Darren Waters

Is it lift off for Linux?

  • Darren Waters
  • 21 Apr 08, 12:13 GMT

I had a very interesting conversation with Mr Ubuntu, aka Mark Shuttleworth, at the end of last week and you can read the resulting news story here.

080421_shuttleworth432.jpgHis main point was that Linux, and use of Ubuntu, was on the rise. He also had lots of interesting things to say about open source more broadly, the Microsoft-Yahoo deal etc, which I thought I'd detail here as a Q&A.

Q: Will a combined Microsoft-Yahoo deal impact on the open source world?

Mark Shuttleworth: It will be very interesting for Microsoft, if the deal goes through. They will have 20,000 people (at Yahoo) who are firm free software advocates reporting to Steve Ballmer.

That is going to change Microsoft culture in a healthy way. Talking to Microsoft employees I get the sense they realise they can't transform that company into a Windows-based company without killing it.

It will be healthy for them because they will be in the same position as their customers - having to use open source software alongside proprietorial software and finding appropriate places to do each of these things.

That will make them a more normal company

Q: How is Linux innovating beyond the desktop?

Mark Shuttleworth: We are seeing a lot of innovation in the consumer electronics area - all driven by Linux.

Motorola, for example, has said that 60% of their phones will be running on Linux within three years. I expect that figure to not stop at 60%. It will power on right past that.

The majority of the new small phone manufacturers are a real hotbed of innovation in China, Taiwan, Korea and Japan and are using Linux as a platform.

It suggests that Linux enables anyone to innovate. One of the harshest criticisms I ever saw coming from the proprietorial software world of Linux was that it only copied the ideas that had already been proved in the commercial software world.

This is quite deeply offensive to anyone who has been close to the open source. If you look at all the innovation in internet itself, which is largely powered by free software, and then if you look at the innovation placed on top of that - everything from YouTube to Facebook, eBay, Amazon, Google - these extraordinarily innovative technology companies are really powered by free software.

Now increasingly we are seeing innovation happening on things that every day consumers use, like Firefox.

If you look at innovation in the web browser - Firefox faced a long walk in the desert as it reached for feature parity with Internet Explorer. But once it reached that it became an extraordinary hotbed of innovation.

Anybody who had interesting idea about how to make the browser better could build that as a Firefox extension.

Q: What impact can open source have in the commercial world?

Mark Shuttleworth: Open source is the key. The tech industry has tended towards natural monopolies, towards a single company which comes to dominate the whole platform - it's true of databases, true of operating systems, of every category of software, due to the network effect.

Open source is the very best defence we have against that underlying tendency.

Q: What are the common misconceptions of open source and Linux?

Mark Shuttleworth: One of the key things is that end users are very often not aware that a particular piece of software is open source or not - and that's a good thing.

For example, when people sit down in front of an Apple computer [they don't know that] a lot of key capabilities are produced as open source.

Folks should adopt the best software for themselves. Increasingly that's open source.

I'm willing to bet the majority of people in the UK are running Linux in the home if they have a set top box or digital photo frame, or wireless access point.

The vast majority of those devices are powered by Linux. And the economics of them only possible because of open source.

Q: What do you make of Microsoft's assertion that Linux infringes many of the firm's patents?

Mark Shuttleworth: Microsoft has said there might be patent infringements but haven't said which patents Linux/Ubuntu might infringe.

Anybody who works in the Linux industry is very confident that if Microsoft were able to say which patent issue needs to be addressed then Linux folks would either invalidate that patent or find a way to implement Linux without trampling on that intellectual property.

There's no culture of piracy in the Linux community. It does everyone a bit of a disservice when Microsoft characterises the open source community as being cavalier with intellectual property.

In fact, the open source community is extremely respectful of intellectual property rules.

It's disingenuous of Microsoft to say there are patent issues and then refuse to say what they are. It looks to me like they are trying to create an element of uncertainty.

Q: Will you be returning to space in the future?

Mark Shuttleworth: I'd really like to. I expect to. It's a great privilege and not something I'd want to squander.

I feel I have to do some other things on earth that justify me taking up a precious seat.

I stay in fairly close contact with folks who run the Nasa and Russian projects so if the right opportunity comes up...


  • Comment number 1.

