General discussion


Is Linux Desktop ready for prime time?

By Prefbid II ·
One of the things that has facinated me on Linux is the question of when it would be ready for real general release (and not just for geeks). To understand my position, I have been involved with Unix for better than 17 years and would consider myself a "rusty" master of the OS. I have not been diligent in keeping up with the changes and permutations, so I get surprised occasionally.

This last weekend I installed Fedora Core 4 over an older RH Linux install. I learned a lot about the "state of Linux" from that install. First of all, the Linux install has improved tremendously over the last couple of years. I found the steps to do the install to be far simpler than anything I had done in the past. I've gotten several things to work that never worked before so overall I am really pleased with the transition. On the other hand, Linux is still not ready for prime time deployment. If I did not have my "guru" hat on during several steps, I would not have finished. I used stanton-finley's installation notes to guide me through the process. I found those notes to be much easier to read and more comprehensive than the official notes.

Here are some of the issues that I had to deal with:
1. Instructions for correctly burining CDs is lacking. I found places on the net that said you had to use cdrecord in order to get a proper burn. It turns out that K3b is actually the best tool to use -- its just a little hard to find the right setting ("Burn to image").
2. The RH update took better than 14 hours to complete after the install. There is no indication on the machine that it is still working or is dead and 14 hours of "looking dead" is far too nerve wrecking for most people. I suspect that some of the time is because it is trying to digest too much at once. Seems there is no priority order to it, like update the kernel, restart, then update the next package.
3. Thunderbird did not load in the initial package. I manually loaded Thunderbird (it was on the disk) but it was missing 2 libraries, so I had to find them and install them.
4. I went through some issues to get yum installed. It does not seem to install "ready to use" and has to be booted to get going. Too mach typing. It is a real shame because it is a pretty good installation manager. I've been having a hard time finding the rules for how to expand it to include other distributions, but the instructions are hard to find.
5. I installed RealPlayer v 10 manually. It wasn't hard, but it was different than anything else that had been loaded up to that time.
6. Printer maintenance requires you to supply the root password. I hate that. I had to use one of my tricks to bypass that restriction. My printer queue jambs occasionally and I would prefer that my kids just go in and delete the queue themselves.
7. Most help files are beyond worthless.

Other than that it worked real well. I love the new Gnome. Thunderbird is getting close to being real helpful. Firefox needs a few tweaks, but I like it a lot more than IE. OpenOffice is excellent except for graphing in the spreadsheet and the find and replace in the editors. I haven't tried the databases yet. Many items in the menus have names that are far too cryptic.

Overall I think it is fine for us geek types, but it still needs some work before I would start recommending it to anyone for a home desktop.

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I both agree and disagree

by Jaqui In reply to Is Linux Desktop ready fo ...

yes, RED HAT'S products are sadly lacking in readiness for business use.
Fedora is designed for home use, not business use and I would never recommend to anyone to use Red Hat's products at all.
[ 14 installs, no mountable root partition, 6 installs failed during install, one functioning install that did not take the configuration specified during the install = Red Hat is garbage ].

Xandros, single cdrom version [ free download version ] windows like, user has limited options during install, only the bare minimum is installed for a gui system [ KDE instead of GNOME ] all admin functions can only be accessed through su, as root login to a gui is locked out. [ both a plus and a minus, as configuring the system for system defaults is a pain when runlevel 3 has been stolen from you and you have to work through a gui. ]

Vector, very similar to Xandros, based on slakware instead of debian has it's own issues where in depth knowledge is needed.

Ubuntu Gnome and debian based distro, currently very popular.

gnoppix and knoppix, debian based, G[nome]oppix or K[de]oppix both very stable and reliable single cd distros.

Mandriva, actually a far better installer than red hat has, with most configuration taking place after install and before reboot. the updater allows for ranking of updates, by security, bugfix or normal update.

Debian has majorly improved the install process recently, but it is still not for general use, as the ncurses based installer and aptitude [ install more packages after base install ] are not for those used to MS' "hand holding like you are to stupid to cross the street alone style of user interacction."

