thetargos Feb 16, 2013 @ 10:42am
Ramblings of a Linux Old Sea Wolf...
After spending most of the morning viewing threads about new users struggling to install Linux with Steam as their motivation for doing so, I couldn't help but to remember the old days when I first started fiddling with the Penguin in the mid 90s.

Back in those days, and you have to keep in mind that even major hardware vendors had support (anyone remember 3dfx still?) and some games were made available (Loki), the major showstopper back then wasn't about games as much as.... Internet access!!!

Yes! Back in the days before broadband widespread, what kept people off the Linux Deskop wasn't lack of applications as much as it is today, but rather specific hardware support for Internet access... And I do not mean here ethernet, or even wireless (yes there was wireless back then too, only not as widely available), but rather hardwas support for modems, as the bulk were actually soft-modems meaning there was no actual silicon doing the signal coding, but rather the CPU did that and the hardware only provided the phone line connectivity (in a very simplistic kind of explanation, of course!). Back then hardware modems (painless to get going in Linux, as only very few soft-modems did have actual support) were difficult to come by and even quite expensive. DSL and Cable saw the days of the Dial-Up Internet accesss dead (king for pretty much all the 90s).

Obviously then came many changes, nvidia bought up 3dfx, broad band internet access changed the face of gaming in many ways, and suddenly gaming became pretty much the main reason (that and also productivity proprietary software, AKA MSO), at some point I'd say the reasons given were 65% lack of productivity software, 25% gaming, 20% miscelaneous, including Dial-Up internet access... But as the 2000s passed, the shift was to about 50% gaming, 25% productivity apps, 10% lost to Mac, 10% miscelaneous, 5% disinterest. And to my surprise this seems to have been sticking even more in recent years.

In the last five or so years, the strides made frist by OOo and then by LO in becoming a viable alternative to MSO for most of the tasks (and even could be a total replacement if compatibility wasn't required) with only a few gripes here and there, and other applications that people simply need on a regular basis (be it from Adobe, or other vendors as well). At any rate, in the end the gaming balance seems to be tilting in favor of Linux with the coming of Steam to Linux, and not only with their software, but also from other developers as well... And for what I'm seeing, this has had also a positive impact in Linux gamers.
Showing 1-7 of 7 comments
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anandrkris Feb 16, 2013 @ 10:53am 
Well-written. Succinctly said :-)
Shark Feb 16, 2013 @ 10:58am 
Well, the biggest thing that's holding back linux is that you can't buy a pc with it in a normal store. Linux has been ready for normal people for a few years now.
jahallooh Feb 16, 2013 @ 11:23am 
When people are really fed up with Windows they tend to go out and buy a Mac... because 'free' is too cheap to be good... People can't use Firefox because it's soo different from IExplorer, but they'll switch from Win to OSX in a heartbeat because they paid good money for it. /sadpandamode
arc| Gps Feb 16, 2013 @ 12:05pm 
Intresting to read, I did not know about the internet problems back then.
Schotty Feb 16, 2013 @ 12:38pm 
Yeah, I second the modem fun. I was on Slackware 96 (think that was version 3, could be wrong, but came in a nice box set) and then Red Hat 4. I remember fiddling with kernel compile options to get my modem to work, and sound card. In the end, I gave up on the winmodems and got a nice (albeit expensive) USR Sportster modem. Nice hardware, and worked on linux.

Ahhhh, the goode olde days :P
thetargos Feb 16, 2013 @ 8:13pm 
Good ol' USR!!! Brought a tear to my eyes!!, we were hunting for one for YEARS to be able to finally connect to the Internet from our home with Linux. It turned out to be QUITE expensive and I had to resort having a relative buy it in Canada and sending it over (expenses which we had to pay for, of course!) to MEXICO! I paid twice as much as the cost of the thing, and it ran for almost as much as a then midrange-to-highend video card (i.e circa $150 bucks)!!
[Linux] unbridledExüberance Feb 16, 2013 @ 8:27pm 
Huh, that's interesting. I starting using Linux as my primary OS about 5 years ago (and as my only OS about 4 years ago), and I know a reasonable amount about the history of UNIX and UNIX-based operating systems, but I had never head about modem compatibility problems with Linux.

It's kind of funny how there's always been one major thing stopping people from using Linux for everything (aside from just not wanting to change or lack of knowledge). First, there was the relative obscurity of Linux, then there's the modem compatabilty. That's no longer a problem, but then people can't run their Windows programs on Linux. Then tons of great free software comes along that's way better than the proprietary stuff. But people still can't play their Windows games. Then WINE comes along and slowly started getting better and better until it can run a very large percentage of Windows games, even new ones. This happens just in time for NVIDIA to unveil their Optimus system which they made incompatible with LInux for reasons that basically don't make any sense to anyone. So then the Linux community takes matters into their own hands and reverse-engineers their own solution to make it work.

Right now we seem to be at the stage where there's no major thing preventing Linux from overtaking other operating systems- just a little more improvement in compatibility and more vendor support. Will things finally start to move in favour of Linux this time or will it still be another few decades before Linux becomes a competitive/dominant OS?

It's hard to say, but I think we've got a pretty good chance right now.
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Date Posted: Feb 16, 2013 @ 10:42am
Posts: 7