    Mark is amazingly gentle with his comments about proprietary software companies and their criticisms of open sosurce. I've run Ubuntu for several years now. The beta version of 8.04 leads me to think it will be very easy to use.

  • Comment number 2.

    I dont think linux is going to make its place in deskotp. Person like me of computer science student would really love to learn it because i get more knowledge about OS working but thing is novice use has no interest in it, they just wants to do their jobs done at the end of day, if all the software of need are on windows why they will think to go to linux, hardware support is the most important thing which also takes user away from using linux because u cannot get drivers!

    I think if they keep it for the people whom for its made it would be more good otherwise it will create mess.

  • Comment number 3.

    Regarding the news story it states

    This is the first version that you can install under Windows.

    "Instead of re-partitioning your hard drive and taking some fairly risky steps, effectively you can now install under Windows without modifying your system."

    I find this confusing. The latest RC is probably the easiest Linux installation I have encountered but "install under Windows.....

    As far as I can see it is still necessary to boot from the installation CD to install.

    I would be delighted to learn how it can be installed from within Windows.


  • Comment number 4.

    Many high-end PC users are gamers.

    I'd happily switch to Linux, but not until the software I use (particularly games) will run on it.

    Of course, nobody will make their software compatible with Linux until there's a good takeup on the OS, which won't happen unless the software is compatible!

    It's self-defeating. If I'm spending £800 on a graphics card, I want an OS that will let me make use of it, so until then I'm stuck with Microsoft's offerings.


  • Comment number 5.

    Keep on learning Aboylearning: "I don't think Linux is going to make its place in desktop"? For millions of people it already has. I am one the happy millions having ditched Windows for Ubuntu 18 months ago.

    "all the software needed are on windows"? All the software I use is on Linux: email: Thunderbird, browser= Firefox, video calls= Skype, word processing / spreadsheet / presentations= OpenOffice, photo management= Picassa, music library manager= Amarok, cd/dvd authoring = buy Nero if you're nervous or use k3b for free ..... I could go on all week as there are 1000s of applications. With dual booting / virtual machines / Wine, you can always keep your Windows crutches handy.

    "u cannot get drivers" - the only peripheral I had to give up on was a Canon scanner. Bye bye Canon, hello HP, Epson, Brother....

    Anyway, if anyone is interested, they can get a LiveCD and try everything out before taking the plunge. So try it!

  • Comment number 6.

    @ littlebrian2008

    Wubi is now on the Live CD with Ubuntu - a neat little program that lets you install Ubuntu into a folder in Windows (it treats it just like any other Windows app). It makes changes to the boot loader, giving you the option to boot into Windows or Ubuntu at startup. I haven't used it yet myself, but it's a cool idea! Can't wait for Heron - I'm a webmaster and graphics artist who has been using Linux solely for 5 years now. I think it's as ready for the desktop as Windows is (I administer networks of both). Thanks to the BBC for the positive (and non-techy) press!

  • Comment number 7.


    Wubi ... can be found on the root of the CD as Wubi.exe

  • Comment number 8.

    littlebrian2008 - just pop the Ubuntu CD into your drive while using Windows and follow the instructions :)

  • Comment number 9.

    @ aboylearning:

    You're comments far from the truth.

    "I dont think linux is going to make its place in deskotp"
    For me and millions others, it already /is/ our desktop OS of choice.

    "but thing is novice use has no interest in it"
    Novices have no interest in Windows either. They just care about an OS with application they can use. The fact that it's KDE sitting on a Linux kernel or a Windows Vista shell built from an NT kernel is irrelevent to them.

    "they just wants to do their jobs done at the end of day,"
    Linux has several free office suites (KOffice, OpenOffice, etc), several free imaging applications (GIMP etc), several free CD writing applications (k3b) and so on. These days there's little the average user needs which Linux can't offer.

    " hardware support is the most important thing which also takes user away from using linux because u cannot get drivers!"
    That's complete tosh. Every device I've hooked up to my various Linux systems have worked. Even my specialist USB soundcard for live laptop DJing and music production works first time in Linux where as Windows required a good half our of software installs.
    The truth of teh matter is most times there's more drivers available for Linux than Windows. You get the choice of open source drivers or propriatory drivers - both with their own advantages and disadvantages (all of which is explained in Linux as and when you come to install said drivers).

