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Is Linux Ready for the Desktop? -- by James Cherryh
Monday, March 07 2005 @ 02:57 AM EST

Is Linux ready for the desktop? Whose desktop? Many Groklaw readers use it as their desktop, so clearly it's ready for some desktops. What about yours? Read on and see.

****************************

Is Linux ready for the Desktop?

~ by James Cherryh

We're often told by pundits that "Linux is not ready for the desktop". I've always found this statement a bit odd, because I've been using Linux on my desktop for about seven years now, so clearly it's ready for my personal desktop. In my opinion the software available for the Linux KDE and Gnome desktops broadly matches that available for other proprietary desktop environments.

So I started thinking about desktop environments I've used in the past, to try and understand what the pundits thought might be missing from the Linux desktop. I cast my mind back to 1998 when I was working for a multinational insurance company who, along with many other small and large businesses around the world at that time, used Windows 3.11 as their desktop environment, and the pundits weren't complaining about that, so presumably Windows 3.11 was ready for the desktop.

Yet by just about any measure I can think of, my current Linux desktop environment is superior to Windows 3.11 -- so what can commentators actually mean by saying that "Linux is not ready for the desktop", if a clearly inferior environment WAS, then, ready for the desktop?

I thought that perhaps what they were actually rather snidely suggesting was that Linux didn't natively run Microsoft Windows compatible software - but then, neither does the Apple Macintosh, and I've never heard anyone saying the Mac isn't ready for the desktop.

Then I thought that perhaps the phrase is a cipher for saying that you can't run Microsoft Office on the Linux desktop, because that is available for the Mac and would explain why they critique Linux particularly. I know that you can buy third party software to let you run Microsoft Office on Linux, but it doesn't support it natively.

I thought this latter meaning was the most likely meaning for the phrase "Linux isn't ready for the desktop", and spent some time being cross about it. If it was their true thinking then Linux would never be ready for the desktop, because the chances of Microsoft releasing Office For Linux are pretty low.

It would also mean that however advanced Linux desktop environments became Linux would never be considered ready for the desktop, which is an odd position to be in - why don't they just come out and say "Linux won't be ready for the desktop until it runs Microsoft Office natively?".

The thought that perhaps pundits don't really know what they are talking about flashed through my brain briefly - but that couldn't be true, surely?

Then, one day, the answer occurred to me, prompted by this exchange written by the great Douglas Adams in "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy".

Deep Thought : [...] I think the problem, to be quite honest with you, is that you've never actually known what the question is.

Loonquawl : But it was the Great Question! The Ultimate question of Life, the Universe and Everything.

Deep Thought : Yes, but what actually is it?

Phouchg : Well, you know, it's just Everything. Everything...

Deep Thought : Exactly! So once you do know what the question actually is, you'll know what the answer means.

Perhaps, I thought, the commentators don't really know what they mean when they say "Linux is not ready for the desktop".

If this is the case -- then, I asked myself, could there be an answer? A real answer to this question? And then it struck me: although commentators talk about "The Desktop" and when Linux will be ready for it, there actually is no such thing as "The Desktop". Everyone's requirements for their desktop environment are different. In order to know whether Linux is ready for "A Desktop", one has to know some more about the desktop concerned.

In this document, I look at the desktop requirements for some classes of users, judge whether Linux is ready for them, and provide suggestions where it is not. I haven't done this in an exhaustive feature-tick driven manner, but rather approach the problem by looking at what some classes of people want from their desktop and considering whether Linux can provide what they need.

Superuser Jenny

Jenny is studying towards a Masters degree in computational fluid dynamics and works as IT support in a local call centre part-time to support herself.

Jenny runs leading edge Gentoo Linux on her AMD-64 at home, which she uses to run simulations for her coursework. Most of her code uses C code libraries which are well supported on Linux.

Jenny currently runs the latest version of KDE on her box. She spends most of her time on her machine in Emacs editing code. She has ripped her CD collection to disk and plays them on her computer while she is working. She uses OpenOffice.org when she needs to word process documents.

Jenny is an atypically knowledgeable personal computer user. She uses Linux because it is free and does everything she needs and lets her have total control of her computer. She knows what options exist under Linux for desktop environments and has swapped between KDE and Gnome as each leapfrogged the other in terms of features. Her computer runs flat out for weeks at a time - if she isn't running a simulation for her course, she's doing a Gentoo "emerge world" and compiling all her software from scratch.

Grandma Gretel

Gretel uses her computer for web browsing chess-related web pages and the family web pages of her children, to send email, organise her photos, and compose family and business letters using a word processor. She currently uses an old Window 98 box which is maintained by her granddaughter Jenny.

Jenny is getting tired of cleaning worms and spyware off Gretel's machine, and she decides that the Linux desktop is now good enough for Gretel.

One day while Gretel is at the local chess club (she teaches on Tuesdays), Jenny backs up and rebuilds Gretel's machine using Mandrake Linux. Jenny sets up a firewall and installs OpenOffice.org 2 for word processing. She enables SSH so she can maintain and back up Gretel's machine remotely.

In the process Jenny finds that Gretel's dusty old scanner is not supported under Linux, so she nips down to the shop and buys a new USB one that is supported. Jenny labels the Firefox icon on the desktop as "The Internet" and the OpenOffice.org icon as "Word Processing", and she cleans out the menus to remove apps that Gretel isn't likely to need. Jenny also installs GNUCash to help Gretel manage her finances.

When Gretel gets home Jenny tells her that Jenny has updated the machine and helps her settle in with the build. Gretel has to call Jenny for help a few times in the next week, but once she's settled in her computer works more smoothly for her than it did before.

Call Centre Greg

Greg works in a call centre for a financial institution. They have several call centres scattered across the country, with hundreds of staff in each one.

The call centre uses custom intranet-based software for their staff, running in Microsoft Windows, and the operators make light use of word processing and spreadsheet software. Supervisors use some extra software which is only available for Microsoft Windows.

The call centre machines are leased and have reached the end of their useful life. IT support for the call centres have seen support costs increase due to worms, viruses and spyware, and would like to centralise management of the machines.

Jenny does some work which helps IT support decide to move to a terminal server environment using the Linux Terminal Server Project. Most of the new machines are purchased without an operating system or disk drives and the support staff load a customised Linux boot environment which connects to the terminal server and runs software from there. The few supervisor machines are kept running Microsoft Windows like they did before, and the IT staff contact the vendors of the Microsoft-only software to tell them that they're looking for a cross-platform replacement for their supervisor software.

When call centre staff boot their machines they transparently load their Linux operating system from a small number of servers. They use Firefox for the intranet software which works fine.

IT support find that their workload is greatly reduced with the new architecture. Broken machines can be simply swapped out for a replacement which reboots directly from the server. Centralised administration of the software load on the servers means software updates can be delivered by installing on a single server machine. Use of diskless Linux on the desktop means that the virus, worm and spyware problems disappear.

Greg doesn't see any of the IT support benefits. He reboots his machine on Monday morning and sees the intranet icon in the middle of this screen as promised in the email about the changeover. He normally runs his web browser full screen. In a few moments of quiet time he looks through the Gnome menu at the bottom left of his desktop and sees that IT support have installed a few simple card games on the desktop for just such an occasion. Greg really doesn't know much about his new desktop system, except that he was told it was being installed to save money. It works enough like the previous one that it doesn't affect him unduly.

Greg Gamer

When he goes home at nights Greg is a hard-core PC gamer. He'll drop $500 on a new graphics card to increase his frame rate without a second thought. Greg runs whatever variant of Microsoft Windows he needs to make his games work. Greg doesn't do much with his computer other than gaming - a little web browsing and some web email using Google Gmail.

Although it is feasible to write cross-platform PC games that run under Linux, the Linux market isn't big enough yet to convince most games companies to do it, although some do and (for example) Doom 3 was released for Linux as well as Microsoft Windows.

Greg knows a little bit about Linux, but as far as he's concerned until it runs today's number one games out of the box he won't even consider it as his desktop. The financial cost of running Windows is trivial compared to the amount of money Greg spends on games and new hardware.

Michael Gamer

Michael is a gamer, though not as hard-core as Greg. Michael refuses to run Windows for personal reasons. He has a subscription to TransGaming which sends him Linux software which allows him to run some popular Windows games which he has bought for his Linux box. Sometimes Michael and Greg get together with the boys to spend an evening shooting things on their computers. When it's a game that doesn't run on his Linux box Michael is happy to munch on pizza instead. It's a personal thing for him.

Michael also uses his computer for web browsing and email and to compose the occasional letter. When he needs to email a document to someone else he sends it as a PDF which OpenOffice.org writes out for him.

Angela Accountant

Angela is a senior partner at a large accounting firm (the same one Greg and Jenny work for). She uses Microsoft Windows on her machines because it's what she's used to. The senior partners use Microsoft Office extensively and have a variety of custom macros and other Microsoft Windows software they use regularly.

Cost isn't an issue for Angela and her colleagues. What they have works, and there is no reason to change it.

Matt IT Manager

Matt is an IT manager at Angela's firm. Apart from the partners (who basically get whatever they want or need), Matt is under pressure every year to cut costs.

Matt has a pilot project to investigate Linux and open source software for the staff whose computers he supports.

He has already identified that OpenOffice.org version 2 looks like it will meet the word processing, spreadsheet and presentation needs of about 95% of the staff, at significant cost savings over their existing proprietary software. Matt likes this idea because OpenOffice.org runs on Microsoft Windows as well as Linux, and hence it doesn't require much change in their desktop operating systems, and Matt might be able to get this organised in time for their next software upgrade.

Matt has identified that replacing their Microsoft Windows file servers with Samba on Linux will provide some significant savings in Microsoft Windows Client Access Licences, and has a pilot project underway to test this, that is going well.

Looking further ahead he can see some more cost savings in replacing Microsoft Windows with Linux on the desktop, just like they've done for the call centres. There are some problems here though, in that the firm has a number of custom built applications that only run on Microsoft Windows.

Matt has introduced a policy that all new applications must be intranet based, so that the client that runs the software is not important - all it needs is a web browser.

In addition, for the next three years he has allocated budget money to convert all the existing in-house applications so that they are intranet based.

