GNU/Linux: Rebuttal: Linux on the desktop: Still not happening

This article is a rebuttal to Michael Gartenberg’s Opinion: Linux on the desktop: Still not happening over at Computerworld Operating Systems. Executive Summary: Michael Gartenberg is wrong.

I am seriously annoyed by the constant disingenuous articles that state GNU/Linux is not ready for the average user’s desktop PC as the primary, or only, operating system. What a dump truck load of manure! The majority of the people making such spurious claims are usually ignorant end-users, clueless “reporters”, Microsoft fanatics or Apple worshippers. I am not sure which of these categories may contain Mr. Gartenberg. But I suspect it is one or more of the above. If not, then someone point out to me just exactly where Mr. Gartenberg stands in the operating systems wars. Yes, these are wars. If you do not believe that, fine. You can be wrong if you want to.

Edit: the following paragraph is not an ad hominem directed at Mr. Gartenberg. It is written to illustrate Mr. Gartenberg’s logic used in the article URL above.

First off, I am already tired of typing “Mr. Gartenberg” so I will just call him MG. Not that I want to disrespect him or anything like that. It is just that the last name Gartenberg is just not ready for my company technical web log. It is too long and cumbersome to type. It takes too much effort. Also, Richard M. Stallman doesn’t use Gartenberg in a sentence every day. We all know that what Richard M. Stallman does is What We Should All Do. I mean, MG holds up RMS as The Guy that proves Linux just ain’t ready for the average user.

ARGH! Do you see how ignorant and disingenuous is MG’s premise? Okay, his puff of effluvia aside I will state what I as a small business owner use GNU/Linux for on my desktop system. You can decide for yourself which things I do that are too arcane for an average user with average intelligence.

My PC stays up and running for days and weeks on end. So, I rarely have to wait for it to boot when I need to get some work done. I do occasionally log out of my X session (Graphical desktop, for those of you who have no experience with GNU/Linux desktops). Mainly I do this when I get an update that requires me to log out of X for it to apply. These are rare though, and they never require me to reboot. Is this something that is important to an average desktop end user? Probably not. But it is a nice feature of GNU/Linux none the less.

I use Firefox and Opera web browsers every day. I watch Flash videos on YouTube, play a few Flash games, read news and opinion on several different web sites, check the weather using or just by looking at the Forecastfox AccuWeather plugin. I use Firefox to write articles on this company web log. I also use Firefox to login to our web host to manage our web sites. These last two may or may not be something an average user would do. But many businesses large to small surely would be doing some things similar on their desktop PCs. These solutions are definitely ready for the desktop end-user on GNU/Linux.

I use GnuCash to manage my personal and business finances. It has a straightforward interface and is as easy to use as any personal finance management software I have ever used. I can use the small business features of GnuCash to keep up with accounts payable and accounts receivable. I can input clients and create and print invoices for same. There is not just GnuCash, there are other financial management software packages available for GNU/Linux. Surely desktop based financial management is something the average user does and could do on a GNU/Linux desktop. Yup, that is ready.

In my role as a small business owner I also use writer often. I use it to create proposal documents, quote documents and client labor document forms. I also use Calc spreadsheets to calculate costs for quotes. The “Export Directly as PDF” feature is one I use frequently for preparing documents to send in e-mail. Certainly these are things done by many desktop system users using costly and proprietary software. For those people, the GNU/Linux desktop is ready. A friend of mine asserts that she is convinced the suite is the “killer application” for GNU/Linux systems, Apple systems, Microsoft systems or anywhere else it may be ported. I agree with her. What about Microsoft Office you say? What about it? I certainly do not need it, nor do probably 99% of desktop PC users.

I receive and send e-mail using Kmail with Kontact on my GNU/Linux desktop PC every day. It works and it works very well. I also use Akregator RSS feed reader with Kontact on my GNU/Linux desktop PC every day. That also works and works very well. I use the Calendar in Kontact regularly to schedule appointments and keep up with recurring events. Works great. Of these the one most average end-users would be doing is probably e-mail. There are several excellent e-mail applications for the GNU/Linux desktop. All work as expected. Definitely e-mail on the GNU/Linux desktop is ready for the average end-user.

There is more, much more that I do that is not at all like an average end-user. For example I occasionally play some FPS 3D games. Most average end-users are not playing FPS 3D games, that would be hard core gamers. Hard core gamers are a breed unto themselves. However, there is no need to go into most of these other things since most end-users are not going to think they have to emulate me or Richard M. Stallman to use a GNU/Linux desktop. That would just be silly.

Is GNU/Linux happening on the desktop? On my PC desktop it is. On the PC desktops of some of my non-geek friends and acquaintances it is. On the PCs of many businesses world wide it is. Desktop GNU/Linux is making small inroads in other businesses that are still undecided about moving to Windows 7. Is GNU/Linux happening on your desktop? If not, it should be … unless you have a serious reason that prevents it. Such as proprietary software that does not yet have a good equivalent on the GNU/Linux desktop. If so, you fall into that 1% of people who are not ready for GNU/Linux.

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Gene A.

