Forgot your password?
typodupeerror

Can Ordinary PC Users Ditch Windows for Linux? 1483

Posted by Zonk
from the do-or-do-not-there-is-no-try dept.
Carl Bialik from WSJ writes "Mark Golden, a reporter for Dow Jones Newswires, tried to switch from Windows to Linux, and found it too complex for his liking. He writes: 'For me, though, using the Linux systems didn't make sense. I often send documents and spreadsheets between my home PC and the one at work, which uses Microsoft Office. And the files are sometimes complex. Meanwhile, for both personal and professional computer use, I want access to all multimedia functions. While solutions may exist to almost every problem I encountered, I was willing to invest only a limited amount of time as a system administrator. Claims by some Linux publishers that anybody can easily switch to Linux from Windows seem totally oversold.'"
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Can Ordinary PC Users Ditch Windows for Linux?

Comments Filter:
  • Oh well... (Score:5, Funny)

    by RebelScum (48833) <chriswitt@@@gmail...com> on Monday May 15, 2006 @08:43AM (#15333520)
    Oh well, maybe in "another five years..."
    • Re:Oh well... (Score:4, Interesting)

      by TheKeyboardSlayer (729293) on Monday May 15, 2006 @09:08AM (#15333703) Homepage
      Actually, Linux is ready now. This guy just didn't look for himself. The distros that he looked at all have companies backing them and are the most popular because of this fact. Instead of doing that, he should have invested some time to checking out some others more suited to new users. The distros that come to mind are SimplyMEPIS, PCLinuxOS, and Kanotix. All his Ipod and multimedia problems would have been solved if he'd have chosen these.

      I keep telling people that Mandriva, Fedora, Ubuntu, SuSe, and Linspire...while pretty nicely rounded distros...are not a drop in solution for windows. The closest thing Linux has to that are the three distros mentioned in the paragraph above.

      Too bad they don't get the deserved attention.
      • Re:Oh well... (Score:5, Insightful)

        by IAmTheDave (746256) <[basenamedave-sd] [at] [yahoo.com]> on Monday May 15, 2006 @09:16AM (#15333758) Homepage Journal
        invested some time

        After reading TFA, it seems that this was on the top of his list of "things to avoid doing."

        • Re:Oh well... (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Fred_A (10934)
          In that case he should probably avoid Windows as well...
          There aren't really any machines that "just work". Except possibly with MacOS in some cases... I dont run MS Office and don't do multimedia on my iBook so I can't really comment on that aspect. I did try connecting a webcam though. Yuk.

          Linux may require a tad more learning (or more to the point, forgetting what you've learned and relearning new concepts), but afterwards IMO it at least makes sense. The little Windows tinkering I still do always leaves
          • Re:Oh well... (Score:5, Insightful)

            by hhlost (757118) on Monday May 15, 2006 @10:33AM (#15334335)
            I agree with the comments I've read so far, but that's because I'm a Linux user. It took me a while to learn Linux, and being a CS major certainly helped. (It also took me a while to learn Windows, it's just that I've been using it since th '90s.)

            But the value of TFA is that it shows us an average Joe who thinks it might be cool to make the switch, and it didn't go so well... We should learn from his experience, not tear it up. For example, if there are better alternatives to the distros he chose, why didn't he know that?
            • Re:Oh well... (Score:4, Insightful)

              by FireFury03 (653718) <slashdot@nexusuk.oGAUSSrg minus math_god> on Monday May 15, 2006 @12:32PM (#15335343) Homepage
              But the value of TFA is that it shows us an average Joe who thinks it might be cool to make the switch, and it didn't go so well...

              I would be interested in seeing how the "average Joe" Linux or OSX user deals with switching to Windows - my guess would be "not very well".

              Before I started this job I hadn't used Windows for around 5 years - A year after I started this job (which requires me to use a Windows XP workstation) and I still can't get the hang of it. Things that I take for granted under Linux just can't be done under Windows - even simple stuff like having the window manager do sloppy focus (yes, I've used TweakUI to turn on X Mouse - many applications have problems with it though and it has a habit of randomly raising windows).

              My experience tells me that just because people find it difficult to switch doesn't make the OS they are switching to inherently "less user friendly", it's simply hard to switch to a system you're not used to.

              IMHO, kids at school should be using several different systems (e.g. Windows, OSX, Linux) as part of their daily work so that they learn the problem solving abilities needed to switch between different systems rather than just learning by rote. You wouldn't believe the number of people I've seen sit infront of a Linux machine running Gnome/MetaShitty and immediately be scared off and never use it again because there's no button that says "Start" on it - they don't use any problem solving abilities to work out that maybe the button on the left side of the task bar does the same job as the Windows Start button.

              Of course, getting large numbers of kids to use non-Windows systems at school isn't going to happen while MS is allowed to continue pretending to be the "good citizen" and give cheap/free handouts to schools and students - how can a school justify replacing a chunk of their Windows network with Linux systems (and paying to retrain some of the staff) if MS is providing everything to them at knock-down prices anyway?

              (For the record, no I don't personally use a Windows-alike WM - I use E17).
            • Re:Oh well... (Score:5, Insightful)

              by Bastian (66383) on Monday May 15, 2006 @01:34PM (#15335853)
              So true. The thing that amazes me the most about the linux on the desktop debate is this: It seems that the Linux community (at least the portion of it that I see frequenting forums and slashdot) is only interested in being able to say that Linux is ready for the desktop.

              As soon as a linux outsider (read: member of the target market for desktop linux) comes along with criticisms, the response is invariably to discount all those criticisms, usually with comments that boil down to, "Well, I don't care what he said because he's obviously not particularly computer-literate nor is he very clueful about the ever-changing shape of the linux universe."

              As long as people continue to carry the implicit assumption that the biggest barrier to Linux being desktop-ready is that not everyone has more than a passing understanding of computers, or that the tastes of the vast majority of computer users aren't as important as the tastes of geeks w/r/t choice and fragmentation, Linux will never be ready for the desktop.

              It's not that these are bad attitudes, it's that these are attitudes that are only useful for a server or workstation OS that's aimed at geeks who like and can handle an incredibly tweakable operating environment. They're poison to a project whose primary focus is the general computing market.
              • by spun (1352) <loverevolutionaryNO@SPAMyahoo.com> on Monday May 15, 2006 @02:20PM (#15336263) Journal
                That's the beauty of open source, no one gets to say what it is or isn't. People can do all sorts of things with it. You speak of Linux as if it were some monolithic project, which it isn't. So some companies have created less than spectacular desktop solutions. Take it up with those companies, don't blame Linux for not being what you think it should be. Don't assume there is some kind of Central Linux Administration that decides what it should be. Don't assume there is some goal that everyone can agree we all should be working towards.

                There are companies that make decent Linux based Windows replacements, for those who want such a thing. No one is going to read your mind, know that's what you want, and drop one in your lap. Same here as in the rest of the world.
            • Re:Oh well... (Score:4, Insightful)

              by griffjon (14945) <GriffJon.gmail@com> on Monday May 15, 2006 @01:53PM (#15336003) Homepage Journal
              The value of TFA is showing that Linux is crippled more by third parties than anything else: Apple constantly fiddling with iTunes (and not releasing a Linux version) puts the burden on the wine and CodeWeavers programmers to keep up. DVDs... I won't even bother. Multiple Windows formats (streaming media, documents, etc.)... All of these systems push the burden to F/LOSS developers by their inability or unwillingness to encourage Linux compatibility. It's a huge tribute to the community that we're able to keep up at all, I feel.
          • Re:Oh well... (Score:5, Insightful)

            by Kadin2048 (468275) <[slashdot.kadin] [at] [xoxy.net]> on Monday May 15, 2006 @10:46AM (#15334457) Homepage Journal
            The little Windows tinkering I still do always leaves me baffled because I'm not sure there's any logic to the way that thing's been put together.

            This was also true of my experience. I was a lifetime Mac user with some early Linux tinkering experience when I got tossed my first corporate Windows laptop.

