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Summary:

While the majority of readers here use Mac and Windows systems, I’m consistently surprised at how many readers also use one form of Linux or another. Judging from anecdotal evidence I’ve seen in the reader comments, the folks who do use Linux use it as an […]

While the majority of readers here use Mac and Windows systems, I’m consistently surprised at how many readers also use one form of Linux or another. Judging from anecdotal evidence I’ve seen in the reader comments, the folks who do use Linux use it as an ancillary tool, secondary to the operating systems they spend most of their time in. Recently, this positioning of Linux as an ancillary tool has picked up steam. Even if you don’t use Linux at all now, the trend may affect you.

Over on the OStatic blog, we’ve written about Splashtop, which is Linux-based instant-on software found on many of Asus’ systems. Splashtop isn’t the primary OS on systems that use it; instead, it allows users to flip in and out of a Linux-based OS for on-the-fly tasks, when it’s undesirable to wait for a lengthy system boot-up.

Our sister blog GigaOm recently did a good piece on what’s missing from the current crop of netbook systems. “Instant-on” was at the top of the lengthy wish list.

Today, DeviceVM, the company that makes Splashtop announced that it has received $15 million of Series C venture funding–in addition to the good will it has from Asus. On top of that, the instant-on Linux concept has also made its way into the new Windows-based Dell e4300 laptop, which Mike Gunderloy writes about here.

It’s very useful to be able to access e-mail, the web, and various applications without waiting for a full system boot. This is an ideal space for Linux, where there are many compact, purpose-driven distros to work with.

For some observers in the Linux crowd, this application of Linux may seem to ghettoize an OS that they care about, but especially in the case of the Dell laptops, it could make Linux useful for a lot more people. That’s also true of the Linux-based netbooks from Asus, Acer, and others.

Meanwhile, several blogs today are reporting that Dell’s new sub-notebook will ship with Ubuntu pre-loaded, and Dell has been expanding its line of systems based on Linux. The two large, public companies that have had widespread success with Linux–Red Hat and Novell–don’t build their business strategies around Linux on the desktop. In fact, they both say that they don’t have much focus on the desktop because of the success they have elsewhere. However, whether Linux makes its way to you as an ancillary, on-the-fly convenience, or in a low-cost, offbeat portable computer that might be an adjunct to what you use all the time, it may creep up on you.

Is Linux on your radar or do you already use it?

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  1. Confessions of a former Linux system administrator and embedded Linux developer:

    I used to love Linux. I used it on over 100 servers at my workplace, ran it on my desktops at both work and home, and installed it on my non-techie sister’s PC for awhile. I wrote embedded software for Linux, and worked to port various Linux distributions to small handheld devices such as web tablets and PDAs.

    I hardly use it at all now. I run OS X on my MacBook Pro. Of 12 former coworkers (sysadmins and developers), 10 of them run OS X now as their primary OS, 1 is just about to switch to Mac, and the last guy, well … we’d never be able to pry Linux from his cold dead hands.

    You wrote that various embedded distros of Linux might “ghettoize” the OS. I submit that something else has already done that: poor, inconsistent user interfaces. I’m not just talking about the GNOME or KDE desktops. I’m talking about Linux UIs across the board – both at the operating system level and application level.

    One of the reasons I switched to OS X was that there was a consistency to the user interface. Moving from one application to another required very little adaptation. Most OS X software developers seem to either recognize the usefulness of a consistent, attractive user interface, or something about the platform’s developers toolkits helps in designing one. Or maybe both.

    Compare and contrast to Linux, where there are no good usability guidelines. Every new release of GNOME or KDE incorporates one or more “features” lifted from other operating systems (eg: a spotlight-like search feature, or a dock with big shiny icons, or a Windows Sidebar-like widget system, etc). Don’t even get me started on Beryl/Compiz … how an Open-GL accelerated flame or water-droplet desktop effect enhances your productivity is an entirely separate debate.

    Linux developers suffer from featureus-grabus-incorporatus. Anything that looks remotely interesting in another OS is subsumed into the Linux environment, with little thought as to how it will all work together. The end result is a bunch of different distros and applications that work well, but with no consistency or elegance to them.

    Another thing: I think that Linux developers and companies spent a little too much time in 1998-2002 focusing on competing with Windows, and completely missed Apple’s resurgence. A lot of geeks like me were lured away by Apple … and now we don’t look back. I know I’m not the only one – at the last 3 developer conferences I attended, there was a veritable sea of Macs out in the audience.

