Helping people with computers... one answer at a time.

I'd love to run Linux. I'm ready for Linux. But Linux isn't quite ready for me. Or perhaps even you. But it's getting closer.

Listen:
Download the mp3

Transcript

This is Leo Notenboom for askleo.net.

A couple of weeks ago I wrote an article that discussed my problems activating a copy of Windows XP Home.

A common response has been to ask me why I even bothered? Why didn't I just run Linux?

I want to be very clear about something: I love Linux, I really do. For example the servers that host Ask Leo! have run Linux for several years now. I'm extremely comfortable using Linux.

And I do keep looking for an excuse to run it as my primary machine.

But I can't. I've tried several times, and each time I give up, returning to Windows.

The problem I keep running into is simply this: I don't use my computer in isolation. I keep needing to interact, either directly or indirectly, with other machines running Windows and with other people running Windows. I need to run applications that are available only on Windows. And even when alternatives are available, they're frequently not compatible alternatives - meaning that seamless or even near-seamless interchange of data between Windows and Linux is difficult at best, and in many cases simply not available. And those that claim compatibility often have small flaws and differences that render them either frustrating or effectively useless for my purposes.

But I'll try again sometime in the near future, probably when I get a new machine. No, the new machine will run Windows - like I said, I have too many critical dependencies on Windows - and I believe that's true for many people. but it's a great opportunity to try it again on the old machine as I migrate off.

Perhaps I'll be able to restrict what I do on that machine to a Linux compatible subset.

In a podcast a couple of weeks ago I also asked the somewhat rhetorical question: What do normal people do?

As bad as it might be for Windows users, the situation is still worse for Linux. For most "normal people", Linux is still too much of a conceptual leap with little to no support to fall back on. And while I absolutely recognize that there are many support forums and resources out on the internet, my claim is that's actually not enough. Until there's a family member or a local computer store, or even a major manufacturer that's willing to truly support Linux, it's not something I can yet recommend for the average user.

For anyone who likes to experiment, absolutely, it's worth a try and if it fits your needs, then by all means go for it.

It's getting better, but recognize that it still has the feeling of a "do it yourself" operating system.

And no, that doesn't minimize any of the issues that folks have with Windows - it just makes Linux less of an alternative than we might want it to be.

At least for now.

I'd love to hear what you think. Visit askleo.net and enter 12311 in the go to article number box to access the show notes, the transcript and to leave me a comment. While you're there, browse the hundreds of technical questions and answers on the site.

Till next time, I'm Leo Notenboom, for askleo.net.

Article C3335 - March 30, 2008 « »

Share this article with your friends:

Share this article on Facebook Tweet this article Email a link to this article
Leo Leo A. Notenboom has been playing with computers since he was required to take a programming class in 1976. An 18 year career as a programmer at Microsoft soon followed. After "retiring" in 2001, Leo started Ask Leo! in 2003 as a place for answers to common computer and technical questions. More about Leo.

Not what you needed?

48 Comments
Minot Isok
March 30, 2008 3:57 PM

I agree with you on this Leo. I've been trying different distros for four years now and always come back to Windows. Every time I read about a new Linux distro upgrade or see someone saying this distro is it, I always try it out and always I am disappointed. I always have an issue with my video card or my printer or why can't I find a graphics program that works like I want it to work. I always have to fit the way I work into the package instead of the package fitting to me. I like "playing" with Linux but I always get tired of always trying to configure out some nagging little problem.

Just my two cents worth.

Mark
March 30, 2008 4:08 PM

I agree with Leo on this one. Though the people at ASUS have given me hope. Their new EEE pc has a custom distro that, from what I hear, does the basics right out of the box. It handles wireless internet, word processing and web surfing without much set up. They have put this on a machine that is mostly intended for the not so tech savvy.

I feel like I should be paraphrasing Obama here, but there might be hope after all.

Fred Love
March 30, 2008 6:13 PM

I have to admit to posting this comment with a linux (Mepis) operated computer. So I may be a bit biased. I do have a Win XP computer running here, that is becoming my wifes computer.
I have always run as much "open" software as possible on my windows machines, I have used openoffice since it was Staroffice. So the transition to the programs on the Linux machines has not been much of a challenge. I have never had alot of hardware challenges, though when I had , I just found ( or bought) another piece of hardware to replace it with. (odviously, all my expensive hardware has worked) For the few windows programs I find I cannot live without (in my case this includes Photoshop and Illistrator) I simply run win xp in a virtual machine. Most of my files are on a NAS on the network. Though the windows machine and the Linux Machine connect over the network very well.
I beleave that the transition to Linux was much easier by having both machines available to use at the same time. rather than a dual boot. (Makeing partitions for the dual boot is the hardest part of installing Linux)
Lastly haveing installed windows of many flavors on many machines, and then spending hours hunting the internet to find drivers for some part, and finding it is no longer supported, expecialy on the windows you are trying to install. Installing Linux, and haveing it work, almost every time right out of the box, all your productiveity software installed, is almost a dream come true.