At the end of that time there will only be small islands of staff in the company who will be using applications for which there is no Linux equivalent. If they move to Linux desktops Matt intends to support them using a mix of terminal server or virtualisation software, so they will be running their Microsoft Windows applications from within a Linux desktop. He has approached a number of the firm's vendors to tell them he is in the market for cross-platform or web-based versions of their software.

Matt hasn't locked himself into running Linux, but the moves he is making towards intranet-based software will reduce his support and deployment costs regardless of which desktop platform the company moves to.

Conclusion

What can we conclude from this? Well, as has been said before, one can prove anything by concocting suitable examples.

What I think some thought shows though is that the pundits really are wrong. There really isn't anything called "The Linux Desktop". Whether Linux is useful or suitable for you depends on what you want to do with it. The decision is different depending on what your requirements are.

Some people may feel they are better off staying with whatever desktop environment they have now. Other people may choose to move to Linux because it will save them or their companies huge amounts of money. As has been said, moving to Linux is a one-off cost that saves you money every year forever after.

The choice, if you feel you need to make one, should be made on the basis of what your requirements are and how well Linux meets them, just like any other decision you need to make.


James Cherryh is an IT systems designer and programmer in Canberra, Australia.


  


Is Linux Ready for the Desktop? -- by James Cherryh | 343 comments | Create New Account
Comments belong to whoever posts them. Please notify us of inappropriate comments.
Is Linux Ready for the Desktop? -- by James Cherryh
Authored by: Anonymous on Monday, March 07 2005 @ 03:08 AM EST
Its actually the wrong question:
The question should be - is the desktop as we know it with its dislocated
resources good for the the home user, the small office and the large company.
The home user has benefited but thats about all.
In the last 15 years I have not seen any noticible increase in productivity from
companies using 'the desktop'. Though of course the reports denying this are a
lot prettier and much much larger.

[ Reply to This | # ]

OT Posts Here
Authored by: jkondis on Monday, March 07 2005 @ 03:23 AM EST
Thank you for your support.

Don't forget to switch to "HTML Formatted" if you are using tags, and
preview before you post.

---
Don't steal. Microsoft hates competition.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Corrections here please
Authored by: fudisbad on Monday, March 07 2005 @ 03:30 AM EST
Just in case.

---
See my bio for copyright details re: this post.
This subliminal message has been brought to you by Microsoft.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Wrong about superuser Jenny + OOo
Authored by: Anonymous on Monday, March 07 2005 @ 03:31 AM EST

First, Superuser Jenny would not be using OpenOffice.org because OOo is not 64
bit clean, not even OOo 2.0 beta! Would she rather run 32 bit version of OOo or
auctex+(x)emacs? I think the answer is obvious.

Second, Superuser Jenny would not be using OpenOffice.org because most
scientific papers would rather papers to be submitted in some variety of Tex or
LaTex.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Is Linux Ready for the Desktop? -- by James Cherryh
Authored by: DeepBlue on Monday, March 07 2005 @ 03:42 AM EST
In addition, for the next three years he has allocated budget money to convert all the existing in-house applications so that they are intranet based.

Just make sure the applications are built on Open Standards!! IMO the biggest barrier for many businesses is not Microsoft Office but custom intranet applications written for IE / Active X. (NB I'm not justifying companies who have done this - just recognising the reality.)

I made the switch last week but currently still need to dual boot for the following:-

  1. Accessing my company intranet at home (seems to be a confiuration problem as there is a connectivy tool in my Linux build).
  2. Custom Intranet Applications - especially the Expenses tool!
  3. Listening to the NFL and MLB media feeds - will be writing to them this week and threatening to cancel my subscription!

My experience loading Linux this time compared to previously was that installation was far smoother - that has been a big obstacle in the past. Even my wireless card worked this time.

---
All that matters is whether they can show ownership, they haven't and they can't, or whether they can show substantial similarity, they haven't and they can't.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Is Linux Ready for the Desktop? -- by James Cherryh
Authored by: Anonymous on Monday, March 07 2005 @ 03:48 AM EST
> Jenny is studying towards a Masters degree in
> computational fluid dynamics [...]

> Jenny runs leading edge Gentoo Linux on her AMD-64 at
> home, which she uses to run simulations for her
> coursework. Most of her code uses C code libraries which
> are well supported on Linux.

A CFD student using *C* ? HERESY - burn the witch !

Toon Moene (not logged in while at "work")

[ Reply to This | # ]

My personal guess
Authored by: eskild on Monday, March 07 2005 @ 03:53 AM EST
Many organisations use M$ Outlook & M$ Exchange for collaboration internally
and to some extent externally.

I should think that Turing-Complete replacements for these two applications
would be an important enabler for a smott changeover.

---
Eskild
Denmark

[ Reply to This | # ]

PJ, opinion please
Authored by: Anonymous on Monday, March 07 2005 @ 04:10 AM EST
Hi there,

I'm very curious to your own opinion. You've said repeatedly that you use a
mac and linux.

Would you recommend Linux over macintosh as a desktop environment for
the average home user?

I know I wouldn't, but that's because I don't support an x hour setup and
fixing of my environment outside a GUI that helps me do it - and as such I'm
used to things that work pretty much out of the box.

And I don't support an environment that doesn't let me plug in about 80 % of
the peripherals that are out there.

And frankly, I just don't want to compare anything with windows 3.11 when
thinking about a productive and fun environment.

Disclaimer: when I think about linux desktop, I don't think about an
environment where spotty nephews (or handsome geeks) and IT personnel
are ready to support me when I'm in trouble.

Disclaimer2: just like you, I LOVE the idea and principles of Linux. I just
wouldn't install it at home for general purpose computing. I have on
occasions set up servers though, but never for my self and always as one or
two trick ponies - and even then I knew I could count on smart people to
check my work and jump in if needed.

Disclaimer3: I know not everybody wants to do digital photography and
filming or use the proprietary soft I use...

[ Reply to This | # ]

Is Linux Ready for the Desktop? -- by James Cherryh
Authored by: jkondis on Monday, March 07 2005 @ 04:18 AM EST
It's pretty simple: if you have mostly simple stuff to do, you can switch to a
Linux desktop today. The stuff works out of the box for web browsing, email,
and document and spreadsheet processing, as well as playing a few simple games
or storing your digital photos.

But when you start getting into trickier stuff, some learning is required. By
"tricker stuff" I mean things broadly like the following:
- running Windows apps under wine
- playing DVDs or things like .wmv movie files
- upgrading your desktop (KDE, Gnome)
- upgrading or adding a new hard drive
- sync'ing your Palm
- using smbfs to map a networked share on boot

Things like the above typically don't "work out of the box"; you have
to "figure them out". In my SuSE installation, the process of getting
my Clie to sync roughly consisted of: installing pilot-link, pilot-mailsync, and
kpilot using yast, figuring out that I had to change the permissions of
/dev/pilot, figuring out how to "install a new user" using pilot-link,
figuring out that jpilot works better (for me) than kpilot, figuring out how to
set up the pilot-mailsync configuration file to use my Thunderbird mailbox
directory, fighting with and working around the bugs in pilot-mailsync,
recompiling pilot-mailsync after the author fixed some of the bugs, ignoring
some of the remaining bugs which weren't really affecting me, and then finally
learning how to get the timings right between pressing "sync" in
jpilot and hitting the Hotsync key on the cradle.

Needless to say, it takes a lot of reading and futzing to get all this to work
if you don't have the knowledge to begin with. If you have some courage, and
you have a little bit of geek in your heart, you can get it to work, and it
works quite well. But it isn't as easy as installing the Palm Desktop on
Windows and hitting the Hotsync key. Of course, I have the kind of sad illness
that makes things like this a rewarding experience when I've got it all to
work.

Since I mentioned SuSE I should say that SuSE could have done a lot to improve
my experience. Due to patent issues or whatever, there are a lot of things they
DON'T include in their distribution. Getting .wmv files to play on SuSE
requires a lot of installation of rpms from "other sources" such as
packman.links2linux.org. (Also, there are some things that no one seems to make
SuSE rpms for, so sometimes a compile-from-source is necessary.) Yast is pretty
handy but if I had to do it over again, I might recommend myself to try a more
"free" distro like debian.

One thing that irks me is MS seems to be actively steering people in a direction
that makes people's software incompatible with things like wine. I use a
CAD-type package for work which only comes in a Windows version. I spent some
time trying to get it to run under Wine (it uses a hardware dongle that is
mostly incompatible with Wine) and when I "almost" got it to work, I
was informed by the company that distributes the software that they had made
some "security enhancements" in their latest version that would
guarantee it wouldn't work under wine. I won't go into details, but had they
done a very simple thing in their software, it would have worked under Wine with
no difficulty. I even got windows programs running under wine to recognize the
dongle over the loopback network interface, but the software vendor had to go
and make it impossible! What the Hell?!? I've suspected it had something to do
with them upgrading to the latest .NET or something or other, which no doubt
contains libraries that are deliberately incompatible with wine. (Yes, believe
it, MS has become an expert at writing software that detects if it is running
under wine.)

I am considering using the latest version of Win4Lin for this stuff, but then
that defeats the purpose. I *still* have to run a licensed version of Windows.

For anyone planning on upgrading their desktop to a Linux distro, just remember
that Google is your best friend, the mailing lists are your second best friend,
and the local Barnes & Noble may be your third best friend.

Oh, and in the not quite two years I've been using Linux, I've managed to do all
the above plus set up file/printer sharing, multiple web servers, firewalls, two
desktops, and even a MythTV box that works very well. And I am not a computer
professional. Further, I've got my girlfriend and stepfather using Linux,
though they need some assistance with the admin from time to time. Just to show
you it ain't impossible to learn this stuff.

---
Don't steal. Microsoft hates competition.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Is Linux Ready for the Desktop? -- by James Cherryh
Authored by: Anonymous on Monday, March 07 2005 @ 04:20 AM EST
I'm Peter and I use Windows at work because that is what is provided. I also
use Windows at home, because I was used to it, but also because when I bought a
new printer, scanner, etc, they worked. I have dabbled in Linux a few times,
but found it difficult getting everything working and found I was spending more
time getting things setup than actually using the PC.

