Why Linux Can’t “Sell” on the Desktop

Last week while having a conversation with one of my fellow Gnomies, I  found myself in a rare condition: I discovered that I was unable to answer a technology-related question with conviction. I’m not saying I have all the answers; every day I am confronted with questions either I or someone else asks me about technology that requires further research for me to understand. When I simply don’t know something, I admit that I’m not an expert on the issue at hand and proceed to direct myself or others to resources that are likely to offer answers. That is one reason I find technology so interesting: I love to research and discover new things. It’s probably also why I was so fascinated with Linux when I first began to explore the platform: it was so different from every computing paradigm I’d been was familiar with, and so ripe with possibility and the opportunity to learn (rather than simply use). No longer was I stuck between two choices of desktop (and laptop) operating systems — with Linux, I had a variety of ways I could run my computer and endless ways I could customize my experience. I could even develop my own “brand” of Linux and distribute or even sell it if I was so inclined.

Last week, however, I found myself dealing with a question that I should easily have been able to answer: Why would anyone want to use Linux as their everyday desktop (or laptop) operating system? It’s a fair question, and asked often of Linux. On this occasion, however, I found it was a question I could no longer answer with the conviction necessary to “sell” the platform. In fact, I kind of felt like a car salesman who realizes he no longer believes in the product he’s been pitching.

How long had I felt this way? Had I been kidding myself (and others) about the wonders of Linux? Did I really want to continue offering Linux as a viable desktop alternative?

These doubts had been seeded in my mind for some time, but it was during a TeamSpeak conversation that superstar Gnomie Stacy Pharis compelled them to germinate. (Gnomies is the paid community component of LockerGnome. It is the meat under the lettuce, so to speak, where the hunger for knowledge and communication with other geeks is truly satisfied. TeamSpeak is a technology employed to enable members, also known as “Gnomies”, to engage in voice conferencing any time of day or night.) It was late at night, perhaps early morning, and my fellow Gnomie informed me that he was installing Ubuntu, a distribution (or distro) of Linux. Once Mr. Pharis had Ubuntu installed and began describing his view of the desktop operating system, I could sense right away that he held some negative notions about desktop distributions of Linux. Since I’d long been a proponent of open source software, and particularly Linux, Mr. Pharis’ remark about the Linux community being a “cult” immediately triggered some of my internal defense mechanisms. I held my tongue, however, and decided to approach the occasion as an opportunity for learning.

Linux powers an ever-increasing number of devices from airport kiosks to household appliances, so most of us have used the operating system in one way or another. Yet most people wouldn’t claim to have experience with the platform unless they’d installed and played around with a distribution on their own computer system. The last time Mr. Pharis had intentionally installed and worked with Linux purely as a desktop computing environment was about a decade prior, so he hadn’t had any firsthand experience with Ubuntu Linux. Now, I don’t normally enjoy engaging in conversations with people who are pessimistic about a technology they haven’t used — most people I’ve encountered aren’t very open-minded about technology once they have firmly entrenched ideas about it — but I could sense Mr. Pharis was an intelligent fellow, tech-savvy and straightforward rather than trollish, so I attempted to offer some answers to doubts he held about the open source platform. I recognized the occasion as an opportunity to “sell” Linux.

What struck me as unusual (and led me to write this article) was my own inability to fully recommend Linux as a viable desktop solution. Mr. Pharis was asking why anyone would consider using Ubuntu as an alternative to another desktop operating system:

“I understand why someone would choose a Linux distro to do some things, such as partition a disc or do some maintenance tasks or whatnot…”

— I’m paraphrasing here; I don’t know that Mr. Pharis would actually use the word whatnot

“…but why would anyone adopt Ubuntu or some other Linux distro as their daily desktop?”

At first, I wasn’t certain whether he was asking this question of me or someone else (since I had taken a break for a few minutes and had just returned to TeamSpeak), so I waited for somebody else to answer. Satisfied that nobody else was in the conversation, I took up the challenge of changing Mr. Pharis’ mind about Linux:

“There are many reasons people choose Ubuntu — or any other flavor of Linux — rather than Mac OS X or Windows 7 or whatever else they’re used to. Just start playing around with it and you’ll see what I mean.”

It was hardly an answer, but it was late and I was too tired to make a proper effort at evangelizing the platform. My answer would have to suffice until Mr. Pharis had played around with the operating system enough to realize for himself the answer to his question. But Mr. Pharis was wide awake and immediately challenged my lackluster reply:

“I mean, what exactly do they see in this? I see a familiar-looking desktop, utilities that I already have on the operating system I already use… what does Ubuntu Linux offer that the others don’t?”

Again, I’m paraphrasing here.

Partly because I was tired, partly because, as I’ve already mentioned, I’m beginning to lose my will to sell Linux, and partly because I understood Mr. Pharis’ question so painfully well — for all of these reasons and perhaps others I’m not aware of, I found that I could not offer a single feature that would inspire anyone to choose Ubuntu (or any other flavor of Linux) as their main desktop operating system. Sure, I spit out a few commonly employed wisdoms/myths: Linux is infinitely customizable; some people find Linux so much more fun and satisfying to use; Linux is so much less expensive to develop with (if you’re into that); Linux is simply amazing (no, actually amazing, not Apple amazing)… I even resorted to a belief I harbor that I’m not even really certain is true: that it’s a more delightful platform for those who prefer to use keyboards as their main input device. The moment I offered that last shaky point of contention, I realized that I was grasping at straws, and when Mr. Pharis offered for me to join him in a Google+ Hangout so that he could show me his Ubuntu desktop and I could point out all the wonderful things he could do with the operating system, I began to wonder if I was a fraud.

Now, Mr. Pharis’ interest in discovering why certain desktop distributions of Linux seem so special to a good number of people is a question that so many in the Linux community want to see asked by more people. As more people ask the question, it goes to follow that the Linux community will take the opportunity to respond and draw a number of those curious into the fold. Indeed, the Ubuntu community in particular seems standing at the ready to respond to those bold enough to explore Linux: the Ubuntu community welcomes newcomers to a vast network of resources on the platform, with an ever-growing number of Ubuntu evangelists providing websites, wikis, forums, books, support channels, and podcasts to guide the newbie out of a frustrating forest of confusing choices and on a path toward Ubuntu uberdom. Ubuntu is everywhere on the Internet; it’d be difficult to spend a decent amount of time surfing the Web without coming across a mention of the open source platform or its community. But do Ubuntu-ees really understand how to answer those curious about their platform in the most comprehensible and convincing ways?

Ubuntu (and generally, all of the Linux world) is mainly a volunteer-driven effort, from its development through to its distribution. Though Ubuntu has more financial backing than many other Linux flavors, Ubuntu still relies on the majority of its marketing efforts to be performed by volunteers. Ubuntu doesn’t have the budget of Apple Inc. or Microsoft to instill in people the happy-fun-productive feelings that traditional advertising instills in consumers. It is quite doubtful you will ever enjoy and subsequently recall an Ubuntu television commercial — one perhaps entertaining enough to drive you to your local Best Buy store to pick a Geek Squad member’s brain about Linux. So what do Ubuntu users need to do to replicate (or undermine) the marketing efforts of the corporate operating system vendors?

Well, first of all, you don’t sell Linux. As fellow LockerGnome contributor Matt Ryan pointed out in his article Why More Bloggers Don’t Write About Linux, there isn’t supposed to be one dominant distribution of Linux. Now, if there isn’t one dominant distro that the community can point to, what in the world do you focus your efforts on selling? Without a product to point to, what are we pointing at? An idea? Precisely, many Linux proponents would say, We are not selling anything. We are about contributing. We are about sharing, not profiting. To which a professional marketer might respond, Ideas aren’t tangible. How in the world do you expect an idea to sell in the marketplace?

Again, we are not about profiting.

On the other hand there are those in the Linux community who wouldn’t mind one distribution becoming the dominant “brand”, able to be marketed and sold in the retail space. In fact, some distributions of Linux have made it to store shelves over the years. Unfortunately there is too much disagreement within the Linux community about whether or not Linux should remain more of an idea or a movement than a product (or vice versa). Once in awhile a generally focused effort seems to move in one direction or another, as has been the case with Ubuntu (currently the most popular desktop distribution). Yet sustained focus within the Linux community seems unlikely; today Ubuntu remains at the mercy of a fickle user base. Even as I type this there are those moving from Ubuntu to Linux Mint and other distros due to the former’s recent selection of a range of technologies referred to as Unity.

Others in the Linux community may say that straight out of the gate I’m starting out this conversation incorrectly. The Linux community does not want to behave like Microsoft or Apple, they might correct, as that would defeat its purpose. Linux wants to be naturally accepted, not forced down people’s throats like the other guys. Linux is different. Though that sentiment satisfies the inner hippie/commie/altruist in me, I find that it undermines the Linux community’s ability to be perceived as a serious contender in the dog-eat-dog world of desktop (and laptop) operating systems. Sure, it’s great that there exists a cozy community of do-it-yourselfers wanting to change the way we acquire and use our computing technology, but it’s highly unlikely they will succeed if they do not present their case with at least some determined direction of effort. The Peaceful Warrior’s ways work well in Berkeley; in the real world, the Warrior is run over by the well-directed and unrepentant wheels of commerce. Redmond is not going to roll over for a bunch of pacifists — it’s going to usurp the best features of free software and incorporate it into its own. Apple has already made a tasteless game out of thinking differently, employing artsy images of John Lennon and Albert Einstein to encourage hip outsiders to take a ride on the Mac love bus. The Linux community has long thought of itself as thinking differently, but never had the marketing muscle to let others know it.

The argument I’m presenting is not new, of course. For many years Linux users have been debating how best to present Linux and the open source paradigm. Linux has been described as the platform that will survive when the others have run their commercial courses. It’s the savior of the computing world — when the others’ evils have turned their proprietary software and walled-garden approaches upside down, Linux will still be around to pick up the pieces of failed enterprise like insects are expected to do once humanity has destroyed itself. Linux, we’ve heard time and again, is still in its infancy but ready for the world to adopt… even though it’s not quite ready for most of the world to adopt. But if you don’t adopt it now, you might be sorry you didn’t because everyone who’s anyone will soon be using it. Free and open source software rules! It’s the only thing that is sustainable.

I may seem glib, and I apologize if I’ve offended. I’ve been a proponent of Linux since about 2005 or so, ever since I picked the installer disc out of a Linux magazine and installed the Windows-like Xandros on an aging PC a friend gave to me. When my Old World PowerBook G3 had run its course with Mac OS 9, I struggled through installing Ubuntu and Debian and other distros until I finally found a way to make it work, and then I told everyone I could about how they could rescue their old Macs from obscurity by using Linux. I remember even then wondering if I was trying to justify all the hours (days, I mean, and possibly weeks) I had wasted just to make my Mac able to run the latest version of Netscape. A year or two later the virtual lack of support for my old Mac simply drove me to frustration and I found myself with a newer Mac running OS X. Linux soon became a fondly frustrating memory.

I’d bet my bottom dollar that many of us who have used Linux more than a few times have reached a similar conclusion: Linux is simply not for everyone. Perhaps not even for us, except when we really, really need it — that is, when we have no other choice. (Remember, I’m talking about desktop operating systems rather than server solutions.) I still run one Linux desktop distro or another from time to time when I need to; for a couple of weeks in February I used Ubuntu to revive a laptop that was struggling with allowing any version of Windows to be installed. It was an exhilarating experience, comparable to visiting with a long-neglected friend — and out of necessity I reacquainted myself with some open source tools, such as the image manipulation program GIMP. Though the experience enabled me to get through my first weeks of writing for LockerGnome, I missed the Windows experience. Perhaps I have been indoctrinated by Windows marketing over the years.

Today I’m typing this article from that same laptop running Vista. I have a fresh installation of Ubuntu installed on the laptop for those occasions I might want to boot into it, and I also am still using GIMP (which has long been available for Windows). I prefer using Windows as my daily desktop operating system. I prefer Mac OS X even more, when I can afford to do so. I can no longer pitch Linux as a viable desktop environment without feeling like I’m selling snake oil out of the back of a wagon; it simply doesn’t feel right anymore. It obviously works — enough for Google to base its Android and Chrome operating systems on — but I have yet to use either of those regularly and cannot base my views on the opinions of other users.

