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Is Linux Desktop-Ready Yet...or Not?

Point-Counterpoint Special on the state of the union so far as Linux on the desktop is concerned

Mark R. Hinkle: "Linux is ready for the desktop"

In my view, Linux on the desktop is a viable operating system.

It offers many features that are more innovative than commercial solutions. Virtual consoles, secure remote access solutions, true multi-tasking, and the ability to use robust journaling file systems all come to mind. Despite these advanced features, I have also noticed some parallels between Linux and some earlier versions of Windows. Let’s term these similarities as “growing pains.”

I do feel that there are many cases today where Linux is an inadequate solution, specifically in the area where James Turner's complaint lies - in laptops(docking is my pet peeve) and multimedia. However, I believe James to be a high-needs user; it’s my contention that much of the computing world comprises low-needs users. These terms should not reflect poorly on either group, but one group is definitely in the minority.

I think that Windows for example has made convenience an expectation of all users - but that comes with a price. Tight integration between office suites and the operating system have made viruses via Outlook a major productivity concern among MS Office users. Automated installation of software has made it so hard to remove some applications that there is a cottage industry dedicated to “cleaning up the OS.” Particularly insidious applications like spyware are difficult to detect and often even more difficult to remove. Centralized configuration repositories like the registry are often so complex that it's a major chore to fix or change settings that rip(out) and reinstall seem to be the only options. However, despite these serious usability and security concerns, Windows is considered to be “ready for the deskop” and is the unarguable market leader.

I believe that, since we have come to expect these problems, we as users have become inured to these obvious flaws. I liken this situation to automobiles. As I was growing up my father owned a car repair shop and auto sales lot. In those days it was not uncommon for us to fix a car in the driveway. Most anything could be repaired with basic tools. He and I were once incredulous at the fact so many people choose to pay to have minor repairs done. Now it’s almost impossible for the average person to repair modern cars because of the computers, sensors, and the complexity that includes features that my father probably would never have dreamed of when he bought his first car in the 1960s.

These features come with a price, as they have with my significant other’s car, a sporty German model with a glowing blue dashboard and features of all varieties. She recently had an annoying problem with her emissions sensors. The local repair shop ‘fixed’ the problem and she brought the car home. Once again the problem resurfaced and persistent error messages caused her to return for repairs. After multiple visits the solution was simply to reinstall all the parts because they were too complex to troubleshoot the root of the problem. This disposable mentality disagrees with me. This is the problem I have with Windows: it’s often too complex to fix the problem; the alternative is to try to rip out and replace. This method is often less than foolproof. With my Linux PC it’s very seldom that I can’t repair a problem and a re-install is often much less complicated than in the alternative “ready for the desktop” operating systems.

On my desktop I have installed many variations of Linux including Lycoris and Xandros. I have to say that after installing both of these distributions I had a much more pleasant experience than I ever did installing other OSes. Then again my concerns were very simple. I needed e-mail, Web browsing, office applications and instant messaging. One thing that I also liked was that I very seldom rebooted. In Windows, I felt like I rebooted constantly and memory usage for even the simpler apps could skyrocket right off the chart, grinding my PC to a halt.

As far as Linux on the desktop goes, I think the operating system is very good - it works well, despite some warts. And at the rate it’s improving, those "warts" are disappearing quickly. The limiting factor as I see is “application availability.” I think this is truly where James’ frustration primarily lies, as does mine. Today the availability of well-developed applications as compared to other operating systems is much lower. However, I have a “Field of Dreams” mentality for the Linux desktop, I can hear the whisper through the cornfields saying, “if you build it they will come.”

The key is to get application vendors, as the community has already done, to start to make software for Linux on par with their Windows offerings. I think there's a tremendous opportunity for commercial apps on Linux including legal DVD software, personal finance and sales contact managers such as ACT! and Goldmine. Not only do these applications need to address their intended purpose but they need to be easy to install. That end of the business is being addressed somewhat by Lindows with their Click-N-Run Warehouse, but there are not user oriented solutions such as Click-N-Run for Fedora, Mandrake, SuSE and others.

In summary, is Linux on the desktop today a universal solution that is appealing to all? No. Is Linux a solution that can address the needs of a large portion of desktop users? Absolutely. Will Linux on the desktop be the universally accepted solution of tomorrow? Maybe.

See next page for the Counterpoint by James Turner...
Linux Is Nowhere Near Ready for the Desktop

More Stories By Mark R. Hinkle

Mark Hinkle is the Senior Director, Open Soure Solutions at Citrix. He also is along-time open source expert and advocate. He is a co-founder of both the Open Source Management Consortium and the Desktop Linux Consortium. He has served as Editor-in-Chief for both LinuxWorld Magazine and Enterprise Open Source Magazine. Hinkle is also the author of the book, "Windows to Linux Business Desktop Migration" (Thomson, 2006). His blog on open source, technology, and new media can be found at http://www.socializedsoftware.com.

More Stories By James Turner

James Turner is president of Black Bear Software. James was formerly senior editor of Linux.SYS-CON.com and has also written for Wired, Christian Science Monitor, and other publications. He is currently working on his third book on open source development.

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Most Recent Comments
Tuxman 04/05/05 12:09:46 AM EDT

Doug look around i.e. http://www.google.com/linux toshiba has linux drivers on there site http://linux.toshiba-dme.co.jp/linux/ also check out http://www.buzzard.org.uk/toshiba/ & http://www.linux-laptop.net/ Another comment I like to make is get a distro worth using. I.e. SuSe, Mandrake, Xandros, ect. (all of which are good, user freindly, and honestly easier to learn than, what ever M$ will due to the next version)

There is no excuse for an OS not working on a Toshiba. They are plain And Simple the best My toshiba is accent It's triple boot 2000, Free Bsd 4.10, & SuSe 9.0 And has been that way since I pulled Lindows 4.5 (which is unlockable from c&r warehouse, then switchable to the debian package base) off for SuSe. Another quick comment is that on large distro such as SuSe, Turbo Linux, & Mandrake. You do get a lot of licensed software SUch as Commercial DVD i.e. Power DVD on Turbo, Intervideo DVD on SuSe 9.1 Laptop, And Drivers that you can not download from many manufacters Like OEM Win modem drivers for linux.

dougspring 04/04/05 02:11:38 AM EDT

I owned several models of Toshiba laptops, and with 3 different models over year and a half, I had to re-install Windows NT (yes, it's been a few years) over 8 different times because I would get this re-occuring blue screen of death. My experience with Toshiba is that they make hardware that isn't friendly with any OS.