Big Dan
March 31, 2008 11:36 AM

Leo, I do have a suggestion for you; I remember a while back you mentioned switching to Thunderbird. When I used Thunderbird I kept my Thunderbird profile on a separate FAT32 partition then told both Linux and Windows to use that profile. This way mail was seamless between Ubuntu & Windows.

You can do the same with Firefox, just be sure not to install any Windows specific extensions.

I too have the same issues as you, being a webmaster most of my work is done inside a text editor and web browser so it's not that OS dependent. The problem lies with a few programs I love not being available on Linux. RoboForm is one of them, I love that program and Linux doesn't even have a suitable alternative.

Someday Linux will conquer. :D

Leo A. Notenboom
March 31, 2008 1:00 PM

-----BEGIN PGP SIGNED MESSAGE-----
Hash: SHA1

Actually I consider Firefox and Thunderbird two of my
applications that would *work*. I have mechanisms to copy my
email from machine to machine already, and the fact that I
can just copy the mail store to my Mac or to a Linux box and
have it just work is pretty damned cool. (I'm not as
concerned about Firefox customizations.)

Yep, Roboform is on the list of things I need but can't
have. (Before subsequent commentors throw out suggestions of
alternatives, remember, I need a solution where I can copy
the database from Windows to Linux and have it work in both
places.)

Surprisingly is that for me, Visual Basic turns out to be a
huge issue relating to my wife's business. I know that's not
a biggie for most people.

Leo


-----BEGIN PGP SIGNATURE-----
Version: GnuPG v1.4.7 (MingW32)

iD8DBQFH8UKWCMEe9B/8oqERAiO0AJ9UqmR5M7S41ilxx3x35Qh7RKWTRwCfdxKd
KAqaBfup7Ph+HZvMSQzxPuI=
=CAQN
-----END PGP SIGNATURE-----

Rahul
March 31, 2008 1:50 PM

I recently installed Linux (Ubuntu). I must admit it wasn't without teething problems. But I am getting used to resolving problems. I still use XP for most of my work and swing between Ubuntu and XP. I know I will eventually grasp Linux enough to switch completely (or mostly).

I say if computer savvy people start using Linux regularly, there will be enough customer pressure to create a support channel. As such there is excellent wiki or forum based support. All my teething problems were already addressed in one or more forums.

People call Linux and its distros geeky. Well I have nothing but praises for those geeks that made it possible - both the developers and support people.

Give Linux time and support and it will hit critical mass to take off. I am confident of that.
-Rahul.

tracyanne
April 1, 2008 2:26 AM

So Leo, please tell us, what programs are missing from Linux that you absolutely need Microsoft Windows for, and can't use a FOSS application in place of.

tracyanne
April 1, 2008 2:34 AM

I might point out that I know personally two ladies in their 80s who use Linux, a 9 year old boy, our post lady uses it to do her accounts, our small town local free newspaper is published on Linux, a musician friend of mine uses Linux for recording, mixing and creating music. I personally have used it for Graphic design and photographic work. I also have a media centre which I built myself with which I record and time shift tv shows.

jason_f
April 1, 2008 9:35 AM

My wife and kids are all proficient linux users. My kids have grown up on linux and know nothing else.. My friends and family, and even co-workers are simply amazed at the things I can accomplish with linux that they are clueless how to do in windows. For the family its interacting and grabbing info from the web in ways that arent possible in windows. At work, we have many problems that no one can figure out. A couple hours later I've got a perl script automating the process. The list goes on and on.

It sounds like you are after a free lunch. I know quite a few people that think if they stick an ubuntu cd in their computer, if they have to do any more than click 'next' 3 times in an installer window, its too hard or it wont work for them. The software is free, but experience getting to know your system is priceless. I grew up working with DOS. Using the command prompt on XP is horrendous. I cant accomplish anything.

For those apps that you may need, theres always VMware, wine, or any of the other windows virtualizers.

Dont give up so easily, you only get out what you put in. Your initial config may take some time, but once your up and running I think you'd be surprised how well things work....

Alex
April 1, 2008 9:48 AM

Have you tried using WINE or buying CrossOver from CodeWeavers for those Windows apps you can't live without? I've been running Kubuntu for a couple years, and Mandriva before that. I only plugin my XP drive about every three months or so when I have to send an email to my coworkers from home, since the web client for the horrible email system they use won't work properly in Firefox or Konqueror.

kenholmz
April 1, 2008 9:49 AM

Leo, as I write this I am using Novell SLED 10 SP1. I am also running Windows 2000 inside a virtual machine with VMWare server. This solution probably would not have saved you from the activation difficulties (or it might have because once you have the VM configured you can save a copy of it and restore it when needed). I also work in a Windows centric environment. I look forward to Linux and FOSS having more resources for use in assistive learning situations. My primary regret is that my math and programming skills are more than dismal.

