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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

James Turner: "Linux is nowhere near ready for the desktop"

In the spirit of the new Linux desktop initiatives that have been announced over the last few weeks, I took another try at getting my laptop to run Linux tonight.

I had only two criteria:

  1. My DVD player needed to work
  2. My SMC 802.11g card needed to work

Well folks, I can report that Linux is as useless on an off-the-shelf laptop as it was six months ago.

To begin, I had to go through several hours of downloading, configuring, and installing to get my laptop to even begin to talk to the networking card. This involved running configuration scripts, compiling packages, and figuring out where things needed to be installed. And at the end of the process, it looked like I had actually gotten it installed. That is, until it started hanging the connection after 5 or 10 minutes of use...

The front DVD-wise was even worse. The distribution I was playing with, like most, took the safe route and supplied a version of the Xine DVD player that doesn't include the DMCA-violating dvdcss libraries. This means that all it's good for is playing unencrypted DVDs, like the Bar Mitzvah video your uncle Charlie gave you, but definitely not "Charlie's Angels II."

Sure, I could have (illegally) downloaded the libraries, rebuilt xine and maybe been able to watch the DVDs I wanted, but with the network cutting in and out, it wasn't worth the effort.

So what does Linux need to do to become a real operating system?

  • It needs to work for everything out of the box. This means no kernel recompilations. A server may be set up once and forgotten about, but people add and remove hardware from their desktops and laptops constantly. Really, in order for this to happen, we need to get to a single Linux distribution. That way, device drivers can be written and packaged up to automatically install and remove themselves, and be available in precompiled binaries that can be automatically downloaded from the net. In the current situation, you often find that your distribution doesn't have a precompiled version of the driver you need, meaning you need to build it from sources.
  • The major killer apps need to work seamlessly. Right now, browsers and e-Mail are in pretty good shape. But DVD playback and high-performance games are in abysmal shape. I want to be able to pop a DVD in my laptop and get an experience at least as good as with WinDVD on the same hardware.

So, in the spirit of getting things moving, I offer the following challenge to the distribution builders. The winner gets the official crown of "First Usable Desktop Linux". I wish I had millions of dollars to throw around like the X-Prize sponsors, but I don't. Maybe the folks at Sys-Con will kick in a prize if I guilt them enough.

In any event, here is the 4-point challenge.

  1. The target hardware in question is a Toshiba Satellite 1805-S204. (You can look up the specs on your own time.)
  2. The distribution must ask no questions during install that my mother can't figure out. (I reserve the right to have my mother do the install.)
  3. At the end of the install, my SMC2835W 802.11g card must be up and functioning, have negotiated a DHCP address and be active on the network. This means that during install I must have been asked for my WEP information.
  4. At the end of the install, I must be able to put a commercial DVD into the DVD-ROM drive and have the movie start and play without skipping or stuttering.

Frankly, I think my (non-existent) money is safe. I've been waiting for Linux to become usable by the non-geek community for years, and though it's getting closer, it's nowhere near the Windows level yet (sounds cruel, but it's true.) Telling people to buy specific hardware because Linux supports it places the Linux community in with the Mac folks, not the Windows masses. Linux needs to run well on any system that could run Windows XP. Out of the box. Period. No excuses.

Because if I have a hard time getting this stuff to work, imagine how my mom would feel?


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
zettberlin 12/09/03 07:24:19 PM EST

>With your Mandrake. I'd suggest using RedHat instead.
>Say what you will, RH is recognized to be very stable and

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...

>Short of that, I would look at the non software components
> for networking problems. Most of the time it isn't linux
>that is the problem, it is a cable, router, switch or >configuration problem.

Only the routing does not work, i can ping Box to Box, even
login via FTP from the Gateway to the Slave (but not vices versa)
my ISDN works on the Gatway (as you can see here ;-) ) but it fails to connect the Slave to the Internet and the Slave
cannot connect NFS, SSH or FTP to the Gateway.
This aint the cables, i think...

>Do a "dmesg | less" and see if it saw your adapter, what
>it set it to (i.e. eth0: link up, 100Mbps, full-duplex, lpa
> 0x45E1).

Thanks for the Tip, i will try this...

>You may also have a firewall set up that is blocking it.
>Check for iptables, ipchains. If iptables got you, say
>'Doh. You just had a Homer Simpson moment!

I suspect, you are right - some of the stuff only works, if i did a $service shorewall stop before, but still not everything, all my fiddeling did not much more than
disabeling even the Internetconnction of the Slave and here is my
contribution related to the thread:

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...

best regards

still it is silly, to damnate Linux on the Desktop, just because one Distro does not play DVD and comes with one-click Support for some exotic Hardware...

JoeD 12/09/03 05:06:25 PM EST

To this debate on Linux as a desktop OS, I would like
to add my own modest observations.

Item: I solved my security problems by putting my windows XP box behind a $70.00 LinkSys Firewall router/4 Port switch. Windows Update takes card of the rest.

Item: Adding a hard drive to an Both XP and 2000 Was a two minute task using the disk management tool. My one attempt to add a hard drive to a Red Hat Linux box was a four hour search through the documentation to find the particular magic needed to make it work.

Item: Setting up printing to our our HP 8110DN network printer from Windows XP and 2000 was a no brainer. My one attempt to make the same attach from a Red Hat linux box was a two hour nightmare that I finally gave up on. Adding an HP 1200se printer to my windows XP Pro system at home was easier. It detected the printer, asked me for drivers and off I went in 2 minutes.

Item: I plugged a 3 port firewire card into my XP home system so that I could have a high speed link to my creative Nomad jukebox. the system recognized the card installed the drivers and was up and running in 5 minutes. I won't even go into the fun and games that I had playing with Red Hat 9.0 to get my card working.

The point I'm trying to make is that when I use my computer, I just want it to work. I gave up on Linux as a desktop because I'm getting to old to have to play sysadmin just to get to the point where I can do my real work. Linux has gotten better - A lot better, but full ease of use in the M$ sense just doesnt exist quite yet.

Rob Thomas 12/08/03 06:10:37 PM EST


With your Mandrake. I'd suggest using RedHat instead. Say what you will, RH is recognized to be very stable and reliable (I'll just say that I don't care for Mandrake and leave it at that). Short of that, I would look at the non software components for networking problems. Most of the time it isn't linux that is the problem, it is a cable, router, switch or configuration problem. Do a "dmesg | less" and see if it saw your adapter, what it set it to (i.e. eth0: link up, 100Mbps, full-duplex, lpa 0x45E1).

You may also have a firewall set up that is blocking it. Check for iptables, ipchains. If iptables got you, say 'Doh. You just had a Homer Simpson moment!

Jim 12/08/03 05:55:59 PM EST

Tony hit it on the head! Linux is not just ready, it's in production!!!!!!

Jim 12/08/03 05:42:51 PM EST

I have a mac, a linux box, and a Windows box. The leftmost Icon on the control bar on all three machines, which is a the top of the screen is the main, control, I pull down to the bottom of each to shut the machine down. All three act the same. Therefore all three are desktop machines. All the rest is just a variation on a theme, and you will always be able to find a program that will run on one that will not run on an other. Microsoft Office has an option for publishing and subscribing, with word processing documents, that is only available on the Mac version. The challange is to find software that performs the same regardless of the platform you are running. My goal is to not care what OS I'm running. I'm still getting my list together, but I think the Linux suite is as usable as any other.

