More Linux on the Desktop Musings

Looks like this blog post by Asa got Slashdotted. I talked to Asa in depth about this at Gnomedex a couple of weeks ago. I actually discussed that conversation a bit during the most recent episode of LQ Radio. As I said there, I have to agree with some of what Asa said. Of course, as you may have guessed, I don't agree with all of it. But I do think that when someone like Asa, who clearly not only gets Open Source but promotes it for a living, talks about something like this we should all listen. Application and driver support aside (note: I know these are both huge issues, but they are not technical ones per se and not on topic with the point I'd like to make. I don't want anyone to think I am minimizing them though), I'd say that Linux is almost as ready for the desktop as Windows is. The issue that many people have is that it is different, not better or worse. They don't want to take the time to learn is one problem I see, which is fine – but if they remember far enough back they had to learn Windows too. It's just that they know it now. They have an investemnt in time that makes them averse to change. Another complaint I see is that Linux is too hard to install. This one could not be more incorrect. Linux is easier to install than Windows. Most Windows users have never installed it though, since it came with their computer. For some reason I think they just assume it must be easy. If I sat my dad down with a computer and a Windows install disk, a working installation wouldn't come out of it (and he's a smart guy, just not necessarily computer savvy). Another issue I see talked about is that to get anything done you have to edit all these text files. First, I don't think this is true any longer, although it certainly once was. While I prefer to do things command line, almost all of it can be done through a GUI tool. The thing that gets me though, is that most things that you would have to drop down to a CLI to do, would require a registry edit in Windows. Which one of those is easier?? At least with Linux you have a choice.
Now, don't take this as I don't think Linux has a long way to go – it does. Asa and others bring up some very solid points and I could definitely add to the list. Some Linux advocates seem to have blinder on in this regard, and that's bad for everyone. In the end though, I think some people give Windows way more credit for being easy than it deserves. Windows seems to have created a legion of “Power Users” that know how to do a couple things in the GUI or make a couple of registry edits, without really knowing what they are doing and why they are doing it. Linux does require you to learn a little more, but the reward is a more solid, more stable system that is logical in design and efficient in operations. Once you understand the underlying paradigm, everything just makes sense. Even after a long time of Windows use, a ton of things make no sense to me. I mutter, “you can't do what?” to the Windows admins more than they'd like to admit. I'd like to think of the initial learning curve in Linux sort of like having a permit. Without that step, having a drivers license would be much more dangerous. That's probably why such a high percentage of Windows machine get compromised.
–jeremy
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