Sunday, July 8, 2007

Confessions of a Linux Fan: 10 Things You Might Want To Know Before Switching Over To Linux



Linux fans (myself included) love to argue to Windows users how much better the Linuxes are than Microsoft Windows. Now don't get me wrong, I am not posting this to disprove that Linuxes, BSD's, or any of the *nixes are better than Windows, they really are. However (and there's always a however) we tend to be very selective on what we tell you when it comes to the minor details. Take this as a confession, as an admission of those details you might not necessarily like about Linux.

1. The basic installation of most mainstream Linux distributions is very easy, but a first time user might run into trouble when trying to depart from the defaults.

Some Linux distributions have Live Cd's, others have very user-friendly GUIs. However you might find that sometimes the Live CD installer, or the pretty GUI does not work because the installer does not have the right graphics drivers. In that case, you either need to find an alternate installation CD, or change the options at the boot screen. We don't tell you that this might happen because 90% of the time, the installer will work fine out of the box.

2. If you want a proper Linux installation, you are going to have to mess around with the partition table.

I see a partition table, and I know how to read it, for a new user, it might as well be written in [name exotic language of your choice here]. Yes, there are tutorials out there, but if you miss a step, for example forget to flag the /boot partition for booting, you might find yourself with a Linux install that does not want to boot up. We forget to tell you this because most installers either create a partition table for you, or just install everything into one partition, and Linux will still work either way, and chances are you will not be able to tell the difference.

3. You will have to learn how to use the command line.

Regardless of how GUIfied Linuxes have become, a lot of operations still require the command line, so you better be ready to learn how to use it. Besides, in the strange occurrence of a system crash, chances are it will revert to a stable command line interface. We don't tell you this because we, hardcore Linux users, *love* the command line, and the power of the command line is one of the major appeals of Linux. We truly believe everyone should love the command line as much as we do.

4. All those pretty effects of wobbly windows and cube desktops require some work from the user.

In most distributions, you will need to install Beryl/Compiz/Compiz Fusion in order to get those effects. Ubuntu Feisty comes with a slightly-watered-down version of Compiz, with wobbly windows, transparencies and a cubed desktop. For burning window plugins, active corners, etc, you will need to install Bery/Compiz Fusion... which will require some command line and some configuration. I believe the next version of Ubuntu (Gutsy Gibbon) will indeed come with Comiz-Fusion.

5. Yes, more hardware works with Linux than with Windows. No, not all hardware works 100% like it's supposed to.

This is specially true with some mainstream peripheral manufacturers. They have the bizarre notion that Linux users do not need/use peripherals so they do not publish drivers for Linux. Luckily we have a huge base of very capable programmers that are willing to reverse engineer drivers to make the peripherals work with Linux. Unfortunately, because they are not the manufacturer's drivers, the hardware might not work 100% as intended all the time. Infamous for this is Logitech, to name one.

6. If you need/want to install a package not included in the repositories, or install from source, you might need to do some research.

Because Linux is very modular, not all dependencies and libraries are installed by default. If you install an application from the repositories, the install application will automatically figure out the dependencies that need to be met. If you are installing an individual package, or from source, you might need to do some research or read installation instructions and READMEs and install the required dependencies prior to installing the application.
7. Most mainstream software manufacturers forget about Linux.

You will not find Photoshop for Linux, you will not find Microsoft Office for Linux, you will not find iTunes for Linux. This is especially true for the gaming industry, which has completely overpassed Linux. This is a blessing in disguise however. Once again, Linux developers/knights in shining armor have developed native programs, most of them open source and free (as in beer and free as in speech), to substitute their commercial cousins. Once again, some are better, some offer the same functionalities, and others are just mediocre. Luckily, we also have Wine, and its commercial cousins, Cedega and Crossover Office, which offer a port to a lot of Windows programs. This solution, however, will require in most instances, some work (read command line) from the user.

8. Linux is not for the meek of heart.

Linux is about being free; about having options. There are literally thousands of options for every single aspect of Linux, beginning with your distribution of choice. When you've picked out a distribution, you will want to choose window manager (Gnome, KDE, XFCE, Fluxbox....). Once you have that, you will want to customize your desktop theme: wallpaper, icons, window border shape, color and size, panels, launchers.... Last but not least, you will have tons of options for every program (for internet browsing for example, you might want Firefox, or SwiftFox, or Opera, or Konqueror, or ie4linux...you even have command line/text based web browsers). Basically, if you are an undecided person, you will be overwhelmed with choices.
9. Linux is almost entirely virus/trojan/spyware free, but you will still need some kind of protection.

Protection for Linux usually means a firewall, either installed in your computer, or in a router/hardware firewall. This, of course, implies a little bit more work for the user.

10. Linux assumes that you are an intelligent person.

As such, it assumes that if you log in as administrator, you know what you are doing. You can do a lot of damage as administrator. You can literally screw the whole darn system with a single mistyped command on the command line. Luckily, for the most part, you will be logged in as a lowly user.
Assuming that you are intelligent also implies that you can customize everything, and if you break something while customizing the system to your needs, you will know how to fix it, or be willing to work hard and learn how to fix it.

As a final thought, i guess what we, the Linux fans, do not tell you is that for the most part "Linux is for power users, and Windows is for n00bs" (I've seen this posted somewhere). So think about what I've posted, and if you are not willing to "geek" around a little, Linux is not for you.

78 comments:

Heikki Naski said...

1. Installation troubles: These can and will happen with any OS install, especially in x86 environment.

2. If you want proper ANY OS installation, you are going to have mess around with the partition table. For a basic user most Linux installs do a fine job with the default partition table. Basic users don't need to do that.

3. Command line: I partially agree although most command line commands that cannot be handled with GUI can be copy pasted to a terminal(which doesn't really require lots of skill). I'm not really aware of the GUI recovery etc. tools Linux has which could be used instead of CLI in emergencies as I myself use the CLI. Once again, on Windows there is the dreaded registry.

4. Desktop effects: I thought all this stuff was still beta?? I do agree that lots of people seem to praise these effects and they really shouldn't be recommended to a newbie unless there is a stable release.

5. Lack of hardware: Very true.

6. Source installs: If you need to install a program from source on ANY platform, you might need to do some research(source-based package managers being an exception of course).

7. Lack of software: Generally Linux apps tend to have less features than the mainstream operating systems' applications but especially software needed by printing industry is lacking(Adobe Acrobat Professional).

8. Too many options: This depends a lot on the distribution as many have just one program per task. And most don't force the user to decide window manager etc. during install. As for installable programs, there is even more variety for Windows, for example.

9. Security: Right on point. This is usually neglected.

10. Being careful as admin: This probably is easier to do with Linux and especially on the command line but it's also easy to do on other systems(while fixing Windows' drivers or shared libraries in system folders etc.)


All fanboys of any product keep telling about the good sides of it and usually don't delve on the dark side. Windows evangelists do it too. But really, I have heard of grandmas who use Linux and don't geek around. It all depends on the distribution as most modern Linuxes are perfectly fit for a basic user too.

I agree that hardware support, security and desktop effects are often praised too much.

Jeff said...

1. This is true, but as you said, it only happens like 10% of the time and the user can probably find his/her way to google to figure out how to fix it, also, i'm sure if linux massively grows, this will soon become a non-issue.

2. In most distros (i'll use Ubuntu as an example because it's the most popular and the easiest), partitioning requires very little knowledge of how partitions work...There's just a menu asking you if you want to use the whole drive or resize your windows partition (if there is one) and it gives you a handy slider to resize and it tells you what it's about to do...If you're non-experienced, the defaults will probably be fine.

3. I agree with this, but most computer users would recover from a crash of X the same way they'd recover from a crash of Windows, a reboot, and that's OK (it's not the best option, but it works)...Also, if you don't mess with kernels and modules too much, nothing really breaks in "final/gold" distro releases.

4. This is true, but most people prefer functionality and decent looks over cool ness...Also, Ubuntu 7.10 Gutsy will have Compiz Fusion built-in and enabled by default...Also, have you ever heard someone say: "I'm switching to Vista because of Aero"?

5. True, very little hardware is supported in Windows by default, but installing drivers is easy because most of them are wizards, in linux, if your hardware is not supported natively or by a package in your distro, it's a massive pain for newbies to install the correct kernel packages and make/install a module. This needs to be fixed by someone.

6. True that software installation is a pain, but most people that don't know much about linux won't need much outside their repos...If they do need to build something from source, usually the readme and errors in the ./configure script tell you what dependencies you need and usually the dependencies are in your package management.

7. True, but i believe as linux gets more popular, more developers will port their apps to it, till then, there are some perfectly good replacements: Pixel for Photoshop, OpenOffice for MS Office, Rhythmbox for iTunes, XMMS for Winamp, etc.

8. There is a lot of choice, and some people don't like that, but you do have the same choice for some things on Windows...such as web browsing: you have IE, Firefox, Seamonkey, Opera, KMeleon, Netscape and a whole lot of others. I think choice is a good thing, but you can choose not to use choice and just use the applications they give you that some standard.