Jim 12/08/03 05:18:29 PM EST

I've installed Windows a number of times, and it took a lot less time than Linux. I just kept feeding it floppy disks. Oh, that was Windows 3.1. Under a hundred meg of disk space too. Also fit in games, spread sheet, word processor and web browser.
But I don't think today's common customer would care to do that, too much work.

zettberlin 12/08/03 05:06:18 PM EST

>Linux has a superior drawing program - gimp (also does >photoshop type stuff).

Open Office Draw is even better if one needs something like CorelDraw, SodiPodi replaces Vector-Graph-DrawProgs of the Macromedia_Style etc etc etc

>Just because you didn't look for the corresponding >application doesn't mean it doesn't exist.

Thats it: fail to resist Marketing Overkill and pay for proprietary Software or invest a few houres of searching Google for "Application Drawing Layout PDF-Export Retouche Games Sound Video Linux" and get free Software without even providing your e-mail-adress.
Software, that is allowed to be copied and altered and used as you think it is appropriate.

>The stuff you mentioned you also had to look and pay (in >some cases a great deal) for (you did pay for your M$ >software didn't you?).

I hope and pray, that Windows Longhorn will make it as complicated to install cracked Warez as it is to compile experimental Beta-Apps for Linux ;-)
If it would not be so dammned easy to forget, how much you have to pay, if you want to use MS-Office, CorelDraw, PhotoShop and the like, a lot of people would think a minute longer if switching to GIMP, OpenOffice or ARDOUR could be worth a try...

best regards

P.S.: ironically, i am struggeling since two days to setup a simple Homenetwork with Mandrake 9.1... it is not that easy i must say... Desktop/Apps are really not an issue in Linux

Rob Thomas 12/08/03 01:14:04 PM EST

Jose' wrote:

But it still won't run CorelDraw, DOS accounting applications, Turbo Pascal, UPS barcode labels, FedEx shipping, or Flight simulators of any kind.

Linux has a superior drawing program - gimp (also does photoshop type stuff). Dos accounting apps - technically windows doesn't do it either, the compatibility mode does. As long as it is DOS, I have been able to run many of them under things like wine. Turbo pascal? That is a teaching/beginners language. Upgrade to perl or java (or use gnu's version of pascal http://freshmeat.net/projects/gpc/?topic_id=48 ). Barcodes? I've generated barcodes under Unix when M$ was not even in the windows business. There are even perl packages to do it today (easy). FedEx, UPS - no biggy, I ship stuff with UPS generated labels as recently as a few hours ago (i.e. not dependent on windows, they generated the image and it prints right out on my laserjet or deskjet). Flight simulator? Try http://www.flightgear.org .

Just because you didn't look for the corresponding application doesn't mean it doesn't exist. The stuff you mentioned you also had to look and pay (in some cases a great deal) for (you did pay for your M$ software didn't you?).

So it is ready.


José Joseph 12/08/03 12:45:22 PM EST

Linux will be ready for the desktop when at last I don't need a MS OS to run my daily applications. So far, Linux will process my MS spreadsheets, doc files, email, and browser activities. But it still won't run CorelDraw, DOS accounting applications, Turbo Pascal, UPS barcode labels, FedEx shipping, or Flight simulators of any kind. As long as it can't do any of the above, we still need a Windows desktop out front, and Linux stays in the back room.

Ross Devitt 12/08/03 04:38:24 AM EST

Claiming that Linux is not ready for the desktop because a DVD player could not work play certain movies, is one of the most ridiculous arguments that I have ever heard.

DVD players work flawlessly under Linux. The fact that certain components needed to run encrypted DVDs are not available for free is not a Linux problem.

There are other commercial programs available for Linux. All it takes is for someone to write a commercial DVD player using licenced code for the encryption process and the problem is solved.

Just about everything else you could possibly want to do under Linux is available free, if you neeed something special and unusual, you should be able to buy it!

Ross Devitt.

Tobias Nygaard 12/08/03 01:00:44 AM EST

I think that they both stray a little of-target, but I guess that's allowed. I wanted to comment on the computer used for the comparesing: I also find it very odd to use such a "rare" and foreign computer. However: I recently made a full switch from Win XP to RedHat 9.2, and on windows I had had alot of problems with my soundcard, because it's so rare (its an on-board AC97) and I actually had to go the first few weeks after my windows installation without sound! The amazing thing is, that after installing linux, I was expecting to go through the same, if not more trouble. But it just worked. No warnings, no downloads, no nothing. It just worked. After a while, getting to know the system and terminal commands and stuff, I found out that it wasnt because the driver was build-in. It was because Linux is made so that it doesn't need a driver, it simply tests the found hardware, and asks "you hear sound now?".
Well, nice site and good posts.
Sorry if I wrote too mutch

Frank Earl 12/07/03 02:16:11 PM EST

People need to QUIT associating Windows with being easy to install, etc.

"MOM" could no more install Windows than Linux and if you be HONEST with yourself, you'd quit making that statement.

It's "easy" because they have someone to install it for them (either a relative, friend, or a corporation that sells them their machine...). If you had the same situation with Linux and picked a consistent UI for them, they'd be in the same situation as they were with Windows using Linux.

Frihet 12/07/03 09:41:07 AM EST

Sadly, James is correct. I've tried Caldera, Corel, RedHat (6.0 through 9), SuSE (8.0 through 9.0), Debian, Gentoo 1.4, Mandrake 9.0 and 9.2, Yellow Dog 3.0 (for which I bought an iBook) and FreeBSD. Each distribution had a set of complex problems that Mom could not resolve. Indeed, often I could not. Wireless is unlikely to work for anyone but the most competent, maybe never (I gave up on Yellow Dog and put Panther back on). Strange and inexplicable GUI things like Gnome works but KDE looks like **** still abound (a current issue on my Mandrake 9.2 box). Confusing messages pop up on boot if you have a laptop with capable of various configurations. Controllerless MODEMs (calling them WinMODEMS is a cop-out) don't work, so dial-up internet access is broken for those who need it. Mind you, I am as rabid and dedicated a Linux supporter as you'll find. I fully understand the social importance of this movement. I think it will take a little altruistic action by Linux monitizers like Red Hat (who abdicated recently), SuSE (who will probably abdicate), and Mandrake to get these things right for the desktop. I don't think the community can do it (at least quickly) alone, (too many combinations). If the idea monopolies are going to be defeated, and Mom is going to be able to buy a box of Linux at the corner computer store and make it work, there is still some work to do. Tough to hear, but true. I wish I could recommend Linux to my non-geek friends, but I can't do it yet.

My principle machine, by the way, is an IBM 600x laptop running Mandrake 9.2. This Mandrake release is far and away better than anything I've seen in the install department, but it, too, has a way to go.

Hal Ginsberg 12/06/03 08:25:10 PM EST

I accessed this debate on my IBM Laptop with only one OS Redhat 9.0 - probably not the most neophyte-friendly distro - using the Mozilla 1.5 browser, downloaded for free. On my last business trip, I watched "Mulholland Drive" on DVD during the flight. It was awesome. I have no received virtually no computer training whatsoever and none in programming.