Sid Boyce 03/30/05 08:02:45 AM EST

This argument goes around, comes around and is good for generating a certain amount of heat. The LIGHT that is rarely seen is that there are large and important enterprises added to the large number of individuals who have been using Linux successfully for ages, in my case, it's been my sole desktop for in excess of 11 years. The numbers are increasing steadily and it takes a very long time to establish a significant presence, remember we are dealing with human beings, still very primitive, though loathe to admit it, we haven't progressed much mentally in our whole existence. Gadgetised and accessorised, but the same old thought processes are intact.

zettberlin 03/30/05 03:45:41 AM EST

>Oh, so Linux is ready to go, but Fedex and UPS are dragging their feet? So we should switch to Linux and stop shipping merchandise until Fedex decides to port their shipping applications to Linux? That sounds like a good >idea. And how long do you think will that be?

If you want Fedex and UPS to decide, what IT you use than welcome at the reborn realm of communism. Are there no Alternatives willing and ready to ship your stuff over there?

José J 03/30/05 03:31:08 AM EST

"... Linux can do nothing but wait for FedEx and others to wake up and make their software for linux"

Oh, so Linux is ready to go, but Fedex and UPS are dragging their feet? So we should switch to Linux and stop shipping merchandise until Fedex decides to port their shipping applications to Linux? That sounds like a good idea. And how long do you think will that be?

Duval Pearson 03/29/05 05:58:29 PM EST

There is no doubt that Linux is ready for the desktop. I have recently installed the Debian distribution via the Knoppix cd and have no problems with the install process, I also installed the Xandros networks debian distribution and was impressed with the polished look of the os and some applications, they even looked better than some windows applications they also performed well and are very stable this convinces me that we simply have a problem with software availability which points to the vendors shortsightedness. The Mozilla group gives us the Firefox browser that looks so beautiful and works so well what then is stopping any other vendor from taking the time out to develop something along this line? I think the question that should be asked is; are the software and hardware driver developers ready for Linux? I think not, very often some of these developers attack Microsoft because of its dominance in the computer world but these vendors are the same ones in bed with Microsoft regarding this position, for example why can't we see a decent Acrobat reader for Linux, they are at v7.0 for Windows and Linux has to make do with an ugly looking v5.0, also why the full Acrobat is not available for the Linux platform, the same thing can be said about numerous other software and hardware vendors, this is not the Open source people's fault this is the vendors fault. On top of this Linux is superior to Windows in some ways, the command environment for one, the shell consoles are a joy to work with they are beautiful versatile powerful stable and feature rich a far cry from the little ugly command window in Windows. except for a few multimedia features Linux is more useful than windows immediately after installation, if there were not a mismatch in vendor support for the two operating systems Linux would be miles ahead of Windows. Linux is like a gallant stallion ready to be ridden to battle but too many people (Vendors) are standing by too coward to even saddle it.

Sid Boyce 03/13/05 10:28:37 AM EST

In my last post, "Citrix Linux VPN client" should read "Cisco Linux VPN client". My daughter's PC was setup by me with SuSE 9.1 and she uses it for all the usual stuff without problems, she uses Windows at work. Yesterday I got a call asking if I could install a new 17 inch LCD screen she bought, jumped in the car with an assortment of screwdrivers, 10 minutes later it was connected, booted, screen configured and she was happy. She would no more know what to do for a Linux problem than for a Windows problem, happily I've had a quiet time since installing Linux for her than when she had 98SE installed.

gobinath 03/13/05 09:59:59 AM EST

wont different vonders of linux...

Sid Boyce 01/18/05 04:30:11 PM EST

"We do use the Suse box in the office for browsing the internet and printing form letters, but that's about it. We haven't figured out anything else to do with it."
I like that comment. A colleague once said something similar - he installed Linux on his PC, but after you install Linux, what can you do with it? - I pointed across to my SuSE Linux laptop receiving mail with Lotus Notes, handling Word docs, Powerpoint Presentations, expenses spreadsheets, Citrix client, X3270 for mainframe stuff, remote admin of multiple Solaris partitions on large SPARC servers, communicating with our Windows NT servers, running DOS programs, Citrix Linux VPN client from home to access our online services, etc., etc.
In a couple of words - Imagination and knowledge deployed and you can use Linux for anything. My home network consists of Solaris 10 on a Ultra SPARC 5 and 6 Linux boxes including a 32-bit and a 64-bit laptop, no Windows anywhere and doing things like a real FlightSim (FlightGear) to practice on days when the weather is too bad to fly, interfacing with my Garmin GPS90 to setup waypoints for flying trips, Hamradio VOIP, electronics design and analysis, watching TV, plus the usual other host of things I need.

Toby N 01/18/05 10:38:06 AM EST

What planet are you from? It's made by Microsoft and will therefore most likely *never* be ported to linux. That asside, you *can* run MSDOS applications on Linux, as well as Windows itself. But I feel this post will change nothing for you, as you're obviously stubborn as hell to stick with Windows, otherwise you would've looked into these matters yourself. Honestly, I don't mind people using Windows, but I do mind it when they start spouting idiotic arguements and bash systems they just havent' taken the time to figure out.
Furthermore, Linux can do nothing but wait for FedEx and others to wake up and make their software for linux too, another fact I could've left out had you had brought your brain in here.

José J 01/17/05 01:44:37 PM EST

"Hey Jose, you say that your Windows 2000 doesn't crash ...Are you telling me you are going to use Windows 2000 till the day you die?" - Ryan Mc

No, but I'll keep using it until I figure out that something is more useful. Today, my Win 2K system is still more useful than my latest Novell Suse system. It has, for instance:
- an easier and faster spam filter
- CorelDraw 12
- Garmin 530 simulator
- MS-DOS (which runs Clipper and dBase accounting apps)
- FedEx and UPS shipping applications

I would guess that until Linux can run MSDOS applications, it won't make a lot of headway. There's still DOS accounting applications (like payroll, etc) in every office, and it's hard to get along without FedEx and UPS.