9. I agree that linux only really needs a firewall, but most people have a firewall at their ISP, a router/modem of some sort that has a firewall, etc...Also, most people have to setup virus scanners and anti-spyware stuff on Windows, so i don't think quickly installing and setting up Firestarted will be too much of a chore as not too much work needs to be done in most cases after a linux install.

10. I have no comments on this one :P

Final Statement: I think saying linux is for power users is a bit wrong. I was a power user for years on Windows before i even knew about linux, i say that at this point, with any distro other than Ubuntu and Fedora (still even with them a bit), Linux is for experts and people willing to learn, you don't need much to learn linux, except someone to help you along and the willingness to learn what you're doing.

Inflatius said...

Great overview! Most of what you said it's true... but I was a Windows funboy for about 6 years and I've become paranoiac... just because I was so damn afraid to not get some sort of malware or virus. Now, on Linux, I am not afraid anymore, even if I have to 'geek' around for some packages.... who cares? It's fun :D

Cameron said...

very good points.

however...
I have been my mum's tech support for years. after a while, for some reason, windows just stopped working on her computer. it ran, she could play spider solitair and browse the net, but not at the same time. i formatted, re-installed, still nothing. windows didn't want to tell me what was wrong. i started to bug mum to buy a new one, this one has had it. a few months later, she's getting pretty sick of it. i tell her 'buy a new one!' she really didn't want it to come to that. we could install linux...... 'ok.' 30 mins later she's on ubuntu.

since then, i'v really missed giving my mum tech support. ubuntu didn't find anything wrong with the hardware. i left mum's NTFS drive there so she could get all of her files when needed. importing emails was a snap as she was already using thunderbird. mum loves the other solitaire games that come with gnome. her digital camera was discovered as soon as it was plugged in (mac OSX struggled with that one...). she hasn't once seen the command line.

everytime i go to visit i ask her how its going, 'great!' is all i get. i jump on and realise she still hasn't been hitting the orange 'update' button, but you can't win 'em all. she's still doing her work at home with openoffice. shes she's doing that at the same time as playing solitaire and listening to music and everything else at once. shes had less issues then my sister on her mac book. (i'v never been a mac man, if i can't use bash to fix her issues she's on her own.... i couldn't even figure out how to install firefox :S)

so i guess my point is, linux isn't just for power users. its for complete n00bs and power users. its the mid range that should stay off it.

Miro said...

1. Regarding compiz being beta, most of linux is in beta

2. for email and browsing, linux is already the best desktop but there are many apps that have no linux equivalent and they don't work in wine. eg. Oxford English dictionary, Adobe Acrobat, Systran Pro

Ty said...

Here is the thing that always gets me. 99% of this stuff would happen with Windows installs if users HAD to install Windows.

The big difference is that people buy machines with Windows installed. And if people were able (Now are able with Dell) to buy Linux machines preinstalled, most of what you said would not mean a thing.

Rob said...

I've tried at least 10 different Linux distros and with the exception of Ubuntu, they all crashed on install. Seems the futuristic 3D rendering capabilities of my graphics card was part of the problem.

Vista installed to the desktop in 30 minutes without even a driver download required (from a completely wiped hard drive).

That's just reality.

larrydag said...

Great post Pi. I posted a reply to this blog post on my Linuxblogger blog.

http://linuxblogger.dyndns.org/weblog/index.php?/archives/224-Solving-Those-Pesky-Linux-issues-Reply-to-Confessions-of-a-Linux-Fan.html

I hope this can help those new Linux users who may be having problems with their new found Linux projects.

Icon Serpentine said...

@Ty: Totally. Even when installing Windows, you still have to know partitioning -- it asks the same partitioning questions as any partitioning program.

Windows will boot and be usable without installing any drivers, but to get the full functionality you'll still have to do that stuff...

However, pre-installed Windows from the manufacturer removes all those issues. The same is true for Linux.

@Rob --

That's not the fault of the OS design. That's chump anti-competitive business tactics.

Most *.nixes can install and get to an X session without any trouble. I don't know which 10 you chose before landing on Ubuntu, but Fedora, Mandriva, and SuSe are all highly capable desktop systems.

---

Re: the post --

I'd say that some of these points are good, but some are opinion and not factual.

It's good to know pros and cons. Great post overall. :)

Amir said...

"Linux assumes that you are an intelligent person" - Yes, that's the point i love the most about Linux and other Free Software.

The best Free Software packages, such as Mozilla and Perl, assume that i am intelligent.

The worst Free Software packages, for example some parts of GNOME, assume that i am an idiot.

Unfortunately, Windows is rather better at assuming that the user is an idiot.

Matt Arnold said...

"3. You will have to learn how to use the command line. ... We truly believe everyone should love the command line as much as we do."

When will a Linux user explain why?

I've been using Ubuntu for years, and rarely had to use the command line. I still feel like I'm blind, deaf, and paralyzed when I'm in there. It's like being lost in a maze of a giant pitch-dark warehouse with hundreds of crates to skin my shins on.

What's the benefit that I can't get from the GUI?

My policy is that if I have to go into the command line to get a feature, I pretend Linux doesn't really have that feature yet.

JS said...

Linux is for power users but for absolute n00bs too. I installed Ubuntu on my fathers pc. He does not know root password and he is safe with his internet/jabber kiosk PC :-)

Digg User said...

I'm a power user with OSX and I'm a power user with Windows, but 2 months ago I went abroad and I made the stupid decision of installing Knoppix Live Disc, suffice to say that I had a nightmare of time trying to install the damn thing without so much as a manual or internet to help me do so. The netire thing had to be installed by command line but it wasn't through regular Unix or Dos, but something called GRUNT (something close to that) and I had the most difficult time ever. That really put me off of Linux, and I'm a very advanced user - I'm not surprised that Linux isn't and probably never will gain any real market share..some of the distros are just downright painful to get into, and harder to install - it's a steep learning curve because Linux users created a whole set of jargon for terms that we already have. EG: Distro = OS/Version (sorta)..if you called it a Linux version rather then Linux distro, it would seem less daunting and more friendlier since people are familiar with those terms.

Jake T said...

I disagree about the partition tables--if you're going to have a dual-boot system (most Linux noobs (myself included) need the safety net), you're going to have to end up editing fstab to get everyting to mount right.

Welcome to esoteric command/line text-based configuration land.

Eric said...

Linux, sminux...

I installed Vista with a wiped hard drive in 25 minutes and didn't even have to look around for drivers.

Before Vista though, I had built a computer with a fresh hard drive and though I'd give Linux a run (since my Vista software took about 3 more days to arrive.) I installed Fedora 6 then Ubuntu 6.10 [this was in January 2007.] I install Fedora and then when I get there, it's stable, but to get it there, it took about 4 hours to install. That's ridiculous. Vista on that same PC only took 25 minutes. At that point, I thought that maybe it was Fedora so I gave Ubuntu a go.

I installed Ubuntu, it took about 5 minutes longer than Vista, but nothing intolerable. Once it's installed, I found I couldn't even get Flash Player installed without going to the command line. From what I'm reading, it's common to go into the command line for linux users, but for Windows users, we really don't like that.

I work in IT Support and deal with Windows PCs on a daily basis and I do use command line if I have to, but why do so when so many things are available through a GUI interface? (I know there are some benefits but I still prefer GUI over command line.) And just to install Flash Player, that's ridiculous. Beryl vs Aero? Aero wipes the floor with beryl due to ease of use and ease of configuration. I tried to install Nvidia Graphics card drivers, had to go to the command line and even then it wouldn't work...so I say to hell with Linux, it needs some polish.

Quite frankly, after those recent Linux experiences, I think Linux really needs polish. Is it somewhat usable? Yeah, but only for the basic stuff. But if you're goin' for more than basic e-mail and internet, you'd best look elsewhere (Windows or Mac OS X.) And as a gamer, just look to Windows.

I'm usin' Vista right now and it works like a charm, so far it's faster and more reliable/secure than XP, it definitely installs faster than many Linux distros. Some may say that Vista is a resource hog (and it is somewhat) but if you have enough resources, then there's no problem. I like open source as most people do, but when people think open source, they only think of one thing, open source = free. I take pleasure in telling open source people that because truth is most people don't care about choice, they just care about the price tag. And there's the old addage "you get what you pay for." Well, Linux and Vista have definitely shown that. With Linux, since it's free, I definitely got what it was worth; I paid a decent sum for Vista, but it was more than worth it. Don't call me an MS fanboy though, the thing is thanks to Windows, I have a job and I like my job and I intend to keep my job. When thanks to Windows you're earning money, let's just say you grow a certain love for Windows and disdain to anything that threatens that money flow.

For me it works like this, if all you want is to browse the internet and check e-mail, install Linux. If you want to do anything more intensive than that, install XP or Vista (preferrably Vista.)

haxality said...

I wholeheartedly agree with this post. It's something that's been pushed under the radar lately with all the 'Ubuntuness' going around. Linux is still fundamentally different from windows, but that's what makes it fun to learn :)

I do disagree with #9, though, as you only need a firewall if you actually have open ports, which most modern distros (even Debian!) do not have; usually in addition to some simple iptables rules.

