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Linux Desktop Ready, Says Mainstream Media 387

DeathElk writes, "The Sydney Morning Herald recently featured an article espousing the virtues of desktop Linux. From the article: 'Linux is shedding its hard-core techie image in a bid to woo ordinary human beings seeking an easy-to-use operating system that can be downloaded for free.' Is this a step forward for widespread GNU/Linux desktop adoption? Too bad the article doesn't mention the large range of live CD/DVD distributions available for try-before-you-fly, or the range of Windows applications tested and working under Wine." Also, the article is slightly unclear on the concept of open source, defining it as an arrangement "where the source code can be modified upon the request of users or other developers."
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Linux Desktop Ready, Says Mainstream Media

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  • by Rik Sweeney ( 471717 ) on Thursday September 14, 2006 @11:39AM (#16104979) Homepage
    ...just not laptop ready.

    The lengths I had to go to get my laptop working with Ubuntu were staggering.

    Personally I don't think it's ready for mainstream as there are still loads of things that should be automatically installed by default (OpenOffice, FireFox, Email client).

    Oh, I might as well plug my FAQ for installing Ubuntu on a Toshiba M70 []. It might work elsewhere too...
  • by bobintetley ( 643462 ) on Thursday September 14, 2006 @11:50AM (#16105127)

    ...should be automatically installed by default (OpenOffice, FireFox, Email client).

    But didn't you just say you used Ubuntu? Last I checked OpenOffice, FireFox and Evolution were installed by default....

  • Re:Then what for...? (Score:2, Informative)

    by atokata ( 872432 ) on Thursday September 14, 2006 @11:51AM (#16105135)
    Linux. ;-)

    The bit the FA doesn't quite get right is that even if Ubuntu is fantastic and easy and all those other good things for 'ole Joe Sixpack, the typical non-geek computer user is *never* going to independently install Linux him/herself. I'm a freelancer, and I've got clients who work in corporate environments who call me in a panic if they accidentally open a cmd.exe on Windows. That is, they interpret the mere presence of a command prompt, in a window, as a critical failure of their computer.

    Now, we geeks might finally be able to begin offering Linux as an option for our friends, family, and customers, and not be met with "Huh?," but it'll still be a long time yet before Joe the drywaller, or Jim the doctor, or even Marge, the accountant, actually seeks out a Linux box for an objective, independent reason.
  • Re:Mainstream? (Score:3, Informative)

    by Any Web Loco ( 555458 ) on Thursday September 14, 2006 @11:58AM (#16105221) Homepage
    It's mainstream in Australia. The SMH is one of two "broadsheets" in Australia and is read widely, despite hailing from Sydney. It's about as mainstream as you can get.
  • Re:Mainstream? (Score:3, Informative)

    by morgan_greywolf ( 835522 ) on Thursday September 14, 2006 @12:07PM (#16105321) Homepage Journal
    How exactly does one Australian newspaper with a circulation of 365,000 (Wikipedia) count as the mainstream media?

    Depending on how you measure, the Sydney Morning Herald is actually more widely circulated than USA Today.


    Well, if we consider that USA Today is a USA newspaper and SMH is an Australian newspaper, then we can say that the wideness of the circulation can determined as a ratio to the population of its respective markets. USA has a population of 299,360,879 (2006 est.) according to Wikipedia, and Australia has a population of 20,555,300 (2006 est.). Now, USA Today, the most widely circulated paper in the United States, according to Wikipedia, has a circulation of about 2.25 million newspapers per day. SMH has a circulation of 365,000. So if we divide the circulation by the respective population, we can 0.0075 newspaper per capita for USA Today and 0.0178 newspapers per capita for SMH. That would make SMH more than twice as widely circulated in its respective market than USA today.
  • by mondo1978 ( 1002495 ) on Thursday September 14, 2006 @12:12PM (#16105380)
    When I can play games on Linux with all my funky graphics and sound card options and controllers working right out the box like I can on Windows, then I'll make the switch. Last time I installed Linux, about a year ago, I had to spend a day finding drivers, had problems with the display and half my peripherals didn't work. Much as I don't like M$, I don't get those kind of problems when installing Windows XP. It takes 30 minutes, 1 install of SP2, a couple of drivers installs and a reboot and I'm back to normal. One point to make about Linux and enterprise and use in business. Linux doesn't ghost very well, which is a problem as far as I am concerned.
  • Re:mainstream media? (Score:3, Informative)

    by ubernostrum ( 219442 ) on Thursday September 14, 2006 @12:35PM (#16105628) Homepage

    It's funny, I don't remember hearing the word 'embiggen' until I started reading slashdot...

