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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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  • Of Course! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by susano_otter ( 123650 ) on Thursday September 14, 2006 @11:32AM (#16104887) Homepage
    If the Mainstream Media says Linux is desktop ready, then desktop ready it must be!

    After all, the Mainstream Media is well known for its expertise in IT and its reliability as a source of proven facts and sober analysis!


    Actually, now that I think about it, I do believe this is proof positive that Linux is absolutely not desktop ready.
  • by jimstapleton ( 999106 ) on Thursday September 14, 2006 @11:34AM (#16104920) Journal
    If the user isn't the administrator, then I could, but for the average every-day user?

    I'm more tech savvy than most and I still find Linux to be a pain in the ass when installing applications and setting up stuff. The problem is while most distros share a general code base, a lot is slightly different enough to make compiling/installing apps a royalpain, and the documentation is often less than stellar.

    Having recently put a lot of effort in getting Gentoo, Ubuntu, KUbuntu, and before that spending several years with Red Had machines, I cannot see giving normal users Linux machines.
  • Mainstream? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by supabeast! ( 84658 ) on Thursday September 14, 2006 @11:35AM (#16104926)
    How exactly does one Australian newspaper with a circulation of 365,000 (Wikipedia) count as the mainstream media?
  • I agree (Score:5, Insightful)

    by TrippTDF ( 513419 ) <hiland.gmail@com> on Thursday September 14, 2006 @11:35AM (#16104934)
    I used to play with Red Hat in 2003, and I found it just a little too hard for everyday use to keep using, so I went back to Windows/OSX

    A few weeks ago, I started playing with Ubuntu, and I gotta say, there is no reason why it can't replace windows on the desktop. If Dell will start installing it on systems (thus knocking $100 buck off the price of a machine), then it can make some serious in-roads, and knock Windows back.

    I don't know if it's ready for a corporate enviroment, though. Although I don't like MS, their combo of Exchange, AD, and DC is pretty powerful.
  • My Take- (Score:3, Insightful)

    by IWantMoreSpamPlease ( 571972 ) on Thursday September 14, 2006 @11:41AM (#16105005) Homepage Journal
    I've been playing with Linux since I discovered Suse 6.1. I love the concept, but the execution has been flawed. People have enough trouble with maintaining Windows PCs, much less having to delve into command line shells to get things done.

    I've tried virtually every distro out there (and some that don't exist any more) and what I've found is the only one that matches the ease of use of Windows and BeOS is.....

    Linspire (also working as freespire)

    Funny, from the man everyone loves to hate (and I admit, his bragging has been pretty outlandish) comes the only linux distro to get it right.

    I used BeOS as my prime OS for several years, so I'm no stranger to command lines, bash shells and working with obscure items, but Linux, as a concept, has a long way to go.
  • Too Bad? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by xtracto ( 837672 ) on Thursday September 14, 2006 @11:48AM (#16105097) Journal
    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."

    I would say, TOO GOOD that they didn't do it. I am sure that any user having the slightest curiosity of ditching windows will be overwhelmed after looking at more than 500 (or lets say 40 "main") linux distributions.

    Or sure tell them how "tested and working" are those Windows applications under "Wine", so that when after they install their preffered linux distro and say, "okay now how do I install my 'tested and working' Winamp on Linux" their head will explode searching at zillions of forums/faqs/howtos/irc/etc.

    The *only * way a WinApp-in-Wine would work is as google did it with picasa (i.e. the company will have to make something) or that a Linux company like Linsipre added such applications to their Click'n'Run service (of course they would have to buy licenses to each of the software they will sell). I like this idea a lot.
  • Re:I agree (Score:2, Insightful)

    by saider ( 177166 ) on Thursday September 14, 2006 @11:55AM (#16105186)
    A few weeks ago, I started playing with Ubuntu, and I gotta say, there is no reason why it can't replace windows on the desktop. If Dell will start installing it on systems (thus knocking $100 buck off the price of a machine), then it can make some serious in-roads, and knock Windows back.

    Dell (or any other PC vendor) has no interest in "knocking Windows back" and they probably only pay in the $20-$30 range for Windows with their volumes.

