A Windows Die-Hard Confronts Linux

by Preston Gralla

I've been a Windows die-hard for more years than I want to remember, having used the operating system since even before the prehistoric days of Windows 3.1.



So when my 14-year-old son Gabe came home from his first summer job (where he's learning the open source joys of Python, PHP, and MySQL), extolling the virtues of Linux, I was skeptical. Old habits, and old operating systems, die hard.



I was unwilling to turn my trusty PC into a Linux box, so he popped in a CD with Knoppix, on it, rebooted, and voila -- instant Linux. Knoppix is a free version of Linux that you can boot directly from a CD, available free for downloading and then burning onto CD. A whole host of Linux software comes along for the ride, including the office suite OpenOffice.org, the browsers Konqueror and Mozilla, and more as well. It's hard not to like the desktop, with its transparent menus and slideaway bottom panel. But because Knoppix is meant more for demos than real work, there wasn't much I could do with it.



Eager to win me over, he installed SUSE Linux on his own computer and set me loose on that. I checked out the free Openoffice.org suite, which is perfectly adequate, though not particularly earth-shaking. As for browsers, I've already tried Mozilla on the PC (I favor FireFox), so nothing new there as well. As for the other applications, again, they were perfectly adequate.



Now, I recognize that a few hours of using desktop Linux isn't a true test drive. But if you want someone to throw over their habits of a more than a dozen years, you've got to wow them right away. And Linux didn't do that for me.



True, I was surprised at how simple it was to install and get up to speed on Linux. And the desktop has some nice touches that Windows could learn from. The applications didn't win me over, though. In fact, when it comes to Linux on the desktop, I don't get the point, really. Yes, the desktop is pretty, but I was expecting more than a pretty face. On the desktop, Linux may be more stable than Windows, but with Windows XP, I haven't had problems with Windows crashes. I'm a long-time shareware fan, and there's far more useful and easily available shareware available for Windows than Linux. And given that we live in a Windows-centric world, it just seems like too much labor and work to try and live in desktop Linux. The one thing going for desktop Linux is its price and the price of applications like the OpenOffice.org suite -- you can't argue with free.



Of course, servers are a different thing, entirely. As for the virtues of Linux servers versus Windows Server…I'll leave that religious fight to someone else.



Which side of the Windows/Linux debate do you come down on? Let me know.


54 Comments

tlaurenzo1
2004-07-20 06:30:38
Different perspective
I just went through a box and found a set of diskettes for Windows 3.0... so I've been around for a while too. I've mastered every version since then.


Even so, I switched from Windows to Mac OS X just months after it was released. I'm really a sucker for Unix based OS's and OS X is really the most functional one for desktop use. However, Macintoshes are expensive and I didn't feel like funding a Macintosh cult by outfitting the house with them. The family's main computer is a Mac and my auxillary computers are Intel/Linux. All of the heritage Unix stuff integrates seemlessly with OS X and Linux (certainly a lot better than on Windows), and I gain the ability to just laugh and go back to what I was doing when the latest Windows Worm comes along. And the Macintosh can be very locked down so that different users have easily controllable access rights. (as an aside, if people actually looked at the security features/design of non-Windows OS's instead of saying "if it were used more it would be a target too", it would be painfully obvious how the design of Windows security has major gaps -- yeah, you can add an ACL to everything but they all default to wide open, or worse you cannot restrict them without compromising critical programs).


I consider Linux my cheap tool for doing development work on when I am not at my Mac.
TylerMitchell
2004-07-20 07:10:40
The old and the new
Preston, you should be thrilled! :)
Consider Linux as the best of the old and the new - both which are familiar territory for you.


NEW: the snazzy graphical desktop and competent replacements for commercial apps.


OLD: the pre-Win3.1 days of powerful command line tools. Sure your commands are different, but if you suffered through it back then, you'll probably actually enjoy it now.


Either way - welcome aboard!


We're debating the merits of grpahical vs command line at: http://www.oreillynet.com/pub/wlg/5170


Tyler

simon_hibbs
2004-07-20 07:22:21
Software for the people
I've long failed to understand the obsession with linux on the corporate desktop. To me, that's a non-issue. It's not as though corporations are dying slow deaths from crippling Microsoft taxes. The free software movement isn't about incremental improvememnts to the profitability of big business.


That's not to say that Linux can't necesserily play a role in that, as Novell and IBM among others have proved. It's just that Richard Stallman and an (at the time) unknown finnish student among others didn't start writing free software for that purpose.


Free software has traditionaly been about people at the grass roots of society writing software and making it available to people like themselves to use for free. You're an IT professional well able to pay for commercial software, but your son is a young person with (presumably) limited means starting out in life. He dosn't have your financial resources, and likely also has more time and energy to explore activities, and therefore software tools that you wouldn't be interested in. Linux gives him a vast array of software with which he can do that for free, granting him opportunities he woudn't otherwise have.


No wonder he's so enthused and you just don't see the point.


Simon Hibbs

teejay
2004-07-20 08:25:19
More applications and more useful too
I think you will find there are a lot more useful applications on Linux than you can find on windows.


Yes, many good OSS tools are ported to windows and the Mac but, BSD and Linux are home to free software and where much of the OSS innovation happens.


