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Can Linux Pick Up Users Abandoning Win98? 491

Mark writes, "When Microsoft announced the end of support for Windows 98 and Millennium Edition on June 30th, there was a lot of talk of these users migrating over to Linux desktops. In the weeks since this announcement, there is a very noticeable increase of activity on community boards and blogs from newbies asking questions about switching over to Linux, and how would they support their new systems." According to, Windows 98 and Windows ME account for about 4% of the total PCs in the world.
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Can Linux Pick Up Users Abandoning Win98?

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  • nah. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by sporkme ( 983186 ) * on Tuesday September 19, 2006 @08:21PM (#16142518) Homepage 0218250 [] quasi-dupe. I hope so, but I doubt it. I have always believed that the most likely inroads for for Linux is through people that have never owned a Windows box, or have never learned to use a computer. I expect that almost all Win98 users will go/have gone to buy a new computer with XP or Vista preloaded. Most linux converts are already geeks.
    • Upgrading boxes (Score:5, Insightful)

      by EmbeddedJanitor ( 597831 ) on Tuesday September 19, 2006 @08:27PM (#16142564)
      You probably cannot run Vista on a box that currently happily runs 98, so anyone moving to Vista will likely have a spare PC. That's likely to free up a few healthy machines that people might redeploy as Linux PCs..... or there might just be a whole lot of PCs going to the landfill.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by russ1337 ( 938915 )
        I switched my 800MHz Compaq Armada 110s to Ubuntu to purge it of the evil Windows Me long before they stopped 'supporting it'. (in my mind they stopped supporting the customer the day they released it)

        The switch from Win 95/98/Me to Ubuntu is easy...and free... you should try it.
        • Re:Upgrading boxes (Score:5, Insightful)

          by cloricus ( 691063 ) on Tuesday September 19, 2006 @09:30PM (#16142949)
          I was about to say this...Windows 98 users have very little trouble switching to Linux. Back when XP came out it was a sidegrade to Linux which a huge group took advantage of and now it is an upgrade which being free should really be pushed hard. Linux with the help of wine practically runs every 3.1/9x program in existence and supports every chunk of hardware sitting out there on boxes that old. It should be a case of dropping in a Ubuntu install cd and everything works...Or even better a wizard based low requirements distro that grabs all of their data from win9x and dumps it on an iPod or similar and then installs Linux with all of their documents moved across. Really the Linux community should pull together and push this chance for what it's worth.
          • Re:Upgrading boxes (Score:5, Interesting)

            by RM6f9 ( 825298 ) * <> on Tuesday September 19, 2006 @09:54PM (#16143071) Homepage Journal
            The individual who comes out with a same-drive conversion guide from 98se to (distro) with losing no functions of the MSOffice software (The wife uses Access and Publisher and can NOT afford the time/learning curve to switch) will get me purchasing it: I am happy with the k7m AMD 700 hardware I've got and do NOT want to be forced to buy more Microsoft product just to maintain the status quo...
            • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

              by Nimey ( 114278 )
              I believe Wine runs MS Office rather well. Just install $DISTRO and then install its Wine package. Ubuntu is always a good choice of distros. :-) If you want to be certain of running Office, buy a copy of Crossover Office.
          • Re:I alread did (Score:3, Interesting)

            by Technician ( 215283 )
            For those looking for real examples, count me in. I had built a box and put 98 on it years ago becasue I had a legal copy. Recently it went from the fastest hardware in the house to the slowest several times. (my kids use that machine). Fixing it required a format and reinstall + configuration + drivers + applications = hours and hours of my time.

            When the frequency of the rebuild moved up to just a couple months, I dropped Ubuntu Breezy Badger on it and later upgraded to Daper Drake. It is still the fas
      • Re:Upgrading boxes (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Nefarious Wheel ( 628136 ) on Tuesday September 19, 2006 @09:32PM (#16142964) Journal
        Whether we like the solution or not, a lot of old PC's will be running a Citrix front end to save changing the corporate desktop hardware, because their user base is married to Windows.

        Is there a decent Citrix client for Linux we could suggest? Is it time for a new one? I wouldn't recommend Tarantella, given the SCO tie-in. But if someone built a Linux box that could natively handle Citrix, enterprise customers could save big bucks at the client end by not worrying about Windows licenses or hardware upgrade just to handle what amounts to a juiced up browser. A simple Linux implementation that supports a Citrix client, all packaged and ready to go, zero to minimum config. Think about it.

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by Nimey ( 114278 )
          Tarantella has nothing to do with SCO, they just sold Caldera the SCO name. Don't be an idiot.
        • Re:Upgrading boxes (Score:5, Informative)

          by RandomJoe ( 814420 ) on Tuesday September 19, 2006 @10:28PM (#16143236)
          Is there a reason not to use the "official" Linux client from Citrix? My company is definitely beholden to MS, but they recently set up an Internet-accessible Citrix gateway to most of our internal apps. I went to the Citrix website and got the Linux client. Works for everything we use it for, anyway... Now I don't have to dig out my work laptop for every little thing when I'm at home!

          Granted, I had to go install it myself - it would certainly make things much nicer to have a client ready to go in the distro's package manager.
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by grotgrot ( 451123 )
          You have the wrong SCO. The original SCO developed Tarantella and sold all of the UNIX business to Caldera in 2001. Old SCO renamed itself to Tarantella. Caldera failed in their Linux venture and after a few years decided to rename themselves SCO. It is that 'new' SCO/old Caldera that is pulling all the stunts suing IBM. Tarantella/Old-SCO was bought by Sun last year.