OpenOffice.org is incredibly compatible with my firm's "Word" processing. Linux ready for the desktop - I'd say so. Fact is, most anybody who purchases Windows now for business purposes is pouring money into the toilet.

Jim Lin 12/05/03 02:54:43 PM EST

James Turner a senior editor? Man the guy should be fired for his 2 bit troll.. Linux is definitely ready for the desktop, vested interests seem determined for it to not succeed. If the US govt. is serious about its antitrust cases, it should make it mandatory for hardware vendors to make drivers and software for alternative OSes to support consumer choice (citizens of US rise up and petition your govt for freedom of choice). Once the US does that all other countries will follow suit and that would end this monopoly once and for all. The troll will then find all his hardware work like a charm...

Mitch Krell 12/04/03 11:46:15 AM EST

All I can say is, can your mother install XP on your machine and have it configure the network card and play dvd's? If not then your whole premise is incorrect and you are then comparing apples to oranges.

Frank Earl 12/03/03 12:44:18 AM EST

Grover Righter: Thank you for your hitting it squarely on the head of the nail. Your comment got to the heart of the whole discussion- something the people trying to point out the errors of assumption that James Turner made in his first (and second) article. I wish I'd have come up with something like it- while I deftly dealt with his claims, you sidestepped the whole argument and got to the REAL heart of the matter.

newt_eye 12/02/03 04:52:33 PM EST

James Turner I recommend you read an article that makes almost the exact opposite point of yours:


My summary--a bad integrated network device in the motherboard confused Win2K and made a computer unuseable in spite of concerted effort to get it to use another network card. Windows also refused to use a USB dvd burner for reasons unknown. They installed SuSE, it recognized the network card, worked rught from the first time the dvd drive was plugged in. Installing Crossover Office allowed them to use a specialty Windows program for DNA sequence analysis.

Windows failed linux saved the computer from the trash.

Windows doesn't just have a few issues. Windows is a nightmere when it trips and won't work. I spent hours trying to get Win98SE installed on a new hard drive in a fairly new computer. Why? Because once it went to the motherboard driver disk to install drivers for the integrated devices it failed to find something it wanted (or thought it wanted) from the Win98 disk (or at least that's where it thought it should be). There's no debugging Windows when it vomits all over you--there's just install again and hope something works better the next time. I had to disable all integrated devices and then install Win98 and then re-enable the devices one at a time and finally after 40-50 reboots and hours of effort I got Win98 installed for the kid.

hognoxious 12/02/03 03:32:18 PM EST

What have you done to fix the width, rather than allowing the text to wrap to fit the window? I'm not trying to read it on a cellphone, but on the other hand not everyone has a 37 inch monitor either. Sheesh.

Kevin Coker 12/02/03 12:53:07 PM EST

Is Linux ready for the average user's desktop, "No". The reason I say this is from experience. I have the latest versions of Suse, Mandrake, and Debian of these Suse is by far the easiest to work. I have a four port KVM switch that is connected to three Linux boxes and one Windows box(2003 Server), as an experiment I downloaded a driver file from a website on the Suse box and Windows box. The Suse OS looked to have the same download features but proved much more difficult to save the file in a simple location, whereas the Windows OS was faster and easier to complete. The majority of users in the world are not high speed and want the desktop to be as user friendly as possible or as Windows friendly as possible. The first version of Linux to be the easiest and less taxing to work from the desktop will become the favored choice of vast majority of the non-technical user world.

Grover Righter 12/02/03 11:37:37 AM EST

Regarding the Linux Desktop Question – is it ready for prime time?

My daughter (mid 20s - very smart - non techie) just visited for Thanksgiving. When she lived closer, I kept her Win-PC up and running. Now that she lives farther away, entropy is increasing on her Win-PC. The point of this entry is that her comment was brilliant.

She said: "I don't really think computers are ready for consumers without IT support." Mr. Turner is asking an important question, but without a 'control group'. I would like to know if his Grandmother can get an off-the-shelf PC and (without his help in selection, etc.) manage to add DVD and 801.11G support. How the heck is his Grandmother supposed to know about Encrypted DVDs, DHCP, WEP and the difference between a 64 bit key and a 128 bit key? Frankly, you have to know a lot just to configure an Email account on most machines. Sure, I am comfortable with POP3 versus IMAP, and I also know how to set up password access to an SMTP server; but Mr. Turner's Grandmother knows this stuff?

For more than trivial use, a computer really does require some kind of support. My wife's Mac is a great machine, and she is a very smart person, but she has trouble decoding the various error messages that happen when the system updates its OS software. When I visit friends at an Advertising Agency (100% Mac) their machines are always acting up (entropy again).

I do think that Linux is not appropriate for many users, but we must state the question in an apples-to-apples fashion. Most people think Win-xx is easy to use because someone else installed all the software. Now that everyone (including Grandmothers) surf the web a lot, they pick up a lot of destabilizing garbage on the PCs. The myth of ‘easy to use’ is actually getting worse on the PC, not better. Plug and Play works well, but web-based entropy is creating system instability faster than ever in my observation.


roger urban 12/02/03 10:21:18 AM EST

We have Windows ME at home and it's always got some sort of memory problem or blue screen of death. Didn't want XP, so after some research took a chance and got suSE Linux 9.0. The install was pretty much a no-brainer, and borderline shocking how easy it went. I had prepared myself for a difficult time but it was quite the opposite.


Total Cost of Ownership is low: I tried to download it from their website, but there must be a gazillion folks all with the same idea in mind. Never got very far. Ebay has auctions for suSE with Buy It Now anywhere between $9 and $19. If you want manuals you need the Professional version which Amazon.com sells for $65. http://www.suse.com

The graphics are decidedly improved, in comparision to Windows. Even just the icons all look higher resolution. Maybe they are vectored too? I don't know, but it's easier on the eyes and more appealing. The layout of the desktop and menus is very intuitive.

Over all, I'm saw a 1.5x to 3x speed performance improvment. Not too shabby.

All the drivers were there, including the one for my new Plextor CD burner purchased a couple months ago. Didn't have to load any.

A unix/linux guru relative stopped by yesterday and they were impressed with what they saw. Since I had just loaded up suSE, I was not familiar with how to enable it for DSL, so they did it for me. What they did looked pretty simple and only took them about 1 minute to figure out, but their fingers were moving fast on the keyboard and I don't remember how they navigated through the menus. Anyway, they got it setup very quickly.

Most of the viruses out there in the internet cyberspace attack Windows, not Linux.

Functionality: While the manual says it can't run all Windows applications, it can run most of them, including MS Office in it's entirety. SuSE comes with WINE and a bunch of other handy tools. WINE, which I will be trying out, supposedly lets you run Windos apps. Then again, with OpenOffice 1.1 and all the other software available for Linux, I probably won't be running Windows apps very frequently.

I can see corporate America eventually being driven to consider moving to a product like this, due to potential cost savings. In fact, once a companies competitors move to it, the rest of them will be pressed into reducing overhead to stay competitive. Large corporations with thousands of end-users will save a bundle, as opposed to paying license fees to Microsoft.