Of course if you aren't actually doing anything interesting then there won't be anything to excite you.


If you want to see exciting, try running multiple named desktops - something windows can't match - or the ability to run commands and tools under different users using su and sudo, or the ability to customise the desktop behaviour well beyond what the Mac and Windows desktop can do - try out different window managers, thems and panels.


Then you can run all your windows applications via wine, wineX or crossover. Or run vmware.


And of course you have graphical applications running remotely (and securely encrypted via ssh tunnels) using X windowing.


If you actually want to do something useful or interesting then linux is exciting, if you want the same buzz as moving from the stone-age windows 3.1 to the still-deriviative windows 95 or the Mac OS X / Linux clone that is XP, then you will be dissapointed. Windows XP doesn't suck as badly as the operating systems you used before, so moving to something secure and reliable won't seem that cool.


Your loss.

theBlueSmokeBand
2004-07-20 09:51:59
Paradigm shifts don't happen on a test drive
The problem with the "test-drive" described here is a problem that I see very often with Windows users: they look for the ways that Linux is like Windows. This is the wrong approach, as the shift to Linux is not simply a shift to an alternate / cheaper / stabler / more secure Windows (though all of that might be a valuable by-product).


Linux takes a different approach to 1) how a user interacts with the computer; 2) what is available to perform those interactions. The way one interacts is different because there is the mysterious and legendary command line. (If you are tempted to say, "Oh, like DOS", please re-read the first paragraph). Most of the software out there amounts to a front end for commands and editing config files. This leads to choices.


For example, xcdroast, k3b, gcombust, gnome toaster all use the same underlying commands (cdrecord, cdparanoia, etc.) They are snappy, easy-to-use front ends.


This leads (quickly) to point 2: the availability of options is both overwhelming and exciting -- and consequently relies on user responsibility. You need to be willing to educate yourself. For example, if I want to type a letter, I can use a text-style editor like the venerable vi, or emacs, or gedit, or kedit, or jed, etc. Or I can use a snazzy WYSIWYG like Abiword, KOffice, OpenOffice, etc. Or I can use a text processor like TEX or LaTEX. Or I can convert to pdf. And so on. My choice depends on both my purposes and on how well I have educated myself.


This is in stark contrast to the Windows world. You have Word. You write a letter, a book, a message, everything in Word. Seriously: does anyone really think that Word is the best for all of those purposes?


This is a simple example among many possible examples. The point is that the shift from Windows to Linux is paradigmatic. It is paradigmatic insofar as the significant unit one evaluates is one's purposes, not availability, price, etc.


If this approach does not sit well with you, then imagine why Linux users do not flock to Microsoft products -- at least none that I know. I think that it is due to these deep differences, especially that ambition, not availability or stability, is the biggest limitation on a Linux machine.

xeroply
2004-07-20 14:02:12
Exciting?
If you want exciting applications that let you create awesome stuff out of the box, I'd highly suggest looking at the Mac platform.


The applications that come with Macs are really in many ways the best of both worlds. You can start your day with video editing and DVD authoring that's so easy you'll wonder if it's a crime, and end it in the UNIX shell writing (and hosting) a dynamic web application. And there's plenty in between (just look in the Utilities folder).


It's all built-in, and on top of that one company thought out how it would all fit together. Yet there's nothing stopping you from grabbing other Open Source apps, or buying a great deal of mainstream, high-quality commercial software (MS Office, the real deal, is even there, so no need to make do with an "adequate" OpenOffice.)


As if that weren't enough, the quality of shareware on the Mac is second to none. To name a few innovative shareware developers: konfabulator.com, rogueamoeba.com, lemkesoft.com, codingmonkeys.de, panic.com, unsanity.com, karelia.com, ambrosiasw.com, ranchero.com. I have been hard-pressed in several years of supporting Windows for a living, to find anything approaching the quality and creativity of shareware on the Mac.


The problem I have with Windows is that it is organized and friendly, but shallow. You can do relatively little with a Windows system out of the box. The thing can't even make PDFs out of your documents. All the "innovative" functionality comes from buying Microsoft's 80 separate Windows Server System products (or Plus! packs and MSN subscriptions and such for home users)


Linux, on the other hand, is complex and rich, but chaotic. I'll admit my linux experience is limited, but after trying some basic system administration tasks on SuSE 9.1 my impression is that all the nice graphical desktops and imitation Start-menus are a thin layer of kleenex on top of a roiling hive of plain-text config files and /etc/rc.d scripts. It's enough "choice" to make your head spin, and then make you reach for the documentation, except then you find out much of is full of things like "This chapter coming soon" and, "Vital config file X usually lives in /usr/local/bin/private, but your distro will probably be totally different."


I'm not out to start a war between Mac and Linux because I think they're both very much on the same team these days (or should be). But, I do think that if you're looking for something exciting and perspective-changing in terms of what a computer will enable to you to actually do, the Mac might be a better place to start. Then, check out Linux.

waltmaine
2004-07-20 18:52:03
Windows shareware
Yes, there does seem to be more "shareware" for windows, but generally it's pretty junky or very overpriced. Simplistic little utilities for $40 of the type that are free under Linux/BSD.