            There's nothing inherently sensible about the way Windows does anything. In fact, in many cases quite the opposite -- the "Windows way" only possibly seems natural to people who have been using it for years and years.

            The way it's set up is just as arbitrary (in my opinion, more arbitrary) than the default install of any Linux desktop, and as unintuitive. Moreso, in many ways, because it just seems to assume that its way is the Right Way, without any consideration of different ways that other people might want to work. It seems to almost actively resist customization.
            • Re:Oh well... (Score:5, Interesting)

              by Vancorps (746090) on Monday May 15, 2006 @11:39AM (#15334901)
              The boys at WindowBlinds might have something to say about that.

              Sorry but Windows is a lot more intuitive. One of my old teachers went to China to teach kids computers. He sat them at a computer with Windows and Office. With minimal instruction the kids could easily find there way around and start typing a document. Pretty soon they found solitaire and the likes without instruction, sorry but the Start button makes sense especially compared to the OS X world. The dock has its issues such as figuring which applications are open versus which ones are available to open. KDE and Gnome both use symbols for their menus which most people wouldn't recognize as something to click on.

              As for the "Windows Way," What exactly did you find backwards? I'm curious... I've been a student of multiple platforms for years so other prospectives are great when I have to recommend a platform for a project.
              • Re:Oh well... (Score:4, Insightful)

                by Nexum (516661) on Monday May 15, 2006 @12:00PM (#15335080)
                Your post betrays the fact that you indeed are somewhat blinded by 'the Windows way', and haven't even asked why some things are different. The Dock is designed so that it doesn't matter whether an application is running or not, and when you think about it, it shouldn't matter to the user whether an application is running. Just that they want to use it. The Dock downplays the distinction very well, and gets to the real core of what the user is intending to do - use an application. They shouldn't have to know or care whether it is running already or not.

                As for the start menu. In Windows 95 it was a decent application menu. Nice. In XP it's hideous, a mess of command and concepts. Can you describe what it does in one short coherent sentence? No! It's a settings altering, document listing, search capable shutdown/restart/sleep/application menu with a "Run..." command bolted on. Seriously... why are there so many things in there? Because MS didn't want to rock the boat, won't or can't innovate and add these things in more descrete intuitive places. And in Vista, I simply cannot believe my eyes when they see this: Vista Menu [computerpe...ance.co.uk]

                The Start menu in Vista is absolutely ridiculous, I use OS X mostly, but also have a PC, and EVERY time I open that thing I have to stare at it for 2-3 seconds before the information overload is over. It is crazy
                • Re:Oh well... (Score:5, Insightful)

                  by Sylver Dragon (445237) on Monday May 15, 2006 @12:26PM (#15335288) Journal
                  The Dock is designed so that it doesn't matter whether an application is running or not, and when you think about it, it shouldn't matter to the user whether an application is running.

                  Speaking of being blinded to alternatives... It damn well does matter what is running and what isn't. Every program you have spinning its wheels in the background is eating up memory. I don't want a copy of Visio or Word running in the background when I am trying to play a game, when I close it, I want it to close. If it doesn't close, or I leave it open, I want an indication of that.
                  Now, the Start menu, I'll agree with you on, partly. The co-mingling of system functions and program functions is annoying. Why MS decided to let system functions get outside the control panel, I'll never know. Though, I do think that the Run command should be in the program list, as it is a program. Then again, I'm an old DOS junkie, so maybe I just like knowing my old friend the command line is there for me. (Am I the only one who still does network drive mapping at the command line?)

                  The Start menu in Vista is absolutely ridiculous, I use OS X mostly, but also have a PC, and EVERY time I open that thing I have to stare at it for 2-3 seconds before the information overload is over. It is crazy

                  You do know you can customize that right? First off, I would recommend going back to the classic menu (I prefer this myself).
                  1. Right-Click the Start menu
                  2. Click Properties in the context menu
                  3. Select the Start Menu tab
                  4. Select the radio button for Classic Start Menu
                  5. If you feel so inclined check out the Customize options
                  6. Once you are done, click the OK button
                  Next, organize your program folders, so that they make sense to you. Click and drag stuff where you want it. To alphabetize a folder, right click in it and click Sort by Name.
                  But then, like the author of TFA, I guess you just don't want to spend time at it.

              • Re:Oh well... (Score:5, Insightful)

                by Kadin2048 (468275) <[slashdot.kadin] [at] [xoxy.net]> on Monday May 15, 2006 @01:02PM (#15335586) Homepage Journal
                I'm aware that there are a lot of third-party customization tools available for Windows; however I was referring to built-in features of the OS itself. It's possible to change most aspects of the GUI on any platform if you install the right tools (I remember reading articles years ago on how you could make a Mac look enough like a Windows machine to really confuse someone clueless), but that's not much of a commentary on the operating system's design philosophy.

                I disagree about the Start menu. It may let someone who's just pointing and clicking around on their desktop launch an application, but what it does is hide and confuse where programs are really stored. As does the Windows directory structure in general. I think OS X does this much better: programs are stored in [Your hard drive]/Applications. Those are the actual executable files, they're what's actually being run. And if you want easy access to something, then you can put it into the Dock.

                Until some of Apple's own applications muddied the waters (iCal, I'm looking at you), I also think the Mac's take on close-versus-quit is a lot better thought out. Programs can run with or without a window being open; closing a window normally leaves the program running but windowless. On Windows, sometimes closing a window will quit the application, sometimes it won't (depending, I think, on whether it's the last remaining window open). This sucks: I can't count the number of times I've accidentally quit a big application on my windows machine, when really I just wanted to clear one document's window and open something else. The only time an application should quit on close is when it's a one-window application and doesn't open files, or have any need to run in the background.

                The Windows system tray also bugs me; it's just an example of one feature trying to do too many things, and failing at most of them. You've got some widgets down there that are just controls (the volume thing), others which represent backgrounded applications, others which are just notification/status icons...it's a mess. Every time I want to change the volume on my PC, I have to hunt around for where that particular icon went (since the damn things move and disappear and reappear, because even on my gently-used PC there are too many of them to show at once); it's like playing whack-a-mole.

                What some kids can do when sat in front of a computer without any training isn't a particularly good metric. I've seen kids that can't talk yet put a cartridge into an NES and start it up, so clearly that's a more intuitive interface than storing programs on a hard drive. I know a kindergarten teacher that still has an Apple IIc in her classroom, because you can teach 20 kids how to use it in five minutes (if computer is not on, put disk in drive, close door, turn computer on. If computer is on, wait for red light on drive to go out, open door, remove disk, insert new disk, press Control-Apple-Reset).

                Windows, in general, hides complexity from the user. But the cost of this is confusion, because computers are inherently complicated devices, and eventually those users will run into the limits of the smoke-and-mirrors that was used to protect them at the beginning. An oversimplification designed to make things "easier" for the clueless user, can easily devolve into a morass like the Registry.

                I could go on; I think this same philosophy is perpetuated into most of the Office products. They're all simple on the surface -- it's not hard to type a basic memo or report in Word, for example. But that's not a very high bar. But there are a lot of things that just don't make any sense when you move further: when my bulleted outline stopped working with the Tab key (tab to indent, shift-tab to outdent), I had to go through three different menus to figure out how to turn it back on. (Solution: it's an "Auto-Format" option, apparently, even though it doesn't seem like anything that ought to be special or automatic. When making an outline, that seems as though it ought to be the fu
              • Re:Oh well... (Score:5, Insightful)

                by 51mon (566265) <Simon@technocool.net> on Monday May 15, 2006 @03:39PM (#15336922) Homepage
                The GNOME menu is cunningly accompanied by the word "Applications".

                As in "Applications" > "System Tools" > "File Browser".
                As opposed to say "Start" > "Accessories" > "Windows Explorer"

                No one mention the "I have to click 'start' to shutdown" story ;)

                The guy didn't report particular problems using his GNU/Linux desktop, he reports problems importing/exporting Word documents (Microsoft keep the format secret to discourage competition). Handling DVDs (the DVD consortium want you to paid them so you can have a player for your DVD).

