The Linux Desktop: We've Arrived.

Linux Desktop articles are all over the place. I can hardly open up a browser without tripping over one. Most of them are negative whine-fests, complaining that Linux is too hard for new users, or has become too dumbed-down for technical users, or the fonts are ugly, or the next generation desktop environments are too different, or... well I could go on, but I think you get the point. So today, I feel like whining about the whiners.  Give em' some of their own medicine, and bring something a bit different to the table: A positive viewpoint on the state of the Linux Desktop. Don't look so shocked, just keep reading.

We have what we need folks! The Linux Desktop has arrived. The solid foundation of GNU's tools and the Linux kernel; topped with many desktop environment choices and all the wonderful Linux desktop applications has got us there. Due to the hard work of the entire Linux developer community there is now a viable, open, free, full desktop computing alternative for those who seek it out. There are user friendly distributions out there for non-techies, and highly technical ones for those who prefer to build a custom desktop experience. Available in your favorite distribution's repositories are three modern and beautiful desktop environments to choose from. Ubuntu's Unity is becoming more polished and user friendly. KDE is mature and highly configurable. And Gnome 3 takes the minimal, "get out of my way so I can get stuff done" desktop philosophy to new heights.  For those that prefer more classic desktop experiences there is the fast, stable, fully featured xfce4; and the super-fast lxde desktop. For the nerdiest of the nerds there are multitudes of fully configurable window managers out there; from tiling powerhouses like Xmonad, to flexible floating window managers like Openbox. Linux users have never had more choice and quality available for their desktops. 

Desktop applications on Linux have also matured greatly in past few years. No matter what your task is, Linux truly has an application for it. In many cases I find that I can get what I need to do done faster on Linux than the other two popular desktop platforms. For text editing, scripting, light programming, and writing I use Geany; my favorite text editor. For music management I use Quodlibet. For editing and sending documents to those other two platforms, Libreoffice does the trick. The latest versions of Thunderbird and Firefox handle email and browsing duties flawlessly. And for the curious, I use two different laptops, my work lappy runs Arch Linux and Gnome 3, and my personal lappy runs Arch and Xmonad. 

Is the desktop experience on Linux perfect? I reply to this question with a question, Perfect for whom? Apple's OSX is perfect for folks who can conform to that restricted environment.  Windows 7 can be perfect for some folks, that is until their computer falls prey to malware or a virus. The flexibility, configurability, and numerous distributions and desktop environments on Linux give you the greatest chance to find or create the perfect desktop for you. Some call it fragmentation, but I call it choice.  As a multi-community driven open-platform, Linux is a different beast than the closed platforms offered by Apple and Microsoft. Different in the best ways possible: user focused, community contributions encouraged and essential, and the only price of admission is a bit your time. So why all the whining about the state of the Linux desktop? I'm smitten with what our community has achieved, and I'm ecstatic about the future. 


Kevin Bush is a Linux systems admin, dad and book-lover who spends far too
much time tinkering with gadgetry.


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Very useful post, cute

Anonymous's picture

Very useful post, cute desktop

And another thing....

Alex Stone's picture

Skimmed through most of the posts, and i'll add the following.

To say Linux user are perpetual testers may have a grain of truth in it, although the ordinary user surfing the interlink, reading emails, knocking out the odd letter in libreoffice, etc, is, more often than not, going to have a relatively decent desktop experience (probably 90% of users) with the now mature desktop driven derivatives. Hardware drivers are hardware drivers, and buying gear with good linux drivers is a path of common sense. Turn it around perspective wise, and those HW manufacturers who resist the linux opportunity, are losing out on an ever growing market. Seems a really dumb and non-profitable thing to do from a business perspective, when paying one or two of our bright linux devs for 12 months or so would reap not only more dineros in the pocket, but a mass of street cred in an ever growing community. All for a driver.
I bought a powerful nvidia Graphics card, and use their driver, because it works. They got my cash, because my desktop experience is fabulous, using their gear.

I take exception to the whiny implication from one of the posters that linux users as perpetual testers is limited to linux. That's complete rubbish.

Mac and Win have failed spectacularly more than once in their history, and they've continued to charge users for the privilege. I know, i paid for it more than once, with no choice in the upwardly mobile food/profit chain, where my customers were expecting their paid for product the next day, and i've been up all night performing the digital equivalent of open heart surgery, because the "support" teams tell me it "must be your computer Sir."

It is complete and utter horsedrivel to suggest that linux users are in some way more testers than users, than their win and mac counterparts. The only difference is that in Linux, you usually get to communicate with real people, some of whom may be able to help in a constructive and practical way, not simply fob you off with that old chestnut, "It must be your computer Sir". And in the commercial jungle, if you find a bug, hard luck, and you'll get charged for the fix next update or version change, when you have a new bug to deal with.

