Skip to comments.The end of the Linux desktop wars
Posted on 06/02/2011 5:51:46 AM PDT by ShadowAce
The desktop wars may be finally ending, but not quite the way we may have expected.
Take the GNOME Shell interface, which reviewers admire for its general direction but have some issues with the actual execution within GNOME 3.
Meanwhile, Ubuntu's Unity continues to be a strong influencer in the interface arena, seeking that mobile device sweet spot.
Over on the KDE side of the house, the interface is doing just fine, but everyone is wondering what the fate of the Qt libraries will be given Nokia's ever-growing commitment to Microsoft Windows Phone 7. This guy thinks that with the phasing out of Symbian, Qt is doomed to fail.
I am holding out more cautious optimism, mostly because the Qt community has always been more than just Nokia (and yes, Aaron Seigo may have had to beat me over the head with that fact a few times), but also because of the work being done to port Qt functionality over to Android, as one example.
Still, I have to wonder about the timing of it all. As HTML5 continues its inexorable march towards standard-hood, it seems to me that all of this ruckus about making a better interface together for any platform (PC, mobile, web, what have you) is about to be seriously blown out of the water.
That means "disrupted" for all you market-speak folks out there.
As loathe as I am to use the term, disrupted may well be the best descriptor for what HTML5 may mean to GNOME, KDE, as well as proprietary interfaces in the market today. There's nothing quantifiable about this, mind you; just a lot of anecdotal evidence that seems to point to a small but growing movement to use HTML5 as an application development platform instead of native apps. For instance, this developer has a project going to implement Gtk3 interface tools within HTML5.
The big draw for HTML5, of course, is that it lets app developers build one app for multiple platforms. Developers can put them together and deploy them how they wish--they don't have to use an app store if they don't want to. And HTML5 apps can be licensed anyway the developer wants. Native apps have their own advantages, too, like better hardware access and faster speeds. HTML5 is behind enough in these areas that it can make a dent in plans to deploy in the web-based platform, particularly if the app in question is graphic-intense or needs to render data quickly.
As HTML5 keeps advancing, the performance gap between native and web should close. If that kind of closure happens, then it becomes a wide open field as far as interfaces go. Native apps will still have their place, but how much developer effort will be needed in KDE or GNOME if HTML5 apps do take off?
The irony of this is that Linux, with its more stable and secure properties, offers users and OEMs a much better platform to use and sell, respectively. It is well-suited for netbooks and PC-based platforms, and its Android cousin has shown it has what it takes to kick butt and take names in mobile space. Because of Linux' proven capabilities, HTML5 apps would do very well on Linux-based devices... and potentially minimize the importance of Gtk- and Qt-built native apps and the environments on which they run.
If interfaces do become little more than glorified web browsers, we may all look back at the GNOME vs. KDE arguments and wonder what it was all really about.
I don’t know about HTML5 for example to really comment intelligently but only to say we’ve seen this movie before. Java as going to ride to the rescue in the 90’s and it was going to be write once run everywhere. And no doubt other new paradigms as well. Things never quite work out that way in real life, do they?
Linux derivatives on laptops/desktops will never be more than a geek’s hobby so long as they require a geek to do anything other than surf the web.
I think that when my 12-yo son can install a Linux system from scratch--without any prior Linux experience--without me around to help, and I never have to support it, then I think that it is ready for anyone to use.
The Java thing and this HTML5 thing sure seem to be similar, don’t they? :)
HTML5 encourages distributed memory and processing
Local apps need not apply
who cares about privacy...
Hush, they may be listening on /.
It served a purpose “Write once, run everywhere” remains broadly true with Java
However, you pay a penalty. Under the hood is “virtual machine” which takes up CPU cycles.
Think of the Star Trek Universal Translator. If you were to build one to talk to a Chinese person, every time you would say something in English, the machine would spend some time (be it seconds or milli seconds) translating to Chinese before spitting it out to the intended recipient. Now when Mr. Shanghai Guy replies to you, it AGAIN has to translate back to English and takes up some time.
