ubuntu I hope that nobody is surprised by Wal-Mart's decision to stop selling Linux boxes (in the form of the gPC). Despite what some folks may think, Linux on the desktop is perpetually one year off.

I know this because I've hoped and hoped myself over the years, running Linux on various desktops and notebook, suffering through driver problems, document incompatibilities, and so on.

But that doesn't meant that things aren't getting better. When I made the move from RedHat to Debian, a whole class of problems went away. I stopped building stuff from source most of the time (with a few exceptions). I didn't have packaging and installation/upgrade hassles anymore.

And nowadays, with Ubuntu on half of my computers, I don't even have driver problems anymore. Plus, with Firefox and Open Office, I can deal with just about any documents I'd need to. The only real problem is the software that simply doesn't run on Linux. And for that I could install VMWare, VirtualBox, or similar technology to run a version of Windows on top of Linux.

The fact that mainstream America still wants Windows says far more about Windows than it does about Linux. This is not at all surprising to someone like me--someone who's been waiting "one more year now" for the last 5-8 years.

And you know what? That's okay.

Different people want different things.

Posted by jzawodn at March 11, 2008 07:08 AM

Reader Comments
# Basil Mohamed Gohar said:

I guess the main problem, at least from my perspective (which your post dances around as well) is that, with Windows, some can generally expect what they want to do to "just work". As a Fedora user, this is getting better-and-better with every release.

But I can see how far ahead Ubuntu is, and why it is so popular, because of the fact that usability for the "average" user is so far ahead in terms of priorities. Even more-and-more developers are using Ubuntu for this same reason, because as a development platform, it's not so drastically different from any other *nix-based desktop.

However, another issue is the fact of what people want...because what they "want" is often times synonymous with what they are TOLD they want or simply what they are used to. Humans are creatures of habit, and breaking a 10+ year-long habit can be tough, especially when someone feels Windows is "good enough". "Don't fix what's not broken" is what most people probably think.

I think the beauty of Free Software is that, by its nature, it is ALWAYS getting better-and-better at doing what people need-and-want, because anyone with enough skills can get in and do it. The biggest challenge to its acceptance is just the sheer prevalence of non-free-dominated marketing and infrastructure that's already out there.

This is evidenced no better than in the fact that there's an argument over using the proprietary Word document format over an open format, such as ODF (I'm referring to now, and not if or when OOXML is ratified). It is simply due to the installed base of applications that Word document format is the defacto standard. The fact that far more applications actually and theoretically can support ODF is irrelevant to the decision makers because Word "works" now.

What needs to happen is people need to be educated that what's important is a future free from dependence on any single entity with solely commercial interests. Free software and open standards are, currently, the only protection again such a dystopia.

*steps down from soapbox*

on March 11, 2008 07:59 AM
# jr said:

People are different. Some folks love to tinker on cars, others enjoy cooking, yet others enjoy balancing the load pile at a nuclear reactor. Unless computers are a hobby of interest for them, they treat it as an appliance and invest the absolute minimum required to understand it. They use Vista because that's what came on it when they bought it from Best Buy and they picked up one of those free Learning Disks they saw on late night TV. As for the rest? It's on the list somewhere between replacing the furnace filter and getting their tires rotated.

Linux, for now and the foreseeable future, requires effort for them. They now need to learn how to do things with that appliance that's different than what anyone else does. It's like you having to factor a number just to make toast. It's not hard, but it's one more step you have to do for some unknown reason when all you want is cooked bread. It may be fun for a while, but after trying to explain how to open the internets to your mother-in-law for the third time, or you can't run "Barbie's Dream Horse Adventures" for your kid, you start to think it's not such a great savings after all.

on March 11, 2008 08:43 AM
# shadowfirebird said:

Linux on the desktop isn't a year away. It's here now.

No doubt you're now expecting me to go into a Linux-boy rant. No, I don't mean it like that. I simply mean that for a lot of people, working on a Linux desktop is a daily fact. For many people it does indeed "just work".