Win and mac users have been testers since both OS first struggled into the marketplace, and that hasn't changed at all. The wealth of buggy software, DLLs, .IMG, etc defies belief when considering how much user pay for gleefully installing such poor code, because it's a "trusted" company. (add ironic comments here to your own liking)

I think it's also complete nonsense to suggest the desktop experience in Linux is somehow less rewarding than the commercial equivalents. Our massive range of choices in Linux means there are many more variations of hardware and software to "somehow" make work, and that throws up a few challenges along the way.

I guess those suggesting that linux desktops are sub-optimal are safe in the knowledge that if a Win or Mac desktop user based program has a bug in it, or doesn't work, then ALL win and mac users across the planet are going to share in that warm moment of disaster. Must be a global virtual group hug in the gentle glow of the "it's not responding" dialog kind of thing.....

When most users talk about desktops being "here" or not for linux, i'll bet a large chunk of them are referring to appearance, not functionality. And that's probably the biggest irony of them all, as Linux desktops may actually be guilty of giving users TOO much choice.
I got into Linux through the usual routes, ubuntu, debian, suse, fedora, etc..trying them all out. For a STANDARD install, with a standard use case, like nearly all win and mac users. they all worked out of the dvd drive, or at most, i visited a few forums and got some help with a tweak or 2.

Now i've gone elitist (i jest), and have a stripped down, 4 on the floor Gentoo build, with Fluxbox, that does precisely what i want it to do, without anything else. That's MY linux desktop experience, and it stands head and shoulders above anything else i've ever used. My desktop experience in Win was rubbish, when it was working, and Mac drove me mad with the "cute" icons, and endless menus, not to mention that damned spinning beach ball. I just wanted my desktop to work, every day, without complaint, or problems, and do stuff quickly and efficently.

So i reckon Linux desktop has "arrived" in the generic sense, and has done for a while, but it gets hidden behind all sorts of FUD, based on one's personal likes and dislikes, and more widely, the relentless propaganda that goes on against the linux desktop experience, not only from "outside" but from those already using a linux desktop that can't change the colours properly, or don't understand the safety first difference between root and user, or more simply, want their desktop to look just like Win, or Mac. (You may be able to get medication for this)

The reality is, if a win or mac user gets as much enjoyment as i do getting up in the morning, and switching on the screen to do a good day's work, with a great desktop environment, then good luck to them. It wasn't the case for me when i used proprietary OS, or the small fortune i spent on business related desktop software that frankly sucked, big time.

"I think it's also complete

Anonymous's picture

"I think it's also complete nonsense to suggest the desktop experience in Linux is somehow less rewarding than the commercial equivalents."

Oh, then 99% of the populace, after 20 years, simply don't know that the Linux desktop experience is at least as rewarding as the Windows desktop experience. It must be that "we" have recently arrived, contrary to the many ten-year-old articles claiming that we had arrived by then.

There are many worthy desktop apps that run on Linux. Without Firefox and OpenOffice, Linux desktop usage would be a small fraction of what it is. But it is against common sense to believe that programmers are as willing to write for 1% of users when they could be writing for 90% or 100%.

Anybody would have to be deluded or a liar to claim that the breadth and quality of Linux apps can equal those of Windows apps. And the inequality is due to a Linux-only mindset and a former dearth of adequate cross-platform development tools. Had tools like Qt been lesser-GPLed fifteen years ago, the inequality would be far less. Windows usage share would be much smaller, and all apps would be written cross-platform. Windows usage would have followed the same dismal trajectory as Internet Explorer usage.

Maybe what is needed is a foundation for developing free cross-platform apps similar to say the Mozilla Foundation or the Linux Foundation.

Android is Linux

Anonymous's picture

Currently I'm running an Android 3.1 notebook/tablet. The ASUS Eee Transformer.
It's capable of handling much of what I do, with some distinct advantages over a notebook.(
16 hours battery life for example.)
Linux is making great strides toward mobile desktop acceptance and eventual domination.
Anybody who says Linux isn't ready has a limited view of computing.

What I meant to say (in a civilized manner)

reactosguy's picture

This article would have been great if the details weren't so exaggerated. I don't mind using Linux and free software, but the fact that there are people who exaggerate it, provide anecdotal evidence, et cetera is what steams me. That is, Linux zealotry.

Excuse me. I had no business with this article. My sincere apologies.

- reactosguy

Very respectable...

BobSongs's picture


Articles like this have been

Anonymous's picture

Articles like this have been commonplace for ten years. Change the names or version numbers of the mentioned software and you can't tell this article from many written in the previous millenium. Really this article looks like a bad joke.

Linux is ever-so-much more secure, open, free, and scalable. Totally dominant in supercomputing and embedded computing. Doing reasonably well in mobile computing. Those facts should tell anyone that Linux is a great OS. And Linux itself is better than Windows itself on the desktop. The problem, of course, is Linux desktop applications.

Economies of scale are inadequate for the Linux desktop applications developer---if the development is for Linux only. Any Linux-only app is necessarily targeting under 2% of desktop users. Most programmers are interested in seeing their software _used_.

If you want a Linux application to grow, you don't make it Linux-only. You make it cross-platform.