Regardless of my currently waning wonder, my guess is that Linux will rule a future computing paradigm we have yet to realize. Aside from server environments, perhaps the ideal Linux utility will be some hybrid of embedded and mobile and desktop technologies. Linux is nearly there in the mobile and embedded landscapes, but perhaps Google’s efforts will succeed in helping Linux rise and take over the world as well. Will there be any humans left to care? Only time will tell.

CC licensed Flickr photo above shared by SMU Central University Libraries

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  • http://twitter.com/rodedwards rodedwards

    I’m looking to move to Ubuntu b/c basically everything I use is in the cloud – i.e.: gmail, itunes, etc. At that point, the OS decision becomes pretty simple: whatever can provide a browser better/cheaper/faster. I still have Win7, but I can see that the day isn’t too far off when I won’t need it any more.

    • http://twitter.com/Harold Harold

      Have you used Ubuntu yet?

    • RaterKey

      Give it a go! I use Ubuntu a lot, for about 3 years my only home PC was running Ubuntu.

      Nowadays I find myself floating between Ubuntu and Windows 7, using Windows for work a lot for .NET code, as well as photo editing (no Capture NX on Linux).

      If you haven’t used Ubuntu much, give it a go! It really is a great desktop OS.

      You talk about better, cheaper, faster… Well, don’t be tempted to think that the grass is greener… There really is nothing fundamentally wrong with Windows 7 in terms of quality and speed. Ubuntu is certainly cheaper though :)

      • Jim Davis

         I find windows 7 to be a RAM hog.  Other than that, its performance is acceptable.

  • Joseph

    I am currently using OpenSUSE on my main laptop and Kubuntu on my secondary.

  • http://octopusgrabbus.wordpress.com octopusgrabbus

    In my opinion, one of the barriers to a successful Linux desktop is being able to have basics that Microsoft has had for almost a decade. I should be able to configure VPN without a problem. Using various Ubuntu versions, this is something that has worked, then not, then worked, and so on. If you can’t connect to work, you’re winding up using Windows.

    • http://twitter.com/Harold Harold

      Some of it is simply adjusting to a new way of doing things (such as using command line tools). I’ve lost my desire to spend hours trying to figure out how to simply get my laptop to work with whatever network card or device I want to use.

      • http://www.facebook.com/people/Clinton-Baldridge/100003495750866 Clinton Baldridge

         That is understandable. I know that when I purchase hardware, I make sure it is Linux compatible. Obviously, Linux is compatible with an incredible amount of hardware, but very new devices sometime aren’t supported or require strange hacking to make them work. Time = $.

  • Jack S

    A better question would be “Why would anyone NOT want to use Linux as their everyday desktop (or laptop) operating system?”

    Having used Linux (since 2001, and Unix before that, from 1994 to 2001), That is way I personally feel.

    One simple factor alone, the fact that I can have six (or any other number of) switchable virtual desktops running allows me to feel unencumbered instead of having to squash every running window into one single desktop. I always feel glad when I get out of Windows and go back to Linux.

    I look at using Windows like most of us look at painting the house. It something you have to do now and then, but you do it as little as possible and you’re so glad when it’s all over. 

  • http://twitter.com/#!/gpowerf G.Power

    I realize that you are talking about desktop here, but let’s not forget mobile. Android has a healthy lead over iOS with 44 percent of the market vs. 27 percent.  http://news.cnet.com/8301-13506_3-20116599-17/android-widens-smartphone-market-lead-over-ios/ 
    If Linux is done right, sold installed with the machine (be it desktop or mobile), and supported well there are good reasons to use Linux. Android proves it. 

    Right now there isn’t anyone really pushing Linux on desktop other than Google with the Chromebooks. This is something that could take off slowly, or it could flop. Right now, for me a Chromebook is probably a tiny step above an iPad for “work”, but less fun.

    And the thing is that for “work”, if am on a budget, I could get a netbook instead and run a fully featured OS like Linux and have a far more functional machine than either an iPad or a Chromebook. 

    Admittedly, I am not the average user!

    • Delinquent

      Is Android’s larger user base because of its technical or (everyday) functional merits over iOS (i.e. qualitative difference), or because of its accessibility- being offered (particularly at the time of the writing of that CNET article) by more carriers on more devices (i.e. quantitative difference) at a seemingly greater range of prices points?

  • KevinE

    Linux distrobutions give new life to aging equipment that can make use of the less resource intensive OS for speed and functionality. I use a Linux distro on my netbook and low-end laptop and aging desktop. They remain functional and useable with Linux.

  • Edcoffin

    Not sure it’s and answer to those seeking ‘difference and advantage’ over Apple, Microsoft, Google(?) etc but I’m definitely heading to a distro as the sole desktop service.  My rationale:
    I’m dead serious about the Linux distribution, and going full Linux.  This is a case where the more you know, the more you don’t want all the frivolity and resource consumption of the big commercial player systems (and their extensions).  Summary –
    Apple – presumes you don’t know**** technically and makes choices for yo
    Apple – presumes you don’t know**** technically and makes choices for yo
    Microsoft – wants you to pretend to know s*** but keeps control of what you can do and how you can do it.

    Google – stirs s*** in every direction to favor it’s own bottom line including shit you didn’t do and don’t want to mess with. 

    Linux – doesn’t care if you s*** or not, gets right down to the business of processing and communicating.  You do have to wipe.

  • http://chris.pirillo.com/ Chris Pirillo

    Yes, but… as you noted, we’re talking about the Desktop. 😉

    • RaterKey

      As you always say, a smartphone is a computer. 😉 And the line between mobile and desktop gets thinner as time goes on, with devices like the Atrix and this http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iLw4xHBaB5w   

      I actually agree with the article on the desktop side of things! But I think the words chosen underplay Linux’s hold in the embeded and mobile front by saying it is “neraly there”. Linux is there, and it is there to stay and quite honestly dominate. 

      As the article says, only time will tell :)

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Clinton-Baldridge/100003495750866 Clinton Baldridge

    Currently, Linux is not for the average end-user. Windows or more capably OS X is a better choice for anyone not using their computer as a tool.

    From my point of view it is a no-brainer to use Linux. I’ve used it for
    the last 13 years for media production and software development. I never have to pay for software
    licensing and the software I use has improved at alarming rates over the years.

    I get better performance when comparing commercial software to the Linux equivalent on the same hardware. For instance on my Mac, I compared Adobe Premier with my old friend Cinelerra. Premier didn’t have a chance. I could play video back from the time-line in Cinelerra with effects in place with little lag. Premier on the other hand, wouldn’t playback DV video without effects smoothly. I never tested render times. I’m sure it would have been a waste of time. The performance of Blender is another example. Of course, it runs on multiple platforms, but render times under Linux on the same hardware are much faster. The same is true of any games that run on Linux, as well as commercial OSs. I’ve gotten as much as twice the frame rates in Linux as compared to Windows or OS X. No doubt, Linux utilizes hardware in a more efficient manner than it’s commercial competitors.

    I think that better quality software is achieved through the opensourse model in general. Programs are updated on a regular basis and a lot more minds are involved in the development than with commercial product. The people that are willing to put their time into these projects, are usually doing so because they need the software for themselves. So, the result is software that get’s the job done.

    Also, Linux comes with way more tools “out of the Box” than any commercial OS. If i had to use Windows i would feel handicapped. Even though OS X has BSD tools there were still a lot of command line tools missing and to have a decent Video editor or photo editing suite I would have had to spend more than the cost of the system.

    As far as the consumer desktop market, Ubuntu is close to making things easy on the end user. However, it is not there yet and I believe the introduction of the Unity desktop has only set things back. The fact, is that even though Ubuntu is much easier to set up than earlier distributions, you still need to know what you are doing to use it optimally. I used Slackware for years, I’d love to see what an end-user would think of that:-P

    To make Linux a viable desktop OS, a distribution would have to be made that is incredibly similar to the OSs people are used to. I have noticed that if i give Linux to someone who has basically never used a computer, they are fine with it. Most people are used to Windows, thanks to aggressive marketing, ease of use and the low price for a Windows system.

    So perhaps marketing is the key to pushing Linux on the consumer, but I don’t really care. I realized a long time ago after trying win over converts, that the power of Linux is not necessary for everyone. I will continue to use it, as a most amazing toolbox and if others don’t it doesn’t worry me in the least. If someone wants to spend the money to market it to the masses, then great. (Though that would no doubt increase demand for Linux Trojans:-().

    It might be possible to market Linux as a graphical workstation, as it is now. I think it could give Apple some competition in that market, judging by the results I get in comparison to a Mac. We shall see. Ask Pixar, Dreamworks and ILM about the value of Linux!

    • http://twitter.com/Harold Harold

      I appreciate your comments, Clinton — both those you’ve left today and in the past. I can tell you take the time to post thoughtful and well-constructed arguments. (Perhaps you should consider being a writer.)

      I agree that some applications certainly run better on Linux than their equivalents on Windows or Mac platforms. Google’s Chrome browser was reported to run better soon after it was first released, and I’d bet Audacity outperforms its Windows and Mac versions as well. But comparing Adobe Premiere with Cinelerra is another thing altogether. They’re different applications, though they may share quite a number of similar features. Playback may be slow on Premiere but if it’s running that poorly it shouldn’t be run on that hardware at all (and if it’s running on hardware it should be running smoothly on then Adobe shouldn’t be selling the software for those hardware specs). Cinelerra may be great software (and I’m interested in trying it, now), it may even have more features than Premiere  — but you’re still comparing apples to, uh, grapples or something.

      Sometimes I dream about becoming so skilled at using Linux that none of the issues that inevitably crop up will bother me; I’ll simply be able to pull a solution out of my database of knowledge applied to a bit of scripting and Viola! everything will run the way I want it to. Unfortunately, I sometimes enjoy spending my free time doing things other than troubleshooting Linux. It’s fun sometimes, no doubt — but not always. I learn a great deal when I’m troubleshooting but it’s sure puts a dent in my weekends sometimes. I don’t run into trouble every time I use Linux but it happens enough that it’s more frustrating than enjoyable for me.

      • http://www.facebook.com/people/Clinton-Baldridge/100003495750866 Clinton Baldridge

         I totally see your point of view. I started out with Redhat 5.2. I spent so many sleepless nights just figuring out how to make my hardware work. I had to rely on the included documentation, until I finally made a modem work. Just configuring the xserver was like some sort of black art. It forced me to learn a great deal about command line tools, hardware and the Linux OS. It may have been a contributing factor to why I have an ex-wife! Lol! I’m grateful for all that it taught me, because now issues that come up don’t seem like that big of a deal. Still, it was an arduous journey that I wouldn’t wish upon anyone.

        I think I read that you have a Ubuntu installation. If you want to try Cinelerra, I think the link below is the best way to install it on Ubuntu right now. There are packages available as well, but they seem to be missing features. You will get better results by compiling it from source. The page will step you through it and it doesn’t take long. They call it “Cinelerra for Grandma”:-D


        Also, the performance of Cinelerra is greatly increased if you have a decent GPU with the proper drivers. If available, it will use OpenGL 2.0 for video output, compositing and some effects.

        I already wear a lot of hats, but I do think I would enjoy writing product reviews. We shall see.

  • Pingback: New Video! – Why Linux Will Never ‘Sell’ on the Desktop « Geeky Bits()

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Clinton-Baldridge/100003495750866 Clinton Baldridge

    This is kind of lame. It’s like “preaching to the chior”. Lol!

  • http://twitter.com/Harold Harold

    Have you had an opportunity to use Mac Spaces yet?

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Clinton-Baldridge/100003495750866 Clinton Baldridge

      Of course, in order use Spaces one would have to buy an over priced computer. I’ve done it and I felt a little cheated, once I realized I could have payed $1000 less for a laptop with equivalent hardware. Still, I give credit to Apple for realizing how handy a simple feature like that is.

  • http://twitter.com/Harold Harold

    It was a painful experience on my old PowerBook. Even on a much more recent laptop I had trouble. Granted, Windows also had trouble on the laptop…but still. Until I become an absolute master of the command line, I think I’ll stick with a GUI…and another operating system.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Clinton-Baldridge/100003495750866 Clinton Baldridge

     I’ve always compared Linux command line vs Windows to ordering a cheeseburger from McDonalds. With Windows it’s like: “Yeah, I’ll have a cheeseburger”, then it ask “Are you sure you want a cheeseburger?”. Linux just gives you a F***in’ cheeseburger.

