1) why oh why?
by Ender Ryan
Why was it decided that Lindows would always run as 'root' by default? That seems like a pretty bad decision to me, and many others as it's the number 1 complaint of many Linux users who would otherwise like to give Lindows a try, but perhaps we should hear why that decision was made.
Is this how Lindows is going to continue to work in the future? I think this is one "feature" of Win9x that would really be better to leave in the past.
I think the larger issue here is how do you balance security vs. ease of use. We are committed to providing a secure desktop operating system and make policy decisions about how to achieve a secure but usable system. For example, not plugging a computer into the 'Net would make it really secure, but not very usable. We did decide to build in a pre-configured firewall because it's largely an invisible security layer that adds meaningfully security to the desktop but stays out of the users way. Most security compromises are external attacks, not root vs. non-root issues.
Historically, multi-user systems made sense when hardware was expensive because not everyone could afford a computer and you could leverage the cost of expensive machines by creating multiple users and doing time sharing. But times have changed and computers are now ultra-affordable with PCs starting at $200.
So there's less need to share computers and have multi-user accounts with all that overhead and complexity. There aren't “administrators” in many of the homes, businesses and schools we are selling to. These are personal computers where the owner needs to be able to set the clock, change the wallpaper, configure a printer, install a flash drive, or load a new piece of software without bumping into nuances of computer science.
Take a Microsoft Windows XP or Mac OS X machine out of the box and use it and it operates in a similar manner to LindowsOS – the first person to touch it can do whatever they want. If we make Linux harder to use then other operating systems, users will not embrace it. Users just want to get their work done, they don't want to be computer experts and they shouldn't have to be. Of course, if they want to add a default password or setup multiple accounts and restrict access to their own machine, they can of course do it on all of these operating systems, including LindowsOS, even though none default that way.
2) User feedback on Linux-based desktop OS
Since the Lindows PCs have been selling for a while, your marketing and customer service folks must have gotten some kind of feedback from current or prospective users.
What are the things people ask for? What are some things general users would like to see in Lindows or Linux-based desktop distributions that aren't there yet?
When we started Lindows.com we believed that software installation was extremely difficult for most users and the biggest obstacle impeding widespread desktop adoption. So we invested considerable engineering in Click-N-Run http://www.lindows.com/clicknrun, which makes software installation (including downloading, menu items, icons, MIME types, etc.) in LindowsOS a one-click experience. It's far superior to anything Microsoft Windows XP has.
Since then, we've heard from consumers about what they want or think is missing in a desktop operating system. The number one item people thought was missing was virus protection. (This surprised me and wouldn't have been my guess; more on this topic in a later question.)
There are some key areas of hardware support which no desktop has today which users consistently bring up including: USB wireless support, Plug & Play USB drives (flash, hard drive and CD/RW), firewire and ACPI (power management for laptops). We hope to address most of these in our next release of LindowsOS version 4.0 coming shortly.
On the software side, it's amazing how quickly the community is filling application holes and a real testimony to the advances is making. Six to twelve months ago the list of “missing” software applications was different then it is today. For those seeking a Visual Basic-like program, Gambas (www.lindows.com/gambas), has made great strides. GAIM www.lindows.com/gaim has emerged as a solid meta-IM client, etc. The biggest individual holes today are probably an online banking aware personal finance program (ala Quicken) and a web development tool that is tightly integrated for creation and management such as FrontPage or Dreamweaver. (We'll announce an very cool, affordable product available in Click-N-Run next week which addresses the online banking need.) Video games is an entire product category missing for Linux. There are some great new companies like GarageGames (http://www.garagegames.com), but the high profile games are absent. Finally, video streaming is weak on desktop . None of the big three codecs (QuickTime, Real, Windows Media) have shown any real commitment to offering support. I think there's a real opportunity for one company to commit to gain the upper hand on the others with a true cross platform solution.
3) Should Linux Remain a Cult Object for Geeks?
Do you think the hostility toward Lindows that characterizes some members of the "community" can be attributed to their desire that Linux remain a "geeks only" cult object?
Linux can literally save consumers billions of dollars on software, so I sure hope we can bring it to the masses – that's really our business.
I attended UCSD and as part of my major I was required to take an assembly language programming class. It was one of the computer science “weeder” classes where 60% of students fail or drop out. I struggled through it with a passing grade and had a great sense of accomplishment. The next year the major requirements were changed alleviating the assembly language requirement. I have to admit I wasn't happy with this decision since it meant that those sharing my degree after me didn't have to go through the same torturous experiment.
Until recently, it was a badge of honor to get a Linux desktop running. LindowsOS makes it possible to install in 3 minutes and have it auto-recognize all your components and then install most software with a single mouse click. Those who went through the “weeder” class path naturally won't be that excited.