          Tarantella has supported Linux for a long time. Citrix has only ever done enough with Linux in order to not annoy Microsoft. There is n
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Shadowmist ( 57488 )
          If you're consulting for someone, leave the politics about SCO, Microsoft, Caldera, whatever. out the door you walked in. If I recommend software or hardware it's the one going to be the best fit for needs or budget, lawsuits, FUD, politics be dammed. Be smart and be reasonable abougt your users. Don't expect someone who's never used anything beyond Win95/98 to handle any distribution that requires any significant level of geekhood. After all, they were quite happy in that comfortable rut until now.
      • Maybe they would migrate to Linux but why would you want then, They are computer-backward folks who have not updated their equipment. They will be a support nightmare.

        Additionally why do you want to encourage them to use legacy hardware? It uses up more electricity to get the job done than modern hardware. Makes the user less productive. Why encourage that.
        • Some people use older hardware because they don't really have much choice. I hate to break it to you, but not everyone can afford the luxury of a new computer and some others can't justify the expense (and for some people a few hundred dollars is a large expense) to replace something that still works for them.

          Let's face it, apart from playing games, most people use computers at home for looking at things online, writing email, and maybe doing some basic word processing or other similar things.

          Most of the people who browse slashdot are pretty well off in the scheme of things. Appreciate that, because not everyone is so lucky.
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by shmlco ( 594907 )
            The flip side of this is that if they're still running 98 and ME, the fact that MS is dropping support isn't really a factor in their thinking anyway.
          • by falconwolf ( 725481 ) <> on Wednesday September 20, 2006 @02:25AM (#16144112)

            Most of the people who browse slashdot are pretty well off in the scheme of things. Appreciate that, because not everyone is so lucky.

            You said it. Being on disability, I have been for almost 10 years, I know I haven't been able to afford new computers every few years never mind every two or three. The PC I'm using now is more than 6 years old. I got a new PC with Linspire installed a few day ago but it's not ready for me to transferr all the docs I have on this one yet. I'm hoping to change my situation soon, I knew some photographers that wanted to start their own websites and I was thinking about giving a try at creating websites for them, but first I want to create one for myself as an exercise and to show. After I get the Linspire setup I'll give it a shot.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        anyone moving to Vista will likely have a spare PC. That's likely to free up a few healthy machines that people might redeploy

        You and me, probably, but Jimmy Bo and Johnny Sue, probably not. More likely, that spare PC will be donated to a charity, set out for the trash, or moved to the garage for 3 years before it's disposed of. I think the average user who buys a new Vista PC will be satisfied with their Vista PC, and won't want to bother Linuxing-up their old one. Unfortunately :(

        Just one guy's tho

      • Many of the boxes that can happily run 98, can run neither Vista, nor XP and not even GUI on top of Linux (and these users will of course expect to have GUI). And before you flame me for this last opinion, think 486 @ 100Mhz w 16 MB of FP RAM. A perfectly usable win98 machine. Not even the smallest distros provide you for that (according to recomendations... however, once I have time, I'll try to get it to run with XFCE or some *box). In fact, even MMX on 233MHz with 256 MB of RAM is sluggish under Knoppix
    • Re:nah. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by CaymanIslandCarpedie ( 868408 ) on Tuesday September 19, 2006 @08:57PM (#16142757) Journal
      Agreed. For the most part the OS is and should be a non-issue. To paraphrase what my long post could be, the answer is "Its the apps stupid!". And before I get a ton of replies about there are apps that can do much of what they need for Linux. The issue is most people don't care. They know an app, they are comfortable with it, and it doesn't matter what other apps can do. Until THAT app is available, Linux is a non-issue.
      • The issue is most people don't care. They know an app, they are comfortable with it, and it doesn't matter what other apps can do. Until THAT app is available, Linux is a non-issue.

        I disagree. I don't think most people even know what apps are on their PC. How many, when asked "What version of Microsoft Office do you have?" will respond, "oh, I have Microsoft XP" or I, worse, "I have Windows XP"?

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          Well sure. They may not know the name but again, that doesn't matter. They can call thier entire computer "my CPU" (GOD I HATE THAT!!!!). It doesn't matter what they call IT. The fact is they are comfortable with IT and want IT. If IT doesn't run on Linux, its a complete non-issue. If there is an alternitive which is a 100% clone of IT maybe; but there aren't 100% clones (functionality maybe presentation, no).
        • Re:nah. (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Mistshadow2k4 ( 748958 ) on Tuesday September 19, 2006 @10:05PM (#16143117) Journal
          I don't think most people even know what apps are on their PC.

          As someone who fixes computers for a (partial) living, I have to disagree on that. That was true until about three years ago, I'd say. Now most people running 98 have been running it long enough to know what they're doing. The vast majority don't upgrade simply because they don't need to. Since it still works fine for them, I can see their point. When I get hold of a Win98 box, it's usually because of one piece of hardware going bad. Contrast that with all of the spyware-filled, virused XP boxes I get on a weekly basis.

          I think this article is mostly so much wishful thinking, though. What good can Linux do for people running Win98 on older hardware? Unless they're going to be switching to Damn Small Linux, I'd say not much. Tons of hardware support was dropped from the 2.6 kernel, not all of it legacy hardware by any means. I still have a computer with a Via 10/100 ethernet card that worked perfectly with the 2.4 kernel and still works fine with DSL, but no distro with a 2.6 kernel can configure it. That ethernet card is hardly legacy hardware since it came out about the same time as Windows XP. How could you possibly recommend Linux to someone running hardware even older than that?

          Now don't get me wrong, I'm a happy Debian-user, but I think the days when Linux was good for older hardware are gone, and the majority of Linux supporters don't seem to have realized this. I'd recommend DesltopBSD over Linux to someone running older hardware, since I don't think DSL is really a newbie-friendly distro.

          As to the number being 4% I think that's off as well. I'd say it's much higher than that. I know lots of people still running 98. And as long as their hardware works fine, I'm not going to tell them that they need to upgrade. Non-geeks have other things to spend their money on, like their kids. That's something that geeks seem to have trouble understanding, that not everyone wants to spend a ton of money on the latest and greatest hardware. But most people are like that, and if they bring you a computer wanting a memory upgrade and you try to get them to upgrade the whole system, you're going to lose a customer.