Matt said...

I disagree.

Try something like Ubuntu, chances are you'll never touch terminal, even the Nvidia restricted drivers are offered to you on a plate after install, and then it recognizes you support desktop effects, and offers them in GUI. No terminal for "wobbly windows" on Ubuntu. :P

julio said...

hi install and prepare linux for users is more complex than windows, but the final result is more stable and easy to work, we use php, apache, mysql on linux, os400 interface (pc5250), and desktop normal user and works fine, and when we don't know something, google has the answer....
sorry my english is badly

Vincent said...

I found myself approaching this post with scepticism (I know, I shouldn't), but it was quite accurate. But seriously, re-read this paragraph:

"6. If you need/want to install a package not included in the repositories, or install from source, you might need to do some research.

"Because Linux is very modular, not all dependencies and libraries are installed by default. If you install an application from the repositories, the install application will automatically figure out the dependencies that need to be met. If you are installing an individual package, or from source, you might need to do some research or read installation instructions and READMEs and install the required dependencies prior to installing the application."

How is a non-Linux user supposed to understand that? Dependencies, libraries, install from source, package... :S

Oh, and about the command line. No, it's not needed for about anything. However, you still have to learn it because about all tutorials are written for using the command line. I try to write my own tutorials using the GUI, but I'm an exception. And still, using the command line is faster ("copy this: sudo apt-get install blablabla" is way faster than "open Synaptic (Applications->System->Synaptic Package Manager), make sure your list is up-to-date by clicking Reload, search for blablabla, mark it for installation, then click Apply). That's why we love it.

Craig said...

What is funny to me is that the the Linux users going point by point are missing the point of the whole article. THIS ARTICLE IS NOT FOR YOU! It is trying to be a more balanced viewpoint of few points might be seen as negative aspects of going with Linux. Thanks for the refreshing post.

nfiniti9 said...

I can't believe nobody mentions the biggest GLARING problem that linux has right now. Input devices! Man is there some terrible support for any mouse that has more than 3 buttons. This must be done in the command line and its not exactly the easiest of tasks. Now get an advanced tablet or tablet pen to work and have all the buttons do their correct function.

DrGeorge said...

@Eric: "I found I couldn't even get Flash Player installed without going to the command line."

Either you must have found a really old version of Ubuntu, or you're not following the simple prompts.

I've installed 7.04 several times in the past few weeks, and every single time, the (non-tech) user has gotten a "Click here to download plugins" prompt on the first Flash page encountered, which worked every single time. No command line in sight.

I'm suspicious that you are proactively going to the Adobe site and downloading a generic Flash package, instead of just using what Ubuntu provides. If so, you're not the "n00b" that this article addresses - you're a semi-power user who's making work for himself.

I agreed with 1 and 4-10, at least to a reasonable extent. I have no idea why a new user would need a command line, nor why a new user would need to touch a partition table, but the others are at least relevant to Linux. Of course, 1, 5, 6 and 8 apply at least as much to Windows, and 9 is actually a Linux advantage... :-)

Ian said...

In regard to some professional apps not working wine, in this age of virtualiazation (vmware, virtualbox, etc), you can get anything to work.

DrGeorge said...

@digg user: "I had a nightmare of time trying to install the damn thing without so much as a manual or internet to help me do so"

Let me get this straight. You went to a foriegn country, picked a German distribution of a live CD, avoided an Internet connection as well as any written documentation whatsoever, and then tried to install it from the command line?

And you assert this is a fair test of the user friendliness of installing Linux?

[rolls eyes] You're not a "power user", my friend, you're suicidal!

Ty said...

All this talk still goes back to comparing Windows Preinstalled with Linux not installed.

I have an IBM M51 Think center and Vista runs like crap. This is a fairly new machine and runs Linux and XP fine. But there are a lack of Vista drivers.

I want to see if someone can come on here and show me that if you by a Ubuntu Dell and a Windows Dell that you are going to wind up with lots more problems on the Linux machine then on the Windows machine.

The other thing that is funny is that this whole conversation shows how good Linux is.

If we can sit here and even compare Windows that comes from a Multi Billion Dollar company to Linux which is mostly made for free, then Linux has already won half the battle.

Dave said...

As a guy who went from Dos to Windows and has been seriously looking at Linux for the past year, this is the most helpful article I've read yet. Since I have used computers for so long I know that by now there are always problems, with everything. To hear about them honestly and knowing they are not a big deal to me has finally given me the confidence to put my second box to use. Thanks!

Mackenzie said...

Eric, you can install Flash Player when Firefox informs you that you need it for some website. Alternatively, add extra repositories through the GUI in System > Administration, then go to Add/Remove under "Applications" and choose "Flash Plugin (non-Free)." Make sure Add/Remove is showing "all available software" not just "Canonical supported software," and you've done it with absolutely no command line. Beryl is available in Add/Remove too.

Nvidia drivers are available through the System > Administration > Restricted Driver Manager GUI. I'll admit that on very very new Nvidia cards, this won't work. Then you need to use the Synaptic GUI and install kernel headers, download the NVIDIA*.run from nvidia.com, and go to a command line and put "sh NVID" hit tab, and hit enter. It asks 3 questions if I recall correctly. One is "should I auto-configure the computer to use this card?" and you say "Yes" (or if you already put "nvidia" in xorg.conf, say no), then it does it itself, and you reboot. That's one command line thing if your card is less than 6 months old, and it's not regular onboard Intel graphics.

I've had issues with Windows drivers a lot worse than that. It's a good thing I always have a second computer around to download Windows drivers, because Windows, out of the box, doesn't even have ethernet drivers to go download the drivers you need.

Tony said...

Great article, fully agree with all 10 things and I've been a linux user for 7 years and a unix user since early 80s. That is why I switched to the unix I wish linux was: mac os x

Justin said...

I'd rather use the best Unix desktop out there... OSX.

Johannes Schindelin said...

In effect you are only listing two points (which you blow up to 10 points. because you are thinking binary, or alternatively because 10 point lists are all the rage these days):

- Linux is much harder than Windows, and

- Windows is better supported by manufacturers.

The first is simply not true. Friends of mine installed Linux with less problems than Windows, and to contradict your retort: they are more comfortable with the mouse than with the keyboard.

So your first argument is so 90s.

The second is true, though. But really, that is the fault of customers. Customers who like to put up with shelling out lots of dollars to Microsoft, in the vain hope that things will work.

You would not believe how many people asked me "why did I not switch earlier?" after I suggested they try Knoppix first, and then maybe install any Linux distribution.

However, even today I encountered a scanner which comes without Linux driver, and without documentation how it works, so I cannot write one.

So your second point is half true.

But instead of encouraging people to just give up, and use Windows (which you have to admit is the effect of your list), you should bug them into prodding hardware manufacturers to stop pretending that they are driver sellers, and finally give out enough documentation for other to write the drivers for them, for free.

Eventually, all will do that. But we can force them to see the light just a bit earlier, so that we can actually benefit from it in our lifetime.

Milind said...

Very true my friend. Very true. Since I hate windows, and linux is basically annoying cause you have to 'work' to make the OS work for you, I chose OS X. It has all the perks of linux save for the extra customizing, and 'smartness' that linux expects from its user. Dumb's the word when it comes to OS X.

I know no one likes a macboy these days, but that's the way it is...

Mono said...

Well done, best and most honest Linux critique I've read. Given the amount of those that are setup issues - installing, installing stuff from source, partitioning, setting up compiz, etc - here's the easy solution:

Use a geek to set it up for you!

I've happily converted a technophobe friend to Ubuntu Feisty with Beryl, and he loves showing off his wobbling windows to friends on his laptop.

Andrew Kharlamov said...

hmmm, none of that seemed hard using ubuntu, including the wobbly effects :-P.

Elad said...

I am a Windows power user, and no stranger to *nixes of all kinds. My Lenovo T60 dual boots Vista and Feisty (which I installed myself with _no_ problems what so ever).

However, even for someone who is very familiar with a command line. There are quite a few tasks which took way too much effort.

For example i tried following a simple how-to on getting a kvm machine running Windows XP so I could run some Windows apps using rdesktop. No matter how much I tried and 10s of click-throughs to numerous threads discussing all the issues I ran into, I still did not succeed. Eventually I installed VMWare server which didnt require any kernel modules being compiled no packages and no friggin' sources. Perhaps it did, it just never let me know about it. Thats the way software should install, and thats the way it has installed on Windows for ages.

My two cents...

JMC said...

"You will have to learn how to use the command line"

It could be me, but it sounded like you were referring to using the command like someone would refer to using a slide rule. The command line IS the most powerful way to get anything done, and I don't see this changing. Users should embrace the CLI with open arms.

russcampbell said...