Another plus is the availability of free and intuitive open source software, like Open Office 1.1 which can replace MS Office and can create Adobe PDF files too. It doesn't take much effort to quickly get operational in it either, though it has lots of features the average person probably won't use very often. Most end-users would not have a difficult time making the switch.

Scott 12/02/03 08:06:13 AM EST

The side benefit to using good software is that it
should allow one to be lazy. For example, with
perl I can choose between XML::Simple (lazy) or
XML::Xalan. For linux, I can choose between
Lindows (lazy) or Gentoo. I can also choose hardware
from hardware compatibility lists (lazy) or write/debug
a newer device driver for my kernel.

I cannot however get my newspaper deliverer to
get the newspaper any farther than 3 feet away
from the curb. I'm lazy. I want the newspaper
at my doorstep.

There are those (like successful businesses) who
would like linux placed at their doorstep and
use it and be happy. They do not want some
a_____t poor geek telling them about the differences
between DiskDrake and Anaconda.
They want to have the geek make a red carpet solution
work and they *will* remain focused on their profit margin.
Otherwise, they give up on the geek, and pay attention
to market share and the analysts.


I agree with the zillion dollar comment up above.
With minimal effort plus real marketing capital,
linux would be THE desktop.

The fact that, for instance, rpm crashes/seg-faults
(even just 0.1% of the time) is inexcusable.
Rpm version 3.x, 4.0, 4.1, now 4.2.
How frickin hard is it to keep an unadulterated
package database? (Okay, someone please
dodge the point by telling me to run more
backups, etc.)

Airplanes crash rarely (2 in a million)
and space shuttle missions fail rarely.
Why are they so unacceptable?
Because airplanes and space shuttles are
billetted as accomplishing great things, and so
is linux. Thus, the let-down.

The punishment from the consumer-executive
for successful hard work is more hard work,
for the linux developer that is, not the user.

It is wrong to abandon lazy consumers,
because for one, they don't watch their
dollars as carefully.

Patrick Michel 12/02/03 07:02:25 AM EST

If you're too f------ lazy to understand how your software works then go use windows.

Stefano 12/02/03 05:26:43 AM EST

You use this title for your article "Linux is nowhere near ready for the desktop" but then you talk about your experience installing Linux on a Laptop (that is not a desktop).
I installed Red Hat 6.2, 7.1, 7.2, 7.3, 8.0, 8.0a, 9.0, 9.0a Mandrake 7.1, 7.2, 8.0, 9.1, 9.2 Suse 8.1, 8.2 and 9.0 on several Compaq, HP, Dell and Acer computers and the only issue I had was with the "fakemodems" that somebody calls "winmodems".
I usually watch (every region) DVD's and DivX on my Acer laptop with no problem. I even rip my divX from my DVD's.
My Orinoco WiFi card works perfectly (note, on the same laptop with XP Home the WiFi card DOES NOT work).
Anyway, you do not need to run Linux if you don't want. But if you do want, you will be able to do with Linux everything you do with Windows.

PS Forget Xine and install mplayer

Sanity 12/01/03 09:24:15 PM EST

I understand that you want things to work "out-of-the-box". So go to qlilinuxpc.com. They sell Linux pre-installed, and (hopefully) pre-configured for your hardware. The few times I can remember actually using an official Windows installation CD (Windows 2000), much less worked out-of-the-box.

I'm considering starting a new company that builds computers from components, rather than buying whole computers, replacing Windows, and charging extra (as Qli Linux does), but I'm 16. Stay tuned.

Making an installation CD that will have everything work out of the box anywhere, without being difficult or complicated to use, is hard. No one has done it yet. In a technical sense it's impossible, as not everyone has a CD-ROM drive, and in fact not everyone has any sort of removable disk at all.

Without being that nitpicky, it seems like it can be done (look at http://www.knopper.net/knoppix/index-old-en.html). If you're demanding that Linux go above and beyond the competition, that's fine, it already does in quite a few ways.

As for xine, that is a problem with the distribution you chose. I can't say that isn't a problem, but my distro gave me the decryption libs, all ready to go, no questions asked. I admit that xmms has some rough edges when compared to WinDVD, yet personally, I'd rather deal with minor annoyances and a minor learning curve (I will slap you if you say xine is hard) than have my movie be "A fatal exception OE has occurred"

And finally, check out Neverwinter Nights, Quake III Arena, Unreal Tournament 2003, and more -- which have Linux ports. Plenty more run under Wine or WineX, albeit with a bit more fiddling. But on Gentoo Linux, I can type two commands to install UT2003:

su -

emerge ut2003

Two more to run it:


I understand some people break out in hives when they see a command line. Most regrettable, I couldn't tell you what the GUI tools are like (it's been awhile since I've used them).

So my answer is, it's likely that Linux is ready for the desktop. In fact, I believe if we had $40-50 billion in cash (as do some companies that I will refrain from bashing), one little ad campaign and Linux would BE the desktop.

Warren 12/01/03 06:47:09 PM EST

I have to agree that Linux is not yet ready for the average user. I run Redhat and had no trouble with the basic install. All hardware was correctly recognized and worked at startup (I don't have a DVD, however). It was a different story, however, when I tried to add additional software. Almost every install required hours of searching through documentation and looking for required packages. Some I never could get to work, usually due to dependency problems. As a rule, windows software installs without troubles the first time.

At this point in time, I think that Linux on the desktop will work for those technical enough to make it work and those with just fairly simple requirements. I would trust my mother with it, all she does is send and recieve e-mail. My sister, on the other hand, is likely to want more. She will have NO idea what to do when she tries to install that neat program she found on the internet and gets some message about a missing C library.

I think the Linux desktop has come a long way, but also has a very long way to go.

Scott 12/01/03 03:52:48 PM EST

There are two elements to a successful business model:
value (does it fulfill a real need) and delivery (marketing).

Is there value with Linux? Yes. But the delivery is
not perfect. In the past, to make an analogy,
linux used to be like an old vwbug, simple and
easy to tinker with. Now it is indeed a sports car,
but when you turn the ignition key on your car,
it only works "99%" of the time. If my car broke down
3 times a year, that would be a problem....

(Then again if I had a sports car.... :) )

Don't believe me? Download 100
packages from sourceforge and see
if all 100 install cleanly without requiring
advanced system administration knowledge.

Try to hook up 100 different hardware peripherals
(not all at once... duh). This is not a 100%

Okay... not a perfect analogy. So forget
about anything it might have to do with reality
and distortedly rant about it and fix it. Yay.

I want prophylactic protection from things
not working out, even 1% of the time. Ahem.
Especially when my wallet is involved in a business
model or investing in leisure time. Linux
is both worlds to me, and there are not
enough prophylactic measures consistently
out there for my comfort....

ext3 is a good prophylactic for example.
So when will there be better backups for software package
listings on the system that does not require
reading the source code or running "rpm --rebuilddb"
from command-line (or having it be non-recoverable
as well as being a lazy admin)?

James Turner's identification of confusing
issues concerning laptops, DCMA-issues,
software selection and updates
is an accurate portrayal. And you can
rant at him and talk about the 99% of the
times when linux is rocking awesome, but
the 1% happens!