We do use the Suse box in the office for browsing the internet and printing form letters, but that's about it. We haven't figured out anything else to do with it.

Goran 01/17/05 03:17:01 AM EST

Can anyone direct me where can I find unix instalation download for free.
I need an old version from 2.0 to 5.0.

Ryan Mc 08/17/04 04:58:09 PM EDT

Sorry, I have to add this, Hey Jose, you say that your Windows 2000 doesn't crash, while you are right, it doesn't. I installed XP on the same computer, thinking it would be better, and it was absolutly horrible and constantly crashed. Are you telling me you are going to use Windows 2000 till the day you die? I think 2k was Microsoft's greatest work, but they went back to their regular crappy products with Win XP.

Ryan Mc 08/17/04 04:53:12 PM EDT

Hey John, try SuSE 9.1 Personal or Pro (Personal is free to download), it uses the new kernel 2.6 instead of 2.4 and has much better hardware detection. Between those 2 versions, support was added for my scanner and printer....and a sound card on my little brother's computer. Lol, Win XP doesn't even do that, If I reinstall it I spend 20 minutes on each reinstalling drivers before I spend hours reinstalling programs. Suse 9.1 for me, pop it in, an hour later (SuSE's installation procedure is one of the longest for Linux I have ever seen) everything is done and I have all the programs I need.

What do you mean latest Graphics cards aren't supported. Gotta be a bit more specific. If you wanna have a nice graphics card and still use Linux, don't buy ATI, buy NVidia, they make Linux and BSD drivers for their chips.

One thing people don't seem to understand, take a look along the front of your computer...ohhh, it's there somewhere, oh there it is, the little sticker that says "Designed for Microsoft Windows ". HP has just come out with a laptop that is actually designed for Linux and comes with SuSE 9.1 PRO on it, and then they are going to bring out desktops. For all you people that get scared away by the installation programs, well, now you can buy a computer (from a well known company, uve always been able to buy linux computers from no-name companies) from HP. If they are a big success, Dell, Sony and IBM will follow suit. About the only company that does have their own (somewhat unsucessful) line of pc's that won't do it is Microsoft.

Anyways, yea, like someone said earlier, don't try mixing oil and water, and don't try installing Linux on a computer designed for Windows UNLESS you are ready to possibly replace a few parts in the computer.

Or, save yourself the trouble, Wal-Mart sells computers with Linux Desktops on them, and even though they are no-name, I have had less problems with no-name computers than with brand name ones, nevermind the fact tat Wal-Mart is the best company in the world (at least in Canada) in regards to honoring warranties and taking returns.

John Ku 08/17/04 10:54:21 AM EDT

I am a newbie to Linux. I have successfully installed Suse Linux 9.0 and from my own experience, it's not a question of whether Linux is ready for the desktop but rather whether hardware manufacturers will support it like they support Windows. The simplest example is, if you buy the latest graphics card or the latest DVD writer, the installation CD will most certainly be 100% Windows. I think that there is a general reluctance amongst hardware manufacturers to supply drivers for Linux. Perhaps there is a sinister motive for their reluctance?

dougspring 08/17/04 04:07:14 AM EDT

Is Linux Ready? I asked that myself just before I put my 86 year old father-in law on it. He had never run a computer before, and he does email, download pictures from his digital camera, prints them out, and surfs the net over a dial up. For those of you who think Linux isn't there yet, perhaps you could learn something from an 86 year old newbie to the computer world!

Ryan McGregor 08/14/04 02:34:05 AM EDT

Ok. First of all, I have 3 computers and 1 laptop in my house. I have install Mandrake, SuSE, Linspire and Fedora on them all at different times and all of them worked out of the box. I use Linux 95% of the time and it meets my needs perfectly, so your analogy that Linux is useless is almost as stupid as you saying that Linux is not a real operating system. Look up the definition of operating system and you'll see that yes, in fact, Linux is a real operating system.

Oh, and if Linux was useless why would companies like Novell, IBM, HP...etc be investing their time and money into it.

Oh, and one more thing, why bother with stupid things like is Linux Desktop ready? Well, gee, kind of depends on whose desktop your talking about. For me, yes Linux is desktop ready, and it is a viable replacement for MS Windows. For you and my grandpa, it is not. Quit asking dumb questions and quit wasting your time.

I think the fact that a group of hackers that know each other only online can make a system like GNU/Linux that works is great as it does is truly amazing. Don't you think you are being a little hard on volunteers, peoplethat spend their time working on Linux for FREE....I think its pathetic how useless Windows can be when it has a massive Coporation like Microsoft behind it. When all the programmers are paid big bucks and they are not nearly as good as the volunteers Debian has. Of course, MS is more concerned about sueing everyone and making everyone else look bad then actually taking the time to fine-tune their product and spend some time fixing security holes. Anyways, you don't think Linux is desktop ready, well then don't use it. The only person that gives a damn what you think about Linux is....well you.

femgeek 08/10/04 02:21:53 PM EDT

My Win XP has problems with my printer (Samsung ML-4500). The drivers on the CD were bad and I just don't have the energy to go hunt for them.

Linux on the other hand does not care about the drivers. My printer works fine on Linux without any work to set it up.

Plug and play? What a joke.

squidd 04/26/04 10:33:16 PM EDT

well, if having an operating system w/ 63K of known bugs/security flaws - BEFORE - the recent black tuesday announcement - is "fun" - then have at it -

the question is, will the bandaid patches exceed the original OS footprint before the next bloated/broken/overpriced OS is released??? and gues what - you'll get to pay big bucks for it - and - that toshiba will probably have to be tossed as well -

"that" is *not* fun.

mr gates is infamously quoted as saying the pc will never need more than 64K - was he referring to the bug list.....

Gentoo Ken 04/25/04 11:42:48 PM EDT

Well,from what I see, Linux desktop is ready to rock the world.

Well,in term of installing and drivers support, is not a big issue. I mean, if there is a case where your h/w (Ethernet card,sound card, etc) liked...Eth card Broadcom 440x series which are come together with the Dell Dimension 2400, then, you need to download the driver from the net because for RedHat(ver 9.0 and below) and Mandrake, they didn't have the driver for it.Well, it is a bit troublesome, but PLEASE THINK;
For an open-source OS, Linux is really getting better and better. I mean, come on, is just a bit extra thing that you need to do.