I actually find more USEFUL "free" software for Linux than windows.


Anyway, I've also been using Windows for much longer than I'd like (Windows 2.0 days - yuck.) If you are looking at Linux and saying ho hum, you aren't looking very close. There are Very interesting and innovative things going on.

svedese
2004-07-20 20:02:55
You are lucky
Yes, for common user the difference between windows and linux don't exist.


But have you ever have some problem with windows?
The way to solve it is to try and try, not to understand the system. In linux is different, every problem has a cause.


And if you want to develop something there is no comparaison... to have the control over the entire system is beautiful!



P.S. sorry, i'm study english!

BruceT
2004-07-20 20:20:00
No big deal - isn't this how it should be?
Gee, I always thought that when users were switching from Windows to Linux, they didn't *want* there to be any surprises, differences, problems, etc.


Word processors, spreadsheets, MP3 players, etc. all pretty much work the same; the underlying OS should have nothing to do with that.


I think it shows how far the Linux offerings have come in the last few years that a "die hard" doesn't see any big deal about switching to a more open, secure product.


Just wait until he gets creamed by spyware, malware, the next virus, etc. That's been the tipping point for my friends and family who are starting to see the light, and are at least playing with Knoppix to try it out.


I'm sure my almost-daily emails with links to the latest IE, Outlook, etc. security notices are helping them be more open minded too... :)

seetru
2004-07-20 20:40:13
First Linux Use Opinions
Very honest and to the point observations.
I don't think it has to be one or the other, in fact I have been using Linux, FreeBSD, and Windows for several years now.
This allows me to broaden my knowledge in many directions without limitations.
robertojdohnert
2004-07-20 21:02:34
Open Source applications on Windows
OpenOffice, Gaim, Gimp, XChat are all available on Windows and often have additional features than on their Linux counterparts. Very good stuff, I use it all the time. At work we run Apache and MySQL and Java on the Windows operating system.
vesperdem
2004-07-20 21:37:33
No big deal - isn't this how it should be?
Just wait until he gets creamed by spyware, malware, the next virus, etc. That's been the tipping point for my friends and family who are starting to see the light, and are at least playing with Knoppix to try it out.


He's been using Windows for over 12 years. I think if he was going to see spyware, malware, etc... He would have seen them by now.


If he is like me, he has a firewall between his computer and the Internet, runs Anti-virus software and doesn't open attachments. Oh, and runs a browser other than IE. I have been on Windows for as long as he has, and don't see these problems you mention.


If your friends and family are, then they need to be educated on how to use a computer safely on the Internet. Linux isn't going to save you from hackers, but protection will.


Every time I visit my parents, my father has done something to the desktop that needs me to "fix" it. I can just see him "messing" around with Linux. I'm no Linux Sys-Admin and I would have a very difficult time reparing any damange he does.


Until Linux is foolproof, I think I'll stick to Windows and deal with the issues as they come up.

vesperdem
2004-07-20 21:40:20
Windows shareware
Maybe you just don't know where to look for the free programs on Windows. I have over 1.5GB of Freeware that doesn't suck. Over 630 programs. Not all installed of course, just kept in case someone asks or I need it.


A lot of those came from SourceForge.

mike.douglas@gmail.com
2004-07-20 22:39:00
Open Source applications on Windows
Good idea, usability of Unix software with the stability of the MS kernel ;)
CougarCat
2004-07-20 23:39:43
Gralla = 'technical expert'?
Preston Gralla is a well-known technology expert? A (ahem) technology expert without a working knowledge of Linux? Yeah, right.
grabbing
2004-07-21 02:19:31
No big deal - isn't this how it should be?
First of all, Windows is not foolproof at all. Actually, a user can make much bigger damage to a Windows system than they can to a Linux system.


Your father couldn't do any damage to a Linux system as long as you don't let him log on as root. If he makes damage it'll only be to his own user account and/or home directory.


Delete him as a user and make him a new user account so he can start over again.