This weekend I vowed to try again, and installed Fedora sunday PM. Only a few
questions asked and none of the difficult ones (e.g. how do you want to
partition your hard drive?). Today I have checked my documents spreadsheets etc
and can read them all, checked my email and downloaded pictures of my nephews
playing in the snow, plugged in my printer and scanner and USB hard drive, and
am now composing this whilst the PC automatically updates my installation with
new packages.

What can't I do? Play my old windows games out the box. Ah well, waste of time
anyway.

Is it ready for the desktop? Well its on mine now.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Linux on the Desktop at work and worth it
Authored by: NZheretic on Monday, March 07 2005 @ 04:49 AM EST
This post is in response to the various naysayers in these forums who say Linux on the business desktop is either not possible or not worth it.

See
http:// itheresies.blogspot.com/2004_04_01_itheresies_archive.html

* The Forces

Like many organizations around the world, the two former organizations that employed me suffered major blowouts in their IT budgets leading up to Y2K. As a result, the IT upgrades in 1998/1999 were expected to last five or six years after 2000. Windows 98SE was the latest stable platform available 1999. Keeping to budget and upgrading all the desktop *hardware* for Win2K and then XP would be difficult if not impossible.

After careful deliberation, the management at the larger organization decided to use some of its existing tech savy IT staff to evaluate Linux on the desktop as a stop gap measure and as a replacement for some of the desktops during the next upgrade round.

Neither organization operates in the IT industry and both prefer not to face direct scrutiny or suffer the hordes of Microsoft salesdroids who magically appear at the doorstep of any company publicizing Linux deployments. So both shall remain nameless for now.

* The Effort

Over the last four years I have deployed and supported almost ninety Linux desktops at my former employer. Not all of the desktops are running Linux, they still have around the same number of Win98 machines, half of which are scheduled for replacement with Linux ( either Xandros, Suse or a custom version of Fedora/Redhat ) in 2005/6. The other half will be upgraded to join the small number of current Win2K desktops and laptops.

We started out with a combination of Redhat 6.2 and Ximian Gnome. This was limited to call center and data entry. Later we put StarOffice/Linux a number of desktops for people who do not deal with incoming and outgoing Microsoft Office document formats on a regular basis.

It was a major effort. Two years ago, they could not have done it without serous expertise from the existing Unix administrators and knowledgeable folks such as myself. For example, it took myself around three weeks of hacking around with Redhat 8 to get it to the point where everything just worked and only the required functionality was exposed to the user.

* The Steps

First of all, on all PCs, Netscape ( and later Mozilla ) replaced Microsoft IE and Outlook, and since all the enterprise systems used web based interfaces, on Linux it looks very similar.

They started deploying some of the desktops HD partitions using Norton Ghost. Later they just created a small rescue partition hosting customized Linux system, that once installed, performed the same task. The administrator can set the default in the grub configure file for the next reboot. A second VFAT partition is kept on Win98 and dual boot systems. This is not overwritten by default and provides a persistent local file system.

Although they have chosen to deploy Linux using the traditional thick desktop/workstation model, they use a spare server that operates as an X11 application server. This is used on a regular basis by the helpdesk, IT support and a few Windows users that access both windows and remote X Linux. The rescue partition, that can be also network booted via PXE, is based on the Linux Terminal Server Project ( http://www.ltsp.org/ ). During an install or if a security violation is detected, the user of the desktop is booted into Linux thin client, and can access all their files though the Application server. Forensic examination, repairs and installs can take place in the background while the person uses the thin client.

Some individuals like to download and install software, either in the local filesystem or home directories, and get annoyed when the installed software is erased or overwritten. Unauthorized software installs remain a major problem in terms of both security and licensing. For those users we offered a choice, either stop installing software or buy and provision their own laptop with a loan from the organization. The individual owns the laptop but can only access the internal network if they allow the IT department to inspect the laptop on a regular basis.

We focused on getting the SAMBA services and NFS working correctly. Using pam the users have the same user name and password for each platform.

Each users networked Linux home directory contains a subdirectory that holds the SAMBA'ed share of the users networked Windows desktop and "My Documents". Any person can log in to either Linux or Windows and find their files with ease. In the same way, similar desktop icon/start menu entries and links to enterprise applications and directories on are on both Microsoft and Linux users desktop.

We handled peoples transitions from Windows to Linux in small groups. In each department, we targeted the friendly tech savvy users, some who were surprisingly quick learners, and set them up first. It's easier for people to turn to the tech savvy person at the next desk with questions than to call up the helpdesk. Once people were shown the Linux desktops in action, there was less resistance than expected. We never tried to force anyone to make the shift. Those who personally invested in complex scripted Microsoft Excel or Powerpoint documents remain free to run Microsoft Office and OpenOffice side by side on Win98se or Win2k. At least one of the scripting gurus has begun to build document scripting in OpenOffice, using Java.

Users in transition could dual boot either Linux or Win98. Later, some users could access a remote Linux desktop from Win98/Win2k using a Windows based X11-server. If a person had a problem, they could just boot or switch back into a familiar environment, and preferably log the problem with the helpdesk.

We deployed VNC on all platforms ( For Linux http://www.karlrunge.com/x11vnc/ ). All the user had to do was to call in to the helpdesk and click on "ShowDesk/OK" to let the support person see/access their desktop. This can be a surprisingly effective teaching tool. The user can follow the actions required to fix a problem, in the context the user is working in.

The transition from Microsoft Office98 to Staroffice/OpenOffice is difficult. At first we had to go though all the Office templates the targeted users needed and rewrote them for StarOffice. Before 1997, the organization relied on a few complex template macros in Microsoft Word 6. These were abandoned before 1998 because (a) the hassle required to upgrade them to each major release of Microsoft Office and (b) the number of macro virus the organization suffered despite keeping Norton Antivirus up to date twice a day. Instead of Macros and document embedded VB, a few documents are generated on the in house developed server in RTF format. Fortunately, with a little tweaking, these generated document were fully import compatible with Microsoft Office and OpenOffice.

In terms of user education, for day to day usage, most people did not find it that difficult or frightening a change from Microsoft Office to StarOffice/OpenOffice. Those who regularly designed complex layouts or Visual Basic based scripting just stuck with Microsoft Office.

The organization keeps Microsoft Office97/98 as the standard document formats, with StarOffice and now OpenOffice defaulting to saving in that format. A few internally used documents are now being stored in OpenOffice formats, as it is becoming the prefered format when the final document is shipped in Adobe PDF format.

Each department has a couple of accessible Win2k machines that run Microsoft's Office2k and IE alongside Openoffice and Firefox. These are multimedia capable systems and serve as staff Internet access, plugin device compatibility and document conversion. All of these have network limited access to the servers. A public share on the file server is used to copy content from the normal desktops. This public share is scanned each time a file is added, and dispite the Win2k desktop having up to date antivirus protection, the server side scan still pick up a few cases of spyware/malware/worms. A large Linux partition contains a checksummed bit copy of the NTFS partition. Booting Linux on these systems sets up a background script that overwrites the NTFS partition from either the local copy or the file server.

The Payoffs

Since switching to Netscape Navigator in 1998, the organization has not been subjected to the multitude of scripted vulnerabilities that plague IE and Outlook users.

They have never suffered a successful incursion by any worm/virus/trojan malware on any of the Linux desktops. They run tripwire on the desktops and can perform remote inspections of processes. There is no need for any third party antivirus software on the Linux Desktops. They do use third party antivirus tools on the servers to scan the document directories and incoming and outgoing email.


In comparison to Win98,Win2k and XP, keeping the Linux desktops up to date is a breeze. We maintain a read-only NFS'ed public directory that, after testing, we drop RPMs packages into. A cron job on each desktop inspects the directory for new files and then runs yum and updates the system. We stagger the start times to prevent overloading the network or file server. In most cases, the update takes place entirely transparent to the user.

In terms of remote support, Linux Desktops blow Win9x to XP out of the water. Beside VNC users desktops, you can access the remote desktop though a ssh'ed command line, a web based interface (webmin), or use Xnest to access a separate instance of a desktop on the same machine. In all three of the latter cases, the access can be invisible to the user of the machine. The helpdesk can pass on the address to the support engineer who, with his laptop with VPN access, can track down problems literally anywhere in the world with an Internet connection.

Thick, slim or thin, Linux desktops are in. The organization is free to deploy future Linux desktops anyway they wish.

There is no part of this deployment of Linux which is Linux vendor dependent. With a little effort it could be translated to another Linux vendor's platform or even a community based distribution such as Debian.

In my or the manager's opinion, the result was well worth the combined effort of the IT management, support staff, and users.

* That was the hard way

The effort that we put into developing our own solutions with the Linux software of the day was a major undertaking. Today, we would not have to undertake anything close to that same effort.

Xandros Desktop Management Server (xDMS)
http://www. xandros.com/products/business/xdms/xdms_intro.html
Xandros' xDMS is a close to turnkey solution for small organizations. When combined with their desktop offerings it does all that a small organization needs for the majority of its users.

Novell offers similar desktop management vary suitable for larger organizations
http://www.novell.com/p roducts/desktop/index.html
You will find that organizations that currently deploy Novells directory services can very quickly deploy Linux along side.

Both above vendors require per seat licensing, and can lock the enterprise in at the IT management level. But both also offer many of the same advantages of Linux on the desktop for a fraction of the effort and inside knowledge required.

Is Linux in the desktop for everyone in the enterprise? Maybe not. But it's a matter of when Linux will be ready, not if Linux will be ready.
But does that mean your organization should not be investigate deploying Linux on the desktop where it makes sense now? No! Start investigating where deploying Linux makes sense.
http://www.novell.com/coolsolutions/nld/features/a_linux_switch_nld.html

* Lastly

Do not trust everything Microsoft and its supporters say about Linux. They selectively deceive and outright lie.
http://www.novell.com/linux/ truth/index.html
http://www.theregister.co.uk/2004/09/09/ms_capgemini_newham_report/print.ht ml
h ttp://www.theregister.co.uk/security/security_report_windows_vs_linux/
http://www.opensourc e.org/halloween/halloween11.html
http://www.eweek.com/ article2/0,4149,1426514,00.asp

[ Reply to This | # ]

Is Linux Ready for the Desktop? -- by James Cherryh
Authored by: Anonymous on Monday, March 07 2005 @ 04:54 AM EST
Is Windows ready for the desktop?