    "I think if they keep it for the people whom for its made it would be more good otherwise it will create mess."
    That doesn't even make sense! Windows is a complete mess, does that mean that should only be used by the software developers at Microsoft?

    Seriously mate - you really shouldn't comment on a subject you clearly know little about until actually trying it first.

  • Comment number 10.

    To aboylearning:

    Problem with drivers? Not really, you can get drivers for most stuff in Linux. I've heard Microsoft has had problems getting people to use Vista, and they will stop selling and supporting XP in June this year.
    Because of the amount of people developing on Linux, Linux systems tend to be much more efficient, reliable, innovative, secure and fun than Microsoft stuff. Most of the UNIX world is now Linux, simply because it works best. Macs are also good machines because they run OS X, which is another flavour of UNIX. Wake up and see the reality. Microsoft will probably be running some form of X at some point in the (near) future.

  • Comment number 11.

    that is, MS will stop selling XP in June, and phase out support in a year.
    Another question: why doesn't MS make software for Linux? There are many programs that run on Linux that are proprietory and that aren't open source, that is, they are sold. No problems there either, they just work.

  • Comment number 12.

    Thanks for your comments.

    I downloaded the latest RC of Ubuntu a few days ago now and installed it yesterday.

    As I think I said, it is the easiest Linux install I have yet come across.

    Wubi is not on the disk I burned and I even looked under the bed and in the original ISO.

    I actually use a Linux distro about 99.9% of the time. I keep Windows as a virtual OS for a very few programs I occasionally use and for answering queries about it for friends.

    Even if it (Wubi) were there I am not yet convinced that I would use it.

    That being said, I would encourage anyone to try alternative Operating Systems.

    Once the initial anxiety is overcome the benefits become obvious.

    In the same amount of time as it takes to install MS Windows it is possible to install a Linux Distribution together with most of the drivers and programs needed.

    Of course I downloaded the 8.04RC using Linux, I wonder if Wubi would have been included if I had used Windows?


  • Comment number 13.

    Cant wait for 8.04! Have been using 7.10 ubuntu on one laptop, wirelessly networked with XP on another. Both work well except the Ubuntu laptop hasnt needed

  • Comment number 14.

    RE No 13

    ...needed to be rebooted for 3 months. Enough said!

  • Comment number 15.

    I have been using Ubuntu since 5.10 and haven't looked back. As a computer science student perhaps I found the transition to GNU/Linux easier than most, but since the Gutsy Gibbon release last year, it has become polished and user-friendly even the most tentative to get along with.

    With the mess that is Vista, one can only hope that GNU/Linux will appeal to more people as a viable, alternative OS, and I can't think of a finer distro than Ubuntu to carry out this role.

  • Comment number 16.

    Sorry i dont like it. I dont like MacOS either. Is windows perfect? No, but it does everything i want and its compatible with the most hardware and software. End of story.

    People keep saying Vista is a mess, but ive been using the same installation for over a year and its fast and runs everything i have well. Some IT journos and geeks list all the reasons its rubbish, but it means nothing to the average user, who sees a pretty, stable and totally useable OS.

  • Comment number 17.

    Ubuntu is a great step in the right direction - we're not quite there yet but I believe we will be one day.

    I have Ubuntu installed on one of my desktops, one which I use only occasionally. When 7.10 came out I installed it on my laptop (used most days) but much to my regret I found that after a few days I wanted to put Vista back on instead, for a number of niggling reasons.

    I'm very keep to keep on trying Ubuntu and look forward to the next release. However, since I was lucky enough to get Vista for free and therefore money doesn't play a part in my choice, I'm afraid I still opt for Vista.

    Ask me to choose between paying money for Vista and having Ubuntu, and I fear I may have to think rather harder before giving a decision! ;)

  • Comment number 18.

    People (mostly blinkered Windows users) keep saying that same old rubbish about lack of hardware support and Linux not being ready for the desktop.

    This is all nonsense. Hardware support is now superior to Windows, hardware becomes obsolete in Windows much faster than Linux. Vista supports less hardware than Linux, usually the Linux drivers support as many features as possible (vendor documentation is poor or non-existent at times). Vista drivers can be very basic, see the recent Creative furore when a customer added in features and got told to take down the drivers.

