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Linux for the rest of us?

By: 28 December 2010 56 Comments

Back in the late 1990s, people were touting Linux as the “next big thing.”

Think back to 1998 when an internal memo released by Microsoft about the “Linux threat” was leaked to the public. It appeared that Linux might be on the verge of seriously challenging Microsoft’s dominance in the marketplace. At the same time, people were worried about security vulnerabilities in Windows 98 and the stability issues of the operating system.

Indeed, some of them were mad enough at Microsoft to give Linux a try. It was touted as a free operating system that had a lot of software support (which it was) but was a bit difficult for non-technical types to install and learn (that was true, too).

The end result of the whole hubbub was that Microsoft released a better operating system in Windows XP and Linux did win a few converts, but nothing on the scale that some had hoped. In short, one might argue that competition from Linux — either real or imagined — prompted Microsoft to get its act together and take a hard look at making operating systems that are both more secure and more stable.

By the way, we’re not discounting Apple’s efforts in competing with Microsoft. Mac OS X, after all, does share some things in common with Linux in that both operating systems have their roots in Unix. Rather than going into that, it’s probably sufficient to say that Apple’s OS X platform has been quite successful, partially due to its simplicity. Mere mortals can, indeed, install and use the thing.

That same claim couldn’t be made of Linux in the late 1990s or, indeed, even the early 2000s. Installing programs required some knowledge of how to navigate around in a terminal window and finding the right hardware drivers was a challenge. Linux developers, then, were faced with a challenge of their own — making the operating system more accessible was the key to finding more users.

That challenge was taken up by Ubuntu when the company issued its first Linux distribution in 2004. Ubuntu’s mission is to both make Linux easier to use and update it regularly. That version of Linux — like most of them — is free.

How is Ubunto doing? Pretty well, actually.  I installed it on my netbook the other day after my hard drive developed a logic error and needed to be formatted. The thing about a netbook, of course, is that they typically don’t have DVD ROM drives installed, so you don’t get backups of the operating system that ships with them. In my case, I had Windows XP and a license number, but didn’t want to go through the hassle of getting a new OS. I needed the netbook in a hurry, so I opted for going to the Ubuntu site, downloading the latest Linux distribution, putting it on a pen drive and installing Linux on my netbook from that drive.

The installation, believe it or not, was a breeze. The Ubuntu site walks users through the entire process and tells them how to make a bootable pen drive and installing Linux to it from a computer that is working. Yes, the netbook was pretty much worthless without an operating system but my desktop still has its stout copy of Windows XP up and running, so I was able to download Linux and put all the files I needed on a pen drive.

Now, bear in mind that the folks at Ubuntu realize that some people may be apprehensive about getting rid of Windows entirely and installing Linux. No problem. The Web site will tell you how to run Linux from a CD ROM or pen drive so you can try out the operating system without risking losing Windows. It also has handy tips on how to make a “dual boot” system that can swap over to either Linux or Windows. Good stuff.

Ah, but I needed an operating system and needed one in a hurry. I well remember how tough it was to install a Linux distribution back around 2000 and was worried about running into some of the same problems. However, the Ubuntu distribution installed on my netbook in about 10 minutes and installed all the necessary drivers. Well, almost all of them. I couldn’t get my Wi-Fi card to work with Ubuntu, but a quick Google search led me to the solution. In under an hour, then, I had an operating system that up and running. In other words, you don’t have to be a software engineer or someone with a ton of time on his hands to install this and get it to work well. Linux has come a long way, indeed.

Oh, and a lot of the programs I’ve used for years were already installed with Ubuntu. The GIMP — a great graphics editor — was already installed as was, a viable alternative to the Microsoft Office suite. The Firefox Internet browser was already installed, too, as was the Thunderbird email client. One of my favorite applications I used with Windows — Dropbox — wasn’t installed, but getting that up and running was very easy. The only program I couldn’t get that I wish was available is Evernote, a program that allows one to easily share notes from one computer to another.

Oh, here’s an update — a very nice Linux user by the name of Erik Rasmussen sent me an email telling me I could get Evernote running through WINE — a Linux program that can handle some Windows applications. I’ve got Evernote 3.1 up and running well right now. I didn’t even ask for help and someone offered assistance after reading my earlier comment about not having Evernote on my system. The Linux camp has always been stocked with enthusiastic supporters willing to help users learning the operating system. That’s appreciated.