[ Reply to This | # ]

Is Linux Ready for the Desktop? -- by James Cherryh
Authored by: ccsaxton on Monday, March 07 2005 @ 05:07 AM EST
Yes...very simple.

What you have to understand is that when you go to buy a computer from a store
most of the time you are asked how much memory you want...what kind of hard
disk...wide monitor...etc but you are not, 97% of the time, asked what operating
system you would like on your desktop. To get windows to install all of the
'correct' drivers onto a computer takes a qualified computer engineer...and
there is the problem! Windows comes pre-installed for you on most home
desktops...you don't have to bother about setting all that up...with Linux you
do have to do this but it is no harder than most Windows installs.

Along with your new computer you will also be given a CD/DVD which in most cases
will be a mirror image of the default setup...so if you have to re-install its
easy...you just put the disk in and it will install onto the machine...but you
couldn't take that disk and use it for a different make of machine...it wouldn't
have the correct windows drivers.

Now...once you have retailers actually asking what operating system you want
installed then you will see the shift. The software is already there...what you
can do on windows you can do on Linux and quicker and more reliable...this is
fact!

Last year alone it cost millions for businesses around the world to rid their
computers of windows viruses. You do have viruses on Linux but it is no where
near as many on windows. This is the negative to the success of windows. Virus
writers target windows because of its wide spread use and also because of its
inherent flaws.

I would also like to point out the speed issue with windows...as a multitasking
operating system it performs poorly to almost any other operating system on the
market. I had a friend who constantly complained about his windows system being
too slow...he was using skype to call friends but noticed that is machine went
to a crawl and resigned himself to the fact that it was skype...however...I
installed Ubuntu Linux onto his laptop along with software that mirrored what he
was use to...he could call someone using skype, type a letter and browse all at
the same time and the machine performed effortlessly with no detrimental effect
on the internet phone call...he is now well pleased and is moving all of his
home PCs over to Ubuntu Linux. (If you are going to use Linux then I strongly
suggest Ubuntu...its a pleasant experience...if you do then also go to the
website http://www.ubuntuguide.org/ for more information on how to setup all
those nice little features that people like to play with on their operating
system!!)

A few points about setting up your business to use Linux...

1. Go for open standards (and I don't mean Microsoft's version of an open
standard). Linux is good because it does not lock you in to crazy licence deals.
The more open standards you use the better for your business...get an expert in
who knows what you will need...

2. Don't go straight to a Linux vendor...contact your local LUG (Linux User
Group). These groups will have people who will fall over to help you and will
have a more honest approach on what you want to use...for a small fee they will
give you expert advice on what to use and they will always go the extra mile to
help you. LUGs are great since they have no specific interest in any
computer/software vendor in particular so you get to benefit from their vast
knowledge without being railroaded down a particular path. I have seen computer
companies push their clients down an expensive route just to make money...you
won't get this with a LUG because of the diversity...anyone who is dishonnest
within a LUG is soon singled out because they don't have a hierarchy of
resposibility (so no one scratches anyones back here to get to the top...if you
know what I mean)

3. You will need support...as would any computer system. Go with a single Linux
company who will look after your support needs. (This doesn't mean the big linux
vendors...there are plenty of local, experienced and honest Linux companies who
can do the job just as well...remember the word local...it builds communities!)
Again your LUG will be invaluable. You can check out a number of LUGs your not
just limited to the one next door!

4. Try and make sure that any software that is written for you is
opensource...if it isn't then could you go with someone who is willing to make
the source open? This is good because it gives you the added flexibility of
moving your support to someother group who can takeover the source and support
it for you.

5. Expect the initial outlay to be costly if you are embedded in specific vendor
technology. In otherwords...if you have relied on none-open standards for your
company to progress then it is going to cost you to find an alternative...(LUG
to the rescue...these guys/gals are great!) Remember point 1 when you move to
Linux. Microsoft exchange seems to be the stickler here...However...remember
that you only have to make the move once! The cost savings are massive after
this...no more licences per desktop being only the tip of the iceberg...

6. Don't be frightened about technology anymore...get a good book on *nix,
programming, html...or whatever and dive in...jump straigt in and get involved.
You will be surprised how simple it is to setup a small website for example on
your own. Don't think that people who program are magicians...its just simple
logic...get stuckin...I would encourage everyone to get some knowledge here so
that you are not totally left in the dark. (Setup your own blog and take it from
there!)

Anyway...enough of my waffling! Linux is ready and has been for the past 2
years...If you want games then install wine (or better still buy a games
console)...if you want an office suite then use open office...but just make the
move now and start saving early instead of later. The sooner people start taking
control of ***THEIR*** I.T. requirements the better...support for Linux is
growing so fast that you are going to need a heat shield to jump on the band
wagon...Windows/SCO or any other company cannot stop this now...its way, way too
big! (Microsoft even know this...they have already written a Linux layer that
will allow them to run windows code...They have already covered themselves for
the eventuallity!!)...All aboard and hold tight...

[ Reply to This | # ]

[KDE|GNOME]X/GNU/Linux not a replacement for Win98
Authored by: Anonymous on Monday, March 07 2005 @ 05:46 AM EST
For the simple reason that if you try to put a recent install of any desktop
distro on a typical machine that's still running Windows 98 then:

1) You'll run out of hard drive.
2) You'll run out of memory.
3) You'll run out of processor.
4) It will look like a pile of *ss because nobody will have updated the display
drivers since 1999.

I'm sorry, but you can't compare new versions of X based desktops to old
versions of Windows without context. That's makes as much sense as comparing
WinXP with Win98 and saying that you should upgrade right away - regardless of
how old your machine is.

[ Reply to This | # ]

My wife
Authored by: Anonymous on Monday, March 07 2005 @ 05:48 AM EST
My wife is not interested in computers and rarely uses it.

Still, her first reaction when we moved from Windows 98 to Mandrake in 1999 was:
"What, have you been playing with the icons again?"

Actually, she never noticed anything else and used word processors and e-mail as
if nothing had changed.

I love her for being so Linux-friendly.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Is Linux Ready for the Desktop? -- by James Cherryh
Authored by: Malor on Monday, March 07 2005 @ 07:26 AM EST
Ok, this one finally got me to sign up for an account.

First: Linux is quite usable as a desktop. That said, I think the author is
deliberately misstating/misunderstanding the 'not ready for the desktop'
argument. In at least one way, it's not even as good as Windows 3.11 was. It's
not well-supported by off the shelf software. People cannot just grab a piece
of software and expect it will work. Mac users face this problem too, although
not as badly... they can, at least, buy Mac-compatible software. But there's
virtually nothing Linux-compatible on the shelf, which is where most people tend
to look. Yes, there's a huge library of free stuff, but a lot of it isn't very
good, most of it is hard to use, and FINDING it is really difficult. Simply
determining what's good for accomplishing a given task can be a major effort.

At this point, I tend to think Linux is very good for power users... if you're
used to really making your computer dance, you can do that better, faster, and
more thoroughly in Linux, once you know how. I have claimed for years that it's
possible to bring about world peace from the Unix command line. It will take a
huge time investment to really start reaping the rewards, but once you truly
start to grok how Unix works, there is very little you cannot accomplish.

If, on the other hand, you're a total novice, you probably have someone else
managing the computer for you anyway, and they'll be able to make Linux work
very nicely for you. If you have no expectations for how a computer 'should'
work, then any of the Linux desktops are perfectly fine.

The problem is all the people in the middle ground... the ones who know just
enough to use Windows, without really understanding it. These folks are often
completely baffled by the transition. Things are done differently and, because
they don't really understand what's happening inside the computer, they get lost
in the unfamiliar interface. For them, the interface IS the computer. Their
models are too weak to encompass a different way of doing things, at least
without a lot of initial handholding to get them over the learning curve. So
for these people, a Linux transition is both painful and 'expensive', both in
terms of their own time, and in terms of using someone else's (even if it's a
volunteer.)

This is a BIG problem, and I think it's going to take a long time to tackle.
Duplicating the Windows interface exactly is a possibility, but that's likely to
result in lawsuits. And, in many ways, the Windows interface just isn't very
good. So while it might result in some short-term gain, it's still letting
Microsoft lead and giving them power, neither of which are very good ideas. The
last thing on their mind is their customers, as they have proven over and over.


I think the most important thing to realize here is that Free Software is going
to take a LONG TIME to completely supplant the commercial stuff, and in some
niches, it never will. This isn't a 5- or 10-year problem... it's going to take
a generation. Some folks are literally going to cling to Windows until they
die.. and that population is probably higher than most of us realize.

Ultimately, for me, asking if Linux is ready for the desktop means asking
"Is it ready for the majority of the computer-using population?" I
think that answer is still no, but the percentage of people who would benefit
from a switch might be as high as 25% now. Three years ago, I don't think it
was even 5%.

So, if you think you might be one of that 25%, grab a Knoppix CD and check it
out. Knoppix is a zero-commitment distro... you boot up and run it completely
from the CD. It won't change a byte of data on your hard drive unless you ask
it to. It's rather sluggish, because it's loading the programs from the slow
CD, but it will give you an excellent sample, for just the cost of a blank CD
and some time to play with it. (Be sure to get the English version, not the
native German one.... unless, of course, you're German :) )

"Mandrake Move" is supposedly good too. I've used Mandrake desktops
for years, and I find it very comfortable and easy to work in. A LiveCD from
them is likely to be very friendly and easy to use.

And if it turns out you're not in the 25% yet.... well, there's always next
year. Linux, as a desktop, is improving at a phenomenal rate now.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Is Microsoft Ready for the Desktop?
Authored by: dodger on Monday, March 07 2005 @ 07:59 AM EST
bravo James Cherryh.

