Linux

What is the Windows XP-Linux connection?

What will devoted XP users do when Microsoft ends its free support in April? One Linux guru considers the Windows "XP factor." What makes for an extremely popular OS, and how can Linux capture some of that magic?

I ran across two interesting posts this week, both that saw a possible link between Linux and Windows XP. First, ZDNet's Adrian Kingsley-Hughes is mining the consequences of Microsoft ending Mainstream Support of its very popular OS next month (Extended Support for the Professional edition is available through 2014). His post asks a question, "Does the end of free XP support help push you to Vista or 7 ... or Linux?"

Well, no matter what your plans for the future are, Microsoft is certainly in the early stages of pulling the plug on XP and if you're an XP user then it's time to at least start planning on your escape strategy.

Kingsley-Hughes includes a poll, asking readers if they plan to bite the bullet and upgrade or whether they will consider Mac OS X or Linux (the overwhelming poll winner so far is upgrading to Windows 7).

The other post is a longer consideration of what the "XP factor" is. What made it so popular? How did Windows slip up with Vista, and how can Linux come up with its own "XP factor?" Keir Thomas wrote this post, "Giving Linux That 'XP' Factor," and he is also the author of the popular freebie I've linked to previously, the Ubuntu Pocket Guide and Reference.

I have a solution for your XP woes. Unless you've been lobotomized, you might think you've guessed what it is: Linux. But you would be wrong. I don't generally recommend Linux. I recommend Ubuntu. You see, Ubuntu is a special version of Linux. Ubuntu is Linux for human beings. That's their tag line, in fact, and it needs some explanation.

Ah! Interesting. Thomas goes on to assert what he thinks the XP factor is and in his opinion, Ubuntu already has it: it's as functional as it needs to be; it's approachable for a wide audience of users; and it "just works."

What do you think of Thomas' argument? Do you agree that Ubuntu is a "special case" of Linux? I think he's pretty close to an idea that Jack Wallen has put forward before -- about picking a distro to really market aggressively, make as user-friendly as possible, and have the big players in Linux settle on some standards in order to compete with Microsoft.

About

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...

38 comments
martin.porter
martin.porter

Sadly Ubuntu aint there yet. Until you can remove the need to use the terminal window, Ubuntu will never gain mainstream acceptance. As a seasoned Ubuntu user I posed the following challenge to the O.S. - run Quicken & an iTunes equivalent and I will take you seriously. The first challenge has been met perfectly if only by a cheat as it works perectly using Wine. It has failed at the second hurdle though. I have tried them all GTKPOD, AMOROK etc etc. None have the full toolset and all of them look nasty. It is interesting that outside of browsers and email clients the only software that looks the real deal is produced by a mainstream commercial software supplier; sadly looks matter.

chris
chris

a statement like that does sound like microsoft though. We're right and you should accept what we give you. Ubuntu is not "all that" and doesn't "just work". Not like XP. Sorry, it doesn't. I have wireless issues and dual monitor issues with every linux distro I've tried. That being said, I prefer Mandiva with KDE 3.5 as it is like using XP with all the improvements you'd want to have. Gnome is a step in the wrong direction. Trying to be Mac like, but not nearly as pretty. Why bother.

sparky52
sparky52

I have been using ubuntu server for awhile with a webmin remote...works fine...as for a pc os pclinuxos is an easy fall off the truck install...at least with a live cd, you get to play with it and see if it will find and run everything on your machine...then all you do is click the install icon on the desktop, and yes it do death... runs great for me......

crp
crp

Hello, Ubuntu has it's strong points, and it's weak points. It is fairly easy to use, but to really get control of it, you will need to learn your way around the command line, and Linux commands. It also has a tendency to occasionally refuse to add menu entries for new GUI based programs you install via Synaptic Package Manager, forcing the use to look up the name of the main executable, and add it to the menu themselves with Menu Editor. I just experienced this myself today when installing the two available GUI front ends for nmap, Zenmap, and Knmap, neither of which added an entry to the menu system anywhere. Later, Ray Parrish

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

But how many users want to really control their computer, as opposed to just 'using' it?