One could point out that Microsoft is even more
instable. But they are willing to market "crap"
and, with authority, proclaim it to be non-crap
(vis-a-vis Stanley Milgram). Microsoft is
about producing a confection-like substance
that is entertaining and convenient.
That is what drives their profit and
desktop market share. (Stability and
innovation obviously do not.)

Microsoft consolidates around its own brand,
and forcefeeds network-neighborhoodish
solutions to consumers under the guise of
being a professional solution. Linux believes
in an open competition that can show crap for
what it really is.

What the linux community has in dogged
persistence, microsoft counters with creative
flexibility built upon a working market model.
The gatling gun is built upon the notion of
delivery and is a very flexible tool....
I think there is hidden paranoia about
charging uphill with a lot of open source
effort only to be faced with...anyways.
It is justified paranoia, but linux is the
right thing to fight for.

RedHat succeeded because of packaging.
Lindows succeeds because of ClickNRun-type
solutions. The selling point of linux is experience
and word-of-mouth. Yes, it's free and open source
but those are secondary market forces--everyone
here knows that corporate managers want
to do something that works based on what their
prestigious colleagues are doing. (If they listened
to geeks and could cut costs, they would own a
company instead of being mid-level managers.)

It is wrong for James Turner to suggest
100% cutting edge performance is the
way to go with respect to desktoping linux
(vis-a-vis my suggested 100 sourceforge and
100 hardware peripheral tests).

Rather, if the linux software was capable
of combining quality control standards
of debian and bsd with the
use-a-naive-interface of redhat and
lindows in such a way so that you
could 100% avoid cutting yourself on
the cutting edge, that would be cool.
(And yes, I'm sure we're headed there
right now.)

I want an operating system that allows me
to know (with blinking neon lights)
what I can 100% rely on doing
versus what is under development.
Under the hood, I think this means
having software components test themselves
1000 different ways and intensively monitored
dependencies.... Hardware-wise, I don't care
if linux only works with 80% or 10% of the choices
out there. It is not rational to care. I just
want to know if something will or will
not work 100% with a limited subset
of hardware.

100% user comfort is achievable
(and we are not there yet), and
100% perfect performance
on the cutting edge is not achievable.

Business models thrive with a "visible
horizon" and a lot of predictability.
If you can sit an executive in front
of a computer screen that works 100% of
the time and is never confusing
with some entertainment features,
they will be happier than with
Microsoft. Microsoft systems will
never be secure nor will they
work 100% of the time. It is only
on this level that linux can succeed
in the desktop world.

The problem with the linux community
is that we prioritize innovation above
marketed stability. The Microsoft
ice cream machine will always succeed
at marketing stability because parts of
it consistently taste good (at first).
Linux can win the market share
fight however.

Linux is gaining ground because
it is marketing stability based on
a healthy diet of well-performing
open source solutions. Linux is winning.
If it can transition to an easy-to-understand
100%-it-just-works-perfectly solution with
competitive confectionary features....

That's the problem. More linux programmers
prefer to grill on a messy barbeque than a
Martha Stewart ice cream making machine.

I want to deploy a George Foreman electric
griller and a messy barbeque grill on the same
operating system. Sometimes, I just want
an electric griller that does not let me create
5 foot tall flames. Sometimes, and Turner
is right to request this (DMCA be dmned),
I want my linux laptop to work like a simply
interfaced DVD player. Oh but yes,
silly me, I should know to use lindows instead
of a lazily administered redhat 7.3 box.
Should a user have to worry about that?

"Linux-ers" can make confectionary popular
solutions in their sleep. Thus, I think
the frustrated tone of the article (why
all this cool power if it does not create
a comforting user experience?). User
comfort is where it is at in terms of market
share. If we can move user comfort
from 99% to 100% (or 91% to 92% depending
on your perception), the returns (market
share wise) will dramatically
outweigh the costs for development at
this stage IMHO.

Back to the forge. Contribute code! It
is working! I found Turner's article
to be a negative anecdote about
a reality that is largely surmountable.
Yay! Let's all kick him for being negative,
but he brought up a very sore issue which is
worthwhile to consider.

Microsoft is an admin nightmare. It would
be nice to show it for the user nightmare it
is by marketing something clearly better.
I hope Turner writes more essays in this
series throughout the months and years to follow,
because now is not the end of the story and
things will continue to get better. Kudos to him
for stating the message. (He should have somehow
gotten back to source code issues to make a real
difference for all of us however.)

Source code is the epitome of positive change.

Tony 12/01/03 10:19:43 AM EST

2 weeks ago I was asked to install linux on 6 desktops, all different ones.
The reason for this was that the company was running pirated copies of windows, and they were given 2 weeks to fix up their mess, one way or another.
I did, in presence of the staff, 2 machines, basic install and setting up their modem. I choose Mandrake 9.1 because I had drivers for their modem ( conexant )
After installing ( about 25 minutes each, without modem )I gave them a quick tour, about 30 minutes.
Then I wiped out the whole thing, and asked them to do the install themselves, each one on his own machine.
No-one had any problems, except for one mouse, which was replace by a new one)
They are now doing all their business work with the tools provided by the 3 basic disks.
Linux is slightly slower than their pirated windows, but I will fix that hopefully when I have time.
They are running on 128 Mb Ram
as far as this company is concerned, Linux is ready.
And the latest I heard, is that at least 20 of their friends are going to make the switch voluntary.
Have a nice day.

Sid Boyce 11/30/03 10:23:10 PM EST

The average Windows user soaks up people's time whenever they have to upgrade and install stuff and it's become a pain for myself and others, to the point where a lady told a friend of mine that she had a Windows problem - the reply was "Yes, you've got a problem" and a swift exit was made. I have a colleague who has only a rudimentary knowledge of Unix, he asked to borrow my SuSE disks to install on his wife's PC. About two weeks later I got a thank you call, "The wife loves it, no more crashes, lost work and blue screens; she can get on with her photography work and all her other stuff without bother". They didn't once have to call me or anyone else to ask a single question and even months on, they are still happy. I forgot to ask whether they have a tower or desktop, probably the former, judging by the lack of grief - tongue-in-cheek.
Linux apps are filling out all the time and people with zip for computer skills are successfully using Linux on their whatever. Personally, I haven't used Windows for some years and once I walked away from a B.S.O.D situation, leaving the laptop untouched where it was for another 6 weeks.
One colleague also told me of a day when he visited the office to see a guy admirably engrossed in work down the office, when he got by him, he heard ..."hmmmmm... it shouldn't have done that, hmmmm... I thought I saved that. Many other colleagues (we do Sun and mainframe stuff - the bigger they come, the better we do them)will say they have no problems with Windows (Dr. Jecky) and a moment later will tell you about all the problems they have (Mr. Hyde me thinks). Then there are the viruses and worms! MAIDS I call them (Microsoft Artificial Immunity Deficiency Syndrome),Creepy-crawly things that send people scurrying for downloads so they can be safe for the next week, usually after disaster strikes or is impending - some even go as far as saying PC's are the biggest timewasters and drain on productivity there is, Windows PC's they are refering to.

ron 11/30/03 10:17:10 PM EST

i am 63 years old and an average
user i started using a computer
3 years ago i bought a comptuer
with ms.me installed on it what a bad
as soon as xp came out i upgraded to it
it took me about 2hrs to do the upgrade
it is not much better then i heard about
Lindows installed a it on my comptuer in ten minutes
and it does every thing that xp can do and more i also
installed it on my notebook it works great i did not have
to do anything it just works. when the came out with anew version i upgraded from their web site i did not lose any
files and everything worked.that is what i want a os that works so i dont have to do any thing.i cant say the same about ms.