You need to rethink #10. Before I explain, let me say I use Windows exclusively. Not because I'm in love with Microsoft, but just because it's what business uses mostly and I make my living as a programmer (granted, Linux is making inroads now, but still has a small share). I want to see Linux continue to grow, however

First, you need to rethink your definition of "intelligence." It's obvious you think someone is smart only if they are technical. There are plenty of highly intelligent people who just don't know a lot about computers. Should they not use Linux? Secondly, even for those of us with intelligence and technical expertise, we simply might not want to putz around with things the computer can do for us. An OS is a tool. All tools should make the lives of the users easier. I write tools and work hard to make my clients' businesses run more smoothly and save them time. When I use a tool I expect the same thing. However, in the Linux world - and I do have some experience with it - it often appears that this goal is forgotten. You state that people have to be willing to "geek around" a bit. Well, I can do that, but I'd prefer to do as little as possible simply because I have a ton of other things to do. It's not a matter of intelligence, it's a matter of wanting to spend my time getting in billable hours instead of geeking around with an OS. And if only people willing to "geek around" are supposed to use Linux, then it will never claim the kingdom from M$. Most people just want to get things done, not geek around. Until the Linux world realizes that, the Linux world will be a small, small world (suddenly I sound like Walt Disney). Windows does not make things easy enough, either, though there have been some big improvements in a number of areas. Linux, however, lags behind as you admit. Take case sensitivity. That's a stupid thing to have in an OS (and in programming languages). Do you think Linux will gain large market share when it tells a user the file he is searching for doesn't exist, but you only think it doesn't exist because the user did not use the exact same case when typing it into a search tool as was used when it was created? Granted, some - maybe most - search tools take case sensitivity out of the equation, but this is just an example of dumb things that will trip up average users - even intelligent ones and even technically-oriented intelligent ones.

The bottom line is that too many in the Linux community see this "intelligence" thing as some kind of badge of honor. It's actually an albatross. I'm intelligent enough to use Linux and so are many people, but I'm not appreciative of a tool wasting my valuable time and there is still too much of that in Linux (although it is getting better and I'm glad for it). A lot of technical people look down their nose at me - I'm sure it will happen here - when I talk about this. It's an "oh, he can't hack it" attitude. Fine, let them take their condescending, arrogant approach. One day, hopefully, they will remember that computers are supposed to make our lives easier and most people have limited time and patience for computers and software when they find they are doing just the opposite. Stop thinking that making something easier to use is catering to the unintelligent or the "n00bs". Realize that it is simply respecting the users' time and making their lives easier and then Linux will go far.

Francis said...

I am a long time Windows user. I am not an IT professional; just a hobbyist. I have played with many Linux distros. Simply Mepis 6.5 works out of the box without any command line nonsense (yes you do have to search for some codecs to get DVD play). I have also recently tried Vector Linux. This one does what I want without any intervention on my part. G-parted will take care of any partition issues. Yes, I still have WinXP on its own partition but I have not used it for months now. I look forward to the progression of Linux. As an aside; Open Suse 10.2 cannot get my old HP OfficeJet 630 to work without some silly configuration that I do not understand. I am tired of XP and all the spyware scans, viruses and incessant updates. Linux is now better and will continue to advance.

उन्मुक्त said...

आप ठीक कहते हैं पर लिनेक्स के अच्छे बिन्दु भी बताने चाहिये।

Gary said...

As of now, I have 4 Linux distros on this box, Fedora7, Mint Cassandra, PCLOS 2007, Suse 10.2 plus XP. I an most impressed with Mint and particularly PCLOS. I run an ATI 1950pro video and dual monitors. With PCLOS, I had the ATI restricted driver, Beryl and big desktop across both monitors running after just a few clicks.

Amazing!

Uno said...

There are only two things you need to worry about if you plan to switch to Linux.

1) Is your hardware supported?

2) Can you get the software you need?

If you can answer yes to these questions Linux you are likely to find modern Linux easier to use than windows.

Petrus said...

Just Say No.

I was using Linux on and off between 1994, and earlier this year. However, a couple of things combined to eventually drive me away from it.

1. Having to do everything by hand (especially when you don't need to) becomes exceptionally tedious over a long period of time. Compiling software, messing around with X and video drivers, having to store an encyclopedia of arcane commands in your head...it becomes a pain.

2. The existing userbase are (at least to an extent) some of the most smug, mean-spirited, generally rotten human beings I've ever encountered anywhere; an example of collectivism gone horribly wrong. Don't get me started on the religious side of things, either. The technical inconvenience I could handle, but it was the Marxist fanatics who eventually alienated me.

I did try hard, and over a long period of time, to switch to Linux, but have finally been convinced to stick with XP, mainly due to the intense hatred I have come to feel towards the "community." Yes, XP isn't perfect either...but it is one hell of a lot easier to use, and it doesn't have the freak factor either.

Petrus said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Pi said...

@ Craig: Thank you for realizing who this article is really intended towards.

@ Everyone else: Think lowest common denominator when it comes to computer literacy.

@ Intelligence vs Computer savvy comments: I actually did mean common sense/logical intelligence as in "Hmmm... maybe I should do some research before installing this application which they warn me is still under testing and might corrupt my system...."
...no technical know how there. Sorry if I wasn't clear about that one.

Pomeroy said...

BUT WAIT I DON'T AGREE!
Ok Who said they could speak on behalf of the entire Linux community and say that there are all these problems with Linux after just using Ubuntu or something like it?
1.The basic installation of most mainstream Linux distributions is very easy, but a first time user might run into trouble when trying to depart from the defaults. May I Get A Word In Here? First of all it depends on what you are installing, second if you are installing Ubuntu I can see where you might have trouble installing it. PCLinuxOS and other Mandrake distros don't have as much trouble.
2.If you want a proper Linux installation, you are going to have to mess around with the partition table. What? It did it automatically for me. It even does in Ubuntu too. Not sure what the problem is.
3.You will have to learn how to use the command line. You will? In PCLinuxOS I can install pretty much everything from the Synaptic Package Manager in PCLinuxOS except ie4linux and VMWare. So I'm not quite sure what you are talking about.
4.All those pretty effects of wobbly windows and cube desktops require some work from the user. Oh? Is that really true? In PCLinuxOS the beryl 3D desktop will work as soon as it's done installing on most computers. If it does not and you know what kind of Video card you have (like me I have a Nvidia 6000) you just open the Synaptic Package manager and search for Nvidia and look in the description for the 6xxx series. Install it and thats it.
5.Yes, more hardware works with Linux than with Windows. No, not all hardware works 100% like it's supposed to. OK? In Windows Vista 64 bit and almost as many times in 32 bit you can't get drivers for your hard ware to work properly. Just try to get dial up working in 64 bit, You can't. Now maybe HP printers work the best in Linux but thats because HP supports Linux. Dell printers for standard Dell models that come with windows are Lexmark Paperweights. Lexmark printers are the cheapest printers made and also the worst quality. No wonder they don't work in Linux. If it's not a good printer it probably doesn't work at all in Linux. As for dial up well it does work in Linux 64 bit with the right modems.
6.If you need/want to install a package not included in the repositories, or install from source, you might need to do some research. Research? You must mean research to find out if it is going to work with debian based Ubuntu. Almost any package will work in PCLinuxOS or a mandrake based version but debian packages must be premade just for debian. Debian is so special that there are packages made just for it. Wow doesn't that make you feel special. Mandrake makes it's own packages with the make command. Why can't debian do that? Maybe the question is why can't Windows do that?
7.Most mainstream software manufacturers forget about Linux. Oh? Is that why since the beginning of 2007 to now 12% of software manufacturers have left Microsoft and made code for Linux? It's estimated that by 2008 63% will support Linux.
8.Linux is not for the meek of heart. Darn Straight! Finally we can agree on something! Thats why those T-Shirts say fear me for I am Root! (the root user has all privileges and access to all systems) Linux ROCKS! Don't try to hide it.
9.Linux is almost entirely virus/trojan/spyware free, but you will still need some kind of protection. Ok where did you learn about Linux? From Microsoft's FUD department? Linux comes with it's firewall turned on and tight as a locked safe at Fort Knocks. There is no way in unless you make a way. Now of course you can get pop ups or spy ware that will track your PC or pop up adds unless you clean out your temporary files once in a while but it's that way on any system and those are not viruses. Viruses attack your computer and data or mess with settings like Trojans or send more junk on like worms.
10. Linux assumes that you are an intelligent person. “As such, it assumes that if you log in as administrator, you know what you are doing. You can do a lot of damage as administrator. You can literally screw the whole darn system with a single mistyped command on the command line. Luckily, for the most part, you will be logged in as a lowly user.
Assuming that you are intelligent also implies that you can customize everything, and if you break something while customizing the system to your needs, you will know how to fix it, or be willing to work hard and learn how to fix it.” OK now you are telling me that you need to be intelligent to use Linux? Logging in as root is a bit stupid but live and learn then reinstall it again stupid and don't use that root account. Secondly you think it's easier in Windows? I don't even have to try to screw things up in Windows, they are already screwed up when I install it. It takes a “intelligent” person to fix Microsoft's screw ups and make the system actually run! Linux is for people that just want their computer to work like a toaster. I usually install it for people that can't or don't want to and set it up just for them so that they can use it anytime they what without worrying about it crashing.
11.“As a final thought, i guess what we, the Linux fans, do not tell you is that for the most part "Linux is for power users, and Windows is for n00bs" (I've seen this posted somewhere). So think about what I've posted, and if you are not willing to "geek" around a little, Linux is not for you.” Windows is for n00bs? Then when will the n00bs ever learn how to use Linux if it's so complicated like you say?

