Six Clicks: 2014's top Linux desktops

Six Clicks: 2014's top Linux desktops

Summary: After years of talk about the Linux desktop becoming important, it finally is. But thanks to Chromebooks and Android PCs, it's not the Linux desktop we expected.

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  • Chromebook Pixel

    For years, we've talked about the Linux desktop becoming important. Now, it finally is. But thanks to Chromebooks and Android PCs, it's not the Linux desktop we expected. Instead of desktop distributions from smaller groups such as Arch or Mint, or companies such as Canonical, we're seeing Chrome OS and Android, thanks to Google and top vendors such as Asus, Dell, HP, and Lenovo -- who are robbing market share from the moribund Windows PC industry.

    In 2014, I see us moving to a new world of Linux desktops: Cloud-based Linux distributions, such as Chrome OS and Peppermint ; mobile-Linux distros, such as Android and Ubuntu Touch; and "traditional" fat-client Linux desktops such as Fedora and openSUSE with their newest relative: The SteamOS based gaming Linux.

    So, while the Chromebook Pixel, the Rolls-Royce of Chromebooks, pictured above may not be selling in huge numbers, inexpensive Chromebooks are selling well.

  • Chrome OS

    Google argues that all you really need for a 21st century desktop is a Web browser, software-as-a-service (SaaS) for programs, infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) for storage, and just enough Linux to make it go. Put it all together and what you get is Chrome OS. Considering the flood of Chromebooks from every major PC vendor, Google seems to be on to something.

    Under the hood, Chrome OS is built on Gentoo Linux. Only the most sharp-eyed users would ever know it. For Chrome OS users -- and there are millions of them now -- it's all about the Chrome Web browser and cloud services.

Topics: Enterprise Software, Google, Linux, PCs

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  • Six Clicks: 2014's top Linux desktops

    No open ports.

    Fedora 20 does allow the use of other desktops; KDE, LXDE, Xfce, MATE-Compiz to name a few.
    RickLively
  • Usability?

    I'll admit the last time I tried Linux on a desktop (Ubuntu Dapper Drake) was several years ago. At the time I decided it wasn't worth the effort that it took to manage, install new hardware, and find native software that was as functional as the Windows programs I was familiar with.

    Has that changed?

    1) Is it possible now to plug in an arbitrary USB device and have it work 95% of the time without having to search for a driver?

    2) Can OpenOffice (or something like it) open MS Excel workbooks and execute whatever formulas are in the cells? (I'll forego VBA for the time being). What about something that comes close to MS Acess?

    3) Is WINE good enough now to run most games? World of Warcraft? :)
    ragoff
    • WINE should run WoW

      Dunno about other games, but WoW should actually work:

      http://www.wowwiki.com/World_of_Warcraft_functionality_on_Wine
      CobraA1
    • Usability?

      Absolutely yes for questions 1 and 2. I don't realy care about games so can't say much about 3. I do serious work under Ubuntu (currently 13.10) with the Unity desktop. The 26 icons in my launcher have the applications I need 99% of the time. Contrary to what SJWN and similar users say, accessing and administering the system id very easy to me. My reply to your question 2 is using LibreOffice 4.2; there is a caveat if you use Linux fonts that do not exist under MS Office, porting to or from it to LO may produce disappointing results sometimes. But if you use Arial or Times New Roman thinks work well, even equations which I use a lot.

      As far as Wine, Microcal Origin or MS O up to 2010 need nothing more than Wine. But Crossover (www.codeweavers.com) does a good job making easy to install many more MS W applications. :-)
      csevcik
    • yes...

      DD was a very long time ago. Things have changed enormously.
      1) Yes, PnP, at least 95% of the time. The actual experience you will get is, the vast majority of common USB devices you just plug in and they start working immediately. For this group is quicker and simpler than Windows. For the more speciality type device that has lots of additional functionality that in Windows requires you to install some (usually crappy) software, typically you still just plug it in and the basic functionality will work out of the box on Linux. If you must have the additional functionality, then you may have to see if the manufacturer has made a Linux version of their software. It's surprising how often they have these days, or a third party equivalent. But there are still gaps, of course.

      2) OpenOffice and LibreOffice are easily as capable as MS Office in most things, more so in some. Formulae should not be any issue. Calc however still has a gap to close on Excel for really advanced functionality. Obviously they don't have a VBA interpreter but they all have their own OOP scripting language that is similar. Both could do with 'prettying up' in terms of aesthetics :) But most Linux desktop UIs in aesthetics and functionality leave all versions of Windows for dead. (Particularly the bridge troll that is Win8/8.1!)

