I am a software engineer at Google on the Android project and the creator of the Java testing framework TestNG. When I'm not updating this weblog with various software-related posts or speaking at conferences, I am busy snowboarding, playing squash, tennis, golf or volleyball or scuba diving. Cedric is a DZone MVB and is not an employee of DZone and has posted 90 posts at DZone. You can read more from them at their website. View Full User Profile

2009 will be the year of Linux

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Honest. At least, that's what Jim Zemlin thinks. And he should know, because he is an executive director at... oh, the Linux Foundation. Mmmh.

The resilience of Linux advocates never ceases to surprise me. I think that nothing short of the sun going super nova will make them stop believing that Linux will ever become mainstream.

This article hits a new high, though, because the rationale behind this prediction is a new system that allows Linux systems to boot in just a few seconds. And just based on this wonderful technology, Jim predicts that Linux will ship more desktops than Windows in 2009.

I really wonder if I live on the same planet.

Regardless of the mathematical impossibility of such a prediction just based on market share alone (not helped by the fact that Wal Mart recently announced it would stop selling Linux computers), the claim that boot times are so important is just plain absurd. Most computers simply go to sleep or hibernate when users turn them off, and from my experience, Windows, Vista and Mac OS turn back on in less than ten seconds in these conditions. Ironically, Linux laptops are still struggling with the concept of hibernation, so it's quite possible that Linux users shut their machine off completely much more often than Windows and Mac users do, which would explain why boot times are so important to them.

Linux users turning off their machines all the time... Anybody else seeing the irony in that?

But the absurdity doesn't stop here.

A recent article in the New York Times makes a similar claim, saying that 30 seconds to boot are 29 too many. I couldn't help but chuckle at the following:

Better, but what I want is a machine that’s ready in about a second, just like my smartphone.
One second to boot a smart phone? Or even a regular phone? I don't think so. The fastest boots I have seen in any kind of phones usually take in the 10-15 seconds to boot (and much longer for more recent smart phones, ironically).

Maybe the author was talking about a phone that's already running, then? Of course, in this case, you can indeed flip your phone open or wake it up with a gesture, none of which will take more than one or two seconds. But we are now talking about waking up a device from hibernation or stand by, so let's apply this comparison fairly, shall we? Admittedly, phones still beat computers in time-to-wake-up, but we are really comparing 2 seconds and 5 here, which is no cause for stopping the presses, although it was apparently worthy of an article in the New York Times.

At least, the New York Times piece barely mentions Linux, so it's a little more credible than Jim Zemlin's self serving article, but if what I have read in the recent weeks is any indication, 2009 will be the year of Windows 7, not Linux.

From http://beust.com/weblog/

Published at DZone with permission of Cedric Beust, author and DZone MVB.

(Note: Opinions expressed in this article and its replies are the opinions of their respective authors and not those of DZone, Inc.)


Geertjan Wielenga replied on Tue, 2008/11/04 - 8:35am

If Linux wants to be considered as a serious alternative to Windows, they'd change the startup experience, for one thing. Windows starts up nice and shiny with simple glossy user interface. Linux (and Solaris) start up with long listings of internal processing outputs. Does anyone other than really technical people care about all that stuff? Anyone else is scared off by it all.

Lieven Doclo replied on Tue, 2008/11/04 - 9:03am

Linux (and Solaris) start up with long listings of internal processing outputs. Does anyone other than really technical people care about all that stuff? Anyone else is scared off by it all.

 Booted Ubuntu recently :)?

Geertjan Wielenga replied on Tue, 2008/11/04 - 9:10am

Ubuntu, every day. I'm not on 8.10 yet though.

Mark Thornton replied on Tue, 2008/11/04 - 9:15am in response to: Geertjan Wielenga

[quote=geertjan](and Solaris) start up with long listings of internal processing outputs. [/quote]

Vista does that too about once a month (i.e. after updates). Ubuntu hasn't shown those text listings for a couple of versions (at least by default).

 Oh, and one of my two Vista machines frequently fails to resume from deep sleep. It is a bog standard Dell system. So I think there are still problems with this capability in Windows land too.

Otengi Miloskov replied on Tue, 2008/11/04 - 9:30am

Linux is for techy folks, always have been and always will be. We still need Windows for Joe or the average user.

My grandma could use Ubuntu but she just know what is Windows not Linux.

Since the 90's I listen to some people say this is the Linux year and so on and so on, Lets be real, it will never happen.

Macs sucks, Apple sucks and they will be a niche, so please Microshaft make Windows 7 enjoyable again as Windows 2000 or XP and be done with this mess.