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

It's a lot of fun to learn but once you've learnt it becomes; take off, fly about, land, take off, fly about, land. In the same way, once you learn your computer it's; boot, do stuff, shutdown, boot, do stuff, shutdown. It doesn't matter the platform; config the system for what the user wants to do with it then they "just works" on it all they like.

jmgarvin
jmgarvin

My dad is a convert and hasn't once opened the command prompt. He updates his machine by clicking on the update icon deally. He manages everything via a GUI. As for Synaptic, ya that's true, but honestly I'd rather NOT have everything friggin' added as a short cut somewhere. It's irritating and makes stuff harder to find.

crp
crp

Hello again, Yeah, I'm enjoying learning to use the command line in Ubuntu. I do also like to have a well stocked menu 'though. After a bit of frustration trying to figure out how Ubuntu updates new menu entries, and studying it's menu scripts, I acted on a tip from someone, [do not remember who] and used Synaptic to install the Debian menu in Ubuntu. I couldn't believe how many things it added to my menu system that had been lurking on my system without a menu entry! 8-) It also added quite a few command line program calls to the menus as well, making me more aware of additional commands that I need to learn. I'm really liking Ubuntu and Linux, and I know I have learned more about my computer and how an operating system works, in the past past eight months since I've installed Ubuntu, than I did in all the years of using Windows before that. I did use to be a pretty good dos batch language hand back in the day, but the bash shell and the plethora of commands available in it beats batch all to hell. Later, Ray Parrish

Tech b00n
Tech b00n

I am not sure myself, but I know for a fact that I would jump to any Linux OS if I could play my games on them; seriously, it is the only reason why I am still in the Windows camp (using XP in particular); if Linux wants to push Microsoft out of good market share, target gamers; hell it is the primary reason to own a PC outside of the work place.

matthew.balthrop
matthew.balthrop

Yeah i still have one XP-Pro PC for things like the occasional game, but my other tower and laptop are Ubuntu. From programming to system administration, Ubuntu beats out Windows any day. -alias

Maarek Stele
Maarek Stele

I own a Laptop with enough power and memory running Vista. After a year it's slowing down due to the built up of shutdowns, registry files, and current crap that came with Vista. Now, my linux box with half the hardware & credentials, runs better than the Vista Box. So, I'll wait for Windows 7 to be released and update that Laptop. For programming and design, I use my Linux computer running Ubuntu. Everything works in it, faster, and easier. I also don't have to worry about viruses and it's cheaper to have a Linux server than a Windows server. Also, with SSH, I can access the server anywhere, update it, and run any maintenance that would need to be done. Windows 2003/8 ummm yeah right, someone has to be onsite.

sidekick
sidekick

Windows isn't perfect, but it has remote desktop, which works fine for remote management. It needs to be secured with VPN, or I think it can be done directly with SSL (It can be done directly without SSL, but I wouldn't recommend it). Maybe a little more work to set up the security end of things than SSH, but not too bad. Now, if you think someone has to be onsite because your afraid it will crash.... And why does Windows still include telnet, but not SSH (unless this has changed in 2008)?

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

Lord only knows why.. but it is.. SSH is still a third party addon. Remote Desktop is very nice, I save a lot of time running about the office by simply jumping into a system that way. Remote Assistance works for our mobile machine though we only touch machines that come in through the VPN. Now, I'd love it even more if I could drop into a secure cli and make my changes that way by command or text file editing. On the rare occasions when I need a GUI app, run it from the command line and have it display locally. All without the extra weight of a full desktop animated image. But.. OpenSSH has spoiled me so. I dropped into a remote machine a few weeks back to confirm the firewall rules and install a flash player and web browser. No remote desktop needed. ;)

The Scummy One
The Scummy One

I would have to say SUSE 10 would be the Linux answer to XP. It is a stable and easy to use system with lots of bloat (at least more than other distros).

Chi-7
Chi-7

XP-Pro is one I will miss, Kubuntu or SuSE 11.0 would be perfectly stable and functional with good emulation capacities. Both have outstanding hardware detection, friendly package management and very low gray matter demands on deployment schemes. click, click,

The Scummy One
The Scummy One

I have read some SUSE 11 drawbacks on zdnet. My own experiences werent that great either. SUSE 10 was more stable and a better experience. For a speedier, less bloated OS, PCLOS is my fav.. However, in some areas SUSE 10 blows it away.

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

"Fedora, Mandriva and Ubuntu didn't work for me but Suse covers my needs" And that is what it's about, the platform that fits the use. A single brand doesn't do it all.

richard.bligdon
richard.bligdon

Long install,yes(not as long as it used to be),but once it's done...you're laughing! I started on Suse with v.7.0,then came back with 10.0 and now with v11.0 everything...samba,media is working almost perfect.I tried Ubuntu 8.04,Mandriva 2008,Fedora 10 didn't like them,but,Opensuse...Da ist wunderbar! It includes software some Linuxes(ie: Xandros)make you may for! For businesses,there is SLES and SLED,for homes,etc Opensuse...all backed by Novell!

Chi-7
Chi-7

The package management is sometimes painful and slow, and there are some GUI inequities, Kubuntu also shares a few similar woes. However I am over 400 installs of both systems, Kubuntu and SuSE, CLI intervention was required on 6 installs, not shabby in my book. Besides, whats really slow to some one who has suffered with the natural decay of performance and increased seek times from an unmaintained file system.