Gene is a "Unix Guy", network technologist, system trouble-shooter and IT generalist with over 20 years experience in the SOHO and SMB markets. He is familiar with and conversant in eComStation (a.k.a. OS/2), DOS (PC, MS and Free), Unix, Linux and those GUI based systems from Microsoft. Gene is also a follower of Jesus (forgiven, not perfect), and this does inform his world view.

38 thoughts on “GNU/Linux: Rebuttal: Linux on the desktop: Still not happening”

  1. A user calling himself Cheesejaguar on Reddit had this to say:

    ‘How long did it take you to install ATI/Nvidia drivers on a fresh install of linux? How long will it take your grand-mother in law?

    “Average user” = your grand-mother in law.’

    That is a fallacious argument. If either of my grand-mothers in-law were still living and while doing so installing ANY operating system then she would be no average user. Further, installing the nVidia 3D driver (I only use nVidia here) is easy-peasy these days using a modern GNU/Linux distribution that includes Dell’s (yes, I typed “Dell’s” there) DKMS. All the distributions I know of use this.

  2. All, while deleting a lot of SPAM comments I also accidentally deleted several good comments instead of approving them. I was not noticing I was clicking the wrong option. Unfortunately with WordPress there is no “undo” for that. To those of you who I lost your comments, I apologize. If you want to post another comment, please do. I will make sure I approve them this time.

    Edit: Ah ha! I forgot that all comments are e-mailed to an account at my company. I am in the process of recovering the deleted comments now.

  3. Reality is which one uses Linux. Nearly no one. Which one will continue to use Linux if Linux is sold at the same price than Windows or AppleOS… Even less.
    I am a Linux user for long now. Not only ATI, but also NVIDIA and Intel have presented so much problems, so bugs, so 3D deficiencies (problem still current), so failed hibernation… and so on. I ignore the rest, the rest is even more erratic.
    Is it possible to use Linux as a desktop OS: of course! The real question is what to you do with it, how much peripherals you have to buy to gain decent support, how much peripheral you accept not to use, how much you accept to restrict your choice taking into account the limited number of softwares… and so on…

  4. I use Desktop (and server) GNU/Linux nearly exclusively, save the few times I need a Windows XP virtual machine for some odd VPN connection at work.

    I used to encourage my friends to run it also, but I’ve held back on that recently. If they want to run it (dual boot, usually), I will help them. But the constant ‘why aren’t you running this?’ wasn’t getting me anywhere 😉 It doesn’t help them that they ‘know computers’ but really they only know where a single menu option is.

    It also irks me that “MSWindows and MSOffice are fine, but Linux sucks because App X is different!” Well, so the app is different, that doesn’t make the app suck and its not the definition of GNU/Linux anyways ? its a single app!

  5. (Recovered Comment)

    GNU/Linux (Ubuntu) powers both my desktop and laptop computers. A computer in my future might be an Apple Mac or another PC with the pre-installed Windows quickly replaced with GNU/Linux as were my current machines.

    Having said that I must also admit that I am a geek. On both machines I had to tinker with the video, audio and wireless before they worked correctly. Pulse Audio still does not work correctly \out of the box\ with the latest Ubuntu release (9.10) because of a missing component. I installed Ubuntu on a neighbor’s machine that has an Nvidia graphics card. It took me hours to get the video working right.

    Yes, an \average\ person can easily use Linux as their desktop, but the ease of installing it will vary greatly with the equipment.

  6. (Recovered Comment)

    I agree with this article 100%. I have been a regular GNU/Linux user for the last 5 years and not once has it stopped me from doing \average\ user daily tasks. I use Thunderbird for my email, I use Firefox for web browsing, I use Open Office for my doc’s and spreadsheets, I use Scribus for my DTP needs and along with Inkscape and Gimp for any graphics that I need to do for DTP. I have Wine installed to use for WoW gamming and for QuickBooks (I know GnuCash is available, but I couldn’t be bothered to learn another financial package, my bad sorry). I use BBC’s iPlayer with no hassles, use Amarok for my MP3’s and I burn ISO and CD’s/DVD’s with Brassero.

    My Daughter for the last 2 years has used Pardus on her PC for school work and not once has she said she is unable to get her work done. My father-in-law and father both have GNU/Linux PCs built by me and they too have never once said that they are unable to achieve anything because they use GNU/Linux. Heck my Dad went and bought himself a nice HP and installed it himself, and I quote here, I just plugged it in and after a few seconds I was printing!

    Recently, I purchased a Mac Mini with Snow Leopard. If someone else tells me how good iTunes is, I shall not be responsible for my actions. Compare it to Amarok, or even Songbird and it is lacking the polish of those two players.