  • Re:I agree (Score:2, Insightful)

    by 9mind ( 702505 ) on Thursday September 14, 2006 @12:03PM (#16105280)
    I'm a stout linux advocate. The only Windows machine in my house, is my elderly mothers, and my work laptop. However, linux IS NOT ready for the desktop. The simple things like browsing the web without the ability to read all media (e.g flash 8+), play most video formats with a single simple player that treats files of the same extension all alike (.mkv and .avi will not play the same in all players), and the ability to play DVDs, etc, download updated drivers from the web without underneath working knowledge... all keep linux far from being desktop ready.

    Is it on all my work and home desktops? YES. If I set it up for someone would they be able to do 90% of everything they need to? YES. But it's that other 10% that keeps it far fro mbeing ready... and although 10% may seem small... it accounts for a lot of frustration for Joe-user...

  • by bhunachchicken ( 834243 ) on Thursday September 14, 2006 @12:09PM (#16105343) Homepage

    No DRM
    No Viruses
    No Spyware
    No Malware
    It's cheaper
    It's Free

    I've been using Linux now for over 5 years and I honestly don't think I could go back to using Windows at home. The need for virus checkers, etc. just leaves me feeling paranoid. So what that I can't play many games on it, I have a PS2 for that...

  • Re:Of Course! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by MyDixieWrecked ( 548719 ) on Thursday September 14, 2006 @12:11PM (#16105371) Homepage Journal
    linux is NOT ready for the desktop.

    I thought it might be, but it really isn't. I recently installed ubuntu and kubuntu, and although they are leaps and bounds better than anything else I've used and it's getting really close to being ready, it really isn't.

    some problems I encountered (which should be relatively easy to fix) are:

    • you insert a device (ipod), but it doesn't mount. you have to explicitly mount it
    • no mp3 playback out of the box (probably strictly an [k]ubuntu issue)
    • sluggish filesystem browsing (it takes a while to launch konqueror to start viewing the filesystem. that should be loaded on boot so it fires instantly)
    • doesn't remember the system volume between reboots (easy enough to fix, coding wise)
    • package manager really needs a more advanced user to utilize properly. it should have a function to view popular packages and more robust categorizing of packages (you really need to know exactly what you're looking for in order to install it)
    • slow boot time, then really slow login time (relative to OSX, at least; I'm really not familiar with windows boot time)
    • most apps still feel cluttered. the GUI toolkits don't really help with designing clean looking interfaces. maybe web-based apps really are the answer! (not)
    • overly complex system settings. most things should be hidden in an "advanced" tab since no one is going to fiddle with many of those settings
    • still very poor laptop support; although it supports many things on my powerbook, it gets weird when I close the lid, then open it. plus it takes forever to go to sleep when I close it.
    • when you boot the live-CD, it really should pop up with a window saying "do you want to install [this]?" and the installer should let you just agree to erase the drive and get going... (for non-tech savvy users)

    I'm a huge proponent of linux, but it's really a lot more painful to use on the desktop than windows or osx. although it's got some nice features, it's playing follow-the-leader to the big 2, for the most part, and hasn't fully implemented features that users expect. it'll be nice when they finally get that far.

    don't get me wrong, linux is fine for the desktop for the techy crowd. but not for the mainstream. Gramma could use it if all she's gonna do is type letters, surf the web, shop on amazon, and send/receive email. but when 13 year old jessica wants to play her music and do crap with myspace, she's SOL.
  • by massysett ( 910130 ) on Thursday September 14, 2006 @12:22PM (#16105492) Homepage
    I am so tired of two sets of articles: those discussing whether Linux is "ready" for the desktop, and those that say that "NOW is the time when there will be massive adoption of Linux on the desktop."

    On the first set of articles: Linux is already "ready" for the desktop. I use it on my desktop already, and it does everything I need it to do. It is for me a superior choice.

    On the second set of articles, what they usually mean is that upon some event, there will be massive adoption of Linux on the desktop in rich, developed countries. "some event" varies and is typically purported to be 1) the coming of a new Windows version, such as Vista, which will be expensive and have high hardware requirements; 2) some big vendor preinstalling Linux, or 3) some big Windows security flaw, or 4) some other pain in the ass thing that MS is newly implementing, such as more DRM or copy restriction.