      • by kjart ( 941720 )

        I wouldn't necewssarily disagree, but I see it slightly differently. I don't think there are many users that are hung up on a specific app in general (except maybe Office). What they are hung up on, however, is the fact that they have WIndows so everything they could possibly want to run will work.

        The everyday user does not want to think about whether they can get some software working in Linux - they want to be able to download/buy/etc something and have it work right away. People buy Windows so that the

      • The issue is most people don't care. They know an app, they are comfortable with it, and it doesn't matter what other apps can do.

        Spoken as a true amateur. In a corporation, what matters is the total cost of ownership, it doesn't matter if the cost comes from the applications or from the OS.

        When you add up the costs, you'll see that the biggest economy comes from improving the OS support, because that's the activity that can be scaled up. Different users will have different apps, but they all use an OS.


  • Sure if it's someone at home who's still using Windows 98 and doesn't really do anything other than use the internet and word processing, sure it could happen. But if they're in a corporate environment, then it's pretty much set by whatever IT policy is there. If they already have Windows, they'll probably stick with Windows after replacing those old computers.
  • Ok, so the Pentium 133 laptop with the broken screen and 1 GB disk isn't much, and it's mostly acting as a spare for web browsing, but one of the back-burner projects is to install a small-Linux distro or OpenBSD on it and use it as a DNS server or spam honeypot or something. The big limitation has been that it doesn't do USB, so I'll need to fire up a SAMBA server or something to give it some more storage.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      If you use it as a DNS server the 1GB of space will be more then enough. In fact it would work for a web server too, so long as you don't plan on serving up music or video content. And if the screen is broken, stick SSHD on it and plan on logging into it from your other boxes and just leaving it sit in the corner with the lid closed.

  • Actually, I suspect (Score:5, Interesting)

    by ScrewMaster ( 602015 ) on Tuesday September 19, 2006 @08:27PM (#16142561)
    the number of Windows '9x users is substantially higher than 4%. Not everyone throws out their PC and buys a new one every three years. The realtor that handled the house I bought a couple years ago still uses Windows 98 on her home PC and in their office. That kinda shocked me at the time, but as it did what little she needed she had no reason to change.
    • by RedWizzard ( 192002 ) on Tuesday September 19, 2006 @09:23PM (#16142906)
      The realtor that handled the house I bought a couple years ago still uses Windows 98 on her home PC and in their office. That kinda shocked me at the time, but as it did what little she needed she had no reason to change.
      And if she hasn't found a reason to change yet I strongly doubt MS discontinuing support is going to make a difference. The vast majority of Win98/ME users will continue to use that OS.
    • I support plenty of Win98 users for barter and pocket money.
      They are used to it, it serves them well enough, and they don't have a lot of money to spend on a newer machine or OS.
      There are more than a few people who can't afford even a couple hundred bucks for a computer, so scrounged machines and free dialup are how they make do.
  • support (Score:5, Insightful)

    by cool_arrow ( 881921 ) on Tuesday September 19, 2006 @08:28PM (#16142575)
    Perhaps I don't understand the support issue, but I doubt someone currently using windows 98 is all that concerned about support for the product.
    • Re:support (Score:5, Insightful)

      by A Numinous Cohort ( 872515 ) <raybaq AT gmail DOT com> on Tuesday September 19, 2006 @08:59PM (#16142771)
      Someone on Win98 doesn't *need* that much support --someone switching to Linux *does*. I'm not exactly new to Linux but when I got dial-up at home and needed to set up a softmodem, I had to compile a kernel module to do it--not something a newbie should be called upon to do. The (Smartlink) modem works perfectly well in Win98.
    • by SeaFox ( 739806 ) on Tuesday September 19, 2006 @09:27PM (#16142934)
      Perhaps I don't understand the support issue, but I doubt someone currently using windows 98 is all that concerned about support for the product.

      It depends on what you mean by "support" as far as who is providing it.

      While Microsoft may have abandoned Windows 98 there are still many other companies who customers also depend that still support it. Most ISPs would not have an issue helping a customer get their Windows 98 computer online even though Microsoft thinks the machine should be put out to pasture, but call many of these same ISPs with a new machine running a current Linux distro and they will find themselves getting less support than the "obsolete" Win98 users.
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by 4e617474 ( 945414 )

      Technical support hasn't been available for some time now. Microsoft has ended the "extended support" period - meaning stopped even issuing patches for publicly-known exploits that allow someone to execute arbitrary code with no interaction on your part whatsoever.

      That was enough for me to inform my wife that the ME box (stop snickering, it came with the wife) was going off the 'net and the old hand-me-down 700Mhz grey box would be running Linux and would be the only available machine for Internet access.

  • by topham ( 32406 ) on Tuesday September 19, 2006 @08:29PM (#16142580) Homepage
    You expect someone who ran Windows98 until recently to switch to Linux?

    They wouldn't know how to download it.
    • by ozmanjusri ( 601766 ) <aussie_bob@[ ] ['hot' in gap]> on Tuesday September 19, 2006 @09:13PM (#16142853) Journal
      They wouldn't know how to download it.

      They don't. The way this normally happens is that they call their local geek friend when their Win98 install is too hosed to be usable. The geek thinks about how much time they've wasted keeping the system clean of malware and the general designed in bit-rot that seems to slow down Win 9x systems, weighs it up against the occasional free meal and displays of affection, then makes a decision.

      I know that lately, a lot of friends and family with still-functional P3 class machines have been getting the gift of Linux from me. Most seem to cope well.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      There are some people who can't really afford system configuration needed to run XP. Also there are people who only browse/read e-mail with their computer and do some office work so they basically DON'T NEED those specs.