  7. (Recovered Comment)

    I completely agree with you. I am system admin for a University here in Nigeria where every single one of our computers run Linux. From the computer labs to workstations used by our administrative staffs and secretaries. Many of our staffs have even asked that I install Linux for them on their personal computers and we are talking about average users. The only reason Linux has not made major in road in the mainstream market is because of lack on marketing. People would naturally go for what there see on TV and billboards. Linux does not just have the same marketing of apple and MS. But when it comes to everyday use Linux is more than ready

  8. If is correct, then Michael Gartenberg falls under the most lovely of your definitions as a “Microsoft fanatic”.

    From wikipedia– —————————
    Microsoft “Enthusiast Evangelist”

    Gartenberg was hired by Microsoft from February to March 2007 with the job title “Enthusiast Evangelist” to publicize Windows Vista [4][5][6]. Gartenberg stated:

    Why Microsoft? There?s a revolution going on. A battle for the hearts and minds of consumers in terms of their digital lives. I firmly believe that Microsoft is the only company that will enable the seamless transition for users to move in and out of the different aspects of their lives. In short, no one else comes close to presenting a complete, unified and integrated view of the digital home of the 21st century.[4]

    More recently, in Oct 2007, regarding a potential Microsoft Windows competitor, Linux, he wrote:

    Linux Still Doesn’t Make it On Desktop. … For now and the foreseeable future, it’s going to remain a Microsoft world. Linux still isn’t the answer.[7]

    In July 2009, Google announced the development of an operating system for netbooks, Chrome OS, due for release in late 2010. Gartenberg opined:

    Chrome OS is not a threat to Windows … By creating of lot of Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt this morning… they hope to take the attention and luster off of [Microsoft] Windows 7[8] … history doesn’t run in favour of Chrome OS’s principles[9]

    Sounds like Michael should change the name of his column to – Words from the view of the Microsoft “Enthusiast Envangelist”

  9. While I don’t agree with Mr Gartenberg’s article, it’s his opinion and he is allowed to have it. Just like you’re allowed your rebuttal.

    I do have a really big issue with some parts of your rebuttal(basically the 1st 3 paragraphs) How is calling his article shit helping the cause of Linux? It’s not.

    In the latter part of the article you constructively try rebut rather than use bile.

    To start off with though you launch what can be seen as a personal attack:
    “his puff of effluvia”
    “tired of typing ?Mr. Gartenberg?”
    “ignorant end-users, clueless ?reporters?, Microsoft fanatics or Apple worshippers”

    And, I’m a Linux user, Mint KDE edition. I have 5 computers, all but 1 running Linux. My 1 winxp PC at home is for logging into work (it uses proprietary winxp software to connect to work)

    Your comment about an OS war while perhaps valid is just indicating you are a Linux fanatic(ok you probably aren’t but you really are playing into the over fanatics hands).

    BTW its Linux not GNU/Linux. GNU/Linux started because Stallman asked Torvalds if he could use that. Linus said yes but due to some arguments he had with RMS, changed his mind and said No, just call it Linux.

  10. bob (comment #9) thank you for reading and for your opinion.

    I do agree that people can choose to see what I wrote as an ad hominem attack in some places. That says more about them than about what I wrote.

    In my own defense. The “manure” comment is directed at the idea that GNU/Linux is not ready for the average user’s desktop. It is attacking an idea, not a person or a specific article by said person. I thought that was clear, but apparently it is not clear to everyone. The “puff of effluvia” comment is directed at Mr. Gartenberg’s article in specific. If you read that article I do not see how you can disagree that it is basically a poorly researched, noisome, disingenuous, hack job on Linux. To sum it up as a “puff of effluvia” is nicer than it deserves. That phrase does attack the opinion article, but not Mr. Gartenberg. His article is open to critique, is it not? Read all the comments following Mr. Gartenberg’s article and you can see I am not the only one that took sincere umbrage at his less than factual opinion piece. I am just one that took the time to write a rebuttal.

    I make no excuses for being a Linux advocate. Am I fanatic? No. I will point out flaws under Linux distributions when I see them. That is not something “fanatics” will do.

    Your opinion about GNU/Linux vs just Linux is interesting. I thought about the various arguments and decided RMS was correct in that much of what we have with “Linux” would not be available without the “GNU’ part. I will keep writing GNU/Linux for the time being. I reserve the right to change my mind. 🙂

  11. Linux is ready for the average person’s desktop. It’s the Win power user who doesn’t want his little world threatened by having to learn something different.
    Ubuntu is dead easy and powers all my computers.

    Linux in alot of cases is easier to get going than Windows because drivers are built into the kernel. I’ve done hundreds of installs and had very few tweaks needed too. Linux does quiet well running on most hardware.

    No security worries here with Ubuntu either BY DESIGN. Security is much more about OS design than numbers of users.

    MS systems are like swiss cheese and often should not be used when ordering goods online with credit cards or doing online banking.

    Rock on open source! Thanks for the freedom.

  12. Does anyone ever publish articles like “Stick shift vehicles still not ready for the roads”, “Diesel engines not ready for the masses”, or “The year of the private jet plane not here yet”? Arguing that “the masses” are not ready to drive “stick shift” or “diesel” vehicles nor flying air planes.

    No. Why, because every potential reader knows why he or she does not use any of these vehicles. Why would Linux be different?

    So why do some people feel it necessary to spend so much time writing articles telling people not to touch Linux? Not to speak of all those spending time (hours? days?) on Linux blogs telling the readers that they should NOT use Linux. Would they go to biker bars telling the guest to switch to public transport?

    I can see two motives:
    1 They write because they think people read it. There are many Linux users and interested Windows users who click on these blogs. Which denies their claim that no one uses Linux.

