Desktop Linux: Barriers

July 4, 2006



You can hardly swing a dead cat without finding some sort of article either saying way the time is now for desk top Linux, or what the hold up is.


Most of the folks engaged in this dialogue are enthusiasts for one side or the other, and they are all have propellers on top pf their beanies. Which is the cool thing about blogs because even noobs like me can get in on the action and even say a thing or two.


Hat tip to Rees and his article and link to OS Magazine’s article on why Linux is not yet ready for new users. Hat tip to Limulus and his article and link over to Ourtweaks article on their Ubuntu misadventures.


OS Magazine’s arguments are on for the most part, but are not complete. Beyond standards and perceptions, there are some real reasons why people are not flocking to the free Linux OS distros.


1. First, the perception of Linux being a harder OS isn’t just a perception. There is a learning curve with this stuff. But I think being willing to invest in a bit of sweat equity for the free cost and superior product is a fair trade. Trouble is…


2. Linux is constantly being touted as being superior in speed and performance and I’m not convinced this is true. It CAN be true once XP is mauled to death and barely running. But generally I notice applications taking longer to open or even a longish boot sequence. Okay, I’m using a live CD so I’ll allow some concessions. And then the fact I have crashed Linux several times. Again, maybe it’s the live CD but maybe not. And I am not trying to tweak the system files! I’m just playing a game or surfing the web. Boot time from login to running an application takes longer with my Linux version.


3. The bloody command line interface. Linux will never, ever, ever make serious inroads into regular user territory as long as that exists as anything other than a hobbyist tool. There needs to be a GUI for just about everything.


4. Linux language, jargon and file structure. These will all be totally foreign to a new user until we see more Linux machines in schools. And those IT folks are more Windows-centric than most.


The live CD touted by the author of the OS Magazine article as a valuable tool is spot on. I may not get a lot of people switching and migrating, but people can play with it and begin learning the language and soon some may become bilingual between Windows and Linux.. Eventually some switching will happen when the Windows OS craps out. and folks already familiar with the live CD will make the switch more easily.


The Ourtweaks folks tried out Ubuntu and had loads of problems. As a neutral observer, I can see these problems honestly. They were trying to do a bit much with it at the outset, and were trying to do too much tweaking. At the same time, they had seemingly legitimate concerns. I’m glad to have found them and Limulus at the same time.


I already have a complaint about Ubuntu in that they are taking their time getting me my CDs. I ordered my Mepis CD at the same time and it has already been here over a week. Okay, I paid postage for the Mepis CD. I’m tempted to try a couple more distros from linuxcd.com.


I still haven’t installed my new modem. The old one seems to be working but I never get much over 28.8Kps for speed. I wonder if a new modem and OS could improve that?


We’ll see.



  1. I have to admit, ourtweaks aren’t the only ones feeling a bit disheartened when it comes ot Ubuntu. I’m seriously cosnidering going back to SuSE Linux, as it just seems a lot more polished and professional. I’ve found a lot of inconsisitencies in the Ubuntu user interface and some stability issues which I don’t seem to have in other Linux ditros.

    Your suspicions about Live CDs are spot on: Linux needs a fair chunk of RAM and a swap partition to run well, and to be stable, and a Live CD doesn’t provide this. If you had, say, 2Gb of RAM, and extremely fast RAM at that, then maybe it would be okay if the system was running entirely from RAM, but at the moment, the tweaks they’ve had to make to get Linux to run on a read-only filesystem affect the speed and stability far too much.

  2. Rees: regarding Live CDs, my experience with Ubuntu’s has been that it doesn’t take much more system resources to run it just as well as an installed version; 512 MB seems to be more than enough RAM while 256 MB is the minimum I would use. BTW, on my installed version, Ubuntu never seems to touch swap unless I manage to use up all my physical RAM, but since I have 1 GB that hasn’t happened in a very long time.

    Dick: regarding the free CDs, check back on https://shipit.ubuntu.com/myrequest to see if they’ve been shipped; their estimate of “4 to 6 weeks” from order approval is usually pretty accurate. The last two times I ordered disks they were shipped from the Netherlands 🙂

    Regarding trying other distros, I think that’s a great idea! 🙂 As I said in my post, “Ubuntu isn’t for everyone who would be interested in Linux and Linux isn’t for everyone who has a computer.”… That’s why there are ~500 distros on distrowatch.com! (and some of them are BSD, etc. 😉

    Each one will have its benefits and quirks, but eventually you’ll find one you like the best. BTW, I’ve tried PCLinuxOS and if Ubuntu wasn’t around (or I liked KDE more than Gnome ;), I think I would be using that.

  3. Thanks for chiming in, guys. In a future post, I do begin to come around to more of a mercenary idea when it comes to an OS. In other words, don’t rely on ANY one OS (or distro) if you can help it. I know Microsoft would demand absolute fidelity, but I think the future lies in being a promiscuous user and bedding down with the OS that works best and is most available at the moment. Which is sort of where Linux users are. I think there is room for Windows in the OS harem, if we can only teach her to get along better with the rest of them!


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