      3) I would avoid Wine where possible, it's only for the determined! That way, madness lay. But yes there are plenty of good guides on how to get WoW working using it, and probably other popular games. Use PlayOnLinux to do it, more user friendly. That said, what SJVN didn't mention is that Steam is installable as an app directly from the Software Centre (app store) in Ubuntu and Mint. So you can have a full Steam platform on your desktop machine to play hundreds of popular games natively with only about 4 mouse clicks and about 60 secs effort
      lexter99
      • Make that 1000's!!!!

        There are 1000's of games that can run on Linux and many games started on Open Source!

        Wine alone has the capability to run 1000's of games and the proprietary platform called Cedega could add to that compatibility before ceasing to exist in 2011.

        Yet Crossover is still available to enable a simple install solution to running Windows Applications and Games on Linux:
        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/CrossOver_(software)

        It also depends on using proper drivers like Gallium3D Mesa or the Nvidia or AMD/ATI equivalent!
        KronJohn
      • I'd recommend Linux Mint with MATE desktop...

        ... because it's still more stable than Cinnamon, hoggs less memory and one could customize it more than Cinnamon. Another good one is of course Mint Xfce (if pc has less than 1GB RAM).

        I used 14 years Windows and now Linux about 7 years and Mint 13 MATE has been the best i have ever had desktop with criteria like:

        - stability
        - security
        - user friendliness
        - saving money (cost 0 €/$)
        - long term support
        - desktop customizing
        - available software (all free)
        MacBroderick
      • running VBA on Libre now

        so that does work.

        Wrote the apps using Excel, but run them on LibreOffice.
        timspublic1@...
    • Answers:

      1) As in the past, any USB device supported by non-proprietary drivers will almost always just work without any search for drivers. Devices requiring proprietary drivers are still often a headache even if those drivers are available. The reason is that available drivers may not be matched to current kernel versions. Unlike Windows which only changes the Windows kernel when a new release comes out, Linux modifies its kernel when ever a better way to do something is discovered. This means Linux systems are always cutting edge to some degree, but it sacrifices support for proprietary drivers. Some of this headache can be avoided by buying an enterprise level Linux desktop like SuSE Linux Enterprise Desktop, as it retains the same kernel over a long period of time which is synced to proprietary Linux drivers. However, regrettably, there are still all too many popular hardware devices which have no Linux support because the respective hardware vendors are unwilling to provide it for various reasons.

      2) Libre Office (which is ahead of Open Office in many respects) is getting better and better and coming closer and closer to the functionality of MS Office. A good way to start out is by downloading the free Libre Office Suite for Windows to do a test drive and be able to experience first hand what it can do. There is a good discussion on this issue here: http://lifehacker.com/battle-of-the-office-suites-microsoft-office-and-libre-1147940828 As for Access, Linux now has Kexi which, while not very mature, is designed to do the sorts of things that Access does: http://www.kexi-project.org/wiki/wikiview/index.php@KexiFAQ.html

      3) While WINE is forever getting incrementally better, at this point I think the best hope for Linux gaming is Steam. WINE works very well when the ISV themselves integrates it into their product. When they don't, it tends to be a crap shoot. Sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn't, at least not so well.

      I have used Linux exclusively for the past 10 years plus and the above are honest answers to your questions as best as I can come up with. You will probably hear from a lot of posters who will either tell you to forget Linux or that Windows is the devil and that Linux can do anything you need it to do. Both of those answers are off the wall ravings of fan boys on either side and won't be much help to you in terms of what you could expect.
      George Mitchell
    • WoW

      Wow runs perfectly me under Linux with Wine. Better than it does on Windows, in fact! Just make sure you switch the graphics from DirectX to OpenGL in the initialisation file (I forget what it's called).

      Other Windows apps are a hit and miss affair. Check WineHQ for the compatibility of individual apps. You want at least a Gold rating. (WoW is Platinum there!!)

      Also check out the Linux Steam client. There's a number of Linux native games available. For sure, nothing like the number for Windows, or even Mac, but there's some gems there. All of Valve's own stuff, for example: Left for Dead, the Half-Life series and so on. Oldies but goodies!
      BrownieBoy-4ea41
    • Ask Steam Users Now? How about Live Linux?

      Yeah.... the numbers are still skewed to show the US ignorance of what runs on Linux and after market installs people do after they buy those Dells, HP's, Macs, and all other Heinz 57 flavors of PC Clones. Yeah Apple's Macs are just another PC x86 Clone after they moved away from PowerPC RISC Clones! ;-P

      Linux Live Distros? Yeah the one everyone uses to Rescue their Macs and Windows PC's!

      You know, the one that the web runs with 80% being on Apache Servers. Linux the OS that powers Amazon's, Google's, Oracle's, and about every other Cloud based service. Linux the OS that can boot and install every driver on a Live Running OS not installed.

      The only OS the NSA has bothered to create a Secure Linux Kernel for or any kernel for that matter because it's first and foremost...... OPEN..... and SECURE for even Government Use!