n0Body
2004-07-21 06:04:23
just KDE
thant's right, if you insalled SUSE, My bet is that you've only used KDE, not gnome, not XFCE, not enlightenment, or fluxbox. Sure there's not a whole lot of difference. It's designed to act the same and and be used the same by the sma e people. LInux has to have something like that or the general masses who hate change enough that they don't use firefox, will still use it. It's just the way it is, nothing snappy or cool. just the normal desktop, startmenu, etc. As far as Apps, there is much more "shareware available" that does so much more than any windows shareware I've ever seen, go search through freshmeat.net, and sourceforge. if you don't find something there that fits your needs, go see if it isn't already built it. Typically when ig et windows shareware, it's to add features the OS lacks. CSS editor? why not use vi, or emacs, or any other syntax hiliting editor? HTML? same deal. say you want to change your icons? do it. that's just a right click? wnat to rename a whole bunch of files? drop to commad line and do it with a for loop in 10- sec's. ou see, you don't have to write that muchg shareware for linux. It's all ready there, or download it online as a bash script. Linux isn't the desktop. and the desktop isn't linux. I like the fact that I'm using knoppix to write this becuase my linux distro died, the onl;y way I've ever seen and install die: my hard-drive crashed. So I have no NV storage at all. But this will run untill my cdrom warps. can't do much with knoppix, I beg to differ. I can do anything I want, execpt, well except stuff that uses my hard drive right now. it, uh, well that could be tough. But you get the point. Linux is about the OS being flexible and meeting any of my needs, not the other way around.
steve4linux
2004-07-21 06:15:02
The Point is "IT's NOT MICROSOFT"
You said that you don't get the point. The point is that it is not Micro$oft. It is free. There is no totalitarian license schema and no monopolistic marketing practices to have to deal with. That is the point.
alexchejlyk
2004-07-21 06:17:00
AV, Firewall, Anti-Spyware are not all 100%
I used to be a die hard Windows fan. Stability issues with Win2K/98 made me switch to Linux in late 2000.
The big issues with XP are the unknown exploits. Dwnload.ject is the latest unknown. Spyware is much harder to detect than worms and viruses, since stealth is the name of the spy game.
Users who feel they are not at risk are the sweetest targets.
The clients I've switched to Linux desktops had teething pains at first, but after a year on Linux have found the systems to be very reliable, never bogged down by application/registry bloat and immune to the 100,000 Windows worm/virus garbage.
Spyware is the new front where Windows systems show their vulnerabilities.
Switching from Windows to Mac/Linux is well worth it, considering all the malware that has infected Windows.
linux_user
2004-07-21 07:09:00
Virtues of Knoppix (and Linux)
I, like Preston, have been using Windows since 3.1 & dos since 3.3, however, I have also been using linux starting with Redhat 5 and since have used several other brands of linux as well. I lean towards linux as my choice of OS, but keep windows around for some shared work apps that only run on windows.


Recently, a friend called for help with his PC. He was having trouble booting it up. It turned out to be an issue with his cpu/mb where it would not boot with even level 1 cache enabled in bios and XP was able to boot without it, but too slow to be useable. The PC was his file & print server for his small home office. I popped in a Knoppix CD, was able to boot up AND use it. I also edited the samba.conf & cupsd.conf files and voila, he had his file & print server back. The PC also had a dvd-rom drive & cd-rw drive. We booted Knoppix off the dvd and backed up his files on the cd-rw using K3b which is included with Knoppix. K3b is easier to use than either Nero or Roxio. This was just a temporary solution until the replacement hardware arrived, but a very impressive one at that.



absurdist
2004-07-21 08:21:38
Missing the point...
I'm not at all surprised by this reaction. It's the same reaction that's to be had from anyone whose livelihood is linked to Windows.


From the article: "Preston Gralla is a well-known technology expert, and the author of Windows XP Hacks as well as nearly 30 other books. He is also the editor of WindowsDevCenter.com "


I have no doubt that I can demonstrate to you that the sky is orange, as well. All that's required is that I disregard all evidence pointing to the conclusion that the sky is blue.

aGNUstic
2004-07-21 08:44:45
Paradigm shifts don't happen on a test drive
Sometime during the process of using the "Redmond platform", over the last decade, I arrived at a rather unique conclusion. Working with the "Redmond platform" is insane. The sheer amount of time and energy dedicated to supporting the "Redmond platform" are almost, well, astronomical in nature.


The kernel that Mr. Torvald's created, the original architect, has come a long way in the last decade. With the assistance of hundreds of gifted coders, system administrators, and a multitude of others the little hobbyist kernel has gone professional. Kudos to everyone involved.


I have heard it said, "A system administrator's first principle is to simplyfy things. If a solution makes things more complicated then something has gone very wrong". There are some very un-simpified things regarding the "Redmond platform".


It is true the a paradigm shift just don't happen. I am often reminded of the allegory of Plato's cave. Most user's experience are at the desktop level and revolve around a core set of applications: a text, spreadsheet, or presentation processor, an e-mail client, a graphics image manipulation program, a CD-DVD ripper-burner, an audio tool, maybe a game or two, possibly a scheduler or project manager, and an Internet browser. Most of life's work can be saved onto one or more CD-Rs.


I, personally, am not trying to woo anyone away from the "Redmond platform". To come to the realization that I "do not need the Redmond platform" is an individual choice based upon personal experience. Some people are entrenched into their own learned behaviors and cognitive dissonance.


Maybe, as they grow in their computing experiences with the "Redmond platform" and the cost of "renting" it over time. They will calculate the cost of their rental. The myth of their not being enough application or drivers in Linux is old and out dated one.


Time, money and experiece will win out in time.

codifex
2004-07-21 10:18:06
No big deal - isn't this how it should be?
> He's been using Windows for over 12 years. I think
> if he was going to see spyware, malware, etc... He
> would have seen them by now.


He's a WINDOWS expert. Most windows experts, expecially those with hacking knowledge, know how to avoid most virii and malware. Most windows users, on the other hand, don't know how to avoid the minefield of virii and malware that is waiting for them on today's internet.


> Every time I visit my parents, my father has
> done something to the desktop that needs me to
> "fix" it. I can just see him "messing" around
> with Linux. I'm no Linux Sys-Admin and I would
> have a very difficult time reparing any damange
> he does.