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_S7GZSLCX2ELU2UXUHS5OK2APL4 Davorin

      Linux gives you raw meat, and then you have to mince it yourself, cook it, make the bun, milk the cow, make cheese, and then you get frustrated and switch back to windows or os x.

      • Valentin Vago

        you mean.. you order at McDonalds…

        I prefer to eat organic food

        • None

          Linux and organic all the way.

        • http://www.facebook.com/people/Clinton-Baldridge/100003495750866 Clinton Baldridge

          Not at all.

          • http://www.facebook.com/people/Clinton-Baldridge/100003495750866 Clinton Baldridge

            I’m a vegetarian. Well, I do eat fish as well.

      • http://www.facebook.com/people/Clinton-Baldridge/100003495750866 Clinton Baldridge

         You’d be surprised at how much trouble I’ll go to just to cook dinner, even if it’s only for me;-)

  • http://techmansworld.blogspot.com/ MHazell

    I do know one good app you should get on Linux. I know for sure it is available in the Ubuntu Software Center. It is called KAlgebra. All you have to do is type the equation in, and then it does all the math for you. Awesome. It also does graphs and other math related things. I love it. I recommend it to anyone.

  • http://twitter.com/askSchwa Adam S

    OSX us slowly dying out. There will soon only be one Apple operating system, iOS. When this becomes the case, I will most likely be switching to a Linux distro as a primary OS until I feel comfortable with the “limitations” (differences) in iOS or mobile operating systems. I have a hard time explaining to a Mac user to try Linux, but I find it much easier to convince a Windows user to switch.

    • http://twitter.com/Harold Harold

      How do you figure OS X is “slowly dying out”?

      I can see why Windows users would find familiarity with certain desktop distros but find it interesting that Mac users wouldn’t find Linux worthy of switching to. I wonder what, if anything, that says about Mac users?

      • RaterKey

        I agree, if anything OS X is getting stronger.

        But I do know plenty of users who have switch between Mac OS X and Linux back and forth over the years.

        *nix developers.

    • http://chipotle.tumblr.com/ Watts

      This is a serious case of assuming facts not in evidence. It’s a common one I see, but OS X 10.7 and OS X 10.8 seem to me to suggest quite the opposite: while Apple is translating features from iOS to OS X, they’re not making them identical. They’re adapting them to a desktop environment. Gatekeeper is a primary example of that–while it *is* bringing over some of the iOS “restricted environment” approach for people who want it, Apple is putting a fair amount of effort into making it easy for people who don’t want that environment to get out of it. They’ve even been reaching out to the developer community explicitly to reassure them, and they’re clearly putting a lot of effort into figuring out what the proper level of “sandboxing” is for applications that are on the App Store (which, to reiterate, Apple has gone out of their way to make sure developers know isn’t going to be required).

      If anything, Microsoft seems to be much more intent on merging their tablet/phone OS and their desktop operating system than Apple is. I find the Metro design language very intriguing, but I have serious doubts about the direction they’re going with Windows 8.

      And, apropos to the article, I’m definitely curious to see where Canonical is planning to go with Ubuntu. I don’t think Unity is necessarily a bad idea, but it’s interesting to watch how polarizing it is. In discussions I’ve had with Linux partisans, there’s a definite subtext of “hackability is more important than ease of use.” I’ve never been convinced those are actually opposite poles, but it sure seems like they end up being so in practice.

      • http://twitter.com/#!/gpowerf G.Power

        Unity was very polarizing largely for two reasons, firstly people in general hate change, you can’t get away from that! Whenever you try something radical there will be naysayers (Windows 8 is certainly suffering from this). Secondly Unity was unfinished when it was released to the public.

        I don’t think Unity was a terrible idea, in fact, I think it in places it had a few strokes of brilliance. However, it was just executed with little attention to detail and in a rush. I don’t think Canonical’s release cycle helped them in this instance, 6 monthly releases are all well and good as long as they don’t harm Ubuntu. In this case the rather large migration of people from Ubuntu to Mint showed that Linux users are not willing to put up with sloppiness either.  

        I’m a little puzzled, I’ve heard a number of times lately from the tech press that Ubuntu is now a serious desktop OS and a threat to the established players. I’m afraid I don’t see it that way, as much as I still love Ubuntu I would say that lately they have lost it a bit. And it shows in http://distrowatch.com/, look at the list! After dominating for years Mint has stolen much of its thunder.

  • Wolfee Darkfang

    I don’t think PC manufacturers like buying licenses all the time to keep shipping a copy of Windows on every unit they plan to sell. I believe If Windows does indeed bite the dust one day, a lot of these companies would gladly adopt Linux, perhaps even write their own distros, or make a OS like Google did (HP OS? Who knows?). Companies usually try to buy cheep, and sell for more. If they can get something free, all the better. I’ve said before; PC will live on through enthusiasts, and doesn’t need Microsoft dictating it’s future (Windows 8 is not so great). Nvidia, AMD, and Intel will continue to make high end graphics cards and CPUs, while games and software will continue to roll out for those chips, with or without Microsoft. No need for doom and gloom. Also who isn’t to say some other multi-billion dollar company won’t build their own OS people will widely use? So many like to jump the gun assuming PC is a dying breed, and tablets are the future. It’s far from the truth. Both will live on for their own uses.

    • http://twitter.com/Harold Harold

      Do you think PC vendors would enjoy providing support for Linux? Support is not cheap, you know.

  • Mark Swoope

     Well of course Linux is not “selling” in the desktop region because 1) it’s not in stores, and 2) most people don’t know about it. Linux doesn’t care about how many users use it, it’s to cool to play the competition of popularity.

    • http://twitter.com/Harold Harold

      Then perhaps it should be in stores. In fact, as I mentioned in the article, Linux distros have sold in retail stores. There have been some vendors that have been quite interested in making a serious play for the retail desktop operating system market. Unfortunately, the lack of sustained focus in any one direction will forever prevent Linux from being taken seriously in the desktop market.

  • Infemeth

    I used openSuse for about a year as my main OS on my old laptop back in college. Loved using it.

  • http://taylorcopeland.com Taylor Copeland

    I am a developer. I usually write my applications in C and C++, but also make use of Python and Vala. In the times that I have been forced to use Windows (I dual boot), it is an agonizing experience to (1) manage my projects and (2) compile and link source files. I often use the GLib and GTK+ libraries (or their C++ bindings, glibmm and gtkmm). Installing the latest version of these in a Windows environment is TERRIBLE – even with MinGW and MSYS. Some will say that OS X is a great development platform, and it is for native Mac development or web development, but again, the supreme ease with which one can manage, build, and deploy their projects in a Linux environment is, in my opinion, unmatched. A great shell, the gedit text editor, and the GCC is all for which a developer can ask – with the addition of a web browser for reading hours of API documentation, of course.

    • http://twitter.com/Harold Harold

      Thanks for your comments, Taylor — you must’ve noticed my mention of Linux being much less expensive to develop with (than other operating systems). That is one area where, should I ever make a serious effort to develop, I will probably find Linux to be the platform du jour. 

    • Guest

      Have you used Visual Studio?  Nevermind Visual Studio in conjunction with VMWare and its plug-ins?  The way you can integrate toolkits like Qt directly into the IDE, and toolchains like the Intel Compiler additionally…  Sorry, what you’re describing is stone age.  No wonder so much FOSS is poorly written.  The tooling you people use is pathetic.

      There are superior editors for Windows like Epsilon, UltraEdit and in the past there were others like CodeWright.  All the same Source Control tools work.  The same web browsers work.

      However, the quality of development tools on Windows, and IDEs in particular is far superior to what’s on Linux.  The only thing that even came close was Sun Studio after they ported their tools to Linux, and they were still far behind MIcrosoft.

      When Linux developers (the FOSS ones in general) realize that people have moved on from the 80s and focus more on the aesthetics and process they use to develop software – which includes writing better documentation and perhaps standardizing on a decent well put together help system things will improve.

      Just look at the average GTK app.  It looks like hogwash compared to the same GUI developed using Win32/.NET/WPF on Windows or on Mac using whatever toolkits are native to that platform.  Qt is much better than GTK but it still looks a bit toyish…

      • frozen_dude

        I have to say that I cannot agree with your views on GUI toolkits, have you EVER tried changing the DPI value on windows? After doing so, suddenly 30% of all text in dialogs disappear, buttons overlap each other, and it generally looks shit! GTK on the other hand is designed to be agnostic to how it is drawn, so if you change DPI, stylize all buttons, dubble the menu text size or simply resize the window, it always follows the design template the programmer set for it.

      • http://taylorcopeland.com Taylor Copeland

        The fact that you think free and open-source software is poorly written is mind-blowing and conceited. The win32 C++ API is poorly written and doesn’t conform and any kind of standards. Visual Studio is mediocre and proprietary, and hardly allows for any kind of cross platform development. The GTK+ API and it’s C++ and Python bindings are amazing, while the win32 API and Windows Forms .NET API is ugly and very unintuitive.

  • ‘Tis Moi

    Why?  Because it does everything I need it to do, it doesn’t cost me hundreds of dollars, compared to Windows I have had no virus issues- none. I started with computers in 2000- a Dell DT running Windows. The first time I heard of a live Linux CD, I was hooked. However, it wasn’t until 2007 that I began using a variant of Linux for my main PC full-time. Now, with Mint, I absolutely love it & will not go back to MS. So far, Linux Mint 9 (& I have 11 & 12 on other PC’s here) runs perfectly & everything I attach to it runs, too. I like that I don’t have to run driver software- my stuff just works. Is it perfect? Nope. I did have sound issues for a time in an online game I play- but all I did was visit the Linux geeks in-game & they helped me sort it out. Other bits & bobs, queries- all answered quickly in the IRC for either Mint or Ubuntu…I find that the user support for Linux is vastly superior & more accessible than I ever had via a PC vendor & Windows.   Imho.

    • http://twitter.com/Harold Harold

      I’ve always enjoyed the low cost of Linux but I’ve rarely had that “just works” experience you’re claiming. Of course, there are devices that haven’t worked on Windows either. (For example, a refurbished wifi adapter I just purchased from D-Link isn’t working on any version of Windows I’ve tried. This may turn out to be faulty hardware, however.)

      • ‘Tis Moi

        Yeah, well maybe it’s luck?  Lol, I have had less-than-stellar experiences in the past years- but recently, it’s been pretty good…Speaking of hardware not working on Windows- add older hardware that no longer have any drivers for them after Vista. I’ve had cams, cameras, & other peripherals work in Linux & not in Windows- so there you go…I’m not here as a Linux fangirl- my kids use Windows PC’s & I do need to use Windows to help my Windows home-user clients- I just don’t care to use it for my own everyday work.

        I think it’s important to have choice, and that a monopoly rarely works out well for the end user.  I believe there’s lots of room for the OS’s that are out there & likely there will eventually be a top-of-the-crop group of Linux that become “mainstream”, if the popularity of Ubuntu & Mint are any indication. 

        The problem now is that MS has their foot in every vendor’s door- meaning that even something as hideous as Metro will have to be accepted- because there will be no choice on a new, store-bought PC.

      • nicodeimous

        Exactly it never just works. Tinkering is needed with most systems.

        • http://www.facebook.com/people/Devon-Day/1849647205 Devon Day

          That’s not exactly true. The most tinkering I actually had to do with my laptop was installing the printer driver. That’s it. Everything else worked well out of the box. Any other tinkering I did was just solely to change a couple things to better suit my preferences. That’s all.

          Linux Mint 12 is what I am using by the way.

          • http://twitter.com/Harold Harold

            I’ve nearly always had trouble with one thing or another, and I’ve installed a variety of distros on a variety of systems, Macs (both Old World and New World) and PCs (by different vendors and self-built) alike. Aside from the early Macs, installation is simple enough, but there’s nearly always an issue with the power manager or the network card(s) or something.

            As I mentioned, some of the same issues crop up on Windows systems (such as when a driver for a webcam or other device no longer works once the system is upgraded) — and to be fair, I was able to get a webcam to work without much (or any) configuration last week on Ubuntu while it would not work on a newer version of Windows.

  • Abezz

    I’ll tell you why I use Linux.

    1)If something breaks i can fix it.  Nothing is hidden from me.
    2) It’s Modular, i can replace any component of a Linux distro.
    3) The packet manager. A single repository for all my software.