Most distros also have made the same mistake of defaulting to runlevel 5 if you install the x server, which is pure stupidity in my opinion, default to what the user wants by giving them a choice!! [ Mandriva actually does this }

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Unix Admin has never had a problem except with the ISO

by X-MarCap In reply to I both agree and disagree

I haven't ever had a problem installing any type of Linux yet. Slackware (OK I'M OLD) RH 7.3 - FC5, Debian Vanilla and Caldera all were one pass installs... New hardware may make you get to driver writing, but I haven't had problems...

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by mcangeli In reply to Is Linux Desktop ready fo ...

1. k3b is mearly a gui frontend for cdrecord. So, in reality, yea, cdrecord is the best way (in linux) to burn the cd. The issue is that most people will probably be coming from a windows desktop (at least if they're going to Fedora), so they should use nero or something like that. And it would be insane to try and write directions for EVERY piece of software out there that burns cds.
2. RH Update depends on several things, the fact that there is no indicator is probably an oversight on the programers part. However, the length of time it takes to update could be due to package size or network connection. I cannot wait until the updaters use something along the lines of a trackerless bittorrent method to share the packages.
3. You can't expect every distribution to include every piece of software available for doing something thats already included. For most people kmail works just dandy.
4. The way around yum is ./configure, make && make install.
5. You installed RP?? WTF were you thinking??
6. This isn't a distro specific thing, this is a CUPS thing. The printserver requires certain privileges that a normal user does/should not have. Its like having a user account on a windows box that isn't allowed to install software. It makes sense.
7. Ah, thats what google is for.

Other than that, I will say over the past 6 years linux has progressed nicely in to something I'd setup on my grandmothers computer for web browsing and email. If document formating was universal, I'd probably even push to have more companies move to it. It has come a long way and its making great strides every day.

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Maybe that's why

by Prefbid II In reply to Issues....

I get a sense of "you are an idiot if..." from reading your post.

4. Why is doing a series of make commands instead of YUM supposed to be a good thing? (I happen to be a "make" contributor, so I have no problem doing it myself). I take that as defacto proof that linux is not ready for the average user if the answer to all installation questions is "learn how to install using the command line".

5. What's wrong with RealPlayer? It happens to work rather well. Unlike XMMS, RP takes no effort to figure out how it works and windows users would see it as a "connection to home". It even comes with a real help file.

6. I take complete exception to your print analysis. Fedora is supposed to be for a HOME user and not a business network user. That means that 99% of the time, the only printer to deal with is the one that is attached to the PC. Even if the printer is a shared one, it is shared between family members or roommates. CUPS has nothing dangerous on it when the only printer to deal with is one attached to the PC. You only start running into problems when you are sharing a print queue and it is important that one user does not knock another user out or looks at what someone else is printing.

7. Telling someone that "all help is on-line" is great for people who are always on and always on high-speed. Once again, that is an acceptable assumption for business users, but what about the non-high speed home user? Also, have you tried looking for help on google when you are not sure what something is called? I did some of that yesterday and it takes far too long. I was looking for a feature on Thunderbird and I could not figure out where they hid it. I had to read through 4 articles on line after trying 3 different Google searches before finding out that the official name of what I wanted was called "top-posting". Once I knew that, Google worked fine. However, if Thunderbird came with a decent help file, I could have read the entire help file in the time it took me to discover that one issue on line. Google is not an acceptable excuse for developers not writing the help files.

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by mcangeli In reply to Maybe that's why

No, if, it came across that way, I'm sorry, I didn't mean to imply you were an idiot. If I thought that I would have come out and said it.

My point was that yes, Linux has come a long way. There are still problems in all aspects. Until there is a UNIVERSAL point, click, install method across the board, ANYONE using this distribution that expects to install new software should KNOW how to use the CLI to install.

As far as real player, these days, almost anything you need to play can be played in xine or mplayer, not to mention totem. Again, this comes from the angle of too many things to do the same thing. Why install it? Most of the sites these days are using wmv or asf anyways. I seldom come across something where I need real player any more.

If you don't like the way printing is currently done, then do something about it. You said you have a little trick to get around the password, well instead of saying that, share what the trick is if you think people should be able to admin the printer without passwords. Even at home, its a good idea to have certain things passworded. In XP on my machine at home I have almost everything in the control panel locked down simply because I do not want someone using my machine to come in and mess with it. The number one way to screw up a machine is between the keyboard and the chair. Even if the box is a stand alone, never connect to anything online box, it still runs the risk if you open things like that. Though if you're going to open the printer configs to everyone you might as well adapt that standard with all the config files.