      What Microsoft tells them by abandoning: Buy a new computer and switch to XP

      What Linux users tell them: You are plain stupid, you can't even download anything.

      Keep this attitude, it really pays off (!). If that moron manages to download an ISO and install Linux, don't forget to shout him/her
    • Pretty much. Basically, it's a myth that an unskilled user can download linux and use it as a drop in replacement for a slow computer.

      Let's take a real world scenario. A 100mhz Pentium I with 32MB of ram. Right off the bat I can tell you what distro's it isn't going to run. Basically any popular general purpose distribution like Ubuntu, OpenSuse, Mandriva, or Fedora. They are going to have to run something like Damn Small Linux. I very highly doubt an unexperienced user is going to know enough to downloa
  • In a word... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Billosaur ( 927319 ) * <wgrother@oEINSTE ... minus physicist> on Tuesday September 19, 2006 @08:29PM (#16142583) Journal


    Why? Because most of the people who have the misfortune of still running Windows 98 do so because they are comfortable with it and have no intention of changing until their hard drive melts. They got their computer eons ago, it does everything they want it to do, they don't need to play World of Warcraft or run complicated programs, and the thought of upgrading to even Windows 2000 makes them break out in cold sweats. Up until 6 months ago, my stepmother was still running her Win98 machine, until it got so undeniably slow that she was forced by necessity to upgrade to WinXP.

    • by gravyface ( 592485 ) on Tuesday September 19, 2006 @08:48PM (#16142705)
      I recently pulled out my Windows 98 Celeron 300A with 128MB PC100 RAM, and 5400rpm 6GB drive, booted it up, and cracked open Netscape 4. You know what I found? Not much.

      This machine has been sitting in a box for about 5 years, and as far as the time signatures are concerned, that rebuild was only about 7 months in. Office 2000 ran fine. Everything worked great -- I couldn't notice any difference with performance from my current Athlon machine when it comes to simple word processing and Web browsing. If I was ignorant to hotfixes and security, I'd be using this machine without any problems for many more years to come.
      A simple reinstall of the OS -- as long as the disk is still healthy -- can stretch out the lifespan of any old machine, as long as you stick with the software of time, which isn't that much different than what Aunt June uses today.
    • ... "undeniably slow that she was forced by necessity to upgrade to WinXP"

      I always found that if I tried to run XP on a mcahine designed for 98 that it was undeniably slow.

      As others have pointed out I think anyone upgrading from Windows 98 in response to MS ending support will just buy a new PC.

      My feeling that home/inexperienced users will just go to Best Buy or whatever and pick up a new Windows PC. Small to mid size
      businesses that are still running 98 are probably somewhat miserly about spending money on
  • Red Herring (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday September 19, 2006 @08:29PM (#16142586)
    People aren't going to swtich to Linux from Win98/ME just because Microsoft decides to cut off support. It's complete nonsense. What percentage of Win98/ME users actually needed support and/or actively used it? The whole idea that Win98/ME users are going to flock over to Linux on the sole basis that support had ended is a red herring.
    • by 51mon ( 566265 )
      I switched a PC from Windows 95 to Debian, when Windows 95 went out of support.

      Okay I'm not a typical PC user, but then I don't test any of the free software I hack on under Microsoft Windows anymore because I don't have a Microsoft Windows licence, and I don't see the point of paying for one (heck I just threw out the 120 day evaluation CDs for Windows 2000 Advanced Server I got at the launch party). So there were consequences for other Windows users of my switch, be it ever so small and insignificant.

      So I
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by DeusExMalex ( 776652 )
      The whole idea that Win98/ME users are going to flock over to Linux on the sole basis that support had ended is a red herring.

      I don't think that word means what you think it means. A red herring is a topic brought up for the sole purpose of distracting someone from some other issue. Linux nerds are clearly the target in your theory, but what is the other issue? Remember, a red herring is just that - a stinky fish.
  • Not all but some. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by jellomizer ( 103300 ) * on Tuesday September 19, 2006 @08:31PM (#16142601)
    I am sure Linux will pick up some of the traffic and Microsoft will get the other half, and most will continue on with Windows 98 until the computer is dead.

    I figure it would be a 10%/40%/50% Split.
    50% Will just stay with Windows 98. First because they don't care MS has stopped support. Second it works for there needs. Third it is the path of least resistance.

    40% Will probably get a new computer with XP/Vista. They figured that their 3rd party apps that only work in 98 are end of life and time to bite the bullet and upgrade to the new versions. They may or may not know about Linux but they are use to windows and they will get a new system and use it for the next 10 years.

    10% will probably switch to Linux. (Which probably accounts to the traffic on the Linux Groups). The only reason they were on Windows 98 and didn't upgrade because they had some application that only worked on windows. Now with 98 being officially dead they have a chance to start anew. If you are going to start over again lets try Linux. The app that they have may have an open source alternative or linux still uses the old hardware so they can continue, with linux.
    • by witte ( 681163 )
      Don't forget about Apple.
      A lot of win98 users were supported by the family nerd who got fed up with playing support. *cough*

      Pushing Apple/MiniMac/... as a solution is very tempting. It's mostly hassle free and self-updating (without unwanted features -- unlike the Windows update & WGA crap we endured the past months), and the UI is less cryptic than W98.

      User support and maintenance are limited to learning folks about what and how they can visit/search on the internet and basic activities like emailing a
  • Netcraft confirms it: 2006 is the year of heavy Linux desktop penetration!
  • by ClosedSource ( 238333 ) * on Tuesday September 19, 2006 @08:32PM (#16142610)
    Although I'm sure one could build a version of Linux that can run on a typical Win98 PC configuration, I doubt that contemporary mainstream distros would run very well on it (if it all).

