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Operating Systems Linux

Linus Torvalds: 'I Still Want the Desktop' 727

Posted by Soulskill
from the go-big-or-go-home dept.
darthcamaro writes: Linux has clawed its way into lots of places these days. But at the LinuxCon conference in Chicago today Linus Torvalds was asked where Linux should go next. Torvalds didn't hesitate with his reply. "I still want the desktop," Torvalds said, as the audience erupted into boisterous applause. Torvalds doesn't see the desktop as being a kernel problem at this point, either, but rather one about infrastructure. While not ready to declare a "Year of the Linux Desktop" he still expects that to happen — one day.
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Linus Torvalds: 'I Still Want the Desktop'

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  • by Joe Gillian (3683399) on Wednesday August 20, 2014 @03:42PM (#47714755)

    Linux has so much going for it in the device market that I don't see why Linus doesn't just double down on it. The future of Linux seems to make more sense as a kernel used for other things (like Android) rather than trying to break into the standalone desktop OS market.

  • Apple as a model (Score:4, Insightful)

    by LessThanObvious (3671949) on Wednesday August 20, 2014 @04:10PM (#47715051)
    Apple's success is an interesting model for what it would take to make Linux mainstream on the desktop. The average non-techie Apple user doesn't know or care that there is BSD running beneath the GUI or that a UNIX command line even exists on their Mac. Granted there is a legacy there where people are already comfortable with the idea of a Mac being a legitimate alternative to the Windows PC, but it is the seamless user friendly GUI and fully developed application ecosystem that make it desirable. The argument can be made that Ubuntu and maybe others are pretty usable and are getting close to mainstream useability, but we aren't quite there yet. Until there is a GUI that is so fully featured and bulletproof that the user never needs to do anything at the command line to achieve reasonable efficiency at all common tasks and the application ecosystem is developed to have decent parity with current mainstream OS in use, Linux doesn't stand a chance in the desktop. I'm not sure that the financial payoff is there for any business to undertake the investment needed, but I certainly hope we get there someday.
  • by jcdr (178250) on Wednesday August 20, 2014 @04:17PM (#47715115)

    Actually Chrome OS or Android are toys compared to a full desktop experience. Gnome 3 and Unity has go into the direction of toys for simple applications resulting in the frustration if so much users that projects like XFCE and Mate get attention like never before.

  • by bird (12361) on Wednesday August 20, 2014 @04:17PM (#47715117) Homepage

    We need a free desktop OS. Linux is the only contender.

  • by jedidiah (1196) on Wednesday August 20, 2014 @04:19PM (#47715137) Homepage

    > The problem is the GUI. People don't like X

    A stupid noisy minority of techno-hipsters don't like X. For the rest of us it's invisible and no more bothersome than the graphics subsystem on any other platform.

    The problem with your rant is that the still marginal market share of Apple refutes it. Linux in other forms was able to gain traction because of lack of an entrenched monopoly (or being the monopoly).

    Apple demonstrates that applying the "one true way" approach to the desktop won't help you get away from Microsoft.

    So there's no real point in sabotaging Linux just to suit some delusion that ignores reality on the ground.

  • by Kjella (173770) on Wednesday August 20, 2014 @04:21PM (#47715163) Homepage

    Well first of all Linus has never been overly concerned with market share, just building a technically damn good kernel so I doubt this will have much practical influence on his work. It's got to be frustrating though, Linux works on massively huge and complex servers. It works on the smallest mobile and embedded devices. But a regular desktop that from the kernel's side is rather simple, one CPU and usually one GPU and pretty much no exotic devices (from the kernel side all USB devices look the same, for example) and no absurd limits being pushed in any direction.

    I think the last real significant desktop feature was when they increased interactivity by changing the default time slice from 100 Hz to 1000 Hz and that was in 2004 or so. Heck, I would say it was at least as ready as the BSD kernel was when Apple created OS X in 2001. It's quite telling that the one thing Google did not want to rewrite when they made Android was the kernel. All else they ripped out and replaced with Apache licensed code, but not that. Well that and a bunch of Google proprietary APIs, but that's another flame war. I think I'd feel just the same in his shoes.