Matt
April 1, 2008 10:25 AM

One thing that Linux is great for is experimenting with older hardware. I have revived old machines that were basically useless as windows boxes by adding linux. I set up an old PIII Dell with only 128 mb of RAM running in my house, and my family just uses it for browsing the web in firefox and occasionally editing documents in openoffice. When I buy new PCs, I buy them with the current copy of Windows, but I also usually end up adding linux to the older box that is being replaced.

fstephens
April 1, 2008 10:36 AM

I've recently thought allot about this while starting my blog:
http://LinuxLatitude.blogspot.com

Of course I am a Linux user for years, so I may not be totally objective. Another poster asked, what specific applications you need that don't run on Linux (natively or in Wine)?
I would be interested in an article that fairly presents the downside of Linux. Sounds like you might be objective enough to flesh out this viewpoint.

machiner
April 1, 2008 10:48 AM

It's all about perception, more often than not, and not so much about "critical apps".

If you think that the open source world doesn't have a version of your favorite app, look again tomorrow. Or, consider a different way of doing the same thing. For instance, a web-app. You'd be amazed at how simple and productive it can be running a local Apache web server. You'll have scores of thousands of applications that you could "install" and I know you will find what you thought you were missing.

The thing is, most people "know" that they can't do without Windows. I always laugh at that. It's the same crowd that believes that they learned everything they had to to succeed in life by the time 10th grade came along.

Whereas I can certainly respect adherance to a favorite app, it's the "I won't change" mentality that kills me.

I said that once, too. Then I got married.

Debian repositories contain more than 20 thousand software titles. If you can't find what you're looking for, hire a coder to make it for you. It's a whole lot less expensive than you think, especially considering the licensing fees and program costs that most Windows have consistently been paying throughout their computer usage lives.

Funny how an appliance has turned a population into Windows or Linux or Mac zealots.

Rock on.

--machiner

Adam
April 1, 2008 11:32 AM

I am in a similar situation as the author of this article. I love Linux and have used it on and off for the past three years. I even went as far as converting my workstation at the office from XP to Ubuntu. But, Linux is not ready for prime time desktop use for me. I admit, I am a software engineer and my requirements for an operating system might be a bit different than your parents or grandparents who simply surf the web and write email.

I am a Java developer, so working in the Eclipse IDE on Ubuntu was a breeze. However, I also deliver documents, presentations, and UML diagrams to customers on a regular basis. Sure, I used the popular Open Source alternatives like Open Office, Dia, Evolution. The problem is that Dia was not able to print my UML diagrams to our networked printer in a format that was reasonable. I had to resort to printing my UML to post script, and then send it to the printer.

Evolution has very poor Exchange Server support. Sometimes messages would get lost or not be downloaded. I would have to close and reopen Evolution several times per day to resolve synchronization issues between the server and client. Sure, MS Outlook is no dream, but at least I feel reasonably safe that emails will be delivered to me in a timely fashion. I’ve had messages sitting on the server that Evolution simply refused to download for no apparent reason. I ended up having to use the MS Webmail client to access and respond to those emails that were giving me problems.

Open Office Impress (MS Powerpoint replacement) has hit and miss compatibility with MS Powerpoint. The same goes for Open Office Writer. Documents created in Open Office Writer often looked horribly formatted when opened with MS Word. Documents and presentations come out looking like a preschooler did them when my customer opens them up in MS Word and Powerpoint. Sure, I felt warm and fuzzy using “free” and “open” software, but the quality of work looked like crap because the rest of the world is judging my work based on how it looks when viewed with MS products.

I am a professional commanding a high salary, and as such I am expected to put out precisely engineered documents, diagrams, presentations, and software. Writing precision software using Java on Linux is not an issue, but all the other stuff is! When my customer opens a document that I spent three hours writing and formatting and it looks like crap, it reflects poorly on me. I can’t simply say, “Oh, sorry. I am using Open Source software because I feel free and open software is important. You’ll have to switch to the same open source tools otherwise I can’t guarantee that you’ll be able to view my work in all its glory.”

Crossover Office, WINE, and Virtual Machines are fine and good for those who have one or two apps they can’t live without. However, support for newer versions of MS Office and other high-end MS tools are sketchy at best. Besides, to me, virtualized and compatibility environments simply show me that we are not there yet with desktop Linux. I am not advocating the effort for desktop Linux be stopped, simply stating that there is still raw cake batter on the toothpick.(It ain’t fully cooked yet…)

Is desktop Linux ready for your parent, grandparents, and kids? The answer is probably. But, is desktop Linux ready for everyone else, I doubt it, but hopefully it will within my lifetime.

Max Stirner
April 1, 2008 11:34 AM

Shame you didnt specify what the shortcomings were. I for my part switched to SUSE in 2001, then to one of the first versions of Ubuntu, and have never looked back. The stability and speed I get out of my (now ageing) laptop is just amazing. All software packages I download are free software as well, and I can fullfil any computing need I require on this basis. When I'm forced to use XP or Vista at the workplace or a friend's house, I am always surprised just how unstabled and closed and rigid it all is. Vista in particular is a pile of junk. Why would anyone pay (lots of) money for this, if there are free, more stable and secure alternatives that run well on older harware? MS, your days are counted..