Here’s the downside of Linux —  some of those programs you have probably used with Windows for years aren’t compatible with the operating system. Yes, there are some programs that offer similar functionality, but they aren’t exactly the same., for example, can read and write Microsoft Office documents quite well, but the compatibility isn’t perfect in some instances (that’s particularly true when it comes to Excel spreadsheets). Still, Linux does make it possible to get by without Windows well enough and that’s all that counts for some people.

One of the beauties of Ubuntu is how rarely it requires the user to dive into terminal mode (think Unix shell or “DOS ‘C’ prompt” and you get the idea). Installing software under Linux used to be a bit of a chore, but Ubuntu makes it easy. Want to find an application? No problem — just click an icon, head to the Ubuntu software store, run a search and find what you need. If that Linux program isn’t in the store, it is possible — in most cases — for the operating system to read the file and install it for you. It’s all very easy.

Here’s another thing that’s easy. Ubuntu has some pretty good user documentation available online and something even more valuable — an active forum full of people willing to help newcomers solve the problems they’re having. Again, Ubuntu puts the emphasis on ease of use and its flavor of Linux reflects that philosophy quite well.

The menus make sense, too. Applications are generally stored where they need to be, games are located where you’d expect them, the file structure is similar to what you’re used to in Windows, etc. In other words, Linux has come a long way in terms of being easy to use over the past decade. One thing that does feel odd but is pretty slick is the ability to set up independent “workspaces” in which different projects are run. For example, go ahead and work on a word processing document in in one workspace while Linux downloads and applies updates in another.

Ubuntu promises to make the system even easier with its Unity desktop. That’s standard equipment on the netbook distribution of Ubuntu and is, essentially, a toolbar that runs down the left hand side of your screen and allows you to access various menus and programs quickly. While I went for the default interface with my Ubuntu (yes, there’s a way to download and install the “desktop interface), I haven’t gotten rid of Unity. Ubuntu issues updates about every six months, so who knows what will be built into Unity in the future?

How about security and speed? Linux is pretty secure, really. Any time a program wants to access a crucial part of my system, I get a dialog asking me type in my user password and give it permission to proceed. There’s not a lot of talk about viruses with Linux, so I feel pretty good about that. As for speed, I have noticed that Linux uses fewer system resources than Windows XP did, but the difference in speed seems nominal. That could be because the system I typically used is a netbook which isn’t going to set any speed records, anyway.

I’d love to say that Linux is dandy and wonderful and that I’ll never use Windows again. However, I simply don’t know enough about it yet to make that determination. Linux does look promising so far and I was thrilled to have my computer back and running as usual with most of my familiar applications in just a few hours. However, Windows is still more familiar to most users and Windows XP and 7 are solid enough to likely cause a lot of users to wonder why they should bother switching. Microsoft is still the industry standard and the OS seems to accomplish what most people want to do with it.

Still, Linux appears to be a good alternative. Give it a test drive and make up your own mind about it.

About: Ethan C. Nobles:
Benton resident. Rogue journalist. Recovering attorney. Email =


  • R. Spence said:

    Try Linux Mint 10.10
    you will be very happy

  • carnegie0107 said:

    Good for you! A fair, balanced article that highlights the advantages of recent Linux distros without saying, “zomg GNU/Linux is so much better than Micro$uck Windoze!” Linux is far better than Windows in terms of speed, reliability, hardware support, and most off all, security. But, it’s not for everyone, mostly because a lot of your favorite applications won’t be there, and while it’s no more complicated than Windows (in some ways, much more intuitive and easier to use), you have to re-learn tasks that you have been performing in Windows for a decade. If you’re happy with Windows and keep your malware up-to-date, then there’s no need to switch. Though I encourage everyone to at least give it a try.

  • Ethan C. Nobles (author) said:

    Thanks, Carnegle. Had I had this Ubuntu installation back when I tried Linux about a decade ago, I might have been one of those guys saying “Micro$oft Windoze sucks” and all that. Windows 98 really was that terrible. But, you’ve got to give Microsoft credit — Windows XP is a (gasp!) good OS and the same appears to be true of 7.

