Skip to comments.Tech Gurus Still Don't "Get" Linux
Posted on 04/09/2014 7:48:00 AM PDT by ShadowAce
Its been my experience that, despite any progress, Ubuntu and distros like it have made in gaining new users, those in the tech media continue to get it wrong. In this article, Ill examine how the tech media continues to spread misinformation about Linux on the desktop, why it happens and what we as users can do about it.
Years ago, merely installing and configuring Linux for the desktop could be extremely difficult. And while recent technologies such as UEFI have added some extra hurdles for distribution developers, the end user is able to install Linux relatively easily nowadays.
Realizing this, one must ask themselves -- why are so many tech writers claiming Linux is too difficult for the average user? The first stop in this view is that you need a geek to install a distribution like Ubuntu. Heres a reality check -- most people dont install their own operating system. And yet every time I read an article about how hard" Linux is to use, this is the first complaint on the authors list.
Whats actually happening is that many folks are trying to install Linux onto systems in a dual-boot environment. This alone adds a new challenge when dealing with the bootloader, as Windows doesnt always cooperate as it should.
Another challenge Windows users face when trying to install Linux is that some components arent supported that well under Linux. Technologies such as certain wireless chips and GPU switching are still touchy on the Linux desktop. So when a Windows user discovers these challenges on a new Linux installation, they immediately assume it must be Linux that is at fault. In reality, this couldnt be farther from the truth.
Linux has far greater desktop hardware compatibility than most people realize. But the problem many people run into is trying to install Linux onto a computer with a "Made for Windows" sticker on it.
Under most circumstances, installing Linux onto a Windows based PC shouldnt be too eventful. But there are times where certain components arent as Linux compatible as others. What might surprise most people is that this isnt a Linux shortcoming, rather, this is a limitation of what the individual PC was built for -- Windows.
Since most hardware works out of the box, I think Linux newbies tend to take hardware incompatibility for granted. See, when installing Windows you can always download a missing driver easily enough. With Linux, usually youre relying on the distribution to handle the hardware compatibility. So if something isnt working, youre generally left trying to find a work-a-round.
When a technology writer review's a Linux distribution, they have the belief that their PCs hardware should work out of the box, no excuses. Unfortunately with some notebook hardware, sound or video can be flaky...the same with wireless networking. As mentioned above, this is rare, but it happens. And its at this point, the writer will report back that a distro isnt compatible and therefore, isnt ready for the masses. They miss the point that if had they used a "Made for Linux" notebook (they do exist), their experience would be completely different.
Another common complaint I hear from technology writers is that there isnt any good software for Linux. Personally, I think this is a matter of perspective. While I would agree that there are some areas where legacy software titles are missing on Linux, there are some great applications available. Software like Skype, Firefox, LibreOffice and so on are all available for most Linux distributions. As a matter of fact, the software most people use is readily available on Linux.
Regardless, the absence of being able to use some Windows software titles (without WINE) seems to be enough to turn off tech gurus completely. Apparently lacking Adobe titles is enough to sour the experience for some folks. Now to be fair, yes, I agree that itd be nice to be able to render cool effects or edit photos using Adobe titles. I can even understand the benefits of relying on Microsoft Office in some instances. But the idea that the lack of this software makes using Linux intolerable seems a bit over the top.
With more applications becoming available as web based titles each day, I think the above issue will eventually resolve itself. In the meantime, Im generally satisfied with whats available for the Linux desktop with regard to software.
Now that weve addressed the areas that technology writers and gurus think Linux is failing, lets look at some solutions to address these issues.
Installation -- If at all possible, try out Linux on a machine designed to run it. Obviously this isnt always possible, but judging hardware compatibility by trying out a distro on incompatible hardware hardly seems fair. At the very least, consider researching hardware compatibility lists before jumping to conclusions.
Software -- Unless youre tied to specific legacy software for work purposes, there isnt really anything youre not able to do with the Linux desktop. Using tools like "AlternativeTo" can provide good open source software alternatives to most legacy software applications that keep one tied to a Windows mindset.
Will these solutions work for all those naysayers in the tech media? Probably not, because the real problem isnt Linux or a preference for other operating systems. The bigger issue comes down to drive-by reviews. These are reviews where someone creates the idea that they know what theyre talking about, when in fact they dont actually run Linux on the desktop, full time.
My suggestion to those who read or watch media where "drive-by reviews" take place is to call them out on these practices. Unless the review or opinion is given by someone who "lives and breathes" the Linux desktop, realize that you're only getting part of the story. Until we stop giving credit to people who dont even run Linux full time, nothing is going to change and FUD (Fear Uncertainty and Doubt) will continue to flourish.
