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

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.

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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

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  • well put

    very nice put Adrian. I agree with you, Linux has gotten a lot better. More companies are slowly supporting it. I mean, my router manual tells you how to set it up on Linux! Amazon mp3 downloader supports Ubuntu as well.

    I just wish more companies would cross-develop in a way that Linux is supported along MacOS and Windows.

    I still think that if you need more than internet surfing and basic office, you should go for a Mac. There you have the best of Unix and the supported world. But for many of us, it has become very easy to set up and use.

    I find Linux very very good for a static system. One that you set up and forget. If you need a dynamic system, where you add new software the whole time, will eventually hit the unsupported world. It just takes *one* application that you need but don't have on Linux to spoil the party. And as you've said, with all due respect, Wine is pretty much a hobby joke.
    patibulo
  • RE: The state of Linux - Is it ready for the

    Mint is an Ubuntu based version that does common media as supplied. I really love it.
    Bill4
  • The only OS option with inifinite potential

    Linux is not tied to the whims of single secrete hiding entity. Time and time again it always what the OS developers don't tell you that eventually bite you. If you want to do things you way and enough people agree, then it can be done with Linux. With anything else you can convince the company to invest or give up secrets so you can do it yourself.

    Linux is freedom of choice on every level of OS function. You may not think that is much now until you find something that you can't do because of MS or Apple decided that they didn't want you to do that.
    T1Oracle
    • Agreed ...

      ... but only if you have sufficient knowledge to exercise that "freedom of choice". Most consumers don't possess such specialized knowledge.
      M Wagner
      • they don't need to

        There are plenty of developers and coders who are happy to do it, and pass it on down the line, collecting improvements along the way, and no corporation can tell them not to.
        bswiss
        • TODAY, unless Linux is pre-loaded ...

          ... and offers the user someone to call for support, the typical user DOES need specialized knowledge to install and configure Linux.
          M Wagner
          • TODAY, unless Windows is pre-loaded ..

            ... and Microsoft offers the user someone to call for support (which they do NOT), the typical user DOES need specialized knowledge to install and configure Windows (or any other Microsoft software).

            How many "TYPICAL USERS" do you know? Certainly not all of them! You can no better speak for "typical users" than anyone else can.
            Ole Man
          • I'm going to use the OS that comes on the machine.

            The only way that is going to change is if the OS dies and I don't have an install disk. In the windows world this is all to common.

            At that point I'm going to see if I can get things up and going on the machine with linux and if not I have to go to the shop and the local guy most likely knows...windows.
            deowll
          • Couple things...

            [i]"The only way that is going to change is if the OS dies and I don't have an install disk. In the windows world this is all to common."[/i]

            Most of the machines I have worked on that "died" was due to serious user abuse. (porn sites, and illegal downloads). These types of users aren't safe on any OS, period.

            [i]"At that point I'm going to see if I can get things up and going on the machine with linux and if not I have to go to the shop and the local guy most likely knows...windows."[/i]

            This is largely due to small local shops hiring people with no real skills. Anyone good at taking tests can pass an A+ cert test, and local shops tend to treat this paper like it's absolute proof they know what they are doing.

            A lot of shops actually have high schoolers, or just out of HS kids working for minimium wage behind the wall. Their computer experience generally consists of MySpace, games, and what little they learned taking the A+.

            Most degree programs teach both sides (funding permitting) so that they can become true computer techs. But people with degrees demand more money, and the small local shops aren't willing, or unable to pay these wages.

            Welcome to America. Skill costs to much. So instead, we either hire illegals, or send it all to China. And then people buy into the cheap thinking they are saving, when in fact they are only driving inflation and ensuring skilled Americans lose their jobs.

            To paraphrase Einstein, everything is relative.
            ShadowGIATL
          • I believe...

            the point was UNLESS Linux comes pre-installed, which Windows does a lot, and Linux not so much.

            Linux machines aren't as readily available as Windows machines, and that means most users would have to install Linux themselves.

            You're so wrapped up in trying to prove your point, that you failed to actaully see the point.
            ShadowGIATL
          • TODAY, unless Linux is pre-loaded ..

            I am not the average user and have used computers since 7th grade (1981). I've used the TRS-80, Apple II series, Mac, PC, plus some terminal based systems. I've used different versions of DOS, Windows, even OS/2. I have touched Linux.

            I don't find Linux easy to configure. Some software needs to be compiled to be used on my system. I had online instructions not work. It's not as easy to go to a bookstore and grab something that might explain what those instructions are actually doing. If I understood, I could tweak the process and play with things a bit to get it to work. Information online often seems to assume a certain level of knowledge that I don't have so I have to blindly follow instructions and just hope all is correct with no typos.