    Anyone who is still using Win98 isn't particularly concerned with system stability and probably wants compatiblity with their old applications: Linux doesn't sound like a good fit.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday September 19, 2006 @08:35PM (#16142623)
    I would have said 'yes' until this past weekend. It was a few days back that I helped such a user upgrade. My aunt is in her 60s, and for the past six or seven years has been using a 300 MHz system with 64 MB of RAM, running Windows 98 SE. For her basic needs, it's a very suitable machine. But she had run into spyware problems, and we decided it would be easier to set her up with Ubuntu Linux 6.06.

    I don't have any complaints with the Linux kernel, or most of the applications. All her hardware was supported immediately, and the installation actually went rather smoothly. But when GNOME started up, we ran into problems. 64 MB of RAM just wasn't enough. I had 512 MB of unused RAM lying around that was compatible with her system, so we installed that. It did help a fair bit.

    But in the end, we found that GNOME and Firefox were just too slow. It's quite easy to install KDE when using the Ubuntu packages system, so we gave that a try. It was significantly more responsive than GNOME. Konqueror worked quite a bit better for her than Firefox, as well. We were able to find her a theme that she liked, and she's been pleased with the system so far.

    Were it not for the 512 MB of RAM I had lying around, I don't think we would have been able to use Linux with either GNOME or KDE. Fluxbox, XFCE and the other light window managers or desktops just don't cut it for users who want a Windows-like experience. And they're just the sort of users who would be transitioning from Windows 98.

    Unless the major desktops do something significant to reduce their memory consumption, Linux on the desktop will remain something that only those with rather high-end systems will be able to enjoy. Such software will run on older systems, but it won't be enjoyable, even with special effects and stuff like that disabled. It's the sort of thing that will give Linux a very bad name, and will make users switch back to older versions of Windows.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by tomhudson ( 43916 )

      ... or you can remove beagle, and watch your load average drop. One one machine, it went from between 1 and 2 to 0.14. You'll also hav more free memory as well.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by ozmanjusri ( 601766 )
      Unless the major desktops do something significant to reduce their memory consumption, Linux on the desktop will remain something that only those with rather high-end systems will be able to enjoy.

      This one fvwm95 [] would probably have been a better fit for her system. I've also installed enlightenment [] on a lot of P2/3 class machines for people I think will be able to adapt to a new desktop.

  • by ELiTeUI ( 591102 ) on Tuesday September 19, 2006 @08:37PM (#16142632)
    Microsoft soft-enforcing WGA (Windows Genuine Advantage) on Windows XP.. There are a LOT of illegal copies of XP Pro VLK edition (the one that was so great because it had no activation required) floating around... I know I've seen it on many non-computer-savvy-people's PC's that I've worked on.

    All of those copies of XP are now loudly announcing that they are "Not Genuine Copies of Microsoft Windows". When these people get hit with a nearly $300 pricetag (that's $300 + $100 for my time) for a non-OEM, non-upgrade copy of software they've been using for free for many years, they are often very interested in cheap or free alternatives. And since most people only really need Web + EMail + OpenOffice + mplayer + (not much else exotic), they are often open to Linux due to its free-as-in-beer-ness.
  • I sure hope not. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by jakoz ( 696484 ) on Tuesday September 19, 2006 @08:37PM (#16142635)
    I'll tell you who's using the majority of the Win98 boxes: the parents and grandparents of the world. They use it now and then, flick it on when they need it, send an email or two and shut the thing down. They probably don't notice much slowdown or stability problems, since they probably don't have it on long enough. In short: it does what they need.

    So why should they use Linux? Why should we even give a shit if they do?

    What they need is a simple OS. They need a web browser. They need a couple of Office-like applications. They don't want a lot of problems. Why would Linux be the best solution? For them it is more trouble to set up than just buying a new box (despite what people on here might say, IMHO Linux is not easier to set up for a n00b). They need something like a Mac, which will do what they need for the forseeable future.

    Alternatively, they should just stick with Win98. All jokes aside, their boxes are probably so full of spyware and shit after up to 8 YEARS of operation, that if they can go this far, they can probabably go a little further.

    Look. I love Linux. I've used it as my primary OS for years, and used it during that time as a server admin too, but I just don't understand this "more users at any cost" approach. What is the good of getting these users? What will it achieve? At the least, you'll potentially end up with a hell of a lot of pissed off (and minimally equipped for repairs) users with broken computers badmouthing the operating system to anyone who will listen.
    • I just don't understand this "more users at any cost" approach.

      The reason for this is that Linux users, unlike Mac users, build thier own computers, and thus need better support from hardware providers. If linux was a decent chunk (say 10%), then hardware manufacturers would be enticed to make drivers.

      • The reason for this is that Linux users, unlike Mac users, build thier own computers...

        ..what if you use Linux on a Mac?
    • by spauldo ( 118058 )
      I'll tell you who's using the majority of the Win98 boxes: the parents and grandparents of the world.

      Throw in small busnesses as well.

      I support a few businesses, and a good half of them run 98 or ME. We're talking junk shops, cafe-style restaurants, etc. - places with practically no automation. They use a computer for email, web browsing, printing out signs, and maybe an ancient version of quickbooks or something. I did a format/reinstall for a new client on ME just recently and the only backup she wanted
  • That's because (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Marxist Hacker 42 ( 638312 ) * <> on Tuesday September 19, 2006 @08:37PM (#16142636) Homepage Journal
    The few of us who still have one Win98 system around, do so for a reason, and haven't given a shit about Microsoft Support in the last 8 years anyway.
  • by Itninja ( 937614 ) on Tuesday September 19, 2006 @08:38PM (#16142643) Homepage
    Users Abandoning Win98?
    Isn't that kind of like saying that in 2000 people began to 'abandon' their record players? That's kind of a dramatic term for moving on from an OS that was considered grossly obsolete three years ago.
  • Why Linux vs OS X? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by IDIIAMOTS ( 553790 ) on Tuesday September 19, 2006 @08:49PM (#16142716)
    If someone is using Win98 now, they likely have a 6-8 year old computer. They are more than likely will purchase new hardware and with said hardware either get a copy of XP or move to Mac.
  • by msimm ( 580077 ) on Tuesday September 19, 2006 @08:56PM (#16142750) Homepage
    I love Linux. I'm also a systems admin so its easy for me to love. It does what I need it to quickly, quietly and without much trouble.