Yup. Your father may mess up *HIS* desktop but he wont mess up anyone elses while using Linux. (Unless you give him administrator or superuser priveleges - then I'd question your sanity.) So, you could create a SKEL with all the normal goodies and just copy it over... done deal - no hours of configuration and repair. Sounds like you really need Linux my friend. :)


What are you waiting for... Grey Hair?
codifex maximus

crouse
2004-07-21 12:50:24
I had to laugh out loud while reading the article.
Apparentley he isnt' familiar enough with linux. The OS where you measure uptime in months and not days or hours ;)


And where is that windows version of Knoppix ???


How hard is it to set up your webserver when it's attacked before you can update it?? :)


Wow..... a few hours, and this expert has dismissed Linux, guess I'd better dust off my Windows install cd's and reformat my drive..... he just convinced me. lol.


If he REALLY wanted to write a legitimate article, he should have used Linux, exclusively for about 4 months..... after never having to reboot when installing applications or for any reason, perhaps his thoughts might be a bit less biased. BTW... did you know that MOST Linux users were Windows "experts" or at the bare minimum "power users" before they switched to Linux. ;)


Crouse
http://www.usalug.org
USA Linux Users Group

AndyALS
2004-07-21 15:03:08
I can't believe!
Look, the guy just gives his personal experience and point of view, no big deal. What kind of Windows expert he is? Absolutely irrelevant, so the question is: can he as an independent guy have a personal picture about Linux, about Windows or anything else? I think he can. And some of you guys just can’t learn once and for all that there is no ULTIMATE TRUTH, no one is in a possession of the ultimate truth!!! Yes please, just grow up, it is so f* easy but some of you never going to learn it how. Please don’t waste your time posting some crap about my message, because it is not worth of your time. I used over a dozen OS in my life, including some of very rare (most of you guys never even heard about some of that OS), and I have written hundreds of thousands lines of code in dozens of languages, right now I mostly develop for Windows / .NET, but also have much development in Java and C++ on Solaris and Linux. So I know what I am talking about. Linux is GREAT as an internet server, great in networking as any UNIX (not as good as Solaris but OK). But when you considering desktop, it is light years behind Windows XP, and in a fact the only OS close to Windows in the desktop arena is MacOS X.


Thank you,
Andy


Never forget, no one own the ULTIMATE TRUTH! And that includes you and me too.

theBlueSmokeBand
2004-07-21 16:15:17
I can't believe!
Andy will be back to see who responded to his post.


That is an ULTIMATE TRUTH ;)

wp416
2004-07-21 17:54:41
A windows developer doesn't grok Linux on his first attempt?
I can't begin to imagine the thinking process that lead the author to believe he has "tried Linux", in several hours. He has tried a few things in Linux, to be sure, but now he is issuing opinions about "Linux", whatever he means by that.


This person is a competent software developer on Windows XP, I am assuming, but is apparently writing from the point of view of a non-developer who is only interested in Linux because it might contain "amazing" as yet undiscovered applications software which will in some (undefinable way) impress him. This sounds like a person who goes to church once, and fails to be converted to Christianity. Are we surprised? hardly. let me change that analogy please. Consider a man who is interested in all-things-German, German beer, food, history, and culture, and his interest in those mysterious people known to him only as "Germans" intrigue him enough that he decides to discover Germany at the next Culturama Celebration in the large north-american city in which our feckless hero lives. So he goes into the designated German pub, spends one evening there, listens to some german music, has a few german beers, shakes hands with a man in lederhosen, and then goes home. The next day at the office water cooler, he brings forward a grand lecture on german culture, history, language, beer and food. He does not like the German ways of doing things, and he was hoping that Germans would be more impressive than he finds they really are.


This is all by way of saying that perhaps our esteemed friend might not have notied that as almost everything inside and outside Linux is different than Windows in many fundamental ways, and as many of his assumptions and comfortable conventions are missing, I think a few years might be necessary, to overcome the culture shock, before anything like a reasoned opinion begins to form.


Windows users trying Linux seem to have the same attitude as the stereotypical american tourist in Paris. That tone is very subdued in the article to which I'm responding, but there is a subtle smugness that creeps through.


RichieOR
2004-07-21 19:38:06
I can't believe!
Nice effort ULTIMATE TRUTH guy. But you kind of blew yourself out of the water with the last line of the body. Firstly Windows is the OS almost like MacOS X. Yes I am sure someone is going to complain. But the truth is that all desktops with small variations are 90% Xerox stuff with nice pictures. Added to which from a ease of use and intuitiveness aspect this user must accept that the Mac's UI leads the way, especially for new users. I don't have a mac as I can't afford the huge price, but they are the leaders in UI as for the Linux options, they are behind the 8 ball so to speak. There saving grace is they are developing faster and so have great potential.
AndyALS
2004-07-21 20:09:09
I can't believe!
I think your reply had sense, but I must to tell you, that when I compared Windows and Mac OS X in a desktop arena, I am not pointed to the UI, but as an overall desktop systems, measured what can you do on both platform, what powerful professional desktop applications you have etc. (like Adobe, Corel, AutoCAD, Macromedia, Discreet… etc. The only usable desktop applications for Linux are varieties of office suites and some rare stuff like Maya, but you must admit, that those suites are much less powerful than MS Office 2003.
Anyway Linux is a GREAT platform (especially for server roles), so as Windows are, and I think we can and have to use both platforms in relation to the best possible solution for a given problem.
momesana
2004-07-21 20:29:49
linux vs. windows
On some mailing list I read the lines "linux is hell to visit but paradise to live in". KDE is an essential part of every modern linux distro (I for myself am a "die-hard" kde fan) as is Openoffice. But don't make the mistake to reduce linux to the features KDE provides.