BUT, if Linux is not an open-source OS, then, my comment will be different.


José Josephs 04/11/04 05:25:07 AM EDT

Q: "Why would he pick the OS that requires him to do more work than he would like."

A: "Maybe because it doesn't crash all the time, runs faster, doesn't get viruses and is free?"

My Windows 2000 doesn't crash, runs faster than my RH9 Linux, doesn't get viruses (even while processing 300 spams per day), and didn't cost a whole lot more than the 3 different hokey versions of Linux that I've bought since buying W2K.

Sid Boyce 04/04/04 07:17:52 AM EDT

Quite a long rant, it still doesn't fill me with confidence when later today I have to try and get my daughter's PC running again, it clams up with"WINOLDAP - illegal operation" with no clue what it thinks is causing the grief. There are many clueless users who are happy using Linux, like my colleagues wife who loves the fact that she can get on with her camera work without losing files and suffereing crashes as were common on Windows, that's why she made the move. If you find Linux confusing, stick with Windows and be happy. The employees at the town of Largo, Fla. don't seem to have a problem with Linux, On German city said they met resistance to Linux at first, people saying it was difficult, that it would allow their employer to spy on them, etc., then they got a woman employee, not a software guru, to demonstrate using Linux to those hairy men who decided that if a woman could use Linux, then so could they. Some people are resistant to learning new things, so comments of this kind are not unusual. I always remember what the owner of a flight school told me, that doctors were the hardest people to train to fly and next computer people, their mindsets are the problem that cause them to resist the logic of flying an aeroplane. I can also remember people fighting with Windows and eventually gaining some skill in using it, simply because the boss plunked it down on their desk and told them they had to use it, still, many things in Windows cuases them grief. Mr. Jeckyll will tell you he has no problems with Windows, then Mr. Hyde will tell you all the problems he has. I use SuSE 32 and 64-bit and Mandrake 9.2 all without a hitch and I've used RedHat also. I use quite an array of applications, from hamradio VOIP to flight simulation, GPS and much much more with 5 Linux boxes that include 3 laptops, one the work laptop where I do all necessary stuff that colleagues do with Windows, except deal with crashes and lost work. When I sit down in front of a Linux box, I know I'm in control and I know I'm not in for nasty surprises. Enough said, I now have to get back to this Windows problem, perhaps a reinstall which seems to be the favourite way of dealing with such problems. Every pilot knows that every aeroplane, even the same make and model demands a different approach to flying and they adapt. Adaptability is KEY or you are better off giving up as progress is hard and a long time coming. I haven't read half as many Linux books as you have, can't even remember reading one half way through, but I've found time in the saddle an excellent substitute, I've seen many good Linux books and magazines on sale here in the UK and in the USA, not to mention the online mags. I wonder if a 9 year old were to put you to shame, you'd change your mind, some kids that old have written good Linux code. Everything I see says Linux useage everywhere is on the increase, so it doesn't look like a static or declining market.

bill 04/04/04 12:11:37 AM EST

I got an e-mail from linuxworld that somebody (viagra)commented on my posting.Well no posting there only a link to sell viagra. I thought this page for linux desktop evaluation. Anyway it is a good joke but I will comment again. Since my last posting I got hold of Slackware 9.1 and Mandrake 9.1 and installed on extended partition of a 2.5 Ghz Pc where Red Hat 9.0 is so all distribution see the same hardware. I use boot disk to boot the different distros. I can say again linux it not ready and these distibution are blatent because are not ready and asking money for them. Slackware do not go into graphical display directly because of a problem. Yes you can start X but the virtual dispalys do not work. Lot other problem too. In Mandrake I could not mount floppy and was unable to make boot floppy. Yes you can make boot floppy at command line but these are basic problems. When I tried to buy ver 9.2 of Mandrake the man told me do not buy it because problem with it.What all these say ? These people make new versions one after other hoping to get it right without doing an good testing. Now I am not talking about Red Hat which did an excellent job with little problems (even they have problem out of the box). In my opinion they are the only people the other linux distributions should follow. Now I would like to comment on this Fedora community distribution under Red Hat. I installed it and what do I find right of way an error. You can not activate or deactivate the modem which works under Red Hat v. 9.0. All these show the status of linux today. My remark that all the comments what I read on this page they are personal "feelings" about linux like I installed linux and works great or even I have problem with linux but XP is bad too. These do not solve any linux problems and definitely do not suggest any solutions. Regadless what you saying about XP it sells and Microsoft still has 90% of the desktop and will be this way until the linux people shape up. By the way winmodem was not created by Microsoft it is the product of 3Com and sofar linux people did not come up with alternate solution at resonable cost. Now let us talk about linux abundant literature. Linux come from the "keyboard punding" Unix commands and commands. It is not a toy operating system they inherited all the software from those very smart Berley people but the literature is the same lousy system. Yep yep and some command thrown in without explanation. Ok go to the man pages for more explanation which is an other confusing nonsense. Well let us talk about the Linux howto internet connections. An other total mess with non existing links most of the time and all the indicated pathes are wrong. Naturally everything is yep yep again because linux people do not know about diagrams pictures and God forbid about examples. They did not hear that a picture worth thousand words. I went to gnome site and download the gnome howto files. When I try to read it I opened the terminal in Red Hat and tried to find the indicated pathes. Naturally all pathes were wrong stupid of me. I shuld have found the right distro (but how) and the whole literature all yep yep again talking about graphical displays yeping and yeping. Naturally the linux peple are not alone Windows is doing it but not totally like linux. I call this literature technical story telling. Linux is new to many people and they need literature with examples and good values so they can practice on a computer.Where are these the answers no place(example with answers are nill in most books). Go to the technical sections of the news stands and you see many tips and technics about windows but nothing about linux. Looks like linux people want that you go to them for service which is a mistake because most desktop user will not get service contracts. I build PC's 14 years and installed all windows softwares but nerver ones went to Microsoft for technical help (and my customers either)execpt looked the free literature. I see this more of the problem for linux then some of the hardware and software problems because without a good literature for the camon man linux will stay in the domain of the linux "geeks". When I sit down in front of a windows PC I feel I am in control can change menus load unload anythig and change the registry (yes I dare) I can stop not respondig programs (cont,alt,del)simple things like these and when I sit down in front a linux computer I am confused because I do not know even today how to change menues under gnome but I can do that under kde. I do not know how to stop not responding programs (yes ps in terminal window but which is not responding). Mybe I did not read enough books (only four of them I studied). Well evarage persons do not make a research project out of this they want simpe answers which is abundant in the windows area but nothig under linux. This is my opinion today and many others which I talked to. They holding off including me untill they can use it as easy as windows.

