Ruminations on the Digital Realm

Jan Stedehouder

Has the Desktop Linux Bubble Burst?

Link to Slashdot | Has the Desktop Linux Bubble Burst?

An interesting argument at the end of 2006, the year that had me using Ubuntu Linux as my default desktop and that had me applauding the development of Sabayon Linux. Steven Vaughan-Nichols also disagrees with this statement.

The discussion at Slashdot is interesting though. What does it take to bring a major acceptance of the Linux desktop? Is the Linux desktop already on a par with Windows? Do we need to dumb down Linux to make it more accessible?

There are already some easy to use Linux distributions. Hardware detection has seen some massive improvements over the years. What things are still lacking? In my opinion a few things.

First, Linux is a fine OS and set of applications for desktop use provided nothing goes wrong. In my experience something will go wrong and then you need the tools and some training to fix it. Windows has a an interesting feature called “system restore” which you can use to roll back your system to a previous date. There is a safe mode you can boot into when the regular boot fails. The recovery mode in Linux gives you a command line interface! Yes, we W2L migrators need our graphical tools to fix problems and we would appreciate them greatly.

Secondly, I can imagine it being far more fun to contribute your development skills to adding new features etc. I admire the enormous speed of development, but that kind of speed also comes with a price. Less stability, less maturity. The majority of desktop users are interested in solid functionality. Ubuntu 6.06 LTS is a great step forward, but it would help if all top ten distributions commit themselves to have desktop oriented distribution that are stable, solid and supported for a number of years. Why? Because we need the time to train all those new users in problem-solving, maintenance and security of a completely new operating system. The six month release cycles are great for the Linux afficionados who want the latest of the latest, but for W2L migration it only gives the impression of a never-ending rollercoaster. They come from a world where alpa or beta means: use at your own risk. From their perspective Linux development seems to be in a constant state of flux. Not very comforting, especially when there is already so much to grasp.

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One thought on “Has the Desktop Linux Bubble Burst?

  1. I’d add one more:
    – if compatibility with windows is dealt with, the decision of switching is basically a no-brainer. For instance, games or office programs – it is a major hassle to get them running for an advanced user and that should be simple for a newbie to persuade him to switch! Only when this is solved. So, guys, more work on wine…

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