    2 People believe Linux is useful and practical, and someone wants to spend a lot of effort to convince them otherwise. But if Linux is useless, personal experience would show that unambiguously. So there is someone who wants to spent a lot of effort to prevent users from learning about Linux from personal experience. Why?

    In short, every article and every comment claiming Linux is useless for “common” users seems to be in itself a proof of the contrary.


  13. I have used Linux exclusively for over ten years.
    I have own a company based on selling Linux based equipment for three years.

    Linux is NOT ready for the average user.

    I did think differently two years ago, but I have since changed my mind. The average PC user is a multimedia junky. Linux based distributions have failed miserably in providing a seamless multimedia solution.

    Flash is atrocious on Linux.
    Multimedia editing support is dismal.
    With the addition of pulseaudio, even sound support has taken a big step backward.
    Codec support is difficult.

  14. Linux is certainly ready for the average home user, defined as those who only want to surf the web, write a letter, and a few other generic chores. But sad to say linux is headed in the wrong direction for business use.

    As long as there is over a hundred varieties of linux desktops and almost as many ways to perform common tasks like printer configuration, software installation, linux is never going to become dominant in business. People need a tool they are familiar with. How are IT departments supposed to manage all this variety? How are employee training facilities going to teach it? How are software vendors going to develop applications for it?

    Windows almost killed Unix in the early 1990’s just because Windows was the same everywhere. While unix vendors were branching out and going there own ways Windows was consistent. It looks like linux has fallen into the same trap. Those who ignore history…

    Windows has never been the best OS. It is consistently bad, but at least it is consistent. And consistency has proven to be more important that technical superiority.

    I’ve been using linux for over ten years. I was a unix system admin before that. For a long time I had high hopes that linux would succeed in business so that I wouldn’t have to make the Windows transition. A few years ago it seemed like commercial application developers were getting interested in linux. But I don’t even see that interest any more.

    Linux didn’t work out for me, at least for making a living. I finally had to bite the bullet and develop Windows skills. I guess it’s a good thing I did because linux isn’t going anywhere in business in the foreseeable future, at least not on the desktop. It’s like nuclear power, always ten years away.

  15. So – are we now dumbing down or smarting up the average user these days? (I think the recent spate of Microsoft ads will answer that question “I’m a PC!” – no, honey, you’re not, you’re a little girl – honest”.

    7 years ago, my daughters, who were aged 5 and 7, began to use their own computers. I started them on Mandrake (now Mandriva) and Xandros, because, at the time, I liked them best for appearance, ease of use and ability to run MS apps (Xandros). I had previously used Mandrake as sort of a portable server so I could bring work home with me and duplicate part of the programming environment I was working in at the time. I did not explain to my girls what Windows XP was or Vista or Linux or Apple – I just set them up on their systems and let them run.

    They did what most kids do or did on computers – they played games, they wrote stories, they used paint like applications and surfed the kid-web (think Barbie and Disney). They did not know that the computer they were using was supposed to be hard – it just worked and as long as it did, they had fun using them. On the Xandros box we’d occasionally run into a MS app that would not install or run properly, but that was okay, there was still plenty to do.

    Along the way, we got them new computers, put on OS’s like XP Pro, Windows Media Center 2005, Windows Vista Home Premium, Apple OS X (up to 10.4) Linux Mint, PC Linux OS (both Gnome and the KDE versions) and G OS. Now, being 12 and 14, they are perfectly normal girls, interested in the things most girls are at that age; while a little on the nerdy side, they absolutely are not geeks and are fairly average PC users. Both have systems that dual boot; both have applications that they run and seem to prefer to use on the Microsoft side and others that they use strictly on the Linux boot; they seem to spend most of their time using Linux and I can only guess that because they started on Linux boxes, it’s just easier for them.

    Regarding the OS wars, we all get a laugh out of the commercials and commentary that say this OS is crap or buy an apple or what not, but my point is that people – average computer users, will use what they feel most comfortable with (yeah, some think there is prestige in owning an Apple). The kings and queens of FUD (fear, uncertainty and doubt) don’t reside in the Linux community but rather with Microsoft and Apple (hopefully fanboys will watch the commercials again before flaming me) and while some average users might actually feel comfortable USING Linux, they aren’t comfortable with INSTALLING it. They aren’t comfortable with the idea that they need to download an .iso or .torrent or .img to get this new OS. They aren’t comfortable that they have to repartition or overwrite their existing OS and potentially lose what they’ve accumulated. Mint and PC Linux OS make it extremely easy to repartition and install their OS’s, but unless or until Linux installers can walk users through the steps, making good suggestions along the way and basically holding their hands, it would be or would seem to be unreasonable that even the most savvy average user would be interested in these steps. Even as live CD’s and live DVD’s gain prevalence – it’s hard to imagine average Jane or Joe, sorting thru their BIOS to select a boot device and so forth.

    In short, for the average user – using Linux and learning Linux is no more difficult than it is with any other OS and in many cases is actually easier; however, just be a bit more realistic regarding how we can help said average user obtain, install or co-install, and safeguard their livelihoods before we shoot THEM (or in this case their advocates who spout FUD) down for being stupid. Not everyone who is interested in using Linux has a desire to jump in with both feet, some just want to test the waters to see what it’s like. The better and easier the distro’s get for a user to make a live disk, safeguard their data, and perform all the steps to get a user up and running, the more prevalent it will be and the way I see it, that’s up to us who use and like Linux to make sure those things happen.