balabass 03/18/04 05:31:40 PM EST

The difference between a cult and a non-cult is the size of the following, which proves nothing in my book. I haven't ever been able to subscribe to the idea that I should eat carrion on the basis that zillions of flies can't be wrong. Linux has a disparate following that is pretty rough on software authors - at times even Linus has been savaged. I can't see these guys ever putting up with crashes, blue-screens-of-death, viruses, worms and such like - we are a pretty ugly bunch in the face of such things and we have had been burnt by what passes for the de facto desktop. I can truly say that if those problems dogged Linux and not that other operating system, we wouldn't go near it.

artson 03/15/04 09:50:20 PM EST

No it isn't ready for the desktop yet. It still has help written by geeks and the defaults on too many applications lead the user into trouble, not out.

Normal users are reasonably intelligent and expect to use the computer/operating system/application to accomplish work. They don't and shouldn't be expected to learn an arcane and sometimes secretive operating system.

There is still far too much of the 'users are luzers' attitude among the linux clique and it hurts useability.

Lee Connell 02/27/04 06:53:02 PM EST

First of all CorelDraw was built for windows not linux so that's not a valid argument. Ask windows to run a linux program. As far as email, have you used KMail, Thunderbird or Ximian? I guess not. They do have filters in those also. Why is it hopeless to run DVD? What distro are you using? I can play DVD, burn dvd, cd with no hassle. All i had to do was install the prodvd plugin for burning cd's via x-cdroast. And the K3B software shipped with KDE is really easy to use. Xine plays dvd's with no problem. What do you use for printing? Use CUPS in linux it works with every single printer I have tried it on, even using the new hpoj drivers for the HP OfficeJet/scanner. There is a notepad for linux man, theres numerous of them. Try gedit or kedit for example. I agree openoffice just isn't all there, but how bout StarOffice or even KOffice? I also agree that the fonts are a bit awkward in linux. Yes linux is cheap, no i dont think it looks cheap. Linux on the desktop of course needs some work, but it's very close.

José Josephs 02/27/04 06:27:27 PM EST

No, Linux still isn't ready for the desktop. I've set up my entire office with RH9, and it works OK, but I still need a Windows PC to do the things that Linux can't do. Like, run CorelDraw for example, or doing email. Mozilla is OK for email, but it's still partly brain-dead (you can't scroll for an email address). Mozilla (yes, I'm using the latest release) has trouble shifting from email to browser (it crashes). There's no really good spam filters for Linux like there is for Windows. Linux is still slow for runnning DOS applications (there's still lots of DOS apps needed and used in the business world). It's hopeless for running DVDs, and it won't cooperate with most printers. Linux still doesn't do copy-and-paste between applications. None of the plain text editors that comes with Linux is any good at printing (most have no "Print" selection of any kind). I wish there was a NotePad for Linux. Open Office is unfinished (have you tried putting page numbers in an O/O document? You can't even find "page numbers" in the Help section! Our print-contractors complain about the pdf files created on Linux ("the fonts are goofy," they say).

Otherwise, it's OK. Honest opinion? I use it because it's cheap - and it looks like it, too! But it's not really ready for the desktop.

Lee Connell 02/27/04 03:59:52 PM EST

First off I think linux can be successfully used in the desktop arena for many users. The only problem is the hardware/driver/software support.

More hardware is supported on windows than on linux, not because of windows but because of the vendors. This is one point that hurts linux on desktop.

Also the support on using and getting software installed and working properly is harder in most cases than say what ships with your windows desktop. Scanning through newsgroups or subscribing to a mailing-list is not acceptable for most people and an annoyance. Not very productive in most end-users eyes.

So with that all being said, I have to say I havn't checked out Lindows or Xandros, but being a commercial product, do they offer all that support? This is a question. If this is the case than I see no reason why linux is not ready for the desktop.

I am currently in a battle with myself on choosing linux or windows. I don't want to spend my time in one or the other and then one or the other drops out of the race.

Since I am a techie i love linux, it's very interesting and challenging. My only gripe is that I wanna see a VS.NET clone on linux. Either it be sun's java or ximian's mono. :)

[email protected]

cletusbaird 02/19/04 05:16:35 PM EST

I use windows xp to answer the phone.Everything else, I now do with Linux. Sure dpendencies,sorce code compilation, and other "problems" are part of the equation. But, if my Unix Realplayer One,Mozilla Browser, and Open Office are running.Along, with kdeedu packages. I can get by without the hangups, blue screens, constant updates..so, Windows xp answers the phone. Until, I can find a linux package to do it,too.

pm 02/19/04 10:39:07 AM EST

"Why would he pick the OS that requires him to do more work than he would like."

Maybe because it doesn't crash all the time, runs faster, doesn't get viruses and is free?

Sean 02/15/04 01:52:00 PM EST

Gotta agree with James Turner here. The majority of systems that people own today will NOT be up and running with linux without trying numerous (mostly junk) tarballs etc. till you find one that kinda works. Linux users need to realize that for it to be ready as a desktop OS then it can't require anything more than minimal input from Joe User to get it to work. Most people that use computers are not "computer savvy", they would also need a reason to use linux over windows. If they like to play games, well most of their games will not work nearly as well on linux as they will on windows. For business users (not IT workers in the server room) they need the full functionality they have with MS Office. One thing about linux that cracks me up is how it supposedly loves networks etc., was built for the network. Well it is, if your network uses ancient topologies and you don't ever plan to upgrade it. If you have the latest and greatest hardware of any kind, you better get started writing your own driver for it or else be prepared to wait a long time for somebody to do it for you, because the manufacturer probably won't help you. Bottom line is if you take the average person off the street and show him a linux and windows box side by side, what reason could he have to choose linux? Why would he pick the OS that requires him to do more work than he would like.

cletusbaird 02/14/04 01:05:34 PM EST

There is not a single real thing that can't be done on linux desktop,either, equal to or better than Windows.
Games are different,though and streaming media a little tougher but not impossible.