    What I am happy about is that I’ve got Linux running and I really don’t miss Windows on my netbook all that much. Furthermore, Ubuntu is well supported through both documentation and an active, enthusiastic user base. Having a weird logic error that forced me to reformat my hard drive and do a Linux install from a pen drive may have been a blessing in disguise.

    I’ve got a great OS here and I didn’t have to fight with it to get it to work. Hopefully, some other people will take a look at it and decide for themselves if it’s right for them. Linux used to feel like something for hobbyists, now it works like an easy-to-understand OS that consumers can get up and running in a hurry. That’s what we call progress.

  • Borislav said:

    I could also offer you another solution for your Evernote problem, as I am also a fan of it. There is a very nice alternative, that is based on it but is available for Linux. Check out
    Nevernote –
    I’ve been using it for quite some time, and I should say it is quite well written.
    Have a nice day :)

  • Brendan said:

    A word of advice… Be wary of kernel upgrades. Nothing is more frustrating for a Linux novice than to perform a kernel upgrade and have half of your applications stop working. This is one area in which Ubuntu is still lightyears behind the MS & Mac offerings. It is recoverable – usually I have to go into /boot/grub/menu and change the default kernel to one of the older ones.

    Also, I encourage you to avoid Xorg upgrades until you can spare a day or two recovering from graphics issues – i.e. you may be left having to update config files from the command line in order to make the GUI interface work again. All in all though, I agree that Ubuntu is finally an entry point for people looking to convert to Linux, and I wish you luck!

  • Paul said:

    Ubuntu Rocks!!!

    Happy Ubuntu user for years. Have it on all my computers ….

  • Marti Van Lin said:

    For people who insist on using a couple of Windows applications, there is a better solution than dual-booting, called virtualisation.

    Which means that you can run Windows XP on top of Linux in a virtual machine.

    The required steps are:

    1. Install VirtualBox;
    2. search your Windows XP installation disk;
    3. create a new virtual machine (512 MiB RAM and at least 10 GiB virtual hard disk);
    4. install Windows XP on the new virtual machine;
    5. install your preferred software on your Virtual Windows XP.

    System requirements: 1.6 Ghz CPU, 2 GiB RAM, 10/20 GiB free hard disk space.

    This way you don’t have to reboot all the time and are able to use both Operating Systems concurrently. The clipboard works on both Operating Systems as well, so you are able to paste the Windows clipboard in GNU/Linux applications and vice versa.


  • Marti Van Lin said:

    Oops, correction!

    The line:

    “The clipboard works on both Operating Systems as well”

    should say:

    The clipboard works bidirectional on both Operating Systems as well!

  • Ethan C. Nobles (author) said:

    Wow — lots of Linux fans out there, eh?

    Borislav — I updated my article after someone sent in an email suggesting I either use Nevernote or load Evernote through WINE. I chose the WINE option and it works very well with Evernote 3.1. However, I’ll probably try the Nevernote option just to see how it works.

    Brendan — thanks for that and I was wondering what would happen with a major update. I’ll be wary — and remember where to find your comment so I can switch back to an older kernel. I’ll look out for the “Xorg” updates, too.

    Marti — Hmmm. That might inspire me to finally put that extra gig in the netbook…

  • Tim Komor said:

    As soon as I read the article title, I almost hopped out of my chair and cried “UBUNTU!” … After reading the article, I see now this would have been unnecessary. Any support of Linux, or any open source software, gets immediate fist-pumping praise from me.

    I’ve had some brief experience with Ubuntu, thanks to an ex who doesn’t understand the concept of responsible internet usage and Toshiba’s exclusion of a recovery disk with her laptop (apparently an industry standard for laptop manufacturers. “Burn your own damned recovery disk,” indeed.) I was very much impressed with it.

    A fresh install of any version of Windows involves popping in the disk, going through a few options, deciding how you want to partition your drive, then sitting down to watch a movie while it does it’s thing, checking it occasionally to see if you need to make some more choices. With Ubuntu, I set it going, sat down for the movie, checked back after the opening credits, and was promptly shocked to find that the install was done.