If it doesn't work for you, that's fine, too. But that doesn't mean that it isn't here yet; that makes it sound as if no-one can get it to work.

on March 11, 2008 08:50 AM
# AM said:

May be there is another angle to it.

You also need to take into account that:

a. Walmart was selling a low-end box with a Linux distro that's not the number 1. If I'm in the market for a better configuration, I won't look at the walmart box. _One size doesn't fit all_.

b. people have reported that even at Dell, for the exact same configuration the Ubuntu box was costing $150 more than the one preloaded with Windows. I would like to buy a machine preloaded with Ubuntu, but I don't want to pay a premium for that ...

on March 11, 2008 08:55 AM
# Brent Ashley said:

After buying a $299 Asus Eee 2G and finding it to be the smoothest out-of-box experience ever (including Macs), I'm convinced that this little machine and its brethren deserve to be the leading edge of consumer Linux adoption.

on March 11, 2008 09:49 AM
# Xianhong said:

Jeremy, i totally agree with "Different people want different things."

on March 11, 2008 06:17 PM
# david said:

This is in agreement of the "different people want different things" idea, however I would say Linux is there already for many different niches of the population already, and is rapidly closing in on the remaining ones. Linux is everywhere now.

All that remains is more widespread adoption by OEMs and popular software makers, as well as more expedient adoption by talented developers who can create amazing software.

In any case, off the top of my head:

People who treat computers as another appliance (Mom and Pop types) should have no problems migrating to a Linux based system (to check e-mail, browse the web, compose a letter).

Gamers, of the particularly experimental type (those who crank their memory timings, voltages, FSB/memory dividers, and bandwidth), can migrate slowly. Some games actually operate faster on Wine than they do in Windows, and Wine is getting better all the time (by leaps and bounds). nVidia (although closed source), and ATI drivers for accelerated 3D are here. Of course, Wine will not be the answer forever, but it is a major stepping stone for adoption.

I do know that it is not "quite" there yet for a particular subset of users, and those are the office dwelling types who live on Windows, and have used it forever. Additionally, Linux is not there yet for the age old developers who have been trained, leashed, and bound to Windows (through formal education, and careers). I can see *those* subsets of people at which Linux on the desktop needs to target next.

The former are getting applications which run comparably to their Windows counterparts or better (OpenOffice, Solitaire, PostPath's exchange drop in).

The latter tend to be die hard (think .NET, MFC, etc), and will shift as the populace slowly gravitates and demands more applications for Linux. I suspect that developers will end up gravitating toward OS agnostic frameworks like Qt, instead of simply binding themselves to Linux though.

on March 12, 2008 12:03 AM
# Jim said:

I agree with shadowfirebird.

When I took a sysadmin job at a small university 5 years ago, I stuck with Windows for about 4 months. My boss gave me the option of dual booting Linux and I took the jump.

After a Windows crash, I decided to reclaim the disk space and haven't looked back since.

Ubuntu has been a revelation. I have used everything from old Slackware (slackware 96 and a little test box that I kept in the corner) to SuSE to Fedora to the past 4 releases of Ubuntu.

Ubuntu is so good that my wife, in frustration with Vista (and XP) every now and then) has started bringing up the possibility of dual booting her two machines into Ubuntu. She's had a pleasant enough time using it on my laptop that she is starting to get interested in trying it out for herself on her machines.

As a daily user, I don't find much that I miss from Windows or Mac OS and when I am not using Linux, I increasingly find things that I wish worked like it does on the Linux desktop (virtual desktops being number one... and I don't like Apple's poor first attempt in Spaces).

