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What stops Linux from being a mainstream workstation operating system choice?

By Andrew Pollack on 10/05/2008 at 09:03 PM EDT

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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re: What stops Linux from being a mainstream workstation operating system choice?By David Vasta on 10/06/2008 at 07:37 AM EDT
MacOSX - I use it and have been using it for over 8 years now and the uninstall
process on it is just as complicated if not more complicated as anything in
Linux. While MacOSX is pretty, it does lack some features that I would like to
see in it, like a package manager.

UBUNTU - I a pretty main stream LINUX now. The installer and uninstaller via
packages is pretty clean. Most products that are out now have a .deb installer
so they should be pretty easy to get onto LINUX/Ubuntu.

PC-BSD - Is also a pretty decent desktop OS. The package manager is pretty
mature. I like it too and yet find the same problem with it that most do. It's
a UNIX based OS which makes me happier.

I don't know what Sarah Palin has to do with it, maybe you consider her a
computer idiot or something but I think the same can be made for any person out
there who is not a geek (menaing most people don't understand an OS and just
want to use it.) , but maybe you are saying that because she is a woman and you
think women can't do anything. Not sure, maybe you need to clarify you off
color male chauvinist views. Unfortunately you took a technical point and made
it something else. So I followed's a slippery slope?
Actually, my comment is specific to her populist appealBy Andrew Pollack on 10/06/2008 at 07:46 AM EDT
Palin wants to be the poster child for hockey moms and joe sixpacks everywhere
(I frankly find the latter to be derogatory, but apparently I'm the only one).

Palin wants to represent the "everyday person" so that's the way I used her as
a reference.

If you interpret that message as sexist or as treating her as if she's a fool
-- perhaps you should re-think your position on how she represents herself, yes?
re: What stops Linux from being a mainstream workstation operating system choice?By David Vasta on 10/06/2008 at 09:27 AM EDT
Maybe I was being sarcastic. I don't think Sarah Palin is for any of those
things. She is just saying to because if McCain said it he would get laughed
out of the building. Hillary said some of the very same things and no one
called her on it. That is the ultimate irony.
Hillary had no credibility as the everyday mom.By Andrew Pollack on 10/06/2008 at 10:50 AM EDT
Hillary Clinton has her ardent supporters and nobody can take that away. What
she doesn't have is a hope in hell of electability. Her core is quite large
and impressive, but she is also very polarizing and as a result those who would
never ever vote for are are also a large and impressive pool.

Personally, I think Hillary ran into a brick wall in the primary cycle where
she'd gone as high as she was going to in her supporters and wasn't going to
gain significant share outside that group.

Sarah Palin is, I believe, pretty much what she seems to be and what she claims
to be. I just don't think that makes her qualified to be the President of the
United States. That doesn't make her a bad person or a stupid one. I'm not
qualified to be the president of the United States either, and nobody I know
personally is so qualified.

As far as John McCain -- I'm deeply disappointed in the choices he has made in
getting where he is now. I'd have thought him a better man then that. In the
end, his temper leads him to burn bridges and destroy consensus, then when he
doesn't get what he wants he throws up his hands and gives in entirely to the
opinion of his advisers. He hasn't chosen those advisers well lately. I
would most worry about McCain making a decision in anger or frustration, then
letting his stubborn temper drive him to grit his teeth and hold to that
decision long after it was the best course of action. I've had enough of that

For what its worth, my nature is closer to McCain's than to Obama's -- but
then, I'd be a lousy president as well.

I want a person in office who will recognize what he's not knowledgeable enough
on, surround himself with very smart people, but not relinquish the decision to
those people.

Time after time in the last six months, when some new minor scandal or crisis
his the Obama campaign I've been impressed at how well he's managed hit. His
initial reaction is to close down a little bit while he takes some time to
think through a strategy, then to emerge quickly with a bold but considered
response. He's been amazingly successful at dealing with issues that could
have wrecked his candidacy if he'd not handled them well enough. In almost
every case, he's come out looking better for it, not worse.

I also have to admit to being impressed by the easy, comfortable, unscripted
way he interacts with his kids. A candidates wife learns to play the game
quickly, but you can't fool children and you can make them act out a script
like that day in and day out. The relationship is either there or its not. He
clearly has done the right things to build good relationships with them despite
a truly crazy amount of pressure on his time. That's impressive to me, as a
father, and I think it says a lot more about character than all the speeches or
all the good or bad things his friends have said and done over the years.
re: What stops Linux from being a mainstream workstation operating system choice?By Paul Gagnon on 10/06/2008 at 11:18 AM EDT
Agree that Linux is not very forgiving, its big time powerful and flexible, but
unforgiving from an end users standpoint.

The file system in linux is what gets me tripped up all the time. I know how
windows works, from the file system, where things go, where they should and
shouldn't go etc. I always have at least a couple of linux distros setup in
vmware to play with.... I prefer Debian/Ubuntu, others are fine as well,
CentOS, Fedora, and Suse. Java installation trips me up. Frequently software
that I need to configure or work with requires a very specific Java release
such as 1.6. Getting the installed one out and updating it, should be easy
right? It sends me on a wild goose chase every time. A good "Linux for
Dummies for Windows Skillsets" book might be in order.
re: What stops Linux from being a mainstream workstation operating system choice?By mdmadph on 10/06/2008 at 11:31 AM EDT
I didn't have to read anything but the first little part of that guy's post to
realize what was wrong -- he was using the terminal. On Ubuntu, if you want to
add/remove a program, you use the "Add/Remove Applications" menu item. If you
can't find it there (and the application doesn't provide a ".deb" file), then
it's not supported, and you'll have to deal with any problems that come up,

The designers on Ubuntu's teams have gone to great lengths to make sure that
the average user never needs to user the terminal -- hell, I'd call myself a
"power user" and I hardly ever use it anymore, unless I'm purposely tinkering
and farting around with stuff.

When that guy opened up the terminal to try and install something, he was
already making the decision to deal with any issues and problems that come up.

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