No matter how fast your processor is, the penalty is there and if you add up all the transactions going back and forth and back (millions upon billions upon trillions), the penalty becomes noticeable.
So, soon you start to not look forward to these Universal Translator conversations with Mr. Shanghai Guy and the day he announces he has learnt English via Berlitz, you jump at the chance to talk in English with him and ditch the Universal Translator.
In Javaspeak, you prefer a Native App vs a Virtual Machine App
Another issue with Java. It built applications that had the most common GUI and functionality features. That makes sense as it had to run “everywhere”. What this meant was that if a particular Operating System (like Mac or Windows) had some unique GUI or functionality features that no other Operating System did, Java in most cases did not support them. So, all the Java apps looked pretty boring and felt “limited”
In the above example, imagine if all your Universal Translator did was limit itself to the common words and grammar of all the languages. Now, you would be stuck talking “formal English” and any of the colloquialisms of English would not be translated and neither could you indulge in your fondness for puns (a particularly English pleasure). Limericks would befuddle the translator.
So, yeah, Java did the job when needed. However, it never was going to replace a native app. With Windows maintaining a 90% domination of the desktop, it makes sense for app makers like Intuit to write Quickbooks as a native app.
Same has applied to Apple. Look at all the iPhone/iPad apps. Native apps...all/most of them.
My 7 yr old has a Linux mint system. At work I use an RH5 VM hosted desktop to open shell on various midrange and mainframe hosted Linux systems. My wife on the other hand is still quite happy with windows.
I’ve played with linux before and may again but it will never be my primary operating system. The main reason for that is to run the games and programs I use I’d have to scrwearound with emulators. I don’t mind doing it but why would I bother unlesss I had too?
I get suckered by that line everytime!
I remember UBUNTU was the latest round I got suckered into. “Trust us...it’s ready for primetime”.
So I jump in and after various tries and what not I finally get it installed. Now it’s time to do something useful with it (like sniff the wireless traffic). Uh Oh, my build of Ubuntu doesn’t have the package ready to go and my driver needs to be tweaked. Dang I just wasted 2 days.
I couldn't believe the hoops I had to jump through to install support for mp3, flv, etc., for Fedora 15. Something I can NOT see the average Joe User doing.
Why? Because you can't type two commands into a terminal? Or open the software manager?
Given those, I agree-I don't like Ubuntu either. It makes things more difficult than they need to be.
Granted, if you don't know the actual steps, I can see the frustration. But the same would be true of any new OS. It's not a failing of Fedora. I had mpg/flv/mp3 support on my F15 laptop within 5 minutes of the install.
I have no problem sniffing wireless traffic with Wireshark under the latest Ubuntu 11.04 Natty. Didn't take 2 days to get it done either.
I remember having to execute more than a couple commands to get the codecs I wanted.
Post up your two commands to download the repository and install the codecs and I’ll give it a shot. I’ll install Fedora 15 in a VM right quick so we can start with a clean install.
2. Install the codecs:
su -c 'yum localinstall --nogpgcheck http://download1.rpmfusion.org/free/fedora/rpmfusion-free-release-stable.noarch.rpm http://download1.rpmfusion.org/nonfree/fedora/rpmfusion-nonfree-release-stable.noarch.rpm'
That should do the trick for plugins as well as xine and amarok. Note: I didn't actually type all this out. These commands are found on the net, and you can copy and paste them into a terminal.
yum install gstreamer-plugins-bad gstreamer-ffmpeg gstreamer-plugins-ugly xine xine-lib libdvdcss xine-lib-extras-freeworld -y
Ok! I’ll post up how it goes :)
Right, but it all depends on what hardware you have. And I was trying to do it under a version of ubuntu that was from 3 years ago—whatever version that was. I want to say 8 or 9...possibly 10 though. I had to go through a coupld different versions to get it to install properly so don’t remember which one I settled on.
Oh and my laptops are replaced every 18 months and are typically higher end so the drivers often don’t exist for Ubuntu until I’m about ready to upgrade to a new laptop.
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