    Linux is ready so long as it runs the software you need. Windows is falling apart, even Steve Ballmer says Vista is a work in progress and needs fixing.

  • Comment number 19.

    I imagine many customers would be keener to try Linux if it made their PC 100 pounds cheaper (as you might expect it should).

    Unfortunately for Linux, the whole market is gripped by the Microsoft stranglehold and there is no way for the average consumer to benefit from the operating system price difference.

    It is almost impossible to buy a Linux PC, and retailers that do sell them (as Dell has started to do) hide them away and don't pass on the saving to the customer anyway.

    Tesco is one of the very few retailers to make a very cheap desktop PC available by using Linux. I would be interested to know how that's working out for them!

  • Comment number 20.

    Using the 8.04 Release Candidate at the moment. It's brilliant! For about two years now I have been able to plug in my S.L.R. camera, U.S.B. sticks, wireless adapter and portable music player safe in the knowledge that it will work flawlessly. Incredible, considering that they're all working with open-source drivers. My wireless adapter even works better in Linux with the open-source driver than in Windows with the latest, proprietary, driver! I've been using Linux for about four years now and the old problems with drivers and setup have virtually disappeared. It's overtaken Windows, without a doubt. As it's free to download and try, why not give it a go?

  • Comment number 21.

    I am an avid Ubuntu user, i have been since the 5 series. The pace of change in the Linux/Free-desktop community is incredible! In my three short years of using Ubuntu i have seen so much new technology, and as i look at some of the projects that are soon to be making mainline releases, my mind really boggles at what the free-desktop will look like in only a couple of years! Many others are now seeing the benefits as well, including large government institutions and businesses.

    In light of my experience, I think Marks comments regarding Firefox, and open source innovation are spot on. They are equally true of the desktop operating system. i think desktop open source innovation will truly blossom in the near future.

    Nevertheless, the Windows platform still sets the benchmark, and a high one at that. In particular Windows is the PC gaming/distribution platform, with so much great PC innovation occurring in this sphere that unfortunately the free-desktop misses out on. As a corollary, there is still much to be desired in the quality of Linux 3d drivers -- feature-lag and bugginess are the usual complaints. Things could be changing for the better in the 3d driver world though. Besides promising community 3d drivers verging on usefulness, AMD and Intel have open sourced their 3d drivers and specifications, with Intel setting the standard at present. If only Nvidia would follow suit i would think Linux could become a competitor as a PC gaming platform as well. After-all, Linux isn't inherently technologically deficient when it comes to gaming, as both id and Epic have proved in the past with Linux ports of their popular game titles, its just a matter of ironing out the remaining performance/quality issues.

  • Comment number 22.

    As a windows-based developer who has recently installed and enjoys Ubuntu on my laptop alongside Vista, I was fascinated to hear what Mark Shuttleworth has to say. If more software ran on Linux too - and increasingly it will - I could have a genuine choice. In fact the Mono project is leveraging my C# skills for the Linux environment so the future is bright! If only Microsoft had the foresight to do this themselves!! There is no problem with drivers or any day to day software either, it's already there and easy to set up. Increasingly I'm a keen advocate of open source - it won't replace commercial work for me but will run in parallel as 'the way things ought to be' and I for one am very grateful to those in my profession who give of their time to make it happen.

  • Comment number 23.

    ... and wont it be great when the gaming software industry finally gets behind Linux and offers it as an alternative to Vista/XP? I think Ubuntu is just the platform the market needs for that to happen - heck, you could even distribute it free with every game!

  • Comment number 24.

    It astounds me that the majority of the computer using world is still using XP. How old is it now??? We all talk about innovation and new technologies, yet the majority of us use an operating system that was around with the dinosaurs! If you want to really feel what software innovation should be like you really ought to give Linux (especially Ubuntu) a try - there's a new version every 6 months, with a whole load of new stuff in it. I tried it three years ago and never looked back and I look forward to trying something new again on Thursday.

  • Comment number 25.


    I've been using ubuntu for 5 years now... and it's improved in usability dramatically since then. One of the first things that I found hard was `getting drivers', but once I realized that Linux doesn't really do hardware in the same way as Windoze, it was all much easier.

    In fact, I think anybody could start using Ubuntu without knowing what a driver is at all!

