Abandon All Fear

What nobody else seems to be saying…

[Linux] How Xandros Shot Linux In The Foot

Posted by Lex Fear on April 6, 2009

It was an open goal. M$ decommissioning  XP, Linux being the only capable OS of running on this tight new ultra-portable sub-notebook. Dare we say it… “The year…” had finally arrived?!

So how could it go wrong?

El Reg has just published a new article on the competition between Windows and Linux on the Netbook, and by outward appearances, it looks like Micro$haft is has caught up and overtaken Linux in popularity… but I haven’t seen anyone yet analyse WHY:

Microsoft cries netbook victory against Linux

Rubbing in the salt, LeBlanc added: “Not only are people overwhelmingly buying Windows, but those that try Linux are often returning it,” he said.

Why, you might ask? LeBlanc: “Because users simply expect the Windows experience. When they realize their Linux-based netbook PC doesn’t deliver that same quality of experience, they get frustrated and take it back.”

Aah, the Windows experience, but what is this elusive ‘Windows Experience’ that Linux lacks? Is it the need to purchase an external DVD drive in order to install software? Is it the slow-down and need to defrag every couple of months in order to return to a usable speed? Is it the comfort of knowing you will get no vendor support from M$ and have to rely on techy friends to spend 30 hours ridding your system of that pesky “mywebsearch” trojan that you got from accepting some preloaded-with-malware stupid free game download that you installed last week which is now bringing your system to a halt?

No, let me attempt to define the “Windows Experience”… It’s the comfort of having a logical bottom of screen taskbar, showing the time/date, running programs, background programs and a start/logo to click on which gives you instant access to all your programs.

Sure Windows XP is old, it’s vulnerable to every security risk going, it randomly does things in the background and must be constantly purged of bloat. But the thing about Windows XP is that it feels professional. It feels like a grown up operating system.

Don’t tell me about familiarity, plenty of boomers have managed to get their heads around Firefox, Google, Skype, Blogger, MySpace, Facebook and the rest of Web 2.0 not to mention the myriad of operating systems installed with their mobile phones. Last time I checked Web 2.0 was not bundled with Windows XP. No, it’s not familiarity that’s an issue here, it’s the GUI.

Just contrast this child-friendly looking interface:

To this more grown up one:

If something looks like it’s made for children, adults won’t use it for themselves. I mean, couldn’t Asus/Xandros just package the Easy Mode GUI as an option rather than the default GUI?

It doesn’t matter that the Easy Mode is more intuitive and ‘easy’ for a smaller screen. Mainstream people don’t mind the small text, the small buttons, the little graphical issues that a full blown OS like XP presents when it tries to open a 1100×600 window on a 1024 x 600 screen. They accept that as part of the package, just like they accept they’ve got to run several different internet security solutions in tandem just to be able to surf and write email.

And I know what you’re going to say – “But Xandros can be configured to look just like XP, they even changed the name of the applications…” Well that just turns it into a cheaper imitation of XP, something that will turn mainstream users off faster than a childish GUI.

Average net-heads see installing Windows XP on their netbooks as a kind of technological feat, as though it somehow demonstrates their technical prowess and smarts despite the fact it’s more a demonstration of their fear or stepping outside their comfort zone.

What netbook manufacturers and Linux advocates need to do if they want to keep flogging a free OS on their netbooks- Is to offer a professional, decent looking OS which has the same functionality as Windows, the same comforting feel, yet is not, and is not trying to be, Windows. They need to embrace the alternative OS. Don’t try to make it easy and don’t try to make it like XP. Just make it good.

I got a Samsung NC10 for Christmas from my wonderful wife. It came Windows XP Home ULPC.. do you know how shitty that version is? And yet, for a larger hdd and Intel Atom processor this is the OS of choice over something like Ubuntu or Fedora!

Needless to say I set about formatting the Windows Virus off my nc10 and installing Ubuntu from a pendrive (yeah – did you know some Linux distros have options to create pendrives now?), later moving to Ubuntu Ultimate.. which wipes the floor with both XP and Vista.

Check this out:

My Atom processor handles Ultimate Edition quite well, starts to balk if I enable desktop Sphere, but handles Cylinder no problem.

Sure, there are always going to be people who are stuck in their comfort zone, and die-hard Windows fanboys, but distro makers have to stop trying to emulate the ‘Windows Experience’, and cheating newbies out of the ‘Linux Experience’ like Xandros has with the Eee PC.

It was an open goal for Linux which somehow become an own goal, but the match is not over. They seriously need to rethink and regroup if they want to prevent what is becoming the year of  Windows 7 on the Netbook.

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2 Responses to “[Linux] How Xandros Shot Linux In The Foot”

  1. StefZ said

    I’m using an NC-10 with XP and, yes, everything you have to say about XP and Xandros coming across as being too Mickey Mouse is true

    I am, however, sticking with XP

    Partly because of familiarity but mostly because I have a small collection of legacy software I use for photo and other media editing for which there aren’t Linux equivalents (yes, I know netbooks aren’t intended for that sort of thing but the NC-10s been working for me)

    There were also some issues with running Ubuntu on a NC-10 which I’m not sure have been resolved or not…

    http://nc10ubuntu.wordpress.com/2008/12/15/progress-on-unresolved-issues-1/

    If XP wasn’t on the table and it was a straight choice between Vista and Ubuntu I wouldn’t have thought twice and gone with Ubuntu

    I’m using open apps such as Open Office and Firefox on XP and looking out to fill the gaps with other apps that are available on both XP and Ubuntu, with a view to biting the bullet and moving over to Ubuntu at some point down the line

  2. Lex Fear said

    I take it you have or do use Ubuntu on another machine?

    It’s well worth it on the nc10 I must say – once you get it set up right – thankfully there’s a community doc at ubuntu.com now (just google “ubuntu samsung nc10”). I have monster icon theme on mine which looks pretty darn ugly-cool.

    With regards to imaging tools. Is it things like Adobe you are wanting to use. Obviously you’ll be aware of Wine, but there are tools for purchase like Bordeaux, and Adobe have brought out AIR for Linux now.

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