Bruce 11/30/03 08:47:49 PM EST

Don't get me wrong - I like Linux and have been using it successfully on my Dell notebook for almost 2 years.

Here's the problem; I am an IT person with I like to think, plenty of experience, knowledge and common sense. However, armed with all this it still took much downloading and many incantations before I could play a DVD under Red Hat. The average user would have had little or no chance of getting it working on their own.

Unfortunately, Linux (on the desktop) must compete in a Windows world. That means the Linux experience has to be as easy as Windows.

Like it or not, I can play a DVD on Windows XP without installing anything extra and the quality is very good.

Linux will be ready for the desktop when an average user can install it with a reasonable expectation that all their hardware will be recognised and work, and that basic facilities found in other OSes, particularly multi-media work first time.

A final note: some may think that requiring a user to compile code in order to install and app or driver is OK. I don't. I don't have to do it in Windows, I don't expect to do it in Linux (or any other desktop OS either). Get this right and Linux will be a great deal closer to being "Ready for the Desktop".

Jeff Silverman 11/30/03 08:10:59 PM EST

My mother has a Macintosh running Mac OS 9. She also has a masters degree, so she's no dummy. She continues to have problems from time to time and she calls my brother and me for assistance. Meanwhile, I have a two year old grandson who can run Linux on a dreamcast (see http://www.commercialventvac.com/~jeffs/2003-06-22_Racus0008.jpeg and http://www.commercialventvac.com/~jeffs/2003-06-22_Racus0009.jpeg
when these pictures were taken, he was 22 months old). I am not sure what he is doing, as he has not yet learned to speak, but he can bring up mozilla and click on links. He carefully moves the mouse around and clicks on things, and he is pleased as new windows open and images appear. The conclusion I draw from all this is that I am not sure the ability to install and use Linux or lack thereof is a good criterion for deciding whether or not Linux is ready for the desk top.

The factor in my mind is the ease of remote administration of a machine. If a user calls me for help with their windows machine, almost invariably, I wind up going to their workstation. However, if a user calls me for help with their Linux machine, I almost never have to go to their workstation. It is even more extreme if the user is using an X-terminal.

The real problem is that MS-Windows is the default installation, and a lot of people don't think beyond the default. Because Windows is the default, everybody who wants to sell computer stuff has to have windows support, either built-in or installed. A lot of vendors feel that the open source community will simply create the support for their stuff.

GR 11/30/03 07:48:07 PM EST

This is insane. Now IE v.X just froze rendering this page. Are you using some kind of a MS tags on this page, or is it made in FrontPages or what? And you are demanding a Linux SMC net card driver support for your laptop? Hmmm. You want things to work? Strange. Start with the html code on this feedback page. It's aint working

GR 11/30/03 07:35:37 PM EST

How about making this feedback page readable in any browser? None of my fine Mac browsers render this page normally. Neither Safari, Mozilla or Firebird. I have to scroll left to right to read lines to their ends. The lines do not wrap to fit pages, unless, you have a 52 inch wide screen, or, and here it comes, you use Microsoft Internet Explorer for Mac (or PeeC).
Hello, is this feedback forum in anyway related to Linux & ->STANDARDS. This is not at joke. But your (linuxworld feedback) html PAGE is a JOKE

J 11/30/03 05:05:42 PM EST

Last time I checked all most business people need is OpenOffice.org, KDE apps for Palm, browser, and a few other odds and ends. So Linux is certainly ready for the corporate desktop. No office I know allows people to watch DVDs or for security sake use wireless. So it is certainly ready for some desktops. . .

Frank Earl 11/30/03 02:39:20 PM EST

Hi, James Turner!

Interesting argument. The problem with it is that you're assuming several somethings in the argument.

The first assumption is incorrect. You can't install Windows without answering at least several technically oriented questions- even on XP. I know, I just installed a copy of XP Pro on my machine (Home's no different) so that I could test the games I'm porting over to Linux on the original environment for comparison purposes. It's no different than the number of questions that SuSE, Mandrake, or Fedora seem to ask- and if you *REALLY* want the no-questions route, there's Knoppix, which initially boots from the CD, runs off of it and asks NO questions for most modern hardware- AND can be installed to the hard disk. That criteria's really a non-starter when you look at the real facts.

Your DVD player issue has LITTLE to do with readiness for the desktop. What happens when you install Windows on a machine with a DVD player? Nothing, if you want to play DVDs- XP provides a weak player, but it's not very usable. Generally speaking, you end up installing a DVD player program (You know, like WinDvd or PowerDVD...) and using that to play DVDs. They have a CSS license, so they can play DVDs out of the box. Well, they DO have commercial players for Linux (LinDVD and PowerDVD for Linux...) but they're for embedded products for no apparent good reason that I've been able to ascertain from them, having had lots of conversations with them as an embedded Linux developer and a Linux desktop user. This means that to currently be able to play a DVD, you need to use one of the Open Source players, such as Xine, MPlayer, Video-Lan, or Ogle. These players need a little library, if you want to play locked DVDs, which has some unresolved legal issues in the USA (elsewhere it's completely legal, believe it or not...) and if you have this library, all of the above players will play your DVDs just fine. Now, the legal issues in the case of the USA are one of, "Is the CSS a trade secret?" and, "Is using a CSS unlocker library a violation of the DMCA or is it covered under the compatibility clause?". The "jury" is still out on both of those right at the moment. So, you can opt to use it, knowing there's issues, or you can choose to not use it- you chose to not use it.

That, in and of itself, is not an issue of whether or not Linux is ready for the desktop, but rather one of an application not being supported by the people that OUGHT to. Not the same thing as being ready or not.

The issue with the 802.11g card is another one of support. Pretty much all 802.11b cards are supported just fine. Hate to tell you this, but most people can't justify the expense of the 802.11g hardware, so they'll stick to the 802.11b stuff, just for starters. Secondly, the problem is that the designers of the 802.11g hardware made the cards with a software defined RF modem which can be set to operate clean outside of the allocated spectrum- and to write drivers for these cards is to have access to the software definition of the RF modem. So, there's been no details for it forthcoming right at the moment. So, you have to use an experimental, reverse engineered driver that mostly works for those cards.

Was Windows 3.11 ready for the desktop? Yes? Well, you can't get support for either applications you use as sticking points for Linux being ready for the desktop. Was Windows 95 ready for the desktop? Yes? You'll most likely play hell finding drivers that support it for the 802.11g card and you'll play hell finding ANY USB based device support for it. This is because the vendors in question have opted to not provide support for those operating environments. This doesn't change their "readiness for the 'Desktop'"- lots of people are still using both operating environments today because they serve their needs and those operating environments were "ready for the 'Desktop'" when they came out.

