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Wow, linux has come a long way. Here's an easy way to see for yourself.

By Andrew Pollack on 06/30/2004 at

Linux at the desktop is here, and nearly accessible for even the least experienced end users. Looking at it now in terms of ease of use and software availability, most users will find it does pretty much everything they need. Most distributions come complete with Open Office, an office suite similar to (and mostly compatible with) Microsoft Office that users will have no trouble using. Most distributions come with a pretty solid web browser, cd player, games, dvd player, chat software, backup software, and mail client. The system even boots to a mouse driven 'windowed' desktop familiar to most users immediately.

Installation of linux has been tricky in the past, but lets face it -- how many end users can get a new installation of Windows XP right with the all the drivers and configurations? So few, that most end user pc manufacturers come with a "reinstall" cd package that puts their pre-built configuration back on rather than having users do it themselves and fail. Well, the linux distribution I had was up and running in 2 minutes. Yes, in 2 minutes every single piece of my laptop hardware was supported and working under linux.

What I had, was the "Knoppix" trial CDROM. You can download the ISO image and boot from it, and be instantly running a pre-configured linux system -- WITHOUT ALTERING YOUR CURRENT PC -- complete with all you need. If you like it, then you can consider getting linux fully installed on your machine with whatever distribution you want.
From the Knoppix Website
KNOPPIX is a bootable CD with a collection of GNU/Linux software, automatic hardware detection, and support for many graphics cards, sound cards, SCSI and USB devices and other peripherals. KNOPPIX can be used as a Linux demo, educational CD, rescue system, or adapted and used as a platform for commercial software product demos. It is not necessary to install anything on a hard disk. Due to on-the-fly decompression, the CD can have up to 2 GB of executable software installed on it.

The last time I'd played with linux in a serious way was several years ago. I depended on my slackware distro back in the early 90's to keep my dial-up network connected through a vpn tunnel to my isp. Those were the days when linux was "geeks-only" and if you wanted serious networking, nothing beat it.

When Lotus came out with the Domino server for Linux, I used it and even wrote the whitepaper for them about how to get started with it (of course, I got not credit on the paper for that -- but that's another story for another day). That's always been rock solid. I stopped using linux even for my server when my dns got hacked and the box got hit with a 'root kit'. I realized then that I'd have to spend just as much time keeping up with the patches on that as I would any other server and become a bit disillusioned. I never did take linux on the desktop seriously because frankly the installation of applications on linux has always been painful. It looks like that situation is rapidly getting resolved.

The best news? This won't kill off Microsoft, but it will push them back into the innovative competitors they used to be. That's a good thing for everyone.

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