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Brad Linder over at Downloadsquad wrote an interesting little rant about trying to un-install something he didn't like on his Linux workstation. He's touching at the edges of the really important part of the problem.
It takes a lot more than a stable kernel and some good packages of software to make a good end user desktop operating system. If you want to really understand how much work it really takes to turn Linux into a solid desktop OS, take a look at how much work Apple had to do on top of BSD to make their OSX.
A desktop operating system has to be forgiving a flexible. In some ways it has to defend itself from the actions of the user - and not just through access controls. Users install and remove software all the time. They put files where they're not supposed to go, and they work hard to delete files they shouldn't. Smart ones remove software they don't use any more. They plug in random USB devices and expect them to work. All kinds of end user stuff happens all the time and the OS has to survive it.
My experience with Linux as a desktop is not one that supports the idea of it handling that kind of abuse well. Its not a forgiving operating system. Its powerful as hell, its fast, its secure, and its very very flexible. Those are all great things. But for end users, it will end up being a lot of frustration.
There are a lot of really smart people writing a lot of really terrific code, but it seems to be somehow beneath them to pay enough attention the real needs of the end user community. They need to be focused on building an operating system that Sara Palin would be able to use. I don't mean just use it on day one either. It needs to be something that two years down the line is still doing its job as desktop.
As a server, Linux just keeps running and running without a bother for months or years. As desktop though, it gets messed with too often and quickly degrades for the average end user.
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