  16. MY Year or the Linux desktop: 2008.

    The AVERAGE user doesn’t install his OS. That process is at least as convoluted for MS as for Linux.
    Thus, if he gets a system with the Linux OS pre-installed and configured, he is absolutely not confronted with all the woes of installations. Then, he just uses it as he should.
    I wonder how MS would fare if it sold as a install CD instead of preinstalled, along with all the CDs for all of the other hardware in the box. The AVERAGE user would surely be more tech-savvy.
    Naturally, he would then migrate to a platform that is more stable, reliable, safe, self-updating (for free), and plays well with software from other companies.

    A mother of two now back in school in computer sciences.

  17. I do very well running linux for day-to-day activities. There are a few things that I still can’t do with linux, which depress me slightly, as I would really like to get away from windows.

    1. My Palm TX does not like syncing from linux. It goes into a reboot loop, and the only way out is to hard reset. I have to use my Palm on the windows box.

    2. Games. My days as a heavy gamer are basically done, but I do like playing some UT3 against the computer sometimes, and playing my favorite MMO. UT3 is a lost cause for linux, as Midway refuses to carry on Epic’s tradition of UT always running on linux.

    My MMO, there might be some hope for, as someone got it to run on wine without much hassle. I want to try this in the near future myself.

    Also Ventrilo is another fuzzy area… some make it work under wine, others don’t have much luck. The company has a linux version of the server, but not a client, and they pretty much refuse to comment on their forums about the 3+ years of “working on it”. We won’t see a linux client for it.

    Some things we just don’t have much choice, you have to have at least a box running windows, or 2 harddrives for dual boot.

  18. As CEO of a Swiss GmbH and CTO of a UK company – I use GNU/Linux (mainly Ubuntu for desktops) the distro is getting bloated but it saves me time. My staff use GNU/Linux – we do not dual boot. Users are eclectic though (we come in all shapes an sizes) !

    I do not pay for cooking recipes – I consider that a waste – no better than my Mothers or others I can get for free. Sometimes I add a different herb or spice to a recipe – Sometimes I pass recipes on.
    A great niece of mine can use GNU/Linux to learn to read, my mother (she was a TB nurse never a geek) uses Thunderbird /Open Office/ Firefox/Skype.
    She recently asked me why her 3 yr old laptop / Xubuntu was getting slow (was it wearing out?) – She now has an idea that software bloat is bad for old computers – She sees this as being as unnecessary as motorised window winders on cars (“silly wastes of resources”) – perhaps she is old school – or perhaps her generation understands the value of low footprints. She is free to think!

    We see that the “typical desktop user” is a pointless abstraction that hides detail – under the hood we are people and we have different grounds for preferring better, safer, faster and freer software (or not!).

    There are people who prefer restriction or the oxymoron of “Safety in Numbers”, so while I know people who walk up hills alone and ski off-piste for fun – I know others who go no-where unless strapped into an expensive car and who stay overnight in grey homogeneous hotel chains – let them sit on the “free”way or stand queueing for lifts.

    Which are you? – Happily you are free to be who you want to be – GNU/Linux offers that! Thanks to countless contributors.

    I am not an evangelist for software ( a silly and unnecessary notion) but for freedom. If God granted us freedom of belief – then freedom of speech is necessary, universal suffrage important and freedom of software a tiny and *almost* inconsequential subset. All freedom should be cherished rather than taken for granted – just as we cherish diversity amongst our children we should appreciate freedom of choice, freedom to vote and freedom to believe and freedom to achieve.
    Free software serves these ends, while proprietary software simply offers an alternative at greater cost (IMHO) – “there but for the grace of freedom go I”.

  19. “If you do not believe that, fine. You can be wrong if you want to.”

    Sound logic, as argued by a 9 year old. Then you go on to list all the things that you do with Linux. The issue was never about you. As a zealot you still can’t come to grips with the fact that you are not normal by the virtue of the fact you use Linux in the first place. Neither is Richard Stillman, which is exactly why he was mentioned in the original article.

    I could go on, but you know your right and I’m a Windows using doody-face.

  20. Linux on the desktop. Hmm, linux has been my personal desktop for almost ten years. My Windows NT got eaten and wouldn’t boot, and required a complete re-install, which by the way lost all of my data, and I have never looked back. Caldera, then Redhat, then Mandrake (Mandriva now), Gentoo, and since it came out, Ubuntu. All those versions and my data has safely continued to exist in my /home filesystem. Linux also runs my Multimedia box. My son runs it, although he dual-boots for games. He especially likes Ebuntu on his netbook. I do have a company supplied laptop that runs XP. It’s not mine so I don’t care. It constantly reminds me of why I prefer Linux, my favorite is when explorer.exe loses it and requires restarting so the screen will paint correctly.

    I personally get a kick out of articles that state that it’s not ready for the Desktop, the saying that always comes to my mind is that it’s ready and has been for quite some time for “the desktop”, just not theirs, as they just aren’t ready for it.

