Linux

Linux on the desktop: enthusiasm vs. angst


This morning I noticed two interesting perspectives on using Linux on the desktop. They were not interesting to me because they were unique, but because I have seen both perspectives played out dozens of times in the past. The first is the techie who has heard so much about Linux and is now enthusiastically ready to give it a try. The second is the frustrated, formerly-brilliant techie who has tried to set up a Linux desktop and grown weary of dealing with error messages and non-functional peripherals and/or applications. 

The first perspective is represented in the thread "Newbie on the Linux front" -- one of the most popular discussion threads in the TechRepublic Forums right now. The second can be seen in the recent blog post "Why does Linux hate me" by my ZDNet colleague Ed Bott. 

These two perspectives obviously represent opposites ends of the spectrum. However, I've even seen both scenarios play out from the same IT professional. My fellow TechRepublic blogger (and buddy) Steven Warren wrote the "10 things I love about Linux" on November 8, 2005, and then followed it up with "Giving up on Linux and going back to Windows" less than two months later on January 6, 2006.

Since these are common themes, I'd like to share a set of TechRepublic resources that can be helpful for other Linux newbies, potential Linux converts, and even Linux malcontents. 


About

Jason Hiner is Editor in Chief of TechRepublic and Long Form Editor of ZDNet. He writes about the people, products, and ideas changing how we live and work in the 21st century. He's co-author of the upcoming book, Follow the Geeks (bit.ly/ftgeeks).

6 comments
john
john

My issues as an integrator stem from the lack of mainstream applications providers to offer spins of their applications on the linux platform (i.e., Quickbooks, etc.) or my inability to find them. Most of my customer base are small businesses in various parts of services who run "canned" applications in support of their bottom line. With this in mind, the linux desktop would be a great alternative to the overhead heavy Windows alternative, but, without the applications, the integration is left to those to whom I can convince to implement a linux server for data storage as a cost effective alternative to a Windows server.

guy.vegoda
guy.vegoda

There is a third category - the category that I am in. It is the Linux user (in my case, for 10 years +) who is totally comfortable with using Linux on the desktop. He uses Linux at home. He deals with any and all issues without raising a sweat. He knows where to find help when he needs it. To this user, using Linux is not new and novel. It is totally normal. Linux just works. There are so many like us and it is for us that the absolutely enormous Linux desktop infrastructure, composed of myriad applications, distros, websites and discussion groups exist. We are the very large, silent majority who just get on with using Linux and don't make a big fuss. Thanks, Guy

btljooz
btljooz

A lot of them have risen to the call for a better GUI ...enter KDE, etc. Some are pumping out new versions every six months so I hope that TR is keeping up with this....or at least TRYING to. ;)

Neil Higgins
Neil Higgins

I have also seen Mandriva in action,and applaud it's ease of use.But as I said.... Gnome,KDE,the choice is yours.Linux has indeed come a long way.I remember having a go with Red Hat,many years ago,but became frustrated at,that time,at it's apparent incomprehension.Or maybe I was not as tech savvy as I am now,or just simply not ready for linux.With many distros now easy to view (live cd),and many more sure to follow suit,linux is one OS on my home laptop,which wont go away any time soon.

Alganon
Alganon

I also saw the blog by your colleague who asks "Why Does Linux Hatre Me?". I am baffled by attitude. Maybe he is too smart for Linux. I started with Mandrake Linux 7 several years ago as a "novice plus". It was hard for me at first but I had a friend who was a Unix sys-admin, and also used Suse who was helpdesk for me. With successive releases the whole thing got easier. I dabbled with Suse and RedHat and Knoppix, but in the end my main machine was always Mandrake (now Mandriva). The main reason for this is that beyond all others Mandriva has the best hardware detection and configuration - bar none. The partitioning tool takes the terror out of partitioning a hard drive for newbies, so maybe it would suit your colleague. I have installed Mandriva in a P3 for my own use - just works. I have installed into P4 3Ghz machines from the same DVD, guess what! It chooses the optimum kernel for the processor without my involvement. Now, as a default install it will set up / and /home , but I prefer a more involved partition set up, I use / and /tmp, and /usr, and /usr/local, and /opt, and /var, and /home and another one /home/andrew/isos for storing large distro images. In a dual boot setup, to help Windows find its way, on a new hard drive I always boot the Mandriva DVD and use the partitioning tool to set up the 2 partitions for Windows first as fat32. Then I shutdown and boot up with the Windows disk and reformat the first partition as ntfs, and leave the second one as fat32. Follow through with the complete Windows install, and then install the Mandriva DVD again and do a the full install after I have set up my Linux patitions as above. Now for the benefit of your bright colleague I have been able to get rank newbies to to this while guided over the phone. And everything works. My suggestion is to forget all of the Debian derivatives when tring to get a handle on Linux for the first time, and just get a copy of the Mandriva=Linux PowerPack DVD 2007 (may as well be current). The other thing that he could do is to get on the mailing list of a LUG (Linux Users Group) somewhere and ask for help. He will find the community spirit refreshing.

Editor's Picks