                And some issues with hardware recognitions, and media formats. Again the media formats are largely a proprietary format issue, and the hardware recognition largely comes down to industry support. The predominant difference between installing Windows and GNU/Linux these days, is that usually someone else installs Windows for you, and ships you a reinstall disk.

                Mostly the story screams to me "don't buy into proprietary data formats" because you'll be locked into paying the same supplier no matter how expensive their product, how slow the release schedule, or how poor the quality. Guess it is a bit late to tell people what most good IT managers had learnt by the 1970's.

                Don't buy media with daft copy protections schemes, which are designed to rake more money out of the consumer (DVD regions anyone?), because they'll rake money out of you.

                I was thinking of writing an article myself on why GNU/Linux hasn't found widespread adoption, but I don't think it is simply an ease of use thing. However the reputation for being "hard to use" may contribute.

                And I certainly agree a completely free software GNU/Linux desktop has issues with the current plethora of Flash, and other rapidly changing formats, if you are happy to bung in proprietary components for Flash, Java and such like, which some distros do, and get it preinstalled, I think many more converts could be made.

                It is a great pity, as the underlying technologies in many free software operating systems do make Microsoft look pretty mickey mouse by comparison.

                Sorting an (a known issue -- I lept into the deep end) issue with a cutting edge version of GNU/Linux the other day, I uninstalled and reinstalled 1400 graphical applications, which required almost no manual interaction, no reboots (I said applications, not operating system changes), no accepting of licence agreements, or entering of license keys. I couldn't even conceive of anything close to this under Windows, without requiring a full format and reinstall and a lot of time, keys, and clicking.

                Recently getting a Windows XP box back to the level of performance it should have on the box in question required 3 reboots for what shouldn't have gone wrong, and could have been fixed in GNU/Linux with one command. The underlying bug (a problem with how XP handles errors for IDE devices) is serious, basically unfixed as the Microsoft's "fix" just makes the issues less common, and presumably is slowing down an awful lot of PCs out there with less clueful Admins/owners.

                Better yet I quickly established it was a software issue by booting with a LiveCD (Yes you guessed it GNU/Linux). What was really scary was the LiveCD could run 40 odd simultaneous multimedia apps on the hardware at the same time (from CD) smoothly, where as even when it was working correctly XP struggled to get passed one or two without getting a bad case of the "Max Headroom's".

                But I'd have to concur that the free software desktop experience is still lagging slightly (when Windows works that is). What's more I don't expect that to change, until and unless it gets widespread adoption, at least in some parts of the world, as until that happens the Adobe's and Intels of this world will treat it as a second class citizen. Hopefully India, China or Latin America will be the place it happens, but I'm not that optimistic any more.
        • by E IS mC(Square) (721736) on Monday May 15, 2006 @10:22AM (#15334259) Journal
          what else you expect, when "Unix was a text-driven operating system running on big mainframe computers that could handle various tasks and users simultaneously."
      • Re:Oh well... (Score:3, Interesting)

        Which of those distributions has a legal DVD player and has plugin support for all the latest Real/QT/Windows Media formats?
        • Re:Oh well... (Score:3, Informative)

          by Grant29 (701796) *
          Yep, I use linux for PHP/Apache/mysql developments. I also write some shell scripts. All of this is under Gentoo. When it comes to media however, I'm lost. I can't burn a CD/DVD, I can't wathch video, hell, I've never even gotten the audio to work. I'm not to concered though as I use the machine for development only. Back to the windows machine for the multimedia frills.
          --
          Promote your RSS/XML feed by generating RSS icon code at RSS Icon Gallery [rssicongallery.com]. Looking for the del.icio.us icon now. Please hel
          • Re:Oh well... (Score:5, Informative)

            by Fordiman (689627) <fordimanNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Monday May 15, 2006 @09:53AM (#15334054) Homepage Journal
            It took me weeks to get this stuff working on my box. Most often, a quick 'alsaconf' will solve your sound problems, burning is easily handled by k3b, and kplayer, kaffiene, mplayer, gmplayer, etc. will handle movie watching with ease.

            What bugs me about this, though, is that there are simple solutions to almost every problem with linux I've seen - yet the solutions don't quite get integrated into the distros.

            It's aggrivating.
          • Re:Oh well... (Score:4, Insightful)

            by dslbrian (318993) on Monday May 15, 2006 @11:17AM (#15334699)

            Yep, I use linux for PHP/Apache/mysql developments. I also write some shell scripts. All of this is under Gentoo. When it comes to media however, I'm lost. I can't burn a CD/DVD, I can't wathch video, hell, I've never even gotten the audio to work.

            I've run into the same problem. I recently set up a Windows machine for someone else, and a Fedora Core 5 machine for myself. The windows machine was 1 CD for the OS, 2 CDs for Office, and a half dozen downloads for video driver, firewall, anti-virus, web browser etc...

            FC5 on the other hand was 5 CDs for install, a couple dozen package downloads from all over, and a good bit of configuration file editing. Now of course after this install the FC5 machine had capabilities the WinXP box didn't - I added quite a bit of development software, a minimal install would take mabye 2 CDs. However to show the gap in whats required to get FC5 to the same level as WinXP check out this page: Fedora Core 5 Installation Notes [stanton-finley.net]

            Its a fantastic writeup about how to get the multimedia working, however look at the length of that page. Its an incredible amount of post installation stuff to do, and if that guy didn't take the time to write it up I probably never would have figured it out. Other distros may be better, but FC5 isn't even close as an easy to use drop in replacement.

        • Re:Oh well... (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Narcissus (310552) on Monday May 15, 2006 @09:47AM (#15333997) Homepage
          Interesting... I was under the impression that even Windows XP couldn't play DVDs until you installed something from a CD when you get your DVDROM drive.

          That was the case with me, anyway...
          • Re:Oh well... (Score:5, Interesting)

            by RedBear (207369) <redbear@re3.1415926dbearnet.com minus pi> on Monday May 15, 2006 @02:17PM (#15336232) Homepage
            Interesting... I was under the impression that even Windows XP couldn't play DVDs until you installed something from a CD when you get your DVDROM drive.

            Point being that if the computer comes with a DVD drive installed it will have the DVD playing/burning software installed already, or if you buy a drive separately you do get easy to install software on a CD... for Windows. Mac OS X has the software built in, even if it doesn't come with a DVD drive initially. With Linux, even the most user-friendly distros like Ubuntu, it's still unlegal for them to include the CSS decrypting componenents, so even if you do manage to have some kind of DVD player installed you will have to somehow learn that you also need a package like libdvdcss, then you have to somehow find that package which of course can't be hosted on the usual US package servers. I am a knowledgeable Linux user and it still took me hours to get this task accomplished when I tried the latest Ubuntu just a few short months ago. This is 2006, people, not 1996. Between 2000 and 2006 I have seen basically zero improvement in this department with desktop Linux.

            So many geeks seem to be totally blind to the fact that wrestling with one's computer for weeks just to get it to do the most common tasks like playing video and audio is NOT FUN for non-geeks. Hence, people like this guy do not, and will not, use Linux as a desktop OS because there are currently bet^H^H^H easier alternatives like Windows and Mac OS X. Of course, Linux is made by geeks who mostly don't understand what the problem is, and consider recompiling the kernel to be no big deal. This is the main thing holding Linux back as a desktop OS. As long as I see web tutorials 20 pages long (all text) with instructions to go to the command line (what the hell is the command line?, the common user asks) to do something simple like setting up audio or multimedia, Linux will never be able to conquer the desktop.

