Joe Average User. It’s great for people with the time and patience to mess with it. If you only use it on VERY standard desktops it’s fine as well – well except for wiping out my USB drive data…


As usual, it seems the linux lovers can’t even keep the issues separate. So, of course, you (and I) use linux for the correct reasons and we don’t buy some new piece of shiny hardware because its “shiny”. But “linux on the desktop” is precisely that: linux for people that buy the shiny hardware because its shiny. So, clearly, linux isn’t ready (and most of us would say “who cares”) for these folk. Of course, for all the serious users out there that want a real OS and not an expensive toy, they have been ready for linux for years.


Pointing out the hurdles remaining for Linux on the Desktop is not a FUD campaign from a secret MS evangelist. “Linux on the Desktop” means among other things:

WiFi works perfectly with no legal or hardware/software issues;
All printers (including the new Epson Stylus 3800 for example) are supported by the manufacturer with Linux drivers *and* control panels;
Video cards work at the same resolution and framerate as under Windows and Mac;
Adobe weighs in with Linux version parity releases of all their flagship products, including Lightroom (which means Linux gets professional, 16-bit color management tools for both screen and printer);
Professional-level peripherals (Nikon Super Coolscan 9000 film scanner anyone?) have Linux drivers and application software;

… and so on.

I in fact own the Coolscan 9000, the Epson 3800, and licensed copies of Photoshop CS and Lightroom, all running under WinXP. I could not even begin to think about doing professional-level image or publication work under Linux. GIMP, Inkscape and Scribus are great programs, but only for the web worker / hobbyist.

I love Ubuntu, but strictly as a hobby, I’m afraid. Can I view DVDs and listen to .MP3 sound files under Fiesty Fawn? Yes, but only legally because living in the US, I also paid for a licensed copy of WinXP. Regarding the multimedia codecs, it’s not a matter of “Linux can’t”, but rather that no Linux distro team to my knowledge has paid for the right to include patented codecs — and I haven’t yet read or heard of a plan by any distro to do this.

While perhaps a bit outdated, the author is absolutely correct – there are *significant* legal and commercial hurdles to overcome at nearly every point where our favorite operating system (lovely / stable / elegant) meets up with commercial vendors, formats, or interests, especially the major players in media and publication.


Just to be clear, I use a Linux desktop everyday at work. I don’t have to worry about installation and support issues because I have the best support staff in the world to help me with that. At home it’s a different situation where my personal support staff is generally incompetent with anything but the simplest issues.

I’m sorry some viewed the article as FUD. It is not meant to be and certainly isn’t addressed to the technical side of the house. The issues raised are all resolved or resolvable from a technical standpoint. But ON THE DOCKET is about legal issues related to open source, and it is on that side of the house where many of the battles are now being fought, and those legal issues are not all resolved or easily resolvable.


Mark Webbink ,

A few humble suggestions if you don’t want an article to be considered as FUD:

Don’t start off by suggesting that using Linux requires a Ph.D.

Don’t spend more ink talking about what Linux doesn’t support (when what you really mean is not supplied by the distro’s maker), than why it’s not supplied.

Lastly consider having your “personal support staff” spend a little quality time on Google and some Linux bulletin boards. Download and install openSuse, read and follow the Jem Report’s “Hacking open Suse guide. Then write a follow-up to this article.

darrell eifert,
While I agree that even as a hobbyist I find Linux not able to meet my digital darkroom needs, I’m not sure Apple could stand up to your definition of “on the Desktop”.

simon bridge

An oft-repeated set of observations…

I am, right now, running Ubuntu 7.04 on my desktop. It took about a half an hour to install with little intervention on my part and no (none, nill, zip, nada) technical skill required on my part.

Part of the success involves the fact that this computer is 100% supported by open source drivers… so everything works out of the box.

But I also have a laptop… one of the notorious Acer (anti linux) boxes which installed on the second go (Ubuntu 5.04 – some time ago). The requirements to get the install going were available by pressing F1 at the initial menu.

This is not to say that this is the case for every computer… but Windows doesn’t run on everything.

So these claims need a bit of re-examining:

0. dearth of common desktop applications on linux
My Ubuntu installs included a full productivity suite (including presentation and database), a firewall, and a 2D image renderer/manipulator, a browser and a PIM suite including an e-mail client. It included a VIOP phone and internet chat client. Had I taken the windows option, I,d have received Works 8.0, IE6 and Outlook… and I would have paid an extra $100 too thank you!