Nailed 02/14/04 12:15:09 PM EST

In my case,i run gentoo,here's what i've done to be able to play dvd:

USE="* -selinux -bootstrap -build -static -debug -3dfx -3dnow" emerge -D mplayer

I then put: "/usr/bin/mplayer dvd://1 -fs -geometry %50:%50 -double -vm -vo xv -ao alsa9" in my .xinitrc (i had no desktop environment built at the time),i put in a Matrix dvd and started up X,it played the dvd better than windoze 2000 with powerdvd,both have hardware accelerated video and sound and they both take about the same time to setup (reading the manpage in Linux or going through the number of options in powerdvd)
I can't comment on the wifi card but i must say it's a priority for Edulinux developers (they all have laptop with wifi) so you might give that distro a look,it's based on Mandrake

George Embrey 02/10/04 05:53:33 PM EST

Linux is and has been ready and working on the desktop for 5 years and more. If you are talking about Linux being ready for the Desktops of people who have grown up only ever having used Windoze... Yes Linux is ready!

Look at Knoppix 3.3, Mandrake 9.x, Xandros 2.0 or even Lindows. For even the least technically endowed, these distributions Install easily, co-exist (if they must) with Windoze and work with current Hardware. In the case of Knoppix, even work properly with hardware on which Windows systems have do download drivers etc..., without anything but the original Knoppix CD. (Well Done Klaus Knopper;-) )

Compare Linux and Windows equitably, each for what they are, A high quality, stable, secure computer operating system and a buggy lame duck which has been sold to the masses half working for years!

Heath 12/20/03 01:33:43 AM EST

I just installed Fedora on my Inspiron 1100. It was easy for me and I'm an idiot. The only problem I had was Windows (on the other partition) was wrecking my master boot record.

The point I'd like to make is that people who don't know hardly anything about installing an operating system don't do it anyway. Every few months the level of experience it takes to install an easy distrobution such as Fedora or Mandrake decreases. It requires some, but not much "smarts" to get a linux box going.

JoeD 12/19/03 05:14:58 PM EST

To MilesB:

Maligning the technical prowess of a computer user will get you nowhere, nor will it advance the cause of linux on the desktop. There are plenty of non "idiot" computer users who can be plenty technical in their own area of expertise - they just want to get their work done, not futz with the computer.

As I have gotten older, I am less and less patient with the notion that I have to be a sysadmin to get a computer to work. I just want the computer TO WORK!. Windows based computers are on average easier to get to work. The Linux community will need to take a long hard look at Windows if it wants to come anywhere near the unwashed masses.

Miles B 12/17/03 11:48:06 PM EST

So many hotheads about Linux not working on Winmodems. I'm glad Linux doesn't work with Winmodems. Go buy a Linmodem then. Just about any name brand manufacturer carries modems that work just fine with Linux. And for the past 15 years or more - Microsoft has plundered the market because people are too stupid to put any effort into learning computers and the periphrals. Gates was really smart in marketing. He gave the world of idiots an idiot set of programs designed for the idiot. Hardware manufacturers don't give two sqawts about what hardware runs on their money making machines - as long as people will buy it and the money keeps rolling in. Gates knew and knows that and actually gave the world what it asked for. A software system to write jokes on and play simple games on. I used to run 4 OS platforms on Atari ST500 and it ran circles around any 8086/8088/80386 PC and it didn't last because the masses are so stupid about what a computer can do and running 4 OS's was out of the question when they couldn't even run one of them. Stupid is Stupid Does. The people want stupid because they are stupid. When it comes to computers that is. The masses seem to have smart mouths with a plethora of words to bullshit everyone - but, outside the politics of bullcrap - most can't do squawt technologically. Gates knows this so he worked with manufactures to create a dynasty of M$Gatesware in the hardware industry. That's why he's a billionare and you're not. I buy the recommended tires and other things my car uses - as the manufacturer dictates and they almost always work. Do the same for Linux just like Billy wants you to do for Windows when he tells you to build your computer according to the HAL M$ has developed. Linux has one, too. Learn to read the damn thing and quit your idiot bitching. I have never had a problem with any Linux box I have built because I build them according to the Linux HAL. Even a moron can understand that principle. Geeeesh you people give me a brainache sometimes. Din't put Volkswagon Jetta rims on a Dodge RAM truck. Pretty simple concept. Do you wear a woman's bra in public - if you're a man? By golly duh.............well, there are the exceptions I guess. But, try not making oil and water mix - eh.

Rob Thomas 12/17/03 09:11:02 AM EST

Bill said:
I do not need to read anybodys comment...
Yes, I am sure you know everything (as if). Nobody else has anything valid to say. How arrogant. Maybe that isn't what you ment to say (I hope that is the case). Perhaps you think there is only one good automaker as well (wear a FORD, Dodge, Mercedes hat? Maybe MACK, CAT, Yugo (are you even old enough to know what a Yugo is)?).
>1. Every harware which used by linux has to have a linux driver software easily integratable into the kernel (not by an expert just by "evarage Joe")
You didn't use LINUX (or generic) hardware. You specifically used a WIN-modem. Didn't you get the clue with the "win" prefix? Here, lets put some Gasoline in your Diesel automobile. Gee, doesn't work right... wonder why.
You don't want windows either if that is the case. They specifically DON'T support (what seems like a lot of) old hardware that they used to. Things that Linux recognize easily and still work with. As for "working out of the Box", I have a number of products that were released prior to XP and the drivers didn't work right for XP either. Win 2K has problems as well. Look on HP's site for their driver revision list. Don't like HP? Look at Nvidia, GeForce, Cannon, logitech and so on (i.e. windows has a lot of problems too! Especially for Joe User). Problems range from something simple to a case I had where I got a black screen (as if the power went out) for about 5 seconds the screen came back to life and then it crashed! It would do this reliably.
2. The sofware has to work out of the box so no suprizes at installation.
Like say a registry snafu problem that renders your machine useless after reboot (talk about toxic waste, user hostile - the registry)? How about packages that screw up DLL's for other existing products? Perhaps you mean like the HP scanner that would be there sometimes, not others (HP patched that driver problem later... thanks HP!)
Like say Excel for example? A client of mine was working a few days on an Excel spreadsheet (saves every few days to a backup file). Excel refused to pull it up one day! Gnumeric under Linux pulled it up and showed where Excel screwed up saving the data (about 600K into the file, probably the result of an unreported/handled segmentation violation). I saved it and mailed it back and Excel worked fine again. This was after (high priced support from) M$ and technical support gave up on the file. How about Studio 8 software that is sold nationwide off of the shelf (best buy, compusa and so on). Work for days on a video and it fails to render your production or other (time consuming) problems. I gave up on them and purchased another product (adobe ... works way better but also does some annoying things with the audio). I have a lot of examples of software that I purchased and either didn't work at all (i.e. I cannot get the DVD disk, picture product, video tape, document) or work poorly (can't align correctly, video sucks, audio sucks, or my favorate - M$ fixed automagically because that is what I really wanted... it wasn't). There are also a lot of examples where the windows software work very well. In fact I would say flawlessly. Seems like some of the best software I have for windows came free with the HP products.