            I say this as a former desktop Linux user (Debian/Mandrake/SuSE). Linux just isn't there yet and never will be as long as geeks don't listen to people like this and take their needs utterly seriously. Not wanting to invest dozens of hours configuring one's computer to do the most basic of desktop tasks shouldn't be a subject of derision. It should be a wake-up call, one of about a hundred thousand wake-up calls that have been completely ignored by the Linux community over the last decade.
        • Re:Oh well... (Score:5, Interesting)

          by gi-tux (309771) on Monday May 15, 2006 @09:58AM (#15334087) Homepage
          Multimedia is a real key. I am an experienced linux user (been using it since 1993) but Multimedia is a real killer. And Legal is the key word there, I can hack in the players into my system if necessary, but a new user quickly gets frustrated with this. And then to top it all off, once you get something working, it only takes a small change to break things again.
          I have been working on capturing video from a site that does a 24x7 stream of video. They use a Microsoft server to stream the video and thus it is in ASF format using mms://. I got it working last week and the capture was working perfectly. Unfortunately, a couple of days after I got it working, something changed on the other end and now it doesn't work again. I am going to have to go in and debug it to make it work again.
          A typical Windows user doesn't want to deal with that nor do they have the skills to deal with that. It took me about 20 minutes working with totem (gstreamer), kaffeine (xine), etc to get the video even to play again (after a change on the windows side) and originally it took me about 2 hours to figure out what needed to be loaded to get it to play.
          Until we can get all this working out-of-the-box on Linux (in general) and legally distributable with all distributions, we are subject to reviews like this one. Admittedly, you usually have to install a DVD player on your windows machine if you purchase the DVD player as an add-on, but you don't have to look for a decoder that is on a site that says "it is illegal in some countries to install this on your computer due to copyright laws". Most users just expect things to work. The comments in the article concerning MS Office are similar to the Multimedia issues that I have encountered. Most users just expect things to work. They don't expect to have difficulties moving data between systems. They don't expect to have to add software on their own to do something as simple as watch a DVD on their computer. They just want to do the work that they need to do.
      • Problems (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Kenshin (43036) <kenshin@lunarworksFREEBSD.ca minus bsd> on Monday May 15, 2006 @10:55AM (#15334527) Homepage
        Instead of doing that, he should have invested some time to checking out some others more suited to new users. The distros that come to mind are SimplyMEPIS, PCLinuxOS, and Kanotix.

        I'm a daily Slashdot reader, and even I'VE never heard of those.

        This, again, is one of Linux's biggest problems: Too much fragmentation. If distro developers could put their egos aside and combine forces to create distros with some semblance of popular recognition, Linux's fortunes may change.

        You're not gonna win-over an already confused user by presenting him or her with 50 more obscure and semi-obscure choices. That person is just gonna say "fuck it" and stick with what he or she knows: Windows.

        Also, people want to install something with staying power. Half the distros out there are gonna be gone in a couple of years, replaced by a whole new set. How can you have faith installing something you've never heard of?
        • Re:Problems (Score:4, Insightful)

          by ookaze (227977) <ookaze@mail.ookaCOLAze.fr minus caffeine> on Monday May 15, 2006 @12:23PM (#15335262) Homepage
          I'm a daily Slashdot reader, and even I'VE never heard of those
          And I'm not surprised. The commercial distros from which some are derived are good enough. For example, Mandriva commercial distros address every problem the guy had. A free distro is for people that know what they are doing, no wonder the guy could not do everything he wanted with what he got.

          This, again, is one of Linux's biggest problems: Too much fragmentation. If distro developers could put their egos aside and combine forces to create distros with some semblance of popular recognition, Linux's fortunes may change
          Not at all. This is not even fragmentation. You forgot that this is FOSS here. All these distros are compatible.

          You're not gonna win-over an already confused user by presenting him or her with 50 more obscure and semi-obscure choices

          Nobody does that. Mandriva will present you Mandriva commercial offerings and nothing else. Go check their website if you don't believe me. Yes, what you are saying is stupid, you just have to realise it.

          That person is just gonna say "fuck it" and stick with what he or she knows: Windows

          Fortunately, most people don't really know Windows. That's why those that don't have a geek at hand or did not get a new PC still have Windows 98 (if they manage to keep it until today, meaning not connected to the Internet at least).

          Also, people want to install something with staying power. Half the distros out there are gonna be gone in a couple of years, replaced by a whole new set. How can you have faith installing something you've never heard of?

          That's true. But Linux distros have that fantastic feature : it's very easy to dissociate the user files from the OS, which means easiness to change distro.
          • Re:Problems (Score:5, Insightful)

            by Kenshin (43036) <kenshin@lunarworksFREEBSD.ca minus bsd> on Monday May 15, 2006 @12:50PM (#15335504) Homepage
            Not at all. This is not even fragmentation. You forgot that this is FOSS here. All these distros are compatible.

            It's fragmentation in a mindshare sense.

            Also in the sense that they could be working TOGETHER to improve the whole, instead of everyone spending effort redesigning the wheel in their own way. But nobody wants to collaborate.

            Nobody does that. Mandriva will present you Mandriva commercial offerings and nothing else. Go check their website if you don't believe me.

            I'm talking about the Linux community as a whole. The "mindshare" thing I was getting at. Not 50 distros from a single group, but 50 distros from 50 different groups. The average user isn't gonna know what the hell to pick.

            The major players could band together and release a special "n00b Linux" and promote the hell out of it in the mainstream as THE distro to get for beginners. It's easier to get people into something with simplicity. Once you get them in, and they're comfortable, THEN you present them with the myriad of distro choices.

            Yes, what you are saying is stupid, you just have to realise it. ...and right there is PROBLEMO NUMERO UNO, everyone!

            The "fucking asshole superior linux nerd" that people detest so much. Linux in the big picture suffers because NO ONE WANTS TO RISK DEALING WITH YOU.

            Would you buy a car from a dealer who talked down to you? No, they pucker-up and kiss your ass through the entire process. (Yes, they also try to rip you off, but they do their best to cover it with smiles and sunshine. And it works.)

            Fortunately, most people don't really know Windows. That's why those that don't have a geek at hand or did not get a new PC still have Windows 98 (if they manage to keep it until today, meaning not connected to the Internet at least).

            Exactly. If they're not willing to jump to somewhat familliar territory in Windows XP, why in the world would they want to jump to the totally foreign world of Linux? (Money isn't the issue here: Getting a pirate copy of Windows is trivial.)

            That's true. But Linux distros have that fantastic feature : it's very easy to dissociate the user files from the OS, which means easiness to change distro.

            People don't generally want to change. They want to stick with something familliar. That's why they're all still using Windows.

            Plus, define "easy". How many steps does it take to change distros, while maintaining all your user files? (With no command lines involved, of course.)
    • Re:Oh well... (Score:5, Interesting)

      by babbling (952366) on Monday May 15, 2006 @10:02AM (#15334124)
      The main problem has changed. The main problem used to be that there simply wasn't good Free Software for what people wanted to do.

      Now the main problem is that key elements of what people want to do are blocked by software patents and other legal stuff. People want to play MP3s, but can't because MP3 is not a Free codec. People want to watch DVDs, but can't because any Free Software DVD player program is classified as a "circumvention device" (and is therefore illegal) under US and Australian copyright law.

      We've made progress. Software exists for doing everything we want to do, now we just need to get the laws changed so that we can use that software.
    • by KWTm (808824) on Monday May 15, 2006 @11:49AM (#15334995) Journal
      Linux (and F/OSS in general) has been continually struggling with promotion, but this is not the same struggle as before. We are putting our energies toward solving a set of problems that have already been solved, but it's important to realize that Linux/FOSS is now facing a different and new problem.

      When Linux faced technical problems, we needed hard core programmers willing to delve into the nitty gritty of making the processor run. The geeks of the world got together and hacked out a solid, stable kernel and the collection of GNU utilities.

      When the problem was the UI, we needed people to know how to make things pretty and convenient. We built GNOME and KDE and Xfce on top of X.

      When the problem was mindshare, we needed credible spokespeople to spread the news of Linux. The Economist and Time magazine and IBM (and SCO!) stepped in for us, and now the world has heard of Linux.

      Now we're after market share and acceptance, and what we need is people who know what ordinary users want and need in order to take up Linux. Who would know what ordinary users want and need? Hint: I've already mentioned them twice in this paragraph.