But this isn’t the main point here. The point is LAW. So I move on…

1. WiFi Woes
WiFi is beset by legal issues, this is true. However… prism chipset cards work out of the box. Intel drivers are not completely open source, but they work. And legally too. Similarily with a wide range of broadcom cards.

Windows drivers are needed for most of the rest, this is true. However, windows needs windows drivers too, so that must count as a draw. (Now, if manufacturers would ship ndiswrapper with their driver disks…)

Open Source driver support has a legal issue in the USA… this is true. The article has mentioned non USA but similar laws… but what about countries which have no such law? A clear option would be to develop open source drivers there… them the kernel developers would have to face the legal ramifications of providing the means to breach federal regulations…

2. Multimedia
All those folk who want to play mp3s is what this is about… well, all linuxes can play mp3 and other proprietary formats. Some (Mepis, SUSE) do so out of the box.

The rest have an easy and free install of a decent media player… I remember having to upgrade WMP online in the bad old days too. And outlook… and so on. In ubuntu it is a matter of a couple or three of mouse clicks… though the power user can use the command line interface (newly added to Vista now) to achieve this task in one sentence.

Oops… our lawyer/columnist doesn’t like commandline, must be allergic to typing where he cannot charge for it. He’s allergic to research too but ho hum.

Anyway, the same is true for DVD playback… which works out of the box if the dvd isn’t encrypted. Download a tool for encrypted dvds.

Or… why bother dancing around the IP “owners”? A small utility called ffmpeg2theora will convert the formats from closed to open source. Bingo: you just won!

3. Proprietary Drivers Dilemmas
… more a political than a legal battle here. However, Open Source media players are matched to the codecs. gstreamer has plugins for them so any player based on it will have access to them. Xine plays all of them too… hence the common players: XMMS, MPlayer, Totem, Amarok, Rhythmbox, all play proprietary codecs.

As for open codec adoption, that is up to you. I converted my mp3 collection years ago and haven’t looked back since.

In fact, the major issue with multimedia ain’t formats at all… but DRM. This hasn’t even been mentioned.

4. Fighting for Open Document Formats
… this is not actually a legal problem with linux and not actually a hinderence. The standard linux productivity suite will read legacy microsoft and other formats with ease. They will also, natively, write pdf files too.

5. Finicky Fonts
… weirder and weirder. In that case, how is it that I have a full set of MS fonts on my system? http://zeuscat.com/andrew/software/corefonts/
… for the original web fonts project
… for newer fonts
… ar the reasons.

OK, none of these is the microsoft web page. However, they are available. Just because MS dosn’t do it, don’t mean it don’t happen.

As it happens, though, equivalent fonts exist… the bitstream vera set for eg. neatly replaces arial and times new roman.

So what is left… DRM and some windows only drivers which will only trip you up if you buy blind.

In other words, linux ain’t ready for some desktops.

Lets be fair… linux is not intended for people who don’t want to think. Windows is especially designed to prevent you thinking. Good luck.


Extremists should keep to themselves because they are biased and can’t keep an open mind. I like tinkering with Linux, but unless I have a server need for it, I have not made it a primary OS on any of my computers because I’m not the only one who uses them. XP just plain works without all the driver issues and software compatibility. There is more driver support and software for Windows because that’s where the market is — you can’t argue that fact. The Linux desktop has come a long way and I hope it continues to get better. If the goal is to make Linux become the defacto standard, then the Linux community needs to get off their “high-horse” and stop talking smack and address the so-call Windows “idiots” issues or suffer being the minority. Any Windows extremists should approach the Linux community in a less offensive manner or keep to themselves because they aren’t going to get the Linux community to side with them…EVER! Most users don’t want to become “mechanics”, they just want to drive the car so stop making comments about “people who don’t want to think” use Windows. I’d like to see that person talk to their friends and family members who don’t have a clue what Linux is and see how they talk to them.


@simon bridge:
OK, I want MS core fonts, so I followed the zeuscat.com link, which redirected me to another page, which started with a statement:

“An __easy__ way to install Microsoft’s TrueType core fonts on linux”

followed by “How to install” instructions, 8 points in total, like “Make sure you have the following rpm-packages installed” (total of 3), “set up an rpm build environment”, “might need to reload the X font server” etc. etc.
I can’t imagine what “the __hard__ way” looks like…
Are you really trying to convince anyone that Linux is user-friendly and ready for Joe Citizen’s desktop?
“linux is not intended for people who don’t want to think” — right, it’s intended to make people who want some fonts think about rpm build environment. Thank you. Keep up the good work, folks.