            I've also had some software simply not run after installation. Click on the icon - nothing. Go to a command prompt - still nothing.

            Finding basic, entry-level instructions and information is not easy for Linux. I have found some information so I'm not completely lost on the basic parts of Linux.

            Since I have all new hardware now, I may be willing to try Linux again and hope there's no more hard locks within a few minutes of booting. (I had to pull the power cord to shutdown. Power switch and reset button didn't work. This was with more than one distribution.) I may save it for the netbook I plan to get.

            I haven't given up on Linux. I'm just not sure about getting it to work the way I want it to.
            slade37
          • ole man ...you hit him right between the eyes....BLAM

            He really doesn't speak for the typical individual user, I doubt if he even knows many typical users ...... most typical users don't know that zdnet even exsists .......sorry zdnet.
            Over and Out
          • Not my experience

            at all. I burned an image of Ubuntu and installed it just like I install Windows. The partitioning was a bit awkward (but so was the first time I used fdisk), but otherwise there was no real difference between Ubuntu and Windows. That is not really true Ubuntu came with a good browser (Firefox) and Open Office out of the box. I have not needed the command line in the six months since I set it up. Works for me!
            don3605
          • No real difference between Ubuntu and Windows

            Yes you get a browser with ubuntu but if you don't like Firefox, try installing IE on Linux. Not in Wine either as this has already been discussed as a hobby joke. I am a typical user that has just been using a long time. Started with C64. No matter what OS I try (MAC OSX 10.5 included) I keep going back to Windows to get done what I need to do without a lot of hastle. You do need specialized knowledge, and a lot of patience to get things working on Linux. I don't have the time anymore.
            Keywalker4God
          • TODAY, unless Linux is pre-loaded

            I'm no geek but I did have to whip out my pocket protector and make some arcane adjustments to make Ubuntu 8.10 do everyday things such as display the desktop correctly and play flash in Firefox (the latter was really weird). Your typical Best Buyer would not be willing/able to prowl the forums to find solutions they way I did. OK maybe I am a geek.
            grsplane
          • I agree with ole man .......Your stereotyping individual abilities

            You really doesn't speak for the typical individual user, I doubt if you even knows many typical users ...... most typical users don't know that zdnet even exsists .......sorry zdnet.
            Over and Out
    • You can do pretty much anything you want

      On Windows XP, Vista and Windows 7, so your argument is bunk. The only thing that Windows XP, Vista and 7 don't allow a regular developer to touch: the kernel! The main brains of the OS are the ONLY thing that are verboten to touch for most applications.

      Even in Linux, that is the case, as far as I can tell.
      Lerianis
  • If non-preinstalled Windows is ready....

    ...then Linux is ready. The main difference I have seen has to do with installation vs buying an OS pre-installed. When you look at Windows installs you can see just as many issues as you see with Linux installs. In fact I'd say I'm starting to see less problems with getting a Linux box up and running with most things functioning.

    After that its all about preference. If there is a Windows only app that you insist on using then by all means stick with Windows. The Linux community does not need to focus efforts on trying to run Windows apps. MS certainly does not make many efforts to run non-Windows apps or provide the functionality found in Linux. Its the app developers that work to make things cross platform.

    A few years before I even thought about using Linux as a desktop I started questioning my use of all Windows only or MS developed applications. Outside of finding apps that worked better like Firefox I questioned having all my eggs in this one basket. Soon I was finding all kinds of alternative apps that did what I needed them to and were often free. This unknowingly opened the door for me to leave Windows later on.

    Now most people aren't going to have that experience. The Windows culture is set in heavily and I do not knock MS for it. But it means that Linux is probably not going to explode all over the desktop market soon...and I don't care because it doesn't need to. Linux is doing just what Linux users need it to do...gain enough share to be noticed so that service providers and software vendors make sure that they consider Linux usage in their offerings. Any market share after that is just fun info to throw at MS fanboys but totally unneeded.
    storm14k
    • Pre install makes all the difference.

      I saw where dell was offering ubuntu
      preinstalled on select netbooks and boxes. I
      bet that thrilled MS. It just makes sense for
      systems that do not have resources to spare.

      That being said ....
      I was amazed at how easy it was to install
      ubuntu. It was the easiest OS I have ever
      installed and configured.



      sparkkkey
      • Easy as Pie

        I've installed Ubuntu on three systems that are too old or underpowered to run anything newer than XP (one of those had W98 on it) and all ran perfectly.
        sporkfighter