On the flip side, I hope that those who pump out these drive-by reviews will look at my suggestions, reach out to companies who provide a Linux installed computer out of the box and actually take Linux on the desktop a whole lot more seriously. Until this happens, its going to be up to us to read Linux reviews with a heavily critical eye.
Will be going to Linux for my desktop..not going to pay Winblows for upgrade.
While it is different, Linux is no more difficult than any other OS.
** those in the tech media continue to get it wrong**
Mainly because those doing the writing are old farts that quit learning years ago.
Linux works as well or better than any windows distro to date, at a far less cost per seat.
For 99% of what laptop and desktop users do, Linux works better than anything from microsoft.
No, it is not the same, and a newbie may take a couple of weeks to get fully up to speed, but it is well worth going to school on the minor differences.
How is it anyone ever figured out Android phones or Ipads? They are nothing like windows, yet millions are sold and put into use every month.
I’m using Zorin OS 8 on this laptop and it installed like windows . Unlike windows ,when it updates it updates all software installed on this laptop , D’oh
How do yo like Zorin so far? I’ve heard some good things about it.
I have a question for anyone really knowledgeable on Linux...which distribution would you recommend for a Linux beginner? In my case, I have a system that I got in the early days of Vista, and it is barely capable of running Vista. I would like to switch to a leaner operating system that could actually work effectively with my limited hardware.
very Windows 7 like
There's also a list of LiveCD distros that may be able to help you make a decision--try out a LiveCD before you install a distro on your hard drive.
I'll disagree with that; it also depends on what you're purpose for using it is:
1 — Text is not a bad form for reading, but it is terrible for storage and computation of programs as it essentially surrenders all syntactic and semantic knowledge (which then have to be recomputed), and they can be accessed/modified by anyone/anything at any time, meaning that a perfectly compilable file may not be compilable in any subsequent compiling (and this is unknowable, again forcing the recalculation [compilation] previously mentioned).
You do need adequate physical memory for a happy experience. I have a 10 year old laptop running Ubuntu with 500 megs physical memory. It does fine normally, but would be better with twice the memory.
I am thinking of switching to Mint or Lubuntu because of the age of the hardware. I have had this system up and running for 2 years now.
That is why I chose that word.
** There’s also a list of LiveCD distros that may be able to help you make a decision—try out a LiveCD before you install a distro on your hard drive.**
These are self contained disc systems that will run linux without any change to or use of your hard drive. You just pop th disc in your disc drive and “boot from disc” and you are up and running.
It is slower than an installed version because cd/dvd reads are slow compared to HD reads.
One aspect of Linux I love over Windows is that the support community is not confined to TechNet or other Microsoft-supported entities. You can find Linux adherents all over the world who run their own little Wikis.
Yup—When I do need some assistance on whatever it is I’m working on, I find the answer in little/local/unofficial sites about half the time.
While windows is the dominant home computer brand, out in the data centers making up all the servers we all interact with when we go online are tons and tons of Linux computers. While I use windows for my home computer so I can play games, I would not want to be stuck with one to do any software programming (unless I were designing an application specifically for windows, which is not the kind of programming I do).
That is why I chose that word.
Except that its command-line / help really is more difficult. At the very basic end of things you can get to the help-system in VMS (or even DOS) with help — this is vastly easier than having to know/guess that the word you're looking for is manual, shortened to
The help-systems are also quite different, the old DOS help is much better than man simply due to being self-hyperlinked and allowing navigation (mouse or keyboard) to related articles.
In that sense I'm confident in saying that linux is more difficult to get started on than old MS-DOS.
This article ends up making a compelling case about why “tech writers” are absolutely correct as to why Linux is completely unsuitable for the average home PC user, 99.9% of whom don’t even know what a folder is, much less what UEFI or a driver is.
As I used to tell people "If it was any better I wouldn't give it to you, If it was any worse, you wouldn't drink it"
OK—I can accept that point. But how many beginning users will be using the command line and not the GUI?
It's the absolute truth.
And it is Linux which is at fault. It is advertised as being able to run on Windows, and then idiots like the author whine that Microsoft should have foreseen DIY programmers might write stuff in the future that might not work as expected. Maybe Microsoft and the chip makers simply retired their OUIJA boards early.
What a silly comment to make! Stuff people are writing don't work in Windows.
Good point — they may not be
beginning users in the absolute sense, but required to use the system due to some circumstance on-the-job, too.
Hey, Dave, you need to SSH in to the client's server and find out what's wrong with their configuration.
Hardware drivers are not written by Microsoft. They are written by the hardware vendors. In the vast majority of cases, they write to the largest customer base--Windows. This is not a surprise, nor is the author complaining about it. He is just stating the fact that the driver may not be readily available for Linux.
In either case, it is NOT the OS' fault for a lack of drivers.