    Well I've got news: it's highly unlikely we will ever see "widespread adoption" of Linux on desktops in rich developed countries. People in these countries can afford Windows, and switching is a big pain. Windows is crappy, but not crappy enough to switch away. It would be amazing if we even saw adoption rates that paralleled the adoption rates of Firefox in parts of Europe, but I think even that is unlikely. Note that I'm not saying anything about developing countries, where the dynamics--economic and political--may be quite different.

    I'm tired of these articles because I don't understand why they're relevant. It's much more likely that we would see massive adoption of the Mac than of Linux. But we don't see articles crowing about that. Macheads are secure in their superiority complex; they don't see a need to sit around and predict when Mac world domination will happen. They don't worry that the Mac is irrelevant, no matter how small its market share is. Macheads are happy because their machines do what they want them to do. As a Linux user, I feel the same way. My machine does what I want it to do. My platform is not irrelevant--huge companies like Adobe, IBM, and Intel realize its importance even on the desktop. I do not care that roughly ninety percent of people use Windows, and I do not care about world domination.

    Unfortunately it's often pro-Linux people (rather than just random press idiots) who promote this world domination crap. We need to realize that we've got a great platform, it works for us, and it's continuing to improve and work for even more people. The world domination and "ready for desktop" talk is tiresome and it just makes us look stupid.
  • Re:Of Course! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by drinkypoo ( 153816 ) <martin.espinoza@gmail.com> on Thursday September 14, 2006 @12:26PM (#16105523) Homepage Journal

    Insert a device: Haven't tried an iPod, but the USB storage devices I've plugged in have shown up on my desktop.
    mp3: this is a real problem. I used one of those neat programs that automatically stuffs ubuntu with the stuff you want, but nothing like that comes with ubuntu, so you have a good point.
    sluggish filesystem browsing? I used ubuntu, not kubuntu, but on ubuntu nautilus comes up plenty rapidly. Maybe you should call that ksluggish kfilesystem kbrowsing? :)
    doesn't remember system volume, what are you talking about? this doesn't even make sense, unless you're a mac user. the rest of us have different terminology. do you mean that on macs it doesn't properly set the system volume? Don't tell us, go file a bug.
    package manager really needs a more advanced user to utilize properly. totally invalid, synaptic is confusing, except that if you go to the bottom of the applications menu there's an option "Add/Remove..." which handles installing/removing the most popular applications, which will be more than enough for most users. In fact it's precisely what you ask for. it even includes xmms, which can play mp3s.
    slow boot time: linux problem in general. It's getting better.
    apps feel cluttered: most windows apps feel cluttered, too.
    overly complex system settings: provide some examples. Ubuntu, if anything, is overly dumbed down from my standpoint, in terms of GUIs.
    poor laptop support: true. not much to be done about it, except let time pass, and convince more vendors that they want to support linux. I'm sitting at a Compaq nw9440 with several pieces of hardware not supported by linux, like the fingerprint reader.
    the LiveCD doesn't do precisely what YOU want it to do, because it's not an installer, it's a liveCD. It DOES give you instruction to double-click the installer icon on the desktop if you want to install, when you boot; the installer has a pretty simple set of options for installing, and can just partition and throw on the default install with very few clicks.

    you do make some good points, but I think in other areas you're setting higher standards for Linux than any other OS manages to conform to.

  • Re:I agree (Score:3, Insightful)

    by 99BottlesOfBeerInMyF ( 813746 ) on Thursday September 14, 2006 @12:28PM (#16105540)

    If Dell will start installing it on systems (thus knocking $100 buck off the price of a machine), then it can make some serious in-roads, and knock Windows back.

    First, Dell probably pays in the range of $70 for each copy of Windows pre-installed. They make a significant portion of that back by being paid to include random software that is arguably spyware or adware, or is a limited version of some software. Most of that software runs only on Windows, so they'd take a hit unless they could get those software makers to port said software. More importantly, doing so places them at great risk. Dell's only real selling point is price. They sell cheap, cheap systems with low margins. Imagine if the price for Windows on each of those computers rose to $150 when they renegotiated their OEM license with MS. And their MS Office prices went up as well. And their Servers and everything else from MS they currently get a discount on. At that point Dell has bet their company on Linux, taking off in the home, a risky proposition at best for such a small initial return.