The article is typical of mindless in-group cheerleading and is eminently boring.

Exactly what I meant to say

reactosguy's picture

But what I decided not to say.

What is this I don't even

reactosguy's picture

I never bothered to read entirely beyond the first paragraph.

So you whine about the whiners? You look like a fool, you rant like one, and you act like an immature Linux zealot. Linux Journal should have rejected this article. You know better.

The flexibility, configurability, and numerous distributions and desktop environments on Linux give you the greatest chance to find or create the perfect desktop for you.

By flexibility, you mean that Windows users struggle to know shit. Also, Linux is virtually unconfigurable without having to use the CLI. It's that bad. Not to mention, one excellent choice is and can be better than 20 million crappy choices-quality over quantity, that is. You seem to be a big fan of quantity.

Desktop applications on Linux have also matured greatly in past few years. No matter what your task is, Linux truly has an application for it.

Why don't you list an application that doesn't work in Linux, so that users are actually informed? Even better, why not soup up the shit pile known as!? Afraid!? Perhaps you're not a developer, then. Maybe you are just someone who sits there 24/7 and just mindlessly hopes the developers do it right.

List of applications that do not work in Linux are just below.

  1. Microsoft Office (duh)
  2. Autodesk CAD (what if you were an architect?)
  3. Big piles of fecal waste known as Games
  4. Et cetera

Oh, and Wine is not an argument. Wine is a crappy application layer, end of story.

Apple's OSX is perfect for folks who can conform to that restricted environment. Windows 7 can be perfect for some folks, that is until their computer falls prey to malware or a virus.

Why are you so devoted to FSF in the first place? The GPL itself is a restrictive license. As for Windows 7 (which would have been great and all if it wasn't for Aero) security can be managed easily-all you need is common sense, which you appear to lack (read: this article written by you reeks the mental capacity of a deranged pigeon).

You know what, you remind me of Robert Pogson, a Linux zealot who runs a blog. His article"Malware is Winning" talks about crap, and my replies can be found there on your "Windows is le insecure" shit.

Some call it fragmentation, but I call it choice. As a multi-community driven open-platform, Linux is a different beast than the closed platforms offered by Apple and Microsoft. Different in the best ways possible: user focused, community contributions encouraged and essential, and the only price of admission is a bit your time. So why all the whining about the state of the Linux desktop? I'm smitten with what our community has achieved, and I'm ecstatic about the future.

You call it choice, yet it isn't. It's restriction. You and your butt buddies push Linux onto people. Is that choice?

As for the multi-community driven open platform argument, LOL, open source isn't even FSF standard, and you submit your will to RMS?

The way I think of it is, the users are testers, because they risk running unstable code. You say Linux problems are fixed by developers, but consider this: do developers even bother fixing it? Oh, and because people have tons of problems with desktop Linux (don't give me "they should learn blaahh(drool effect)" or a variation of it as a reply), you can change "and the only price of admission is a bit of your time" to "and the only price of admission is a lot of your time wasted in life".

I will complain to Linux Journal how malformed this article is and why it should have been rejected and ask why it was even written in the first place. This is a truly terrible article overall, it looks like you're so butthurt about it! Why not relax, don't take it personally and ignore it, instead of dumping 20 tons of doggy doo-doo on Linux Journal and tarnishing your reputation?

Thank you for reading this comment and have a nice day. (Oh and you can't delete this, it's on Pastebin!)

Don't like linux use

nele's picture

Don't like linux use something else. I personally find this article truth-telling. Linux is great in manner that you can find app in repository and run it (mac and windows usually take one more step - buy it). You are right about AutoCAD and Photoshop for example, but there are alternatives. There are things that linux, mac or windows is preferred for. For example in business environment windows is preferred platform. That is why windows is on majority of desktop computers. On the other hand for science and servers linux is preferred platform. Mac has put standard for a long time for graphics and media. So under my opinion instead of criticizing author try to define your needs and use the platform that best suites you. And this is the point the author wanted to make - consider linux because it might suite your needs (maybe even better than other two platforms). Every OS has its pros and cons - the choice is yours! And man don't be so mad, all those contributors to linux community just wanted to give you the best they can, and they don't want anything in return (except if you freely choose to contribute too).


Anonymous's picture

Thanks for putting that rant on pastebin, dude. I can email it to all of my friends for epic laughs!

Oh and you can't delete this, it's on Pastebin!

Cherry on the cake! That one could make the knowyourmeme front page!

Also linking to FUD videos is pretty funny, as well as ranting about the FSF despite the fact that the article did not ONCE mention the FSF or GNU (let alone take up that GNU/Linux naming convention nonsense).

All in all, thanks for lightening up my day :)

Haters will hate, trollers will troll...

BobSongs's picture

It’s difficult to have respect for a troll who openly boasts:

“I never bothered to read entirely beyond the first paragraph.”

That’s his choice. Mine is to read through a few of his paragraphs and roll my eyes wondering which Microsoft employee slipped him the cash.