On the other hand, I regularly put RH on Laptops and desktops and never have a problem. Even on a desktop that had a dma problem with the IDE drive. The machine was about to be thrown out because Windows couldn't cope with it. Linux works just fine, it automatically disabled the DMA. Sure there is hardware that isn't compatible, however I think you purposely chose to use hardware you thought would have a problem. I could easily do the same thing with Windows. Try getting XP, 2k to recognize an adaptec 1542 for example. How about an old relisys scanner (5 years old), and so on. I have a few boxes of hardware of various types that Windows won't work with, or work to an acceptable level with. So I end up with discarded hardware and often sell it to other places that use Linux.

As for software, I haven't have a problem with any file I have saved using a packaged product from a Linux vendor. OO docs, star office, gimp, vmware and so on. Even with unsupported stuff I don't loose everything as I have with Win products.

I acknowledge that there are some rough edges with Linux. Clearly they are not a big deal as secretaries (documented) use Linux just fine and even prefer it to Win. Windows has rough edges as well. Some so rough that they can cause a deep wound (burn up that time baby with a reinstall or tech support call!).

bill 12/16/03 11:32:02 PM EST

I do not need to read anybodys comment I am talking from experinces testing Red Hat 9.0 and Suse 9.0 and I use windows. When you ask if linux ready on the desktop (Mr Turner I am not talking about labtops and mother installing the operating system)question is on whos desktop the hackers or the everage persons desktop. On the average persons desktop (which really conunts for profit) is windows over 90% because it works out of the box compared to linux therfore CompUsa sells PC's with windows intalled on them and it is lot of money. When I installed Red Hat installation was easy nice graphical and recognized hardware (that is what I can say) but sound card did not work and naturally modem either even I tried four different brand of so called winmodems. I do not make comment that winmodem does not work before I get to Suse linux. Red Hat support is good and I could solve sound problem. It did not recognize the Canon Multiscan 5500 but recognized HP 2100. Now about Suse linux. It did not recognize the four different winmodems either but they posted the address of the ftp site where I can get the drivers for the winmodems (you can see I do not know what am I getting out of this but generally winmodem does not work with linux). Problem I could not get to the site sofar because I do not have permission. Anyway according by my experince Suse support is lousy (compared to Red Hat)after one month I do not know if I am registered because no feedback. I posted couple questions but I do not know when I get answer. Is this sounds like window ? Definitelly not, because the product works out of the box for the average person (I shold say very most of the time). How windows people do it ? Every hardware product on the maket has software drivers written by the manufactures and not by "hotshot linux developer". Those hardwares are very complicated devices even they are one or two chips. Remember the 120 boud modem with those bunch of integrated circuits ? The linux people are in this condition because Red Hat, Suse and others are interested in the server market where the money is and did not communicate with the hardware manufactures leaving the linux developers to get info from these harware peoples. Naturally these hardware people refused it not seeing any business profit. My final comment for linux on the desktop for the evarage people is (becaue there is the profit and not with the hackers):
1. Every harware which used by linux has to have a linux driver software easily integratable into the kernel (not by an expert just by "evarage Joe")
2. The sofware has to work out of the box so no suprizes at installation.
If these conditions are met the support can be streamlined.
On the desktop you can not make lot of profit with support rather with volume and upgrades like Microsoft. Making profit on support belongs to the server market where error free operation is paramout inportance.

ron 12/15/03 04:07:28 PM EST

i think incredulous has made the best
comment yet

ron 12/15/03 04:06:41 PM EST

i think incredulous has made the best

Incredulous 12/15/03 02:13:06 PM EST


Let's see James and his mother install Windows XP on a real off-the-shelf notebook of OUR choice. I suggest that the Apple PowerBook G4 is a fairly popular option these days. There are plenty around, Mac OS is very easy to install on it, as are all the drivers.

Now let's see his mother install Windows XP on it - no excuses please! As the Toshiba has been designed for Windows, so the Mac has been designed for OS X.

Well let's forget James' mother, I think we could expect a Linux install much earlier that a Windows install.

Does this mean that Linux is readier for the desktop than Windows. Not really - it just means James is not serious.

rusty dude 12/11/03 03:26:49 PM EST

With all the noise about 'is linux ready for the enterprise' (yes, I know that's not the original topic, sorry), I think the question should be 'is windows ready for the enterprise'!

And the answer is - No way.

pam 12/11/03 11:15:40 AM EST

Turbo Pascal Compiler for linux


Sid Boyce 12/10/03 11:00:52 AM EST

I have used Linux since Linus first
announced it on the Minix newgroup. I
have seen so many articles saying -Linux
can't do, won't do, is never going to,
will never until and hundreds other
negatives, yet the guys keep writing the
code and improving it. It's grown
without the billion dollar TV ad campaigns
, so whetever is written is immaterial.
The guys aren't going to read an article,
sulk, drown sorrows in beer or turn to
sitting in front of a TV instead or worse,
declare there is no alternative to Windows.
That's why MS is very afraid, they've seen
over the hill before the many doubters have.

Rob Thomas 12/10/03 09:54:05 AM EST

Francois said:
>Other utilities can be installed using RPM's is also flakey as there is sometimes library dependency issues.
>How do I sort that out?