    These are all power user reason.

    Ultimately you’re right. Windows is fine for almost everyone, the days of the crippling windows malware is over. Annoying glitches in hastily written software (under Linux) are just as annoying as windows malware for most people anyway (Unity anyone?).

    I have long ceased to care about Linux word domination, I only care about getting my computers working.

    Sadly,  the Linux desktop might be over soon, Skype is now a MS product (They might kill Linux support) and flash on Linux now has a 5 years of support before it’s discontinued (except on Chrome).

    • nicodeimous

      1. There are thousands of ways to fix windows, bork your font server at the console level and play with it for a bit and you will see linux can be just as hard or harder to fix than any windows distro.

      2. It is modular to a a limited degree, many components are not swapable without codeing, whcih could be said of any os. Kernel modules are a very good example of this limitation, it your versions are mismatched down to sub version then you have to recompile them from the new source tree.

      3. Any windows site serves this purpose, cdrom.com, zdnet, too many to list really … also there are numerous packages in the lists that are distro specific [they change bed on your distro choices]. Some are broken packages or require dependencies that will not be met … making it generally as reliable surfing to a web site to find software [which in the end most linux guys end up using some form of cli to grab and update software anyways.

      For the power user with time on his or her hands linux offers hours of fun, for the common user its just pln frustrating. Personally i loved the challenge of getting Debian running on my viliv n5, wifi and touch screen working but with that said it wasnt nearly as easy asputting windows 7 on it.

    • http://twitter.com/Harold Harold

      I understand about Skype but why would the demise of Flash be a problem for Linux? It’s going away on all platforms, isn’t it?

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Devon-Day/1849647205 Devon Day

    Honestly, I say, use whatever works for you. If Linux is no longer your cup of tea, then that’s fine. Nothing wrong with you leaving Linux. It’s not like you’re actually leaving us all behind. I mean, we can still get into contact with you if we have questions and what not. Your choice of operating system hardly defines you as a person.

    So, if Linux doesn’t work for you anymore, then there is no reason for you to force yourself to stick with it. Windows and OS X are both good operating systems worthy of being used (Windows 7 more than 8, unless you’re on a tablet).

    For me, Linux Mint does what I want it to. It works on my computer, and does the things I need it to, arguably, better than Windows. I have not had any real time using OS X other than installing it on an external hdd and booting it from USB on my laptop to play around with it for fun. Honestly, I cannot justify paying so much money just so I can use OS X or Windows, since Linux does what I need.

    But, for many people, Linux just isn’t going to cut it. And I do not fault them for that.

    However, saying that Linux has no “selling” points (and this isn’t about profit) is not exactly correct.

    Linux has a wide array of software (mostly free) that can act as replacements to the software that people use in OS X and/or Windows. Sure, not all of it will function like their Windows/OS X counterparts, and some won’t have all the features. However, if you can find all the software you need on Linux, what’s the point in shelling out for OS X and/or Windows?

    A great thing about Linux, that many OS X users brag about, is that you do not need anti virus software. Linux isn’t immune to viruses. But the likely hood of getting a Linux virus is so low. Linux also features very tight security, so if you were to get that rare virus, chances of it messing up your system without your intervention is highly unlikely. Another good thing is that most of the software is installed from a single and trusted source. So the chances of getting a virus when installing software from this source are next to none. And if you do install software from a different source, it is most likely a trusted one (such as Google for Chrome or GetDeb.net).

    Now, I am hard pressed to even consider Ubuntu to anyone right now (unless it’s on a supported tablet). Unity just isn’t that great for the desktop, and most new comers are not going to enjoy it much. For that, I recommend Linux Mint. Once you install it, it’ll have Gnome-3 with the Mint Gnome Shell Extensions that will give you a panel at the bottom, similar to that of Windows. You even get the handy applications menu that is similar to the start menu (which is gone in Windows 8). And if that doesn’t work, you can always install the Cinnamon desktop (which could be the default in Linux Mint 13) right after you install Mint. In my opinion, Cinnamon is much better than Unity or MGSE anyway and replicates that classic Windows feel much better.

    There are also many other things that make Linux great for me. However, they may be moot at this point for other people.

    With that said, if Linux isn’t for you, don’t use it. No point. Windows and/or OS X will be a much better suit for you, which is perfectly fine as long as it does what you need/want it to do.

    For those interested in Linux, I say give it a shot. But use it in a virtual machine (VMware, Parallels, or VirtualBox (my favorite)) or dual boot with it using the WUBI installer. Google it if you want to know more about it.

    There are also a few manufacturers that sell Linux based computers. The next computer I will buy will be from http://zareason.com. But there is also System76 (only gives you the option of Ubuntu).

  • Jack Hart

    It would definately take off if it got a lot more advertising. That’s the main reason it’s not popular; no advertisements for any Linux distributions. Also, if it got more support from thirf-party app developers, it would be awesome. That’s my only problem with Linux; the ammount of app support for it is below-satisfactory. If it had those 2 things mentioned above (advertising and more third-party app support) it would take off. More companies should make computers with Liux right “out of the box”. If people knew how good it is and how it doesn’t get viruses easily, multiple choices of desktop environments, it can run years without crashing, a lot of support from users and developers to help you with problems, a lot of customisation, community only making things better, I think it would sell a lot. But because of no advertising, people haven’t really heard of it that much. That’s my rant of the day

  • Midgacomputerguy

    Very well written article, I have had very similar experiences when trying to sell my custom built computer systems to my customers and over the last 3 years out of the 100+ desktops I have built, I have only sold 3 with the LINUX OS. I think as long as we (The LINUX users) continue to support the movement, and keep providing good feedback we can make it mainstream and make it something that can compete with the big companies. IMHO, the Ubuntu started to go down the wrong path when they introduced UNITY before working out all the bugs. I like how they have an aggressive update rollout schedule, but sometimes it can cause too many problems. I am still not going past Ver 10.0.4, I have tried Mint, and I like it along with Cent OS, ZORIN OS,Fedora 15, Debian, OpenSuse and many others searching for that perfect one to use as the one to “sell” to my customers in my custom built machines. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=794027854 James Jones

    I use Linux for several reasons.

    First, it’s free (as in beer). That’s especially important between jobs (sigh) or in a bad economy.

    Second, it’s free (as in speech). If I see someone who would be helped by Linux, I can set him or her up with it without breaking any laws.

    Third, it gives me choices. People are kvetching about the Windows 8 UI, much the same way others are about Unity and GNOME 3 in the Linux world. The former group don’t have any choice; they will use what MS deigns to give them and they will like it. The latter group do; I can tell Jon McCann what he can do with the GNOME shell and run fluxbox, KDE, Enlightenment 17, or any of an extensive list of alternative windowing systems.

    Finally–Bertrand Russell wrote that his grandmother’s favorite Bible verse, “Thou shalt not follow a multitude to do evil”,  became his motto. Anyone familiar with the history of personal computing knows how that applies here. I refuse to support evil, so I do not buy anything from Microsoft.

    • Andrew

      “I refuse to support evil, so I do not buy anything from Microsoft” should have read:
      “I refuse to support evil, so I do not buy anything from Microsoft and Apple”.

    • nicodeimous

      There are and will always be shell replacements for windows systems, these are in effect the same as the windows managers you use. When a given or group of given linux distro’s make the decision to say change the behaviour of hardware handling from one format to another [pre-udev and post-udev] then your locked into a choice much like the the one ms is sad to have done. Linux goes through core changes that bother people too … the gui is able to be replaced but the core isn’t. Same can be done for windows [i use sharpenviro for example] to replace my explorer shell.

      Dont get me wrong free is damn good, but not consumer profit viable.

  • http://www.facebook.com/jakuplutzen Jákup Lützen

    I switched to Ubuntu in 2007, knowing nothing about computers. I was just curious and remembered some science magazine mentioning linux as a really difficult and powerful OS. I was very surprised with the result. I thought I would get something like a green command line with crazy gibberish, but I was faced with a proper OS, just standing there looking at me, waiting for me to click the firefox icon. 
    I used it for about one year, never touching the command line. Using it as I would any other operating system – except all the crap. No virus headache, no annoying software reminding me to renew its license, no more scavenging around on the internet for bad trialware whenever I wanted to convert a .wav to .mp3, or simple tasks like having the computer automatically shutdown in 3 hours.
    Ubuntu had so many tools available through the software center, that it was nirvana for me.
    The modular nature of the programs, made me curious and I started digging into the command line, and after a few years I was writing my own software. Speaking to the computer in its own language, telling it what to do for me.
    I now use Arch linux without a Desktop manager, but with xmonad as the window manager. I built this system, I know exactly where every screw and bolt is positioned. It’s my perfect system and it’s really really fast and stable. 
    I will never have to face corporate decisions forced upon me, like strange GUI changes, lockdown of the apps available (*hint the apple app store), or expiring support for my OS (Like XP).

    Ubuntu was open, and allowed me to dig into it, when I felt like it. And if I didn’t have this drive, I would probably still be using Ubuntu, clicking the firefox icon and being happy.

    Now for what “linux” offers? Ubuntu has a great ecosystem. It’s free, fast, reliable, easy to use, visually appealing (seriously try the newest ubuntu). It altso treats the user and the users data with decency and respect, refraining from tying the user down with EULAs and DRM.

  • http://www.facebook.com/jakuplutzen Jákup Lützen


  • Guest
  • http://www.facebook.com/john.pavan John Pavan

    I actually prefer Ubuntu over Windows (XP, Vista, or 7) and especially OSX, and typically use Centos, Ubuntu, WinXp, Win7, and OSX in the course of a day.  That said, I know that I’m an outlier in what I prefer for an interface, and that the best interface for any individual is the one that makes them the most productive.

    IMO the main reason that Linux doesn’t ‘sell’ on a desktop is that there’s no company pushing it (and therefore it is unlikely that the average consumer is going to knowingly play with it), not because it isn’t any good.  Oddly, most people probably have a small handful of devices running some flavor of linux, but are completely unaware of it.

    • Guest

      Companies have tried to push it.  Remember Corel’s Linux with WordPerfect Office?  You don’t think Red Hat tried to push it?  SuSE?  There used to be Linux all over in the CompUSA store in Chicago around 2001-2002.  Several Distros.  Mandrake also pushed it quite a bit even in the USA.  And more recently there were Netbooks witih Ubuntu preloaded on them, and that was almost decent until an update came around:


      Lots of people were ditching Linux on those Netbooks to put XP on them, anyways.  It sounded like a good idea, but it simply didn’t pan out to be nearly as good as it sounded.  That’s usually the way these things work out.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=629205281 Andre Mat

    To be honest, it SHOULDN’T sell on the desktop. I see Linux as a political statement and a lifestyle choice. Some want ease and polish and will therefore use a Mac. Some want the highest number of available applications and will thus use Windows. Linux has software, some distributions have ease, some distributions have polish. However, the world of Linux also has incredible fragmention (we can’t agree on anything from which GUI or which package management should be standard), a very annoying stance on proprietary software of any kind, confusion as to whether people should use a rolling distribution or a standard release and – if they use a standard release – bewilderment as to why they need to reinstall every six months. Linux can only succeed on the desktop if there is ONE distribution or at the very least ONE way of doing things through dozens of distributions. It won’t happen. THEREFORE:

    – Linux should be the platform to which people escape when they want to free themselves from control by corporations and proprietary formats. Or, for the more paranoid members of our population, the distribution to which people escape when they want to liberate themselves from the prying eyes of the government which tracks them.

    If people don’t mind being tracked or using proprietary formats of any kind, they shouldn’t be using Linux at all. In fact ,they should strongly be discouraged from even trying it.

    • http://twitter.com/Harold Harold

      Excellent points. It’s difficult for an operating system to serve as both a philosophy and a technological tool. It can be argued that Apple is an idea that is selling, but Apple also has a very directed focus in both its product development and its marketing. Not everyone will agree on the utility of the resulting products but enough will to enable Apple to enjoy a ~7% market share in the desktop space.

      Fragmentation prevents Linux from gaining any significant ground in the desktop market space. Even those who want to see a Linux distribution “sell” won’t every see that as long as Linux behaves as one large organism without a head.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Devon-Day/1849647205 Devon Day

      I cannot be in agreement with you on this. Most newbies are automatically directed to Ubuntu or Linux Mint when they are searching for a Linux distro to install. Both of them work very much the same way, and both of them are relatively easy to use.