Linux is much more than that and first and foremost you have to realize that it is different. you cannot grasp linux by trying it out for a few hours, days or even weeks. You probably will even hate it because linux behaves different than anything you are used to and you will feel helpless and stupid. Also the windows-paradigm won't help you much in the linux world.


You have to relearn even the very fundamental things and learn plenty of other things too but at the end you are in control of your system and probably for the first time you do truely understand an operating system. That's why experienced linux-folks never need to reinstall their system. If an error occurs they simply fix it. Its all because they know their system. It is not being locked away from them as is with proprietary Software.


But even as a desktop -- and linux is definetly(also) a desktop -- it has reached a state where it can compete with windows and Mac OS. And it will most likely be even better in three to five years due to the fast development that is significant to OSS. Linux will eventually take over a great portion of the desktop market too though I (unfortunately) doubt that it will ever kick MS off the throne.


furthermore, you shouldn't neglect the attraction of the opensource philosophy on which linux and co are based. Most people preferr freedom over restrictions set by proprietary software.

pdmackenzie
2004-07-21 21:24:52
I can't believe!
I hate to say it but theBlueSmokeBand is right about mostly everything. Linux on the desktop won't happen before the paradigm changes. Better to think about the next generation of computers-- the micro edition.


I use windows at work as a web developer and I have (finally) been windows free for almost 2 years now at home. But make no mistake! The problems I have using linux productively (Mandrake 92) can be infuriating at times, and I cannot envision the time when corporate people that slightly dislike using computers in the first place will ever start using one where they ever, ever, have to call up the command line.


Typically, even a requirement to make temporary changes to their 'hosts' file generates a *firestorm* of email complaints.


doug

Munak
2004-07-21 22:47:03
My View
I have had my own computer for about 5 years now. My dad put it together for me. After the first year or so, it wouldn't boot up. After a little trouble shooting, my dad did a virus scan. I had somewhere over 1000 viruses. Since then, I have learned quite a bit more about computers. I have had about 3 viruses since then , and have used Opera as a web browers. Windows XP SP1 hasn't crashed on me yet, but I do need to reset from time to time. I really don't mind, because Windows is so simple to use. Linux is cool, but I'm not ready to give up the easy days of not caring. Since I'm 16, the majority of my time is spent playing video games. The game installs in just a few minutes and plays fine. I see no advantage of using Wine to play on Linux. It doesn't matter how in-depth an OS is if you don't want to take the time and really learn it. Most people use a computer for a bit of internet, dreaded AOL instant messenger, and email. That's why Bill can get so many people to use his software. My mom has trouble sending pictures with Outlook Express, there's no way could live with Linux.
EddieG
2004-07-22 03:31:55
linux vs. windows
I'm not sure about KDE being an essential component of Linux...it leads to an interface that is as fat and messy as the MS Windows experience.


I would suggest FVWM as a cleaner frontend (which doesn't gobble up memory). As you say, Linux behaves differently, and so shouldn't feel the need to wear a MS-like disguise.

jwenting
2004-07-22 05:14:48
business as usual
Someone dares to say that Linux isn't perfect and the zealots come out and scream bloody murder.


If there's one reason (apart from the installation nightmare and the impossibility to get even basic things to work in my experience) to not use the OS it must be the attitude of its users.

tyme
2004-07-22 05:41:48
Open Source applications on Windows
...are all available on Windows and often have additional features than on their Linux counterparts.


I beg to differ. There are no additional options in Windows than in Linux - the code base is the same, it's simply compiled for each platform.

314
2004-07-22 08:32:27
The real problem is....
I've been using Windows since 3.1 and Linux since RH 4.2. At home, I have a Win2K Pro desktop and a RH 9 server.


The real problem with Linux is, non-commercial developers for this platform fall into two categories: IT-focused and show-offs. The former are very good at what they do but the software they develop is called something like devfs of gedit of oppenoffice.org -- great for a programmer, or even an office assistant, but with little connection to the rest of the world. The latter contribute things like GnomeMeeting or Komba or XBoard which often lack ease-of-use features, or have bugs, or are unsupported (no documentation); when these developers do decide to fix something it's often available only as source code which compiles only with the next generation gcc compiler, incompatible with your distro out of the box.


There is no such thing as backward compatibility on Linux. This OS is like a car -- what you buy is what you get, with little chances of being able to add new features, unless you're a geek. Moreover, should anything go wrong, you need to rely heavily on your own expertise to find a fix.


Enough with criticism. IMHO, the only chance for Linux to become mainstream lays with increasing the availability of commercial software for this platform. Obviously, Mr. Stallman's lack of flexibility doesn't help. If more Linux software were released under the LGPL or "dual-licenses" (see MySQL) then perhaps Linux would fare better.


mmmna
2004-07-22 09:56:58
No surprise there...
Preston...