I have also been using Linux now since 1996. It has served me better than that
M$ offering. It has been surprisingly stable and moved with me into a notebook
and server realm without problem. In 1997 I converted an appraiser's office with
40 work stations from SCO Unix to Linux; and the dumb terminals to linux based
thin X clients. The office became more productive.

M$ is a costly alternative which has traditionally had stability problems, and
still has SECURITY problems (capitalized fot the hard of hearing). Everyone who
uses the new Apple OS X, love it and apple. I suspect they have the very best
solution. It's just that when I want to do something that can't be done on a
proprietary system, then I might want to solve the problem myself. The open
world is very nice for sharing information.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Consistency - is this an issue?
Authored by: Anonymous on Monday, March 07 2005 @ 08:12 AM EST

Would it be correct to say that there is no one true "Linux"? I think this is perhaps another reason why it is difficult to answer the question of whether "Linux" is ready for the desktop. There are a number of different distributions to choose from, and there are often a number of significant differences between them.

When I think "the desktop", I think of the average user. Perhaps I am wrong, but my guess is that the majority of people know how to use a computer, but don't know how to maintain a computer. So they get their neighbour's teenage son to set things up when they need to because he "knows computers".

I further speculate that the average neighbour's teenage son - who thinks of himself as a "power user" - uses either Windows or MacOS. Perhaps he's used Linux once or twice but he might not know the different distributions enough to figure out his neighbour's problem.

If it was Windows the different Windows versions are consistent enough that he could figure out how to configure that new network card fairly quickly, and he could probably even guide his neighbour on how to set up the IP address for his new DSL connection over the phone. But he's only used Red Hat Linux before, and doesn't know how to set up network interfaces in Debian.

A professional Linux user would surely be able to work their way around any distribution, but my argument is that the average user does not have any support resources should they choose to use Linux.

And no - RTFM will not do for the average user. Sadly, this seems to be the typical response for many questions. It also doesn't help that Linux does not have the billions of dollars for usability research at its disposal that Microsoft and Apple do.

Of course, this is just my opinion so take it with a grain of salt. I'd be interested to hear perspectives from other people.

By the way, can someone in the know give us an update on how the Grokdoc project is going?

[ Reply to This | # ]

Depends entirely on the desktop....
Authored by: tiger99 on Monday, March 07 2005 @ 08:13 AM EST
Same for any other decent OS, things like OS X are optimal if you have a MAC and do a lot of graphics work. I am not in that category.

At work, we are supposed to use Windoze, however lurking under my desk is a Linux box, with a KVM switch kindly provided by the IT Department. A couple of days ago I found that I needed to do a numeric simulation, so straight away switched to the SuSE desktop, opened the text editor, and started to code. Now I have not written C for at least 10 years (I am mainly an analogue designer), and have never used GCC, yet the job was as simple as "cc filename.c anotherfilename.o" as it was way back in Unix V7 in 1984. Had I wanted to do this in Windoze, there would have been a huge learning curve, fighting against obstructive GUIs, when the job called for only a shell, a text editor, and a good compiler. (BTW I was using a GUI, KDE, to do this, but not something incomprehensible at first sight as Visual C++ would have been, even if it was installed on my Windoze box).

This is one very recent example. Every time I need to do something in a hurry, out comes the *nix desktop in one form or another.

In my opinion it is Windoze that has serious problems being of real use on anyone's desktop, it is simply a hindrance to productivity.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Is Linux Ready for the Desktop? -- by James Cherryh
Authored by: Anonymous on Monday, March 07 2005 @ 08:16 AM EST
The real issue here is that most, if not all, of the use-cases you can come up
with for computer systems involve people for whom the underlying operating
system is simply not of any consequence.

These people interact with application software, not Linux, per-se.

If this software runs under Linux *and* Windows, then eventually Linux will make
its way onto the desktop 'by stealth'. This is simply because ultimately, for
many people, the total cost of building a productive working environment under
Linux will be substantially less, but they can still interchange work with
people who are running on Windows.
Now that key components like Firefox, and the PostGreSQL relational database,
run on both Linux and windows, we can see this process starting to accelerate.
Developers who want to build Open Source projects need, therefore, to understand
that in general, these projects SHOULD also run on Windows. This, ironically, is
the best way to get Linux onto the desktop.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Is Linux Ready for the Desktop? -- by James Cherryh
Authored by: Anonymous on Monday, March 07 2005 @ 08:30 AM EST
Linux is not ready for the desktop because it's so damn hard to install stuff
and to administer the damn thing.

To use Win3.11 as a comparison is a bit unfair because that's been released
when? 1991? But still, it's easier to open a disk (does it even support CDs?)
and doubleclick in "install.exe" than to juggle RPMs.

I tried for half a year to use Linux on the desktop. Mind you, I've been
administering small Windows-networks back then. Not that I liked Windows, that's
why I switched to Linux. But whe I tried to install stuff that did not come with
my distribution, I constantly ran into trouble with dependencies. I wanted a
codec and needed packages it depended on, than packages those depended on - and
finally a package that, if instaled, broke a different application I was using.


Finding and installing software was and still is my major issue with linux. I
wouldn't want my parents to be forced to live with this.

After ditching Windows for Linux and Linux for OS X, I never even considered
switching back.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Case Study - My Father
Authored by: gvc on Monday, March 07 2005 @ 08:58 AM EST
My father, who is 78, switched cold-turkey to MEPIS Linux
this Christmas. He has a dual boot machine, but the only
time he's felt an urge to boot XP was when he had to call
the internet cable service folks. It turns out that the
help desk insisted on XP but the tech that arrived didn't
care at all. He was perfectly satisfied to be shown
"ifconfig" and "ping" output.

Anyway, back to my dad, Windows and Linux. I've been
maintaining Windows systems for my family for years. What
a nightmare. Who promotes the myth that Windows is easy
to set up and use? The first think I do on these machines
is to install VNC so I can see the stupid gui configuration
tools. And then spend hours installing basic software
necessary to make Windows useful. And many more hours in
the future navigating the gui maze known as Windows.

As far as I can see "being familiar" is Windows' only
selling point. As far as I am concerned Windows XP is
not ready for the desktop. Does *anybody* actually manage
to use Windows effectively without relying on ongoing
tech support from a relative, neigbour, or friend?

What about Linux and my father? I started with a new CPU
box and dropped in MEPIS. His laser printer, scanner,
slide scanner, and the new DVD+/-RW just worked. Mozilla
just worked (he'd been using Mozilla for some time already).
Flash, Quicktime, Java, mp3, pdf, etc. just worked. Office,
Photoshop, Acrobat, IE installed on wine.

Transition problems? It took him a couple of days to get
used to single instead of double clicking (KDE is the
default desktop). We still don't know how to fake a
Euro keyboard using the same trick of alt-numberkeys that
Windows has (but the workaround is to create the characters
in OpenOffice and copy/paste them to text input).

For maintenance, I can get in with ssh and run scripts. If
I must see the gui, I can start a separate VNC server so I
don't have to "snatch the cursor and keyboard" from him as
I had to do in Windows. Only if we need true "over the
shoulder" interaction to I use rfb VNC to look at his actual
display.

What doesn't work? He has an ADS Instant DVD video capture
box for which I haven't found a driver. But DV capture
and editing work fine.

Bottom line: Linux works great for my father; better in
many ways than Windows. His main applications are email,
document preparation, image capture and editing, and
surfing.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Is Linux Ready for the Desktop? -- by James Cherryh
Authored by: Anonymous on Monday, March 07 2005 @ 09:24 AM EST
I think there is one simple thing that keeps linux from being a simple desktop
solution.
If you copy some text from a web browerser, then close that web browser(all
instances of that browser). Now try to paste that text into an email.
The same holds true for text in any program.
So simple and linux still can't do it on Gnome 2.6

[ Reply to This | # ]

There's one thing it will take to be called desktop ready
Authored by: Rob M on Monday, March 07 2005 @ 09:49 AM EST
Easy availability of software - you need to be able to go into a store like
Comp-USA or Best Buy and get Linux software and hardware with Linux drivers
bundled.

People have posted apt-get as an easy way to get software, but sorry, it's not.

a) How do you *find* what package you want to apt-get? Most of the descriptions
suck (well, that's probably better than the out and out lies on boxed software,
but it doesn't help any). Sorry, granny isn't going to be able to do that.

b) Don't forget dialup, which is over half the people on the internet. apt-get
is great on broadband. I would be extremely hesitant to use it at 56K or less
speeds.

c) apt-get breaks things. webmin broke for me the other day after an upgrade.
Granted, this was in testing, but considering that was supposed to be moved to
stable, what, last September, it's also not something that's acceptable to most
users. Stable is too old for desktop use.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Distrowatch
Authored by: Anonymous on Monday, March 07 2005 @ 10:19 AM EST
We could say so when in two months time there will be 25 millions downloads of
Linux distributions as it is for Firefox. When the assertion Linux is ready for
the desktop will be thruth you will know it by counting the downloading at
http://distrowatch.com/ !So simple

[ Reply to This | # ]

The Real Mark of "Being Ready"
Authored by: Observer on Monday, March 07 2005 @ 10:26 AM EST
Lots of really great posts here, so I won't even try to add to them as to reasons why Linux is (or isn't) technically ready for "The Desktop".

The one thing I would add is the observation that, concerning the pundits, the only thing that will convince them that, "Linux really is ready," will be when the actual percentage of people running Linux reaches some magical level, probably around the 25% mark.

Now, before you start saying all kinds of nasty things about stupid, clueless, MS Drone pundits, consider the fact that they are in the business of watching trends. From their perspective, the actual technology doesn't really matter. Its not a question of security, or speed, or a working word processor, or even games. They want to see mind share. If people aren't convinced that it is ready, then in a very real sense, it isn't ready. Perhaps more to the point, one might say that the Desktop isn't ready yet for Linux.

So, in the end, I don't really worry about the "big" question, and choose rather to answer the day to day question of, "Is this person I'm talking to going to be more productive and safe working on Linux or Windows?" More and more now, the answer is "Linux", but not always. I think the curve is going in the right direction, and the more we push it on a one-on-one base, the faster it will move.