The E V A N G E L I S T said...

Hi,

I have to ask you to do something instead if you really want to understand the easiness of GNU/Linux installation (partition, etc) since you are crying a lot about it.

First, clean your hard drive, install GNU/Linux using complete space and then try installing windows and make it dual boot.

Let me know how easy was the partitioning.

Yeah, that's what I am talkin baby.

Adios all suckers... stick with your dump, windows. Please do a favor, don't ever try GNU/Linux.

Syahid Ali said...

the above method is not favourable for a dual boot. it is advised to install windows before installing linux to ease partitioning. problem occured with the above method because windows is rewriting the MBR that stored the linux boot manager, LILO. actually, you can stick with windows AND linux. :D

DrGeorge said...

@milind: "OS X... has all the perks of linux save for the extra customizing"

It lacks one "perk" of exceptional importance to me - freedom. I love the freedom to choose among my favorite OS vendors, to share copies of the products I enjoy the most with friends and family, and to upgrade computers with the latest stuff without asking "permission" with credit card in hand.

I personally find the community to be overwhelmingly positive and fun, as well, though of course, YMMV.

MAC OS/X and Linux are both solid technical products, but freedom is without price. Try some today. :-)

pragmaticObjects said...

...but you didn't mention anything about the web experience. Trying to get all the necessary plug-ins (mostly for video formats) installed for Firefox (I'm assuming all Linux users use FF here) is NOT a minor effort. Windows users also have to do the same things, but definitely have an easier time.

Heikki Naski said...

@ Pi

I'm aware that most users now use Windows and most users switching an OS are migrating from Windows to Linux. But still, the article seems to somehow make it sound like it is Linux, only the Linux and nothing but the Linux which has these problems. I think practically all the mentioned problems occur with every migration to another system.

But like you said, what kind of stir would you have made up with "Problems that might occur with OS migration?" :)

Aleksandar said...

"Confessions of a Windows Fan, who has tried some Linux Distribution(s) somwhere in the 90s"

Things have changed.

DrGeorge said...

@Pragmatic Objects: "...but you didn't mention anything about the web experience. "

OK, I'll mention it. :-)

The major web plug-ins, add-ons and extensions install precisely as in Firefox on Windows - just click the button and off you go.

Try it - take a fresh Ubuntu install and type "youtube.com" into Firefox, and you'll get the "Plugin needed - click here" prompt. Click there. Not so hard!

A few Microsoft-specific media formats require enabling non-free repositories to install, or are not available. I'll cheerfully admit that even I could create a new media format, put media on the web in that format, and release only proprietary binaries that run on Windows to view it. It would be standards-hostile and anti-social, but I could.

In the real world, though, I rarely encounter anything that I can't view personally, but maybe I just don't go to sites that aspire to be IE-only. Overall, my web experience has been overwhelmingly positive, thanks.

My (non-technical) wife actually *asked* me to install Ubuntu on her laptop after trying it on my computer (while her Windows was being re-installed yet again to evict the malware), so I guess that even for a non-techie, the experience must have advantages that outweigh the few Windows-only sites remaining.

And I read a blog entry by a nice lady in China just this morning, who (even though Vista is readily available for free) has discovered Ubuntu to just work better for her home computer needs. She uses Vista at her business, though, because her vertical integration software supplier provides only non-free Windows binaries. *sigh*

But again, YMMV.

rodkovel said...

The most salient quote from above is this:

"Unfortunately, Windows is rather better at assuming that the user is an idiot." (Amir said it.)

Basically true, but a little too harsh.

Linux is really only good for professionals and serious hobbyists, the kind of people who yesteryear might have built their own airplanes or ships in a bottle because Linux is seriously retro in its means and methods. It takes an enormous commitment of time and money to the subject of computers, which most people just aren't too interested in to begin with, and that's why there's not much demand for it.

Someone above said users should embrace Command Lines. To me, this is really like preferring iceboxes to refrigerators. Who wants to go backwards in time, and why? The whole process of having to type instructions to a computer so it can do what it has to is all so 1980's FORTRAN and COBOL to those of us who have been there and done that to have to do things that way!

Windows, on the other hand, was designed for everyone. It is really the killer ap for end users who want to be out the door at 5 PM and really can't be bothered having to study and memorize obscure command line instructions that come at regular people as gibberish words (“sudo get-apt”). It is for people who don’t have a need to ponder confounding visuals and icons for days or weeks just to install their mundane games or other programs, if they can be made to work at all.

Windows’ genius lies in its premise is that it is a metaphor for the physical world of real offices – something most of us have long taken for granted. Windows is good specifically because it is easy and very intuitive because users get the underlying theme right out of the box, making the feel readily graspable by anyone with any intelligence. Even when there are changes, those have been mostly seamless in feel over time, with slight emigrations in the interface and the services provided, not radical conniptions from distribution to distribution and across versions now seen in Linux.

Windows is also perfect for kids to use. Nine years ago, my then-two year old niece loaded up her game disc -- the kind of educational game that still doesn't exist for Linux-- on Win95 with no problem --no need to mount and unmount the disc, assuming a Linux computer will even do it -- and then shut it down with no problem and no help. She did not even have to know how to read to make the computer do what she wanted. Isn't that why you bought a computer?

Linux, and specifically the KDE interface I tried out extensively, on the other hand, is stripped bare of context. There is nothing familiar to hold onto, like the physical world of paper filing cabinets. There is no entry point for new users. You are lost once you get there.

Linux is NOT for common commercial use. Its not like anyone in that world is going to save money otherwise headed to Bill Gates and others by substituting freeware. The reality is that the Linux learning curve is very steep, many employees won't get it at all, and those who do become indispensable, and then hold up for raises. Small companies in which people are their own IT departments are going to get hosed by thinking they are getting a free lunch. And as far as I can tell, most of the kinds of programs that ordinary people ordinarily buy with ease on the shelves of the closest Wal-mart -- Turbo Tax, Quicken and so forth, aren't supported by Linux, or adaptable to it, and the Linux substitutes are lame. So Linux people are still looking at having Windows because they can’t even find what they want, and now need to have two sets of computers or two sets of software threaded by a risky and time consuming dual boot installation.

Nor is it for ordinary home use. Even proprietary games, simple and hard, are not readily available for Linux users – only lame substitutes. The lists that I saw of Windows-designed applications made to work on Linux was short indeed. My game – a solitaire game only 3 MB long, was not on it, and it failed to work at all. My kid’s games refused to work. My wife’s Mahjongg did not work, demanding I mount an already mounted installation disc. In fact, nothing worked.

As for me, mostly an end application user, and I think I am representative of the computer and OS market. And for us, I have got to say that going backwards -- having to mount and unmount discs (terms we used in the '70's when mainframes used tape drives, and my floppy never did mount in Arklinux) -- and then having to Kommand for files through directories with names that might as well be in Chinese for all they helped in the task were most disconcertingly stressful events.

I get it that one of the big precepts for Linux was to revise the directory and search system to allow non-IT end users to avoid having to look at (or tamper with) computer housekeeping areas while getting to where they are going. But changing the directory tree from just c: to the longer and more confusing \root\hdc\share\usr or some such name was a nightmare. And no help either.

Kommander is asinine in that, contrary to the precept, it opens by feeding the user into a directory tree that is filled with the exact housekeeping stuff users were not supposed to have to deal with, identified by meaningless gibberish folder names like "bin" and "share." And I only got that far by clicking on one of several tiny (and unchangeable) sized icons that did not reflect convention, found on an ultraslim tool panel: a house that was not my “home page” online, but a “root folder” list.

Worse yet, what appeared in front of me was completely anti-intuitive: the left pane showed a the directory tree that was so thoughtless as to fail to highlight which folder’s contents were actually revealed on the right. Absent highlighting, I assumed I was looking at the top level folder, which is what Windows does and what one would by nature expect from dozens of aps that use this kind of interface; strangely I was actually looking at the files that were several layers beneath the folder tree in the left pane. I then had to manually pick through the gibberish-name subdirectories before my stuff to finally showed up; the file saving process for some applications did not necessarily show the entire path to get there.

So I say KDE’s merger of the search functions for both the computer and the whole Internet into the web browser interface made them both useless. I also tried the Ubuntu version of this stuff, and found it only marginally better.

Moreover, Windows is so, so much, much more flexible than Linux in regard to finding what you need later, it seems to me. You put your stuff exactly where you want it, with folders titled as explicitly as you want, with no guesswork involved, and you find it later, no problem, with no effort of hunting through gibberish folder names, and with no areas locked out for file placement People are much better conceiving of a physical world than they are dealing with the contrived, artificial Linux structures filled with garbage names.