This article is right on! I’ve installed and used almost every version from the beginning. I’ve written software for it and used it in computer science projects (only one in the class lol). It has never been, and isn’t for the masses. Windows is for the masses: easy to install, user interface has a high degree of uniformity and conformance with a standard, nearly seamless driver integration, lot’s of commercial grade software available…..

I just installed Debian’s latest distribution. Installation was easier then ever before, but I had to manually configure it to display on my Samsung monitor. Then I could not get my common sb soundcard to work properly, until I manually set that up. Now I’m trying to get World of Warcraft running on Wine (just on a whim) and what a job that is! Most of the programs have poor help sections or no help at all. Installation of software wasn’t seamless and required me to go into the directory and create a link so I could run it. I could go on and on and on.

I could also go on and on and on about Linux’s advantages, right down to the design of the OS itself. BUT WHO CARES! Certainly not 99% of the recreational computer users.

So, Linux isn’t ready for prime time, and to be honest, I don’t want it to be.


I don’t know what I am doing wrong. I installed Ubuntu, have it up and running no problems. As for wireless, I used shaw and telus as my providers, wired and wireless and everything just seems to work. I dual boot, can read my windows files, open them, save them to my linux partition and work on them all I want.
About the only thing I haven’t figured out yet is MythTV and getting it to work with my hauppage wintv card, no big deal.
Oh yeah installed it on several friends computers too all with no problems.
And no I am not a sys admin or anything like that, just a user that wanted to try it…now I will boot to linux, copy my bookmarks from windows into firefox and return here.


Oh one concern I DID have was my digital cam and flashdrive. I figured since I had to install software in windows (and fight with it), the right software probably wasn’t available in linux (all those horror stories). Plugged in my camera and some program opened AUTOMATICALLY and there were my pictures. Plugged in my flashdrive, compter went “bing” and there were the files on my drive.

Since someone brought up the analogy (driving cars not mechanics) how appropriate. I am using linux but I want it to do everything like windows. Well I drive an american automatic car, but I want it to look, feel, drive, accelerate, brake, corner like my porsche, it doesn’t so therefore american cars are no good. NO, I don’t expect an american car to behave like fine german engineered automobiles and I don’t expect my porsche to be a leadsled either, however they both get me from A to B and THAT is their purpose. Same end result to totally different experiences.

OPenOffice/Word-type a letter
Amorak/Media Player – play music
IE/Firefox – surf the web
Outlook Express/Thunderbird – read my email

A bic pen can’t compare to a Schaefer fountain pen, but how many fine writing instruments do you see anymore, we all settle for mediocrity….

And as for linux ‘having problems’ windows has been the mainstay for what 25 years now and still the same problems just in a different proprietary formats.

How I yearn for the good old days, IBM selectric typewriter, paper, envelops, erasers, dictionary, adding machines….welcome to the world of change.


I’ve had PCLinuxOS working on two laptops with no issues for a while. The writer must be using an older distro.



This may be a little old but it is still relevent:

This was originally posted on another group by Kelsey Bjarnason

Let me give you a few quotes to ponder.

“Up and running, not up and coming”
“Not Today”
“Wait for us, we’re the leaders”

Do you know where those came from? From the OS/2 camp. When IBM had
released its latest version of OS/2, and Microsoft’s competitive
offering was facing delays, slipping schedules and much public ridicule.

Windows is not “always in the here and now”, it is frequently in the
“maybe tomorrow” category. In fact, that’s where it is *right now*.
The version of Windows which is supposed to magically cure all those
security problems, render viruses harmless, make a perfect cup of coffee
and tie your shoelaces is going to be released – *maybe* – in 2006…
but, according to MS, with a crippled feature set. And it’ll *still*
only run on an x86.

Meanwhile, Linux is running everything from palmtops to supercomputers
and doesn’t have the virus problem. What it does have is a rich set of
applications and tools, and a license that lets *you* decide what to do
with *your* computer.

Let’s see what Windows offers now that Linux doesn’t,
shall we?

Windows, of course, has a journalling file system, NTFS. Mind you, as I
understand it, NTFS only does metadata journalling… unlike, say, ext3.

Windows, of course, supports multiple virtual desktops. Oops, no, it
doesn’t. Yet virtually all the WMs and DMs for Linux do.