You came to the Linux table expecting to be wowed and impressed and were not. Not a problem to me, but think of the situation a bit.


Linux has been mostly unassisted by PC hardware makers (with very notable exceptions!), and therefore development effort expended by Linux coders has been a long hard struggle, made by many volunteers and some corporate devotees to Linux. The development efforts expended to guess how to engineer device operation has been extensive, and that effort did not contribute to adding the glitz you hoped for. Compare that situation to Microsofts situation, if you please. One should be impressed with the Linux development efforts!


Also, might you consider that the patch and repatched operating system that you presently use has always had one ulterior motive behind it - to further Microsofts income? Every Windows development has a dominant characteristic of not wanting to enable user goals if the users goals were outside of Microsofts goals (notice the priority). Internet Explorer (formerly known as Mosaic) has been so deeply embedded into Windows that extraction of IE by a lay user is not possible. You, on the other hand, have talents far above the average of all the Windows users that I have encountered in my career. You may feel that disabling IE makes little sense, but would you disagree that IE has become the #1 security hole in Windows? In that light, should that hole riddled software remian installed simply for the benefit of the operating system? Microsoft has certainly been less than helpful in aiding users that wish to close those holes. In Linux, I can uninstall EVERYTHING, if I so desire.


As a former Windows user, one that could just barely edit his registry to a very minor level, I felt that I was not being given a product that dealt with my Windows issues. I feel that Linux development communities are much more approachable and much more open about implementing a secure computing environment, compared to Microsofts flagship. When I was given opportunity to give Microsoft feedback about a knowledgebase article, Microsoft limited my feedback to 300 characters..... I can email kernel developers if I felt the need to do so.


Further, consider this additional economic detail: If you can find Windows 95 sold by a Microsoft Authorized reseller, it still costs over $70 (USD), because Microsoft demands that all resellers maintain price equity. Yet back in 2000, I calculated (roughly) that over 50% of the purchase price of all retail Windows versions (from 3.1 to 98SE) are monies that are ported directly into one Microsoft employees income. Nothing like that can ever occur in Linux, because the source code is freely available. The majority of the cost of Windows was clearly income for the chief corporate members, nothing more. In that light, I'm not sure why Microsoft feels that users in China deserve a price reduction when users in the US still steal because the price is too high, but they all can take a copy of any distribution of Linux, at no direct cost.

Vitalii
2004-07-22 12:36:14
Leave Linux Alone
Poor guy... How old is he? He doesn't realize that he "works" in stone age, and when he saw greatest achievement of modern software engineering... he didn't like it/understood it.
I really think that usual users should stay with windows becouse all they bring to Linux is commercialization and bad quality. Just look at RH and lindows -- both suck.
314
2004-07-22 14:30:40
"usual" users?
Vitalii, so there are "usual" users and... "unusual" users? How would you define a "usual" user? Just curious...
r_jensen
2004-07-22 19:14:41
Don't you just love terms?
I'm a long-time shareware fan, and there's far more useful and easily available shareware available for Windows than Linux.


Um, I'm much more a fan of freeware than shareware. Sure, Shareware is nice, like the UT2004 demo, but freeware, it just has so much more flexibility!


Anywho, part of the reason why I believe the author wasn't "wow'ed" was because of the fact that the Desktop Environment teams are trying to make their products as similar to other major desktop environments (Windows and OSX) so they can get people to move over and not be freaked out, like more people would if the default desktop manager were something like XFce, or even better yet, a window manager. If you want to be wow'ed by Linux, you'll have to open the hood. It might not look the prettiest when you pull it out of the box, but with a tweak here and a theme download there (Oh yeah, Windows requires what, a hacked utheme.dll, or something along the lines of that to get custom themes?) and viola, you have something that looks prettier than Windows, and well, I'll leave the comparison to OSX to the next guy.


Assuming that more programmers and companies begin to view Linux users more as legitimate people who have consiences, as opposed to us all being cold-hearted crackers who promote warez, then I think the playing field will be more even between Linux and Apple. Linux will always be a niche environment, much like Apple is. Although I'm a big fan of Linux, because Microsoft has managed to capture so much of the crowd that doesn't bother reading a simple manual, as well as much of the baby-boom, people become stubborn and refuse to change. I predict that Linux will grow with the newer generations and make a dent in Microsoft's Windows and Office incomes, but it will never become the number 1 environment.

Vitalii
2004-07-23 02:27:55
"usual" users?
It's more abstract then concrete.
There is really no point of using Linux if you don't know much, sure you will be able to do almost everything what you do under windows, but the more you know the more powerfull is Linux for you. That's why I like Linux there are no limits, I don't feel handicaped, like I feel when I'm under windows.
If you don't feel handicaped under windows then most probably you don't need Linux. It's a mistake when people compare windows and Linux, it's like comparing a bike and a race car (where fuel is your knowledge).
OmarSerenity
2004-07-23 17:28:45
business as usual
It's exactly your kind of attitude that you are accusing others of? I don't get it. I see no screaming 'bloody murder'. I see people correcting misinformation.


You should try to install 2 year old hardware on Win2K if you want to see "the impossibility to get even basic things to work".