Can you do word processing as easy as you can under Windows or MacOS? Yes. Can you do spreadsheets or presentations as easy as you can under Windows or MacOS? Yes. Can you do email as easy as you can under Windows or MacOS? Yes. Can you surf the Web as easy as you can under Windows or MacOS? Yes, so long as the website doesn't use some unsupported plugin. Can you play DVD's? Yes, in all honesty, you can. Can you use USB devices? Yes, many of them are supported directly out of the box (With Windows, you have to install device drivers for most of these devices...). Can you play popular games? Yes, for the ones that were "ported" or deliberately made for Linux by either the developer, primary publisher, or by an alternate publisher like Linux Game Publishing.

Doesn't seem so un-ready for the "Desktop" to me. Perhaps for YOUR definition of that concept, it might be the case- but you've set some rather tough things, part of which Joe Sixpack would NEVER hit on at this point in time because of the overall expense. (And, you can bet your bottom dollar that if the vendors for the products that you use as examples saw a start of a market for Linux versions and support, you'd see that little problem disappear.)

Miike 11/30/03 10:29:35 AM EST

The guy never tried Lindows. It plays DVDs and sets up WiFi.
Linux is ready for the desk top. But most of the people that make these little articles do not look at all the available distros. There are other distros that are very easy to use and do almost everything a person would want.
Red Hat and SuSE are more server and business Distros. Not a good example of Linux to try for the desk top.

Distros to look at for the desk top would be LindowsOS, Xandrose, Knoppix, and others like those.

There are many different kinds of Linux out there and all of them need to be looked at and weighed when asking the question "Is Linux ready for the desk to." You havd RPM based distros. Deb based distros and then you have distros like Slakware wher the programs need to be put together from source.

There are versions of windows that that you would not want to run for regular desk top use and the same is true for Linux. Mac might even have a business version of their OS and if so you wouldn't want to hand it to some ones Grandmother to use on her computer at home. It is not made for general users.

So I guess what I'm saying is they need to use the appropriate distro when posing this question.

MEME 11/30/03 04:49:04 AM EST

To : James Turner

OK for you say the following, it is the truth. But Linux Desktop still not good enough, and need to improve
>> I totally agree that Linux is ready for the office desktop, and I highly recommend that enterprises transition to it as soon as possible.

Based on you above comment, the title should be changed to "*LINUXWORLD SPECIAL* Is Linux >> Home << Desktop-Ready Yet...or Not?"
I still not agree with the above title. Linux Home Desktop is ready for home user.
What home users want?
i) need preinstall Linux Home Desktop from the Hardware supplier that same as Microsoft Window Desktop do now. It need Hardware Supplier to work on with Linux Society. This point may have some problem.

ii) need find the Linux installer disk in the market and install themselves. The existing Linux Distributor to work on the following :
---> Make Linux Installer install easily. Just few click "Next" & "Complete" without any problem. I have try some Linux Distributor latest version, they can do it same way. (Still need improve as they can)
---> Make good support by Linux Distributor -- through new group to solve the problem. Through auto-update by service connect. Through e-mail for purchase version. I have seen this type of support in the world. Only can say that may make need to improve.
---> Make good hardware detect, I have try some Distributor.
That is OK and easy. Still need to improve for some detection is failed such as writer faced to :
if auto-detect not found, do the follow :
if network connected, just auto send the specific to Linux Distributor with home user interaction. Through existing support service
if network not connected, it can through phone call support for purchase version. (through news group for those download version)
Of course, Linux Distributors can do the best than my point out above. For most case, it is fine but still need improved. The best is auto detect success.

iii) Need software/Game to run on.
---> Linux Distributor can provide the link for home users that let them to find out what they want and purchase it/free download it from direct site.
iv) some need fans interface and some not
Home users can purchase/free download from Linux Distributors. Home users can choice they want. Such as SUSE, Debian, Fedora, Redhat......Localize Linux Distributors

My comment is "Linux Home Desktop is ready, but still need improved. Although Linux Desktop is ready, how to market it improve it for success. Because "Ready" not equal to "success". So I disagree your statement title,
The title should be changed to
"*LINUXWORLD SPECIAL* Is Linux Desktop is Ready, accepted by users or not" or;
"*LINUXWORLD SPECIAL* Is Linux Desktop is Ready, on this state is it equal success".

Kevin 11/30/03 01:18:28 AM EST

What I'd like to see happen _just once_ in this "is Linux ready for the Desktop" discussion is look at Windows and Linux head-to-head, preinstalled, just as it would appear to a user who bought a new box (off the web, from a shop...Lindows anyone?).

In other words, in my experience the average windows user never actually _does_ an installation, so you are comparing apple to oranges: you're comparing the Linux installer to the Windows OS.

Go back and read the last 200 articles on Windows or Mac OSX, do you see any of them even mention the installation? Why would they, the machine came to them ready to go. Now go back and re-read the Linux articles, many of them never get past it.

I realize that this seems to simply support your argument (linux is too hard to install), but it seems to me that "being ready for the desktop" is a separate question (were you asking "is Linux's installer easy enough for Grandma"?. The problem is not the installer but the current reality of monopoly commerce.

Sean Russell 11/29/03 08:30:17 PM EST

Is Windows ready for the Desktop? Sean Russell thinks not.

I was down at an aunt's this Thanksgiving, where I set up a new PocketPC device for her. It took me *two* hours of reboots, installs, uninstalls, and cursing to get a *Windows* device to connect to a *Windows* computer. In the end, it worked, but damn.

What I want to know is the name of that particular mental ailment that afflicts people who think Windows is easier than Linux.

user1 11/29/03 07:56:20 PM EST

I've been using RH linux since 6.0, and I must praise the improvements they've made to the operating system since it's conception. From the beginning, it was difficult to get *anything* working correctly because of the lack of support, not to mention suitable documentation. This is no longer a serious problem...documenation and available software for just about any application is freely available on the Net. Keyword: 'free'. You don't have to pay extravagant fees to get good office software...

Setting up Linux, getting certain hardware to work and troubleshooting it is certainly not for the faint of heart, and definitely not for the average user who expects everything to jump out at him...ready to go. Sometimes, things just don't work the way as planned.

However, I must respectfully disagree with Mr. Turners 'opinion' on the DVD players, and Linux installations.

His statement concerning the dvd libraries is incorrect, they're freely available on several websites and are perfectly 'legal' to download, one such site is Sourceforge, another is Icewalkers. If not, then some of the sites that host the DVD players have links for legitimate downloads. Just look for them. All it takes is a matter of installing the libraries, and creating a symlink pointing to the cdrom/dvd player named 'dvd'. I play commercial DVD's on my system through Ogle DVD in Gnome without the slightest degredation in performance...the other night I watchd 'Hulk'. It works better than the DVD player in Windows ever did, and it doesn't crash every five minutes, it never crashes at all.

The install program for Red Hat is so simple even a child could manage it, I.E. the install program for Windows 2000 can easily confuse anyone who is not familiar with it.

