Linux

10 ways the Linux desktop improves the user experience

If you've always worked with a Windows or Mac desktop, you may not know what you're missing. Jack Wallen says the Linux desktop offers numerous advantages worth checking out -- from efficient and flexible design to superior update systems.

If you've always worked with a Windows or Mac desktop, you may not know what you're missing. Jack Wallen says the Linux desktop offers numerous advantages worth checking out -- from efficient and flexible design to superior update systems.


Many of you out there doubt the user-friendliness, the power, and the flexibility of the Linux desktop. But after 10-plus years of using the Linux desktop, I'm pretty confident I can put those concerns to rest. Not only is the Linux desktop user-friendly, powerful, and flexible, it also improves on the standard desktop metaphor -- in many ways.

Here are 10 of the best ways that the Linux desktop improves on the standard. By the time you've finished reading this, your interest should be piqued enough to at least want to try one of the Linux desktops.

Note: This article is also available as a PDF download.

1: More efficiency

If you work in either the Windows or Mac desktop, you know efficiency was not a key factor in the design. Simplicity yes. Efficiency no. Think about it. When you're working with many windows open in Windows, what do you do? You minimize them until your task bar is filled with minimized windows or you tile your windows until you need a bloodhound to locate the window you want to work with.

In the Linux desktop, you have many ways to help you work more efficiently. You can take advantage of the Pager and place windows that belong to various tasks on their own desktop. You can also use a feature like Fluxbox' window grouping. If you like your windows all on the same desktop but don't like to minimize all the time, you can shade the windows up so that all is showing is the title bar.

2: No more "lock down"

With Windows or OS X, you get what you get and no more. Sure you can install third-party applications in Windows to make a difference, but you will never have the flexibility you get with a Linux desktop. And if you don't like the desktop you are using in Linux, you can use a different one. Because Linux distributions are not locked down to any one window manager or desktop, you can pretty much get exactly what you want. You want full-blown eye candy? You got it. You want the bare minimum? You got it. You want something somewhere in between (or even a combination)? You got it. Linux pretty much blows the latch on the lock down so you can make your desktop be and do anything you want. And you don't have to fear too much configuration or too many options. You can start with the basic desktop and live with that all your computing life, if you choose. But eventually, you're likely to discover how far you can bend the desktop metaphor with Linux. Bend away; it will not break.

3: Easier use of removable media

For the longest time, removable media was the Achilles heel of Linux. How do I use my CD drive? Where is my iPod? No new user wants to have to mount a removable drive to use it. But now, thanks to HAL and/or DBUS, this is no longer an issue. Insert a CD and it's there to use. Plug in your iPod and it should be there in /media ready for you. How does this improve the experience? When you insert a CD or DVD into a Windows machine, unless there is an autorun feature on the disk, you have to go to My Computer and find the disk drive to access the contents of the disk. With Linux, when you insert a disk, an icon will pop up on your desktop with the label of the disk. To get to the contents of that disk, all you have to do is click (or double-click) on that icon to open up a file browser to the contents of that disk. And in most cases, the desktop will automatically open up contents of the disk in the appropriate application. This is the default behavior of most modern desktops shipped with most modern distributions.

4: Eye candy

Have you played with Compiz, KDE 4, or Elive Compiz? That is what desktop eye candy is all about. Microsoft tried to offer eye candy with Vista. It failed. It will try again with Windows 7, but I predict it will fail again. OS X offers more eye candy than Windows, but it is still limited eye candy. Now you're probably asking, "What does this have to do with anyone in the IT industry?" Not much, to be honest. But the majority of users out there are not IT pros. They're less tech-savvy users who do much less work on a PC but would love to have a desktop that they could play with. People, average people, like WOW factor. The average user wants to be impressed with how things look. Otherwise, there would be no market for Apple computers. People like shiny, pretty things, and the Linux desktop offers shiny, pretty things out the wazoo.

5: No more random, over-crowded menus

Every once in a while, I have to write about Vista. Typically, I am installing an application to write about, and Vista just tacks it onto the Start Menu. Before long, that start menu becomes too large to be useful. With Linux, this doesn't happen. In modern KDE or GNOME, when you install an application, the installation process inserts the menu entry in the correct place. If it is a word processor, it will go on the Office menu. If it is a network tool, it will go on the Internet menu. This categorizing of menu entries makes getting to your applications so much easier than the Windows or the OS X method. Sure, you can toss up a desktop shortcut for every application you install -- but then you have a desktop full of icons. A desktop with more thought put into the design is much easier to use than one that seems as haphazard as Windows.

6: How much does your desktop "weigh"?

All your resources are belong to us." Vista was huge. Vista devoured your resources. A big reason for that was the desktop. Windows 7 will be better, but how could it not? Having an operating system where the desktop eats up a majority of your resources is counterproductive to being productive. When you need to dedicate your CPU cycles to more important applications -- like work -- you need a desktop that is not going to fight those applications tooth and nail for your resources. Yes RAM is cheap now. But tossing in more RAM should not be considered a solution. That's simply avoiding the problem. It's the Microsoft way. The Linux way is to optimize applications so they do not require as much RAM. The desktop is a perfect example of this.