  • by Zero__Kelvin (151819) on Wednesday August 20, 2014 @04:25PM (#47715205) Homepage

    "The day that the various desktop environments decide to cut out the middlemen."

    Right. Because a Window Manager is the OS. All that threading, management of processes, filesystems and the like are just uneeded cruft!

    "Then I can say to my relatives "Linux? Just go get KDE" and there'll be no confusion anymore. If it's KDE compatible, it's KDE compatible."

    You have what you are asking for available today. You just don't know which distribution to recommend. Your recommendation to relatives should be: "Find someone with a clue and they can help you." Your problem is that you are pretending to have when, when you actually don't

    Give your relatives a computer sans OS and try recommending : "Just go get Windows!" and see how far they get before they ask Which version? Home? Premium? 7? What is this Server 2008? Or should I get Server 2012? Maybe I want MS-SQL? What's the difference between 32 bit and 64 bit? How many Gigabytes should be CPU be? The Hard Drive is the box with all the cables coming out, right?

  • Re:Infrastructure? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Wycliffe (116160) on Wednesday August 20, 2014 @04:28PM (#47715245) Homepage

    Linux has also been superior on the desktop for quite some time.

    Superior by what definition? Stability? sure, I'll give you that. ease of use? I doubt it.
    I've been a linux only user for over a decade but it still doesn't work as smoothly as windows out of the box.
    I occasionally still run into random problems like wifi failing to connect, can't read a cd which windows has no problem with,
    wifi card is not supported, etc... Granted most thinks come with windows drivers but even when they do happen to
    include linux drivers the linux drivers are often an afterthought and subpar. These small little rough edges are a fine
    trade off for a geek but a huge turn off for a "normal"

  • Re:Infrastructure? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Zero__Kelvin (151819) on Wednesday August 20, 2014 @04:44PM (#47715395) Homepage

    "Superior by what definition? Stability? sure, I'll give you that. ease of use? I doubt it."

    You don't know what "out of the box" means. You pick any laptop with Windows pre-installed and buy another and let me install and configure Linux and put it in a box. You will then see how a Windows system when compared to a Linux system is inferior "out of the box". Everybody wants to bundle properly installing and configuring an OS as part of the user experience. It isn't.

  • by geek (5680) on Wednesday August 20, 2014 @04:44PM (#47715397) Homepage

    Microsoft probably has somewhere between 6 and 20 thousand engineers working on device drivers for various windows versions out there making about 80k a pop. Sorry but Linux simply does not have these kinds of resources. It would be nice but I don't see it happening.

    Try 500-600. Most of those are "project managers" too who farm the work out to Indian contractors. Microsoft doesn't have the development force you think they do.

  • by Skarjak (3492305) on Wednesday August 20, 2014 @05:11PM (#47715637)
    I'm always puzzled to see these kinds of posts. Do you do your work on a tablet? "Desktop is dead!" is a lame cliche the media came up with that everyone can parrot to show how "knowledgeable" they are about the industry, when a simple inspection of the facts shows desktops aren't going away any time soon. I'm writing this from a desktop, with a confortable mechanical keyboard, a good mouse and a widescreen monitor, cause that's what you need if you want to get shit done.
  • by Rob_Bryerton (606093) on Wednesday August 20, 2014 @05:14PM (#47715669) Homepage
    Total non-issue; the majority of computing consumers have moved on; they're using phones and tablets. Corporate users will use what they're given.

    The days of paying hundreds of dollars for an operating system and compiler are (thankfully) gone. The OS is irrelevant anyways; you go to where the applications are; anything else is just silly...
  • by Ost99 (101831) on Wednesday August 20, 2014 @05:55PM (#47716009)

    The desktop IS dead, at least in one sense.
    If you buy one now, you might never have to buy one again.