The worst is still to come for those of you who are hardcore Linux fans: after trying it on for size in both the Ark and Ubuntu styles, I can hardly think of even any real functional benefit to a general-purpose user that would that would propel a user like me to prefer Linux to Windows. The posts in this blog about the customizing possibilities available to users, seems to me, is just hype. There was little if anything in the KDE or Ubuntu interfaces that is either not native to Windows (and better designed as well), or can't be replicated in a just a few keystrokes or even without taking a hand off the mouse, without having to resort to memorized gibberish command instructions. The only thing I found that was really good was that file lists showed up as if on ruled paper, making it easier to see additional file details. I have not seen where I could do that in Windows. It’s nice, but not enough to make me switch.

It was also very disappointing to try to install some (source) thing that I downloaded. Having to use "repositories" to get programs is unnatural and illogical, even for a newbie, and very confining to those of us who love Download.com and driverguide.com, who get to enjoy plenty of really good stuff for free with a minimum number of clicks and get to install it at our own convenience when now is not a good time to wait on the computer. The programs that I installed for Linux often engendered feature shock; Download.com programs are often wonderfully pared to provide just what you need and no more, and that can be a blessing unavailable to repository downloaders who have little or no choices.

Linux is also frightening because the process of downloading stuff and installing it directly to a specific computer at a specific IP address from a specific repository, rather than simply acquiring it from any of a million sites and putting it on your keychain drive at the library, is that the install is probably recorded somewhere, and that means someone is probably going to try to charge you for using it or updating it later.

Would you put your company’s future into the hands of a sole source software distributor – one made up primarily of volunteers?

On the other side of that coin, however, is that Linux is also really a severe hardship for people using computers without a broadband Internet connection. When trying out Ubuntu at home, I tried downloading source stuff from work, and with 3 decades of using computers behind me, I figured I was capable of installing small programs myself. But no. I was unable to figure out or even guess how to install an archived program specifically for Linux -- Wine -- as the architecture forbade it and offered not the slightest clue or help about what I had to click to install that stuff. The Ubuntu documentation was worse than useless; it was written to be simple for newbies, and yet much – the entire subject of how to install software from a disc – was glossed over, before simply holding don’t try this at home.

I had to wait a week for someone -- an administrator of Wine site -- to email me an answer to "How do you install Wine once it is downloaded to a compact disc?" What I got was like 4 paragraphs of instructions replete with a variety of caveats in case the usual methods failed, as they apparently often do. All Windows requires you to do is click "Run" once you put the disc into its tray.

But perhaps I'm just ticked because when I finally got Wine in, it refused to run any of my proprietary Windows-premised games, not one of which was more complicated than solitaire.

The few highlighted benefits of Linux -- the safety from viruses, and so on -- is to me just hype. There are fewer attacks on Linux because it is a microscopic target. Yet users still need firewalls. Many peripherals, especially older ones are dicey propositions. Applications come from unverified sources without certificates, and thus are questionable and risky. Open Office is OK, not really good, in comparison to Office or WP. Wine doesn’t cut it, leaving vast areas of endeavor unsupported by good Linux aps. The supposed lack of crashing is, to me, a myth. My Linux crashed repeatedly when I tried loading “Candyland” onto a powerful computer with no other programs running, no peripherals attached, and no Internet connection. I ended up rebooting.

And ultimately, the long term prospect that Linux does not become the next BetaMax, or CP/M or New Coke are only so-so.

I think most users would sooner pay the man his $2 and take no risks at all, and that is why the vote is about 93% to Microsoft, 6% to Mac and 0.7% for Linux.

So the crucial confession of a Linux user should be this: "I have all the time in the world, and no particular concern that I will get any really benefits from Linux other than the knowledge gained by experiencing it. Unless your primary motive is instant gratification, enjoy something besides Linux."

To me, Linux simply is not an alternative, especially in business, not now, to Windows. For all its stability and vulnerability flaws, Windows is well conceived, well designed, and a pleasure to use (when it works). That is why it is so well received. Linux is not.

Unless and until there are drastic changes to the Linux approach – a focus put on users who are not programmers for their day jobs – Linux will never catch on.

Linux is different, it seems to me, just to be different, to be a pirate colony, to by a thumb in Bill Gates's face, a phenomenon that explains it, but fails to justify it economically.

DrGeorge said...

@ rodkovel: "To me, Linux simply is not an alternative"

Sorry it didn't work out for you - not surprising, though, since your epistle is mostly about trying to run Windows-specific software. Windows software runs best on... Windows. :-)

"the vote is about 93% to Microsoft, 6% to Mac and 0.7% for Linux"

Well, no, that was last year. Top Google hits on "desktop linux market share" in last 6 months:

On April 26, 2007, SQL Space measured reported web usage of about 88% Windows, 5.9% Mac, and 4.8% Linux.

In June 2007, W3 Schools measured reported web usage of 86.7% Windows, 4.0% Mac, and 3.4% Linux.

Some Linux users still set their machines to falsely report Windows XP to fool Windows-only sites, but even the reported numbers show promising trends relative to the older 0.7% you quoted. ;-)

Best wishes.

Heikki Naski said...

@ rodkovel

Power users use command line because of speed, power and flexibility. 'Obscure' commands aren't really all that different from program names which you must also memorize in Windows. I've had lots of problems remembering a name of a software I've used just once when I'm trying to find it from Windows' menus.
Modern Linux distros usually require very little, if any command line usage.

I can't realize how Windows' metaphor of real world is different from KDE's? There's desktop, and places to put things even tho somethings are named differently.

I also haven't really found many distributions where it's necessary to mount discs by hand. At least the distros I've tried notify me politely that there's cd or USB stick detected.
About the obscure directory names, there are obscure names in Windows too. C:\Windows is so full of them and a basic user is just as supposed to rumble around there as he is supposed to rumble in /etc.
You said you used KDE, and what I've used Konqueror(it's default file manager) I never had to go anywhere obscure. My own folder, I put files there and search them there.

You're right about the reasons to switch OS, if there isn't any then it isn't wise to switch. As Jon Hall said, a change without a benefit would be a all-pain no-gain switch. I've had plenty of reasons to use other systems than Windows and I still have reasons to use Windows too.

"...those of us who love Download.com and driverguide.com, who get to enjoy plenty of really good stuff for free with a minimum number of clicks and get to install it at our own convenience when now is not a good time to wait on the computer."
My experiences are quite the opposite of that. I can mark lots of software to be installed with most of the Linux package managers and then command it to install. No clicking yes to licenses, no selecting folders where to install them . I hardly see a way with Windows to install say 10 programs without sitting next to computer. There might be automatic installers for this tho, haven't looked up on it.
But the main point is that Linux(Debian in my case) way of install is very easy and fast. The only downside being that there is not as much software as there is for Windows, which is because there are not that many developers which is because there are not that many users.

I disagree with the thought of repositories being unnatural. People tend to think of the software as a part of the OS and finding software from somewhere else is more unnatural methinks.
And I wouldn't think of those "million sites" you mentioned getting software from very reliable. The thought of an install being recorded somewhere and someone trying to charge from it sounds pretty ridiculous to me. Most people download and install Windows software directly to their home computers anyway.

People also keep saying Linux is bad because it's hard to install programs from source. How many people really install from source on Windows? And how many say that it sucks because they can't do that?

There have been also lots of talk about Linux receiving less attacks because it's less popular. There seems to be a consensus that Linux machines get way less than even that 0.7% you mentioned, of attacks.

I've seen lots of people following this new trend, proclaiming that "Linux is not ready for desktop." There have been esteemed academics, professionals, regular bloggers etc. I just wonder where were they when Windows 98/98SE/ME was used? Why were those ready for desktop then and Linux isn't now?

If you found a piece of hardware that doesn't work with Linux or there isn't software that you want for it or it doesn't behave like your previous OS did, it doesn't mean Linux is not ready for desktop. I say again, Win ME never was near the readiness for desktop that, say Ubuntu has now. Still ME was used wide and even I experienced it's wrath.

But I'm certainly not saying that everyone should use Linux or that Linux is hugely better than Windows. Both have their pros and cons, I prefer Linux and probably would prefer it even tho I wouldn't be a power user.

cornbreadsalad said...

i pretty much had it with windows about 2 months ago - my computer had reached the point of crashing several times a week and eventually wouldn't boot at all. my brother in law is a computer genius and said i should try ubuntu. the first thing i did was download slax on another computer and burn it, then load it on my laptop to be able to access the hard drive. once i copied all i needed i installed ubuntu - just wipes the drive clean. it's been 2 months without any issues, the available FREE linux software addresses 99% of my needs, and i'm spending $0 on maintaining it. sure, most of the games are mediocre, but the office and graphic software is virtually identical to any windows offers. i really don't know anything about linux, but with the new-found stability of my computer i have time to read a manual.

Rock'n'Roll Kid said...

I think this article misses a fundamental point: Linux IS NOT Windows! Its like comparing apples and oranges. Windows users have problems with Linux because it is a new skill set, not because Linux is "flawed."