7: Compliant desktop

The Linux desktop is the desktop for the people by the people. The Linux desktop asks you want you want to do, it does not tell you what you want to do. One of the true beauties of the Linux desktop is that it works with you. Microsoft's old slogan was "Where do you want to go today?" And Microsoft took you places, but it always took you places its way. Let me give you an example. I don't like icons and panels. I like mouse menus and LOTS of transparency. I like the 3D cube. Getting that out of a Windows desktop would be a nightmare. Pulling that trick on Linux is simple. In fact, I can find a distribution that has that exact desktop by default. Or I can put together my own desktop using various window managers and applets. Is the average user going to do this? Not really. But the average user could do this.

8: Better keyboarding

I like to work as efficiently as I can. That means not constantly having to move back and forth between my keyboard and my mouse. With the Linux desktop, keyboard shortcuts are the norm. I can do nearly everything I need without having to move my fingers off the keyboard. And if there isn't a keyboard shortcut for an action, I can create one. Nearly every Linux desktop has a tool to allow keybindings. You can even bind that insipid Windows key so that it does something useful (besides bringing up the Start menu).

9: Widgets done right

If you've played with KDE 4, you have experienced the widget. This is where the Linux desktop merges with the Apple desktop -- only the Apple version was a rip-off of the original Superkaramba. This application places small widgets on the desktop that serve various uses (from news tickers to system information to viewing comic strips). These widgets take very little resources and can be quickly hidden or viewed. Microsoft tried this in Vista with the Google sidebar. It failed miserably. KDE 4 widgets work well and make the user experience much better by having often used or often viewed widgets (or information) readily available at all times.

10:Topnotch update systems

In more modern Linux desktops, updates are obvious and readily available. And they don't always come in huge chunks like the Windows updates. Instead, you'll find more "micro updates" that take care of single bugs or smaller sets of bugs. And these updates come out fast. So when a bug is discovered, it will be squashed quickly. The most recent GNOME desktop has one of the best update systems available, with a system tray notifier that makes it obvious there is an update and makes it simple to either run the update or not. It's the single most user-friendly update tool available.

On board with Linux?

So now you know some of the things that make the Linux desktop more useful. Do they pique your interest? Make you want to give Linux a try if you haven't already? If that's the case, join the discussion and share your experience.

About

Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and Linux.com. He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website getjackd.net.

56 comments
nsleasy
nsleasy

I've been evaluating Fedora 11 for some time and would use it exclusively if it was supported by all the applications I'd like to run. Unfortunately, streaming media from some sites like Netflix and ABC requires either OS X or Windows for their players to work at all. I know that I could run emulators to present a Windows API to these applications. However, until the rest of the world starts playing nice with Linux, it will remain a marginal desktop OS. On the server side it's a completely different story. Red Hat/CentOS has become a mainstream server OS.

wratholix
wratholix

I love my 64bit Vista/Win7RC1, i run quadcores with 8gb ram.. Im impressed and cannot resist saying Vista is the best OS to released to date from Microsoft. Although its usuability comes at a price, computer hardware has never been cheaper.

tmradius
tmradius

I am an old Windows user. But I have been given a computer with KD and Linspire CDs. I'd like to pursue these alternate systems. Do any of you experienced ones have any advice on a good starting point? I am intrigued but it. Point me in the right direction and I'll take over from there. Thanks

evansdavis
evansdavis

Nearly every of the 10 points is directly contradictory to another point. Let's have a look: 2: No more ?lock down? VS. 7: Compliant desktop Are you serious? The less control a business gives its employees over their desktops, the more compliant they are. Plain and simple. 6: How much does your desktop ?weigh?? VS. 4: Eye candy Really? This is how I read this: "I like Linux because it uses less resources, but I also like to load it up with a bunch of useless crap like the 'cube' that provides no real business value. Somehow I came to the conclusion that this is a good thing." Vista and even XP are slow because of all their goofy graphics and useless sticky bars. 10:Topnotch update systems VS. 10:Topnotch update systems Seriously? Give me a break man. Every distro has its own goofy implementation of an update system, from apt to yum to satellite server to zen and I'm sure there are others. None are top-notch and require a fair amount of expertise to know what the hell you're downloading. The biggest thing Linux lacks is a one click / cross distribution installation method (.exe). Not to mention that nearly every update system needs to have additional repositories added to it to get up to date packages. I really thought this was a great statement here: "But eventually, you?re likely to discover how far you can bend the desktop metaphor with Linux. Bend away; it will not break." Yeah sure, until you have to deal with 300 users who've chmod -R the usr or etc directory. What then? Re-image. Linux is a lot easier to break than nearly any Windows product. Don't get me wrong, I prefer Linux to Windows, but 1) I haven't been forced to use Vista yet and 2) it is simply not a viable option for non IT staff.

lazerousz
lazerousz

I've always found that the brunt of force placed on "choice" and "could" within the open source and linux community to be fascinating. I think we should all want to have choices but I often wonder how useful choices are if the people being given them are unable, for whatever reason, to make an informed choice. I do realize that the information for most choices about open sources are available online, though I feel safe in saying that what information you need and exactly where it might be isn't clear. At this point people would point at the forums, and once again, yes there is a great deal of information is there, but at the same time if someone has looked around for a little bit and realized they really have no idea where they should be going, they ask a question. Sometimes they get a helpful nudge in the right direction, or they get a clue as to the right direction or even a direct answer. But too often, they get responses about reading the manual or told to just figure it out or they might even get ignored. I'd believe these sorts of responses anytime are too much. I've seen and recieved both types myself. So keeping this in mind, how possible do you believe it is for the average person to figure this out. And in case anyone would like to call me a shill or the like, I enjoy using linux, I find it quite enjoyable, at the same time I find Windows and even Mac OC to all be useful and usable and I don't work for any IT company. :)

Yonah
Yonah

All I had to do was put the mouse over the link for this story and I knew it was written by our boy Jack. Top 10 List, Pro-Linux, on Tech Republic. Yup! All the pieces fit. Seriously, why? There are thousands of these top 10 lists pooped out by Linux zealots every year in emails, blogs, forums, newsgroups, and chat rooms. Why do we need yet another one with the same outdated, biased, slanted, deceptive information that we've all seen before? Can we get some real journalism here? Or do I have to go out and drop a few quarters into a metal box?