Trashbird1240
April 1, 2008 11:54 AM

Perhaps getting into the Unix ethos will help your view of Linux. Linux was not designed to be an alternative to Windows (i.e. be like Windows), it was designed to be a powerful desktop version of Unix. If you're using Openoffice.org and seeking compatibility with Windows applications, you want ReactOS, not Linux.

Every week I read another "not ready for prime time" article and they all say the same things that are (a) not true and (b) don't apply to most Linux users I know. For the former, see all the examples above of family members who use Linux with no problems; for the latter, consider that most Linux users I know have never used Windows or at least never enjoyed it. They were always searching for something that actually worked the way they thought it should, i.e. like Unix. If you're happy to point and click and drag and drop a few, then I'm sure Windows poses no problems for you; however if you want to rename a few hundred files out of several thousand that fit certain criteria, then you're better off with a Unix paradigm. Even if you prefer to drag and drop, Linux has ROX-filer, Nautilus, Konqueror, Thunar...

Most Linux users don't use word processors or spreadsheets. Don't think that you need to have those things to be productive on a computer.

The real problem with Linux adoption for "regular people" is that regular people don't understand how computers work. They think Firefox is an operating system. They don't understand that Gmail is not located on their machines: my mother is visiting our family this week, and insists on checking her email on her laptop, despite its battery problems and unreliable wireless connection, because she thinks I'll be able to read her email if she uses my computer. She's an otherwise intelligent person, and spends a lot on computer software and hardware. Those are the people the computer industry is catering to: that's why ISPs and phone companies are able to make virus protection a selling point. They're selling to people who don't understand why that's not a feature. They don't know people like me, who were sending pictures in email (ooh! what a feature!) since long before the concept appeared in ads for Windows XP; and they don't know that it has nothing to do with the operating system.

Max Stirner
April 1, 2008 12:00 PM

I forgot to mention, I run 2 linux laptops, two desktops, one linux server (in the cellar without a monitor - thats not even possible on MS server) and I didn't have to pay one cent/penny/eurocent/rappen whatever in licensing fees. Furthermore, most of this hardware was revived from the 90s. If I did that on the monopolists' products, I'd run up a bill going into the hundres of USD/EUR/GBP and a hardware bill to the same sum.

Enjoy the freedom of GNU/Linux!

Russ
April 1, 2008 2:04 PM

I think what you're really saying here is that a Linux box is not yet a drop-in replacement for a Windows machine. That's very true, and Microsoft does everything in its power to assure that it always will be. I suggest that for people who are locked into MS/Windows-only software, replacing Windows with Linux and having it work exactly the same is a dream that will never be realized. Linux is not Windows (and I hope it never is). So if only Windows does what you want to do, then I say use it.

What I fail to see is how that translates to the notion that Linux is somehow inferior, "not yet ready for the average user". I've used Linux exclusively for my home/work machines (I'm an independent consultant/developer) for more than five years, and found it perfectly adequate for everything I do. Over that time, I've helped people whose Windows machines had experienced "Windows rot" or were compromised by various forms of malware to either convert to Linux or to buy a new box with Linux pre-installed. They all adapted quickly to their new environment. And they have required very little support, because a Linux doesn't degrade over time or become readily compromised the way Windows does. I used to get lots of dinner invitations that turned out to include a request to fix a broken Windows install. Now that I support only Linux, my social calendar has far fewer entries. Oh, and in those five years, the only reboots I've done have followed kernel updates. And I've never had to wipe a hard drive and reinstall because it stopped working.

I have often thought that people feel that they need a support system for their computer mainly because all they know is Windows. As a result, they think it's normal for computers to be erratic and unreliable, and to need constant repair. While that is true of Windows, it's not the case for Linux. Once get the box set up, and it just works. And it keeps working. A couple of my "average" users, having discovered that Linux allows them, with a little effort, to make the computer work exactly the way they want it to, have progressed beyond the "average" level--and now encourage others do the same. It's amazing what people will do for themselves when they realize they have the power to do it. And Linux affords them that power.

So my experience leads me to submit that it's a mistake to think that Linux requires the vast support network that is necessary to keep Windows machines running. Support is absolutely needed, yes, but far less of it will suffice. Most of it goes into setup, very little into maintenance. And I wouldn't so lightly dismiss the support available on the Web. In my work I still use and program for Windows (Oh, the pain!), and I generally find it easier to Google the information that I need to get something working on Linux than for an equivalent Windows item. The difference, to my mind, stems from the fact that Free software is created mainly by users for users, while proprietary software is created by marketers to be marketed; the one to use, the other to sell. That cultural distinction carries over into support, where the users of Linux are very forthcoming in posting their experiences on the Web for the benefit of others, whereas vendors view support as another revenue stream...have your credit card ready!.

DiBosco
April 1, 2008 2:23 PM

"It's getting better, but recognize that it still has the feeling of a "do it yourself" operating system."