The first sign of a troll—in my humble opinion—is obvious when comparisons come out. Anyone who sits on the fence looking longingly at the MSFT camp should suck it up, ditch the penguin and fly the MSFT corporate flag.

The Linux community addresses needs within that community. That’s how I know we’re on the right track. Our troll is upset about OpenOffice, a suite that hasn’t enjoyed as much development as its developers wished they could have added. I think of how they launched LibreOffice, smile and wait for what the future has in store. But longing looks in Microsoft’s direction isn’t an option.

Rant done. Don’t feed the trolls, let’s keep working on the O/S that runs our PCs to our satisfaction.

Delete it? No Way!

Kevin Bush's picture

Thank you for reading this comment and have a nice day. (Oh and you can't delete this, it's on Pastebin!)

Vulgarity aside, this is a perfect example of the pointless negative attitudes I highlight in the article. Extreme to the point of satire, love it.

Kevin Bush is a Linux systems admin, dad and book-lover who spends far too
much time tinkering with gadgetry.


Anonymous's picture

Either way you must have some miserable life. For a change someone looks on the bright side what the Linux community has achieved and all you can think of is whine about it. There's constructive criticism and there's this.

a surge in linux users

Lucas's picture

IF there was something usable like directx10 for linux. IF opengl hadn't fallen behind so poorly. IF game developers decided to code for linux.

There would be a move to linux. Personally i feel larger than people are ready for. When kids start using linux because its free and they can game on it, then when they grow up they expect it to be linux.

Great article btw.

Solaris admin


Anonymous's picture

I'm not convinced you actually understand what DirectX is or what it does.

OpenGL is a group of API standards for rendering two and three dimensional graphics. Its Microsoft counterpart is Direct3D (which is almost entirely supported by WINE), and is more or less on par with OpenGL.

DirectX, on the other hand, is a collection of APIs for accessing hardware in order to write multimedia applications (generally games).

SDL is the most common alternative to DirectX, but the UNIX philosophy generally means that programmers will use large number of small programs that do a single task rather than a gigantic, monolithic API like DirectX.

You must also understand that "porting" DirectX would just create further fragmentation and probably be of little assistance in moving AAA titles over to Linux.

The real problem with Linux is graphics drivers, not APIs.

DirectX in Linux will do what???

BobSongs's picture

I don't believe PC users are going to "move to Linux" because of games! And if you put DirectX in Linux... Windows users will yawn and say: "Yay," and carry on using Windows. Their motto will still be: "If Windows ain't broke, why replace it?" (By the way: When I repair someone's messed up Windows PC—taking the opportunity to explain that Linux would not have been so messed up—the user seems more anxious to get Windows working that to test another system.)

Did Mac users flee their Apple computers when Microsoft added long file names in Windows95? Did the citizens of the United States of America leave VHS for the "better" Beta system?

Most of us make our decisions based on global influences. Microsoft has a global influence through marketing. Linux simply doesn't. Linux moves from person to person, generally. I simply don't believe it's going to move any faster with DirectX.


Lucas's picture

Well that is your opinion, and mine is different. I have been a gamer all my life. And gamers like stuff for free. Winblows is not for free. I said my peace earlier. Thanks for your input though, and its true micro$oft does have a louder voice.


BobSongs's picture

I stand by what I wrote. It's just a shame you didn't take the time to read it carefully.

There won't be a mass exodus to Linux because Linux finally gained what Windows already has. Linux would have to gain DirectX and then some kind of ... I dunno ... 3D technology that would accelerate graphics beyond anything Windows could ever hope to achieve. In other words, Windows users (gamers, in this case) would need a reason to leave one O/S for another.

The Windows gaming community would not move over to Linux in some mass exodus because of new technology. Isolating this as "just my opinion" is a failed arguing technique. Haven't you read the posts here? It's difficult enough to convince KDE users to try GNOME. Putting DirectX into Linux would result in a few gamers moving over to Linux while the rest merely hope their Linux friends (the few they know) will finally begin playing the same games they do because they no longer have "I use Linux so I can't play Windows games" excuse.

I have enough difficulty convincing people who trust me with their PCs to test Linux. I tell them how safe it is, how secure it is, how they can do everything in Linux that they do in Windows (these are simple users: email, web-browsing, basic office tools, etc). Knowing all this about Linux convinces very few of them. Now, trying to convince a hard-core gamer to abandon his/her entire setup for Linux? Mmmhmm.

Yes. You do have the right to your opinion. Mine happens to be founded on experience while yours seems more based on a dream.