    Let’s be honest, the only reason it hasn’t spread like wildfire is the marketing agreements that Microsoft has with all of the hardware companies. If they sell too much of Linux the price they pay to MS for Windows will rise, as I understand it by quite a lot, as it’s volume based pricing. So their bottom line dictates that they continue to push Windows. Some concede to sell Linux desktops like Dell, but seemingly just so they can say they do, as the “good” computers they make do not have it as an option. That way it’s no danger to their bottom line.

    The only way that will stop is if MS is forced to sell their products at the same price to every manufacturer, removing the volume pricing monopoly enforcement. Maybe the EU people will see this and implement it, then we’ll see Linux and maybe some others really take off.

    Either way, that’s all about big money, and I’m not. I don’t buy machines from the big manufacturers and I don’t really care what they sell. I use what works for me, Linux.

  21. I’ll relate my situation. I have a basic familiarity with Linux. Basic, I still need to run to Google every time something happens to find the answer. It is however enough that I can run Linux as my only desktop. My family has three computers in their house and they were all running Windows XP. One day they got a call from their ISP saying there was a virus somewhere behind their cable-modem and if it wasn’t taken care of they would lose their Internet access. I laid it out straight for my family: Linux is definitely not always the most polished solution but it is a solution where your ISP won’t be phoning with a disconnection threat. So, in addition to my own desktop I converted their computers (two desktops and one laptop) over to Linux. They hated it. Of course I was upset because I put quite a bit of work into configuring it all: finding graphics drivers, wireless drivers, the whole bit. So we made a deal: give it one month and if you still hate it I’ll reinstall Windows XP. The month passed and at the end of it they were actually quite happy and nobody asked for XP to be reinstalled. Since then I’ve been able to talk about the things that actually matter in the Linux ecosystem such as software freedoms and this is just reinforcing the move. So, including my own that is four new machines that have come over to Linux in the last four months. I’m always willing to help install and configure more for the friends of my family so that may even grow further. I think it comes down to familiarity: people want to stay with Windows because it looks the way they expect, give them a (forced) month to get used to Linux and in their minds it becomes just as good. Of course it really helped that for one of them (my nephew) his gaming takes place on an Xbox 360 as it is undeniable that commercial quality gaming is practically the only weakness Linux has.

  22. I use linux on my home server (with external 1T hard drive) for network storage and on my laptop I have a dual boot Linux/Windows XP setup. The only reason I have the XP is for my Blackberry – I can’t install software updates except through the desktop application in windows. I have tried wine and even running XP in a virtual desktop top, but have not had success in getting them to recognize my Blackberry properly. If RIM every releases their software for Linux, I will never have need to use windows again.

  23. For those upset because the author was rude about Gartenberg. Come on! The man wrote an article that basically said “Linux isn’t usable on the desktop because Richard Stallman uses Emacs”. He was asking pretty-please to be insulted and laughed off the stage.

  24. There was a time i too advocated linux for the masses. I use it exclusively for more then a decade now, both desktop and my client servers (which are more everyday).
    But you know what? i quit advocating when i started thinking in the open source dynamics. You see, open source is diferent, we DONT NEED nor WANT clueless windows/mac users questioning why they cant install (insert name here) windows/mac app in linux, and if we dont answer them they will promptly switch back. For them i say, good ridance, open source (which linux is a part), is about contributing, either with code, translations, bug report, etc etc.. not whining for help, or threats or whatever they can do when they have a paid contract (which most dont). End users never EVER go complain to MS. Why? because they know they wouldnt be answered or would have to pay through the nose for some kind of quality support, but they feel they are entitled to have all THEIR problems fixed by the community just because linux is open source (free is just a side effect). So again i say, go suck a nail to them! stay with windows, viruses, malware, the like. We, proud linux users already have what we needed, awareness, driver support, big and small contracts to pay our bills, company support either big or small. Leave the clueless desktop users with their petty complains where they belong, a broken, ugly windows/mac world. They wont neither care about the community, so why would we want them? just to bloat our support forums? what possible good would we get from more mass adoption? Linux companies get their pay for support from big companies, we already have that, linux is free so the market dynamics dont work when we think about market share.
    What im saying is… Stop thinking about market share, thats a proprietary concept from the proprietary dark ages, we need awareness.. we already have that!! we are already there! leave the Neanderthals with they sticks and stones, we have rockets now 🙂

  25. I’m just an old bricklayer. I have used Linux since 1996 of and on and switched
    completely in 2003. I’ve used nothing but Linux since. I install my own OS and had to do it many times with Windows. It was a constant pain. I’ve used RedHat, Mandrake, Debian, Ubuntu, and now Mint. I find Mint the easist to install. It picked up all my hardware, sound, digtal camera, printer, etc.. It even set up network sharing without my doing anything. My wife has windows desktop. The problem is not that Linux is ready for the desk-top. It is. As was stated in previous post, it is the consistency of windows across the board. It has some good programs that people have come to expect to be there. Until Linux hits a standard for all programs to interact with each other regardless of flavor and the hardware vendors see the value of open source it will continue to be a up hill battle.
    I personaly applude the work that has gone into the different flavors of Linux and enjoy the fruits of their labors. I help where I can, and encourage others to try Linux. I have one friend that is using Ubuntu now. Still he does not find it intuitive when installing new packages and yet he is quite happy with the way it runs. No virius, no blue screen of death, no constant rebooting, and the security that he enjoys with out the constant upgrading of security software, and the list keeps growing. We who use this very fine OS need to encourage others by bringing out the strengths as well as the weaknesses of the system. Only by ackowledging these things and ackowledging their view can we encourage them to look at learning something new.
    I for one am grateful for the freedom to choose to learn and use something that was built out of love and desire to have something better. Too have a choice! May that continue to be the wave of the future as people see the value open source and the fact that you can choose or not!