Drask
Drask

I'm not a Mac user, so I can't really comment on that operating system (other than that the few times I have used it I found it confusing and frustrating). But this article appears to be trying to defend Linux against Window's strengths rather than pointing out some really helpful things about Linux people might not know about. Using Linux might require a user to change some basic expectations about the operating system. Here are some things I like about Linux: great command line - I often hear that users will never switch to linux while they still have to use the command line to do anything, and that argument appears to have made comparing the Linux command line to Windows? command line taboo. Well, I use the command line in Windows to do things. Ever try copying a ttf file out of your /windows/fonts directory without using the command line? Users who don't want to use the command line don't have to in Linux. Users who like to automate things, chain commands, and run scheduled tasks will find a lot to like. Almost anything that can be accomplished from the desktop can also be accomplished from the command line. Regular expressions are available on the command line, so searching for, copying, moving, and deleting files based on a pattern is much easier than in windows which only uses the * and ? wildcards. And if you try to run a program and it just dies, then you can run it on the command line and usually get a useful error message, unlike windows programs that usually don't bother printing to STDERR. Flexible Filesystem - Symbolic links are a huge help to me as a developer. Symbolic links are somewhat like windows shortcuts, but they look and act for all intents and purposes like the file they are pointing to. Symbolic links save space when the same file needs to be accessed from two different places, often the case with scripts, and especially the case with web applications. One way I commonly use them on dual-boot systems is point my profile's "Documents" folder to my profile's "My Documents" folder in windows so that the same set of files are available no matter which operating system I am using. I don't have to find a "Documents" desktop shortcut, double click it, then pick a file to work with, I can navigate to the Documents folder from my home folder from any application, and everything is just there, just as though the folder really was /home/drask/Documents rather than /media/windows/c/Documents\ and\ settings/Drask/My\ Documents/. This is the single largest problem I have with windows. I have not yet checked to see if Windows 7 supports real symlinks, but I'm betting not. I can also mount a directory on an FTP server locally and work on it exactly as if it was a local directory on my machine. Windows XP can sort of do that, but it's a pain and does confusing things like pulling documents into the temp folder to open them, so when I save my changes they save to the temp file rather than back to the server. Combines with symlinks, that give me a lot of power when testing web applications. Simpler permissions ? I don?t understand Windows permissions. It takes me hours sometimes to find where something is set deep in the bowels of Control Panel to figure out why I can?t modify a file or change a setting. I find Linux much more straightforward. I hear this has been improved in Windows 7. Running remote applications - On Xwindows, I can start an application on another computer through SSH and the GUI comes up on my screen, and is drawn locally. With windows, the closest I have been able to come is using Terminal Services to pull an image of the remote desktop onto my computer, which takes a lot more bandwidth and resources. The EXT3 filesystem never needs to be defragmented - Nuff said. On the other hand, I see a lot of ridiculous arguments for Linux. Lower cost - Hammering home the "Linux is free" mantra seems to do more to attract people who just don't want to pay for anything. And lots of people who expect all software and other content to be free aren't going to attract the people who write applications and expect to be able to sell them. Also, I have to say the Gimp is joke compared to Photoshop and Openoffice is even less intuitive than MS Office (at least up to Office 2007). So if I were planning to spend my days writing documents or creating images, I'd go with the expensive Windows, Office, and Photoshop than try and get by on Linux, OpenOffice.org and Gimp and lose time pulling out my hair instead of spending a few hundred dollars. Linux is unbreakable - This just isn't true. The linux desktop crashes just as often as Windows, and telling people it never breaks just isn't giving them a realistic expectation. True, you can SSH from another computer and restart the x server, but in my book that still counts as a crash. And if you have hardware problems, it doesn?t matter what OS you are using, it will crash and people will blame the software. Linux doesn't get viruses - This isn't true either. Viruses targeted at Linux tend to target webservers, so a desktop user is relatively safe, especially since Linux traditionally makes up less than 1% of the desktops running at any particular moment, so it's not a particularly attractive target. But if linux did break 10%, I'm quite sure you would start to see more viruses, so don?t start touting this as a feature of the OS. It's true that system files on a linux box are protected so they can?t be deleted or changed by a virus running in user space, but how hard is it to trick a user into typing in a password? And since documents are created in userspace and programs can be run in userspace, a virus could definitely set itself up to run every time you log into the machine, delete all your documents and email itself to everyone in your address book without needing any special permissions. The operating system comes with all the software you will ever need - well, sort of. Some distributions come with more than others. Also, I definitely run into a situations every once in a while where I want to do something on my computer and get referred to some arcane opensource project that was abandoned five years ago that I have to compile from source to run on a modern kernel. Eventually I can get it to run which I guess is better than needing to run a DOS or Windows 3.1 program on Windows XP and not being able to get running because I don?t have the source code. But it seems to come up more often. Most windows programs have been ported to XP already if they are at all useful. So since it?s much easier to use the programs provided in the repository with Linux than to build your own, and most programs are Free and Open Source and can be included in anyone?s repository, then yes ? most of the programs I end up using in Linux are included with the operating system. Installing applications in Windows, though, tends to be pretty painless. Linux can update all your software with one software manager rather than requiring updaters for each individual 3rd party program - this probably isn't an issue for most users. It annoys me when programs try to install system tray applications that start with Windows just to check for updates, and I tend to disable them (and sometimes doing so requires using the command line). But most windows software checks for updates only when you start it up, which seems to work pretty well. Also, Linux applications tend to stay in the same build for the lifespan of your operating system and only offer bug and security fixes, so if you want to upgrade from Firefox 2.5 to 3.0 without having to upgrade or re-install your operating system, you may have to do it manually, and after that you might find that not even the security and bug updates are automatically available to you. Now I know I'm not exactly addressing the content of the article, but my suggestion is that if you are going to tout the strengths of Linux, you should go to its strengths instead of comparing the desktop on a current version of Linux against the strengths of (apparently) Windows 98. Also, that there are a lot of myths out there that come from earlier versions of Windows and Linux, and if you reference them as current people will rightly cry foul. I find that people who use linux primarily feel like they have one hand tied behind their back when using Windows, and people who try to switch from Windows to Linux don?t see anything particularly useful or different about it because they don?t know where to look, so they tend to only see the things that Linux doesn?t do quite as well as Windows and soon switch back.