---
The Observer

[ Reply to This | # ]

Is Linux Ready for the Desktop? -- by James Cherryh
Authored by: Anonymous on Monday, March 07 2005 @ 10:50 AM EST
I am also a long time Mac user - since -86, and I have considerable
experience from computing, but I admittedly know nothing about
programming or *nix.
I agree with the original poster: Linux, at least on Mac hardware, is still not

easy to set up and use for Joe or Grandma User (as PJ admitted herself). While
I can easily set up and configure a Mac with OSX (or Windows on a PC) as well
as install and tweak various programs, I have never been able to get Linux to
work flawlessly on a Mac despite trying several times. Recently I tried Debian,

and when trying to change monitor resolution everything went black... Oh
well, I erased the hard disk and installed Turbolinux (v. 3; based on Red Hat),

which was *much* smoother than Debian. Everything went fine, until I tried to
configure printing to the laserprinter on my home network. I failed miserably.
Yes, I RTFM... Although I understood the individual words in the manual, the
overall content remained incomprehensible. Written by geeks for other geeks,
unfortunately, like much of all Linux documentation.

Personally, I regard "Linux for the desktop" has been vaporware for a
long
time and runs the risk of remaining so until Grandma and Grandpa User can
stick in a CD in a computer and follow simple steps to achieve a complete
installation and migration to the new platform. No necessity for command
line interaction, please...

I apologize beforehand in case Linux installation on the x86 platform is as
easy as I believe it should be!

Final comment: I do love and support the philosophy of GPL and Linux - after
all, I have previously lived in Finnland for some twenty years...

Bear

[ Reply to This | # ]

Is Linux Ready for the Desktop? -- by James Cherryh
Authored by: eggplant37 on Monday, March 07 2005 @ 10:50 AM EST
Like James, I too have been using Linux on my desktop and laptop computers, for
both myself and my wife, since about 1999. Neither of us have any trouble doing
the things we do. My laptop travels back and forth to work, and I accomplish
the same things there as anyone else in the building does with their Windows OS.


When I attempt to go back to a PC loaded with Windows, I feel like I'm trapped.
When I'm on my Linux PCs, I feel like I can do anything and everything. If
that's not ready for *my* desktop, I don't know what is.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Is Linux Ready for the Desktop? -- by James Cherryh
Authored by: BigTex on Monday, March 07 2005 @ 10:54 AM EST
Is Linux ready for MY desktop? Not at the momnet. Is that the fault of Linux
or OSS? Not entitrely.

The problems are one of migration and 100% compatibility. I use MS Word for
legal docs. Unfortunatley OO2.0 does not seamlessly inmport or export word
docs. When editing and drafting leagl docs formatting is 100% CRITICAL for me.
While OO is 95 - 98% effective in maintaing format it is NOT 100%.

I also am NOT Linux proficient. I can figure out most things in MS but I don't
know where to start with Linux nor do I have the time. IMHO it is the
responsibility for Linux desktop vendors to take ALL of the hassle involved in
switching to a Linux from M$ away from me. It should be so easy that I have NO
EXCUSE for not mooving. At this point I have several excuses.

This boils down to Sales 101 and Perception of Vaule.
While Linux has a HOST of reason to switch from M$ including but NOT limited
to:
1.) Security
2.) Stability

However most people "percive" that the migration hassle outweighs
using M$ with A good firewall and Antivirus software

Until that issue is addressed the barriers to migration for the masses will
remain. Don't believe me? Look at the failure of the Apple Switch campaign.

Then look the the SUCCESS of Mozilla's Firefox and Thunderbird. The
successfully removed the barriers to migration.

Just my $0.02 as a wanna-be linux user and one of the masses you FOSS folks have
to help over the wall. :-)

[ Reply to This | # ]

How about this user...me.
Authored by: capn_buzzcut on Monday, March 07 2005 @ 11:31 AM EST
I've got some extensive development tied up in MS Excel spreadsheets that I work
in every day, all of which contain a lot of custom VBA code. We use a MS Access
database that I developed to manage service calls. Our accounting software only
runs on Windows, and nothing I've found yet can replace it, except maybe ACCPAC,
and under Linux even that runs using an emulator (wine). I've got a brand new
bleeding edge system on my desktop that I can't load Linux on because there's no
Linux drivers for some of the components (SATA RAID, PCI-Express video) At home,
my own personal accounting is done with Quickbooks, and frankly GNUCash doesn't
measure up.

So yes, I'd like to switch all desktops over to Linux, but for now, the cost
simply outweighs the benefit. I do however, use Linux everywhere that I can.
All my servers run Linux. My firewall/router runs Linux. I've got one desktop
user that only needs web and email, so that runs Linux. I've just got done
building a POS system that runs Linux, but the actual POS software is dos-based
(I used the dosemu emulator to pull that off). And my laptop and home desktop
systems can dual-boot Windows or Mandrake, but my laptop's wifi card was no
picnic getting to work under Linux - you guessed it, no Linux driver.

What do I need then, before I can move all desktops to Linux? Better hardware
support, better software support, some conversion utilities, and about $5K ought
to do it.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Is Linux Ready for the Desktop? -- by James Cherryh
Authored by: brooker on Monday, March 07 2005 @ 11:33 AM EST
As usual, I seem to fit into none of the categories. A couple of months ago I
made a vow that I would not post on Groklaw again until I could do it from a
non-Windows computer. That hasn't happened yet (so pretend you don't see me
here yet O.K.? :)

In the last two months I've had more fun wending my way through the learning
process with a new friend who has been most helpful. He literally made me go
back to square one and learn some very basic things. (Hey, I didn't even know
how to burn an ISO!)

Mostly we've been sorting out my hardware snags this month.

The point is, Linux is ready for the desktops of people who are ready for Linux.
I've had to stretch my brain a little (Ok, maybe a lot, but it's been good for
me) and have to let go of some old habits and ways of thinking, but it's been
very fun, and I am looking forward to continuing to learn.

If I had one wish though (and this is only my lazy side that likes instant
gratification that's talking here), I wish more computers were offered with a
Linux system pre-installed (besides the Wal-Mart one...I don't do Wal-Mart).

I better get back to work now. I don't get to take as many Groklaw breaks these
days as I used to. :(

It's still the BEST place to visit though! No question about it. Thanks P.J.!

brooker

[ Reply to This | # ]

Not Ready for My Desktop!
Authored by: Anonymous on Monday, March 07 2005 @ 12:38 PM EST
I'm a scientist who develops complicated physics software for my own research.
Compilers are not the problem - I've ported my software from IBM System/360 to
Univac to Dec Vax/VMS to Sunos & Solaris to Windows & Linux. But the end
product of science is publication, so I need a variety of specialized tools for
document preparation and management. It's these other goodies that I rely on
that aren't available for Linux:

dTSearch (document indexing software; searches my PDF scientific libraries)
EndNote (scitation & abstract management)
MathType (WYSIWYG equations for Word)
PaperPort (document scanning & managment)
OmniPage (convert scans to document)
Scientific WorkPlace (WYSIWYG LaTeX & LaTeX-Word converter)
SmartDraw (flowchart)
Accouting & Billing Software
PowerPoint (the REAL deal
Adobe Acrobat (the REAL deal)

Most of these apps are not certified for CrossOver Office. Even if they were,
what's the point of running a Windows desktop on an emulator? As well,
OpenOffice doesn't do a good enough job emulating PowerPoint - I have quite a
few scientific presentations from other people in my database, so it's not just
a question of preparing my own presentations in OpenOffice to begin with. And I
use Adobe Acrobat extensively - proposals to the funding agencies must be
submitted in PDF format. Yes, I know there are other PDF preparation tools, but
Adobe is the one I have, and it suits my purpose.

Now, device drivers:

No Linux drivers are available for my Visioneer scanners. The company has no
plans for Linux drivers (I asked), and I'm not about to replace them for the
sake of switching to Linux. Anyway, Linux has no equivalent of PaperPort, which
I use to scan and manage large amounts of graphical and tabulated scientific
data. The tabulated data I can then convert to Excel, and documents to RTF,
using OmniPage OCR. This makes my life as a scientist a lot easier than it used
to be. However, I am not aware of any similar functionality for Linux,
particularly scanning tables into a spreadsheet.

Plextor: I have a PlexWriter CD writer and a PX504A DVD burner to backup data. I
bought these for quality and reliability, after experiencing failures with other
brands. No Linux drivers are available.

I am not adverse to using Linux. I have built a Linux Beowulf cluster at home.
And I run cygwin on all my windows systems. My default editor is gvim, not
notepad.

But one thing I've learned over the years is not to get into religious wars
about operating systems, editors, and the death of fortran. (OK, that's 3
things). I use the tools that work best for me for the tasks at hand. And
scanning documents & OCR is a serious drawback for Linux.


[ Reply to This | # ]

Straw Man Comparison
Authored by: TechnoCat on Monday, March 07 2005 @ 01:00 PM EST
Right at the beginning, James starts by comparing to Win3.1. Ummm... James...
Televisions were small and monochrome 50 years ago and that was sufficient. A
car that was feature-laden a decade ago (i.e. far newer than Win3.1) wouldn't
sell today. It's an invalid comparison.

I was a professional Linux/BSD coder until less than a year ago. I have several
projects on SourceForge, I modified and compiled Apache this weekend. But I
and, at the BSD and Linux work places, my co-workers, all ran Windows desktops.
Seriously. SSH in to the unix-like box for compiles and such, but email, word
processing, etc. all done in Windows.

Why? Consistent interface. Not from 3.1 to XP, but from home to work to a
co-workers box. Consistent experience, from Word to any U.I. based email to
Excel. Helpful (and consistently-accessible) online help. OpenOffice and
StarOffice are slower and have a learning curve, not that Word (for example),
doesn't, but we're past that first one. Just like Latin may have a shorter
learning curve than English, but few people bother with Latin because English is
serving their purposes.