    On the flip side I've used it on my home computer for about 8 years. We've certainly had our ups and downs. I dual-boot now. I spend most of my time using XP Pro. Why would I do this after 8 years of pure Linux bliss? Because it does what I need it to. Its that simple.

    Anybody want to watch for an exciting influx of newbies, the best kind; newbies who are switching simply because they are too cheap to update. Not boatloads of tinkerers, programmers, OSS zealots. Nah. Just some people that have been using an out-dated, unstable OS for no good reason.

    Granted, people who can't *afford* it should ignore my platitudes, unless you live in North America or some other well off nation and have confused not being able to feed your family with compulsive mall shopping and junk food binges (you don't have my sympathy).

    Anyway, Linux sucks for the average users for the same reasons its sucked. They've made a great server. Slapped on a (few) DE(s) and called it a Windows killer. I don't see it.

    Maybe baby steps. KDE 4 should be fun. Maybe one of the user distros will get the *wild* idea to tie it to the system. Drop legecy support. Call me crazy, but I just don't see Windows 98 users getting cosy with VI, modprobe, hell, package management. Its like we all talk Klingon and don't understand when everyone else isn't doing it.

    There are certain things end-users need and expect. Linux distros don't offer them. Hence, no Linux eat Windows.


    Seriously. Right tool. Right job. Never make it more complicated then that. Biases are *SO* 99. BSD, Solaris, AIX, Mac, FreeDOS, Minix, PlayStation I don't care. Whatever you need. Where BeOS when you need it. Lets all switch to Amiga and tell everyone who doesn't their lusers.

    There's a point in there. Maybe.
    • by GWBasic ( 900357 )

      Linux on the desktop needs to target what's known as "Early Adopters". Targetting people who's systems are out-of-date won't do any good.

      There are four stages of a tech product, as follows:

      1. Introduction: This is when a tech product is new, and its users are the first users.
      2. Early Adopter: Technology enthusiasts start to try out the service.
      3. Mainstream: The technology is used by Joe 6-pack.
      4. Sustaining: The technology is being phased out. No new improvements are made.

      The jump between each stage is d

  • Some of them, yes (Score:2, Insightful)

    by BenoitRen ( 998927 )
    The end of Microsoft's and Mozilla's support for Win9x has made a group of users look at Linux at an alternative, I've seen on MozillaZine. So there's definitely some truth to the article.

    Most of the users will stay with Windows 98, though. Most of them find it works fine for their needs, and don't see why they should buy a new PC or OS if their current one works fine, and there's no problem with that.

    I know it's common opinion to look at Win9x users in this day and age as people who are clueless about PCs,
  • by whitehatlurker ( 867714 ) on Tuesday September 19, 2006 @09:04PM (#16142801) Journal
    I think that most Win95/98/ME users would be surprised to learn that MicroSoft ever supported their operating system. It certainly wasn't case when I used those versions.
  • Not many (Score:4, Interesting)

    by dtfinch ( 661405 ) * on Tuesday September 19, 2006 @09:09PM (#16142830) Journal
    A home user running Windows 98 on 1998/99 hardware won't be happy upgrading to a modern Linux distro designed for 2006 hardware and configured to run on 1998 hardware. They could max out their ram, upgrade their hard drives, and maybe even replace their noisy chainsaw/jet-engine cpu and case fans, but that'd all cost money, which any user still running win98 is dead set against.

    If you don't mind spending money, you can get a relatively modern refurbished PC for under $200, that would be more than enough to run any OS you throw at it. Almost a year ago, I got an IBM NetVista with a 1.8ghz Celeron, 512mb ram, a 40gb HD, and a CDRW/DVD combo for about $200 from TigerDirect. Right now it's running Windows Server 2003 R2 enterprise edition. Heresy, I know, but I didn't give Microsoft a dime, and haven't since 2003, nor is it pirated, and my primary desktop runs Ubuntu. Right now I'm installing NetBSD on Virtual PC.

    There's potential for turning those systems into thin clients, and you just replace them with real thin clients when they finally give up the ghost.
  • Anyway, MS doesn't provide customer support for individuals (or if it does, it's more expensive than buying a new computer). With 4% market share there can not be much new malware targeting Win9x and their antivirus programs with expired subscriptions can catch the old ones without any problem. I would say, use 9x until you must have an app which doesn't run on your machine and doesn't have old versions on abandonware sites. But then how much more likely is it that Linux will have it?
  • Dell 8100 with 128M RD Ram...yup I said RD Ram. I did get a second hard drive and have it set up as triple boot (SuSE 9.1 and Ubuntu Warty). These days, Windows ME just handles the kids games (Blue's Clues, Freddy the Fish, Dora the Explorer, etc.) but I DON'T connect to the internet, that is only through SuSE or Ubuntu.

    Getting ready to do some major file organization on the old machine. At that time I will probably go exclusively to Ubuntu Breezy. SuSE is quite nice, and while a strong argument can be
  • Why would anyone still using windows 9x care that microsoft has dropped support for it?
  • by gsn ( 989808 ) on Tuesday September 19, 2006 @09:13PM (#16142851)
    I used to have 98 on my laptop - "upgraded" to XP when it was released - it was too slow (Thinkpad A22e) - moved to redhat, tried xubuntu, and finally vector as of two weeks ago. Vector is by far the fastest and was the easiest to install, and I'm a big fan - sound took some work to get to work and I had the usual headache with the wireless card and ndiswrapper but took no more than 2-3 hrs and some forum searching in total. Xubuntu had no configuration problems (other than the expected wireless) but even that was a tad slow for my taste. If the hardware can support it Xubuntu is probably the way to go for non *nix familiar users. They will never have to look at a terminal and never have to learn one thing about how the OS works. But if they are slightly familar with a major distro, Vector (or DSL I hear but I have not tried) is the way to go.

