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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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Like your site

by Prefbid II In reply to I agree, and here's why.. ...

Congratulations on a very well written site covering this topic. I'm wondering some about the facts that you have listed, though.

For example, under the topic of plugability -- I've actually found Linux to be far superior to Windows. When I've plugged my camera in, Linux just automatically brings up the camera icon on the desktop and I can transfer pictures in seconds. I have never installed the "required" windows software. On the other hand, I still haven't figured out how to get the pictures to load on the Windows machines. The software failed several times and I found it was just easier to do it the same way I do in Linux.

Also with "availability" -- the reason that Linux is not marketed on higher end machines is because the producers think that people who buy linux are just trying to be cheaper. So, they are trying to help them along by putting it on barely usable hardware -- in order to drive the price down. What really gets my goat on this, though, is that if you ask for a windows machine sans XP, you will get about a $20-50 discount. That's not enough of a discount for most people to jump from a "known" entity like Microsoft.

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use other flavour

by kernel.opensource In reply to Is Linux Desktop ready fo ...

Use SUSE 10 which is free download and works good.
Also satisfies you

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Updating to 2008

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

I realise that the original article was written in 2005 and by now some of the issues you mentioned have been cleared up. But to answer your question: Is Linux Desktop ready for prime time. I believe that the answer is still NO. It's a Windows-centric world and there are still many products out there that won't run on Linux. For example, we use Checkpoint's firewall. It's a Linux based firewall that also runs on the Nokia platform. Would you believe that all the desktop software is Windows only. I also work with a lot of financial people. Most of the analysis is done in Excel with a heavy reliance on macros. Well, apart from Novell that's been working on OpenOffice Calc's macro compatibility with Excel, I've had to fall back to Excel. There are also a host of VNC type server environments that are installable only on Windows or Macs.

There are alternatives of course, but it just seems that most of the people I deal with work in a very Windows-centric environment.

How about ease of installation and usability. I use Ubuntu desktop and I'm very happy with it. Although I had a nightmare of an upgrade from 7.10 to 8.04, it's been pretty good so far. To work around my need to use Windows, I connect to a remote machine with VNC. Configuring the desktop is easier now. I have a very smooth desktop provided by Compiz on top of GNOME. Creating smart shortcut keys for my favourite applications is easy to do. Doing simple things like taking a screenshot and editing images is also easy. Creating file associations for double-clicking on icons is simple to do as well. The GNOME graphical desktop is certainly heavy but with the right hardware, it doesn't get in the way.

One sad note is that it's fairly easy to crash. I've seen both Firefox and OpenOffice bring GNOME to its knees. Fortunately, in most cases, when GNOME crashes, it doesn't mean a complete system reboot.

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