    Acknowledging that I might be pulling a "640k ought to be enough for everybody", I predict that a current generation mainline i7 and i5 will be sufficient for any "desktop" task more or less for ever (or until we move away from a physical interface like keyboard / mouse and touchscreens).

    My 5 1/2 year old desktop is still a solid workhorse and significantly faster than my new $3000 ultrabook.

  • by Skarjak (3492305) on Wednesday August 20, 2014 @07:23PM (#47716581)
    I disagree. Fridges haven't really been getting any better for a while, but no one claims that industry is dead. You'll have to buy new desktops because like everything else, they'll eventually stop working. And I wouldn't be so quick to say extra power will never be needed. The average computer has been fully capable of doing all tasks the average user needs to get done for a quite a few years now, but they keep getting stronger anyway. That's because you can find new things to do with that power. And of course, work computers or gaming computers can absolutely make use of extra power. Finally, companies can still work to make computers more silent or power efficient. I think there's still room. What we'ere seeing is a diversification of ways to interact with technology, which inevitably means a reduction of market share for the older products, but as long as these products are still needed, the industry will be in good shape.
  • by tepples (727027) <tepples&gmail,com> on Wednesday August 20, 2014 @08:01PM (#47716799) Homepage Journal
    Try opening some of the larger, more complex Pages and Numbers docs and seeing what Word and Excel do with them. Or try opening Word and Excel, saving your complex documents in ODF, and opening them in LibreOffice for Windows. Let me know if that works any better.
  • by Lisias (447563) on Wednesday August 20, 2014 @08:20PM (#47716903) Homepage Journal

    So I recommend him to start his own Desktop project. :-)

    Seriously, I don't know of, now, any other Open Source leader capable of doing a decent Desktop. Torvalds finishes what he starts, and he finishes it vrey well (see git).

    We had very good Desktops in the past, but nowadays things are just too shiny and too new and... too dumbed down to be useful to me: who knows me from other /. posts about this matter knows why I migrated to MacOS two years ago, and don't plan to migrate back in the short run.

    I still love Linux - all my non desktop machines are Linux, no questions asked. But I just can't handle any of the present mainstream Desktops to use Linux again on my working box.

  • Re:Infrastructure? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by exomondo (1725132) on Wednesday August 20, 2014 @08:21PM (#47716911)

    People who purport to know about computers need to stop asking stupid questions like "When will Linux be ready for the desktop ?", and start asking intelligent questions like "When will the general populace get a clue ?"

    No, no they don't. What they need to ask is "Why do Linux desktop distros not appeal to end users?". The answer has always been clear, it is that they don't offer any significant advantage over the incumbents, they are not disruptive and thus will not disrupt the market.

    Look at iOS and Android, they stole the smartphone - and much of the wider cell phone - market from the incumbents by being innovative and disruptive, users didn't care that they were different or incompatible because they offered features that were better! Desktop Linux distros do not do this, they are me-too products scrambling to do whatever OS X and Windows do and thus people don't want to abandon familiarity and compatibility for dubious benefit.

    You can provide all the anecdotes you want about your hardships with OS X or Windows and I'm sure they'll be matched with anecdotes about people's hardships with Linux so that gets you nowhere. You can blame Microsoft or blame the user (which is what you're doing) but that doesn't make desktop Linux distros any more disruptive or innovative and thus no more appealing to users.

    Offer real, tangible, innovation that is disruptive to the market and the ISVs and OEMs will be climbing over eachother to support it just as they did with Android.

  • by visualight (468005) on Wednesday August 20, 2014 @08:43PM (#47717047) Homepage

    In Linux, there is no ABI. Drivers have to be accepted and included in the kernel source tree. Yes really. It's that well thought out.

    This means that you have to have code review from the Linux kernel team. And you have to divulge any amateur or buggy code embodied in the source. Which may compromise the imaginary advantage your marketdroids think they have on other platforms.

    FTFY

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