I'm talking about an application that is near and dear to my heart. It's Maple 11, one of the coolest bits of math software this side of SAS. Maple 11 is the latest and greatest from Maplesoft and handles everything from differential equations to graph theory to statistics. There is very little that Maple can't do in terms of mathematical computation and the application has saved me countless hours of tedium and pain as I work towards my masters degree (applied math - not a fun thing without a few technological tools). One thing it can't do, though, is run under Windows Vista. A few people I know of have gotten Maple 10 to work under Vista (I was even running briefly, if unreliably, until I tried to upgrade; then there was no going back and no getting it to work), but no luck on Vista and no timelines from Maplesoft.
Obviously, the number of early Vista adopters who also need to run Maple is fairly small, but my experience with Maple points to a few problems both with Vista and Linux. While Vista overall works remarkably well and is slick, pretty and polished (if a bit intrusive, just like those Mac vs. PC commercials say), software and driver support still aren't where they should be for the next world-dominating operating system. Similarly, support for 64-bit versions, although better than for XP Pro x64, remains fairly dismal in driverland, despite increasingly common 64-bit processors from both AMD and Intel.
Ubuntu (and Kubuntu, and Xubuntu), on the other hand, have come a long ways in terms of overall support (still no native Flash player for 64-bit Linux, though, and plenty of other niggles). As I've noted in the past, it's free, so I'm happy to cut it some slack. As soon as I reclaim some space on my hard drive (almost time to kill 64-bit XP, sad, orphaned operating system that it is), I'll start testing virtualization software, as well. Can I run Vista/XP, Office 2007, and IE7 in a window on a virtual machine (and yes, there are some good reasons to do so; we aren't all Linux geeks playing in a vacuum)? Initial reports suggest that I can do this quite handily, but we'll see how many hoops a slightly above-average user needs to jump through to make that work.
Which gets at the remaining problem with the 'buntus specifically, but Linux in general. I hope that Dell's offering of Ubuntu on a number of its consumer machines means that we're going to see a lot more progress in the ease of use department. I'll be the first to admit that Canonical has made huge strides in this area. However, installations that still need to run from the command line aren't going to cut it. They're fine for the moderately to severely geeky who use software like Maple. So is command-line manipulation of files to get the program up and running. Creation of shell scripts to run programs from the desktop? Okeedokee. But this still won't fly with the majority of educators who haven't the time or the wherewithal to deal with such antiquities.
Keep up the good work, Canonical (and Dell, and anyone else pushing hard on the open source movement) - I'm writing this in Kubuntu now and I'm about to start my homework in Maple 11. That won't be happening under Vista for some time. It's gotta be seamless, though...Otherwise the moderately geeky like me will just run Kubuntu in Virtual PC on Vista for the Linux apps we need rather than running Vista under VMWare on Linux because we occasionally need a Windows app (or are still really enamored of Office 2007).