      Personally, I do not mind using proprietary formats and I am not worried about the government tracking me as much as some other people are.

      However, I am a Linux Mint user. I have no philosophical reasons for it. I just like using it. It works for me. And people who are curious about Linux should not be shunned away from it. That’s a surefire way to ensure that Linux remains a platform for elitist geeks. If Linux remains such a platform, it’ll eventually fall in the desktop market and die out, being nothing more than a mobile platform that most people don’t even know about.

  • Richard Green

    I use Linux as the main desktop I use at home for a number of reasons.

    1) It just works for me, once I got past figuring out which programs to use instead of Windows versions; I’ve have very few things that I personally need Windows for.

    2) It doesn’t suffer from Windows slowdown. I’ve actually gotten hand-me-down computers that had nothing wrong with it except for Windows had slowed it down to a crawl.

    3) I’ve never had to worry about viruses.

    4) I have *one* software update that needs to run and it handles *all* the software on my desktop.  It checks periodically and I just have to accept or wait until later.  As someone who has to keep the rest of the Windows machines in my house up to date, it’s hard to describe how much I like this.

    5) It’s much cheaper than Windows.  In addition, I can keep a  live USB version handy so that I have a full OS to fix my other systems with, rather than some horrid “recovery console”.

    6) Modern Linux distributions really are pretty easy to install.  Most people don’t realize how painful a fresh Windows install can be.

    7) Multiple desktops.  This just works in the Linux distributions I use.  I have no idea why Windows doesn’t include this and though there is free software that can does this in Windows, none of them I tried have worked as well as in Linux.

    I have used a LOT of different operating systems since personal PCs have been around.  The main reason people in my family still use Windows is because of software that they are used to that isn’t available in Linux.  It a legitimate reason, but more and more I’m easing them into Open Source alternatives.  Hopefully we can get down to one Windows computer and use Linux and Tablet OSs for the rest very soon.

  • Fred

    I’m in love with Linux, because it is extremely easy to use and lightweight compared to osx and especially Windows. No driver installations, no manual updating, impressive stability, no need for a virus scanner that slows down disk access and great graphical tools. Just install GNOME3 or KDE4 and you have every app you need for your daily tasks available.  

    I work as a programmer and there are so many amazing tools readily available for Linux that are complicated or impossible to use on Windows or OS X. I don’t really care about the OS I use, as long as I can get the job done. But whenever I have the choice, I’ll use the one that is free and available to everyone in the world. Even if OSX or Windows offered a better user experience (which imho they do not – not even close) it would not be a convincing argument for me to switch. I am proud that all the things I use for the things I create are freely available even to people who don’t have the money to afford over-priced software licenses.

    Is Linux ready for everyday use? Absolutely. Many of my friends do, who know nothing about using the command line. Even my grandma. The Desktop is certainly not dying – but its core tasks (word processing, programming, browsing, E-Mail, IM) have not changed for over a decade. Linux has the best tools for these use cases. MS and Apple are just trying to convince you otherwise with their “I need fancy” propaganda. It’s just a big lie, but it’s draining money and interest from open source projects. A whole generation is growing up right now without an understanding for the necessity of open and free software to liberate us from proprietary chains imposed on us every day.

  • nicodeimous

    For day to day tasks any of the three main desktop os’s will do the job. For the most part windows seems to be gaming platform of choice [due to limited options on others]. I see linux distro’s and osx s nearly the same thing. They both are mostly centralized around basic daily tasks [email, web browsing, video, social media etc …]. For the causal user i would say if they want something other than windows, osx would be the cookie cutter format of choice.

    Personally i have one of each major os running on comps around the office or home. Osx, debian and windows [xp & 7]. I use the debian one for most dirty work on hardware or drive media’s. Osx is for wife [non-gamer] … i know there are games for it but face it there are A LOT less than for pc. Her osx desktop though has taken a huge usage hit from her new tab tablet, seems they offer the same use to her.

    These days i only recommend linux to people who want to host, diagnose or repair drives. Otherwise osx for non-windows and obviously windows 7 for the rest.

  • No

    This isn’t rocket science. Linux is free (in both terms), it offers complete control to the user, it has little or no obfuscation (compare debugging things on linux with debugging the black box of Windows or even OSX), it has a variety of incredible applications usually entirely free, and at every step of the way, you have a choice. Don’t like GNOME? Use KDE as your window manager. Don’t like KDE? Use XFCE. Don’t like XFCE? Use one of the other fifty window managers. Don’t like how something is done? Fix it yourself. Want to help improve something? Join the community and start helping.

  • nicodeimous

    Side note on the reason for it not selling; the linux distro community has a very bad tendency to freeware a lot of commercial ideas, this isn’t seen as a good thing from many software makers who provide the software being cloned. All attempts to consumerize linux have failled because of the huge fragmentation in the developer community. Redhat, Ubuntu and Mandrake seem to be the most consumer ready distros, with Ubuntu getting a lot of press. The issue for companies like Dell, HP and others is how can they make this limited compatibility os palletable to common wal-mart level shoppers. The answer so far as provided by the linux community is, learn the os better orleave it alone. This is not a selling point to most common users, if it is a new os it needs to be quickly learnable [ios, android, mkbile 7 etc] not time demanding like present distros are.

    The embedded linux devices do so well because they follow already established consumer interaction models. Atm’s, cell phones, internet tv’s, etc all have accepted ui formats and the embedded linux devices conform to these. When desktop linux can conform to user needs and standards at th3 base level then it will edge out osx and give windows a run till then its the “hippy” os for anti establishment types and tech nerds.

    [Dont mind the spelling errors, still getting used to the tab’s keyboard]

    • http://twitter.com/Harold Harold

      I agree. Example: Years ago I enrolled in an introductory Client/Server course at UCLA in which the instructor referred to Linux and open source users derogatorily. He basically painted us as freaks. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing, and when he challenged anyone to disagree with him I took up the challenge. He practically booted me out of the class for disagreeing with him.

      The instructor’s background was as a developer of ATM systems for banks. He seemed vehemently opposed to any efforts by the open source community to develop open source software equivalent to commercial solutions. I recall some of his concerns being about the security and stability of open source solutions in financial transactions systems. “Nobody or no group can do it for free as well as a  commercial developers” was kind of his mantra. It seemed to me that he resented the fact that people were willing to challenge commercial developers like him with voluntary efforts at producing similar solutions.

  • rpco

    If desktop Linux can lose the hard core ideologues it will gain market share. Until then it will continue to sacrifice functionality, ease of use, and innovation for a political agenda.

  • Winston Smith

    This article isn’t worth the operating system it was written with.

  • http://www.facebook.com/andyfenn Andrew Fenn

    I think you’re approaching the thing from the wrong angle.

    Linux isn’t just a product that you can use. It’s a club. As long as people are interested in hacking on it and using it, it’s a success. It doesn’t have to be popular or used by the majority to be a win although that’s not to say such an aim is wrong or shouldn’t be strived for, it doesn’t mean linux without popularity is a failure.

  • Josh Restivo

    I totally sympathize with the overriding message of this article. If anything, though, it helps to prove that linux is not, in fact, a cult. Many linux users regularly undertake fair and critical review of its suitability for a given purpose. Alsom I’ve met just as many Windows and Mac zealots as I have linux. 

    I have many professional reasons to prefer linux on the desktop – OSX’s command linux utilities are, in many cases deprecated and Window’s lack of telnet and ssh (cygwin and other lackluster solutions notwithstanding) are just a few major annoyances. However, this does not speak to average users. This is where my parents come in.

    As much as I’ve tried to unload tech support responsibilities for friends and family over the years, I’m still left with my parents and in-laws. My parents were getting infected, in spite of updated AV and patches, about once every two months. Dealing with all of that was getting very old. I put them on linux a little over two years ago. I’ve dealt with three ‘support’ requests since (a printer issue, an Ubuntu update manager issue and a windows program that, somewhat surprisingly, works just fine under wine). They’re thoroughly happy with it. They’re comuter doesn’t ‘run slow’ anymore. They can use skype for video calls to relatives across the pond.

    My in-laws laptop has recently been the victim of numerous infections. They’re up next for conversion.

    • http://twitter.com/Harold Harold

      I never bought into that “cult” business (which has also been said of Apple users). People often tend to label any group they don’t understand or do things in a way that seems unusual to them as “cultish”. The Linux community is populated by every kind of person, and though some take some ideas about Linux to the extreme (i.e., “Open source is the only way to go and I will never use proprietary software, not even MP3s or Flash”‘) that certainly doesn’t make them members of a cult.

      I wouldn’t mind setting up my father with a PC running Linux if it would be easier for him to manage than a Windows or Mac computer. He might take to it well, especially since he has very little experience with computers and wouldn’t have to adjust to a new computing paradigm. Yet I’m not convinced that would the best desktop solution for him. What happens when he tells me he can’t watch the live video stream of a horse race (or use the gambling application because it’s Windows-only)? My dad’s not going to bother troubleshooting that. (Ultimately I may get my dad a tablet device of some kind, since I have a feeling he’d take to that computing environment better than one that requires a keyboard, mouse/trackpad and seat).

    • Guest

      Part of the reason why you people cannot be taken seriously is because you lie and spread misinformation all the damn time.  Windows has had a telnet client and server since at least XP and I think even Windows 2000 had it.  It’s clearly there in Add/Remove Windows Features.


      I stopped reading your post at that part.

  • http://2buntu.com Roland Taylor

    The fact that you included your father’s first time with Ubuntu (Unity 2D) on top of parallels (which got in the way) in this article… makes me not interested in bothering to read the rest of it.


    • http://twitter.com/Harold Harold

      My apologies if you found that distracting. That is Chris Pirillo’s father, and it’s a valid demonstration of how an average PC user reacts to Ubuntu. Perhaps it should not be included with this article.

      • http://2buntu.com Roland Taylor

         I know who it is, and I also know that that is *not* how “The average PC user reacts to Ubuntu” because I have shown Ubuntu to many “Average PC users” and did not get that reaction.

        Actually, I have great respect for his father from watching the video – but I think he was short-changed, and that is not good enough. He was given Ubuntu on a virtual machine that obviously got in the way, had to use Unity 2D which does not offer a good experience (especially in 11.10 and 11.04), and would not have had these issues had he been given the chance to use Ubuntu as its supposed to be used.

        • http://twitter.com/Harold Harold

          Mr. Pirillo actually seems to take to Ubuntu better than he does to either Windows 8 or Mac OS X. That’s one reason I included the video. Check out the other videos, recorded prior to this one, of Mr. Pirillo trying out OS X and Windows 8 for the first time. You might be surprised at what you’ll find.

          • http://2buntu.com Roland Taylor

             The only one I have not seen is OSX – and I’m still holding to the fact that he had a hampered experience.

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/MMXJHC56K7GPD3QLDOJVF675PY R. Bailey

    If you consider the number of Unix Workstations being sold now vs. the number of PCs running Linux, its pretty clear that Linux is already wildly successful on the desktop, just not every kind of desktop.

    • http://twitter.com/Harold Harold

      That’s certainly one way of looking at it, but I’m focusing on a more broad base of users in this article.

    • nicodeimous

      With the same logic you could argue the case that as400 is still viable and thriving … nearly every grocery store chain uses it and there bookeepers too … new terminals every year. Yet the os is clearly dead in the user space.

  • http://rockiger.com/blog Marco

    1. There is a dominant Linux-Distro: Ubuntu.
    2. It’s not about Marketing, but about Distribution. Unless Ubuntu is preinstalled, it will never be succesful in the marketplace.

    • http://twitter.com/Harold Harold

      Yet Ubuntu is losing membership due to Unity, correct? It may not be the dominant distro in a couple of years. As long as the Linux community refuses to stick with one distro as the “face” of Linux then there will never be a product to distribute. The closest many will get to experiencing Linux will be noticing a Linux for Dummies book buried somewhere among all the Windows ones at the bookstore.

      • http://rockiger.com/ Marco

        No, it is not. Ubuntu adoption is going up. Mint is only catching up on Distrowatch.com

    • nicodeimous

      There never is a “dominate” distro for log, once upon a time it was redhar, then mandrake etc … there are just too many of em out there. Without a central flagship distro linux [gnu] will not make the move from hobby to crofitable consumer product. Before it was Ubuntu there was Knoppix :)

      • http://rockiger.com/ Marco

        Ubuntu is absolutely dominant and imo oppinium will be in the future.