When you started, you put a lot of effort into Wine, sponsoring things like WineConf. That didn't work out, but Wine improves constantly, as the latest releases of CrossOver and WineX show. Do you think you'll ever return to it someday, or are you disillusioned with the whole thing?
We really respect Jeremy White, Codeweavers and the rest of the Wine development team, but we did move away from Wine sometime ago. It was really a financial decision. Here's the analysis we went through. Microsoft makes roughly half of their profits from selling their operating system and half selling their office suite. If LindowsOS users still have to depend on Microsoft's office suite then they will only be able to save money on half of their software purchases. Additionally, they'll still have to deal with restrictive licensing, activation codes, endless security issues and expensive upgrade options. Undoubtedly Microsoft would continue to use their might to bully computer users who use one part of Microsoft's offerings into using the others, like they do now with Microsoft Word costing $349 and Microsoft Office priced at $399. We really need to move to a Microsoft-free computing solution to realize dramatic savings.
We thought it much better to continue to focus on the ease of use, but invest our energies in promoting and polishing native programs rather than legacy Micrsoft Windows based programs. This way we can save consumers considerable money on the OS and the other largest expenditure – the office suite. Another critical development is that the StarOffice/OpenOffice products really made major advances. We can now comfortably endorse and distribute these products.
While we stopped promoting Microsoft Windows program capability, we strongly emphasize file format compatibility which we think is critical. People often have a need to open and edit a doc, xls or ppt file and that's what we give them. By focusing on affordable programs, we can give computer users these capabilities for the lowest price.
5) MP3.com in retrospect
Looking back at MP3.com, what would you do differently if you were to start the music service business all over?
Do you think MP3.com was a good business idea in the first place? Do you think the sale of the site to Vivendi Universal was a good idea?
Our goal at MP3.com was to bring digital music to the masses and I think we made a lasting impact and left the world a better place then we found it. We fought hard in congress, courts and in the business world to make MP3 a universal standard because it was the best thing for music fans who were our ultimate customers. Today MP3 is a universal standard, DRM schemes have been thwarted, portable players are legal, virtually all hardware supports MP3, so consumers are in a relatively good place because they can freely move their music around.
We didn't accomplish everything we wanted to do. We championed the concept of a “Music Service Provider” and backed the concept up with phenomenal technology which would store a user's entire music collection online and zap it to any device via an open API (PC, portable, phone, car, CDR, etc) with a single mouse click. Licensing challenges, restrictive law interpretation, and music industry reluctance to embrace new technology torpedoed our efforts on this front. It's interesting to hear the press gush over Apple's itunes “one click” purchase and load to portable player features – something we had two years ago. I think we laid important groundwork to make this happen, but missed delivering on our entire vision.
I sold MP3.com at a time and price that I thought was good for our shareholders and have no regrets and wouldn't change any decision I made.
by Znonymous Coward
Microtel and Lindows have put togther some great deals for Wal-mart.com; How are sales going?
Will the Microtel + Lindows PCs ever make it to Wal-Mart store shelves?
Sales are strong - we have the best selling products at Walmart.com. I'm confident that success will lead to retail store distribution on retailers' store shelves. We're waiting until our next version (4.0) to distribute LindowsOS in major outlets. The quality needs to be there to satisfy everyday (non-technical) computer users. I can't stress how critically important this is to the success of desktop Linux.
Linux MUST be preinstalled on computers to be a sustainable business. The Microsoft stranglehold on OEMs must be cracked to change the dynamics of the PC business. Until this happens, no desktop Linux company should be considered a viable longterm company.
7) PATENTING ONE-CLICK-INSTALL
Dear Mr. Robertson,
Could you please update me on your efforts to patent your one-click-software-update solution?
If you are granted such a patent, do you plan on allowing the open source community free (beer/speech/both?) licensing?
We don't have a patent on Click-N-Run and have not filed a patent application. I'm not a big believer in method patents. Patents need to be “non-obvious”. I'm not sure “one click anything” is patentable or should be – whether an order process (think Amazon) or software installation routine.
Not having viruses is one of the upsides of . Why do you sell a virus scanner for Linux?
Shouldn't you be presenting the lack of viruses as one of the reasons to switch?
I shared your viewpoint initially, but then we heard from users and discovered something new. What people thought was most lacking from LindowsOS that prevented everyday use was “virus protection”. I was surprised by this result so we talked to users to understand their logic. It turns out that they have been so traumatized by the virus problem on Microsoft Windows that it has shaped their view of the world. Many told us they would NEVER use a personal computer without virus protection because either they had been infected and publicly embarrassed or they knew someone close to them who had. Others said that their corporate policy mandated virus protection or the employee could be disciplined. It's no longer a rational decision, but simply a presupposition to using a computer.