      The OS that all your CC transactions and the Stock Market run on. The OS that power more car's computers and household routers than all other OS's combined. That OS that most games like WoW are also actually run on in the Cloud Servers! Yeah.... that OS is our Future and the Future is always NOW!!!

      btw... the Linux has silently taken over the World, whether any of you fools out there know it or not, Linux is running on many things you own right now and don't even know it!!! hahhaha.,.... ;-P
      KronJohn
      • Ignorance is not limited to the US

        As you have so ably demonstrated.
        otaddy
    • My experience:

      1. I've had better luck with random USB devices on Linux than on Windows 7. It's not perfect, but I've had some *major* headaches trying to get devices working in Windows that work right out of the box in Linux.

      2. I honestly can't say if it can handle *all* of Excel's formulas, but in my little use of LibreOffice I've never found it lacking. Most of the Windows users I know have already swapped to it anyway to avoid the newer MS Office design, so I'm not sure if it has compatibility issues. However, I personally just use awk when I want to work with data. I've never used Access, so I won't even pretend to provide advice regarding that.

      3. After several years of attempting to use Wine, I wouldn't bother. It's an imperfect solution at best, and even the best of the best games being emulated tend to have major, game-breaking bugs or at least significant graphical flaws that tend to ruin the experience.

      Overall, I'd say, if you're already familiar with Windows the barrier to entry to using Linux to comparable or greater potential is simply too high. You might as well pull a fish out of the water and expect it to sprout legs, walk upright, and lecture on the Banach-Tarski paradox. Making the change to Linux is every bit worth it, but the question is whether you're actually *able* to adapt to it, and honestly I've met very few people who can handle such dramatic changes without major discomfort. You can still give it a try -- it is free after all -- but I would *not* recommend formatting your Windows partition when doing so.
      KiteX3
    • MINT-Cin and Windows networking?

      Only thing really stopping me switching over are:
      1] Can't seem to get the MINt Pc setup on the Windows domain network.
      I would need this to work to make the switch as I have a lot of stuff on the network that I need the Mint machine/s to see and work with.
      2] And CIV5, That has to work. :) addicted to CIV. Any replacement OS must be able to run this.

      Any good, step by step instructions for the networking would be appreciated.
      Thanks.
      tirnaog@...
    • Good enough?

      My Ubuntu and Mint both take any of the USB devices I have and run them without problems - certainly, faster and more reliabily than Win 7.
      LibreOffice loads Word files perfectly. Office 2013 files load better into LibreOffice than Offiec 2003. Calc loads all my Excel sheets without errors. Charting remains weak to date. Impress loads PowerPoint files but I have not had complete success yet. Base has improved of late but is a long way behind Access. Personally I am trying Kexi although this too is in early development but is based on Access functions and look.
      Although I do not use it for games, WINE is also greatly improved. So too is virtualisation which allows you to run Windows and games within Linux. Performance is geed for anything I have done. The WINE site will give more details.
      Winlinuser
  • Still need more games, though.

    "For almost Linux's entire 20-plus year history, people have complained about the open source operating system not having enough games. That was then. This is now."

    SteamOS is great, and it's good to see that it's providing more games to Linux.

    However: The game *still* has to be ported to Linux by the devs or publishers and pushed to Steam. Not all of my Steam catalog will be available on a Linux machine.

    So IMO there's still a ways to go, and it's still a very big dice roll for Valve. It's a very young concept, and who knows where the market will go?
    CobraA1
    • true

      Naturally, they have to be converted, but to be fair Valve is clearly putting a lot into this. And going to their library and filtering on games for Linux there are currently 326 available. That should be enough to get someone started!

      http://store.steampowered.com/search/?snr=1_230_linux__12&term=linux#category1=998&os=linux&sort_order=ASC&page=1
      lexter99
  • Ussability)

    Forgot to say I don't use MS Access, so I do not know.
    csevcik
  • Thanks

    Looks like it's time to give it another shot.
    ragoff
    • The switch

      Have you tried any linux distros again yet? I officially made the switch from my Windows 8.1 and I must say i am very surprised and pleased. I tried all the distros and did lots of research. I decided to go with Debian 7.4 (Wheezy). I found out that Debian is the top of the chain. ubuntu pulls form debian. Mint pulls from Ubuntu. and from there it just splits over and over. Debian pulls from nobody, they do all the development for the (Linux Code). There is a learning curve but with research and google searches it is quite interesting. If you have any questions do not hesitate to ask me. Good luck. Oh, by the way, I have Windows 8.1 running in a Virtual Box so I still get to use the software I had with windows. You can check out this video I made when I was testing Ubuntu Gnome 13.10 64-bit. > http://youtu.be/IbxP-ARZ_rc
      dttauzin