It tells you with RPM what it requires. Get the other packages (google will help you find them), install them and it will run. This is similar to windows problem where they package up what you need for that product to run. The problem is that one vendor's library sometimes will totally hose another vendor's library by the same name (we found a dll named _____ with a(n) older/newer date, do you want to replace it?). Or have you run into a DLL problem? They are not fun to fix by any means! Sometimes replacing a DLL can prevent the machine from booting again. Then you have to deal with the idiot registry sometimes as well. So many ways to shoot yourself in the foot with windows! Then there are the known security bugs in IE, Outlook and so on so other people can shoot you in the foot (or more critical areas of your body) as well.

>Why is there KDE and Gnome applications?

Because KDE had licensing problems for a while that have been resolved now. Gnome was being developed beause of those problems and now you have very talented people who have time invested in one or the other and neither side wants to abandon what they have worked on. Sort of like the SYSV - BSD wars. Clearly most people use SYSV, I wish the BSD people would throw in the towel and become SYSV people, be done with it. With KDE and Gnome, KDE is probably the better product. Personally I don't care, pick one and kill the other (in the long run this is best). With windows you get their interface, no debate. Their way or the highway.

Francois 12/10/03 08:49:18 AM EST

I have a Mecer MB02 running Redhat Linux 9.
My built-in "Winmodem" does not work, tried, but with no success.
There are a number of utilities I wanted to use which require that I should run "make". The list of errors it generates is endless.
Other utilities can be installed using RPM's is also flakey as there is sometimes library dependency issues. How do I sort that out?
KStars application does not want to run under Gnome. Why is there KDE and Gnome applications? Why not just one type?
Linux is not ready yet.
But I will stick with Linux and advocate the use of open source software.

Ben Thorp 12/10/03 06:50:47 AM EST

I didn't have time to read all the comments above, so sorry if I repeat anything:

1. I've never had to recompile a kernel during a Linux installation (with the exception of Gentoo, but that's different), and thats on numerous desktops and a couple of laptops.

2. As has probably been mentioned, the DVD issue is not a fault of Linux, but hardware manufacturers, DMCA, etc.

3. The majority of distros now have a software installation system that is as easy, if not easier, than on Windows. urpmi from Mandrake, apt-rpm, apt-get, portage - hell, you don't even need to worry about downloading stuff......

4. MPlayer is rapidly becoming the Windows Media Player of Linux, IMHO - a host of formats are supported, and there is a plugin for Mozilla for browser integration.

5. Personally, I've never had any problems like those mentioned by Miles B above with regards to fonts on browsers (having used Mozilla, Opera and Firebird)

6. My wife happily uses Thunderbird, Firebird and OO.o on a Windows box - I will be moving her to a Linux box when I get a non-winmodem for her, and I don't forsee any problems, except that it will be faster from what I've seen/experienced of the same apps under Linux. (Note - fast-er, not necessarily _fast_ ;o)

MHO is that Linux is ready for a large majority of peoples desktops and laptops, especially if it came preinstalled. There are still hurdles and obstacles that need to be removed for it to be perfect, but I'd still rather sit at a Linux box than a Windows box.

Miles B 12/10/03 02:07:55 AM EST

Power and vesatility wise - Linux is ready for the desktop. It has plenty of usable programs for the office - but, not for graphics. When I say this - I mean that the standard user needs more complex programs that have been dumbed down with more uniform fonts and icons. I am finding my ordinary users cannot deal with changing all the system fonts to be able to see them and programs like Netscape come on screen almost unreadable. My users want the complexity of Internet Explorer but, dumbed down like IE6 and with fonts that can be readily read and a program that will match Microsofts Multimedia Player. Verrrrry very important to satisfy the ordinary users in order to make the case that Linux is ready for the desktop. Currently - I'm having to take Linux off desktops because the users find it too difficult having large fonts and full graphics on one page - and, too small and bad graphics on the next. Uniformity and conformity is what is needed for Linux to take off with any speed for the homeuser and in office users. They can't and won't deal with stubborn programmers not caring to make Linux usable for them. When readable fonts and graphics are solid with each page brought up on the GUI and appealing to the naked eye - Linux will overrun Microsoft. I guarantee it.

Rob Thomas 12/09/03 09:49:41 PM EST

>This i know - indeed i am quite shure, that RH9 would run my network flawless... BUT: MDK comes with 1st Class Support for my quite expensive Terratec-Soundcard, that RH9 does not even recocnize out of the Box. The Multimedia-Support from MDK knocks out all other Distros i tried (SUSE, RH, Knoppix...) and as a musician i need to have good Support for my audio - so RH is not the thing i will succed with

Mandrake used to be a rip off of RH, almost byte by byte. Then I understand they went the French equivelent of Bankrupt (surrender maybe?... Joke.. just a joke!).
Linux used to support the audio cards via 3rd party that I even paid good money for only to have it support almost everything a few years later. I'm surprised it doesn't support your card... but a high end card is more understandable.

>As soon as Linux-Vendors become aware of the fact, that there are users, that do not really need a NSA-Style security level, but simply a high-performance Workstation with a dial-in connection to fetch the mail and surf a bit, Linux will become the Number One Desktop- System.
As long, as they try, to make these Boxes Server-Ready, Linux will stay the "Industy-Server-System with some Desktopsupport" and not the free, stable and easy Desktop/Workstation OS it can be...
NSA security??? NSA security is a LOT tougher than that. The FW is because most people NEVER disable stuff and NEVER update anything (widows people... I'm looking at you), so over time they get compromised. A local firewall is supposed to make the connection a bit safer. At least you are not "bare metal". Kind of a pain when you don't read the changes manual (like sendmail now listens only locally) and you are in a hurry to update a customer machine for the first time (-: ... not that I would do something like that and have to drive all the way back so I can ssh back in... Nah.

It really sounds like you have a firewall issue. Here is a link to a script that should take care of it... some assembly (tweeking) may be required though (-:


One part that I am fairly sure you need is the forwarding part that is in this script. Just adjust the other devices so your isdn connection is the outside and the ethernet is inside. It will route and protect then. This works, I support a bunch of businesses this way from a 56k dialup to T-3 connections. You can also tell it to sent outbound requests (like http) to another port locally to either cache it (squid) or filter it (privoxy - advertisement blocker). Way beyond the scope of this though.

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