      Folks, Linux is now at the point where it's "ready to take over the desktop" --*if* we move in the right direction. The thing is, we're *not* moving in the right direction. We have been ready to make a left turn at the crossroads and start heading toward the desktop, but we just aren't making the turn. Of course, yes, we have sort of meandered towards it with cool new interfaces and a plethora of apps, but that's like making three right turns to turn left. We need to recognize that what it is that people want in order to make Linux "The Desktop".

      "The Tipping Point" [barnesandnoble.com], by Malcolm Gladwell, is a book about how and why little things can make the difference between some memes spreading like wildfire and others simply not taking hold. Although recently promoted by Barnes & Noble bookstores under their Sales/Marketing Books department, only a small section talks about how to get a product to catch on. The ideas are fascinating, and can be applied toward smoking cessation and other health promotion, or anything else where you want to leverage a small effort to make a big difference. Recommended read.

      In the book, Gladwell talks about three different types of people needed to spread a meme epidemic: Connectors, Salespeople, and Mavens. Mavens are members of the potential market who are knowledgeable, and to whom other market members go to for advice. We do want to pay attention to what they say because others pay attention to what they say, even if they are not necessarily that knowledgeable (compared to us F/OSS geeks). In the same way that my gynaecologist friend has to watch Oprah because all her (female) patients watch that inane talk show and come to my friend with questions, so we need to pay attention to people like Mark Golden of WSJ and see what they're saying, rather than dismiss them with "Ahh, he won't even invest the time" or "It's not our fault, because the DVD is DRM-encumbered".

      I'm not saying that those Linux problems will be easy to solve, but those are the problems that we have, and they loom closer than a lot of people here on Slashdot realize.

      Just a note for those of you who would say, "Well, I don't care if Linux doesn't gain market share, because I just want it to tinker with, and I actually prefer if the unwashed masses would stay with their spyware-ridden proletariat systems!" Remember: market share is clout, and clout is what will make the hardware manufacturers release their specs so that we can have open source device drivers. Clout is what will get EU politicians to back off on software patents, and it is what will get universities to stop thinking that Microsoft is everything. Market share is what will improve Linux, so that you can go on with your happy tinkering.

      Whew. Sorry a
  • I just ran the Ubuntu live CD which didn't want to give me a higher screen resolution than 1024 by 768 and didn't get the network running. :-( Such things really need to be resolved, because even if _I_, in discussion with others, would be able to resolve all problems, my grandparents surely wouldn't.
    • by Imsdal (930595) on Monday May 15, 2006 @08:47AM (#15333548)
      True, but the main problem is that Excel doesn't run on Linux.

      Yes, there are clones that emulate part of the functionality. Unfortunately, in the real world that is not close enough.

      Build a better Excel and the people with money (and, accordingly, influence) will stampede to Linux.

    • by l3v1 (787564) on Monday May 15, 2006 @08:52AM (#15333580)
      Note: it's not my intention to flame.

      My problem with what you say here - and similar other arguments - is that for example plenty of hardware exist that do not work out of the box and automagically under Windows, be that hdd/raid controller, nic, cameras/tuners and I could just go on. And while it's true that very often we need to compile and/or load some modules in most linux distros for these to work, at least they will work. Just think, in 2006 tell me an easy way to install a currently available windows version on a system with sata raid controller, no fdd, and then making e.g. nvidia network and audio components work without installing some stuff. While I agree for most people installing these drivers is easier under Windows, that is not because the install procedure is easier or faster, but simply because they are accostumed to doing things this way. For me, loading some modules is a much easier and faster process than making the same hw components work under windows (yes, I use them both very frequently). But based on this, I don't think we can say that Linux is not suitable. It just needs some learning, and being open to do things some other way than usual, which is unbelievably difficult for most non-tech people.

      • by heinousjay (683506) on Monday May 15, 2006 @09:08AM (#15333700) Journal
        Bashing Windows is not a defense, friend. I know it feels righteous and it makes you proud to be so very technically correct, but it's a false economy. You've won nothing.

        You have to work within the framework of reality, which you seem to be ignoring. Here's the situation: the people being targeted aren't installing new hardware. They don't deal with the Windows intallation process. To get them to switch over to Linux, you have to make it as simple as possible. Not being able to use the display correctly out of the box does not fall under 'as simple as possible.' Bitching about the Windows install not handling a RAID correctly doesn't address that issue at all.
        • by Dare nMc (468959) on Monday May 15, 2006 @09:48AM (#15334009)
          > Bashing Windows is not a defense, friend. I know it feels righteous and it makes you proud to be so very technically correct, but it's a false economy. You've won nothing.

          The article was to be about upgrading to XP vs upgrading to Linux. Yet it was all bashing the shortcommings of linux, not comparing them to XP, the upgrade to XP was one sentence, He bought the upgrade copy of XP, no install, nada.

          If linux is to be a replacement for windows, for the inexperienced. It needs to be installed by manufactures. If it is too compete against upgrades, then it seams fair to give equal bashing to XP as to linux (which was left out of the WSJ article.) After all, his upgrade version of XP is going to leave him short on everything he bashed linux about. His media files, excell files, etc are not going to play until he downloads or buys more apps. quoting a price of $100 for XP was only appropriate, because the reporter is likely to take a copy of office, etc from work for use at home, not exactly appropriate for the (supposid) target audiance of his piece (inexperienced home users.)
      • My problem with what you say here - and similar other arguments - is that for example plenty of hardware exist that do not work out of the box and automagically under Windows, be that hdd/raid controller, nic, cameras/tuners and I could just go on.

        I have yet to meet an off the shelf, home consumer piece of hardware that would not work with a Windows system. They are all designed and constructed for the purposes of usage on Windows.
        • by Korgan (101803) on Monday May 15, 2006 @09:18AM (#15333765) Homepage
          The issue is not that they don't work, but that you still have to install drivers for them. The point being that in Linux you still have to install drivers for many hardware packages that are out there.

          I have in Nvidia motherboard. I can install WinXP on the machine, but I can't use the onboard network interface until I've installed the drivers. It has USB2, but I can only get USB1.1 speeds until I install the drivers. It has onboard sound, but I need to install the appropriate drivers.

          All these things have just worked in Linux for me for a long time. I haven't had to install the drivers to get them to work for me because most common hardware is supported directly. Including my Lexmark printer, my Canon flatbed scanner, my Logitech webcam, my Winfast TV Tuner card and so on.

          Your point is misleading. Just because every piece of hardware off the shelf works with windows, it still requires that the drivers be installed. Linux has exactly the same requirement. You need to install the appropriate driver (kernel module) for it to work in Linux if one doesn't already exist. However, Linux comes with more drivers built in to the platform itself by default than Windows does. Its not uncommon to have to install drivers off a disc for Windows, but very common for most devices to just plug in and work in Linux now.
        • obsessivemathfreaks said: "I have yet to meet an off the shelf, home consumer piece of hardware that would not work with a Windows system. They are all designed and constructed for the purposes of usage on Windows." The same can be said for the computers sold with Xandros and Linspire certified computers. In both the Windows and Linux case they work out of the box when purchased off the shelf because the OEM has pre-installed the proper drivers/modules. It has little to nothing to do with the OS.
        • I have yet to meet an off the shelf, home consumer piece of hardware that would not work with a Windows system.

          Hrm, never used an Adaptect SCSI RAID controller on Windows, huh? The more recent controllers aren't supported by Windows and why, for the love of Pete, does Microsoft still insist on requiring a floppy to install drivers? Granted, you won't find SCSI RAID on your typical consumer machine, but you will on higher level ones.
        • I have yet to meet an off the shelf, home consumer piece of hardware that would not work with a Windows system. They are all designed and constructed for the purposes of usage on Windows.

          First, hardware is designed to work with other hardware, it's the drivers which are written which allow the software to take advantage of that hardware. Any hardware can be made to work for any operating system if someone takes the time to write a good driver for that operating system.

          That being said, there's a disti

      • by Jorgensen (313325) on Monday May 15, 2006 @09:54AM (#15334057) Homepage

        "It just needs some learning"

        I think you hit the nail on the head. Unfortunately, you'd be surprised by the amount of trouble "normal" people are willing to go through just to avoid learning new things. Windows-users especially.