    It's originally from an episode of the Simpsons. Wikipedia to the rescue! []

  • by billstewart ( 78916 ) on Thursday September 14, 2006 @12:37PM (#16105646) Journal
    Any current Linux implementation that doesn't have MP3 out of the box is doing it because of license restrictions on the codec - you either have to pay money for the license and end up with a non-free-beer non-free-speech system, or else you need to let users install their own MP3 player and deal with (or ignore) the license themselves. Windows and MacOS don't have that problem.

    Also, a nitpick - GNU/Linux isn't ready for the naive user, but X/Mozilla/OpenOffice/Linux might be. Compilers and command-line tools with extra-long option names and EMACS are all fine things, but they're for somebody who's willing to RTFM, not for the couch-potato consumer.

  • Re:I agree (Score:3, Informative)

    by jZnat ( 793348 ) * on Thursday September 14, 2006 @12:40PM (#16105685) Homepage Journal
    Flash doesn't come installed with Windows. MP3 and DVD support doesn't come with Windows. If you install another media player, different audio and video formats open in different programs.

    All your complaints hold true to Windows. I'd argue that Windows isn't ready for the desktop...
  • by tinkerghost ( 944862 ) on Thursday September 14, 2006 @12:43PM (#16105720) Homepage
    I have installed Ubuntu onto about 6 PC's now. Each time I hand it over to the person & never get another call back. My worst case was with a Compaq desktop (PII 500 IIRC), I couldn't get the integrated soundcard to work. When I looked it up, seems it's a proprietary chip & not even WinME supported it. Oh well, in went the $5 Soundblaster & off went the PC. For people who only want to do simple Web browsing, E-mail, and word processing, Ubuntu should be the prefered OS, much lighter than Windows, better security, and it works well on old, cheap hardware. Let's face it, a P IV 3K+ chip is great, but it really only takes a pII 500 to run 90+% of the web - excluding of course video in WM formats. Email could be done just as well on a P I as a P IV, once you cut out all the bloat in Email programs.
    Next, as far as administrating the box goes, how many people really do any administration beyond clicking the install updates now button? 90% of the people I know do auto updates for Windows & when something goes wrong they show up at my door & cry. From what I hear from other people who are techs, it's about the same everywhere. People don't know how to 'administer' a computer, and they don't want to know. Ubuntu & Fedora use yum, Debien uses apt, between the 2 I don't think I have had to manually compile a program for any generic use. Last one I compiled was the BRL-CAD [] system I wanted to play with. Not exactly something that's high enough demand to get packaged for a repository. I've had to install & configure autocad on systems also - it wasn't any harder to do the compile.
    Last note, what documentation have you been reading in the proprietary software world that's much better? The booklet that came with the HP I was working on this week was a font of usefull information telling me that everything is golden out of the box & call this number if it wasn't. Supposedly there's documentation in MS software, but I've never found it to be usefull if it wasn't just pointing me to which menu selection to use to do something - Excel seems to be the exception there, but it didn't start as a MS product IIRC.
  • by Chemicalscum ( 525689 ) on Thursday September 14, 2006 @12:45PM (#16105738) Journal
    "if someone would make a ubuntu package and drop it in the repository that is called "fix ubuntu multimedia" that had everything in it and all the tweaks it would absolutely rock."

    Google Easyubuntu
  • by timothy ( 36799 ) on Thursday September 14, 2006 @12:53PM (#16105821) Journal
    (at least in the sense some people would like them to be).

    It's just that some OSes have landed there anyhow, because the telepathic, user-conforming, natural-language, all-seeing, all-knowing, vibrating-massage OS is not here yet.

    OSes churn, because conventional wisdom shifts re: the "best" way to do certain tasks, because meme spreading makes some approaches to controlling bits on a screen seem more intuitive than others (people who first saw the GUI-based Apples in the early 80s can relate), because the advance of hardware makes it imperative to accomodate new devices or relative strengths of the various pieces that make up a personal computer, etc. OSes would probably look different if RAM cost one tenth (or ten times!) what it does now, or if optical drives were 10 times faster. A Live CD (or booting from flash) could be the "normal" / "obvious" way for computers to hold their OS.