        In essence: There is only Ubuntu on the Desktop.

  • El Quintron

    As someone who’s been using both Windows Vista/7 and Ubuntu since about 2007, I still prefer Linux for most day-to-day computing, the only real purpose I have for Windows is gaming, and an occasional nervous reverence for typing out resumes with MS Office rather than Open/LibreOffice.

    I think the thing that really blew my mind about Linux was “APT” Neither Windows or OS X have anything that’s remotely close in practicality or useability to apt and it’s various front ends be it Synaptic, Software Centre, or whatever the other Debian child-distros are packaging these days.

    To each their own, but anyone I’ve ever installed Ubuntu for, has inevitably liked it better no matter what their skill level.

  • http://gislikarl.com Gísli Karl Gíslason

    Contrary to a popular belief, Linux is not the entire operating system but rather a kernel used in conjunction with the GNU operating system. Thus you should use GNU/Linux unless you are talking about the Linux kernel itself. http://www.gnu.org/gnu/gnu-linux-faq.html

  • Guest

    The problem is that there’s literally no reason to use Linux when every new PC comes with Windows and Macs obviously come with OS/X.

    Linux cannot do more than Windows or Mac, but with the 3rd party consumer-level support deficit it will do less, since most games and many applications are not portable even with emulation layers.

    Linux has gotten to the point where it uses jsut as much resources as Windows Vista, in many cases.  Windows in a VM runs circles around Linux in a VM on my machines with the same RAM/CPU being given to each.

    Hardware just works on Windows and on Mac the hardware in that machine is supported perfectly by the OS.

    On top of that, you don’t have to deal with such UI inconsistencies, terrible user controls (GTK, le sigh), applications that crash without a dialog but instead send the information to console or a log file (with no decent universal log view like Windows Event Viewer sort of is) so the user in many cases never sees what the issue is.

    Most distros do not come with decent codec support out of the box.  Supporting free CODECs when the world uses pretty much ubiquitously proprietary codecs is still poor codec support.  Having to rip DLLs off a Windows Machine to hack them onto a Linux machine to play a Windows Media or iTunes file is fundamental problem with Linux.  Linux updates routinely break drivers.

    OEMs already tried putting Ubuntu on Netbooks.  Ubuntu’s own updates broke things on those netbooks.  Linux is a support nightmare for both consumer-level OEMs and developers, who often have to deal with people using dozens of different distros and hombrew Linux setups pestering them for support.

    Windows and Mac can both run much of the same OSS.  Both look better than GNOME and KDE.  Both are customizeable enough, you just have to know how.  Both have decent command-line and both have vastly superior consumer-level commercial software ecosystems  not to mention media ecosystems like Zune and iTunes which basically are built on proprietary software and codecs.

    Sorry, but there really isn’t any reason to use Linux.  That’s Linux’s problem  People look at it and see it as a waste of time to switch, because they gain almost nothing in capability but a whole lot of headache as a result.

    Additionally, I really dislike all the duplicated effort in the Linux community and the fact that DVD distros often install a ton of redundant applications on the PC.  Some install services that have no business being on a desktop.  I’ve seen big distros try to install MySQL, Mail Servers, Apache, etc. by *default* and it takes forever to go through those package listings and  try to get something that is even remotely similar to a “clean Windows install” with a Linux distro.

    I don’t want 3+ web browsers, 3+ File Managers, 2+ DEs, 4+ Shells, 3+ Terminal Emulators, 10 Text Editors, 2-3 IDEs, 5 Media Players, 4 Photo Viewers, etc. etc.

    When I installed Windows 7 I installed the OS, MS Security Essentials, Live Essentials, Office, Zune, ATI CCC, Microsoft Mouse Software, Nostromo Drivers and I was basically done.  Linux takes 3x as much effort to set up and maintain compared to Windows these days, nevermind OS/X.

    Linux had it’s chance around the Me-early XP days to fix its core, underlying issues but the devs just kept the status quo and I doubt they’ll ever recover and be able to mount a formiddable challenge, especially now that Linux fragmentation is at an all-time high…  A huge deterent to non FOSS software development houses.  There was a time when companies were trying to develop commercial software for Linux (even porting game clients over, like Quake, NWN, WordPerfect Office, etc.), but it simply wasn’t worth the effort.  The profits (if any) were not worth the support headaches.

    • Steve

       Hmm.  One of the things I prefer about Linux is that, in my experience, when you install it, it “just works.”  When I install Windows on the same machine, I’m always chasing down drivers.  If I need to figure out what hardware is on a given machine (even if I’m going to ultimately install Windows), I’ll boot to a Linux live cd, since that will always recognize it, instead of telling me “unknown device” in the hardware list.

      I’m always amazed that media that plays fine on any of my stock Linux systems barfs when I try to play it on Windows (or Mac!  The multimedia PC?)  The codecs that come with a standard Ubuntu or Mint install play pretty much everything you’re likely to throw at them.  Not out of the box for Ubuntu, but nearly so — it’s there as soon as you add Medibuntu to the repos.

      If you want to play the same media on Windows you have to track down each codec.  On Mac you have to track them down and buy them.

      It’s nearly difficult to get a rational focus policy set up on Windows — and it’s flatly impossible on MacOS. 

      Cut and paste is much easier under Linux (or any X11 system.)

      I support 120 Linux desktops and 35 Windows desktops, and the Windows machines are far more work.  Not just individually, but as a group. 

      • nicodeimous

        In the years of use i have put on linux machines i have seldom if ever found a “just works” rig … usually if they are found its a very specific rig thats very generic. More often than not the audio card presents some sort of issue or xorg has some sort of glitchyness that cant be quickly resolved.

        Unlike linux drivers, windows ones are almost always easy to chase down and install. Just my opinion.

  • DoubtfulBen

    What a completely irrelevant article. It might have a glimmer of value in 1997. Welcome to being 15 years late.

  • Ben High

    You should be a columnist here, Harold. As for Linux, I would like it if it sold on the desktop, but I don’t think anybody would pay for Linux as they do other operating systems like Mac or Windows. I personally like Linux on a laptop, not a desktop. I used Ubuntu 10.10 on my old laptop and then upgraded to Windows 8, but just re-installed Linux over Windows. I now use Linux in about 10 or 15 of my VMs in my library.

  • Palumbo Benjamin

    so its is simple and it is so close to happening.

     take user friendly distro (like Linux mint) + multi app market place (like android market place or mac) with the ability for programmers whom make the app to make money (like for writing code and giving service and ensureing male-ware free and updates when needed or improvements)+ small amount of idiot proofing= largest best distro windows killer.
     when has a non power user came up to and said my desk top can do this?  Or check this out can your device do this.  I just downloaded this from the market place its so cool I never thought a device could do this it is so helpful, fun, or cool. 
    the only reason i have ever heard was you cant do it because F.O.S.S. but really is F.O.S.S. hurt by android phones?  i do not think so.  It is not wrong to add the three above mentioned and would help all.

  • webmaster

    My view:

    – Linux is “king of embedded”. Besides some “obscure” realtime OSses there is no competition

    – Linux on servers: it’s the choice if you have low-end hardware or being tight on budget. Otherwise the Solaris family rules technically while Windows Server sells because it supports the desktops…

    – Linux on desktop: got usable with Gnome and took the wrong path with KDE. Wayland and Ubuntu will drive it into a MacOS X direction without having ever a chance to catch up but while doing so betraying every principle which made Unix great

    – Linux on mobiles: sort of “wallet garden embedded”. E.g. Google Android and Amazons Kindle.



    Google showed everyone that it is possible to sell Linux to end users. Because they (Google) profit from it.

    It’s a shame that Ubuntu heading to Wayland is the wrong direction. As a MacOS X developer I will promise you that it will be pain in the ass. It’s like MacOS X – 10 years ago.

    Nobody needs that. And Apple could “kill” it every time they want by making MacOS X “free” or licensable on Virtual Machines. Thats going to happen when Apple has finished abanbon business and professional content creators and moved completly into the bright iOS consumer world.

    For the moment I still like MacOS X (still on 10.6) best for Desktop. And there is no single Application Unix-only which would change that yet.

    As a developer I can tell that it won’t happen without rethinking and redesigned the GUI/Application foundation. On Linux it’s a 20 year old “hack”. With Wayland that hack gets hacked 10 years near to present. Which might sound good but in reality its a dead end.

    Its a shame that there is no funding for concepts leapfrogging MacOS X – at least on the Unix side of things. So I wouldn’t wonder if Microsoft is going to be stronger than ever after transitioning to a .Net / Silverlight (or whatever that XML GUIs are made off). It’s not going to be because it’s that great, but because it’s going to be economically feasible on business desktops.

    It’s even more shame that Wayland/Unity etc. looks like it picked the worst attributes from whats available just to stay compatible to old source code and programming concepts.

    Irony is that those who care about that also care about the good old network features of X11 and won’t like/support Wayland anyway.

    As I mentioned: as long there is only a “catch up” foundation there won’t be never a single desktop application which is Unix only – only “clones” of what you have best on other desktops…

    • nicodeimous

      It is indeed the king of embedded devices.

  • nicodeimous

    Illustrating in a nut shell why its not doing well vs other user space desktop oses and also why it does not receive vendor support.

    • http://gislikarl.com Gísli Karl Gíslason

       how so?

  • meskarune

    Linux is actually not mostly volunteer based. 70% of the development for linux is corporate backed. I would also like to state that linux has already “succeeded”. The majority of servers and arm based devices run linux. US submarines run linux. Pacemakers run linux. The German government runs linux. There is a huge community surrounding it and Linux has been around for over 20 years. If linux were unsuccessful, it would have died like so many other early operating systems have.  

    What does linux have that windows doesn’t?

    No licensing fees aka “renting” your software
    I use linux to make money with graphic design and web development. I would have to pay A LOT of money out in licensing fees if I were to use non-free software.

    Program installation
    I personally think installing programs and keeping them updated is MUCH easier in Linux. You don’t have to know what cpu architecture you have, you don’t have to check for updates for each individual program or set up update notifications for every program you use. Linux handles program management much better than windows does. 

    Linux keeps the kernel and running programs separate with different permissions allowed on a per user and file basis. This makes it VERY difficult for malware to run on your computer or hackers to gain access to important stuff. And due to how easy it is to keep your computer updated, you won’t end up with old, and potentially unsafe software.

    Being able to customize my work environment is very important to me. I can change my desktop colors to reduce eye strain, edit keyboard short cuts, add and remove menus and panels… if there is something you want to change about your desktop work environment, you can. And you can do it without voiding a license agreement or paying for 3rd party software. You don’t have to live with something you don’t like when using Linux.

    There are many, many more reasons why I choose linux over windows — and have for over 10 years now — but those 4 are the main “deal breaker” reasons why I wouldn’t choose to use another operating system. 

    I do think the premise that people must “sell” linux and recruit new users is silly. Its free and easy to install. You can dual boot it with other operating systems or run it in a virtual machine. It doesn’t have to be one or the other. If someone wants to know about linux, they can freely try it out. Apple and Microsoft work at convincing people to use their products because those productions cost MONEY and people have to be convinced to spend their money on something “worth while”. To use linux, you only have to convince someone to spend a small bit of their own time, and none of their money. 

    Comparing linux to microsoft and apple is like comparing a public library to the kindle. One has freely available books, the other is costly, with lots of restrictions on use, but perhaps slightly more convenient. 

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Clinton-Baldridge/100003495750866 Clinton Baldridge

       Agreed. It may not be for everyone and it doesn’t have to be.

    • http://twitter.com/Harold Harold

      70% corporate backed? For desktop distributions? I’d like to see your resources to back up that statistic.

      I appreciate your comments. Canonical brings forward the money for Ubuntu but from my understanding it’s overwhelmingly a voluntary effort. Please correct me if I wrong (with references to resources, preferably).

      • http://ysth.livejournal.com/ ysth

         The 70% figure is perhaps for linux kernel development, not including the thousands of other packages that fit together to make a usable distribution.

        Ubuntu is almost entirely derived from the ongoing Debian project, which itself is overwhelmingly voluntary.

