Is Linux Ready for the Desktop?

I recently downloaded Ubuntu 10.10 for my 6 core desktop machine thinking it would make for a good Host OS, as my intent was to run multiple VMs on this box.  I had previously tried Kubuntu and was impressed with the increasing user friendliness of the UI.  Ubuntu loaded quite easily onto my hard drive and played nice with the Windows 7 already installed, making the machine dual boot.  Everything was functional and the UI was relatively quick and intuitive.

Then  I tried to install an updated ATI video driver, and it crashed.  No big deal, Ubuntu installed a baseline configuration into the boot loader just like Windows does.  I went back to the last configuration and avoided the temptation to install the proprietary ATI video driver.

Getting my Apple Bluetooth keyboard was also quite straight forward.  I just had to use the Synaptic Package Manager to download and install Bluetooth support, and configured it under the System - Preferences - Bluetooth.  I just couldn’t get my Apple Magic Mouse to work.  With a little searching on their forums I found this link.  Obviously you can’t go to far off the beaten track before you’re back to command line scripts not for the faint of heart or those unfamiliar with Unix/Linux.

Linux may still be too unrefined for a novice user, but if you’re a tech head and want to avoid some licensing costs, or use Linux as a host OS for VMs it’s more than adequate IMHO.


11 Responses to “Is Linux Ready for the Desktop?”

  1. Michael Thuma Says:

    We have it installed on a Quad Core XEON Workstation with 2 Graphic Cards and 3 30″ screens (at least I guess huge things) a 64bit version - works … only graphic reaches its limit under X11 with 3 huge screens - it works no doubt.

    On Graphics Adapter … yes 2 things, at least under Ubunto 10.4. Graphics card drivers need to be installed seperately and classic (VGA) ports are not automatically configured … you must install the propretary drivers first

    But from the quality I must say … works like a charm.

    What can be a problem, if the user does not know. Debian is very restrictive with what they provide, you can always install afterwards … but I have my whole office already under Ubuntu … Works the remaining Windows machine I access via the Remote Client and also together with Apple works fine.

  2. C Johnson Says:

    Until they beat the case sensitivity out of Linux, it will never be suitable for a desktop OS beyond some fringe interest from developers and tech heads.

    Which is OK, because Linux has already found its true niche running embeded devices like NAS and phones even.

  3. fritz Says:

    I’ve been running and developing for Linux for 3 years now and I can’t imagine going back (although I’m writing this from my IMac).
    From a developer’s standpoint, using Windows or Mac feels like working with handcuffed. I can do anything I want to do with Linux and most of it for free.
    That said, I would gladly pay for some applications, if they were available on Linux.

  4. Iztok Kacin Says:

    Ububtu has come a long way towards being a user friendly OS for the masses. For me it is way better than windows right now as I am able to configure it just as I see it fit. However yes there are still some pitfalls but not to many. I also have a dual boot because I need windows for gaming :)

    I use only SW that works cross platform and I have all of the data on the NAS storage. Mail: Thunderbird, IM: Pidgin etc.. This way no matter on which OS I am I always see the same data.

    Also I integrated the RDP on Linux seamlessly so it looks like I am running the whole Windows machines locally. I will blog about this shortly as I feel it is interesting for a lot of developers

  5. Jeroen Pluimers Says:

    It won’t, and likely never will. Whereas the Linux server side is quite consistent in what you have and can use, the UI side still has way too many parties struggling to get their ‘way of doing UI’ (be it framework, theming, app suite, etc) accepted, so it is heavily fragmented.

    In order to gain acceptance in the Desktop market, you need momentum, not fragmentation.

    Apple recognizes that (in a very stringent way), Microsoft recognizes that (in a firm, but less stringent way), the Linux community at large doesn’t.

    15 years ago, on one of my first Linux presentations, when you had only few flavours of UI on Linux, I was hopeful. Now I just use a Mac, or Windows.


  6. Michael Thuma Says:

    Joeren agree .. it is clumpsy. The looklike is one thing but what need at least is a security model that allows seamlessly operation from the GUI and the shell. This is a real showstopper…

    There is another dimension … one friend of mine simply runs his whole company on Linux and from this point in time his employee focus a lot more on work:).