    The GUI was smooth and logically laid out, omitting a few of the less intelligent and generally useless aspects of a Windows UI, while maintaining enough similarities to make the transition easy. For some reason I was pleasantly shocked to find Firefox there, as it’s my browser of choice.

    The only reason I gave up on Ubuntu is that I’m a PC gamer (specifically a MMO gamer, currently playing EVE Online, although at the time we were playing World of Warcraft.) Unfortunately, while Linux has great open source (a.k.a. free) alternatives for most of Windows’ more productive programs, Linux support from game developers is sorely lacking. EVE Online used to support a Linux version of their client, but has since discontinued it because there wasn’t much of an exclusively-Linux-using player base. I tried to figure out how to configure the Windows emulator, WINE, to run World of Warcraft (which I have read can be done,) but I gave up. I must stress, though, that this was a result of my personal impatience/laziness, and not any shortcomings of the software or Linux community.

    Once I get around to getting an external hard drive to store all the various media that I have on my laptop, I will reformat that thing and put in a serious attempt at using Ubuntu to all its Microsoft-stomping, 100% free extent. Support for the games I play is the only reason I’m still using Windows, and if I can get either a Windows emulator or virtual OS to run them on a Linux system, I’ll probably never buy another version of Windows.

  • Ethan C. Nobles (author) said:

    Tim — you just pointed out something that is a problem with Linux — support for games. That’s not as much of an issue for me as I stick with my Xbox 360, Wii, Atari, Genesis, Super NES, NES, etc., etc. for gaming. Yeah, I’ve always been a console guy and didn’t much get into PC gaming.

    Still, that is something of which people certainly need to be aware.

    I am curious as to just how much one can run through WINE. Evernote worked just fine, but how complex of a program can WINE handle?

    Looks like I’ll figure it out one day.

    Oh, and yeah — the installation of Ubuntu was dead easy. The only problem I had was finding the right driver to get Wi-Fi to work. It’s telling that the OS is tiny — not sure how small it is, really, but the OS and a bunch of apps cost me about 4 GB on my hard drive. That’s phenomenal to those of us used to Windows.

  • Chuck G. said:

    For games, you’d be surprised how many are supported by something called “playonlinux”. It uses a strategy of encapsulating the tricks needed to get specific games working through WINE, and scripts the installations. So yes, games are a weak spot, but there are some possible ways to get these to work. I bet if more folks started using Ubuntu (or other Linux distros) regularly, more software vendors would be willing to port their applications (or game clients) to the O/S.

    Great article Ethan, and good luck!

    I discovered Ubuntu about 3 years ago as a way to dual-boot my company laptop without having to worry about corporate spyware on the full-disk-encrypted Windows XP installation. I swapped the DVD drive for a second hard drive (total cost about $110), and configured the BIOS to prompt me for the boot device upon startup. So for $110 bucks, I get a virtual second laptop for my own uses. The encrypted “primary drive” doesn’t show up in Ubuntu, and the Ubuntu drive doesn’t who up under windows xp (since neither understands the formatting of the other). It works quite well!

  • Chuck G. said:

    Re/ “playonlinux”, go to “scripts” / “games” to see the supported list and a user rating of how effective the installation is.

  • Ethan C. Nobles (author) said:

    Chuck — thanks for the tip and you’re right — if the user base is there, the developers will flock to it.

  • brian k said:

    Give Pinguy a try, based on Ubuntu. Comes with all the codecs installed, plus the easiest to use of programs of each variety with a mac like interface. It claims to be an out of the box Linux for the masses and it is. I can now recommend it to friends ( and have ) and not spend hours on the phone formatting it with them. For the gamers, it comes with an assistance program, but I have not used it, I rarely play games, But I have heard it works well.

  • mister me said:

    I have a few Ubuntu machines around my house, and I LOVE the cloud storage and music store they offer. The two reasons I keep OS X/Windows around are for Gaming and entertainment. There is no simple way that I have found to get Netflix to work and that is a major bummer. And getting games to work on a linux disto to me is a waste of time… I have limited spare time and when I want to play a game, i want to play it… not hack away a some scripts to get it to work under WINE. I got StarCraft II to play for awhile but it was a major pain, and the first update I did to the grpx driver killed it.