        • An_Individual

          Fedora and by extension Redhat have made major contributions to the Linux Desktop, so have Samsung (Enlightenment is sponsored by samsung pretty much) Intel provide a huge amount of support so do IBM, even Nokia used to with their buy out and opening up of QT (what kde is based on) Trolltech was the commercial endeavour behind KDE, most of the guys behind QT develop for KDE. Intel has contributed greatly to Linux in many shapes not just Linux Kernel Development, Maemo/ Meego still use the Linux desktop stack same with Novel.  

          Dont forget RedHat is a billion dollar company now and it offers commercial workstations,  Lennart Poettering, a Redhat dev is behind most of the advancements such as systemd.

          Linux isn’t just volunteers any more, its too big and too important. Even fridges from samsung are running Linux (e17 based), the samsung bada phone, that uses the same Linux desktop stack. Then you have Android / Chrome OS etc.. 

          The guy behind the video is very naive in approach to Linux, frankly for me personally, Windows just isn’t good enough, it is so far behind Linux in many areas, meskarune lists them already so I wont repeat. I type this on my macbook pro running Linux. 

          Mac OSX has come along way and it is in great part thanks to GNU and thanks to the open source software stack, while it doesn’t use the Linux kernel, it does still use the GNU stack which makes up a Linux desktop (eg the BASH shell) I even think most of it is compiled using GCC, even to safari being based on KHTML. Mac OSX still has limitations compared to Linux, its great but KDE imho is a much better desktop environment to work in, Linux gives me the flexibility to do what I need to do. 

          If it wasnt for Linux the desktops available today would be in much worse shape, if it wasnt for Linux Windows would continue to be complete sh!t, its Linux and the competition that it presents that has forced Microsoft to build better software. 

          I have long since stopped “evangelising” Linux, there is no point, Linux has long since won. You have major governments completely switching to Linux. The desktop numbers given for Linux are always low, but who cares, its too big to be stopped, its too good to be dropped. The numbers are just the tree, you need to look at the bigger picture,  the forest. 

      • meskarune

        Here you go: http://www.linuxfoundation.org/publications/whowriteslinux.pdf

        There are more resources, but I think that one is pretty extensive. 

        This in no way discounts the contributions of users. 30%, or more for some projects, is pretty damn high for volunteer work. (compare this to other purely volunteer based projects)

        There is nothing wrong with corporations backing Linux. A lot of linux users seem bothered by the 70% figure. But Linux would not survive long with purely volunteer development. People need money to live, linux needs people working on it full time, and many companies make money off linux, so it makes sense they would pay for development and other costs. (webhosts, linux tech support, and mobile devices come to mind as the big linux money making products/services)

        Red Hat, Oracle, Sun, and IBM put lots of money into protecting Linux from copyright suits from Microsoft and they put money into development. Ubuntu and Suse also back linux with money, so does google. It shouldn’t be surprising at all that linux is mostly funded and backed by corporations. The GPL license still protects users rights to use the software, whether its corporate backed or not. 

        Here is another link that discusses some of the issues and feelings other people have about this: http://www.linuxjournal.com/content/linux-now-slave-corporate-masters

        • http://twitter.com/Harold Harold

          Good job on providing resources; most people wouldn’t take the time to back up their statements.

          It appears to be the kernel development that is funded, and if you’re of the opinion that Linux is not simply a kernel than I’d say that figure is up for some serious debate.

  • Viru Kanjilal


  • Josh Restivo

    You just ignore the ssh part? How stunningly clever of you. Indeed, Windows, until Vista had a telnet client which I used on occasion. More recently, though, they have disabled it by default and hidden it under one of the myriad of nested-tree menus that make managing windows so frustrating (IMO) – also precisely where MS sends features to die. This was just another shortsighted and misguided ‘security enhancement’ that has made a very convenient multipurpose tool effectively inaccessible since it’s usefulness lies largely in quick convenience while troubleshooting – especially when you find yourself doing so across multiple systems.

    Even more clever is your melodramatic indignation at my mention of one of my perceived shortcomings of windows. That was just silly…and that’s all I have to say about that.

  • frozen_dude

    When I need to specify a major advantage of Linux over commercial OS’es, I usually say: “All major Linux distributions come with a package manager. You no longer have to update each program you use manually, when a new update comes it lets you know, and you can install it with (usually) two clicks of the mouse. And finding new programs and installing them is also quite easy.”
    Another point I usually bring up is that you can sacrifice some features like sliding desktops, and run it on legacy machines, even old doorstops from 1990, you just have to balance what to run with what you run it on.
    There are some people who can pick up any distro and start playing with it, and learn itself what to do, and love it. But most people do not have the patience to get over that learning curb, so I find that some hand-holding is necessary, to get the user to feel comfortable with what they usually use a computer for, and then they can learn new things in their own pace.

  • http://flavors.me/gerlos gerlos

    Why GNU/Linux? Because of freedom. And control. And opportunity to learn anything about the system. If you’re so inclined, obviously. And because you can get something and make it truly yours, and totally different than anything else, just because you can.
    Do you need any more reasons?

    • Palumbo Benjamin

      yes this is a marketing question, or at least a statement.  Why linux can’t “sell” on the desktop.

    • Palumbo Benjamin

      you have the right answer but the wrong question.  linux is better.  we could make a distro that would be much more popular and it would help he linux foss project.

  • subfusc

    I don’t get what you’re actually trying to say with this article. A desktop is just a desktop, what did you expect? As a desktop solution (there are many of them), Linux has many features that Windows and OSX don’t have, and some they added at later points, and vice versa (Though not that much). You can even make the argument that most people doesn’t even want a desktop, rather something like a touch screen, app-centric style interface.

    The article isn’t exactly touching the root of the problem. The reason Linux doesn’t “sell” is because of sleazy business practices. Most people (which I assume are the people you want to target) don’t want another desktop than the one forced on them by the OEM. And when the OEMs don’t want to do Linux because they get coerced to not sell Linux, most people will not care. And to make them change their habits, you would have to create a Fashion-like wave or come up with a feature so desirable that people will sell their grandma to get it.
    It is indeed a sad world you’re describing. Much because you’re actually saying that a moral argument is no longer an argument for, rather than a void argument. And arguments about freedom and flexibility is meet with complaints like “I don’t want choices”. I’m not worried though, the viability of Linux has been proven time and time again. And good folks will always find a way to come over to the good side.

    • Palumbo Benjamin

      What is sleazy about using oem my phone comes with a oem i love it.  if you want something to live and get better could we not use the android business model? Is android bad for linux/foss?

    • Palumbo Benjamin

      ok you have good points but could the future be brighter for foss /linux if we reexamine the status quot and business models?  i think that there is enough brain power to top windows and mac.  I do not believe anybody would try to or cares enough about “normal” users in the Linux community.  no one knows about Linux because of that. Does the linux community want linux to be a nerd secret.  like the best band we don’t want anybody to know about it because than it will be played out?
      isnt this nerd only hackitudes against itself foss / linux /opensource/ gnu/ free ware  philosophy.  If computers are at the base about communication ,Data, ideas, videos, games, data,  And foss means to be a way of creating a free way to communicate for all when we limit our distros or do not create distros that normal poeple can want and do communicate with we are missing the point of foss gnu ect,..      It is not a real option in most people minds.  it could be easier than windows mac ect but no one wants to make it that way.  we have not monetized the ways we could have effectively securing the future for foss.  my hero is not just linus but the people whom took linux and made money off of android and brought back, money, respect, code, and support for foss linux in business.

  • Jonnan West

    I suppose I’ve never gone through what sounds, to me, like a ‘loss of
    faith’ essay, because I never got into Linux as a matter of ‘faith’ or

    I . . . just don’t care that much about open source as an ideology. I do
    run Linux desktops, having left Ubuntu for Debian because of a profound
    dislike for Unity, but I like them for practical reasons. Free software
    I can install quickly, tools I can build with, perpetually up to date,
    easy security, and frankly if there *is* something I desperately need
    from windows it will *probably* run in wine and certainly run in a
    virtual machine.

    I care about open source and ‘linux’ as an ideology, because I *do* see a
    direct line between the fleet-footedness and agility of open source and
    these practical things I care about. But it’s in the same self-centered
    way I care about free speech for people I hate because it ensures my
    own speech is protected.

    Of course Linux is not for everyone – not everyone cares about the same
    self-centered things I care about, and everything cool about Linux
    *will* (if enough people are irked that they don’t have it) be
    assimilated later into main-stream Windows and it’s compatriots. At
    which point Linux will have *new* cool stuff that will not be
    assimilated into the mainstream for another five years.

    Linux is a driver of OS evolution. There are legitimate reasons to not
    want your desktop running on that bleeding edge. But it keeps you
    thinking, learning, and creating, and if that’s important to you there’s
    no better place to be.

    But it’s stupid to get all ideological about it.


  • Vladimir Berkutov

    6 years experience tells me that linux is great for scientific or software development work but it’s ugly beast for entertaining. So, for now I’m considering to leave linux (ubuntu) for work but switch to MacOS or Win7 at home.

  • Nick Dellorto

    Linux is a great operating system. I would run it as my main OS if I had a computer with absolutely no OS. Not only is all of the amazing power in linux completely free, and open source, but the feel of each distro is something you don’t find in linux… you almost find it in Mac Os X. 

  • subfusc

    Just to make clear. By OEM I mean “Original Electronics Manufacturer”, Aka the guys that build your devices.

    I agree with the fact that OSS hackers should try to be “normal user” friendly, and many of them are trying to be (e.g gnome and unity). Personally I would like to see it succeed on any user devices. The major problem, the way I see it, is that this is not something that can be “community driven”. “The community” doesn’t have a business model because they are not a company, so all they can really do is help people who wants to install Linux. 

    For normal users to buy or use Linux it has to be supported by a OEM so you can be able to show people a product which is easily obtainable from their local electronics store. As an example of this, how many normal consumers do you know who have bought a Apple Computer and installed Windows on it? And in todays market, no major OEM will do this mostly because of fear of retribution from other large electronics corporations.

    While I love the fact that Android is Open Source, based on Linux and a marketing success, it does not incorporate a lot of the Free and Open Source values. And to be honest, I think the only reason why they where such a success is because they where the only player in that field (The field of Smart phone OS which where up to date and not tied to Apple).

  • LaurenLCD

    Coming from someone who has the latest Ubuntu (through Wubi), Windows 8, and Windows 7 on their laptop, I would say that if there’s any OS I would ‘sell’, it would have the application options and compatibilities of 7, the clean look of a Mac, the new explorer of 8, and the obscurity of viruses of Linux.

    That said, while Linux is a nice OS, you’d have a hard time telling me to use it for all my needs. I need applications that run without me jumping through rings of fire. I shouldn’t need to boot up a virtual machine or run wine (which will give me questionable results). Yes, there’s audacity, kdenlive, gimp, etc. but even with 3Gb of RAM, they run horrible compared to their Windows cousins and can’t even hold a candle to the flow of sony vegas, adobe products, and any given daw made for windows that work without any fuss.

    The average non techie doesn’t care about customization and building their own OS. To most users, simply changing their desktop wallpaper and glass color is all the customization they need. If they’re trying to decide what flavor of Linux to use after being told “Use Ubuntu!” “No! Don’t use that! It has Unity! Use something with GNOME!” “No! Use something with KDE!” “Use Mint!” “Use Redhat!” “Use Puppy!” “Use Damn small!”, they don’t know the difference between what makes one interface or flavor “better”. They just want something that’s easy to navigate and learn. They want something they can get their work done on. They want the comfort of knowing that the document they send their boss will be read and their boss won’t see gibberish due to incompatibilities. They want something that doesn’t break.

    In short: No matter how computer-literate you are (or think you are), you want your OS to work for you. Making your OS work just the way you like it and working with your applications should be as easy as a few mouse clicks, not a series of downloading this or that dll, or upgrading everything because the latest version of a Linux distro broke your apps. The purpose of any OS should be being able to get the most amount of work done efficiently. Whether Linux can do that for any and all occupational needs is up for debate. It’s perfectly fine if you don’t use it for the purpose of getting work done/content made, but for content users, it may have to bake a bit more if it’s off-brand programs want to compete in the mainstream market.