  • Comment number 26.

    Well, I can put the myth about driver problems to bed in a thorough way (even without mentioning Vista :-). One of my clients has a laptop 2 years old, and he wanted to refurbish it but had no idea where the driver disks were.

    I gave him an Ubuntu CD (always have a couple spare), and he came back after the weekend as a total Ubuntu fan. The installation asks only a few questions and then simply gets on with it (no eternal questionnaires), no driver disks needed and it ran from the word "go". He had a very usable laptop after building the OS from scratch in about 30 minutes (and another 15 mins on the Net auto patching).

    There's a rather important detail here. This guy isn't your average end user - he's head of IT of Switzerland's 3rd largest bank..

  • Comment number 27.

    Nice story - but to be fair, I never ask clients for their driver CDs anyway, as they'll be 2 year old versions of the drivers. Who wants that?

    I just install Windows - and if it's Vista, that only takes about 30 minutes, no eternal questionnaires and it works from the word go, albeit sometimes not straight away with the right drivers, but then I spend 15 mins on the Net autopatching and all the newest and up-to-date drivers are there and up and running.

    Now... I'm not specifically pro-Vista or pro-Ubuntu, but I think they've gotta each get a point on this topic.

  • Comment number 28.

    I'm a Linux convert, started with openSuse on an old laptop, took a bit of tinkering to get the wifi working, but the kind people at LinuxQuesions were very helpful. Outdated hardware meant that it wasn't the best experience ever, but then I stumbled upon XUbuntu, designed for older machines it worked like a charm until the laptop completely died a few months later.

    Anyway decided to stick ubuntu on my main machine in dual boot with XP so I could continue to tinker.

    I've had continuing problems with XP being unable to access my 500gb second drive, Write Delayed Failure, having done everything possible to try and resolve the fault I gave up. I boot into ubuntu only now, it serves my needs with much more stability than windows ever has.

    When the new version comes out I plan on running ubuntu only, I'll add VMWare Server and have XP as a virtual machine just in case, something I've already done with Win98 so I can play my old games.

    I would say unless your a hardcore gamer then Linux will serve your needs better than windows.

    On a final note Ubuntu still starts up as quickly as it did on day one, I can make a cup of tea while XP boots.

  • Comment number 29.

    I'm so confident in Linux I run a company offering nothing but Linux based solutions.

    Not having used Windows since version 3.1, I can do everything that my windows using peers can, faster, cheaper, better.

    Mark Shuttleworths comments are timely given that Microsoft must be in a near panic about how they are to continue selling costly software with open alternatives so easily available.

  • Comment number 30.

    It's a good point about Windows' loadup time.

    On a fresh install it's super-lightning-fast to boot up and shut down.

    Install just one or two essential programmes, and you notice a huge difference in how long it takes to do both.

    Plus, after a few months of use I always have to do a clean reinstall of Windows for one reason or another (a fault that wont go away, or just general performance). About every 4 months, or ~5 if I'm pushing it.

    I can't say either way if this happens with Linux/Ubuntu because I've never used it on a daily basis for 6 months before. But I'd be interested to hear comments from more experienced Linux-ers?

  • Comment number 31.

    I think Linux Ubuntu - Mint4 is one BIG STEP nearer an alternative to Windows, for those brought up on Windows, a smattering of DOS and negligible Unix

    Boot up is fast and there is a refreshing lack of bloat and Microsoft manipulation.

    Open Office is an adequate choice for most to edit or create MS Office compatible files.

    Access to exiting data formed under MS is good.

    BUT the partitioning procedure and the dual boot file is is dangerously vulnerable. Both procedures still need attention and disaster proofing. The root access password procedure is frustrating.

    After re-installing several times and experiencing dual boot related data loss, I look forward to the day I can dispense with a perceived MS monopoly.

    RickC Maidenhead

  • Comment number 32.


    Unless you downloaded the alternate install CD, Wubi is included in the RC (regardless of whether you download and burn it through Windows or Linux). Take a look here at the contents of the i386 Live CD:


    I doubt you have been using Ubuntu for 5 years, as its first release was only 3 1/2 years ago (October 2004) :)

  • Comment number 33.