Perhaps when Apple and Microsoft lift more features from Unix/Linux, I will feel more at home. Until then, I am happy with my choice and hope everyone else is happy with theirs.

on March 12, 2008 01:56 PM
# John said:

I agree with "different people want different things", however I also think that to some extent it is a case of people not knowing what's available.
I recently talked my Mom into using Ubuntu when here machine became bogged down in the usual Windows quagmire. She loves it. Hasn't had a complaint yet.
Of course, she's no gamer. Which seems to be the biggest complaint area, but she does belong to a surprising number of groups and social sites, watches video, etc, with no complaint of something not working. Admittedly I did install it and put everything on there I knew she would want.

I have a bit of a problem with the assumption that computers should be 'think-free' as well. A bi-product of Microsoft's promises (Apple as well). I do think that, just like a car, you should know at least the basics of the machine you are using. Most problems could be avoided with just a little knowledge and effort.
But, at the end of the day, if your brand new Vista machine makes you happy, slainte!

on March 13, 2008 02:36 PM
# Mani said:

As you know Unix and all flavors(including Linux) are developed by hackers for hackers not for ordinary computer users. For a Computer Geeks who knows couple of programming languages and enjoys doing things in his own way, Linux or FreeBSD is first choice, and I don't see the point in all efforts to make Linux a desktop box for all users.

Personally I use Gentoo Linux on my laptop and PC, I didn't used windows for three years now. I don't like ubuntu, because It takes the same assumption as Windows and MAC: "User knows nothing and OS should handle everything for him." for an example of this just take a look at Installer of Ubuntu. It asks almost no question from user. and decides for his own to what to do! It's completely against the philosophy of Linux.

I like the way Gentoo respects user and allow him to config kernel, devices and softwares of his system from scratch for his specific needs.

on March 13, 2008 05:58 PM
# Vectorpedia (Rick) said:

I also agree.........different people want different things........but I do love Linux

on March 16, 2008 11:24 AM
# ihvan said:

i want to just say this
Linux is freedom...

it is summirizing all of the linux philosophy

on March 18, 2008 03:04 PM
# Jason Crowe said:

I have tracked Linux desktop movement since about 1999, with with corel's Linux offering (it was all the store had). The main thing that keeps me from turning the home pc into a Linux box is wireless drivers.

Sure I can tinker and fidget for a few days to get something to work, but I shouldn't have to.....

I know it's not the Linux distro's fault, they provide more value than MS for the price, but it's still a barrier that has to overcome.

on March 26, 2008 09:59 AM
# Crumb said:

It is cool that Dell now sell preloaded Ubuntu laptops. I think Ubuntu is great - though I actually personally prefer openSUSE with a KDE frontend... not a passionate cause or anything, it just seems to work out better with my own particular quirkiness! I could never quite figure out how to do certain things with the sudo command and I prefer to just use su and get it out the way. I also just happen to prefer KDE (just my taste, nothing else, Gnome is really great too) and feel that SuSE seems a bit more refined in favor of KDE... but it is slight. (Kubuntu didn't feel quite as tight as the Ubuntu variant - not that it is shabby at all!)

Gotta be honest though, I think Linux is really is its forte on servers. It is kind of a hassle if you aren't a nerd like me! Getting proprietary music and video to play is certainly possible - but there can be quite a bit of fiddling around. It doesn't work always work out the box like on Mac or MS Windows.

FreeBSD is also really quite amazing if you get time to tinker with it... and it will take quite a bit of time! But it is very powerful.

Gotta say I really do not like the super dumbed down distributions like Linspire and PC-BSD. Just me, but I feel like they are diluted to the point of having no point!

My personal opinion (very subject to change) is that desktop/laptop Linux is evolving into a solid, here to stay, niche market... kind of like... well... the Mac! Neither are likely to knock MS Windows off that huge perch (maybe they can give it good jiggle though!) but I think instead they will tend to simply become even more Windows compatible... as has been the recent trend.

on March 31, 2008 11:03 AM
# lkq said:

Ubuntu is a great linux platform for usuing Windows Xp , its really nice to use

on May 10, 2008 05:32 AM
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