Let me use an analogy. Say someone grew up in the crime-ridden inner city project and then decides to move to the country. No matter how hard that real estate agent tries to use statistics and reasoning to convince them they don't need locks on their doors of the house they're buying, the buyer won't believe it because that's not the world they grew up in. 95% of the world has grown up in a Microsoft virus-infested project. Microsoft has cleverly positioned it as a solely external problem so they don't have to incur the cost to fix it. Bravo to Microsoft for good marketing which has saved them billions in support. Consequently, computer users don't see the root of the problem as shoddy Microsoft programs that if they were to abandon the problem subsides, but rather a fact of life of personal computing. It's a lock on the door they insist on having – regardless of the crime statistics in their area.
So we offer a one-click virus solution powered by Central Command. Virii are a tiny problem today on Linux, but as more desktops migrate it would be foolish to think that it will never be a problem. Just stopping inadvertantly passing on Microsoft Windows vulnerabilities has value to many consumers, as I've attempted to illustrate to many people considering desktop Linux.
9) Click-n-Run vs apt-get
Lindows is based off of the Debian code and uses apt-get to install software from the Click-n-Run repository. What is in place to keep people from changing the apt-get sources from CnR to the Debian sources and install something like Synaptic (and getting newer, updated packages for free) instead of paying the $99/year (with a few execptions)?
It is true that LindowsOS is Debian based, but Click-N-Run is no longer apt-get based. We're now on the third generation of the Click-N-Run architecture and it shares virtually no code with apt-get. As often happens you learn a lot when you do version 1.0. In the first version we learned the limitations of apt-get and were forced to create our own system which would better support personalization, commerce, error handling, and low bandwidth environments. We saw about 60% success rate using the first version of apt-get. Today we achieve over a 90% success rate. And we're able to offer advanced features like Aisles, CNR Express, a full featured commerce engine, and critical features like auto-retry and partial install resume.
LindowsOS users are free to use apt-get or any other feature. We don't remove the command line or limit their ability to install software. They can “open the hood” if they want to. Our goal is to do all the heavy lifting for them for a fair price and build a profitable business. If we can't offer value beyone what they can get from apt-get then they shouldn't give us any money. So that keeps us working hard to offer value.
The Warehouse part of the Click-N-Run (http://lindows.com/warehouse) adds tremendous value as well. Not only do users get an informative graphical representation for many products, but because listings are based on popularity they can get a listing of the most valuable software as measured by the community. We also spend considerable amount of time working on the top 25 programs. We typically customize them to make them work well together and on LindowsOS. Since anyone can browse the information for free, we have even learned that our warehouse is used by many who don't use our products as a resource. We recompile the programs to use the “My Documents” folder by default to resolve one of the common complaints from users that “they can't find their saved files”. That's obviously a simple example, but those are the types of things that make all the pieces work well together for LindowsOS users and will bring desktop to a wider audience.
What ever possessed you to put up the bounty on the Xbox project?
To understand my motivation it's probably important to understand my belief in personal ownership. I believe that if you purchase a product, you should have the right to change it, move it, or alter it for your own personal needs. The seller should have the right to say that you void the warranty or refuse to support it if you change it, but you should still have right as the purchaser to make that choice. This goes for music, software and personal computers. My belief is that as long as consumers have this right, then they'll use that freedom to make choices which steer our society in a generally positive direction. I'd contend we've already witnessed this with MP3.
The Xbox is Microsoft's first attempt at a closed architecture PC. What they learn from the Xbox will be in their next generation closed desktop PC system. Microsoft wants to move to a world where THEY decide what software a computer runs because that will allow them to extract the most money from consumers. They'll position this product with a comforting sounding name like “trustworthy” computing and tout the benefits, but it's really about shifting power over an individual's PC from the buyer to Microsoft. Microsoft will put up a permission gate before any software can be installed which will have a fee associated with it. It will ultimately give Microsoft control over a user's computer. This is why we do not, in any way, limit what software users can install.
I think it's critical that consumers have control over their computers and the ability to decide what software they want to utilize. I look at the Xbox as simply a personal computer. This is why I funded the Xbox reward.
NOTE: I funded it through http://pubsoft.org, Russ Nelson's great concept which I hope catches on.
Consumer freedom is also one of the primary reasons I started Lindows.com. If we can get a substantial number of desktop users we will ensure the longevity of an open architecture PC and ensure that the computing world evolves in a consumer-friendly direction.
Thanks for the opportunity to answer your questions.