When it comes to unix help files, there is an inherant lack of quality there. Anyone who has tried to decipher a man page can tell you that. And it is the one area that will hinder someone coming from windows, though I do have to say, Clippy isn't all that helpful either.

I did note that you didn't have an issue with my first three points..... anything wrong there?

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First 3

by Prefbid II In reply to

I have no problem with your reply to the first 3 points. I think we are approaching this from a different perspective and that easily explains the differences in approach.

I was attempting to do the install while trying to put myself in the shoes of a low tech user. Of course, even in the Windows world, if the user is low enough tech, they are not going to attempt to reinstall the Windows OS either. If they needed an upgrade they would either pay someone to do the upgrade or they would just buy a new machine.

So, I suppose that the install should be one where it is at worst case able to help someone do an install that might be savvy enough to reinstall Windows.

As an aside, I tried to upgrade my Compaq W98 machine a few years ago and ended up having to pay a Windows guru to get it working again. Turns out that Compaq was so tied to the OEM version of W98 that it was virtually impossible to upgrade. The windows guru charged a flat rate and said he would NEVER do a Compaq again. It took him 9 hours to reinstall the old OS when it should have taken him 90 minutes tops. I still have that machine and I don't use it for anything anymore, so I may start using it as a Linux practice install box.

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by apotheon In reply to

Manpages are excellent technical references. They are not newbie-level help files, though.

There's nothing wrong with manpages, and in fact I'm quite grateful they exist: I find them a heckuva lot more useful than any more basic help files like the sort one would find in Windows, typically. One simply has to A) know how to make good use of manpages and B) have a certain amount of technical bent.

In short: manpages are awesome for geeks (or system administrators, if you prefer), but not so much for end users.

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XMMS, CUPS security

by apotheon In reply to Maybe that's why

How exactly does XMMS take "effort" to figure out? It's basically just WinAmp for Linux. In fact, considering how much of a direct rip-off it is, I'm surprised they didn't just call it LinAmp.

I'd rather that a system or application get designed for security first, and nongeek accessibility only where it doesn't conflict with security. That aside, though, CUPS should definitely be easier to work with than it is. Luckily, distributions like Debian have a tendency to make CUPS "just work". It's only when you're trying to do something beyond the norm with it, or using a less well-organized distribution, that you start running into problems.

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I agree, but...

by wh7qq In reply to Is Linux Desktop ready fo ...

Linux still has a lot of warts that may require some geeksavy to overcome but I agree with others that FC 4 may not be the best exemplar of desktop linux.

I gave up on FC 2 (after RH 9 and FC 1) because I got into dependency **** too often in trying to add or update (RPM don't cut it!). I fooled around with Knoppix and Ubuntu and have finally settled in with Kanotix. Installation was a breeze and almost everything worked. Firefox and Thunderbird are standard as is KDE. The 5.10 Ubuntu live CD is nice once installed but is much slower to start than the Knoppix/Kanotix distros and requires user intervention before loading up.
I haven't tried the full install version.

As for updates and add-ons, being stuck with a 56K connection in my rural location, Synaptic was painfully slow but did give good feedback. A better solution for me was to use a set of Debian 3.1 disks for my source, and that was a flash.

That said, getting a lucent/agere winmodem to run on a laptop was a bit of a challenge but there are some great posts on the various forums that got me going. Some older hardware is a pain. 2.6.x kernels seem to have obsoleted my USR 5610 PCI hardware modems and I've yet to get my Epson 636 scanner going.

I'd say with the current crop of Debian based distros (but definitely not Debian itself...strictly for certified geeks), Linux is very close to being ready for the masses, but not quite yet. Maybe Linspire is there...haven't tried it yet except to find that the live CD version (one or two editions back) trashed my GRUB installation (leaving Windows XP alone though...very rude!).


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I agree, and here's why...

by dank In reply to Is Linux Desktop ready fo ...

Have a look at my page
for my list of reasons why the average
user doesn't feel comfortable with Linux
yet, and what people are doing about them.

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