        If you have ever tried educating a windows user about Linux, you probably have ecountered the look of shock and horror followed by the words "but that's not how I did it Windows", or "... but I'm used to ... ". At that point it is extremely difficult to get them back on track: they have already started pedalling away.

        For most users, fear of the unknown will dominate. And they will run at the mere thought of a surprising dialogue box which actually demands they read and understand it...

        Bottom line? They'll follow the devil they know, until the fear of licenses (bah! - only money! who cared about the first-born anyway?), viruses ("always happens to other people, not me" right?) malware and identity theft exceedes their fear of the unknown.

        • by prisoner-of-enigma (535770) on Monday May 15, 2006 @12:47PM (#15335474) Homepage
          I think you hit the nail on the head. Unfortunately, you'd be surprised by the amount of trouble "normal" people are willing to go through just to avoid learning new things. Windows-users especially.

          And this is where you ran off the rails with your point. "Avoid learning new things?" Here, take a very short walk with me down to a "normal" user:

          Tech Guy: Here, Mr. User, we're going to give you a new operating system and a completely new set of applications with which to perform your duties.

          Mr. User: OK! Tell me, what does it do that's new or useful?

          Tech Guy: Well, it won't crash like Windows!

          Mr. User: Well, but I've been using Windows XP now for about the last three years, and it doesn't crash much if at all. What else does this new OS do?

          Tech Guy: Well, it has all new applications!

          Mr. User: You mean it doesn't have Office 2003?

          Tech Guy: Uh, well, no, it doesn't. It has this other application suite that's just as good! Maybe even better!

          Mr. User: But it looks very different to me! The user interface will require me to get used to it, which will reduce my productivity for a little while. My existing documents might look different in this new suite. Further, all the advanced features such as macros probably don't carry over to this new app. That's a real bummer because I depend on those features to do my job. Does this suite do anything any better than Office 2003 that would allow me to offset this loss of productivity? In other words, is it giving me anything new to offset the costs of moving to it?

          Tech Guy: Well, uh...it's free!

          Mr. User: Hey, bud, I work in accounting. We saw the invoices for Red Hat Enterprise Linux and the office suite. You're paying for support for this stuff. It's not free.

          Tech Guy: It's immune to viruses!

          Mr. User: You said the same thing about the Mac's down in the art department, yet they're running anti-virus software, aren't they? And your buddy on the helpdesk told me that last week Apple patched 43 separate flaws in their OS, many of which allowed complete takeover of the Mac much like a Windows virus. Do you honestly think your new OS/app combo is going to be immune to all viruses over time? Besides, you bought anti-virus software for all the Windows PC's several years ago with annual subscriptions to virus patterns. We haven't been hit by a virus in a long, long time because of that. So, explain to me again what the advantages are here?

          Tech Guy: But...but...listen here, you obstinate fool! It's better, I say! And don't you dare argue with me because I know more than you! I have the superior intellect here, and you're just a lowly, unintelligent (sneers) user.

          Mr. User: So let me see if I understand you here. You want to give me something different, different enough that I'm going to have change my work habits in order to accomodate it. It's designed to fix crashing problems that I don't have. It's free but it costs money to support. And even once I get used to it all and it's all paid for, it won't do anything that I can't already do with the stuff we already have, that's already paid for, and that everyone is already trained on and familiar with.

          Tech Guy: But it's better! It's open! I understand these arcane things in ways you cannot hope to comprehend!

          Mr. User: Two words for you, buddy: de-caff. You should try it sometime.
    • by Lumpy (12016) on Monday May 15, 2006 @10:01AM (#15334118) Homepage
      I just ran the Windows XP install CD which didn't want to give me a higher screen resolution than 1024 by 768 and didn't get the network running, or my woreless or my soundcard. :-( Such things really need to be resolved, because even if _I_, in discussion with others, would be able to resolve all problems, my grandparents surely wouldn't.

      Ubuntu has BETTER hardware compatability than windows XP does out of the box.

      No operating system other than Mac OSX will do what you ask. None.

      This is why the OS is pre-installed on the computers you get. Windows CANT give you a readdy to go install.. Hell not even a DELL recovery CD will. I still had to go hunting for drivers.
  • Newbie Woes (Score:5, Informative)

    by s73v3r (963317) <s73v3r @ g m a i l.com> on Monday May 15, 2006 @08:44AM (#15333530)
    As a guy who is doing the same thing he is, trying to drop Windows from my everyday computing, I feel his pain. While editing config files itself isn't too hard, knowing what config file to edit and when, and how to edit it is very difficult for a newbie.
    • Re:Newbie Woes (Score:5, Insightful)

      by hackstraw (262471) * on Monday May 15, 2006 @09:33AM (#15333876)
      As a guy who is doing the same thing he is, trying to drop Windows from my everyday computing, I feel his pain. While editing config files itself isn't too hard, knowing what config file to edit and when, and how to edit it is very difficult for a newbie.

      I've been using Linux for about 12 years now, and I would NEVER give it to someone as an alternative to Windows.

      Issues include. Difficulty installing software and hardware. Having to RTFM to do anything. Difficulty in viewing common formats like PDF (No, block characters and unreadable text is not sufficient even if the file does open). The GUI is still early 90s feel at best.

      The past week, I've been using Gnome again on Linux via CentOS 4.3, and I can't recommend it to anyone. The person I am working with on this box is in his mid 50s and is a PhD in CS (although he knows nothing about computers :) But he is not anal retentive enough to get the mouse "just right" to manipulate the GUI. We had a bunch of text files that did not end in .txt, and it was too much of a pain to look at these files via "Open with..." or similar, so dropping to the commandline was easiest (and my preference anyway).

      Lord forbid if you want to do something like watch a DVD or video clip. I haven't tried it yet, but I'm unsure if flash works (I hate flash, but people seem to like it, and expect it to work).

      My bias for GUI is OS X (pre-10.4). It is reliable and intuitive and it "just works". Then I would tell someone else that if OS X was not an option, then use Windows (no support from me then :), then Linux "if they know what they are doing".

      It took Apple about 15 years to get a decent OS underneath their GUI. It will probably take 10+ years for Linux to get a decent GUI on top of their excellent OS.

      What a long strange trip its been...

  • The question came up when I decided that my six-year-old version of Microsoft Corp.'s Windows operating system had to be replaced.

    Stupid. Why did it have to be replaced? Hmmmn, I guess his story needed a setup!

    Anyway, the review was reasonable - summary: linux is fine if you just want to surf & email, but no good if you need to interoperate with Microsoft Office users (particularly complicated documents) or use a good deal of multimedia.

    The second issue is somewhere that the linux community really need to be paying attention to at the moment.

    There is no technical problem here, the problem is software patents. Everyone needs to:

    1) Attempt to revoke (or prevent coming into existance) patent laws, through writing to your lawmakers / voting / grassroots activism.

    2) Write to companies with software patent portfolios that you're going to boycott their products & agitate for your community to do the same.

    Multimedia support is a huge gaping hole in the linux desktop - we need non-technical action to fix it (and this is something all the non-programmers who want to help out can do.)
    • Multimedia support for Linux is not that bad. I have yet to encounter anything which Vlc, xine and mplayer cannot play. While I have not done much with it, I believe that the format conversion software (eg transcode) is also extremely capable. Do not forget that linux has been used by Hollywood studios for generating computer animations.
      • I have yet to encounter anything which Vlc, xine and mplayer cannot play.

        Absolutely - same with me.

        However, some of the codecs they use are not legal in many jurisdictions around the world. They're difficult for big distros to redistribute.

        That's why the guy had troubles.

        I believe that the format conversion software (eg transcode) is also extremely capable.

        Absolutely, transcode & mencoder (once you learn the command line options) are the best video conversion software out there.
  • by Rob T Firefly (844560) on Monday May 15, 2006 @08:47AM (#15333550) Homepage Journal
    I could see how it'd be difficult for him to invest the time it takes to set up, since I'd bet the clock on his VCR has been blinking "12:00" for 20 years.
  • by mlwmohawk (801821) on Monday May 15, 2006 @08:49AM (#15333561)
    While it is true that some multi-media content is a PITA on Linux, this is hardly the fault of open source but more a symptom of a lack of usable standards in the industry.