Servers get installed and forgotten...yes, that is true. But not only is it true for Linux, but it's true for any OS. Ask the average home user to install and configure Directory Services, see how many problems he has. Setting up the desktop version of Linux doesn't take a rocket scientist, and quite a few of the most popular distros have intuitive installation programs that are easy to understand. Many of them don't, but the more popular ones do.

I agree that Linux might not be ready for most home users, because you do have to get your hands dirty...but I haven't come across a perfect Windows desktop yet, and I doubt I ever will. Most users fail to maintain their systems, and then wonder why they eventually have problems with them. Not so with Linux, once you install something...get it working, you never have to touch it again.

Just my two cents worth.

James Turner 11/29/03 07:35:55 PM EST

Can we please shut down the "Windows has problems too" argument? The problem is, Windows already owns the market. Saying that Linux is no worse than Windows doesn't buy us anything. Linux has to be BETTER than Windows, or there's no incentive for people to change.

And Windows does have a better story to tell than Linux, driver wise. That's because driver manufacturers DO install precompiled versions of their drivers for the major Windows OSes. Telling someone to go to a web site and download and run an EXE file is a lot simpler than telling them to download, configure, and install a bunch of C code.

I love Linux, and want it to succeed badly on the desktop. But I know that in order to get a large user base, there must be a large number of applications available. In order to have large numbers of applications, there must be large numbers of users. Catch-22. But it's possible over time, IF it's easy for existing Windows users to transition to Linux, on their existing hardware, and with a comparable amount on install pain. Not a perfect install, just one that gets things up and running without needing to know how to use tar or make.

I totally agree that Linux is ready for the office desktop, and I highly recommend that enterprises transition to it as soon as possible.


James Turner 11/29/03 07:34:52 PM EST

Can we please shut down the "Windows has problems too" argument? The problem is, Windows already owns the market. Saying that Linux is no worse than Windows doesn't buy us anything. Linux has to be BETTER than Windows, or there's no incentive for people to change.

And Windows does have a better story to tell than Linux, driver wise. That's because driver manufacturers DO install precompiled versions of their drivers for the major Windows OSes. Telling someone to go to a web site and download and run an EXE file is a lot simpler than telling them to download, configure, and install a bunch of C code.

I love Linux, and want it to succeed badly on the desktop. But I know that in order to get a large user base, there must be a large number of applications available. In order to have large numbers of applications, there must be large numbers of users. Catch-22. But it's possible over time, IF it's easy for existing Windows users to transition to Linux, on their existing hardware, and with a comparable amount on install pain. Not a perfect install, just one that gets things up and running without needing to know how to use tar or make.

I totally agree that Linux is ready for the office desktop, and I highly recommend that enterprises transition to it as soon as possible.


MEME 11/29/03 06:20:52 PM EST

To Agnostic and Jimes Tunner:

Sorry that you are wrong. I haven't tell that "Linux Desktop is equal Window 3.1". This is your (Agnostic) statement. ***Don't said that is me***.

I only said "Linux Desktop is Ready and need improve" just all.
My idea is not same as you. Don't put something in my idea and said that is mine.

Walter H aka WCMozart 11/29/03 06:16:45 PM EST

For me, Linux on the desktop has always meant Linux on a laptop, installing without a problem. I tried to get a Dell laptop working 4 year ago, gave up, period, and returned to my Mac, which I still use for my everyday things. Four years has passed, and everytime I look at the Linux laptop compatibility website I only read about headaches, and partial functionality. It would be best if some organization, somewhere, would take ownership of the issue and focus on making a very few, select, modestly priced laptops work flawlessly, and let everyone know. For example, start with the Dell 600m - its a nice machine, is basically affordable (around $1200 on sale), and it only weighs 5 lbs. The one could move on to, for example, the latest e-machines laptop, which provide good valus and cost $1100 - $1200 retail. Then add maybe one Toshiba, one IBM, and one Compaq -- that's 5 machines total, period. Next, I would reommend doing this every 6-9 months. Everyone could then buy at least one performant laptop, and get it working properly without much hassle


Rob Thomas 11/29/03 04:25:43 PM EST

Agnostic and Jim:

It is not that we are a 'believer', it is that we live in the real world. There are real secretaries in governments not only in local, state and Federal as well as other countries who use Linux (RH or Suse mostly) every day. They are not specially trained, not geeks and so on. They are people who sit down and use the software. They for the most part don't even know what root is.

To them they use it as a desktop every day and studies have shown that they like it over the Windows products. Those same studies show that it requires less maintainanace than Windows products. It isn't like arguing with a preacher about the existance of God in his Church, it is like arguing that there is no sunlight when you can see plainly that there is.

Most Linux distro's meets the tests of a 'desktop', clearly.


Agnostic 11/29/03 02:34:58 PM EST

Dear Meme,
You are thinking like an economist - in the long run - everything will be in equilibrium :-) - unfortunately - the idea of equilibrium is a utopia. I agree with some of your contention especially the fact that Linux desktop is not good enough.
You compared with the fact that Linux is similar to Win 3.1 - I agree with you however, there is a small difference - often time overlooked - when Win 3.1 was released - it did not have an incumbent OS that it had to beat - it set its own standard - Linux however, have Windows OS to benchmark against. As you know - when you are offfering an alternative that you said is better, you need to be able to prove it. Better does not mean that there is less virus, better does not mean that you need only to reboot the machine once a year instead of once a month - better means that the ease of use, better means that it will be accepted by the market place, better means that it not only cater for the elite few.
So, as my statement above, sure Linux had come a long way, but it is not ready for primetime - some elite few will know how to use it - but to go prime time, it needs to be accepted by every joe blow and jane doe - that is the market economy talking.
BTW - I never claimed to be able to see the whole picture of Linux - I just see the big picture of market economy. ;)

MEME 11/29/03 02:27:10 PM EST

To Agnostic/James Tunner,

I have seen "your known picture" in Linux Desktop but I have difference point of view on "your known picture" and feel that "*LINUXWORLD SPECIAL* Is Linux Desktop-Ready Yet...or Not?" is wrong. James Tunner you can make other title and put it for dicussion. It still to be success and have same number of reader to read your statement.

James Tunner, I think you know the actual result (if you are clever) here, many reader disagree you/your point/your title. Why still choose this title. For what? For tell us something? For no of reader that you want to get? Can share???

MEME 11/29/03 02:03:23 PM EST

To Agnostic,

You said you and James Tunner have see the Linux Desktop whole picture, I think not everyone can have the whole picture of Linux Desktop.

For my point of view, I think you and James Tunner have described the picture in wrong way. You comment Linux Desktop not ready but I comment it is ready but need more improvement. "Improve" is long process.

I just think how to market Linux Desktop to be success. You see Window 3.1 on 199x is ready or not. This is long term process. When Microsoft first launch Visual Basic, it is not good in that time. But continue to improve, it become one of Microsoft main products in the market. Ready is ready, improve is improve. You can't said that "it need continue ro improve" same as "It is not ready".

The meaning is so different in between. I can't say Linux Desktop is good enough, such as Microsoft Window can't say that is good enough. Because of user's need always change, technology always change. As a result, once Linux Desktop is ready then we can use it but need continue to improve until one day "Users' need is stable, technology haven't changed and Linux Desktop cover all users requirement." On that time, we can say that Linux Desktop is good enough.

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