Tom Wheeler replied on Tue, 2008/11/04 - 9:49am

I think mere economics will increase the adoption of free (price), regardless of whether users want it or not.  When computers cost USD 200 or so, how can computer makers justify the expense of a commercial operating system? 

You're already seeing the shift to Linux on netbook-style machines.  For consumers who use their systems for e-mail, browsing the Web and typing letters, the operating system is totally irrelevant. The shift towards Web-based applications makes it even more so.  

Tom Wheeler replied on Tue, 2008/11/04 - 10:01am

While I've been using Linux for almost 14 years now, I disagree that it's for techy folks as OtengiM said.  Perhaps non-technical people would have trouble installing Linux, but I'd say they'd have just as much trouble installing Windows (particularly Vista). 

In fact, the new Toshiba laptop I bought in August came with Vista on it. When I first booted it and tried to install MS Office from a DVD, I found that the machine didn't even recognize the DVD player!  Through some Web searching, I found that this is a fairly common problem and that I had to use regedit to flip a bit and then reboot.  Although that did fix it, I'd doubt my dad or grandmother would be able to do it.

Most people never bother to install an OS anyway -- they just use what comes on the machine. And so what really matters is whether they can use that effectively.  Again, a segment of computer users simply browse the Web, check e-mail, look at family pictures, listen to CDs and maybe write a letter now and then.  My 90-year old grandmother fits into that category.  I replaced Windows XP on her computer last year, mainly so it would be easier for me to backup, update and fix remotely. I set up her machine to play CDs automatically and there are just two desktop icons: Web and Mail.  When I went to visit her again this weekend, she told me that she finds it much easier to use than before.  It turns out that things like virus scanner, Windows update and all the things on the desktop and start menu are confusing to some.

Jacek Furmankiewicz replied on Tue, 2008/11/04 - 11:22am

Give the guy a break...he has a PR job and he is doing it.

MS is saying (for the last 20 years) that we should all be using nothing but Windows and Sun is saying that we should all be switching to JavaFX.

You just laugh at it and move on (and I speak as a happy Ubuntu user)


Daniele Gariboldi replied on Tue, 2008/11/04 - 12:17pm in response to: Tom Wheeler


I think mere economics will increase the adoption of free (price), regardless of whether users want it or not.  When computers cost USD 200 or so, how can computer makers justify the expense of a commercial operating system? 

You're already seeing the shift to Linux on netbook-style machines.  For consumers who use their systems for e-mail, browsing the Web and typing letters, the operating system is totally irrelevant. The shift towards Web-based applications makes it even more so.  


Completely agree. I set up my old laptop with a 5 years old Windows XP with Xubuntu for my wife and child. They need firefox, thunderbird, openoffice and some simple games.

Netbooks fulfill the same requirements.
Today a full open source stack satisfies 75% people.
But it must be pre-installed and ready to use.

John J. Franey replied on Tue, 2008/11/04 - 12:48pm


Likely, 2009 will be year of Windows 7 hype.

Wikipedia lists availability of the software.  Up until last week, it could only officially be in the hands of friendly 'partners'.    Last week, it was distributed to attendees of MS Professional Developers Conference, and was subsequently leaked.

I couldn't find (google) an official retail release date announcement.






Mike P(Okidoky) replied on Tue, 2008/11/04 - 1:38pm

I've used Red Hat since last century and about a year ago I got fed up with hardware problems. ATI video card support just sucked, and I also had a lot of wireless problems. Red Hat does not coordinate with AMD about kernel version compatibilities and header file problems (AMD's ATI drivers need compilation because they're protecting their precious code that they *think* is so magically valueable - it's not, they're just being difficult).

I then switched to Ubuntu, and all problems vanished. ATI drivers installed, wireless just worked. Fed up with gnome too, which I think is a pig that's become more clunky and less features upon every version, I switched to Xubuntu, which uses the XFCE window manager. Now I'm happy again. And boy, installing sofware using Synaptic is just beautiful. Instead of downloading source and compiling and resolving library problems, I now just click what I want and it just works. This software management runs circles around both Windows *AND* the Mac.

Playing video and dvd's isn't much of a problem either, although you have to enable some external repositories.

I'd say it keeps getting better. They're sure as hell not going to give up, it's here to stay, and it *WILL* keep making progress. You yourself might turn your back because of frustrations, but you'll be back...

A relative of mine who doesn't have any computer experience was running Windows and recently got on the internet. They messed up their Windows installation after a couple of months of use. They asked me to come over and fix it. I'm going to instal Xubuntu, and I'm installing a periodic ping script so that I know what ip address they have. I can then remote administer it using ssh and/or vnc. I *know* that they won't be able to mess up their box and if they do, I'll re-create the user and they're all set again. Linux is wwaayy superior over Windows to me - unless you need Office or play games a lot. But even for games there's Codeweaver's Crossover - those guys rock - check out the titles they've managed to make work!