    No distro I've tried so far is simple as 98 but the learning curve isn't steep if you use icewm. Distros like Vector and xubuntu are great on older hardware, and can easily be faster than 98. I really don't think the hardware support is so much of an issue anymore. IMHO the biggest headache is the software since anyone still using 98 is completely used to a particular way of doing things and any difference won't be easily tolerated. I converted my mum to OpenOffice (on windows but still gotta start somewhere) at her company since its free but damn that took some work. The temporary frustration in learning to get used to the differences though is far outweighed by the costs. They saved a small fortune on Office licences, and basically all they needed was Word and Powerpoint. Now think savings on office + antivirus, a faster OS and active support and convincing them to change from 98 might be a bit easier.
  • According to, Windows 98 and Windows ME account for about 4% of the total PCs in the world.

    That's about 10 times more users than Linux has according to the same stats, so if Linux could pick those up, it would represent a huge increase.
    Sadly, it ain't gonna happen.

    First, Win9x users couldn't care less whether MS "supports" the OS or not, so MS dropping support doesn't equate to an incentive to move to Linux. If they're still running Win9x, they're going to keep running it until they

  • by JKConsult ( 598845 ) on Tuesday September 19, 2006 @09:30PM (#16142946)
    That there is such a level of vitriol against people who still run Win98. I run it on my home PC. When I'm at home, this is the one I use (my notebook runs XP.) From a crowd that continually decries the need to upgrade to the newest version of Office, I simply don't see why so many find it worthy of mockery that someone would still be running 98. I don't play games, except Age of Empires II, on occasion. Office 2000 has every feature I need. I run the latest versions of Firefox and OO.

    Explain to me why I should have felt the remotest need to upgrade to 2k, ME, or XP? This machine does exactly what I need it to do: surf the web, run Dreamweaver 4 for some light HTML editing, run Photoshop 6 for some light image editing, and play on Poker Stars. I'm not a clueless idiot, nor are many of the people who are still running 98. Many of you cry out "Why upgrade?" and then do it, anyway. We put our money where our mouth is.
    • I ran my tax software and some of my kid's games on 98 until a few months ago, now I have win 2000 pro under wmware on my linux box. Win 98 booted very fast compared to later MS products, don't see why anyone using it off the internet would need to upgrade.
  • by AmazingRuss ( 555076 ) on Tuesday September 19, 2006 @09:41PM (#16143006)
    ...they are just going to stay there. Seriously, when was the last time you heard of ANYONE calling Microsoft for support on their OS? I've done it only once in 15 years of herding windows boxen professionally. Supporting win98 is pretty just accept that you have to format and reinstall every few months. You get good at it, you stay on top of your backups, and for a while after you reload it all, you have a fairly well behaved, capable box. When it ganks up enough to annoy you, reload again. If it asplodes, you have your well oiled backups and install disk or image on hand. Its a pretty good self-support model for people without much technical knowledge. I bet there will still be thousands of 98 boxen out there in 10 years.
  • a tagging system won't do any good with the stupid, juvenile, and meaningless descriptions like the ones we currently see. A useful tag for this article might be "windows+98 linux migration" or similar
  • by jaronc ( 68205 ) on Tuesday September 19, 2006 @09:53PM (#16143066)
    My feeling is probably not.

    I'm guessing there would be a number of people on 98 that wouldn't know an update if it bit them. These people probably don't even know Microsoft supports them now.

    I looked at a friends xp laptop yesterday. It was running SP1, which it came with, and they had never willingly installed an update on it. Despite a popup at the bottom of the screen warning support for SP1 was ending soon.

    My friend didn't care, he just ignored the warnings and kept doing his work. I ran some checks and could find no evidence of spyware or viruses.

    Of course I am just speaking on feelings here. No evidence, and I don't even know anyone who uses win98, or linux for that matter.
  • I see more MSFT users across the board taking an old box and installing Linux to surf and email or dual booting. Windows is only really dangerous when you surf with it regularly. For online gaming, updates and other tasks where you're not going to be visiting a lot of strange web sites or getting email it's really not bad.

    Keep it off of a connected environment and it's great. Hook it to the internet and it's a never ending security freak show.

  • by megabyte405 ( 608258 ) on Tuesday September 19, 2006 @10:03PM (#16143108)
    I provide independently-contracted end-user support for a variety of users, from home users to commercial installations. When the use cases suggest an easy transition (usage as a web and word processing terminal, no need for Windows-only software), I have been migrating users to a customized Ubuntu Linux derivative distribution. In some cases, rather than repairing Windows 98 or (especially) ME systems, it is useful to suggest such a migration, as the benefits (a like-new system performance, virus and spyware-proofing, nearly user-proof :D) outweigh the advantages of repairing the old system (familiarity - which is mostly lost when a system is seriously in need of repair anyway). I think there is definitely a market for non-zealot-based installations of Linux where dissatisfied or mis-served users of Win 98 or ME fit specific use cases, and I've found success with this strategy.
  • by lullabud ( 679893 ) on Tuesday September 19, 2006 @11:26PM (#16143494) Homepage
    Boy I'm gonna get flamed for this one...

    I installed Vista RC1 on my main Windows workstation at work and one of the first things I noticed was how crappy the Control Panel layout was. It was even crappier than KDE or Gnome's control panels. Having an easy to use UI is a key part of being productive and enjoying your computer using experience, and in turn your OS.