I'm afraid this is just utter tosh. Linux looks fabulous these days and is far more secure and stable than Windows, so to say it has a do-it-yourself" feel to it is just bizarre.

You don't actually say what it is you can't do on Linux which strikes me that you're afraid to say as people will just point out you *can* do the things you think you can't.

"And even when alternatives are available, they're frequently not compatible alternatives - meaning that seamless or even near-seamless interchange of data between Windows and Linux is difficult at best, and in many cases simply not available. "

The problem I find with this is that, again, you don't give any examples of what you can't transfer over. There may be a one-off data-format changeover, but after that you will be up and running.

When I talk to people about this, they get really afraid that they use Microsoft Word and then proceed to tell me they write the odd letter with it, blissfully unaware that there are lots of perfectly good, open source alternatives that will work better than Word. As someone above says, if you *have* to Redmond's overpriced wares, you can run Crossover Office for the Office Suite.

I've not touched Windows at home for two or so years now and I write embedded software, layout PCBs, write simple GUI apps, surf, send-emails, so database apps, use word processors etc etc and I have no problems whatsoever. Wine and dosbox do me for two old apps I still like. In time there will open source apps to replace them.

Alan
April 1, 2008 2:53 PM

I've read a lot of people's opinions on why Linux "isn't ready" over the years, and this one isn't much different. I understand Leo's concerns about interoperability, and I can certainly understand why that would make it hard to switch. But there's a subtle double-standard when you say Linux "isn't ready" because it doesn't interoperate with Windows seamlessly. Is Windows "not ready" because it doesn't interop with Linux? I can think of several of my favorite Linux apps that don't run on Windows. Is Windows "not ready?" OpenOffice doesn't flawlessly render .doc files -- how does MS office do on ODF files? Oh, doesn't even open them... hmmmm. Office must not be ready...

The truth is, it takes two to tango. If you're waiting for Linux to interop with Windows flawlessly before you give it a shot, keep waiting. Microsoft, despite their recent attempt to be seen as "open-source friendly", will never let that happen. But if you're in a position to cut loose of Microsoft and try something different, Linux will make you happy I'm sure. If you're not ready to write a "Dear Bill" letter, then probably you can't switch. Sorry. But please don't perpetuate the myth that Linux "isn't ready" because Microsoft doesn't want to dance.

LAS
April 1, 2008 3:45 PM

To those who say Open Office isn't compatible with MS office. Have you done the MS office compatibility tweaks in Open Office writer? Just google it. And by the way ODF is gaining support all over the world (and according to Microsoft they will support it)Linux/Open Office is being used with great success by millions of individuals and companies. Ubuntu Linux is more than ready for my needs. I wouldn't trust my data on a Windows box anyway.

Don
April 1, 2008 8:06 PM

Cold hearted orb that rules the night,
Removes the colours from our sight.
Red is grey and yellow white,
But we decide which is right.
And which is an illusion?

So is it Linux that is not up to Windows standards? Or, is it Windows that is lagging behind Linux?

Marc
April 2, 2008 1:37 AM

After all it's good to know you will be trying this time after time in the future again ;-)))
Surely there are applications not running "out-ofthe-box""seamlessly" between the operating systems, so everybody has to choose weather he/she is willing to put some time and attention to get things running. When I take a view back how much time and money I had to spend to protect my windows system against malware of any kind, getting bugs out of applications, getting bugs out of windows,prevent windows from collecting and transferring my personal data ...... I prefer to learn something more about linux and get some applications running (maybe not "seamless" out of the box, but sooner or later). Yes , not too easy in some cases, there are also sometimes some problems within the hardware detection ( I have a need for a new scanner for instance, but this is an old machine anyway) - but vista is also not running properly on non-up-to-date machines . But an up-to-date linux system is FAR AWAY from a "do-it-yourself" operating system. Try kanotix-rc8, mandriva 2008.1, ubuntu of course , open suse 10.3 ...
All these systems are developing much faster than any windows system and will not be "sooner or later" able to fulfill the needs of an "average user", they are doing it right now or will do very soon.
Missing support ? No problem : I have to pay
some 100 euros for a windows system, I pay 40-60 euros for a mandriva or suse and receive professional support to get the system and applications running . So, "do-ityourself" is not a persuasive argument , you have to do a lot by yourself either with your windows keeping it alive and stable, bug-free and half-way-safe . The only remaining reason for me to keep a windows installation on a second partition with no internet acess is : there are much more high quality graphic games for windows than for linux.
The game developers did their work foremost for windows, of course, the most selling system, here they can find the most customers and profit.

Alex Chejlyk
April 2, 2008 10:48 AM

I communicate with Windows and Mac users daily. I use PDF for documents, spreadsheets and diagrams. My presentations are done in Impress. I don't email my presentations out, I usually present them...
If someone sends me a doc or xls I ask for a pdf of these even though I can read them. People must learn to use standard tools and MS office isn't a standard.
I've been using Linux exclusively since 2001.

Cheers,

Alex C.