    The issue of linux as a desktop OS does not have to generate such a furor. History is full of ideas that were attacked just because they were innovative and way ahead of their time, but later were accepted wholesale. MS is fighting linux really well, but that does not mean linux is rolling over. Instead many knowledgeable people are embracing it, albeit slowly. However, there are still folks who use linux 100%. I would if it were not for some programs we use at work which run only on windows. If I find linux alternatives I would not hesitate to move over to linux completely. Those who would make a cse for windows should at least try a live cd of any linux distro and get the feel of being in control of your OS, and never having to worry about viruses and the like. For me, discovering linux was the best thing to happen to me about computers. I wish it would happen for others too. By the way, I use fedora. It's the most complete distro I can imagine.

  • Comment number 34.

    I've been using ubuntu since edgy, at first i found linux a little difficult to get on with, but that was because i was thinking with a windows head.
    I now use ubuntu as my main os, i keep a second hard drive with xp on it for playing games, although i do run wine and cedega for games as well (both work well once set up)
    I wont buy vista (or another windows os again) most people want an os that works, thats all well and good, but at what cost do they get one ? vista may well be stable now, but how many security issues still remain ? as for people saying they cant get hardware to work on linux (ive never had any problems) how many drivers had to be released when vista came out ? and how many applications had to be patched to work on vista ?
    For now windows will remain the dominant os on the market, but thats only because people havent bothered to look into other options, or they dont want to, which is all well and good if you want to be treated like a mushroom :-)

  • Comment number 35.

    I'm grateful for the comments I've received to my posts.

    I decided to use another mirror to download Ubuntu 8.04RC again and it works as well as it should, complete with Wubi etc.

    So, yes, now I could install it under Windows.

    However, I run Windows under Linux and oddly when I need it it works better.

  • Comment number 36.

    Here is one of MANY problems i have with Linux. HDCP support. I cant find any player that supports HDCP. Yes you could technically play full res blueray movies in linux, but only by illegally decrypting it. Am i wrong? If im not Linux is a no go forever.

  • Comment number 37.

    Actually...You Dont need to decrypt anything..

    There is some software out there..I know this because I saw a thread on the ubuntu forums a while back on how to do it.

  • Comment number 38.

    Yes it can be done, but i does require you to break the DRM by using decryption keys from powerDVD et al, and in many countrys that is illegal. As such Linux will never be a viable on a fully functional, easy to use HTPC.

  • Comment number 39.

    Thanks for your pm comments peeps, they have converted me to using Linux and Ubuntu as from now for all new IT projects, thanks for dispelling the myth that drivers would be a problem. As an amateur, I was already converted to using open source software ever since I tried FileZilla (15 months ago) and then began using a WAMP Apache Server combo a few months later. Thanks to your comments I now see that in the future LINUX will prevail.

  • Comment number 40.

    "never having to worry about viruses and the like"

    ezeuba, if you think that you'll "never" have to worry about viruses whilst using Linux, then you are sadly mistaken.

    No system will ever reach perfection, and there will always be a way to break some computer software.

    OS X and Linux users should beware - as their OS gets more popular, it will become more worthwhile for hackers to try and break in.

  • Comment number 41.

    It is true that not all things are possible with linux (i'm talking about blueray etc) and for the time being then if you want to use blueray etc etc you might have to find a short cut, but as demand for it grows then linux distros will be able to include support for such things in each new release.

    viruses on any system are a threat (its a good point that as more people use linux it will become a target for hackers) however the way linux works makes it more secure to start with, and with an av program and a firewall you should be fine.
    I use an av and a firewall on my linux system, mainly because i dont want anything that may get on my system to spread to the other 2 pc's on the home network (the other 2 pc's run xp) i also use a virtual machine as well to run some of my open university course software, (i also run an av and firewall on the virtual machine)

    on a side note there have been reports of viruses designed for windows systems that will run on W.I.N.E (wine is the program that adds a compatibility layer to linux, in order to run windows software and some games) i have also heard tell of viruses infecting systems running cedega, so it pays to be careful no matter what system you run.

  • Comment number 42.

    I use both XP and Ubuntu (and KUbuntu) and I'm absolutely not biased against one or the other. XP has the advantage that is has been around for a very long time and pretty much all the bugs in it have been fixed. I can't remember the last time I switched off my XP machine, I always leave it on stand by when I leave the office.