    A little background... I used to use KDE as my primary UI back in the Mandrake 7 or 8 days. Before that I didn't even know there was a difference in window management, and before that all I had was /bin/sh and I didn't even know there was a difference in shells. During my pre-Mandrake days though, I mainly used windows. After this I went back to just using windows for a while, then switched to using Gnome on Redhat. All this time in Gnome and KDE, the most infuriating thing was that options were not intuitively placed. Screensaver and Desktop were not placed together. Window decorations were not where I thought they'd be. There was no unified UI framework... It was OK that my network interfaces might shift if I tweaked sysconfig files or modules from the CLI, but the GUI needed to be sharp, and it wasn't. That pissed me off, and I often found myself simply opening a shell after login, rebooting into windows for non-server stuff, or using Windows for everything except SSH.

    (So, as if I'm not asking for a flaming enough as it is, now I'm going to bring OS X into it) About the time I was on Mandrake, some Mac fanatic I knew was talking on and on about "Rhapsody", the new Mac OS. I didn't care one bit to hear about all that crap. Any OS that doesn't have a CLI is worthless to me, I'm a CLI freak. Pointy Clicky can go out the window and I'd be happy as a clam for half of what I do. The second he mentioned that it was built on unix technology my interest perked up. I knew Mac OS was simple, even if I hated using it. I dreamed that they might get it all right... the handling of the preferences and home folders how *nix does it rather than that retched registry. *Real* administration privileges (eg: deleting files that are currently being used). The security system that I'd grown to know... symbolic links, grep, perl, more extensive glob matching, correct URI slashing, regex, the init system I'd grown to love... yeah, I dreamed. Amazingly, they've done pretty much everything I had dreamed they'd do with a unix system, and more (except the linux init system, but hey, now I'm more familiar with BSD), however, that's not the point.

    (Now if I may try to reclaim some faith so the readers will put down their torches) The whole point here is that an OS is supposed to make you more productive. One way to do that is by making things easier. Unfortunately, with Vista, we've taken a step back to where most Linux distro's put you, with this non-unified control panel. Fortunately, some Linux distros seem to be putting things together in a more reasonable standpoint. I mean, honestly, I think Ubuntu has stuff laid out more sensibly by default than Vista does. (Plus compiz rules, their exposé knock-off smokes the Vista 3d-flip thingy... Katapult has the right idea too, we need more of the Launchbar knock-offs. Who cares if it's copying, it's good shizz.)

    I seriously do think that Linux has better and better chances at getting in the Desktop market as each day goes by. I'm not yet recommending it to everyday people who stop by the IT department to ask what they should do about their next computer, but hopefully in the next year or so...
  • Just because... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by JustNiz ( 692889 ) on Wednesday September 20, 2006 @12:20AM (#16143696)
    Just because Microsoft say they are stopping support for 16 bit windows, is that enough to drive any remaining 95/98/ME users to change?

    I mean I can't imagine how that now actually prevents their continued use of it.

    Furthermore, although on paper Microsoft had been supporting it, have they actually released any important new fixes or functionality for it in the last few years? Just because they now say they're not supporting it any more, has anything really been lost here for existing users?
  • by binarybum ( 468664 ) on Wednesday September 20, 2006 @12:26AM (#16143735) Homepage
    this posting title sounds to me like linux is a sleezy sexual predator of sorts.

        "Can area man living in parents basement pick-up junior high chicks thanks to new football stadium?"

    that's how I read it.
  • by managementboy ( 223451 ) on Wednesday September 20, 2006 @04:25AM (#16144396) Homepage
    I have seen Win98 beening switched for Linux. As a matter of fact, it has been me who does it. As the support "specialist" in the family/friends I often get asked to fix a Win98/2000 PC. Two years ago I made a cut and stopped supporting Windows. Just as Microsoft did. Its not a "religious" kind of thing, its more about self protection. I noticed back then that fixing issues was not a matter of minutes as it used to be, but became a matter of hours, often requiering me to reinstall OS/drivers/documents etc.

    For anyone of those friends/family who know that I was the right person for them to keep as "admin" I have moved to Linux (SuSE 10.0 and 10.1). No new hardware was necessary for any of them (lowest being 800 Mhz and 256 RAM). As someone posted before, new network cards required for DSL that most of my family uses nowerdays, is badly if at all supported in Win98, but works flawlessly on Linux.

    My experience is that if you don't tell your family/friends that you will install Linux and not Windows they will take months untill they have realized it. Its not that they are dumb, but they don't care too much. If you tell them beforehand, though they will rebell for no apparent reason (human behaviour, I guess). Heres a small list of why I prefer Linux over Win98/Win2000 (XP out of the question of such old hardware):

    1. ssh: love to be able to dial up to their PCs to do basic maintanence. I know there are Windows tools to do this, but the command line is so much more productive over a slow network.

    2. root: Just the concept of the system being true multiuser from the start makes my task as admin so much easyer. Again, I know I could tick Win2000 to do this, but why bother if it is the right way in Linux from the start.

    3. security: I don't care if security is there because of better coding or because there are less Linux installs out there. My 2 year experience mantaining Linux can be boiled down to this: NO VIRUS/ NO SPYWARE. Don't try to convince me that there are Windows "tools" that remove this stuff, I just don't have to, thats why I install Linux.

    4. customizing: All, and I mean ALL who have gotten Linux installed by me love the flexibility to customize. You would not believe it, but most non-PC literates absolutely love to customize the colors, fonts, backgrounds etc of their PC. Linux (KDE) just rocks on these grounds. Ohh boy, I again know there are "freewares" out there that enable you to do similar tasks on Win98/2000 but they allmost allways fuck up your stability.

    5. amarok: This is the killer application on Linux. Everyone I show this app want to switch!

Kill Ugly Processor Architectures - Karl Lehenbauer