    There are flaws in Windows (crashes, user-interface failures and inconsistencies), and I don't much like the aesthetics of most Windows systems I've seen. I'm not expert enough (nor interested in spending the time to become expert enough) to get rid of some of the annoyances that even facially non-malicious Windows software likes to impose.

    For instance: At the moment, I have an old laptop running Windows XP; I installed a newish, tiny Konika-Minolta laser printer's driver on it, but rather than simply now being able to print, I get two large pop-up messages about the printer's status every time I boot that laptop. I've gone through every menu option I can find to try to disable this annoyance (yeah, I know whether the printer's connected right now or 1000 miles away; thanks), no luck so far. Similarly, I know that my father's Windows machine starts up quite a few programs that he's not specifically asked for every time he boots it up; much Windows software is this way -- arrogant, presumptuous, intrusive -- and people just seem to put up with it, for the most part. By the way, your Virus Protection from McAfee is out of date, can we sell you more?

    Linux-based systems aren't perfect, but ... for me (a computer dilletante, to put it mildly) there's no question that Linux is nicer to deal with. Much less frequently, but I've certainly over the years seen a number of "crashes" (sometimes less spectacular than on Windows, but if the system becomes unrecoverably unresponsive, well, that's a crash) on Linux systems, too, and depending on your chosen distro, there's usually a great many more interface inconsistencies to choose from than with Windows :) But those are drowned out by the obvious benefits:

    1) competition -- some people like to complain about the proliferation of distros, but ... why on earth? It's great, and helpful, and instructive, that there are so many different ways people have chosen to combine the Linux kernel with all the other bits that can make a day-to-day computing environment. This is true not just in that there are different complete distributions (hundreds of 'em, maybe thousands by now), but in the case of individual software projects that run on free operating systems, too. KDE v. Gnome? Even if that *were* the only "competition," it would be a good thing; improvements are constantly introduced in each of those environments because of ideas introduced in the other. But the borrowing and idea-generation goes on also with other desktops, because someone has the terrible idea that their priorities are worth spending chunks of their life energy to achieve, and others end up agreeing in whole or in part.

    2) Tons of great free software. Debian users have had the longest sustained crowing in software history, perhaps, because of the thought that went into Debian package management. Nowadays, there's a surplus of good package managers and control systems, though, and the users of just about any Linux system can grab new free software (with a net connection) with greater ease than the conventional Windows approach of driver
  • by drewness ( 85694 ) on Thursday September 14, 2006 @12:58PM (#16105875) Homepage
    It's a shame apt-get doesn't have something like a switch to select between "guaranteed stable", "probably stable", and "bleeding edge".

    You can do that, but it takes a more sophisticated user and some reading to figure out. (Something I've been too lazy to do.) apt-get has a -t flag that lets you choose which distribution to grab from (e.g. apt-get -t unstable install package). There's also something called pinning, where you edit your sources.list and assign different values to different distributions. I know Knoppix makes use of this to do a mix of stable, testing, and unstable packages. There's a bit of an explanation of it here []. If you have multiple distributions in your sources.list, synaptic lets you choose which available version of a package you want as well.

    That being said, I've never tried these things myself, so I don't know if mixing distributions leads to dependency hell or what. Maybe it's great, maybe a huge pain.
  • Re:My Take- (Score:3, Informative)

    by drewness ( 85694 ) on Thursday September 14, 2006 @01:10PM (#16106007) Homepage
    I call bullshit. Slackware was a floppy only distro until release 3 or 4.

    I have a slackware CD I bought in 1995 with a book (Linux Configuration and Installation by Patrick Volkerding, Kevin Reichard, and Eric F. Johnson. ISBN 1-55828-426-5) that has Slackware 2.3.0. The book is the first edition, so it may very well be the first one on CD, but there may have even been earlier CDs.
  • by the_greywolf ( 311406 ) on Thursday September 14, 2006 @01:20PM (#16106111) Homepage
    i just build a new computer, using new off-the-shelf parts, and immediately installed linux.

    Quake 4 and UT2004 worked "out of the box" on this 64-bit system.
  • Re:When I play games (Score:2, Informative)

    by Slithe ( 894946 ) on Thursday September 14, 2006 @03:13PM (#16107493) Homepage Journal
    sounds like a vmware problem

    He said "the last time I tried to install it on real hardware", so it was likely not a Vmware issue.

I've got a bad feeling about this.