    Ubuntu, on the other hand, releases a new version every 6 months. The one I have installed on my PC is v6.10, and there are no official kernel releases for my version anymore. The lack of new kernel versions for my Ubuntu is causing compatibility problems, and I have to upgrade the whole OS to the new Ubuntu release.

    I love Linux both as a home desktop OS and engineering tool, indeed I'm writing this comment from Ubuntu, but there are some bad points of Linux as well.

    For me the major drawback of Linux is the fragmentation of the Linux world. There are literally hundreds of different Linux flavours that are not compatible with each other. Installing a program that is not part of the official release ends up being a rocket science. Although, I do appreciate what Mark Shuttleworth is doing, I do not understand why he needed another Linux flavour that is basically a clone of Debian. He could have put his money to support Debian instead. Yes, I know he does indirectly support Debian as well.

    On the other hand, for a home user sticking to official releases only, using Linux distros is extremely easy. Even installing drivers is not as difficult as some say it is.

    I expect the real push to Linux to come from the developing world. Linux distros come with free Office Suite, multimedia applications, and all the other productivity tools needed to run a business. The combined cost of buying those tools in Windows can easily be more than £500. £500 is a lot of money in any country, even more so in the developing world.

  • Comment number 43.

    There are millions of threads out there on the net playing out the the eternal Windows vs Mac vs Linux argument ad nauseam. The fact is that Linux has been a trusted OS in the enterprise server market for many years, so it is tried and tested technology. Ubuntu is the first Linux distro that has succeeded in pursuading people it might also be a pretty useful desktop OS.

    IMO Ubuntu will be more successful than other distros on the desktop because it offers all of the following:

    1. It's 100% free
    2. You can try before you blitz your existing OS
    3. You don't need to know how use the command line or write compiler scripts in order to install applications - although it does help ;-)

  • Comment number 44.

    I've used OpenSuSE many times before but it doesn't really live up to the well known phrase that 'Linux is good for old computers'. I am really looking forward to using Xubuntu, which is Ubuntu with the Xfce Window manager instead of Gnome, designed to be better for older computers. Linux will be the way forward if things keep going on as they are. However, a lot of people do like the look of Apple's OS, but as usual people are put off by Apple's massive price tags.

  • Comment number 45.

    Well, quite excitedly I am typing this from my Ubuntu (Linux) 8.04 'Live CD'

    Can't find a problem with it.

    I would install fully, but I am a bit of a games nerd so I need to stick with windows for the time being.

    When I get a laptop just for me.... maybe I'll switch full time.

  • Comment number 46.

    Im not so sure there will ever be full resolution blueray playback on Linux. HDCP licensing doesnt allow any player to be created for open source OSes on the PC, at least thats the very heavy, and pretty much confirmed rumour. Sony simply doesnt trust its precious protected stream to an open source OS. It will only ever be possible by illegal means. Im not saying i approve of HDCP, because i certainly dont, but most casual users will not know how to get around the problem. For this reason Linux will not be a force in home computing for a long longer yet.

  • Comment number 47.

    I would like to thank Mr Shuttleworth for supporting the excellent Ubuntu Linux operating system I have used for some years now. The latest beta 8.04 version is faster and quite stable with alpha available in a few days. Returning to Windows bloatware would be a personal nightmare. It's true that some hardware manufacturers do not always provide Linux drivers but with increacing popularity this issue is likely to fade. To respond to some of your other correspondents, why should I use Windows when there is a better, free, linux alternative for everything I need?

  • Comment number 48.

    to aboylearning:

    you can only talk with what you've learned, and i pity you boy. figure out a much better way to learn. anyway, my unsolicited one cent thought for you and believe a lot of us here is familiar of this line " YOU CAN'T GIVE WHAT YOU DON'T HAVE"


  • Comment number 49.

    What can I say? I'm an IT Engineer and constantly recommend ubuntu to my clients.

    Vista X64 on my Acer laptop = No end of trouble, no Wifi, no webcam, nothing worked properly, couldnt find drivers for the hardware.. and so on.

    Ubuntu X64 on same laptop = Installed from the disc, all drivers including webcam and wifi installed as standard. no driver hunting at all. Stable, fast and totally reliable.