I’ll second ShadowAce’s recommendation for PCLinuxOS. I’ve resurrected half a dozen old Windoze desktops (several dating back to the late 1990s) and never had any hardware incompatibilities. It has simply worked out of the box on every computer I’ve installed it on, old or new.
When I began using Linux three years ago, I was just a typical Windoze user, with very little computer knowledge. So if I could do it, anyone can.
"The normal Menu button is missing!"
"The new fonts are ugly!"
"What happened to the background image?"
"I liked the old desktop layout better."
"My App/Game/Photo/Vid program no longer works!"
OK, so either stay with your current version of 'doze, add it back on yourself manually, or switch to Linux. And you think that paying over 120 dollars each time you "upgrade" to the next version of widows is actually something you absolutely HAVE to do?
On top of that, people then go out and pay more money for the newest version of MS Office, Photoshop, DVD utilities and burning software, and uncountable AntiVirus programs.
I will repeat that: they willingly PAY for all that.
However, an OS which comes in many, many flavours, is almost infinitely configurable, comes with many applications such as those previously mentioned already installed and if the default apps are not all there or to your liking, they are readily available online, but is not "Windows" but "Linux" -and totally FREE...
This is enough to make people complain that Linux is unuseable?
I’m running Mint on a laptop and even my wife can use it.
Plus, it is based upon Debian Stable, so a solid distro with a good support userbase.
Ubuntu was extremely easy to install - easier than Win by far
Linux has been unusable (aka “not ready for the desktop”) for at least the last twenty years I’ve been using it on my desktop.
I had to touch windows 2012 recently, and of course I had to reboot. Never had to do a web search to figure out how to reboot a linux box.
“...there are times where certain components arent as Linux compatible as others. What might surprise most people is that this isnt a Linux shortcoming, rather, this is a limitation of what the individual PC was built for — Windows.”
The writer lost me here.
You do realize that some hardware has firmware written entirely to Windows, right? They do not conform to standards.
Some people just need more hand-holding than others. Not too long ago, a friend started complaining that their (Windows) machine had a problem. Seems it would no longer shut down when the Ctrl-Alt-Del sequence, also known as the three-finger-salute, was pressed. After a couple of weeks about hearing about it, I finally agreed to go over to the house and take a look at it.
Came into the house, the machine was powered on with a blank screen since no recent user activity so I hit a button to verify that it was functional and had him log in. That done, I initiated shutdown. A little menu window popped up with the options for that task displayed:
Reboot in 10, 9, 8...
I quietly shut My eyes and shook My head for a moment, then interrupted the process so I could call him over to take a look at the machine. Then I showed him how the up- and down- arrow keys would change the selection from the "Reboot" setting it was then on to "Shutdown" instead. After I selected the "Shutdown" option for him, I hit the Enter key and the machine proceeded to quietly shut down.
"You're welcome." I told him briefly, then left.
Perhaps Linux is indeed too difficult for some people to use. Windows comes preinstalled with the machine. Linux pretty much never does, unless you specifically ask for it. Either way there is a bit of a learning curve needed. I guess some people prefer to deal with the preinstalled ones rather than some other ones.
I’d second shadowace’s response. All three should be good for beginners. I’ve recently been playing with Mint in a VM. The ‘live’ CDs are great to see if everything in your computer is compatible. Boot up on the CD, then try different things like playing an MP3, connecting to the internet, and other stuff like that. If everything works, you should be good to go. If your wireless card doesn’t work, (this is a lot less common than it used to be), you might want to google a bit to make sure it can be made to work fairly easily.
I am by no means an expert user - not even a talented amateur, but earlier this morning, I resized my partitions on the fly.
I am using Fedora 16 (Verne). I need to update, but this version has been my favorite and I’ve been slow to change.
Honestly, if I can do it, nearly anyone can/could. I taught myself Linux when my new laptop several years ago came with Windows Vista and it was the worst thing ever.
Mint is a decent distro, I agree. Tried it out not too long ago but it took up a bit too much space on the default drive though so decided to look at it again at some future date. PClinuxOS looks visually more appealing I think, but I tend to stay away from the RedHat/Fedora -based distros so decided against it. Others might find it more appealing, however.
I used Linux for a few years and for most people it is terrible as a desktop computer. But one distro I always liked was Puppy Linux. It's very small and efficient and extremely easy to get up and running. If you just want to surf the web and other simple stuff it's great.
The Holy Grail from a user perspective is that he/she shouldn't know or care what the underlying OS is. We have a long way to go before that is reached but it's reachable.
Plain old “info” might get somebody started, and the other tool that is useful is “apropos” also known as “whatis.” It narrows down and gives precise man page names.
That doesn’t make it Windows’ fault. That’s an artifact of market power.
I didn't say it was Windows' fault--notice I even said that drivers are NOT written by Microsoft.
Thats an artifact of market power.