Pyeholio
Pyeholio

Uh. NO. I'm not. Most of what you list here as features are a bunch of things I don't want to deal with. And, for what it's worth I have my Windows system configured to open a freakin CD when I insert it. It's not an autorun feature on the disc, it's a OS setting. If you are going to try and argue based on the other guys' functionality at least get your facts straight if you want to be considered credible.

inet32
inet32

For YEARS and YEARS the Linux community has been telling us that "finally" Linux is as user-friendly as Windows. And yet even now, in 2009 the only widespread users of Linux on the desktop are geeks, or people have geeks supporting them. So, for example, thousands of EU municipal employees now have Linux desktops but that's because Linux was MANDATED by their government employers, and they have IT staffs to set up and configure them. When Linux starts getting adopted by my mother-in-law and my dentist and my garage mechanic then I'll know it's as user-friendly as Windows.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

1. Multiple desktops with anchored app windows, and "roll-up window shades' are both available for Windows from a variety of free third-party utilities. No, they aren't built in, but if a user can't add a couple of Windows plug-ins, he or she probably isn't ready for to install Linux as a replacement on an existing Windows system. 2. And if those same users aren't capable of adding those third-party plug-ins to Windows, they're not going to be capable of swapping desktops. If they're going to want to discover how far they can bend the configuration, they'd already have installed those Windows add-ons. 3. I rarely have to say this, but you're out of date. Stick a CD or a thumb drive in a Windows system and you get a menu asking what you want to do with it: Autorun the CD, display the file contents of the thumb drive, copy the photos off your camera or flash media, etc. 4 and 5. Okay, I got nothing here, mostly because I don't like eye candy so I haven't explored the Windows options to see how they stack up. 6. "RAM is cheap" Yep. 7. How does this point (compliant desktop) differ from point 2 (no lock down)? Same content, different phrasing. 8. Sorry, but this time you're not out of date, you're just wrong. I haven't seen a Windows system yet that didn't accept keyboard shortcuts. The Windows key already does a lot more than just bring up the Start menu: http://www.seoconsultants.com/windows/key/ 9. Like eye candy, I dislike desktop widgets so I can't address this point fully. But the sidebar in Vista has nothing to do with Google, at least not by default. Why do you feel it was a miserable failure? 10. Your point. In short, you've got one point for Linux desktops (10), three I can't comment on (4, 5, 9), four that overlap with Windows to some extent or completely (1, 2, 6, 7), and two that are wrong (3, 8).

Aussie_Troll
Aussie_Troll

1. More efficiency: We'll no, ive used fluxbox and Linux multiple desktops and so on. Makes NO difference whatsoever ! You only work in a limited number of windows or apps at once, and all your saying about any advantages can and is just the same using Vista. 2. You have the same problem, Windows is not locked down anymore or less than Linux, in fact linux creates more lockdown than windows as apps may not work on different distro's or different versions, and FOSS apps generally are available of Windows (OO.org for example) but few windows apps are available on Linux, (unless you choose to emulate windows, then you're not really using linux are you, your emulating Windows). 3. Removable media, you say you use Vista, and you also make such stupid claims, Windows has been owning the removable media well forever, for you to say otherwise or to make out that Linux somehow has an advantage in this area shows you are just a Linux zealot and not really interested in a reasoned argument. 4. Eye Candy: Like Linux users, windows users dont give a flying fugdge about eye candy, if fact most if not all computers users dont really use the desktop at all !! they use applications. Applications that use the operating system as a abstraction layer between the application and the hardware. (It appears Linux users spend vast amounts of time "USING" their operating system, I have no idea what they are doing, I guess its configuration, I prefer to just use the computer and the applications!) 5. Random overcrowded menu's: you can remove them from the menu, you can add them, you can hide them, you can delete them. you can resize them, you can place them on the taskbar, you can fix them to the start menu, or you can hide them from sight ! 6. Desktop "weight": Windows Vista SP2 is faster than XP on the same hardware, totally stable, secure (freely) and very very effective and "JUST WORKS". Im recording 2 HDTV programs on my PC right now, saving the files to the same HD, Im using 1G RAM and my 1.5Ghmz cpu is idling along at 30% !! Using Vista build 6002 SP2 evaluation copy. Perfect. 7. Compliant desktop: Ive never had trouble getting my Win desktop just how i like it. But once again, Linux peeps do seem pre-occupied with "using" the desktop, most other people are quite happy using applications and actually getting things done. 8: Better keyboarding: No, Vista, Win 7 have excellent keyboard shortcuts, I too hate the mouse and if you dont like mice its very easy, But getting around windows without a mouse is trivial. 9: Widgets: So what, again with the desktop, widgets in Vista and Win 7 work perfectly, um what more do you want ? and who cares. 10. Top notch system updates: Pluheeeezzeee really basically you're 10 points form a very very argument for anyone who might want to consider an alternative to windows. I give you 3/10 for your half A$$'ed effort.