    When non-techies ask what computer to buy, I used to tell them to install Linux. Now, I point them at a Mac.

  2. “…the folks who do use Linux use it as an ancillary tool, secondary to the operating systems they spend most of their time in.” maybe visitors to your site do, but its debatable whether the majority of linux users are ony “part-timers.”

    its been quite some time since i’ve actually used windows, or a mac for that matter.

  3. “…the folks who do use Linux use it as an ancillary tool, secondary to the operating systems they spend most of their time in.” maybe visitors to your site do, but its debatable whether the majority of linux users are ony “part-timers.”

    Wow – the voice of ignorance. Thanks for your well thought out and insightful comments. I didn’t know I have been using an ancillary tool these past few years. Please keep up the shoddy work. I guess this blog proves that blogs need not be concerned with those messy facts.

  4. I use Linux whenever I can which is all of the time at home. Unfortunately I’m still forced to use it at work.

    Chad
    http://linuxappfinder.com
    http://feedsanywhere.com

  5. Richard Chapman Tuesday, August 19, 2008

    “Every new release of GNOME or KDE incorporates one or more “features” lifted from other operating systems”

    You mean like multiple desktops? I think it’s called “Spaces” in OS X 10.5. Amiga had that capability in 1985. How about the core of OS X itself. Does BSD ring a bell? You say you use your Mac at work. Did your employer buy the Macs for you and your buddies? But the deal breaker for me is: Is the Mac an open system or closed proprietary system? I don’t care if it flosses my teeth, if it’s closed then I’m just paying for the rope that will eventually hang me and you too by the way.

  6. I gotta agree that “ancillary tool” is a little offensive. If anything is my ancillary tool, it’s Windows. I boot it up when I’m finished working and it’s video game time. That’s it.

  7. @42gems, Mikey, and Robert. I don’t mean that Linux is an adjunct if you’re a dedicated Linux user. I mean that most people use Windows or Mac systems, and a small percentage of people use Linux. What I’m saying is that something good–Linux–could start to accentuate what people get done with those dominant operating systems.
    Also, when I say “most people” I don’t mean that mean that there are no Linux users out there. I mean most people.

    Best,
    Samuel

  8. I’m starting to adopt linux for my programming/development use. Windows is just for games only =)

  9. Let’s face it. Linux rocks, but it is not yet user-friendly enough for everyday use, and the bulk of the market – the mainstream, if you may, still camps out on Windows. A small, growing fraction, is now using a Mac. Does Linux run mission critical stuff? You bet your ass it does. Is it ready for the novice user on the desktop, given its driver issues, compatibility issues, lack of solid productivity tools, etc.? Unfortunately not. Hey – I love Linux as much as the next Linux lover – I have Hardy Heron, Fedora, RHEL, Debian and Unbreakable on different test and production environments. But, I see its woes. I understand why Novell and RedHat have canned plans, and Ubuntu fights alone. A long way to go for Linux. Fight on. But, be real for now.

  10. nicholas butler Tuesday, August 19, 2008

    Ive been using Linux as a Desktop system for since 10 years now.In the last few years the desktop experience has rocketed ahead of where it was thanks to Ubuntu.

    However the Internet has also jumped ahead and in doing so Flash and Video have become an important part of the experience.

    Until the OSS Community have that warm and fuzzy talk with Adobe to settle the constant development Lag then the desktop no matter how pretty and usable will be a few years behind the windows and mac clients.

    There are work arounds and there are a few cameras currently supported but the results have been less than stunning.

    Add to this the lack of SaaS replacements to core applications for some users and the occasional kernel upgrade which can break a bespoke system them we have a constant level of uncertainty for any but the more experienced user.

    Further Dell and Asus are not running a clear platform of repositories woring with the OSS Community. Leading many of the core developers of the community asking those companies for specs and information to aid with support , creating more LAG.

    Meanwhile Linux on the server has been and continues to be a boom with benefits of scalable and manageable tools that make a sysadmins life far easier however the growing lack of “net” awareness of many conventionally trained windows sysadmins is causing the occasional break and interrupt in that growth.

    Overall theres a bubble of interest and the instantOn will prove more a gimmick than a gateway OS and result in many consumers perceiving linux as “that thing which runs Firefox”

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