Chris Lees
April 3, 2008 2:06 AM

What about the Macintosh? There's also very limited support available, there are lots of Windows programs not available for it, and you absolutely must buy a new computer for it.

If you look, you'll find local people who are knowledgable with Linux. In my travels, I occasionally mention Ubuntu to people, and they say things like "Oh, I use Gentoo" or "You're a smart guy, why aren't you using Debian?". I'm sure there are people out there silently providing support for Macs, but I don't run into them.

I purposely migrated from Mac/Windows to Linux, over a period of about a year. At the end, I have checked every box: Literally everything i need to do, I can do on Linux. You name it: Video editing, DVD authoring, putting songs and video onto my MP3 player, VoIP, network server, photo editing, home recording (I play classical guitar).

Bryan K.
April 4, 2008 12:18 PM

As someone who has been using Windows and DOS before that, MACs and Apple II's before that and Unix and Linux for over 25 years, I say they all have their issues.
If you are use to Windows, the Mac and Linux can be a little frustrating. If you are use to the Mac, Windows and Linux can be frustrating.
I used to have my server Linux based. The security was better than Windows and so were some of the drivers. But I had issues connecting my Macs to it. Windows 2000 worked okay.
So I went back to Windows. With MAC OSX I am considering giving it another look.
To be honest, I have no idea what Vista will do with it. I have a hard enough time with Vista connecting to my XP machines.
It all comes down to what are you comfortable with. I think the average user has a hard enough time with Windows. Linux would freak them out.
Now, take a kid who started on Linux and learning Windows is not so daunting.
I have found this from experience. It is much, much easier to teach a Windows user the Macintosh than it is to teach a Mac user Windows.
What does that tell us?

Harold
April 4, 2008 7:06 PM

I have many similar thoughts as Leo. I have been experimenting and trying to learn Linux for a few months now. It is hard as well as rewarding. However, like Leo I am tied to applications that I have to work with that are Windows only applications. I don't have time to learn how to use Wine or virtual software when I need to get some work done. I have looked at and dealt a little with apps like Open Office but when I need to get some work done I have to revert to Excel. I know how to do it in Excel. Open Office Calc is similiar to Excel but the learning curve demands more time than I have to get my work done. I am going to continue to work with Linux but I am not able at this time to break completely from Windows.

Michael Horowitz
April 4, 2008 7:41 PM

For Windows applications on Linux, let me suggest the free VMware server software. Only problem is installing it - instructions are in Linux-ease and you have to know the local dialect. :-)

You can also use the free VMware converter software to convert your current Windows machine into a virtual machine. This avoids re-installing your favorite Windows applications, not to mention purchasing another copy of Windows. It's not a painless operation, but not too bad either.

Charlie Griffith
April 4, 2008 9:18 PM

Thanks to all the contributors for their answers. I've been searching Google un-systematically for a while trying to find out why I should change from Windows to one of those other systems...sort of reverse selling, if you will. Your answers have convinced me that for my unsophisticated needs Windows is more than sufficient. Thanks, Leo, and all. :D

Steve Harrison
April 5, 2008 1:42 AM

I, too have tried switching over a couple of times. I have no problem using Open Office or the other apps. My problems started with the peripheral hardware: scanner, printer, camera and especially my wireless GSM modem. No support for it to be found. For me, that's the rub. I need my access to the net. I haven't tried a work-around like VM virtual box, though...

Hugh E Torrance
April 5, 2008 2:46 AM

I have on this drive XP,Mepis and desktop BSD,I use GRUB to boot into whatever system I want.
Linux is ready,it came of age a few years ago,using the command line turns out to be fun,you just copy and paste the commands,its a doddle.On the other drive on this box I have Debian Etch4 which is what I am on now...the answewr is keep your XP and have a dual boot system,I read on Ian Murdock,s blog that he uses XP as well and it turns out that a lot of Linux users including me do as well...but I like to think that Linux is my main operating system of which I have around ten systems.
On a dual boot system you install Xp first then your chosen distro,I recommend Ubuntu 8.04 which should be released some time this month.
Ubuntu and loads of other distros are in a live CD format so you can try them out without changing anything on your computer...perhaps Leo will tell us how to set up your BIOS to boot up a live CD.

Frank Bridgland
April 5, 2008 2:51 AM

Tried to install ubuntu latest (7.??) and found routine nightmare. List of unfamiliar formats, need to format two partitons, one for system, one for swap and then the whole thing froze. Live CD just doesn't seem to support my netgear wireless router. I like the idea of moving off windows but not this way. Why they can't have a setup that simply allows installation on one partition separate to XP and set up dual boot AUTOMATICALLY is something I can't figure. Very few folk, I suspect, are going to jump past Live CD operation to trying Ubuntu on their hard drive and ditch windows at the same time. Still there is always the next issue of Ubuntu to try out I suppose.