All I care about is the

L.Daniel's picture

All I care about is the DESKTOP since I came into the Linux world and got use to the classical gnome2 dektop. And now it's gone ! I looked at trinity and saw what kde3 was like and I understand the upset when kde4 came out. What a loss was kde3 and now gnome2. There is nothing wrong with kde4 it's somewhat similar with kde4 but gnome3 is completely different from gnome2. Choice ha? do I have the choice to keep gnome2?! didn't think so ! user driven ?! well I'm a user and I hate gnome3, for the desktop I came into Linux and gnome2 was the right one, XFCE is not a replacement for me nor KDE or LXDE or any wm. Where's my choice now?! To go back to windows?!
Yeah I'm a whiner , sue me !
I don't care if the desktop has come a long way in the past few years if I don't have what I want what's the point? And I want gnome2 !! community driven ?! hahahaha BS !! then why so many whiners like me?! are they all wrong?
And don't sell me that crap with gnome2 is still around... btw Unity sucks too.
I have nothing against KDE, XFCE and LXDE it's just they are not for me. I've been playing with them in VirtualBox and doesn't do the trick. My desktop is no more, I'm gonna use gnome2 in mint for as long as I can and see if there will be something to go from this, if not it's a possibility to go back to windows xp at least the desktop isn't running beneath my feat. I will put up with the malware and the viruses again but at least I have a decent desktop.

If you want gnome 2.32 back

Anonymous's picture

If you want gnome 2.32 back try linux mint 11

\or use their repositories

True, however...

BobSongs's picture

...Linux Mint will only cling to GNOME2 for so long. So while the latest release still has the older GNOME release, eventually Mint will either come sporting GNOME3 or Unity.

Give both GNOME3 & Unity six months. This is their release cycle.

C’mon, people. XP users waited just over five years to end up getting (ugh) Vista, a product even Bill Gates took no pride in. They had to pile on a couple years to wait for Win7. That's seven years waiting for a upgrade that, one way or the other, demanded a new PC!!

And we can’t wait six lousy months for a free desktop?

*rolls eyes*

Nice pointless rant.

BobSongs's picture

Returning to Windows XP is only delaying the inevitable. You'll be faced with UI changes as you move from XP to Vista to Win7 to whatever comes out next.

Someone who would test Gnome2 in a virtual engine in Windows would never see the point of trashing his/her system in order to replace it with Linux.

I won't test Gnome3 in a virtual box. The very nature of such a test while a functional Gnome2 is all around that box almost demands to fail.

The frequent suggestion in the Ubuntu Forums Unity thread is: "Download Fedora 15 Live CD and test it." Perhaps if you don't have access to older menus and controls the testing would have slightly different results. Give it several hours.

Note: I have no fondness for Unity. But I didn't pay for this community-driven effort. So I have no ground to stand on for complaining -- or whining. I complained loudly and hotly for XP. But ranting over Gnome3/Unity is unjustified. In fact, it's a bit like a tantrum when mom hands us vanilla ice cream when we've been used to getting chocolate.

Edit: Rob Williams of Techgage says in his article An In-Depth Look at Fedora 15:

GNOME 3's design is not going to appeal to everyone, that's for certain. For those who enjoy tweaking their OS and don't mind loading up a command-line, there are a ton of tweaks out there that can 'restore' certain bits of functionality to the desktop that were lost with the transition from 2 to 3. I didn't test out any of these during my testing as nothing drove me so bonkers that I felt I had to, but from my understanding, many are very easy to pull off, and a simple Google search should help you fix what you need.

All I care about is the

Steve c's picture

So, you do have the choice to keep Gnome2.

Ubuntu Gnome classic at login

Anonymous's picture

Ubuntu Gnome classic at login

E17 - Super fast, super light, super configurable and BEAUTIFUL.

Anonymous's picture

..enough said. Most major upstreams aren't giving E17 the proper highlights and tighter build it deserves compared to the "old guards".

Need Others View

Swadhin's picture

I think OSX is not a desktop OS :O, If OSX is then lets buy a System 76 laptop/desktop and use it for our day-to-day work.Hmmm suppose I have a system 76 laptop and using it for my office work by installing Netbeans,JDeveloper,Evolution and at home I am watching movies by installing VLC and all other stuff a normal guy do. Now Linux critics please tell me why Linux is not a desktop OS (like OSX)? I'm not a Linux guru but I am using it for last five years and I have done my college project, University project and now at work I'm using Linux too. And I don't understand WHY people say its not a desktop ready OS.

Thanks for quodlibet!

Nagisa's picture

I'm also using Arch linux and I were not happy with only one thing - Music player. Now that you dropped me hint of quodlibet at last I can delete all those Banshees and Rhythmboxes and enjoy my music with all functions I need. Thanks again!

What idiocy!

Anonymous's picture

I'm sorry but this article is just a piece of sh**! A lot of stupidities, false statements, etc.

By the way, I use exclusively Linux/BSD for many years now and yet I find the current state of the Linux Desktop quite poor. The Year of the Linux Desktop is quite far to be reaching, if ever there comes a day...

How long have you worked for Microsoft?

John Abbott's picture

I understand why you posted anonymously. Isn't it hard on your spin and difficult to breath with your head up there?

Linux desktops are superior to the proprietary guys in that I can make my distribution look exactly like Apple or Microsoft windows. Why I would want to do that is a complete mystery. But if you look at Zorin OS you will find menu switches to look like everything from Windows 3 up - and of course there are many applications to make you laptop look like anything Apple. Although it met with resistance even the Ubuntu 11.04 menu is totally malleable.