    I have been using Linux exclusively as my desktop, and when I have to use Windows I feel I am in a prison cell. Things that are easy in Linux are painfully difficult in Windows, and things that are easy in Windows, can often be difficult on Linux.

    However, articles never focus on the difficulties of Windows, only the problems with the easy things on Windows being difficult on Linux. Why not take all the time users spend updating McAffee and other anti-virus software and learn Linux? Why not take the time users have to reboot, and learn Linux. And so on.

  • by Kaellenn (540133) on Monday May 15, 2006 @08:50AM (#15333566) Homepage
    From TFA:

    "Meanwhile, for both personal and professional computer use, I want access to all multimedia functions. While solutions may exist to almost every problem I encountered, I was willing to invest only a limited amount of time as a system administrator."

    And therein lies the real problem. Its not that you can't get these things working--and its not that they aren't fairly easy to get working (My Ubuntu desktop took about 5 minutes to get all multimedia enabled to play on it with very little knowledge of Ubuntu, Synaptic, or the apt system)--to be 100% fair, this is a whole lot easier than scouring the internet for random, obscure codecs that people like to use. So how is it "too difficult?"

    Simply put, the issue is not one of how much administration time people are willing to put in; its about the fact that under windows, they've forgotten about the administration tasks they've either a) already done or b) done so many times on new machines that they just don't notice it and its just become part of the routine for them. It's about not wanting to learn how to do it differently when they already know how to make it work one way. It's back to the original premise as to WHY users don't want to switch from windows to *nix--its not that the system is harder; its just different.
    • To expand on your comments: I think many on /. forget the users we're talking about here. These are people who do not revolve areound their computers. They use them for work or for looking up new recipes and emailing family members.

      Most people these days do not fix their own cars, they take them to a mechanic because they don't want to spend their time learning how their car works. Why should they?? They are not car fanatics! The same goes with the common computer user. Since Microsoft has put Windows o
  • by EBFoxbat (897297) on Monday May 15, 2006 @08:53AM (#15333597)
    "I wonder how much more time he will be willing to spend admining his box once it is rooted by malware and his bank accounts are periodically cleaned out?" The funny thing is, as an intelligent Windows user, I've never had that happen. I tried Ubuntu, Mandriva and Knoppix (install from live CD) and none of them wanted to get my Dell XPS 400's network working right. Also, none of them configured x properly for my PCIe 6800. For reason's like that, I gave up on Linux. I had ubuntu working fine on my 1 Ghz Compaq Armada. However it took ~5 minutes to boot. My Dell boots in 30 seconds and returns from hibernate in 10 seconds. I know that has a lot to do with hardware (7200 rpm sata hdd vs 4200 rpm laptop drive) however it also has a lot to do with the OSes respectivly. I can't have 5 minute booting times on a laptop which is turned on and off 10 times a day. The desktop isn't such a problem as I leave it on for weeks on end. But it's the Dell desktop that I couldn't get working right. On a side note: I guess that's what I get for buying a Dell.
  • It's true. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by old_skul (566766) on Monday May 15, 2006 @08:54AM (#15333598) Journal
    For readers of Slashdot, using Linux probably seems a trivial task. But for the millions of PC users out there who have been using Windows for years, switching to Linux is a serious investment in time and learning. Put simply, in Windows, everything works out of the box in 99.999% of the cases. In the case of Linux, there is *always* some modicum of configuration needed. There's no distro of Linux I know of that plays DVDs and MP3s out of the box, simply due to the licensing issues that Windows has covered. And *everyone* listens to music on their PC, right? (I know, I know, Windows doesn't play DVDs either. But it's a lot easier to set that up in Windows.)

    Once a company steps up and licenses some software, and puts together a commercial distro of Linux that works out of the box in the same ballpark as Windows, then it will have a fighting chance at winning people over. Then the only problems will be the cost - because it won't be Free Software - and convincing people that they need to learn a completely new GUI.

    Best of luck.
    • Re:It's true. (Score:3, Interesting)

      by meringuoid (568297)
      There's no distro of Linux I know of that plays DVDs and MP3s out of the box, simply due to the licensing issues that Windows has covered. And *everyone* listens to music on their PC, right? (I know, I know, Windows doesn't play DVDs either. But it's a lot easier to set that up in Windows.)

      Huh? How is it easier?

      On Windows: obtain DVD-playing software. Install. Play DVD.
      On Linux: obtain DVD-playing software. Install. Play DVD.

      Is it hard to obtain such software? Nope. Not on either platform. How, then,

  • Let's be honest (Score:5, Insightful)

    by muellerr1 (868578) on Monday May 15, 2006 @08:57AM (#15333624) Homepage
    Most ordinary PC users might be able to install some Linux distro or another. That's not even the issue. Why should they? More than that, I believe that ordinary PC users don't know anything about Linux other than it exists. Sure, it's great, it can do anything a PC can do only free, but there's no really good reason to switch if their computers are working right now.

    A non-geek friend of mine just bought a new laptop. We (me and another geek) were sitting around helping her install the latest windows updates, and talking about how she should try Linux, since both of us used it regularly on our personal computers. Finally she asked us, "Do I need Linux?" and both of us realized that neither of us wanted to be Linux admins for her so we said no. There was no real benefit to her switching, and quite a few drawbacks since she likes to keep current on Flash cartoons and movies.

    So she knew about Linux before we talked to her, but she didn't really know why she'd need it. There was no motivating factor to switch. If a person isn't motivated to do it themself, few people will really want to do it for them. It would get annoying pretty fast, all those phone calls when wifi or email stops working mysteriously, or they can't watch some movie clip.
  • by SsShane (754647) on Monday May 15, 2006 @09:04AM (#15333673)
    Joe Normal User tries to get on his wireless LAN with this cool new Fedora Core system he found and wanted to try. Sure it loaded up fine onto his system; the installer was intuitive and straight-forward. However, he has no internet. He plugs in his CAT5 and the problem fixed. But that sucks. He bought the wireless router so he could do away with that ugly red cable that snakes across the living room and pisses off his wife. Oh well, he'll keep going, he's curious.

    What is this about no mp3's without setting up yum and grabbing the needed stuff? Okay, Joe Normal User has read up on yum and yum.conf and struggled through getting it setup after searching the forums and jumping on IRC (Joe is happy about an IRC client coming standard). He finds the repository he needed (and writes down the steps he went through for later reference) and types "yum install blehbleh". He thinks the typing is quaint and makes him feel like a hacker. Cool, mp3s are working now. Joe is getting a sense of power from bending the computer to his will.

    He excitedly tries to play a DVD. Nothing. Okay, hit the forums again. Damn...no DVD support. Something about media cartels and general nefariousness seem to be getting in his way but there seems to be a solution. He uses his newfound hacking skills and fires up yum again. He downloads some libraries with cool hacker-sounding names like 'libdethdvd3' and VLC, as well as MPlayer just in case. Cool! Now his test DVD title screen comes up....but DAMN, it freezes when play is pressed. MPlayer does nothing. He hits the forums again reads something about certain DVD's that don't play nice and something about evil media cartels again.

    He decides he doesn't have time for this so he slicks the drive and re-installs Windows, then goes and makes love to his wife after apologizing about all the cables and how he is spending too much time in front of the computer.
  • I tried it (Score:3, Insightful)

    by pubjames (468013) on Monday May 15, 2006 @09:12AM (#15333729)
    I tried Switching from Windows to Linux a while back. I ended up switch to OSX. OSX is what Linux should be, but unfortuantely never will be because too many OSS developers don't place enough importance on usability.
  • by RiffRafff (234408) on Monday May 15, 2006 @09:13AM (#15333731) Homepage
    My 15-year-old daughter has been running Mandrake since she was ten. How hard can it be? ;-)

    Granted, some Word documents don't translate perfectly in OpenOffice, but I'm not sure that's so much a problem with OO as it is with the .doc format itself. It'll be interesting to see if Word *will* eventually support .odf documents.