Windows, of course, supports multiple GUIs, from lightweight ones good
for remote access to serious heavyweights with all the bells and
whistles. Ooops, no, it doesn’t. Linux does.

Windows, of course, supports sensible package management for
installation and removal of programs, even when those programs aren’t
from Microft, right? Ooops, no, it doesn’t. It doesn’t even have this
for its own applications.

But wait… Windows *does* have “Windows update”, a nice little tool for
determining, downloading and deploying the latest bugfixes and the
like… except it only works for Windows. It doesn’t even do this for
Microsoft’s own applications, such as Visual Studio or Office. Funny,
my Linux system has just such an update feature… but it works for all
the packages it knows about – several thousand of them from hundreds of

Well, okay… but Windows comes bundled with all the things you need to
get up and running, right? Development tools for the code monkeys,
database servers for the DB geeks, web servers, mail servers and the
like for web developers, irc clients, IM clients, streaming media tools,
intrusion detection, firewalling, spreadsheets, word processors, spell
checkers, dictionaries, browsers supporting ad-blocking, popup blocking,
tabbed browsing and the like… Windows does include all this, right?
Sorry, was that a no? Oh, well, Linux does.

How about hardware support? I have some old 486 boxes here which are
perfectly usable… I *can* run current Windows versions on them, right?
No? Hmm; I can run current Linux versions on them just fine.

Well, okay, how about configuration options? Let’s try something
simple: I have a server which has no monitor attached – I do all the
maintenance via an ssh connection. So I don’t need – or want – a GUI on
the box. Just wastes resources which could be better used for what the
box actually does, nameley, serving. I *can* remove the GUI in Windows,
right? Hmm. I can in Linux.

Well, okay, that brings up another item – administration. Windows does,
in fact, make it simple to adminster the machine via the command line,
right? That is, I can perform every administrative task, from starting
and stopping services to user and group administration to group policy
editing to audit tracking and more, all from the command line, right?
Even so far as doing software isntallation, removal and upgrades?
Whoops, no, not quite. The tools to do such things in Windows are at
best primitive, and sometimes don’t exist at all. Odd, though, that I
can do all that in Linux.

Hmm. This is getting more limiting by the minute. Okay, here’s an easy
one. I want to perform a series of operations on a half-dozen machines
at the same time. Why? Well, I’m upgrading the accountants’ machines,
and the simplest way is just to ssh into each of them, then issue a
couple of commands to start the update. So, as I said, I just ssh into
them, set the terminal to echo the input across all the sessions, then
go. Windows can do this, right? Whoops… Windows doesn’t even come
with ssh, does it? Well, okay, so we’ll use telnet. I *can* fire up 6
telnet sessions and, by typing in one, have the information
automatically transmitted to all of them, right? Guess not.

Well, at least, finally, XP brought in multiple user logins. So now,
the wife can use her machine and I can log into it, do some word
processing or whatever, and she can keep right on using the machine,
right? Oops… nope, that’s Linux again.

Wait a sec… Windows, as it ships, *cannot* do, or *does not* include:

Office tools
Development tools
Server tools
Database tools
Multiple virtual desktop support
A range of GUIs
The ability to completely disable the GUI
Tabbed browsing
Pop-up blocking
Ad blocking
cross-terminal-session input broadcasting
IRC clients
IM clients
Streaming media
Command-line administration that works
Package management
Software updating that works
Intrusion detection
File-alteration monitoring
Flexible firewalling
Multi-user logons
Decent graphics editing
Decent video editing

Okay, now wait a sec. All of this is available, right now, in Linux.
Most of the popular distros – Debian, DeadRat, Mandrake, Gentoo, SuSe,
etc have all of these and more. Several of them are also available for
a variety of hardware platforms. This is all here now, and Windows
doesn’t have a bit of it. This, in your mind, makes “Linux in the
future, and Windows in the here and now”?

Oh, wait. I get it. You’re saying “Windows is now” because there are
more people willing to *pay* to get such limitations than there are
people willing to be freed of such limitations for a lower price, or
even no price at all. Well… yes, that does seem to be the case,
doesn’t it? Doesn’t make much sense, but there it is.

BTW, for the record, I do, in fact, still run Windows on occasion. It
makes for a good gaming station. On the other hand, if faced with
paying $200 for a new version of Windows, or a similar amount for a game
console… well… let’s just say my trusty old Win2K setup will remain
just that – Win2K.

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