Until Linux settles on one interface - until KDE, Gnome and the various window
managers are merged - and until there is a consistent look-and-feel across
programs and desktops, Linux will be confined to the hard-core. Not because
it's not better than Win3.1, but because it doesn't add value over
XP/Office/dominant apps while it imposes the U.I. foibles.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Is Linux Ready for the Desktop? -- Yes and No
Authored by: talexb on Monday, March 07 2005 @ 02:30 PM EST
I admit, I have two systems in my home office, a Linux one that I use most of
the time, and a Windows one that I use for GoldWave (audio editting) and for
Multiquence (audio and video sequencing). Oh, and I haven't bothered moving my
scanner over to the Linux machine. Pretty everything else has been moved over to
my Linux machine (Mandrake 10) and I'm happy with it.

There are still some geek things that I haven't got right yet; occasionally my
ISP (Sympatico DSL) hiccups and my /etc/resolv.conf gets rewritten so that name
resolution over my OpenVPN to work fails. I use WindowMaker and changed the
format of my menu a few weeks back -- a couple of things disappeared and I can't
figure out how to update my menu. I've done it before but can't make head or
tails with the menu control panel. I tried to install Audigy on this machine and
installed more and more updates, and still can't get it to open MP3 files.

I was given a machine and tried to install MythTV on it, and got too tangled up
to continue -- I think I need special drivers for the ATI TV video card I have.
It's tough to figure out all of the bits. However, for some reason Audigy works
fine on this machine, without any effort on my part.

The things that do work on my Linux machine are my VPN to work; browsing using
Firefox; editing templates to build web sites; GIMP is terrific; I have ntp set
up so my computer always has the correct time; it's the print server for my home
network and works just fine for three Windows 98 and one Mandrake machines; I
set it up to use NFS so now I can access files on that Linux system from any of
my other machines, Windows and Linux; and I use ssh-agent to allow me to fly
between my work machines and my web provider with ease.

The things I don't miss from Windows are the thundering disk while Windows does
Who Knows What -- the virus updates that take over the machine every two days,
even though I don't use E-Mail on that machine much anymore, and anyway don't
open any attachments. Windows is still frustrating -- I can't figure out how to
disable the ATI task bar that always pops up -- I've removed it from the startup
folder, but it keeps coming back.

If Linux is busy doing something, I can find out what it is in a moment. It's
never going to be a virus, and even if it's something that's taking up a fair
bit of CPU time, I may not even notice.

I used OS/2 when it was new, and was thrilled at how much faster it was compared
to Windows. However, it lacked a whole lot in backwards-compatibility.

If IBM had put Windows compatibility into OS/2 right from the start, that story
might have had a different ending. And this is a lesson for Linux: there needs
to be clear way for users to upgrade to Linux without losing any of their
information. There needs to be a 100% accurate translation process for the files
that these users work with everyday.

Until that happens, there will be users sticking, with good reason, to a
solution that works for them. When it does happen, the migration to Linux will
surge ahead.

Alex

[ Reply to This | # ]

Is Linux Ready for the Desktop? -- by James Cherryh
Authored by: Alphakafka on Monday, March 07 2005 @ 03:12 PM EST
"Linux not ready for the desktop" only actually means is that Linux
hasn't been exploited to the point that it is conducive to creating monopolies.

The GPL guarentees that it will remain so. Thank goodness.

It also means that large companies can't port their proprietary code to it and
make millions, since most of us will just yawn... and use the latest gimp,
scribus, openoffice and the like.

And the GPL practically guarentees this will remain true. Thank goodness.

My linux desktop is ready, but I'm not much of a monopolist or a opportunistic,
patent litigation loving, proprietary vendor. Seems good to me.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Is Linux Ready for the Desktop? -- by James Cherryh
Authored by: Anonymous on Monday, March 07 2005 @ 04:42 PM EST
It's not hard to google for "linux software" + whatever you are
interested, or read publication reviews, or simply install everything that
searching in Synaptic comes up with and trying them out for yourself. I do
agree that more search in synaptic would be nice as I prefer to use google to
see what's out there and then install via synaptic which is a two-program
operation. I'm not confident that synaptic will ever match google for
thouroughness though.

Michael


[ Reply to This | # ]

Is Linux Ready for the Desktop? -- by James Cherryh
Authored by: HockeyPuck on Monday, March 07 2005 @ 05:10 PM EST
It's not whether it is ready from "Prime Time"; but where it is ready.
Linux is ready, no question. But it has a number of problems before it will be
accepted as "ready".

I think the term “desktop” is really a form of consumer desktop and the
following applies for it to be considered ready.
1. Are drivers widely available for just about anything?
2. Are drivers easy to load and work with?
3. Are programs easy to load and run?
4. Are they consistent to load and run?
5. Are the main tools consistent and easy to run and operate?
6. Can I get consumer or popular programs for it?
7. If not, can I get what I need?
8. Is there a big learning curve?
9. Can my “kids” use it easy?
10. Will this help them in their school studies or do I have to use a Windows or
Mac computer?
11. If I need those systems, can I do it another way that is still easy with
Linux?
12. Is support easy to obtain and understand?
13. On the business side; will it do the job and save the organization money?
14. Do I have to retrain or rehire support staffing?
15. What happens with legacy applications?

And many more questions.

As you can tell there are a lot of questions. But as a “desktop” you can go as
far as what is considered normal for a Windows or Mac desktop to merely being a
consistent interface. Either fills the bill as a “desktop” worthy of mention.
But there is still work and the sooner Linux and Open Source programmers and
designers understand Linux is no longer a niche system for the computer lovers;
the sooner the better interfaces and consistent tools as well as other bells and
whistles that will make Linux as easy to operate as Windows or Mac (but more
secure).

[ Reply to This | # ]

  • A misconception? - Authored by: Anonymous on Monday, March 07 2005 @ 06:11 PM EST
Is Linux Ready for the Desktop? -- by James Cherryh
Authored by: horedson on Monday, March 07 2005 @ 07:15 PM EST
Totally wrong question.
The right questions might be:

Is Linux better than Windows XP for home use?
Is Linux better than Windows XP for business desktop use?
Is Linux better than OS X ... see above.

Certainly some flavors of Linux are as good as, or even better than Windows
3.11, but so are all current flavors
of Windows, and every flavor of MAC OS (Amiga, Atari, Solaris ...).

I've played with all of the above a different times,
and they all do some things well and other things not
so well. However I'm currently using Windows XP because
it does all the things I want to do well ... is totally
stable, simple to install and update, and I've never
had a worm, virus, trojan, etc.

Comparing Linus to an antique version of windows is just
silly. What was "useful" on the desktop 10 or more years
ago is no longer "useful" on the desktop.

Every few years I try one or another distribution and for
desktop use have been uniformly unimpressed. Important
applications are simply not available, installation is a
mess and administration a nightmare.

Once the Linux community learns some marketing, and puts
effort into solving the above problems, then perhaps Linux
will make a reasonable desktop replacement.

That said, for controlled and administered environments,
such as businesses and schools, it might be a good choice.
Unless, of course, the business needs a specific accounting
application or sales / support application that only
exists for windows ...


---
... Hank

[ Reply to This | # ]

LINUX, Desktop (an oxymoron or a slam-dunk?)
Authored by: Anonymous on Monday, March 07 2005 @ 09:33 PM EST

In 1994/5/6/7/8/9 + 2000/1/2/3 etc: I kept hearing how 1st Unix then Linux would
take on Windows with a better desktop.

I used to believe it was going to happen, then I began believeing it might
happen, then that it was quite possible, but funny thing, sooner or later
reality sets in.

Some better questions ...

Q. Can Linux ever end up with a world class desktop environment that could take
non-techie people away from Windows ?

A. Of course it could, just look at the OS-X Mac desktop ! - case proven. But
Linux doesn't have the Mac desktop, so, it isn't likely happen soon unless
somone's fairy godmother does the honours.

***********

Q. Why doesn't Linux have an equivalent to MAC OS desktop ?

A. There are some available close equivalents but these efforts are fragmented
and lack a common & powerful backing. Also there hasn't been to date, any
big enough incentive to abandon Windows for anything other than the Mac desktop.
Anyone who claims otherwise needs to explain what planet they live on and where
all the myriad of developers will spring from to match what is on Win & Mac
Desktops.

***************

Q. Is it possible that a Linux desktop could come to dominate in Asia (China in
particular) ?.

A. It is entirley possible & appears to be part the way there already.
But!, adding multi-byte language support in a desktop and its supporting apps
bloats software and slows performance but this is usually tolerable to people
who want to read their own multi-byte written scripts. As for US market &
the rest of the Romanised Alphabet world, having Kanxi, or Kanji or Hangeul or
Katakana or Hiragana capability, does absolutely nothing.

***********************

Q. Can Linux compete with Windows for the popular desktop ?

A. It could but it hasn't happened yet & this brings me right back to my 1st
paragraph.

************************

DSM

[ Reply to This | # ]

One PIssed Off Granny
Authored by: Anonymous on Monday, March 07 2005 @ 10:10 PM EST
One day while Gretel is at the local chess club (she teaches on Tuesdays) . . .

An interesting example.
If Gretel really is that into chess, when she comes home from teh chessclub she's going to want to enter her latest game in Chessbase which pretty near every serious chess player and teacher uses as a standard research tool. Of course, she might be in the mood to fire up her latest training CD from Convekta, which has become the leader in that field in recent years.

Or maybe she just wants to watch the latest Kasparov DVD that requires Windows because it interfaces with her playing engine so she can see the moves he's talking about and follow along with the analysis.

I'm betting if Gretel is even moderatly serious about chess (and she must be if she teaches at the local club), she's gonna be fit to be tied that Jenny just trashed all her opening repertoire databases, her training databases, her research on the local conmpetition, not to mention the last 2 years of game updates from This Week In Chess.

What's interesting about this example is that it shows the kind of ignorance about the many domain specific OS dependancies that in total do mean that Linux is not ready for the desktop. It may be ready for "a" desktop of a user that has no real needs outside of the comp. sci. and engineering arenas.

I wish it really were better suited to the average user, but it's not. As a serious chess hobbiest myself, I simply can't afford to not use Windows. All my tools are on that platform.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Is Linux Ready for the Desktop? -- by James Cherryh
Authored by: Anonymous on Monday, March 07 2005 @ 11:49 PM EST
what should it be?
Is Linux ready for the desktop

or

Are you ready for Linux.