    I don't know if it's ready for a corporate enviroment, though. Although I don't like MS, their combo of Exchange, AD, and DC is pretty powerful.

    Actually, I think this is where Linux is ready. A big company can save a lot of money by ditching all their Windows license fees and competent admins have already managed large scale migrations of this sort. There is really very little Exchange, AD, and DC bring to the average user's desktop that open source tools do not do just as well, but cheaper. They may be harder to configure or require a better admin, but that is not something that effects the end user and you can hire quite a few good admins for the millions you're saving in licensing. I'd go so far as to say any corporate entity on Windows right now, that is not looking at Linux as an alternative to an eventual upgrade to Vista, is incompetent or not acting in the best interests of their company. Not that it is the right time for everyone to move, but it should be seriously evaluated as an option if they want to remain competitive.

  • by ratboy666 ( 104074 ) <fred_weigel AT hotmail DOT com> on Thursday September 14, 2006 @12:36PM (#16105633) Journal
    "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."

    I want to discuss most of your points... (but not in order):

    1 - "Linux doesn't ghost very well". No, but it tars and dds well. Why are you trying to use a Windows tool which isn't needed?

    2 - Windows XP does take 30 minutes to install. "a couple of drivers installs" -- I run XP SP2 in VMware. The last time I tried to install it on real hardware: I needed drivers for the IDE driver, the audio, the network and the video. None of which were included. Of course, the drivers were too big to put on a floppy, and XP refused to see the CDROM drive it just loaded from. Of course the network required a driver as well. Way to go! Fedora Core "just works" on this machine -- needing a driver for the video only.

    3 - Play games... If you want to run Windows games, use Windows. End of story. No other explanation is needed.

    4 - "funky graphics and sound card options and controllers working right out the box". This is bullshit. THEY DON'T WORK RIGHT OUT OF THE BOX WITH WINDOWS. You need to install drivers. Which are very dodgy at times. If anything, Linux has FAR more quality drivers than Windows "in the box". I still use QIC tapes: is there a Windows XP driver that is supported for those?
  • Re:Mainstream? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Tim C ( 15259 ) on Thursday September 14, 2006 @12:40PM (#16105690)
    I suspect it's "mainstream" as in "aimed at normal people rather than techies".
  • by edmicman ( 830206 ) on Thursday September 14, 2006 @01:25PM (#16106203) Homepage Journal
    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.
    Maybe, but if Dell or HP or Best Buy offer a PC system that will browse the intarweb and do email and IM and print school reports, for a *real* discount ($200+ less than a Windows system?), then they all those Joe Smith's might actually adopt a linux system. The vast majority of the people out there won't bother installing linux, but they don't bother installing Windows, either. They just want something that works.

    Come to think of it, Dell or HP should do a Mac-like marketing campaign for linux PCs: "don't want viruses? don't want spyware? Want to do everything else you actually want to do on a computer? Buy this....it's $200 less than a Windows PC, and $1200 less than a Mac PC!"
  • by Ethan Allison ( 904983 ) * <slashdot@neonstream.us> on Thursday September 14, 2006 @01:54PM (#16106595) Homepage
    Why do something just because it's different? Being different for the sake of being different isn't much better than conforming for the sake of conforming...
  • Toy-ready (Score:3, Insightful)

    by phorm ( 591458 ) on Thursday September 14, 2006 @01:57PM (#16106639) Journal
    I'd say that the problem with linux is not that it's not "laptop-ready", but that it's not "toy-ready."

    It's the annoying little things, like the built-in cardreaders (the usb ones for desktops work fine, but I've rarely seen a laptop one work), some wireless chipsets (getting better... but despite having supposed kernel support I still haven't gotten my broadcomm chipset to work without ndiswrapper), hotkeys, and various other little things that don't quite work in linux.

    On the other hand, there are lots of really cool things that only work in linux, or work better in linux, but those tend to be outside of the main area of interest for the general public.