I also think that this type of an article does a disservice because most users today have forgotten the DOS/Windows days. Installation was done via the (gasp!) command line! Finding native Windows apps for versions 1, 2 and 3 were few and far between, and setting up pure DOS applications had to be done in (gasp again!) the command line.

All these arguments are stale. Switch to Linux if you are mad at Bill, but realize that you are learning new materials. Your lack of training is not a reflection of the operating system. Linux is not Windows, and should not be expected to bow to discontented Windows users.

Lord said...

What Rock'n'Roll Kid says pretty much sums it up. Windows != Linux. Linux is growing to the point where just about anyone can handle installing it with a little effort. However windows has made the lazy even more lazy.

¨Learning something¨ new?¨ "Challenge myself?¨ ¨Why?¨

¨Linux is not for everyone¨ - I´ve been saying that for many years now. But I´m starting to change my tune. The average computer user can install and run Linux with little effort these days, and if they run into trouble they can get help. Communities like the one found along side the ubuntu distro is just simply amazing.

If you want to take a look deeper into the world of Linux then itś always there for you to do so. If not, I think youĺl be just fine.

I´ve had more problems installing windows then I ever have installing Linux. However no OS is perfect and bug free. Just use whatever your more comfortable with and enjoy your life.

Linux is the mystery that will always be calling you home.

James said...

I know plenty of unintelligent linux users. Being technically adept (ie having a collection of certifications or a library of memorized commands) does not imply intelligence. Linux is for dumb and smart people alike.

Buying a computer with Linux preinstalled solves just about every problem you listed. Installing Linux is now equally difficult as installing Windows.

All Windows users (except those damn gamers) should give Linux a try. If for some reason they can't figure it out, they should buy a Mac next time they replace their computer.

I don't know how Windows users deal with all the spyware...after using Unix all my life, I'm more scared of using Windows than any Windows user should be of using Linux.

chiron613 said...

These points, while they may sometimes apply, do not always apply.

1. I recently installed Ubuntu Linux, and had no installation problems at all. I only had to insert the installation CD and reboot.

2. I had no need to play with a partition table. You only need to do that if you're doing fancy things, or trying to install multiple operating systems on the same computer.

3. Command line - well, that's optional. I have no qualms about using it, but in Ubuntu I have rarely ever needed to use it. Everything works nicely from the GUI. I believe that this statement is old news, not currently accurate.

4. Eye candy - OK, got me there. I couldn't care less for it, so I never tried to install or use any of it. Maybe you do have to play around a bit in Linux. But - doesn't this apply to Windows, as well?

5. I don't know about the lack of hardware. I can only say that for my various computers, Linux has usually worked (for one laptop, no Linux version would ever install). All my peripherals work, too. So maybe it's true, but if so, I've been very lucky.

6. This point is not valid. If you need to install software on Windows, you still need to do research to find it. You may or may not have to buy it. Then you need to install it, and so on. In Windows, there *is* no repository, so you pretty much have to do this will all your software, not just the stuff that isn't in the repository.

7. There is some truth to this. Certain apps/features are neglected, in particular the help documentation. Not sure what the reason is, except that people who write stuff for fun, probably skip the boring parts.

8. "Too may option" - kind of like complaining about having too much money.

9. Security should never be taken for granted. As far as I know, Linux is not immune to viruses and other malware; it is just more resistant than Windows. You still need to take precautions to protect your computer.

10. Administration rights - exactly true. You need to know what you're doing, or you can easily destroy your filesystem or otherwise screw up your computer. The safer way of working is to restrict yourself to low privileges under most circumstances, and only elevate to root when it is required. Often you can use 'sudo' to temporarily give yourself privileges for specific tasks. I suppose it's something like moving from a regular passenger car to a semitrailer truck. You need to know how to operate it safely. If you don't... well, it might not be pretty.

rodkovel said...

Chiron613's remarks are quoted.

"1. I recently installed Ubuntu Linux, and had no installation problems at all. I only had to insert the installation CD and reboot."

I tried it too. None of 7 disks with Linux ISO's would clean install on a computer with 64 MB ram, advising of various conflicting errors, such as "arklinux CD not found." It wasn't on the blank harddrive; it must have been seeing the CD it wasn't seeing. Very bizarre. Also, it was very contrary to the instructions I had in a $30 Linux book.

"2. I had no need to play with a partition table. You only need to do that if you're doing fancy things, or trying to install multiple operating systems on the same computer."

Or trying to put Windows back after Linux failed you. Between the Grub and the partition changes, Linux stuck to my computer like flies to ....

"3. Command line - well, that's optional. I have no qualms about using it, but in Ubuntu I have rarely ever needed to use it. Everything works nicely from the GUI. I believe that this statement is old news, not currently accurate."

I guess you never tried to load any software that was not in a repository. After that, it is step after step of commands like sudo and apt-get, whatever they mean.

"5. I don't know about the lack of hardware. I can only say that for my various computers, Linux has usually worked (for one laptop, no Linux version would ever install). All my peripherals work, too. So maybe it's true, but if so, I've been very lucky."

Though one book after another suggests that Linux can be made to work on just about anything, there was no way for me to load it through the iso disk onto anything less than my 733 MHz computer. It wouldn't even boot on other pentiums, and the error notice pointed me to a website that was just gibberish.

"6. This point is not valid. If you need to install software on Windows, you still need to do research to find it. You may or may not have to buy it. Then you need to install it, and so on. In Windows, there *is* no repository, so you pretty much have to do this will all your software, not just the stuff that isn't in the repository."

Except that installing from a download usually only takes one click -- run -- and installing from a disk may not need anything but OK. Worst case scenario is using control panel to load from a disk. No sudos. No apt-gets or i-rpms, and then find the program doesn't work with your version.

"7. There is some truth to this. Certain apps/features are neglected, in particular the help documentation. Not sure what the reason is, except that people who write stuff for fun, probably skip the boring parts."

And, to the extent there is documentation, it is all in code that you have to be an expert to understand. Its like having a cook book that's only written for biochemical engineers.

"8. "Too may option" - kind of like complaining about having too much money."

Feature shock is a legitimate issue when the instructions become unreadably long, or, as in the case of Linux instructions, impossible to decode.

"9. Security should never be taken for granted. As far as I know, Linux is not immune to viruses and other malware; it is just more resistant than Windows. You still need to take precautions to protect your computer."

I doubt its more resistent, just less prone to attack, as fleas are less prone to attack by hunters than elephants.

"10. Administration rights - exactly true. You need to know what you're doing, or you can easily destroy your filesystem or otherwise screw up your computer."

No kidding! It's Ok for the computer to be designed to defend itself from mistakes, but that makes it cumbersome to use, especially with Konquerer. If one of the strengths of Linux is to let non-power users skip by housekeeping functions, why are they dumped right in the middle of system files when they open the explorer function? And, my god, why does saved work end up 6 or 8 layers deep in the file structure, making searches a nightmare through subfile after subfile with gibberish names like /home/share/usr, places that normal people would never dream of clicking on?

Janne said...

1) True, just like using windows graphical installers can fail, too.

2) True for all operating systems. But if you want your HD to be cut into smaller pieces of specific sizes with the stuff you want on them installed on them, you better know how to do it, too. And I'd say gparted fused into Ubuntu installation GUI is very easy way compared to, say win2000 text-based one.

3) This used to be true, but not anymore since most of the core, basic and lately, even advanced features have GUIs in my linux flavor, Ubuntu Feisty Fawn. And I swear you don't have to write a single command line to get your Ubuntu copy up and running and do stuff like play music, watch movies, surf the web, update your OS and applications, set up wireless internet connection, shut down crashed programs, share files between other computers in the network to name but a few. I can't speak for other distros but I doubt they're too far "behind".

4) Again, you haven't done your homework. On Ubuntu this is simply achieved by installing beryl from synaptics with like 3 clicks, then starting beryl manager from the Applications-menu and configuring it with GUI, meaning choosing between the effects you want, nothing requiring the least bit of skill or knowledge.

5) I don't have more to say to this but it's funny that my logitech keyboard and mouse just "plug-and-play" work with linux but with windows Vista, the OS detects the hardware and attemps to install them, but fails. Also the CDs with MouseWare and iTouch that shipped with my mouse and keyboard respectively, actually do not work at all in Vista. I went to Logitech's site and turns out they don't even plan on releasing Vista-support for their older products that were supported by iTouch. Right on, fight the Microsoft bastards!

6)True, naturally. If you want to compile your windows software yourself, you "might have to do some research", too. But luckily you don't have to do so on windows, do you? You have one big mystery.exe file that just installs something and does stuff you don't need to know about. And afterwards, the things just work!...or not.

You can do this on linux, too, to pretty good extent. If you can't find the software you need (or anything that serves the same purpose) on your package manager, chances are you'll find just as easily installing .deb packages or working, compiled binaries.

