Friday, October 12, 2007

Linux Talk - Open letter to Michael

Dear Michael,

I read your article at
Good justification. But certainly not unbiased! That sounds like pro-Linux prophesy. Let me explain how.

Just read out your comments on the subhead "My hardware just works under Windows". Let me tell me I have been using Linux since the time when there were one three names on the block - Debian, Slackware and Red Hat, to this date. I have faced a lot of difficulty in searching device drivers. Though the condition is improving, but still sometimes I can get 100% performance from those devices. I don't say that Linux computing is bad at drivers, but the device manufacturers don't bother (may be can't afford) to build drivers for linux. There are n number of reasons, the important ones are - first, there are very less number of linux users and, second, there are just too many packaging types - rpms, deb, tarballs... and a lot, two many architectures, and what not. As an old school linux user I don't doubt the power and prospect of linux, but we have to accept that Linux users face difficulty in installing drivers.

Let me give you two real life examples with linux driver scarcity. First one is getting linux version of Nokia PC Suite. Last week I purchased a Nokia 972 mobile phone. The box set included one Nokia PC Suite software that's installable only in Windows machines. I loved to use that suite to synchronize the mobile phone contents with my PC. But, I never succeeded.

The second one is plug2surf indicom satellite internet connection. A major Indian telecom company, Indicom launched it satellite internet service Plug2Surf, by which you can access internet anywhere on the go. This is really a great service in India where the internet penetration is very less. But again that plug2surf software works only on windows xp/2000. I asked the Indicom people about "how could they ignore the linux users". They simply did not bother to answer my question.

Besides, the above two issues. There are several other issues that blocks Linux from being a popular desktop OS. Take for example installing software. In windows its just click-n-go, but in Linux, it's never like that. You have sited the example of few application frontends like synaptic. But my dear synaptic downloads software, resolves dependencies and fixes the broken packages, only when your system is connected to the web. Do you have any idea of the third world where bare few people can access internet? How can one do hasslefree installation there.

Again let me tell you another example. Last year I had been to my maternal uncle's, he lives in a village of south Orissa, Balijodi. In my PCLinuxOS notebook, I had downloaded just the rpm of wordnet but forgot to download its library package, libwordnet and the gui frontend. I could install wordnet only when I came back to my workplace Delhi. Compare wordnet in linux with its counterpart in windows world, wordweb.

In most of the cases, windows software are packaged in just one installer, but in Linux there are several components - the apps, their libs, front-ends, compatibility with those apps with a particular desktop like gnome, kde, xfce, etc..... You have a good time installing software online. But offline installation is really a hell. And my dear, I would request you one more thing, "please don't presume that everybody has access to the web." In some parts of India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, an internet connection is considered as a luxury.

Let me conclude. I love linux the way i love my kids, the way i love my wife. And I respect linux, the way I respect my father, and the way I respect my teacher. I enjoy working in Linux, I learned to fix the things my way. I love to visit distrowatch to smell what's new on the linux platter. I know how much linux has improved since from kernel 2.4 to 2.6.22. And I am really happy on this achievement. But I am really worried about so much chaos in surface. Just imagine the tightly integrated microsoft windows desktop and, great but still the loose multitude of x desktops lilke kde, gnome, xfce, icewm...bla...bla.... Don't you think, had the linux developers put their unified effort to kde, we would have got a better and a tightly integrated deskto environment like windows? In addition to it, there are just so much chaotic things like - multiple packaging systems, a clutter of so many OS flavours with not much noteworthy differences among them. (Just consider pclinuxos with mandriva one, and mepis with kubuntu.... there is not much difference, the diversity is just the result of indivdual idiosyncrasy).

Please reply soon.



Anonymous said...

Good observation.
I wonder when the linux fanboys will do some realistic works to make it an ideal desktop

Leslie Satenstein said...

Lets look at things from the vendors prospective. I am a hardware manufacturer, and I develop a piece of hardware that is to serve a purpose. For that development, I agree to work with a software company who will provide me with support, and when the product is delivered to the market, will share in the revenue.

When you write the vender concerning linux drivers, he has to return to his software developer. If they are a windows only software house, therein lies the problem.

It seems that most hardware products follow the same partnership arrangements.

manmath sahu said...

you are very very right! the other day i was thinking of a plan - do you see a possibility to emulate windows drivers into linux?

/blog said...

Just for the record: Plug2surf supports linux and in fact I am using plug2surf on linux right now.

manmath sahu said...

you did not mention on which linux plug2surf works for you. i could not get it working on pclinuxos.

How about this