    Oh, and nearly £100 cheaper. Rock on!

  • Comment number 50.


    You mention you use a virtual machine to run some of your open university course software - can I ask what you use, as I will also be in the same position soon! Do you know there is a native Linux version of FirstClass that you can download from the FC website?


    You don't have to blitz your Windows installation - the Ubuntu CD allows you to install it on a separate partition on your hard drive.

  • Comment number 51.

    What no Photoshop!

  • Comment number 52.

    "This is quite deeply offensive to anyone who has been close to the open source. "

    Yes it is - but it is even more offensive when companies such as Microsoft seek to damage FOSS by threatening it with software patents - some of which patents represent out-and-out 'thefts' of FOSS innovations! For example, ideas first seen in the Enlightenment pager and the ICCCM extended clipboard formats have been patented by Microsoft, and both Microsoft and Yahoo! have patent applications covering fundamental RSS technologies.

    I think Mark Shuttleworth underestimates the software patent threat and overestimates Yahoo!'s friendliness to FOSS. The fact that many Yahoo! employees are FOSS users or advocates means little and Yahoo!'s submission to the Gowers review of IP was not written by a friend of FOSS. Not by any stretch of the imagination.

  • Comment number 53.

    Linux might be great for servers, but its just not a home PC OS. It really isnt, and until it can make the switch from Windows easier and be 100% compatible it wont be. Not for the masses.

    Half the problem with vista drivers were companies using the new OS as an excuse to make people upgrade. Nvidia did this with the Nforce2 chipset. There was no reason the soundstorm could not work with vista, but they chose not to make drivers. If windows dies the same will happen under other OSes. It does happen in the mac world to.

    An OEM copy if Vista can be had for as little as £50, its not really the many hundreds some like to quote. There is always a way to pay less than the retail box cost.

  • Comment number 54.

    Well I don't know about the masses and I am not an unsophisticated computer user but many of my friends and family are. They are very happy with their (mostly) Ubuntu PCs and laptops and probably wouldn't switch back to Windows or Apple even if either of those ever did become 100% compatible with GNU/Linux.

    And as far as I'm concerned, Windows is not a credible home PC OS and never again will be. It probably could match the technical excellence of many of the features of a GNU/Linux desktop if it tried hard enough, but it couldn't even begin to replicate the stuff that is only possible because of the nature of FOSS.

    Those features, technical and otherwise, are worth a great deal more to me than £50. If FOSS wasn't free of charge, it would have to be many times more expensive than its proprietary 'equivalents' before I'd even consider switching.

  • Comment number 55.

    Back in the ancient days :) of Windows 3.1, people had a choice of other office software (e.g.Corel Office, Borland Office, Agility and many others) as well as Microsoft Office. The same was true of databases, software development and aything else you chose to run on your PC. Over the period between then and now that choice has largely vanished and although in the past that was largely due to Microsoft producing (relatively) good products, these days it is mostly due to Microsoft being unfair and anti-competitive to *prevent* anyone else from competing with them.

    Linux and FOSS addresses the balance. The GPL license (which Bill Gates hates) prevents Microsoft from buying out or subverting FOSS applications. Many of the applications that run on Linux also run on Windows and Apple OS/X (such as Firefox, OpenOffice and Scribus for instance). Linux is faster than Vista on the same hardware (and the GNOME or KDE user interface desktop *can* look as flashy as Vista is you want it too - just most people don't want it to!).

    Linux users don't in general run anti-virus programs - they (automatically) download patches that fix the vulnerabilities that could be exploited by viruses. Linux systems are also set up (in general) so that normal users can only access their own files and not any other part of the computer. There is no UAC (user access control as per Vista) - you have to *be* root (administrator) to install applications or modify critical parts of Linux. Linux users also (in general) have firewalls installed that have been part of the operating system since the early days.

    As a Linux user I can do almost anything that Windows users can do except play certain proprietary games (and if you look on you will see how many Linux games there are :) ) I have no pirated software on my PC and do not need to pirate any - there are over 20,000 free/legal packages in the Ubuntu software repository.

    By all means stick with Microsoft Vista/XP or Apple OS/X if you wish - I think that choice is very good for the computer industry - but once you have used Linux for a while (and been bitten by the bug) you will never go back :)


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