Linux On The Desktop

September 20, 2006

Upon reading the title “Why Desktop Linux Will Not Take off, and Why You Don’t Want It to” my geeky open-source evangelist side immediately was offended. How dare anyone say that this fine OS I love and cherish isn’t suited for desktop use!

I continued to read on in hopes of finding some good fodder for a flaming comment. As I read, I realized he was right. Linux is for geeks. Linux will always, mostly, be for geeks. See, I’ve realized that there are two types of users who can survive in a Linux environment.

The first is the ├╝ber-geek who is willing, or rather is happy to sit and tinker and reload and reboot and install and tweak and break and fix, ad infinitum. There is a line to be crossed where you become a serious Linux user, and from there on out it’s just a matter of adding on to your knowledge.

The second kind of user is the neophyte, who doesn’t know the difference. This is the kind of user who leaves the system as they bought it. They type, they web surf, if the are adventurous they install AIM and do some chatting. Thats it, no programming, no tweaking. Linux is ideally suited for this type of user as well. Most distro’s come well equiped, with a suite of programs well within the realm of the Windows users understanding. The UI is similar, and friendly. This type of user won’t break the system, and will happily use it.

The third type of user lies squarely in the middle. These are the adventurous types of Windows users. They download freeware, shareware, warez. They tweak, they game, they think they know about hardware, software and the secrets of their OS. Okay, maybe they don’t think that way, but they are undeniable confident and in control of their systems. Some may even wander into the realm of a little programming. These users are ill suited to being new Linux users.

You see, they want to tweak things on their new system. They want to learn. This is good, but can be disasterous. Linux is very transparent, you can play with it’s guts, and you can break it’s guts. One bad config file and your X server won’t come up. Thats when I used to panic. I wasn’t as used to the command line as I could have been, yet I tried to tweak everything in sight. Of course I didn’t read the man pages or other docs first, don’t be silly.

See, I know that these people are not a good fit for Linux because I used to be one. “Wait,” you say, “That doesn’t fit, you’re contradicting yourself.” I would have to agree, but for one small thing. I was a very driven one of these middle users. I’m not ashamed to admit I went through over 2 dozen install, break, re-install processes. I also jumped around among distros. I believe my pattern went something like: SUSE, Fedora, Debian, Zenwalk, Debian, Mepis, Debian, Mepis, Dream Linux, Debian, Ubuntu. It was long path. As a side note, Dream Linux was amazing. Very bling bling. Plus they just released a new version that looks great. I’m going to try it out of course.

Eventually I got sick of waiting for installs, so I started learning how the config files actually worked, and thats where I am today. So, go read that article, decide what kind of user you are, then dig in anyway! :)

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