    And laptops are almost always a problem unto themselves, whether trying to load Linux *or* Windows. Try loading a "generic" copy of Windows, i.e., one that wasn't specfically made for your specific laptop...you'll have problems with it, too. Laptop hardware is often just too specialized to make for easy installs. That said, Linux improves by leaps and bounds with every release. The next release of Windows is due...when? 2009? I lost track...

    I understand the author's reluctance to spend much time being a "system administrator," but, like I said, he would have likely been in for that when loading XP, too. OTOH, I've found that Linux installs on desktops are almost *always* easier and quicker than Windows installs. Far fewer reboots during the process, too. And Linux doesn't try to "phone home" during the installation, either.

  • by Shawn Parr (712602) <parr@shawnparr. c o m> on Monday May 15, 2006 @09:15AM (#15333752) Homepage Journal
    What a lot of /.ers don't seem to get, based on comments already posted, is that we are talking about average users.

    Linux will not work for average users until a way is found to include some basic features that ship with both Windows and Mac OS X. Flash plug-ins for the browsers is one of those things. Many distro's include this if you buy their retail, or Pro versions, but most average users are either going to download the fully free versions, or get them from someone they know to try out.

    Even if Flash and other multimedia components where auto installed as an update process, much like Nvidia drivers are with Suse and some others, that would be much better.

    Recently I installed Ubuntu 5.10 to see what was up with it. In order to get Flash installed I had to use command line utilities*. When your average user gets to this, they will give up. Some might take the time to figure it out, but let's be honest, very few of them are going to keep going when they run into that with the next piece of software, and even less are going to learn the system better and become truly comfortable with it.

    Many comments are already complaining about the fact that people like this are either stupid or lazy. People, this is the 21st friggen' century. We have had GUI based computing for a long time now. There is no reason to have to jump through command line hoops to install what is considered a basic necessity on the web, especially by average users.

    I can already hear the clicking on moderators sending my into the troll or flamebait abyss. Go ahead, that doesn't change basic facts.

    I myself have no problem doing this, but there are people that I work with / am friends with / are related to that I would really like to get off of Windows as they always are having problems. I can't recommend Linux until I know they will be calling me with real problems, not "how do I play this movie," or "why can't I see this web page?"

    From what I have seen, especially in the past day or so, is that a lot of this comes from linux zealotry involving licensing. Just look at the recent Koraraa debacle. The maintainer isn't being asked to pull a live cd by either Linus, or ATI/Nvidia, but some random linux user concerned about 'the open source ideal.' That is one great way to keep this stuff out of people's hands.

    I know many people that enjoy linux don't necessarily want it to take over. And that is fine, but referring to people that don't want to jump through hoops that this day and age should not be necessary as lazy/stupid just makes the people making those comments look bad.

    * - Ubuntu doesn't ship with flash. And if you go to the Macromedia site linked to by any flash using page, the linux page seems to either be missing or incorrectly linked. The solution is to edit a file containing the repositories, then updating (its been a while and I don't use Ubuntu, apt I think?), and then attempting to get it to install. This is akin to asking your average Joe to fire up regedit, make changes, then fire up the dos prompt and run a few commands. Silly, absolutely silly.

  • bias (Score:3, Insightful)

    by jbolden (176878) on Monday May 15, 2006 @09:21AM (#15333786) Homepage
    I'm reading the comments here and this strikes me as missing the key point. Look at this user:

    1) He is completely satisfied with windows he just wants a free OS.
    2) His core app is Microsoft specific (office)
    3) He wants to use windows specific multimedia
    4) He doesn't care about any of the free software issues at all. For example he's fine with having his data locked up in proprietary formats.

    Well yeah he'll like windows better. Why should he like Linux better? This article is just stupidly stating the obvious.
  • by peter_gzowski (465076) on Monday May 15, 2006 @09:22AM (#15333795) Homepage
    I seem to see these every few weeks here on /. This user starts from the assumption that Linux is now easy to install and use for anyone with any hardware. This is, of course, not true.

    First of all, his choice of distributions is based on what comes with an old Linux for Dummies book. He could have perhaps looked into (or asked a friend) what modern distributions are popular from a usability and hardware detection standpoint. He likely would have tried (K)Ubuntu or Mandriva.

    Second of all, he does have somewhat unusual hardware. I would go so far as to recommend that nobody with a Sony Vaio should take the Linux plunge unless they are prepared to do some manual hardware configuration. My wife had a Vaio which I ran through multiple distros/versions, and always had some issue with the hardware.

    Third, he assumes that complete interoperability with Microsoft Office is a condition for success in his test. I have always viewed OpenOffice's MS Office compatability as a convenience, but realize that I will likely never be able to rely on it. Anyone who has to swap complex, particularly formatted documents in MS Office format must use MS Office. This should not, however, be a reason given for Linux non-usability.

    All this is to say that if he wants a usability test, then first hand over his laptop to someone like me, I'll get everything working as smoothly as I can, and then we can discuss his issues with usability. If he wants an ease-of-install comparison, then compare how much of his hardware works after he installs Windows XP from scratch vs. some Linux distribution.
  • CODECs (Score:3, Interesting)

    by C_Kode (102755) on Monday May 15, 2006 @09:35AM (#15333898) Journal
    To move to home user desktops codecs must be included. Until then, it's just to hard for them to use. I have to add {unknown} repositories to Yum to get the required applications, codecs, drivers, or other files so that my desktop functions properly. Either include them in the distro or have the OS/application recognize what is required and link to where it can be downloaded and automatically installed. Non-techie home user isn't going to know that they need to add any software much less what software needs to be added. Then they have to know where to get it and how to install it. That is a mountain of unknowns to someone that is new to Linux. It's easier to just use Windows. If you don't have a codec, Windows media player tells you and ask if you want to try and downloaded it. What a wonderful idea!

    my thoughts anyhow...
  • by fdisk3hs (513270) on Monday May 15, 2006 @09:37AM (#15333910) Homepage
    I wish the writers at Newsforge and such places would take some cues from this article. It is clear, concise, and avoids commonly overused slang and metaphors. What a relief from the usual "Linux switcher" articles.

    Mark Golden is a smart guy, and though he doesn't say it, he apparently was comfortable reinstalling Windows on his machine. He did something that is very smart, that most Linux reviewers don't seem to have done. He bought a book. Installing six, count them, six, different Linux distributions shows quite a bit of determination and interest on his part. The interoperability testing he did between office software packages showed some depth as well. Judging from the end of the article, he has been bitten by the "if I just can get this other thing to work under Linux" bug. I would ascertain that he will probably be a Linux hobbyist now.

    I appreciate that he didn't go into long paragraphs of complaining about Free Software. It's free, so you are not allowed to complain about it. If you don't like it, use something else. He understands this.

    I would say that, as a longtime Unix guy, he has come up with an accurate evaluation of the situation. Common things are easy or at least doable under Unix these days, and most everything else is possible, but only if you are willing to do some work yourself. It is this last catch that is the most frustrating part. As someone who spent a good bit of time this past week breaking C code and tweaking linker knobs, only to fail to make things work, I can readily say that this extra work can often be a bottomless pit. I certainly appreciate the efforts of the wizards who have made the rest easy.

  • Turn it around (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Roy van Rijn (919696) on Monday May 15, 2006 @09:44AM (#15333970) Homepage
    This article looks only in one direction. Mark Golden has years and years of Microsoft experience, working with Windows is just what he knows. Its just never easy to swap to a whole different operating system.

    But what if you take somebody who has been working with Linux non-stop for 10 years, and has never worked on a Windows machine. Place him before a empty computer with a Windows CD. How easy would that go..?
    (Anybody willing to test...? Probably not...)

    The switch itself might be hard, but it says nothing about how easy working on Windows or Linux is, just a matter of what they've learned to work with.

    Link with intresting discussion:
    http://sig9.com/node/269/ [sig9.com]

Imitation is the sincerest form of plagarism.

Working...