Over and over again, I see Linux users, particularly those new to open source, get bogged down with trying to set up wireless. Since wireless access is pretty important to most users these days, this perpetual difficulty seems to dampen the enthusiasm of many potential Linux converts. Just doing a quick search on TechRepublic for "Ubuntu wireless" quickly turns up multiple discussions/questions that generally follow the pattern, "Arrrggghh! I can't get wireless on this crazy thing!" So the title of this CNET blog caught my eye: Ubuntu Linux: Built-in apps get an "A", wireless support an "F". Both Jack and Vincent have written their own how-tos on the subject, with ndiswrapper figuring prominently in the mix.
Whether you blame the network card vendors, the developers, open source, or Microsoft, it seems to me that the fact that it seems so universally challenging is a big stumbling block for Linux, in general. Most users don't want to buy anything extra, research Ubuntu forums, or dual-boot their computers, just so they can get to a wireless network. It continues to reinforce the idea for the general consuming public — personal or business — that Linux isn't worth the trouble. It just seems like I've seen the "it's great except for wireless support" repeated so many times, that it has to be off-putting to many people, who might otherwise take a whack at going open source.
I guess what I'm getting at is that it's not just a tactical problem, but perhaps more importantly, a strategic one for the Linux community as a whole, especially since many bloggers and reviewers like so many other aspects of the various distros and apps. Ubuntu gets pretty good press, otherwise. Am I making too much of this single issue (because I see it all the time), or do you think that stuff like this is a significant stumbling block for Linux growth? Can you think of a strategy to counteract the perception that Linux is just too complicated for average users?
Selena has been at TechRepublic since 2002. She is currently a Senior Editor with a background in technical writing, editing, and research. She edits Data Center, Linux and Open Source, Apple in the Enterprise, The Enterprise Cloud, Web Designer, and IT Security blogs.