I'm still a bit of a noob with linux, but imagine, I've used it for 6 months now and I've never had to compile anything on my own. I'm still sure I'll find out about it when I have to, though, I'm just too lazy :)

7) Sadly true. But that's where the opensource software community kicks in, like you said. But I'm sure that with the fact that linux is getting increasingly popular, the software developers as well as eventually, game developers simply have to support linux to not lose a significant part of potential customers. Tweaking wine settings so that some particular game works may seem hard but it's not always easy on the windows side either. You have to install specific version of directx and of course, in the event of lockdown-crash (that's widely more likely to happen on windows than wine) you just have to restart the system whereas us wine-gamers only need to kill wine.

8) This is utter nonsense. Nobody's forcing you to change your desktop wallpaper (which, by the way, isn't linux-only feature) window manager or internet browser if you're satisfied with the default one. If there's something you don't like, I'm sure some of the other choices please you more and you should get no trauma whatsoever when presented the options, regardless on if there are 2 or 12 of them.

9) At least in my neighbourhood, DSL router/hubs are widely popular as most family households have more than 1 PC and it's pretty much the default choice for a new DSL user, and most of them have even some sort of basic NAT firewall in them, which is more than enough to make you feel safe using your linux. Hell, it even makes me feel safe enough to use IE on my outdated Vista with the windows firewall off. (it's good for nothing anyway)

10) This is certainly a creative one. Then by same logic, windows assumes you are an intelligent person no matter what account you log on, because you certainly can do major damage anyway. Just toy around the control panel, delete all the hardware from device manager, uninstall every application ever installed including display drivers, no questions or passwords asked.

Haven't you heard a legend of a guy who deleted his windows-folder when trying to free up some space for a new game? I have. What I haven't heard is someone deleting their filesystem on linux by accident. There is absolutely no fault in the way only root user can modify the operating system files and only administrators can change some of the settings. If you have understood the purpose of root user correctly, you never use your computer logged in as one. And if you're uncertain if you're accidentally going to screw things up, then you shouldn't be logged in as an administrator either.

By all standards you're no linux fan and this post serves no other purpose than strengthening the faulty myths about hard, commandline linux designed for evil hackers.

I've so little experience on the field of linux and yet even I can give an example to disprove almost every single one of your ridiculous claims.

Janne said...

And I want to say to Rodkovel after reading your entire post. I'm sorry you had such a bad experience with linux, but I think that what you really lacked was few small pieces of advice, and you gave up too easily on each of the subjects, without seeking answers from the extensive linux community forums.

What really strikes me is your frustration regarding the command line. Did you know that you can "fill in" the command and paths by pressing the tab key after writing the first few characters? And also, if some guide tells you to do "sudo apt-get update" for example, it doesn't mean there's not a graphical way to it. You're just following a guide oriented to more experienced users. Anyway, you find most of it documented in the getting started-FAQs that you've missed completely, judging by your post.

I hope you can give it another shot some time and get some better experiences.

DrGeorge said...

@rodkovel: "None of 7 disks with Linux ISO's would clean install on a computer with 64 MB ram"

So how did that Vista install work out for ya? :-)

Seriously, I'll try to put this as gently as I can, but your hardware is so, so, so underpowered that no supported version of Windows will run on it. Even ancient DOS-based Windows ME (remember the "640k barrier"? :-) needs 96 MB of RAM. Seriously, your $30 Linux book is worth at least 3 times the value of your hardware.

I'm pretty sure a Linux guru could custom-configure an installation that would give acceptable performance (after all, my Nokia 770 handheld runs Maemo Linux pretty well with only 64 MB RAM), but expecting perfect autodetect and a "clean install" of a modern general-purpose Linux distro with less memory than most cell phones today is just not a realistic expectation.

Sorry, and best wishes for future computing success.

rodkovel said...

I don't have Vista, and I don't want Vista because my apps won't work on it.

I also knew not to try to install Vista because the Windows instructions are quite clear about system requirements -- something that Linux is consistently inconsistent about.

All I wanted was a computer that would do something at all besides stop doors, so my intent was not to duplicate the power of the latest version of Windows in any event. My Linux book said Linux could be installed, FAQ's said it could be installed, and forums said Linux could be installed, all with little or no grief, and that my purpose was the perfect application for Linux. I had a $30 book to rely on. So why not?

I'll tell you why not. Little did I know that with Linux, aside from all of the other limitations it has once you are using it, like crappy applications, you can't get reliable advice. Books, so-called experts, FAQ's -- everybody has advice, and its frequently conflcting and frequently wrong.

My book made it clear that Linux would install, and it just wouldn't. It could not tell me what was wrong or how to adjust the install. My inability to install Linux is not my fault; it is systematic to the Linux process, which is why Windows is so popular. It just doesn't take much homework, and installations could hardly be easier. To be sure, there can be loads of problems with Windows installs -- but at least Joe Schmoe can do it on his own without having to study up.

Some of the problem is that websites and forums tend to read to a layman the way medical journals do: in incomprehensible code. If you were being taught to drive, you would not start with the blueprints and technical reports for the engine, yet this is what Linux demands. This is no way to learn something if you are starting at the basement, and have no intent to learn any more than you need to make the computer simply do what you need it to do. Alas, even if you spend the time with them, as I did, there is no guaranty the advice is right or even close to being right.

Then again, I tried installing something called "puppy linux" whose website specifically said it would work on old, low power computers -- and when it failed, the proponent was no where to be found and did not reply to email. So ultimately, not only is the advice itself a dicey propoposition, one is actually lucky to get any at all.

Overall, for a non-computer professional, trying to learn up on Linux without knowing the code -- or even when one does know it, really compares unfavorably to getting legal advice from the barber or medical advice from the gardener.

Until Linux behaves and reacts like Windows -- and by that I mean it is easy for every last person to use and to accomplish everything he needs it to do without taking his hand off the mouse -- it is without much value to the world at large.

Higinio said...

As a sysadmin i have found far more usable linux than windows. All about networking tools. Security has never been an issue for i have used personal firewalls since 1997.

As for multimedia I can say you can acquire codecs, encodecs and players of your choice and favorite flavour as freeware and without the fear of spyware. Something really hard to achieve in windows. I cannot add anything else for I only work and listen/encode music and video with my lap.

manmath sahu said...

Heikki Naski,
You have observed the linux computing very well. I totally agree with your points. I am really worried when the linux community will unify together to dump the action of creating chaos by creating so many distros, so many desktop environments, so many packaging systems.... bla... bla... bla... Linux desktop need just three things to develop:

1. Employ a tightly integrated desktop manager like that of windows explorer and/or mac aqua.
2. Hassle free software installation (why should the desktop user think of these terms such as rpm, deb, tgz, autopackage, synaptic, apt-get, yum, urpmi....).
3. Linux community should develop just a multiple of applications for one task, instead it should develop mature & productive apps like photoshop, nero, ms office and various multimedia tools...

petri said...

Very good points.

However although a little bit beside the point, what has worked remarkably well for me, is to set up Ubuntu system for my almost 80 years old mother. This means that I am the system administrator for her machine.

The biggest shortcoming detected was the situation with printer drivers. In order to print photos, I needed to buy online a driver pack. Even this was not absolutely mandatory, as she is printing her digital camera pictures from camera memory card directly.

In the start there was some remote admin sessions I had to do, but for the last year or so only 1 or 2 times I needed to provide help. And she is using the computer more or less daily.

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elsphit said...

I am really worried when the linux community will unify together to dump the action of creating chaos by creating so many distros..

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Ratul R. Minhaz said...

Most of the things you said are very wrong in today's context. Linux has evolved too much since the time you wrote this article that most of your claims are now invalid. So please don't scare off people by saying things like Linux installers are often unable to detect even the graphics card. At least put a sentence at the top of the article saying that everything you said here are in the context of Linuxes at the time of writing, ie 2007. Please do this because most of the users won't even look at the date!

Duncan Gunn said...

Having read all this just let me say:-

a) I'm not a fanboy, I slag around different OS's to get what's best about each one. No OS is king of them all.

b) Hardware manufacturer's are paranoid about their trade secrets leaking out and this is why they don't let you in on things like how you drive their kit. The register maps and diagrams of state machines etc are shared only with their most trusted partners. Not that you can trust all your bed buddies.

Never let linux and open source die however or you'll see what happens when corporations take the place of governments.

Without linux there wouldn't nearly so many cool gadgets since there linux has market penetration.


duncan_a_guns@hotmail.com

Duncan Gunn said...

Sorry but having even caught out by my new phone my email address should read duncan_a_gunn@hotmail.com

Duncan Gunn said...

Having read all this just let me say:-

a) I'm not a fanboy, I slag around different OS's to get what's best about each one. No OS is king of them all.

b) Hardware manufacturer's are paranoid about their trade secrets leaking out and this is why they don't let you in on things like how you drive their kit. The register maps and diagrams of state machines etc are shared only with their most trusted partners. Not that you can trust all your bed buddies.

Never let linux and open source die however or you'll see what happens when corporations take the place of governments.

Without linux there wouldn't nearly so many cool gadgets since there linux has market penetration.


duncan_a_guns@hotmail.com

Duncan Gunn said...

Just one more thing:- Microsoft are always trying to lock the competition out and this is especially true on systems running ARM processors. I think they're running scared of the big bad bogey-penguin.

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