Hugh E Torrance
April 5, 2008 4:06 AM

Ubuntu 8.04 is easy to install especially if you get a second drive and "use the entire drive" most distros will install happily without the swap using only one partition...its a question of RTFM,read up on what you are trying to do before you do it...
Having said that I think Ubuntu is installable nect to XP as it will offer to sort everything out for you.
A second drive is plug and play if you have set the BIOS to auto detect...for beginners Google BIOS and begin to find out.
Where there is a will there is a way,its usually easier than you first thought.

Ken Crook
April 5, 2008 10:35 PM

Most people just want to use their computer.
Plug it in, turn it on, run.
While someday there may be a version of Unix that is simple and easy to use, without work arounds, that day has not come yet.
I think the only way Unix will really get into the main stream is if someone sells it, and supports it as a real company would do.
Open source is ok for geeks to play around with, but most people need a real company to support what they use.

Munyaradzi
April 6, 2008 11:43 PM

I am trying out with linux and i do agree with leo about having lots of dependencies on windows. I however believe that the choice should be based on what you want to achieve. Id advise a student in computer science, or a knowledge hungry individual to go for linux whilst id advise the average office lad to go on Windows. With linux, you are forced to understand some concepts of computers that have been "obfuscated" by the seemingly magical windows. In a nutshell, because im learning and want to learn.....i use linux in my spare time :-)

Margherita
April 7, 2008 3:03 AM

I would love to try Linux one day when it will be able to support Autodesk software. Untill then... I have no other choice but Windows.

Jug
April 7, 2008 7:30 PM

Why not run Linux? It's the best all we have to do as customers is demand things to be Linux compatible. I am sick of Windows running the world. Companies have got to make our products work with our programs.
Jug

downunder
April 10, 2008 5:33 AM

Am running with Linux this instant-- am totally non-intuitive re computer lingo which is why i'm interested in this site (to learn)-- anyway, my spouse is the IT guru, with a preference for Linux and Ubuntu, which I also prefer for internet use.It's plethora of add-ons for working with my language studies, graphics interests etc are on-tap. However, I do need Microsoft as well, to run my digitising sewing programmes with machine compatibility.Sometimes I use Microsoft for the internet because I may wish to later use some of my sewing design formats or other windows compatible files, but find it more problematical than Linux, which rarely has 'non responding' or shut down problems.Many of my old Windows programmes are irreplaceable and those that are, could cost extraordinary amounts of $'s with extra features I dont need or want.Unfortuneately for most of us, there seems to be a push for us to- update or do without-.

mandrivafanboy
April 19, 2008 6:27 PM

I'd like to recommend mandriva for beginners. I just installed last week and it was ridiculously easy. Everything worked without any tweaking and I'm posting from it right now.

Eric
July 19, 2008 4:09 PM

Linux is supported by a major buisness... Novel???? And OpenSuse Novel created OpenSuse and still supports it... I've heard a lot of windows junkies complain that out of the box its not supporting their software.... Ever try Google? I got all my hardware working for linux. Somtimes you have to go online and search for your answers. I got my Linksys WRT54G wireless router working. All you have to do is google search the stock password on it go to your web browser and pop in the ip of your router put in the password and change stuff from there..... Including the password for configurations.... OMG that was easy. LOL. I will say this however. If you don't know how to open up cmd and use it don't think about linux... Its not idiot proof on the sole basis that your not going to find any help unless you know what to type in a search query. If you want to make the leap a good start is OpenSuse. Their forums are full of support and my second option to start some one on is Ubuntu. After that Madriva. Keep in mind that Linux is very very very customizable... Meaning its not ready out of the box for everyone.. For some it is.For me its an adventure.

John Winder
August 26, 2008 4:43 AM

For anyone wanting to try Linux without 'messing' about with mbr's & partitioning try Puppy Linux
http://www.puppylinux.org/home
forums:- http://www.murga-linux.com/puppy/index.php
Coexists with ntfs - the painless way of trying Linux!
See also Lin n Win - http://www.icpug.org.uk/national/linnwin/contents.htm to enable dual/triple etc booting - still no partitioning or modifying of the mbr.
I've only been using Linux a short while but recommend the above - they have the most helpful forums I've ever come across.

Art Hall
October 22, 2008 7:47 AM

After trying out 16 or 18 versions, I have found that Xandros 3.02 works very well for "newbies" to Linux. I've installed it on machines donated to refugee families our church is sponsoring and they seem to be able to use it with little or no difficulty. It looks and feels very much like Windows XP. Particularly if what the user primarily wants is Internet access, e-mail capability, and an Office-like suite (included with most, if not all, Linux distributions), Xandros will suit them well. It's all-but-automatic to install and takes little installation time. The only customization needed was to clear some shortcuts from the desktop. Another fine performer in the Linux camp is Ubuntu 8.04. Either is available for less than $2.00, plus the inevitable shipping and handling. Sorry if this sounds like a commercial, but after years of searching for a bridge from Windows to Linux, these two versions seem to be more seamless in transition than any I've found.