    • http://twitter.com/Harold Harold

      I agree. Your words remind me of Chris Pirillo’s recent remarks about Microsoft’s Windows 8: http://www.lockergnome.com/windows/2012/03/15/why-cant-microsoft-afford-a-failure-with-windows-8

      Linux attempts to satisfy everyone, but as a result it’s a usability nightmare.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Marcelo-Santos/1600764093 Marcelo Santos

    Linux is a great OS, but in my opinion it’s not ready yet to be a Desktop OS, at least for me: I cannot sync my iPhone (iTunes refuses to work in Wine), there is no Graphical DVD Burn Software that can burn .dvd files without any shell intervention (k3b is great but not powerful and easy to use like ImgBurn), there is no Freemake like utils to Convert Video and Audio with a few mouse clicks, Logmein still not works in Linux, and LibreOffice or OpenOffice still doesn’t are 100% compatible with M$ Office: I work with a group of people that writes a bunch of Office files that need to follow some tech formatting criteria, and very often the docs that I sent from my Ubuntu Desktop are incompatible, and I need to re-edit them in the Notebook. Nevernote is a very poor implementation of Evernote client: the tool that I use to take notes and SYNC them among my other devices and computers. The sound driver for SoundBlaster X-Fi Extreme Music that Creative Labs provides to Linux sucks: I cannot control treable and bass, I cannot Enable the advanced features that the card provides, and very often the sound freezes and I need to restart Unity with a reboot. OK: this is not a Linux problem: maybe the driver is poor implemented by Creative, but in these days I don’t have the same time that I had in the past to search for a solution, download the sources, compile, etc, etc, etc. I need to start the desktop, and do my job.

    Ubuntu 11.10 is faster than Windows 7 in the same desktop hardware? Yes, it is. But the time that I spent with config, test, try, search on internet, try again, re-install… Is not worth for me. 

    I believe in a near future, when the cloud apps are more widespread the OS will be less relevant to the users, and in that time, Linux maybe gain a respectable space in Desktop Arena.

    Till them, I continue to use Windows as Desktop, and Linux for the server hard work.

    • http://twitter.com/Harold Harold

      I appreciate you taking the time to post your comments, Mr. Santos. It’s been a few weeks since I wrote this article, and the following comments are not particularly in response to your comments but are intended for anyone reading:

      My feelings about Linux in the desktop space haven’t changed in the past weeks, but I have to admit that Windows — specifically Windows 7 — isn’t a perfect desktop operating system, either. Soon after this article was published I began using my brand new Dell PC running the OEM installation of Windows 7 along with Dell’s applications. Within a day I was having problems with the PC: Windows 7 wouldn’t respond when I attempted to unmount a USB drive; Dell’s utility for creating a disc image hung; and within a week (not even using the system all that much) I found myself staring at a blue screen.

      Granted, the blue screen I encountered may be due to all the third-party software I’d installed over the course of the week; there’s simply no way of knowing. So I’ve installed Windows 7 without Dell’s utilities (other than the drivers required to connect to the ‘Net and to allow the monitor to operate properly). I’m giving the PC another run before I consider returning it to Best Buy.

      All this is to say that sometimes Windows doesn’t even seem to be ready for the world. Of course, as I’ve implied in my comments, it could very well be a hardware issue, in which case it would be unfair to blame Microsoft’s software. Somebody else already mentioned RAM as a common culprit on OEM systems. I don’t know what the problem is (or was) or if I’ll ever figure it out; only time will tell. But Windows desktop operating systems can seem just as problematic as Linux desktop distros, and vice versa — it’s all a matter of perspective. For some, having to dive into a command line interface seems much more troublesome than troubleshooting with a graphical user interface (GUI) tools; for others, having to bother with GUI utilities is much less efficient than command line tools (and may even add a layer of problems due to the addition of of the GUI components).

      I think it’s fair to say that the vast majority of consumers these days prefer to use GUIs, which implies a preference for Windows (right down to the name of the OS). It’s what’s been marketed to us over the past two decades. And even though there are plenty of GUI interfaces for utilities on Linux, the Linux community seems to encourage users to dive into the command line while Microsoft only does so for a few select operations. Things are changing a bit on the server side, where Microsoft is encouraging adoption of it’s Server Core, but on the desktop it’s all about pretty, tactile interfaces. People want to stick with what they know (or at least what seems easiest to migrate to, such as from click-and-drag to touch-and-drag). As long as Linux desktop distros continue encouraging new users to use the command line, it will have a great deal of difficulty “selling” those users on continuing to use Linux.

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  • Martin Wildam

    Let me give you one single reason

  • Martin Wildam

    Let me give you one single reason: After I converted somebody (family members or friends) to Linux (Ubuntu in my cases) – the required support is reduced to something near to zero after the first few weeks.

    In reality I wouldn’t bother if most people out there use this or that OS, the problem is: I am affected negatively in my productivity on a daily basis because of those using Windows. Be it that they send me docx documents that don’t display well or other more strange MS only stuff.

    If Microsoft would use real standards I wouldn’t argue against Microsoft.

  • unk

     “Why would anyone want to use Linux as their everyday desktop (or laptop) operating system?”- virus free- computer does NOT get slower over time- boots fast, very responsive- convenient package management so that updates are done automatically- you can use it for business purposes without upgrading your license- easy hard disc encryption FOR FREE (unlike MS BitLocker)- any Linux distribution already includes the software you need — after buying a Windows PC you cannot start work immediately but you have to install a bunch of software and uninstall the demo crap that is shipped with- restarts after security updates are rather rare- most hardware works out of the box and you do not have to install drivers- variety of good-quality free software

  • Rohan

    1 problem is that Linux is NOT an OS. It’s a kernel. The distributions are OSs, but they do a rather bad job of user experience, many a times fake claims on stability with updates.
    Also it’s shard to do proper hardware integration. OS X also would be rather shitty on devices other than apple’s, though it’s not meant for them.
    Comparing the adaptability of Linux to OSX, Linux distros are clear winners.
    Take Debian;as stable as it is, it becomes a headache at times with the firmware limitations

  • Gimcrack

    I switch to Linux back in 2003. I’ll never go back to Windows ever. No Licence fees, Free software, no viruses, Linux is fast and stable. What I can’t find in the repositories of Linux. That I would like to have. I find it on somebodies site(third-party). The number one reason, that many not using Linux. Is because PC users don’t know how to install an Operating System. Making them stay away from Linux or any other Operating System. 

    • Martin Wildam

       A Windows-PC must be re-installed every now and then because of ruined by the user or by a virus. Usually people then ask somebody in the near who knows computers. THOSE should be the ones installing Linux instead. But: Most of those “experts” just know Windows because that is what they have got themselves when they bought their PC.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Marcelo-Santos/1600764093 Marcelo Santos

    It’s not true. I’m using a PC with Windows almost 2 years, when Windows 7 was launched, and so far, no Virus and no need to re-install. There is no Linux substitute programs for that I need to use, and since them, I cannot switch. And, because this, you cannot generalize: there is 2 kind of users, and some can use Windows without this issues. For example: There is a copy of Ubuntu 11.10 in my kid’s PC, running since when it was launched. The kid’s need to browse the internet, chat in MSN, and run Minekraft. Based on my experience, however, the WinXP in the same machine seems a little ‘faster’ than Ubuntu. Some distros are heavier than others, and in some machines, XP is still faster than Ubuntu. Of course, if we use a ‘light’ user interface like XFCE, etc. it’s another history, but, with defaults, in my opinion depends of kind of hardware you are using. 

    • Martin Wildam

       OK, you are right that there are 2 kind of users. I was also able to run Windows XP/2003 for many years without the need to reinstall. But I have optimized, took care, did not install programs to test on my work machine (always on a separate VM for testing first) and so on.

      But when I was still doing windows support for friends it was all the time that I had to fix some problems – that mostly were not just a little work. In most of the cases there was so much wrong already that the new install was just around the corner. If it were viruses, some programs they installed or simply a lot of things misconfigured (maybe accidently by the user).

  • RaterKey

    That’s a really difficult question.

    It is the ready availability of hardware with Android pre-installed that has made it popular. Yes, Android phones are pretty much sold EVERYWHERE. And they come in all sizes, prices, speeds, colours, etc…

    However, this is due to technical and cost reasons. Would Android have permeated so many devices if it weren’t easy to get it running on that many devices and if it weren’t open source? Probably not.

  • http://www.karlmontague.co.uk/ Karl Montague

    Really?  You don’t know why Linux is better for every day use?  One-click install from LiveCD (and surf or play games while it installs!).  One-click install of third party software like Google Earth.  Java, Flash and other codecs sorted automatically.  No antivirus.  Choice of desktop environments built into login.  Multiple workspaces.  A strong, helpful community with a distro leader that listens to your suggestions and implements them (“OMG, you had to go to command line?  Let me write you a piece of software!”, and “Don’t like the new Gnome?  Let me fork the old one you liked, and tweak the new one so it’s more sane – then give you the choice at login”).  Of course, I’m talking about Linux Mint, not Ubuntu, but your article was about Linux in general, so that’s what I’m replying to.  Free upgrades.  The mouse buffer.  One-click update of installed software from Linux proper all the way to VLC and Firefox.  No defragging. 

    That’s why I choose Linux as my every day desktop.  It has it’s problems, but even my kids can install and use Mint.

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  • zitiboat

    OpenSource is the reason to sell Linux!
    As a student struggling to put together a makeshift system to write WORD documents for class work I got a hold of a bad HardDrive that I put on a cheap do it your self tower kit from TigerDirect that would not accept my Win98 upgraded to Xp OS I had left over from a HardDrive from an old tower PC that could only use 256MB RAM.
    No money meant no OS.
    I turned to OpenSource and stepped into heaven. Ubuntu came along and told me every time it handled the bad HardDrive just fine that I should get another one quick. OpenOffice.org not only read .doc but converted everything I wrote to .doc for me.
    For the disposable income crowd I say start meaning what you tell us about making computers available to the world to build a better future. Some recycled hardware and Linux allows anyone a chance to join the WorldWideWeb.
    I can tech slightly above novice but I got Wine to run my Windows programs (always keep the discs) and I survived the adding new apps daily routine of Ubuntu. On a daily basis I prefer the prepackaged software of Windows but for emergencies I know I can fall back on Linux.
    We all love electricity but keep flashlights on hand just in case.

  • Drmgiver

    The answer is simple, choice and freedom. Freedom to make your computer yours. End of story. It is something you will never see with Mac or Windows. It is a third option, there for people who desire it, and not there for those who do not. Why do people use Mac? They like it. (though I cannot see why) Why do people use Windows? Again, they like it. (Though I cannot see why either) Why do people use Linux? They like it. Why do people use BSD? Again, they like it.

  • Jamie

    I’ve been running linux ( suse, opensuse, kubuntu ) continuously for work and play for 7+ years. For work ( web development ), I simply can’t imagine moving to Windows as my work flow has been been based around linux. I could use a Mac but a linux PC does what I need it to do.

    Thanks for the article.

  • Linux friend

    I switched to gnu/linux last year, because of the customization and privacy. I believe linux is the os of the sophisticated ones and for this “product” to be used in mainstream situations is quite hard even to imagine. BUT: what if every one had a Linux running friend who wound guide them to a wonderful experience in linux. I made some of my friend switch or dual boot and I’m sure some of you did the same thing! In today’s world of marketing without any respect for privacy I hope that a new generation will realize that this is not ok!
    “Fuck the system”

  • Technix

    Linux in its many distros plays to nearly anyone it is fully customizable where as the other current OS’s have a moderate level of basic user customization. It’s not a matter of is there a selling point it’s more a matter of how Linux creates a community of like minded individuals who excell at providing a usable and functioning user interface with our computers hardware. But on the same note asking only for support, donations, or contributions of a technical degree instead of trying to turn an obscene amount of profit like gates or jobs . Albeit therefore are stories of their good deeds at the end of the day they run (or ran) a multi billion dollar company. The Linux community is simply about the little guy. Don’t get me wrong each has pros and cons but only one is community driven and not cooperate minded.

    This is just a statement of my own personal belief, it is my opinion, take it, leave it, judge it, or snub it out if you can.

    • Martin Wildam

      I am not sure, what you consider the “little guy”, but especially big companies gain most from Linux contributions. What I consider the “little guy” (most common default user), the underlying operating system is pretty irrelevant. When it comes to productivity for power users or for specialists (not only in IT) then the OS starts to be an important part. Depending on the profession of the user and the particular needs of that profession (ranges from mail-admin to designer to medical specialist to architect to film-maker to machine-operator to software developer to home user with extraordinary hobby) required/desired OS features and applications may vary a lot.