Only kids stuck on Windows have no idea what flexible and customisable means.

this was a great article its a shame you have no idea what the author was talking about - or what you were talking about apparently.

No need to apologize. Care

Kevin Bush's picture

No need to apologize. Care to elaborate a bit? What do you consider the "stupidities," and what do you find "quite poor" about your Linux desktop? Without actually making an argument, you are simply reinforcing my point about whining. ;-)

Kevin Bush is a Linux systems admin, dad and book-lover who spends far too
much time tinkering with gadgetry.


BobSongs's picture

Nice repartee.

I suggested that a client give Ubuntu a try. She had just purchased a new HP PC with printer that came with Vista pre-installed along with a Win7 update DVD. The Win7 update seemed endless, so I bade her goodbye, walked home to return the next morning to finish the job.

Repartitioning her hard drive took about 40 minutes. After that it took about 12 - 15 minutes to install Ubuntu (I used SuperOS). After the setup I showed her the menus and gave her the mouse saying: "It's yours now. Tell me what you think." (Setting up the printer was a matter of turning it on, by the way.)

When I first mentioned putting Ubuntu on her new PC she was hesitant to tamper with the system. Now? Well, a year has gone by. I recently asked her: "How much time do you spend in Ubuntu and how much in Windows?"

Her answer: "99% of the time I use Ubuntu."

With access to both Windows and GNU/Linux, her money is on Linux.

All trolling aside, the proof is in the pudding. And Linux now passes the test.

Just a troll

blackbelt_jones's picture

Really? You use it exclusively, but you think it's poor? Compared to something that you never use?


For the linux desktop to succeed

Pablokampiz's picture

The linux desktop has already been here for a long time. The problem is that it needs users willing to learn a new OS, but only a few want to do that. If you install Linux as your only OS (try a Live CD first to check if your hardware is compatible with that distro) and have the will to learn and use something new, in a couple of weeks you'll be enjoying your linux desktop.

Learning a new OS

barton's picture

I really don't think learning one of the major Linux distributions like Ubuntu or Mint is any harder than learning Windows 7 if you are coming from Windows XP. It seems that every version of Window$ is different enough to be very very aggravating. Windows XP at least had the "Classic" desktop still available even though many dialog boxes were completely different as were the control panel applets. It would seem to me the best time for someone to change from Window$ to Linux is when Microsoft comes out with a "new" version of Window$ with everything moved around but with all the old bugs.

The learning curve problem

Anonymous's picture

I think a good part of the whining problem has to do with the time and effort required to learn anything new. In the case of Linux the problem is compounded by the fact that most newly purchased computers come with Windows, unless you buy a Mac. The Windows OS is the most available and the one most people will try to learn or in most cases already know.

I am a Linux user and love Linux but the question my friends and relatives ask is "why should I learn Linux when I already know Windows?" That is a good question and even when I tell them about the security, openness and freedom that comes with Linux the stock response is that they don't want to have to learn another system. Learning a new system is a struggle and for most not worth the time unless there is something of compelling urgency that they need in the new system. But there is hope and I see it in mobile devices. There Linux did not have to fight the "pre-installed" Windows issue as Windows is almost absent in that space. Apple and Android are dominant. Because of the wide variety of apps that have been written for mobile devices people are more apt to try things out and more inclined to experiment and try something new. This breaks the Windows mind-set and opens new users to a new experience.

As Linux finds its way into schools and universities and as it becomes a major force in the mobile space it will find more users. I think your positive spin on the current state of desktop Linux is on the mark. It is every bit as good as Windows or Apple, it is also as easy to use and attractive. I am confident that it will continue to grow and find more users over time. Thanks for your hopeful look at Linux.


Vikram's picture


The Linux Desktop: We've Arrived

Anonymous coward's picture

Ok everybody, about this ease of setup and drivers argument. I know people in the tech support at a university. I have been told that the bench time required to set up a Windows computer is 9 - 12 hours.

I know this is must be true because I did work in tech support at the University back in the Windows 2000 days and it took at least 6 hours back then to setup a computer.

This is for things like:
Install AV software
security updates for all of the software installed
Custom files and scripts for services on campus,
etc. etc.

This is with the ability to clone drives with programs like Norton Ghost.

Now if every faculty member was required to buy the same computer, all at the same time, bench time would be reduced. But that will never happen.

So there.

Linux Desktop

David Schaffer's picture

I agree that Linux as a desktop operating system and the Linux apps I've seen are easy to use, solid, all the good things one might want.
But until there is a standard, simple software install mechanism -- as simple as running an exe file in Windows or a dmg file in OS X -- it's not going to break out of the niche market.

Uhhh, huh?

BobSongs's picture

I wish I knew where anyone got the idea that "setup.exe" is easy.