I have an average IQ, and Linux was on my desktop 2 years ago.
No problems,not even on the command line.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Is Linux Ready for the Desktop? -- by James Cherryh
Authored by: Anonymous on Tuesday, March 08 2005 @ 12:02 AM EST
I think he misses the point in his article just a bit. There are MANY programs
(read: Dreamweaver, Photoshop etc. etc., that have Windows AND MAC versions but
NO Linux version). These are core programs for MANY users and until there are
equivalents, ports or ways to run them under Linux, Linux on the desktop will
not be viable for those users, period.

I use Linux daily, desktop and server but those types of programs are
unimportant to my daily work, so I don't care. Other users do and that's why
Windows will remain dominant for many years to come. Vendor/software support is
severely lacking on Linux and THAT is the problem.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Is Linux Ready for the Desktop? -- by James Cherryh
Authored by: Anonymous on Tuesday, March 08 2005 @ 03:17 AM EST
Much as I would like it to be, it is not something that I would like my
Grandmother to be working on. I use SUSE LINUX
by the way.

It's GUI makes me feel nervous, the fonts and windows on applications do not
resize properly once you minimize/maximize the windows.The range of font
selections is minimum and I do not want to read a whole chapter about how to
configure a printer everyday. It took me 3 hours to install and get real player
going on Linux, 30 minutes for firefox etc. Not everyone has that kind of time
to make things work.I still cannot find a decent replacement for VISIO and a lot
of sites are only IE compatible.

As a server, it does a fine job, I have been running a CVS repository, FTP
server, firewall etc ona single server for 4 years now, without a single
breakdown.

Much as I find the VIRUS infested Windows useless, I still end up using
CYGWIN/WINDOWS for doing most of my work.I do not use IE, use firefox
instead.This is what is great about windows, it sucks, but typically a restart
gets you going.But once you are on it, things are okay if you editing a
document, browsing a web page, creating a diagram etc. This is what most people
do on a desktop.

Considering the above stated facts, I find Apple's OS-XXX the best solution as
of today. It gives me almost all the positives of being on a *nix system coupled
with the best GUI out there.Application support is comparable or better than
windows, and of course, its COOL. I just wish I could run it on my X86 box.:-)

[ Reply to This | # ]

Is Linux Ready for the Desktop? -- by James Cherryh
Authored by: Brendan Scott on Tuesday, March 08 2005 @ 06:18 AM EST
Angela Accountant

<snip>

Cost isn't an issue for Angela and her colleagues. What they have works, and
there is no reason to change it.

The conclusion that Angela won't change may be true (primarily because of custom
macros). However one part of the reason (cost isn't an issue) is plain wrong.
Any business in which the proprietors are working in the business will analyse
all expenditure to the nth degree. Cost for such businesses is never not an an
issue, especially so for a firm of accountants.

Tell any partnership they can save {$x: x>=substantial} and they will
consider the business case.

Brendan

[ Reply to This | # ]

Is Linux Ready for the Desktop? -- by James Cherryh
Authored by: Anonymous on Tuesday, March 08 2005 @ 02:55 PM EST
Linux is not ready for the desktop.

Q. Can I buy a computer with the OS and applications pre-installed so all I
have to do is connect the wires, plug it in and run.

A. I can do this with a windows box.

B. I can do this with a Mac box.

C. I can do this with a Linspire box.

By this measure Linux is ready for the desktop.

Alright how about this:

If I go out to a web site and down load the source for Linux, I have to compile
everything and make sure all the pieces work together properly. This is a lot
of work that people don't want to have to go through for their desktop systems.
By this measure Linux is not ready for the desktop. (What? You mean I can't
download the source for Windows or a Mac?)

It seems to me that ready for the desktop means ignorant user can't break it.

Oops, forgot to turn on my Windows firewall and now my windows box is crawling
with vermin.

Tried a Knoppix CD a while back, and the thing hijacked my tmp volume and turned
it into a swap partition. Had to re-install my Redhat.

Ready for desktop is a useless term used by the media to disparge a perfectly
usable product.

Speaking of windows 3.11, it will run with 8 meg of ram, on a 200 meg hard
drive. Applications include word processing, spread sheet, browser, games, and
the drive is less than 75% used. A lot of the Linux's out there won't begin to
fit.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Re: The Cost Issue
Authored by: Anonymous on Wednesday, March 09 2005 @ 04:54 AM EST
One reason to switch to Linux is purportedly cost. But that simply isn't true.
Many users have been running XP Pro, always the latest version of Office, and just about every other software they need, for FREE. Of course, it's illegal, but it is the thing that keeps about 80% of regular PC users from understanding the "Windows (and Windows software) costs money, but in the Linux-world, everything is free" argument.

The one thing to understand is:
The cost of Windows, Office and proprietary applications do not matter for home users.
Compatibility, availability of applications and games, Multimedia out of the box, and no need to be a C-hack to get anything done do matter.

[ Reply to This | # ]

What about voice chat
Authored by: Anonymous on Wednesday, March 09 2005 @ 12:29 PM EST
Just like we expect easy interoperability of word and excel files in Linux, when
will we have voice chat capability for Yahoo? That would be the day I would stop
switching back and forth.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Is Linux Ready for the Desktop? -- by James Cherryh
Authored by: Anonymous on Wednesday, March 09 2005 @ 02:32 PM EST
OK, here is what I want from a desktop Linux:

I want everything to just work, and have a full suite of software to do my
audio, video, email, file management, browsing, document creation needs. I only
want one of each kind of softare, but I want it to be fully feature complete and
relatively bug free.

I really like the iLife software from Mac.

I would love to see everything just integrated and working, so that when I put
in a CD or DVD it just plays, or gives me the option of playing or ripping.

When I hit the eject on the DVD player it should stop the program from playing
and eject the disk.

I should be able to capture and edit video and audio.

The browser should have all the common plugins working.

It would be nice to have a single audio video framework that makes a standard
interface to all audio and video formats.

I want one CDDVD burner, I want one DVD author tool, I want one browser, I want
one whatever.

Now this is just the front ends to me the user... underneath I want to be able
to switch out any of the drivers, so that I can use the browser core of my
choice, gecko, kde, links, whatever. But still keep the one front end.

We need to separate out the user interface development from the development of
the underlying technology and use frameworks to join the two together.

Worse case people can develop multiple browser apps (browser just an example,
can be any kind of application) on top of the framework, and still pick and
choose the underlying layout engine.

This breaks out advancements in the user interface from advances in the lay out
engines in the underlying system.

It would be interesting to extend out the mozilla application framework to be
the desktop application running and all other apps are aspects of mozilla with
multiple rendering frameworks underneath to display all the various formats that
we need to use on a day to day basis.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Is Linux Ready for the Desktop? -- by James Cherryh
Authored by: Anonymous on Wednesday, March 09 2005 @ 04:58 PM EST
Take a look at this link....
http://www.lincproject.org/toolkit/case_studies/cs03_linux_office.pdf

[ Reply to This | # ]

Is Linux Ready for the Desktop? -- by James Cherryh
Authored by: Anonymous on Wednesday, March 09 2005 @ 05:58 PM EST
I just finished working with a customer, had to get down to the command line
level to get a problem resolved. Heard the customer cursing to himself as he
entered the commands I gave him. Later he told me he almost never got down to
the command line level.

It struck me then what ready for the desktop meant. Point and click to do
everything. If you can't point and click everything, then it's not ready for
the desktop.

Kind of stupid if you ask me, limits your options, but there you have it.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Just being picky
Authored by: chaosd-II on Thursday, March 10 2005 @ 03:11 AM EST
Ok, most of you will say I'm being too picky (aside from RMS that is...) but:
  • Linux is the kernel - Asking if the Kernel is ready for the desktop is a fish - bicycle question.
  • Gnu/Linux is the more correct term for the usual Linux O/S core. It's very usable, but it's not a GUI, so it doesn't count :-(
  • 'X Windows' provides most of the core 'desktop' functions (I think the clipboard and drag 'n drop are provided by 'X', but please correct me if I'm wrong). IMHO 'X' was more ready for the desktop that Win 95 - but it looked ugly. BTW, Macs run an 'X' variant these days ;-)
  • Gnome / KDE / XFCE / CDE etc put the icing on the cake and give the user all the bells and whistles, like integrated icon sets, GUI config tools, PPP dialers.

So, the question should be: Are Gnome, KDE, XFCE et al ready for the desktop? These are what Joe User sees, and what he will call 'Linux'.

I reckon they are, but people like me tend to get in the way. For example, if you asked me how to burn a CD, I'd dig out the man page for cdrecord and start faffing with disk images, but put a blank CD in under Gnome (Fedora Core 2), and Nautilus (not some 3rd party, bundled burner) pops up a browser window that will write to the CD for you, with nice, simple options in plain English (or whichever language you speak).

I don't expect current Linux distros to be easy to use, because (and lets be honest here) the early ones weren't. Fun, exciting, powerful, feature-rich? Yes. User friendly? No.

So, I reckon us techy types need to take a back seat for a bit. The message is getting out. Firefox is a better browser, Thunderbird is a better mail client. Hey, maybe KDE / XFCE / Gnome are better desktops (we'll get to mousetraps later...).

---
Chaosd II
Stupid question is an oxymoron

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Bell Sympatico does not support Linux customers-how to change that?
Authored by: Anonymous on Friday, March 11 2005 @ 12:57 PM EST
As a linux user, I was told by a Bell Canada- Sympatico ISP's technician that
they do not provide support for Linux users, because he (or they, as matter of
fact) thinks Linux is not yet ready for the desktop. I explained that his view
is quite old. Linux is changing fast, but yet a lot of resistance is shown on
the side of big companies offering services. A huge campaign of education should
be started. how? i dont know.
But how you could do that if even supposed to be linux-supporters display
anti-linux commercial adds spreading FUD and/or misleading the people?

Take a good example for this: LINUX PLANET!!
They allow to show a Microsoft add saying that "According to the Yankee
Group, which costs less? WIndows or Linux?''

see that by yourself:

http://www.linuxplanet.com/linuxplanet/reports/2719/2/

It is deja vu!! Yeah, how much did you receive, he, Judas?

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