Ken Sturmer
February 10, 2009 8:43 AM

I don't really understand the problem people have using Linux. I have run one or another version of Linux on my computers for over three years now. This past year, I deleted all versions of Windows and sent the to "Microsoft Heaven" where I think all Microsoft products belong.
I currently use SUSE 11.1 on both my PC and Laptop. It functions much more smoothly than Windows ever did, and the support is excellent. There is never a problem, that I cannot solve by checking the forums. I don't understand people who claim Linux is not "user friendly". I found all my software applications ( and could pick and try out each as Linux is freeware! If something did not work, I tried something else. I do video editing and photo editing on my computer. I have found applications that do this better, and just as easily as any Windows software, and all for free. I would never use Windows again!

Krezos
September 13, 2009 2:57 PM

Thank you so much! I had exactly exactly same problem as you. I'm actually running both XP and Ubuntu, and it was jarring how difficult XP was to set up compared to the painless process Ubuntu was.

And I thought Linux was the complex, confusing OS?!

And I tho

Emiel
November 23, 2009 6:48 AM

I agree: I'd love to run Linux as well. I firmly believe that someday in the future, Linux will be as easy to use as (and interchangeable with) Windows, at which point Linux will become as dominant as Windows is today. There can be no doubt about it: Windows can only lose.
But I tried to run Ubuntu several times on a Virtual Machine and even something as simple as installing the Flash plugin for FF takes me hours to figure out. There is simply too much of a learning curve.
I also have the difficulty with using software that's only available on Windows, like music and graphical software (creation and notation of music in CuBase and Finale, and programs like Photoshop). If just installing a Flash plugin takes so much trouble, I don't have any confidence in using an emulator to run Windows programs under Ubuntu.
Also, I tried using OpenOffice instead of MS Office, and noticed that they're not 100% compatible yet (this was in 2008). Editing and saving a spreadsheet created in MS Office didn't work correctly in OpenOffice. (Although, a way around it may be to use have the Excell user export the spreadsheet as a CSV file and import that in Calc.)
So, I agree completely with the article. However, I'll keep on trying to use Ubuntu, and am hopeful Google is coming up with a Linux based OS, which hopefully means Linux will become more widespread.
As soon as it is possible, I'll switch to a Linux based OS.

May I suggest a book here? It's written by the creator of the Linux kernel, Linus Torvalds, and called "Just for Fun (The Story of an Accidental Revolutionary)". It's a very entertainig, insighftul and non-technical book about the humble origins of Linux.

Charles Tilley
December 27, 2009 8:37 PM

I have run several Linux "distro's", as they are called. But going from 10 years of using Windows to a whole different platform was way too much of a learning curve for me. Executing downloads was a nightmare, installing printers the same. I could browse the Web, check my emails, shop online, etc. But with Linux, you don't get the very latest browsers (Firefox, in my case), and you don't get many of the apps that Windows has to offer. And the most important thing, Professional Support. All that you have are the forums, and you may get 20 answers to one simple question. And not to put anyone down for it, but a lot of the replies were in broken English. And the top dogs of Linux, they look like members of the Manson family. Any of you ever seen Richard Stallman? A self proclaimed atheist at that. That didn't even belong in the forums. The Free Software Movement? Sure, who wouldn't like free software. But once again, where's the professional support. That's my point. We NEED support for the OS of our choice, and with the exception of a couple of paid versions, Linux doesn't do it for me. Who knows, I may have had as much trouble with a Mac OS. But at least I would have access to professional support. No, I just got a new PC with Windows 7 on it, and I upgraded my laptop (the same make & model as Leo's) to Windows 7 as well. It's worked out well for me, and if I do have a problem, it's a phone call away.

Camran Manikfan
November 21, 2012 1:28 AM

I installed Ubuntu 12.10 five days ago. Dual boot. Fell in love with it on seeing the splash screen :P. Looked on in awe as it finished setup in twenty minutes from a flash drive, and then I logged in. Lightning-fast startup speed (including app loading speed), pretty interface, and almost everything you need already installed. What more could one ask for? :) The only hassle is installing apps sometimes, like VLC - took me an hour and a half on my dad's PC to find all the installation packages since my laptop wasn't configured to connect to the Internet and take those automatically; besides, I prefer to have a safety net and know that I can install things offline as well. That's the only thing I wish could be fixed, or at least a place to get all the correct and necessary packages to install apps. Firefox and Thunderbird provide their .tar.bz2 archives for this, I wish there was something like that for other apps (if anyone reading this knows where, I'd be deeply indebted if you could tell me). Otherwise, I have no complaints about Ubuntu and Linux distros. LibreOffice looks and works as good or better than MS Office (the only thing better about Office is the 2010 icons, I feel :D). Now I only turn on Windows to update my antivirus and play my favourite games.

I totally agree with you, Leo, and the others who feel Linux can overtake Windows: Linux rocks! And it isn't just for geeks, I say.

Comments on this entry are closed.

If you have a question, start by using the search box up at the top of the page - there's a very good chance that your question has already been answered on Ask Leo!.

If you don't find your answer, head out to http://askleo.com/ask to ask your question.