staticsid
staticsid

You're talking about grouping similar windows or shifting them to another desktop. The question of doing this doesn't come at all because should you open more than 10 windows in linux and it crawls to a snails pace. With the same hardware on which i used to run Linux Mint , i now run windows 7 and its giving me superlative performance.

thibauld
thibauld

New Linux users have a hard time finding, choosing and installing new apps on Linux. This is way sites like appnr.com or allmyapps.com are more than welcome and should be directly integrated in the distros !

RandallR
RandallR

I am a long time Linux user also. I enjoyed your style and honesty in explaining the desktop to non-Linux users as well as helping our new Users. I would like to point out an error in your article though, "7: Compliant desktop The Linux desktop is the desktop for the people by the people. The Linux desktop asks you >>want

deb
deb

Virtual desktops for Windows have been around for a long time, as have utilities that let you "roll up" windows. Flexibility? You can configure Windows to bare minimum or all-out eye candy, and add way more "candy" if you really have a sweet tooth, including those 3D cubes. When you insert removable media in Vista or 7, a box pops up that lets you browse the contents, run the program, or choose from several other options. You don't have to "go to My Computer and find it." Win7 comes with tons of new keyboard shortcuts so you rarely need the mouse. Gadgets are done right in Win7, too. And so on. Most of the things you tout here as advantages over Windows/Mac have been in those operating systems for a while.

eldergabriel
eldergabriel

...checking the version number of the currently installed distribution and identifying the hardware on the system. I highly recommend running the latest version of whatever linux distribution it is that you've got. If it's not the latest, you should go get it by either ordering or downloading an installation cd. I can guarantee you'll improve your "user experience" by running the most recent versions, as they will contain the latest and greatest of the bug fixes and applications. You may have to reinstall. The reason why I suggest looking at the hardware is because, since hardware is real cheap these days, you'll be happier by making sure you're not wasting your time with really slow hardware. Faster = better, and the time that can be saved is well worth the money spent. Questions like yours are really more appropriately asked in newsgroups or forums such as http://linuxquestions.org. There are a lot of variables here, and it's difficult to recommend anything without further information. HTH.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

"The less control a business gives its employees over their desktops, the more compliant they are." You're using the word to indicate compliance with company policies. Jack is using it to indicate a user can make the desktop comply to his or her personal wishes. He's not conflicting with his second point; he's rephrasing it. I question how many of your 300 users know the syntax for the chmod command, or how many know it exists. Of my 300 or so, I estimate only 10% have heard of Linux.

Slayer_
Slayer_

It produces....interesting results lol. I had a lady that said she was bored and thought she would clean up her computer by deleting things. She thought Windows was the name of a virus (lol) and thought she should delete it. Her user account is locked down now...

Jaqui
Jaqui

then you are either using Ubuntu or logged in as root. that is the ONLY time anyone could do that to either directory. BOTH are not writable without super user permissions, and if you let end users have super user permissions, then you deserve your systems to be borked..

eclypse
eclypse

Not sure about anyone else, but it's not so much the "free" in cost part, but the "I don't have to tell Microsoft (or anyone else) where I'm installing software" part. I don't like relicensing or whatever if I upgrade hardware or having to count licenses, worry whether-or-not I'm over or if this is covered or that is covered, etc. Free for me is more "free from hassle." Not that I'm not cheap, too, but... Also, are you sure about the bandwidth of X11 apps vs. Windows Terminal Services? I find X11 apps perform worse over slow links (i.e cable modem) much to my dismay... I like Linux for many of the reasons you mentioned and I have yet to find a terminal program that _I_ like better than Konsole - especially with the changes in KDE4. I also have yet to find an HTML/PHP/etc editor that works with remote files better than Quanta+. With that said, I think Linux for the desktop is less stable now than it's ever been. Some of that is probably my hardware and some of it isn't. FC9 should have never made it to release IMO. OpenSUSE 11.0 was marginally better. OpenSUSE 11.1 64 bit is hit-or-miss for me. And updates are generally never as smooth as the Windows updates. I have not tried any of the others on my desktops yet (been playing with the Elive Compiz live cd, but haven't got a chance to install it and run it natively). I just recall having far fewer problems with earlier RH releases (6-9) and AfterStep than I've had with Fedora and KDE - especially since KDE4 came out. I've tolerated it because I like the new features in Konsole - specifically the ability for side-by-side (or horizontal) terminals for comparing one to the other.