  • Search Internet for an application I want.
  • Find website claiming application is all it says it is.
  • Download.
  • Locate downloaded file & double-click (risky in and of itself if no up-to-date anti-virus is installed).
  • First page of Setup shows up telling me what I'm installing. Click NEXT to continue.
  • Second page of Setup displays the license agreement. Scroll down through a pile of incomprehensible legalese and decide if I want to agree or not. Most folks don't know or care what it says. Click NEXT to continue.
  • Third page of Setup shows information about where the software will be installed on the hard drive. Since most users are only vaguely aware of what a hard drive is and/or what it does, we simply select the default option and click NEXT to continue. This can be good or bad.
  • Fourth page of Setup now shows a set of possible installation options. Wow. I am uncertain what it is I'm installing (to a degree). I might miss something important. So I install everything, good-bad-and-ugly. Click NEXT to continue.
  • This page of Setup has all kinds of text on it. I've lost the will to read anything it says by this point. So, I Click NEXT to continue... but as I do, I notice some option at the bottom of the dialogue was checked. What am I about to do? Click BACK to check it out.
  • Use Yahoo as my default search engine? Why would anyone want to stick such a thing in an installer anyway??? Uncheck this option... Make sure there's no other funny business... click NEXT to continue.
  • This part of Setup asks me whether I want the software I'm installing to dominate a certain file type. I am about to click NEXT to let it select all KINDS of media. I'll regret this choice later not realizing I'm using a slow-loading program to play a simple media file. Click NEXT to continue.
  • This part of Setup now displays the options I've selected so far. If I'm not Windows savvy, I just hope to high heaven that I haven't goofed up too badly. If so, I'll have to call my PC guru technician and have him work on my PC... listen to him sigh as he fixes my idiotic mistakes... write a check... wave bye bye and promise myself not to do this kind of thing without a helping hand.
  • Easy? The average Windows user gets into the terrible habit of closing his/her eyes and "Clicking OK to make it go away".

    Sometimes "easy" is its own worst enemy.

    The Fallacy of Generalizing

    Anonymous's picture

    With all due respect you are simply generalizing to the point of disgust and inferring that most Windows users will do this. While I do agree with the general direction that you're attempting to take this in, I disagree with the one-track mentality that you're using to steer it. Something that I've noticed about some Linux users is that they take every aspect of their computing experience for granted to the extreme of forgetting that they themselves were not born with a Linux Bible attached to their umbilical chord. Knowledge is learned not innate, and for the gifted Linux users that do immerse themselves in the programming world and develop a fond liking for the Linux community and its offerings, more power to them, they end up doing great things for other Linux enthusiast as well as the many other people who benefit from them somewhere down the line.For everybody else(doctors,lawyers,etc)their job is well, to do their job, be it an architect or a chemist, why would they go out of their way to pick up a drastically different way of doing things in order to simply do whatever it is that they need to accomplish day in and day out?And as David Schaffer mentioned, the difficulty in obtaining those tools(relative to a Windows User) do deter to some extent other professionals from even bothering to begin with.If you're a musician for instance using ProTools(hey, no true linux equivalent yet,hmm.......)your time is better spent mixing tracks rather than bringing up terminal to try and figure out why your audio interface isn't working as it should. Yes, Windows is bundled with any and every new build out there save Macs, and that opens the window(pun intended) for uneducated and computer-illiterate folks to go ahead and screw themselves over but in the end, it's their problem and they can do numerous things to get over that, like I dunno, educate themselves for instance - among other things. In the end, there are going to be less savvy Windows Users out there than Linux users simply because Windows owns market dominance and as such maintains all of the good, the bad, and the ugly of being a mainstream non-geek targeted OS. And for the record, I think it's total bullshit that finding, installing, and maintenance of apps is loads easier in Linux than it is in Windows.Your argument is build on the generalization that the average Windows User is going to screw up their machine rather than focusing on the sheer simplicity of installing software and its ease of use. A potentially strong argument, but for a completely different topic.

    Actually he is pretty much

    TechGeek's picture

    Actually he is pretty much spot on. My sister runs a tech support business and the average person doesn't know how a computer works in even the most basic terms. People bring their monitors in thinking that's the entire computer. They are for the most part incapable of doing even the simplest things. One user kept bringing her laptop back in full of viruses and malware. My sister could NOT convince her that its from installing all the garbage apps she was installing. The stupid app with the puppy that runs all over the screen? Its a virus! But people don't understand that.

    That's not to say that they would know any better if they had to run Linux. The difference is that when they are set up (by that guru friend) as an non-root user, their machine will be pretty much rock solid and work the way its suppose to. Only their user account can get hosed. With Windows, you almost HAVE To run as admin, many programs just won't work otherwise. Microsoft has done nothing to fix this issue. More people would leave Windows if they actually had to bear the consequences of their machine getting hosed, (like losing their internet connection).

    Birds of a feather...

    BobSongs's picture

    (Note to "Anonymous" poster above: 'tl/dr--wall of text.')