And as for the Mac, I have a MacBook as well, and I don't find it such a perfect system at all. I can't get the mouse to feel right for one, because the acceleration curve just can't get set at a workable speed. Slow is too slow. I've tried fixing it by downloading utilities that are supposed to fix it, but I still can't get it to feel right. OSX is also suffering from major unintentded double click syndromes. I click, move the mouse, click again, and it thinks I double clicked. Clicking on an inactive window doesn't register the click, and I think even there also, a second click to quick results in a double click. It just all seems so arbitrary and wishy washy. The command line terminal doesn't quit when I do control-d. The commands are different and there are less of them. Paths are different. I'm not seeing all those scripts I can look in to to see how everything is wired together. Filenames are case insensitive. It's a 32 bit Mac and I'm fed up with Apple's slack arrogant behavior towards Java. I don't like my Mac at all, and only use my Xubuntu system. I thank Sun every day I turn on my computer, because they've always been up to date with Java for it. I don't understand why even people at Sun at the JavaOne conference are flaunting around their MacBooks. I think the Mac is a direct threat to Java's progress. I don't care about the iphone or ipod touch at all. Closed, no Java. I'm rooting for Google's Android. Those guys need to stay with it, keep working on it, and just like Linux, keep getting better and never up.

Jacek Furmankiewicz replied on Tue, 2008/11/04 - 2:01pm

I personally believe this will be the year of Linux...but not on desktops...let's be honest, Windows is too entrenched there.

 But netbooks, cell phones, various embedded devices, set top boxes, etc, etc...that's where the possible inroads for Linux are.

Eating into the Windows desktop monopoly is like trying to organize a Java session at a Microsoft conference...valiant, but ultimately futile...even if you possess a better technology.

Manjuka Soysa replied on Tue, 2008/11/04 - 6:00pm

The year of whatever Linux/Mac etc will have to co-incide with the demise of Windows.

That will only happen with the demise of the desktop. Who knows, that might happen soon enough. The idea of having to go to a fixed place to do your work or browse the net seems more and more ridiculous when you can get the same power and functionality on the go.

Windows doesn't have the dominance in smartphones or and other mobile devices. Would be interesting to see the split in laptops. I recently bought a mini laptop with Linux installed. The idea of paying about 60% more for the same laptop with Windows seemed ridiculous.

Jonathan Doklovic replied on Wed, 2008/11/05 - 10:42am

openSuse 11.

Easy as any other OS and looks pretty too.

I think once people get over their fear of linux and try a reasonable GUI distro like openSuse or Ubuntu and then realize that 90% of all the software they need is free, they will start switching from windows.

(is notepad or even wordpad really a reasonable text editor? or are they just junk that's free?)

Kristian Rink replied on Fri, 2008/11/07 - 3:36am in response to: Geertjan Wielenga

Well... I wouldn't focus on boot-up too much, actually, given that most non-technical people I know of usually do boot their machines once, at best twice per day and spend the time waiting for bootup to proceed with getting some coffee and things like that. I usually do things just like that, as well. :) But in terms of "desktop usage", I see a wholly different problem: Then and now I have to spend time explaining to non-technical users not things like "this is 'start menu' on OpenSolaris", "this is how windows look like on Linux" or "this is where to find your files" but rather things which are way more "low-level", like "what are files and applications", "what is a window", what means "drag-and-drop", things like that... 

 And, on that level: I haven't seen any serious progressions in any of todays desktop environments to be honest. No matter whether MacOS, Windows, Ubuntu or OpenSolaris: These things are still the same. Even in 2008 users still have to "store" data to "files" in some "folder" (while virtually every Web 2.0 application - imagine WordPress - allows for simply "temporarily abandoning" a piece of text to get back at it later without the notion of explicitely "saving" it to some "physical" place). Even in 2008 users still have to think which "application" to use to open a "data file" (which, at worst - Windows - still is solely identified by its file extension). Even in 2008 users still have to decide to which (unique) folder to store their data locally rather than just knowing it is "stored" at all and they're able to find it, say, using tags, keywords, ... .

 To cut things short: I think in terms of user interfaces there still is a long way to go, and, so far, everyone (Microsoft, Apple, the Open Source crowd) seems to prefer wasting time on introducing shiny 3D desktop effects and translucent windows rather than making a "real" cut and introducing new concepts more accessible to non-technical folks. But I am not sure to ever see a change here... :(


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