  7. fritz Says:

    I’ve been using Linux as a desktop for years now and it’s been a great ride so far.
    I also own a Mac and a Win7 machine, and for me the Linux user experience is way better than the other two. But then I’m a developer, and my needs a different from the normal user.
    But from an ISV standpoint, the fragmentation is a huge problem. The second problem are cheapskate users (yes that includes me) who are used to apt-get everything for free.

  8. Warren Says:

    The guy who says they need to “beat the case sensitivity” out of linux is an idiot.

    But he made me laugh. Thanks for the laugh.


  9. Michael Thuma Says:

    Firtz - yes the fragmentation is a problem. What we experience more and more is move in IT administrations not individuals. Whole groups … this has something to do with move to Linux on the server side. It is not the way that whole Austria is moving but in some places already accepted and considered in decision for administrative Software and for sure a better working open source alternative that does its job is preferred to a payed administation Software … ok … the same companies then buy IBM backup solutions …:))))))).

  10. Fabricio Says:

    “The guy who says they need to “beat the case sensitivity” out of linux is an idiot.
    But he made me laugh. Thanks for the laugh.”

    So you laugh alone.

    I agree with CJohnson. Case sensivity is #$%& @$#$% - that is
    one of the reasons I like Pascal - don’t have to remember if is
    “Id_Cliente” or “ID_CLIENTE” or “id_cliente” or “Id_ClIeNtE” - all
    is the same thing…

    And one of the reasons I don’t like languages like Java, which copy
    that characteristic of C. Common, we’re in the 21th century not the
    1970’s and we’re still creating case-sensive languages and filesystems ?

    Case-INsensivity on filesystem is one of the things I APPLAUD on Microsoft
    OSes (no, I’m NOT an M$ fanboy). This is the right thing and they made it
    happens since DOS.

    But I like the idea that partitions have a name instead of a drive letter. Much

    * Id_Cliente(Portuguese) = CustomerID(English)

  11. Andrew Says:

    I’m a Linux user since many years, started with RedHat 9, Mandrake 10, Debian and later Ubuntu, until Ubuntu i could never completely drop Windows especially because of Delphi, Kylix worked for a while but died because of Borland, and they almost killed Delphi too.

    I can say for sure that case sensitivity on a file system is absolutely stupid and confusing.
    In the past humans (romans and others) only wrote in UPPER CAPITAL letters especially when carving because is was easier to read and looked better, they also used mostly lower-case text for handwriting, in time they acquired a taste for mixing case purely for aesthetic purposes as you can see in many old books.
    I see no reason for using case as a method for changing the meaning of actions and objects (functions and variables) it only adds confusion and even works against aesthetics. Many Linux files use only lower-case names and programmers tend to use lower-case in programs and also use the underscore_ character which should not be allowed as part of a word because it’s purpose is to draw lines and underline text ___. Also many programmers started to reverse the natural way of writing text by writing compound words using lowerCamelCase which doesn’t make any sense, looks ugly and different from regular text.

    Overall Linux is a great OS but suffers from “wheel reinvention” syndrome and sever lack of organisation for most projects with the exception of the kernel where they use the benevolent dictatorship system (i think Python uses this system also) and that’s why commercial distributions and older ones like Debian are more stable. Another Linux problem is lack of vision and long term planning, they completely rewrite APIs and interfaces and change whole technologies like no other OS, this causes a lot of incompatibilities and instability issues.

    In time hopefully the commercial distributions will find common ground and start to use standards more, they could use a lot of the ideas that Mac OSX (another BSD Unix based OS) found to be successful and a form of selection by user preference will force Linux to become Linux instead of a bunch of distros very different from the others. Only one desktop can become standard and only one fast and extensible package system, only this way they will win the support from hardware companies that still don’t make Linux drivers.
    I hope they will drop the X server completely and allow video drivers to be called directly using a common API and composition layer and merge ALSA with PulseAudio to make Pulse perform better on older systems.

    Linux is ready for The Desktop but it could be better and i think Ubuntu, Mint, PinguyOS and others understand all the problems and try to work around them.

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