Linux for the Masses?

It wasn’t but five or six months ago that I was struck with the sense that it was doubtful that my next computer would be Windows based. There were several reasons for this, and I will try to sum it up quickly without sliding into the sanctimonious sophistry of the sheepherders, who bash Windows for breakfast. And first, I will say that I have some hope that Microsoft will step up and do something to save their products from continued decay, as they were once very good. But wishes are not horses. With internet explorer, Microsoft has had to make the bitter decision between backward compatibility and compliance with standards. A good strategist would have seen the third choice, but they didn’t have one on board when these decisions were made. In choosing to opt for backward compatibility, they have kept open a welcome mat, from the Internet, to an unacceptable number of security risks. I have seen way too many computers, in the past year, plagued with problems created by IE. And the add-on products which were supposed to lock things down failed to address these issues fully, and added problems of their own. Despite their performance in the courtroom, uninstalling IE is a chore.

It seems Microsoft’s concerns have drifted away from the user, and they have become focussed almost solely on their shareholder’s numbers. I noticed, with some chagrin, that the latest my file manager in windows now has a little menu option that says “Is this copy of Windows legal?” Yes, it is, Microsoft. I have the receipt. I have the license key. I’ve hit page down hundreds of times on your legal agreements that relinquish my rights to any sort of complaint for any problem you might cause, keeping an eye out for that clause about my first born, and intellectual property rights to my DNA.

More apropos, “Is this copy of Windows necessary?”

As a developer, I watch as more and more make the mass migration to Apple and OS/X. I have observed the same with non-developer users. And I have had the odious task of watching my wife suffer Windows Vista. The writing seems to be on the proverbial wall. The limits of the 32-bit operating system are being hit, the 4 Gig limit is no longer theoretical, XP64 or Vista Super Deluxe being the Windows options, it is going to be necessary to make an Operating system change in the coming months, regardless of Microsoft’s policies and corporate direction. Virtualization is another trend, which removes some of the barriers of switching operating systems.

The first thought was that I would switch to OS/X, Apple, Macintosh, and that still may happen. But the volume of Linux distributions has led me give it some consideration. A few months remain, maybe even a year, before I absolutely have to make a decision.

Linux options include, the most popular, Ubunto (based on Debian), targetted for the home desktop. Flavors include Kubuntu, Edubuntu, and XUbuntu.

Ubuntu 7.10 - Coming soon

Open Suse, another distro with Ease of Use as a goal:

Fedora, the Red Hat distribution, targetted more at the business desktop:

And a slough of others. If you haven’t, take a peek at DistroWatch:

http://distrowatch.com/

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3 Responses to Linux for the Masses?

  1. Tink says:

    Unless your a complete techy I’d avoid Linux. I played with it briefly and couldn’t even change the screen res. At least if you opt for a mac you keep your options open to run all 3 platforms.

  2. howardscholz says:

    Truth be told, I do consider myself a techie, so I cannot say with confidence that everyone should rush out and install Linux. The Live CD distributions offer a nice “try before you buy” option, of running off of the CD, and trying it out without committing to an install. For most people, who switch to Linux, it will be pre-installed on their machine, as it is with a most new PC’s and new Mac’s. Once it is set up correctly, things like the screen resolution are easy to change. The big news, to me, is that the focus of these companies is on making Linux “accessible” and “easy to use”, so all of this will come in time.

  3. Jon says:

    Tink, classic mistake there I’m afraid, there is no such thing as “Linux”, there is only the distro in question.

    In general – go with Ubuntu, its not perfect but its still better than OS X or Windows for 2 main reasons:
    * It doesn’t crash, except very rarely (yes Apples crash, a LOT)
    * Its easier to play any kind of media file under a Linux than in either of the other two, I kid you not.

    DO NOT GO NEAR FEDORA, its rubbish and you will regret it!

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