The state of Linux - Is it ready for the "average" user?

Summary:The other day I realized that it had been a long time since I'd talked about Linux as a whole as opposed to looking at specific distros. Also, over the past few weeks I've spent quite a lot of time discussing Windows, in particular Windows 7, and Apple's Mac OS X.

The other day I realized that it had been a long time since I'd talked about Linux as a whole as opposed to looking at specific distros. Also, over the past few weeks I've spent quite a lot of time discussing Windows, in particular Windows 7, and Apple's Mac OS X.

UPDATE: Links now fixed ... not sure what went wrong there, Sorry!

I've written quite a lot about Linux in the past, but quite a lot has changed since then. In fact, looking back at my "Five things the Linux community doesn't understand about the average computer user" and the follow-on "Three more things the Linux community doesn't get" I can see that a lot has changed.

1 - On the whole, users aren’t all that dissatisfied with Windows Hmmm, hello ... Vista!

2 - Too many distros Users that start with Ubuntu won't go far wrong.

3 - People want certainty that hardware and software will work Well, while I still think that Wine has a long way to go before it allows people to use their Windows apps on a Linux distro, hardware support has come along well. It's been quite a while since I remember having any hardware-related hassles while installing a Linux distro on a newish system.

4 - As far as most people are concerned, the command line has gone the way of the dinosaur While I still go back to the command window in Linux every so often, this is really no different to the Windows command prompt, and it's certainly less daunting (and far less dangerous) for the average user than having to mess in the Windows registry.

5 - Linux is still too geeky Again, I don't think that this is relevant any more. Ubuntu has put a friendly face on Linux.

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6 - The Mac effect Thanks to the irresponsibility of the big financial institutions, which resulted in a financial meltdown, not everyone will have enough free cash (or space on their credit card) to take the Mac route. That said, I still think that Apple represents a greater threat to Linux than Microsoft does.

7 - Who provides the free tech support? For people relying on friends of co-workers for tech support, then shifting to Linux could be a problem (at the very least they might have to find different tech friends). But for those confident searching online and reading forums and blog posts, it shouldn't be a problem.

8 - Chill out, it’s just an operating system! I still find it impossible to get anywhere near as worked up about an OS as some of you folks can.

It's now also easier for people to take a Linux distro for a spin. Not only do they have the option of booting up their PC using a LiveCD and having an opportunity to play with the new OS while keeping their existing OS intact, you also have access to technologies such as umenu and Wubi that also you to install a Linux distro such as Ubuntu alongside your existing Windows OS and set up a dual boot. Problem is I just don't see these cool new features being pushed anywhere near as hard as they could be pushed.

That said, I don't think that Linux will go mainstream any time soon. Why? Because it takes big bucks to swing user opinion and a community-driven project doesn't have access to the millions of dollars that a campaign like that needs. And maybe that's for the best, because a massive influx of users might not be good for Linux in the long run.

The more I use Linux, the happier I become with the OS. Sure, I can't see a Linux distro becoming my main daily use OS, but as far as I'm concerned, that doesn't matter. I've learned a lot from using Linux distros, but I still stand behind an observation I made about eighteen months ago:

Using Linux gives me a satisfying sense of “sticking it to the man,” although at times I get the feeling that the person I’m sticking it to ends up being me.

You have the floor.

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Topics: Operating Systems, Linux, Open Source, Software

About

Adrian Kingsley-Hughes is an internationally published technology author who has devoted over a decade to helping users get the most from technology -- whether that be by learning to program, building a PC from a pile of parts, or helping them get the most from their new MP3 player or digital camera.Adrian has authored/co-authored technic... Full Bio

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