Slayer_
Slayer_

How to copy files from the fonts folder in XP: Select the font file. Move your mouse to the top of the window and click the edit menu. Click copy. Go to wherever you want to paste the file, and either right click and choose paste or use the edit command once again. Done! What part of this required the command line?

csmith.kaze
csmith.kaze

For YEARS businesses worldwide have been MANDATED to use Windows and with an army of geeks behind them to fix all the problems. Sorry buddy, but I am one of those geeks and I know that Windows is not any easier for newbs than linux is. both require some amount of basic computer knowledge. All in all, I believe Linux is easier for someone who has never seen a computer before in their life. People like you are comparing Pears(apples don't work anymore) to Oranges. Windows != Linux. Windows is not User friendly, only FUD says that. By and large Windows is just as cryptic on basic stuff as linux is, it just depends on how much time and energy you spend in one place or another. Just because YOU can't learn anything new does not make Linux non-user friendly.

Jaqui
Jaqui

I have no use for the eye candy on the desktop either. but, as far as using the os, it's that misconception that a distro is the os. They have never seen the GNU system and Linux kernel ONLY on a computer, so they think that the xserver, desktop, office suite, graphic web browser, graphic irc client ... is the os. I was wondering what he was on about with that google sidebar, the only time I've seen a default Vista install it wasn't google, it was an acer thing. [ ya think maybe acer tweaked their oem version of vista? I do. ] The multi desktpo functionality is built into all F/L.O.S.S. desktops / window maanagers, no addons needed, and mouse-over switching desktops is also the norm. any idiot can figure that out. ;) as far as the hotkeys, I think that the programmability of the open source desktops makes them more capable of meeting anyone's needs. can you change them in a control panel dialog in windows like you can in an open source desktop? I knew there was a reason I detested hal and udev, I don't want windows popping open just cause I put a cd / dvd / thumb drive in. make a link to it available, but don't start opening more windows. ~seriously considering making a livecd of an E16 gui distro, just for the fun of it.~

Slayer_
Slayer_

A long time ago, there USED to be ALT keys on everything. Ever try installing a new video card through display properties, its a bitch, why? The display propertise window is bigger than 640 x 480 resolution, the locked in default for the compatiblity vga driver it uses. The OK and Cancel buttons are below the screen, this would be fine if there was an alt key assigned to these windows. But there isn't. WTF! I remember explicity my Win95 had alt keys (and that the display propertise fit on 640 x 480, despite that the screen content hasn't changed, they just made the window taller). However I had to keyboard thru Mandriva to get my mouse to work, a near impossible task, could not even get it to start selecting icons on my desktop.

eclypse
eclypse

Never used Linux Mint, but I have used RH/Fedora for years and now OpenSUSE and I've never had any problem with the number of apps I have open. My Win 7 box is also stable, but doesn't perform any better than XP. Don't run multiple apps on it though - ever since I could afford a second computer, I don't use Windows now for anything else other than WoW.

techrepublic@
techrepublic@

"should you open more than 10 windows in linux and it crawls to a snails pace" Either you are clueless on the subject or those are some very fast snails! I currently have running in my laptop Xnest * 2 Mysql Administrator Kdevelop OpenOffice Konsole * 2 (with several local and remote/ssh terminal) (these below are almost always running) Firefox Thunderbird Kontact Ktorrent Amarok (playing Michael Nyman - The Piano) Pidgin Skype Twinkle several others smaller GUI utils All these are organized in 4 virtual desktops in a nice looking and productive Compiz configuration. Also have Apache, Mysql and a several other daemons in the background. The system is very responsive even when "./configure ; make all test" a large project. On this same system, Windows XP becomes unusable with much less, not to mention, prone to freezes.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

That's independent of the desktop, dependent to the distribution.

RandallR
RandallR

Very good point, thibauld. However many distributions now have an "Add or Remove Software" Program that users can use...of course that might just be an Ubuntu/Kubuntu thing...I have been on this Distro for a while....hard to leave something that works :)

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

Hi RandallR. Nothing personal, I tend to keep my email quiet. And your question is probably beneficial to others. ".. Debian on an X201. I just purchased 2 of these and was wondering what you use for the pen screen .." You have the X201 tablet. I limited my purchase to the X201 clamshell without touchscreen. I'm not sure what driver you'd need to recognize the touchscreen. It's something I didn't have luck with though I was working against an old CF27's touchscreen. From a hardware perspective, I wish they'd just link the touchscreen into the bios as a mouse. Let it show up as a mouse so anyone can simply use the hardware. Offhand, I'd suggest the following for hardware support: Laptop option during the Debian install plus: bluez-firmware (bluetooth) firmware-iwlwifi (intel wireless) xserver-xorg-video-vesa (video, until xserver-xorg-video-intel matures to support the HD GPU properly) aptitude search lenovo ibm apt-cache search lenovo ibm Those will also give you some other packages to consider though not required. I'd have to go back and look at what I included though.

mrdt
mrdt

and that is the Gadgets in Win7. They are not done right. While 7 seems to just be an improved Vista, the Gadgets are not as good as on a Linux with the KDE4 desktop. I currently use both Linux & Vista, and have given Win7 a try too.