Chi-7
Chi-7

I have yet to play with PCLOS but will go in quest of it, and I do have to admit, I still prefer SuSE 10.0, you could just build it pretty lean, I also think the Riserfs was better for large numbers of small files. I'm just not comfortable with Ext3 yet.

Terrylew
Terrylew

Ubuntu is the XP of the Linux world, it just work out of the box, and could be considered to be the most user friendly of all. Once XP goes away, Ubuntu has one of the greatest opportunity, and does not require any new hardware upgrade or additional expense....It is Ubuntu time...

jtupulis-3116926
jtupulis-3116926

Tried Ubuntu, looked good, installed for my mother in law. She is happy (web, documents, e-mail), I'm not - problems with peripherals, like webcam, printer.

fatman65535
fatman65535

Like you, I have had minor problems with Ubuntu since I installed it along side my current XP install. The only area I have had problems are internal dial up WINmodems (not the external serial ones), and a web cam. preparing for the Ubuntu install, I had cleaned my system of as much crap as possible. I was pleasantly surprised how easy it was to split a 20BG drive into two 9GB OS partitions and a 1GB linux swap partition. I then split the second drive (500GB) into both Windoze and Ubuntu partitions. There is no way in hell I am going to "down grade" to Vista(ster), let along Windoze 7.

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

If it's an integrated modem on the motherboard then the user is kind of stuck unless choosing to replace it with piece of good hardware. If it's an included modem in one of the slots; use that little green board for practice at the local golf driving range. Heck, if my only platforms where Windows and Dos, I'd be replacing that winmodem before booting the system for the first time. Those jumperless misserable pieces of crap where always more of a pain in work with. For the all of 20$ a modem costs, it's worth putting something with proper jumpers or a com port cable on that machine. (Don't be fooled, this is pre-Linux grief left over from my BBS sysop days. Winmodem; another technology that should be taken behind the barn and shot in the face.) I digress though. If a Winmodem is all the user has and all the user has available too them then one has to make it work as best as possible.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

If that's the only type of modem the hardware manufacturers use, what choice is there? Purchase an external when there's already a working modem on board?

jmgarvin
jmgarvin

It's 2009 man! With that being said, web cams can be a pain in the ass (I'm looking at you logitech!). I've found some drivers that do some crazy stuff to make it work.

The Scummy One
The Scummy One

they aer still in use? Oh and Winmodem stands for Windows modem (software driven), why would it be expected to work in Linux? Just my $.02

tr
tr

One of Ubuntu's strengths is the size of the support community. Unless you have bleeding edge equipment, someone has had and resolved the same problems you are having.

Chi-7
Chi-7

Mathew, what a breath of fresh air it was to hear your view, good things normally require some effort to accomplish. Far too many whine because they may actually may have to exercise a bit of gray matter. At 60+ I still enjoy a challenge, just another opportunity to learn.

jtupulis-3116926
jtupulis-3116926

Really, I've done a lot of things with a little help :) from Ubuntu forums. There are solutions proposed in the forums, which look adequate to my symptoms, but still, my webcam and printer are not working :( Probably this is because my computer hardware config is not a standard one and customized.

matthew.balthrop
matthew.balthrop

is the community. I haven't had terrible experiences with MS support, but one thing i have always found great is the willingness of Linux support to teach those who are new to the OS. Ubuntu forums has some of the best help i have came across. -alias

dembaland
dembaland

I have been using Ubuntu for 2.5 yrs now and it takes just a search on their site and you can get just about anything, i also like the ubuntu chat rooms , very useful, nice place to meet other gurus especially if you are looking for a quick command to fix sth real quick. I hope the community never stops.

matthew.balthrop
matthew.balthrop

I haven't had too many problems with Ubuntu, there are some issues i have ran into. For example, i have a printer that only has drivers available Windows/Mac. I'm sure there is a way around it, i have only used Linux-based OS's for a couple months now. Like jdah5 said, the community is huge and there is an answer for just about everything. You just have to find it. Linux may not be as user-friendly initially, but the it's worth learning. -alias

realneil
realneil

I like that it is all inclusive, nice and secure, and easy to learn for my older, less techno-savy clients. Because of it's lower system requirements, I find that I can install it over their older Windows OS and it runs faster than Windows ever did. I don't have to talk them into any upgrades, and in this economy they can't afford to upgrade too much anyway considering their fixed income status. The first 5 or 6 that I did keep telling their friends and It's kept me busy as I want to be for months. These people don't care about the latest windows games, they just want to use the web and write the grand kids an E-Mail every now and then. Ubuntu is perfect for them.

Editor's Picks