    That being said, I've seen vast improvement in the area of compatability with various hardware in 'nix. In the last few years I've seen more webcams, capture cards, and other of the 'fun but not essential' hardware come out with linux drivers that work (if not always work wonderfully)... and I'm hoping that such things will have more support in the future.
  • by dosius ( 230542 ) <bridget@buric.co> on Thursday September 14, 2006 @01:58PM (#16106641) Journal
    I agree but there's a lot of poseur geeks out there like that...

  • by diamondsw ( 685967 ) on Thursday September 14, 2006 @02:11PM (#16106809)
    "Unfortunately it's often pro-Linux people (rather than just random press idiots) who promote this world domination crap. We need to realize that we've got a great platform, it works for us, and it's continuing to improve and work for even more people. The world domination and "ready for desktop" talk is tiresome and it just makes us look stupid."

    Unfortunately, that's where you run into the great schism in Linux - those who use and promote it as a political agenda (GNU), and those who use it as good technology (Linux). Idealists vs pragmatists; you'll never win that one.
  • by tinkerghost ( 944862 ) on Thursday September 14, 2006 @04:58PM (#16108608) Homepage

    "my town of 6K people" -- so your generalizations based on 6 computers in your town somehow explain how valid the entire "desktop linux" argument is? Your sample data seems somewhat limited.

    You seem to have forgotten the rest of my sentance - "My town of 6K people supports 2 computer repair shops that are busy and looking for help" - It's not a generalization based on 6 computers, it's based on the fact that 6000 people can support 12+ people with their PC related problems - not including all the people still under warentees from Dell/HP/etc.

    HD Restore - why do you assume I meant the user would do a restore. They would take it to someone else, obviously. So in your scenario everyone would need a specialized linux person, any fix it shop won't do. This type of support does not currently exist.

    Why? because that's the question you asked : "What happens when they plug in a new $25 usb device from bestbuy/fry's? Or purchase a $5 video game? Or upgrade the harddrive and do a "system restore"?" While I don't usually get picky on sentance structure or spelling - you did create an abysmal compound sentance wherein they was the subject. As for not being able to do it at the local shop - every one in my area has at least one person on staff that can install & configure Linux. From my experiance, unless you're doing a system with proprietary hardware (laptops and some integrated soundcards), there aren't many things that don't work off the shelf except wintel modems. Also anyone who can't figure out how to configure Evolution instead of OE, probably shouldn't be working in a PC shop.

    Flash and Java plugins have crashed FF, Seamonkey and Opera many times.

    Perhaps, but any more often than bad activeX has trashed a system? Personally I have never had FF crash from Flash, Java yes, but not Flash.

    Sharing files can even be sharing simple windows executables (nothing to do with viruses) or downloads. Many files (even if registered) do not load properly double clicking in either Konqueror or Nautilus.
    Use Wine? I thought this was so easy? I don't even need to explain the problems with wine.

    Hmm, easy yes, try getting a 'simple' windows executable to run on a mac. Oh are we talking Documents - like Excel, Powerpoint, etc - you know the ones that won't open right unless you have the right version of MS Office, or know what version they were saved in so you can import them properly? Most of the 'oh check this out it's soooo cool' Windows exe files I deal with have spyware built into them, I still fail to see the problem with them not running.

    About macs, yes people know that everything is Windows or Non-Windows (ie. a mac). I am not saying that people use windows just for the $5 dollar software (as you imply). Rather, they will be at a loss finding out that all those simple applications that may have run before, won't. And the argument that there's a better oss app is silly. Names are obscure (if they even exist) and they have to be downloaded.

    It's not my implication, I direct your attention to your quote "What happens when they plug in a new $25 usb device from bestbuy/fry's? Or purchase a $5 video game?" Your statement was that people shouldn't run Linux because the cheap $5 bargin bin software won't run. I was pointing out it won't run on a Mac either. For you present comment, I am at a loss as to which simple applications won't run? Solitare - whoot 30+ versions built in along with Mah-Jong, minesweeper, etc. Any time people change OS, they are going to find some applications they could run before but now can't. Is your statement that everyone should use Windows so we don't have to change? As for names, etc of OSS products, I direct your attention to Tucows [slashdot.org] they have a nice selection to download. Is that so much harder than going out to the store to buy it on cd

Air is water with holes in it.