    In fact, I was speaking from the point of view of being an XP user. Vista/Win7 add the extra "Fun" of having some idiot box pop up and say: "Are you sure you want to run this program??? It could be risky!!!"

    That warning might give some Windows users the impression that Windows has weeded through the setup code to discover the setup software is risky. It may use words like "potentially", but the average user isn't aware of that. In fact, from my observations: too many mouse jockeys don't take the time to read dialog boxes. The text (over the years) has baffled them ("your system has performed an illegal operation!!"), leaving them feeling incapable of ever understanding Windows coder geek-talk. In other words "they click OK to make it go away".

    Our "Anonymous" poster above (who took exception to my post) might rub elbows with Windows users such as myself*. But you're quite right, TechGeek. A huge percentage of PC (ipso facto Windows) users bought their machines for typical social purposes: e-mail, surfing the web. Their knowledge of security is weak at best, making them the most dangerous users. Their carelessness leaves their systems dominated by malware and they end up being the source of its distribution to others. This is the crowd our Anonymous poster may not spend much time with. Typical reason is: They're too annoying in how they use their PCs ("C'mon, Grandma! Double-click already!!")

    Many gamers are more aware of their computers than most. They need to know it better to keep it fine-tuned, to buy the right components, overclocking, etc. And it's a bit shameful in their community if their systems are compromised. But the casual users of the PC world open e-mail spam all the time! (Who doesn't want a deal on Viagra?).

    Your average office worker might be more careful what s/he does with their PC. But most of the time they use their laptops for work both at the office and at home. Their approach to the net may be a bit more conservative. Warnings on the proper use of a laptop may be more frequently announced by their IT person/group. But social users are on their own to sink or swim.

    I speak from experience. Anonymous speaks from a feeling of insult.

    *I've used Windows since version 3.0. I've repaired and tweaked people's systems since then and get paid for doing so.

    Still a hint of deviation

    Anonymous's picture

    You both bring up excellent points however as a side note to BobSongs, you needn't list your accomplishments or experience if deemed irrelevant to the conversation - which it was in regards to my argument.

    My simple(or not so simple "wall of text") argument was simply focusing on the ease of finding and installing windows applications vs. finding and installing Linux applications, security aside. I believe that I stated this several times(both directly and indirectly) throughout my post above just to reiterate. Yes, security is a big issue but that still does not deter the fact that finding software and installing it for personal use or what have you in easier said and done on Windows vs. a Nix* OS.

    I do however agree with both of your posts and acknowledge that the average w=Windows user - and the term "user" here is used rather loosely - knows much less if at anything at all regarding security and safe computing.

    "This is the crowd our Anonymous poster may not spend much time with. Typical reason is: They're too annoying in how they use their PCs ("C'mon, Grandma! Double-click already!!")"

    As a matter of fact, of my entire household, I'd go as far as to say that I am the only one who would fret over who installs what on which computer, with the rest wondering if the new laptop comes with "google preinstalled". Again, you're generalizing and to add insult to injury you're now hypothesizing and making grand assumptions.

    "I speak from experience. Anonymous speaks from a feeling of insult."

    You may speak from experience but it's still deemed irrelevant if you simply cannot understand the argument that's being set out in front of you, and for the record, I've been troubleshooting PC's, tweaking/upgrading builds,performing upgrades, maintaining networks,and building rigs since 2005, so again, assumptions galore. Learn to understand what the person in front of you is saying rather than skimming through my post and then repeating yourself needlessly while showcasting your talent.

    I never read your post

    BobSongs's picture

    Simply put: I don't read walls of text.

    Boohoo, waaaaaaa!!!!!!!

    Anonymous's picture

    Yet you respond to them and write them yourself. Again, learn to appreciate a healthy debate and arm yourself with the relevant arguments as applicable to what is being discussed otherwise you're an ignorant hick.



    BobSongs's picture

    Nice flame bait... I'm just not taking the bait.


    Anonymous's picture

    Hurrah! So you do read my posts after-all!

    What you interpret as flame bait I interpret as logical reasoning; learn to differentiated the two and maybe you'll be worth a third of the time I spend wasting on the internet. Tootles.
    *Insert credentials here.

    I found the equivalent of the

    jaqian's picture

    I found the equivalent of the *.exe is the *.deb and is used by most Debian based distro's Like Ubuntu & Mint. There is another type called *.rpm used by RedHat amongst others but I found it was always missing some dependency's unlike DEBS. I've given up trying to figure out how to create anything from source so if its not in DEB form I don't bother with it.

    (Ubuntu 11.04)

    Installers in Linux

    K7HKL's picture

    Linux does have standard install procedures, including using windows install procedures for wine supported windows applications. Today I downloaded a windows application (CAD Editor for CNC work) and when I clicked on the setup.exe it simply installed...just like it would on windows. Then I downloaded a G-Code editor to go along with the earlier CAD program but in a Linux version (a filename.deb file actually) and when I clicked on the downloaded filename.deb it just installed with no hassle and no problems. Both programs worked flawlessly and file compatibility was no problem between the windows and Linux tools.