A few minutes working on Linux hardly gives someone the authority/knowledge to do a review. Ever install Windows? I bet you couldn't do it before you ever worked in Windows and who are you going to ask for help?


Everything I could do in Windows (with the exception of specific games), I can do in Linux with much more security. Never ran an antivirus on Linux or a spyware removal/detection tool. Haven't seen a popup in years. I guess those are some added bonuses with Windows, though.


Ok, I'm through 'screaming bloody murder'.

OmarSerenity
2004-07-23 17:36:58
business as usual
It's exactly your kind of attitude that you are accusing others of? I don't get it. I see no screaming 'bloody murder'. I see people correcting misinformation.


You should try to install 2 year old hardware on Win2K if you want to see "the impossibility to get even basic things to work".


A few minutes working on Linux hardly gives someone the authority/knowledge to do a review. Ever install Windows? I bet you couldn't do it before you ever worked in Windows and who are you going to ask for help?


Everything I could do in Windows (with the exception of specific games), I can do in Linux with much more security. Never ran an antivirus on Linux or a spyware removal/detection tool. Haven't seen a popup in years. I guess those are some added bonuses with Windows, though.


Ok, I'm through 'screaming bloody murder'.

roscoepcoltrane
2004-07-24 09:08:12
business as usual
You just proved his point exactly. Twice...
dslinux
2004-07-25 19:07:11
business as usual
I do not understand the installation nightmare part.
I can install any linux based OS in a fraction of the time it takes to install a Windows OS,and there are no "Windows needs to restart your computer now."
I installed a Win.ME today.
21 critical updates!
I run linux on a brand new computer and it has no problem configuring to the computer. It came with XP,but I never installed it.
dslinux
2004-07-25 19:38:27
I had to laugh out loud while reading the article.
crouse, you are right about one thing. Most Linux users were Windows users.
That is why they are now Linux users.
randyg
2004-07-27 05:20:06
Not compelling
I agree with the author completely. Nothing wrong with Linux. It's great to have choices, whether it's Windows, Mac OS X, Linux etc. But if you're mainly a Windows user, there really is nothing compelling about switching to Linux and there's nothing about it that is going to get any significant number of current Windows users to switch. Ditto Max OS X and Linux. If those are your main machines, you probably won't find anything that would get you to switch to Windows. It's too costly in terms of time, effort and even money to switch just for the sake of switching. You've got to gain something significant for the switch and Linux just doesn't offer that much over Windows on the desktop. At least not for me and I'm sure not for most people.
steve.common
2004-07-27 07:19:30
No big deal - isn't this how it should be?
>He's a WINDOWS expert. Most windows experts,
>expecially those with hacking knowledge, know
>how to avoid most virii and malware. Most
>windows users, on the other hand, don't know
>how to avoid the minefield of virii and malware
>that is waiting for them on today's internet.


This is a very important point. Today, most Linux "users" are also Linux savvy or, at the very least, computer savvy; this is very different to the population of Windows users.


The proportion of Linux "lusers" is very small. Getting a real "user" experience / opinion is not easy and specially so in this kind of discussion, which hardly galvanises anyone except enthusiasts.

lousyd
2004-07-27 18:53:06
A Linux Die-Hard Confronts Windows
there's far more useful and easily available shareware available for Windows than Linux


Wow, that's the first time I've ever seen someone complain that they couldn't download nagware for Linux. It's all free! But, hey, to each their own.


I was going to post and say that a few hours of a try isn't enough to see the wow in Linux, but others have done so. A little too much so, I might say. I understand the author's point to be simply a vignette on his one experience. It's his weblog, after all.


If the message is that "I wasn't wowed in an hour or two, other people won't be either, and desktop Linux isn't going anywhere", then I'd have to agree to an extent. And that's fine. If Windows-World isn't so bad for you, great.


But for me, the thing that makes my Windows use absolute hell is the lack of very small, very subtle things, like multiple desktops when I want them (rarely), and everything-is-a-file. Lacking the latter is a killer, for me. And I just can't do without the command line. Anybody who thinks communicating in pictures is "easier" than using words, is fooling themselves.


But I see the author's point. It would be nice if Linux could wow the desktop user in one hour's use.

Linuxman
2004-07-29 14:00:31
Stop that!
I’ve noticed a lot of people have commented about Linux, but this is getting ridiculous. It’s like people at my work, and they’ve worked on a program for 5 minutes and they think they know everything about it now.


Come on and stop posting these articles that a person thought they would write and thinking they understood Linux in 5 minutes. It’s very sad they would even post this on their website.


Freeware/Shareware?? Joke or what? Linux has everything and more then Windows. This dude needs to spend a little more time before publicly expressing comments that are untrue/false.


When you’ve spent a little bit more time on a Linux Distro, maybe someone will listen next time. I’ve been running Windows since 1.2, and other operating systems like OS/2, Linux, FreeBSD, Slackware, etc, etc, and, am I a guru?? Not! Your message is a big joke dude.


People if you listen it’s mostly lies, because this dude doesn’t know squat about Linux.


Dude, take a few hours on Linux next time and maybe someone will listen to you next time if you have logical information. I always say at work silently, “ If you don’t know, shut the he@@ up!”. Learn the facts and stop bull sh@ting others.