  26. Nowdays, I wouldn’t even consider a desktop that *isn’t* Linux.
    All my equipment works and nvidia drivers were auto-installed.
    Linux offerings are so expansive now, any user who can’t find one
    they like just isn’t trying.

    Hint: Mint, Elive, Puppy, Mepis…

  27. Gene,

    I must say for the most part I agree with your position.
    You may have taken out a bit of your frustration on poor MG.

    Linux suffers from a perception problem. Most people compare Linux to Windows XXX or Mac OS Y. They expect that Linux will work just like one of these OSs. I am sure MG falls into this category.

    Well Windows ain’t a Mac and vis-a-versa! Linux stand on its own as well.

    If you took someone who knew nothing about computers and taught them how to use a version of Linux it would not take any longer or be fraught with any more issues than you would have with the other OS guys.

    There are some great distros out that that are as plug-n-play as they come. You can install Ubuntu, OpenSuse, Mint, Mandriva, etc with little to no problems. Hardware support is so much better today. I have not had a video driver problem in almost 5 years. I may be frustrated with the occasional audio bug but you know what?! When I loaded Windows 7 on my system it did not like my on-board audio. It took me 2 hours of internet searching and downloading community modified drivers to get it working. Gee that sound like some Linux distro from 5 years ago.

    Linux is about the freedom to choose what you want. It is a viable desktop solution that anyone can use, for free, is they choose.

    Ain’t life grand!

  28. MG is obviously wrong by virtue of the fact that MILLIONS of people use GNOME or KDE for their desktop, and for many of them, including me, it is their only desktop. There are 400 million Internet users in China, which is 100 Million MORE than the number of people living in America. Sixteen percent of them use Linux (head of Chinese ISP firm, Google it!). That amounts to 64 Million Linux users, about the same number of regular Internet users in America. Other countries of the world also have high percentages of Linux desktops being used.

    Steve Ballmer himself, in a talk given on Feb 28, 2008, presented a graphic in which he showed the Linux desktop market share at about 12%, just a little higher than Apple’s, at 10%. VISTA has only increased that market share, and Win7 hasn’t reversed it to any great extent.

    The truly remarkable fact is that these percentages are despite the fact that Microsoft still has a strangle hold on DELL and the other PC OEMS, which explains why they offer such meager and HIGHLY limited hardware offerings with Linux preinstalled. A LOT of buyers of new PCs do what I did, when I bought myself a new Sony VIAO notebook as a retirement gift in August of 2008, buy the hardware I wanted even though it came with VISTA preinstalled, and replace VISTA with Kubuntu. So, Windows gets the retail channel count and Linux gets the hardware. BTW, that Kubuntu ISO I used to install Linux on this notebook was also used to install Linux on the PCs of about a dozen of my friends, who also abandon Windows because of its lack of security, its cost, and its constant restrictions and interference.

  29. Paulo Dias (comment #25) thanks for reading and for your comment.

    I think the GNU/Linux community is big enough and diverse enough to take in even those you mention as “not worthy” of GNU/Linux. I agree that people are incorrect who believe they are entitled to and insist on “free support” just because the FOSS software is “free”. Those people need to be educated, not despised and rejected. Any of them that refuse to adapt, well, we won’t miss them when they leave the camp. 🙂

    We need to see that those of us who understand how the GNU/Linux and FOSS model work are responsible to gently and politely explain this to the new users. If we do not do this, who will?

  30. I have been using Ubuntu for the past 3 years and in these years I have only needed to use Windows 3 times. Each of those times I was trying to access a website which failed to render on Firefox/ Opera or Chrome. They were IE only.

    I know there are IEs4Linux but i seriously did not want to mar the pristine brilliance of the install I have with any pesky residual windows lag. I am very happy with Ubuntu… it does everything that i wanted it to do.

    I just changed a few defaults though:
    Switched over to VLC and Songbird. Have an affinity for both of these cross-platform software marvels.

    When we have started doing more and more things on the web and everything almost is moving on to the cloud, Linux is the ultimate thin client to use whilst accessing the world.