RandallR
RandallR

Deb, You said " Most of the things you tout here as advantages over Windows/Mac have been in those operating systems for a while. " That statement makes the average user assume that the features are within the basic desktop for Windows. You mention Utilities that can do the same thing as Linux, however those are not the "standard" with the Windows desktop. True, Windows has the ability of having multiple desktops, but that feature was added nearly 6 years after Linux. I am OS Agnostic, I believe people should use what makes them happy. I use a number of different OS systems, however the Linux System seems to allow me more flexibility to work the way a want to. But that is my personal opinion and choice. My qualifications as an IT Professional has spanned over 30 years with 26 years as New System Development Director. To include Windows 7 into the discussion was a bit premature as it has not reached production level. Furthermore you can attribute Windows features as being ahead of what Linux has has for a few years now, since Linux has been in production use for nearly 2 decades

Slayer_
Slayer_

This discussion seems like a fanboi waking up from one of his Linux wet dreams and feeling he needs to share his dream with us. Heck, when i plugged a flash drive into Mandria 2009.1, I tried and tried but couldn't figure out how to open the damn thing up... it would pop up saying new device, but that is as far as it would get. Took me a decent amount of time to figure out how to access a CD as well. While in Windows you just pop the CD in, auto run has worked perfectly since Windows 95. For Linux to only now get this ability??? Puts it what, 14 years behind?

Slayer_
Slayer_

As they can really foul things up with them. it's funny cause, we got a section of our company, the mother piece so to speak, that wants absolute control over everything. So they try to lock down computers to the point where if you plug in a flash drive it sends your manager an email to fire you. Well they tried to lock down programmers computers, guess how long that lasted. Between the HUGE loss of productivity from not being able to manipulate our systems as needed, to the time we simply spent taking apart the security and and unlocking our systems. The whole thing lasted about a week, now we exist as a bubble inside the security network, where we all have admin rights with our accounts. We are the user equivalent of Gods now. Imagine if the... say sales people, knew how to unlock their computers? Rather than having to phone in for permission and waiting a day for that permission, to use a flash drive.

evansdavis
evansdavis

My experience with Linux desktops in the business world has been limited to working with VMs for software developers to write/build/deploy code on. Their usage requires them to sometimes use superuser permissions.

Drask
Drask

Well, you learn something every day. Thanks! I guess coming from a DOS world, I tend to drop into the command line pretty quickly when the first thing I try (right click in this case) doesn't work.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

But they are there, for those who like them. Maybe it's just me, but I think the desktop wars are being fought over something that's a very low on most non-geek users' priority list. It's like including the source code with an OS or application installation. Yes, it's nice that it's available, but how many users know it exists and what to do with it? This article strikes me as advocating I buy a new car based on its available paint and upholstery options.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

Use Shift-Tab to move backwards through the options. When you reach the first option in the window, do one more Shift-Tab. That will take you to the bottom, on Cancel. Do one more and you'll be at OK.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

I don't use the Sidebar or gadgets, so I'm looking for some more info. What doesn't work? Is it individual gadgets, or the entire implementation?

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

"You mention Utilities that can do the same thing as Linux, however those are not the "standard" with the Windows desktop." I submit that the user who cannot locate and install Windows desktop utilities is also incapable of installing Linux over an existing Windows environment.

RandallR
RandallR

Sinister, Since Linus can be customized as you want it. the default action may not be setup, giving you the freedom to handle the action as you want. Linux is about doing things your way not having to accept the way and OS producer thinks you should do it. Don't discount the ease and power of Linux because of one distribution either. there are some very fine ones out there that will have some of the setting you spoke of already done for you, such as Ubuntu (Gnome Desktop default) or my favorite, Kubuntu (KDE Desktop default). Give it another try and see what really has happened in the Linux world in just the last few months. It is truly and amazing OS that doesn't require you to have extra "security" programs just to use it, As the Security is lready built into the OS and makes the system much faster... Don't loose hope that you can have fun in both Operating Systemm try it as a Live CD *runs slower than normal though due to CD Drive speed) or you can do a dual boot install, or even use Virtual box to run both at the same timme. The possibilities are endless. Good luck

Slayer_
Slayer_

How the people designing these policy's, truly have no idea what people need to do on their computers for their job description. My favorite is the one that says you cannot install software on your computer (company usage policy, not software enforced). And yet, I needed to just last week, test out the new word 2007 viewer to see if it can be made to work, requiring an installation (which ultimatly doomed it). One of my biggest and most successful projects is my automatic installer. A program that can click through pretty much any wizard installer, even DOS windows if needed, controls mouse and keyboard, prevents user interaction. I required a full second computer to do this, complete with ghost images, multiple user account, and all of this changing on the fly. That "usage policy" would have put that dead in the water. But, the successful project has probably saved installation teams months worth of work. Even more, it saves money on training as we no longer need to train end users and clients how to setup their workstations. We just give them a word document explaining how to fire up the autoinstaller. Run the EXE and click Start Install, wait until the computer restarts. Security and usage policies would have killed all of this. All because some ignorant person is feeling they need to be in control of everything. :) I derive satisfaction from knowing I saved the company 100's of thousands of dollars, by ignoring the usage policy.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

but unless it's a software development department / company, those users aren't in the majority.

Jaqui
Jaqui

trying to setuid to a different id than root in that case. full root access shouldn't be needed by the apps. the devs don't need root access either, since they can use the configure option of prefix=/home/~/app-test/ to install into a normal user writable location.

