Originally Posted by Plan9
That's your opinion and you're entitled to it, however hacking config files on Linux is no more difficult than hacking the registry on Windows.
And as for the mismatch of styles on Linux, well Windows is one of the worst culprits for this. Even Microsoft don't follow their own styling guidelines; every new release of Office has a different and non-standard toolbar to the rest of Windows applications. At least with Linux, the vast majority of apps use generic Qt and GTK APIs which keep a consistent style across all the applications - and what's better is it's very easy to theme both Qt and GTK to have the same stylings (eg Qt Curve). With Windows, if someone decides to use non-standard Windows APIs (as happens frequently), then you're stuffed.
Yes and no. Linux is just as a kernel and many Linux apps (particularly in binary form) are incompatible across different distros (particularly when you start looking at some of the more niche distros: WebOS vs Android vs Gobo vs LSB-compliant distros. However when there are (easy) ports, you often see them propergate beyond just Linux (FreeBSD, for example, even supports running Linux ELF binaries natively and most UNIXs will support Linux programs written in scripting languages (Perl, Python, Ruby, etc). So you are right that many people would argue that Linux loosely refers to the ecosystem, however that would then also mean some other Unix-like OSs would fall under the same category too.
I do agree that one of Linux's greatest weaknesses is it's diversity. It makes the platform awkward for targeting commercial applications, it makes the platform confusing to beginners and it makes it hard -sometimes even impossible- to develop against stable and complete APIs (don't get me started on the mess that is Linux's various sound systems!!!). However the diversity is also a great benefit for Linux:
* many targets make it harder for MS / Apple to destroy
* many platforms make it better for people to find a distro that works for them (once they get past the "omg *** who many linuxes!
* the ability to fork Linux has kept the platform interesting for many seasoned users / developers and thus has helped retain a large user base that might have otherwise left for *BSD / Haiku / whatever.
* and package managers take away the issues of finding software compatible for that distribution.
So it is a double edged sword. I think I'd personally agree with you that having many distros have harmed Linux's advances on the desktop, but equally Linux might never have reached the critical mass it has if it wasn't so flexible / diverse - so we might not even be having this discussion if it was just a single platform.
So does Linux.
They don't though. Microsoft support for general consumers is pretty awful. Most people end up either:
* going to high street PC stores and paying stupid amounts of money for what should be a simple fix
* having a family member / friend / child of a friend / or whoever they know that's even slightly "technical" pop round to fix it
* or going online looking for fix on message boards.
Granted Linux might struggle with the 1st two points - but that's only because it's not in wide spread use so not as many people would be familiar with how software errors in Linux are fixed (just as if the tables were turned and Windows was the "niche" OS, few "slightly technical" people would know what to do to fix Windows errors.
However when it comes to online help, Linux excels in. There's an absolute plethora of resources for Linux users and plenty more people who are willing to help. (you only have to look at this forum to see how Linux and Windows are level pegged for online support).