Some interesting stats from Ubuntu
techAdmin
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Stat sheet for some non free packages: popcon.ubuntu.com/restricted/misc/by_inst

Note the very low numbers. This is pretty much exactly what I thought in terms of real world user numbers.
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julian516
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Interesting indeed and the number are low for what is supposed to be the "leading" Linux distribution - and the one I use every day, along with sidux.

But it all turns on how they generated the data. Any word on where to go to answer that question?

For example, I can understand tracking downloads, but how do they know whether or not the downloads are "used"?
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techAdmin
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The numbers are from apt installs, so they are by definition used.

Since basically all nvidia card users will run non free drivers, the nv ones being only simple 2d, these stats are pretty reliable to get a sense of the overall picture. There will of course be users that don't get counted, like ones who simply never upgrade, or those who opt out of ths survey, but even if you allow a very generous percentage to that group, you're still talking about miniscule market share.

I've done some more advanced research on this, using in depth web stats, coupled with global stats derived from a series of reliable sources, and my results were virtually identical to what these show.

Why the low numbers? Very simple: my conclusion is the near pathological inability to maintain a stable desktop or kernel api will constantly make people who are trying Linux based systems finally give up and leave, not all, but enough to stop any serious growth from happening. Given core kernel api changes every 12 to 18 months, and core desktop api changes (not to mention the lack of a single desktop api application programmers can rely on) every 3 or so years (and that means that the app you wrote for say kde 3.5 will have to be rewritten for kde 4, unlike windows, which is about to maintain a basically functioning desktop api, for xp, until 2014 I believe, although it did change with vista.

Basically, linux suffers from geekitis, ie, geeks don't mind learning or tinkering routinely with their systems to make simple things work, but regular users do mind. It's my belief, by the way, that had Mark Shuttlesworth not directly intervened in the desktop space, and committed serious ongoing resources to fixing long term desktop issues, via Ubuntu, we might not be even as close as we are today, but it's an uphill battle against a group of developers who view stable apis as hindrances to their ideas. This is, of course, why apple grows and grows... Clearly nothing is perfect, but nothing is further from perfect at this point re what real world users want (ie, they want their apps to work without having to do a full system upgrade just to install one single new program, and they want the hardware they bought to work in the future, no matter what kernel developers decide to do)
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julian516
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Thanks for the explanation. Very helpful and much appreciated.

Your speculation is plausible. I am a relatively new Linux person (2+ years). Linux has been a fine experience for this recently retired fellow who just wanted to learn something.

But my "production" OS these days is Ubuntu 8.10 which I have resisted upgrading precisely because I see no point to rocking that boat.

It is one thing for me to do a system upgrade every 12-18 months but if I ran an organization I probably would want greater stability. Enter something like stable Debian, I suspect.

But if I were the typical organization I probably would be running my boxes with Windows XP until they break, if only because the "human skill upgrades" are even more disruptive than the technical upgrades!
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sixonetonoffun
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I switched to Kubuntu after several years of using Mepis. Hoping the LTS version would be exactly that. I think it will be but KDE4 has made it feel a little bit like a Rolling Distro. Though it has been my choice to apply the updated releases. But you pretty much have to.

Its stable enough for me but I think techAdmin nails it with geekitis. Guess I have it but there is no doubt most people just want a click and go system. Which I think Google-Chrome O/S may be for many netbook users. Users who are not interested in programing, more likely to browse, chat, email and blog.

Now if I were trying to get the most bang for the buck in a school or non-prof org rolling out a Linux base might be worth while. But it would really depend on the user base. Fedora 13 KDE, Kubuntu or maybe even Open Suse. But that long term support would have to be there.

Really you have to follow the corporate users because without their support Desktop Linux is just a hobbists O/S.
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