Slayer_
Slayer_

Windows always loves to do that though. Make one folder different. I always Control + C and Control + V everything, so I never noticed.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

Me: "It's like including the source code with an OS or application installation." I understand philosophically the value of open source code. I just don't want the code installed with the application, and I don't think most other users do either. To most of us it's a waste of drive space. To use your auto repair analogy, it's like telling me I have to store the repair tools in my garage. I've been known to play devil's advocate on the Windows side too. I generally try to walk an impartial line between the two, but to me it's all just software. I have no philosophical positions on either open or closed source code (or many other things either). As long as it works to my satisfaction (or the boss's), I don't care what's under the hood. I've tried four versions of three distros for professional or self-educational reasons; in my personal life I have no reason to pursue it.

csmith.kaze
csmith.kaze

Really all that shows is that you don't "get it". Linux ins't about pandering to any one sect (some distro's maybe, but not the community as a whole). Source code is important for reason I don't think you fully understand. It is more like buying a car because you know that there will be at least someway for you to fix it yourself, something that is becoming harder and harder to do. Source code is important. Freedom is important. I seriously could care less if the "non-geeks" "get it". They don't have to. I get it and am glad I switched, and would do it again in a heartbeat. I don't completely understand why you post on the Linux oriented blogs, seeing as you seem to be against every pro and pull up every con. Maybe instead of asking questions like crazy, how bout actually use Linux once in a while? It might do you some good.(unless you are playing devils advocate. then you are one sly dog :) ) Best quote I have ever read: "You buy a computer with Windows, you have a computer; You put Linux on it, now you have a computer that is YOURS".

Jaqui
Jaqui

as far as the subject matter for the article, I can only see one way that F/L.O.S.S. beats both Windows and MacOS, that being the choices available, that do not [b]just[/b] layer themselves over the original one. Yup, there are lots of options, now [i]including[/i] KDE 4, to run over the windows gui. The problem being 2 guis running is even more bloated than one is. :D and half of the reason for the complete re-write of KDE in developing KDE 4 was to make it available for windows.

Slayer_
Slayer_

I prolly should have thought of that.

Forum Surfer
Forum Surfer

At 32, I am no longer a "newer user." :( I learn best by screwing up the settings and figuring out what I screwed up in order to fix it.

bobp
bobp

Ubuntu is designed for newer computer users. Many of the settings are difficult to find to keep newbies from screwing up the settings. PCLinuxOS 2009 is MUCH better.

Forum Surfer
Forum Surfer

But yeah, "Linux jihadists" was a little over the top. Once upon a time I liked playing with Linux. I no longer care to try all the new flavors. I've lost my love of computers as a hobby. But that's me, to each his own. Just like going to the local gun range. I like a customized 1911. I have to clean it and perform maintenance once a week to keep it working perfectly trouble free. I find it to be stress relieving and fun to do, as well as adding customized features to make it mine...just like pro linux guys do with their os. But the guy next to me with a glock says my stuff is crap because his can fire after being buried in sand for 3 weeks...much like pro windows guy bash linux because windows "just works out of the box." I don't need mine to be buried in sand so I don't particularly care. For personal carry or home defense my 1911's work fine because I tinker with them constantly. If I'm going on a long trip or burying myself in sand for 3 days (without time to do proper maintenance) and dependability becomes a concern I'll grab my Sig, Beretta or Glock. Sometimes people want different things and different things matter more or less to different people. I don't see where either camp should be criticizing the other. :)

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

but essentially true. There's a reason automatic transmissions outsell manual ones. There's a reason people hire interior decorators. There's a reason people buy prepared foods instead of growing or slaughtering their own. They're willing to sacrifice some optionss for the convenience of having someone else deal with it.

Slayer_
Slayer_

I'd rather Linux just did what I want, with as little fuss as possible. I want to stick in a CD and hae it play music, I do not want to have to search the repositories, try 30 different media players, figure out how to configure each one, turn on auto run for it, then finally listen to it. Again, Win95 had this sort of crap figured out long long ago. Most media files played with Active Movie and most soudn files played with Sound Recorder or WMP or Active Movie, depending on how random the system felt like being when you installed it. (Not joking, the install was completely random lol)

Pyeholio
Pyeholio

"Linux is about doing things your way not having to accept the way and OS producer thinks you should do it." And this is the point the Linux jihadists are unable to get through their collective thick skulls. You are in the minority because you want to tinker with it and make it your bitch. Linux will never achieve significant market penetration because of the very thing that makes it's users such dedicated adherents.

Slayer_
Slayer_

And although I did manage to use it, I found it very slow (old hardware mind you) and somewhat disappointing. Also the built in security was really irritating me. It might not have been so bad if it didn't take a full 5 minutes of waiting to load a GUI Sudo session. Load time that... showed no indication of loading, no changed curser, no HDD activity lights, nothing, just 5 minutes after I ran the command, a GUI window would show up. (I consider this a serious bug) I also really hated that every time I moved files around in the FTP folders, I had to re-permission them, they would refuse to simply inherit the folders permissions that they were placed in. And finally, when all was said and done, it provided no extra functionality over my Windows 95 system (the system it replaced) and was significantly slower than Win95 and could not run any of the great legacy apps and games I own. I tried searching Wine in the repositories, but could never find it. I just remembered the name Wine from an ancient Knoppix CD I have. Why oh Why couldn't Knoppix have taken over, that old Live CD is still awesome, it feels almost exactly like windows, it has fired up perfectly on every piece of hardware I've thrown at it, old and new (hardware 4 years newer than the distro version, and it still works perfectly). I still use it all the time to backup dead or dying Windows systems, the burning utility it comes with allows you to eject the liveCD to burn a disc. Nearly everything in it is easy to find and easy to configure. I have never seen a newer version, and I am afraid too, because based on what I've seen, Linux distros have fallen back 10 years... If Ubuntu is the most user friendly distro... I wish I could say the Knoppix version, the number 7.6 come to mind...

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