  31. I like Linux on a server side, however it will never be on mine, or my wife’s laptop/desktop for the following reasons:

    1. Hardware. Please don’t tell me that building a most up-to-date nVidia driver is easy. It’s not for an average user. Ubuntu offers to install the so-called latest “driver”, and I will just call it, say “version 185”. Okay, if I just point and click to install as a super user, and then reboot, then maybe the darn thing would work for a while and then a screen would start to flicker. Turns out this isn’t the right driver. Heading to nVidia website and downloading the driver is one thing. Now tell you average user, that they need to drop into CLI and go unpack the driver, then log into the -root account and then whole bunch of other commands like “sudo gdm stop” and then “sh blah-blah dirver”, etc., etc.
    Still feeling like and average user?? Don’t think so.
    Not to mention that No Distro has kernel support for Realtek Wireless drivers. This simply does not work except if you spend days of your valuable time trying to find a workaround. Hardware support is a bust – enough said.

    2. Kernel Trap.
    Every major update breaks the system’s audio, wi-fi, and video settings. Sure enough an average user has the time to Google the way to re-build the drivers into the new kernel. Say what? What is kernel, and average user will ask?

    3. No Linux distro can run MS Office 2007 and later, or Quick Books, or Turbo Tax/Taxcut Software, and lots of other applications that an average user does utilize on daily basis on their respective Windows machines. BTW, Wine does a very poor job and you really can’t run anything under it with 100% native performance.

    4. Software installation.
    Sure enough there’s Synaptic and Ubuntu Sofware Center, but tell your average user to install a software that is not in repository or not packaged in .rpm or .deb

    5. Printing
    This one is by and large my favorite. An average user surely can figure out how to install the drivers that are packed in tar balls an then master the CUPS printing. This stuff really is not solvable for an average user.

    I just want to say that Linux shoots itself in foot by not going commercial. By commercial I mean desktop, not server. Server is where Linux performs better than Windows by a large margin.

    But folks like myself would love to pay for a Linux OS disk that would just work out of the box and make out lives easier.

    Until that happens, Linux will only live in embedded devices and the server side of course. My two cents.

  32. Dmitriy (comment #35) thanks for your angst.

    I find this type of argument from people like you puzzling. People like you being apparently smart and technical should know not to judge all of Linux by one or two distributions. You should also know better than to assume that average users are installing their own operating systems. The greater majority of average users will never do that.

    I find that with Mandriva installs the installer almost always gets it right for the video. The rare times it doesn’t I know how to fix it. Since average users get a finished install from me they never have to fix it. Also all the nVidia drivers are available and new ones kept up with via backports. So, it takes a little training to know how to use backports? So what? It takes training to learn how to use any new OS.

    No, as in none at all, Realtek wireless drivers? Really?

    Kernel updates break your audio, video and wi-fi? That sucks for you and your distribution of choice but it is not true of every Linux distribution. I don’t use wireless on my desktop tower PC here at the SOHO, but kernel updates here have not broken audio and video for me in a long time. I would guess the last time I saw something like that happen was over three years ago. You need to update your arguments, my friend. 😉

    Uhm, why would you expect an operating system that is Not Windows to run software designed For Windows? Especially Microsoft’s own branded software like Office 2007? If a user is going into Linux with that expectation then someone led the user wrong. Many people are already using alternative FOSS software like, KOffice, etcetera on Microsoft systems. They would have no problem moving to Linux as far as those office suites are concerned. Find alternatives or petition the commercial software houses to make Linux versions. Good luck with Microsoft on the latter. 😉

    If one really needs Turbo Tax under Linux then use Intuit’s online version. Then make sure to have the latest Adobe Reader installed from Adobe (quite easy on major distributions) for the forms. Intuit even mentions Linux on this support page. Yup, many small businesses have one PC with Quickbooks on it and will not change that to another accounting package. So, for now I just set them up with a VM running the version of Microsoft Windows for which they have a license and install Quickbooks in that. They use the virtualized XP/Vista just for Quickbooks and Linux for everything else. However, it has been reported that Crossover Office (by the WINE team at CodeWeavers) runs small business versions of Quickbooks fairly well. Just search the WWW for “Crossover Office” and Quickbooks to find the reports.

    Installing software outside of repositories should be discouraged for average users. Those that insist they want to do this should be shown how by those who can lead them. A local Linux User Group (LUG) is a good place for this training.

    Oh wow, printing. Uh, all I did on Mandriva to get my Epson Stylus CX3810 (scanner/printer) to work was plug it in. I already had CUPS installed. IIRC, it just auto-magically showed up after that. If it had not shown up then I would have just gone to the Mandriva Control Center and run the “Set up the printer(s), the print job queues, …” under the Hardware tab. Stick with printer companies that are Linux friendly, Like Epson and HP, if you want to use Linux.

    You want commercial desktop Linux with support that works out of the box? Pay for Red Hat or SuSE. You’ll get what you want.

  33. So… is the year of Linux again? Yawn…

    Desktop Linux is crap, dude. Get over it. It’s what I did and after struggling with Red Hat, Suse, Gentoo, Ubuntu, you name it, gave up and bought a shiny Windows 7 box. Not looking back.

  34. maike (comment #37) thanks for reading.

    No part of this article said, “year of Linux”. Perhaps you should reread it. 😉

    It is sad that you cannot figure out any Linux distributions, by your own admission. 🙁 It is good that simplistic Microsoft “7” works for you. We are all happy for you, keep using Microsoft. 🙂

    Mandriva Linux works for me and several people I know personally, including some very non-technical users. We will keep using Linux.

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