No, you didn’t say it was Windows’ fault—but the writer did.
OK, so you're a windows user, and someone says the above to you. How do you do it? You can't unless you've already installed a separate program (putty or something to even be able to ssh to another box). If you don't have it, then it's off to google to find a program to provide ssh capabilities. Then you have to download it, install it, and figure out how to use it. With linux it would be really unusual not to have the ssh command already installed. Either way, however you get there, you'll be sitting at a command prompt on the remote box, and you'd have to know how to do what it is you've been asked to do.
Another scenerio... You need to copy a file from your home directory on box Able to the box you're on. From windows, you're going to have to know how to map directories, and a whole lot of other stuff. In linux, you can do it with a simple command "scp able:file.txt .". Even better, let's say you need to move a file from Able to Baker, but you're on Charlie. How would you do that with windows? It's not something that grandma would be able to do on windows, yet it is somehow supposed to be so magically easy that gramma can do it with Linux. (from Charlie, depending upon your version of ssh, you should be able to "scp able:file.txt baker:."
I’ll stick to my C64 thank you very much.
While I agree about tech writers getting Linux wrong, I don’t disagree that it’s not entirely suited for everyone’s needs.
I love Linux. I have been an IT professional for the past 18 years. I have used Linux and Unix since the days of Windows 3.1. My home computer is a dual-boot Win7 and Linux Mint machine that these days, almost never boots into Linux for the following reasons:
1. Handling of large music libraries. I have over 2TB of music files, spread across 5 hard drives, and I have yet to find a Linux music app that doesn’t crash when trying to index these sources. That said, only Foobar2000 on Windows does a good job with all this, but it does work flawlessly. I also run my weekly public radio show off of a Windows laptop running Foobar2000, and it works all the time.
2. Photography. I taught myself photo processing in Photoshop many years ago, and despite knowing my way around Gimp, I can process photos in Photoshop and process RAW files in Canon’s Digital Photo Pro without much thought. There is finally a version of DPP for Linux, but even then, print support for my large-format printer is just not there.
3. Netflix. I haven’t looked into it lately, but last time I looked, there was no support for Netflix on Linux.
For me, it turns out that my more intensive use of the computer makes Windows a better bet for me.
When I first started using unix, way back in the dark ages, it was on DEC's version, called Ultrix. We actually had bound copies of the printed man pages. The problem was, in order to find out how to use the command, you had to know what it was first! It was quite a while before I found the apropos command. I remember doing a little dance in the office when I discovered it.
“which distribution would you recommend for a Linux beginner?”
My 1st & 2nd recommendations for a beginner are Mint, then Ubuntu. They are the easiest to install (easier than Windows!) and the most likely to work. You might have to try several brands to find which ones are most compatible with your computer. Mint is sometimes fussier about video cards, in own my experience. There are several desktop flavors of each brand. Visit those websites, download some of the various versions, and burn bootable DVD’s from them on your Windows machine. Then boot from the DVD’s and test drive them.
Years ago I had tried several other brands of Linux (Mepis, Puppy, Knoppix) with general success, except I could not get them print after manually installing the drivers. When I tried Ubuntu for the first time, it automatically detected the right printer and installed the driver without asking. And it printed fine. I was an instant convert.
Actually, for reading, text is inferior to even basic HTML markup.
However, for writing computer code, text is fine (as long as you have a decent editor). From time to time, someone comes along with an idea for a graphical programming language, where you create algorithms visually, but these never seem to amount to anything. To be sure, there are fancy IDEs, such as Xcode, which are geared to producing GUI apps. These can help out by generating boiler-plate code, maintaining the project build script, and doing certain refactorings. But, ultimately, you are still left dealing with textual source code, be it Objective C, Java, C#, whatever.
Text is also quite robust for data storage and transmission, e.g., CSV, XML, YAML, JSON. However, binary formats will outperform text, at the cost of some increase in fragility.
And? I don't see a problem with having some functionality in other programs/packages.
Granted, you can go overboard and ship out a really bare-bones OS.
Another scenerio... You need to copy a file from your home directory on box Able to the box you're on. From windows, you're going to have to know how to map directories, and a whole lot of other stuff.
Mapping directories is fairly easy in Windows… I haven't had to use it in a few years though.
In linux, you can do it with a simple command "scp able:file.txt .". Even better, let's say you need to move a file from Able to Baker, but you're on Charlie. How would you do that with windows? It's not something that grandma would be able to do on windows, yet it is somehow supposed to be so magically easy that gramma can do it with Linux. (from Charlie, depending upon your version of ssh, you should be able to "scp able:file.txt baker:."
Depends on your set-up w/ Windows; I used to have several desktops LANed together — doing the operation above is easy: open the folder on Able, open a folder on Baker, drag what you want from Able's folder to Bakers. Done.
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