  • Ben said:

    Glad you’ve had such a pleasant experience with Linux through the Ubuntu distro. Ubuntu really is very user friendly and at least as intuitive as Windows 7 (if not more-so). In terms of stability, I’ve found Ubuntu to be more solid than any Windows installation I’ve yet seen.

    When people ask me about Linux vs. Windows this is my stock answer:

    “If your paycheck depends on software that is _only_ available for Windows, then you’re stuck with Windows. But if your livelihood depends on Windows, you’re a greater risk-taker than I.”

    Fortunately there are very few people whose job depends on Windows-only software. Some will prefer proprietary software to FOSS software, ala GIMP vs Photoshop, but one would be hard pressed to prove that GIMP is inferior. More and more software today runs natively on Linux… even AutoDesk (AutoCAD) runs natively on Fedora.

    Truth be told, I believe many people insist that Windows is better because they believe cost implies quality and free implies the lack there-of.

  • thomas said:

    Try Linux Mint, it puts a serious polish on Ubuntu.
    Or, try Linux Mint Debian Edition (LMDE), it’s a rolling release, so you never have to upgrade or reinstall, it picks up updates automatically, as soon as they are released.

  • Ralph Siegler said:

    I switched over to Linux from Windows over ten years ago, it’s a real workhorse for serious use without the worries of viruses and other malware, and without all the registry configuration nonsense. Does a wonderful job for document, presentation, photo and video editing. I currently use Ubuntu, the Long Term Support (LTS) version. Sure, Windows may be better for games, I’d say that’s all Windows is good for, for toy use. I even put PowerPC version of Ubuntu on my wife’s Mac after some of the Mac OSX files on the hard drive were corrupted, was cheaper spending $0 for Ubuntu than spending over $100 for operating system disks from Apple or a 3rd party recovery package. Four thumbs up!

  • David said:

    I first tried Linux about 3- 4 years ago when i typed in free operating systems in Google. Up pops Ubuntu, can’t remember what version it was then but i asked for and the delivered a free disc within a few weeks for free.

    At that time when i ran the live cd, i thought hey! this looks ok, but i found it a little too confusing. As i was always a Windows user i just couldn’t get to grips with Ubuntu, but i thought, the idea was good and left it at that, back to XP.

    Anyway,iv’e always kept an eye on Ubuntu and noticed it seemed to be getting better and easier to understand, downloaded a new version, i think it was 9.4 or something like that, installed it on my old pc and found that they had improved greatly and it looked so nice when it booted up, mind you i was still a little unsure about the system and had to search to find out how to install my video card driver, and that was easy enough by going to the forum and a little searching and whola, everything worked.

    Today, though i’m still a bit of a novice, iv’e tried a few distros now and iv’e settled on Linux Mint 10 because everything just worked from the moment i clicked on install. I love it now and iv’e converted a few family members and friends over to Linux. I will never use Windows again, no need to, i’m not a gamer but i have managed to get a few smaller Windows games to run through Wine, for example..Bejeweled and a great 10 pin bowling game i used to like playing on Windows…both work a treat.
    Anyway, i’m a Linux fan now, although i still have a lot to learn but the basics are simple enough for novices like myself.

  • Kyle Reynolds Conway said:

    I say go ahead and throw in the extra stick of RAM and give VirtualBox a try. The install is as quick as normal, you decide how much RAM to give the virtual machine, and (if you’re anything like me) you’ll find yourself firing it up less and less as you realize all of the many many things you’re able to do in GNU/Linux (often better and faster). I do graphic design work and the biggest switch for me was Photoshop to GIMP … but I did it and now I couldn’t go back.

    FYI: If you’re looking for something to carry around on a USB for situations like the one you describe (“Just need an OS”) then you might toss Knoppix on a USB. It recognizes an obscene number of wireless cards, drivers, etc…

    Have fun exploring!

  • cabreh said:

    Please ignore the Brendan post about kernel updates. It just isn’t true at all. If you are using Ubuntu the kernel updates will have been tested for the release you are using. These updates are usually for security and you should do them.

    I have been using Ubuntu for years and have successfully done complete release updates without problems. You will need to use the Synaptic Package Manager (System -> Administration) to install the kernel updates. The update takes care of everything if you are using programs from the Ubuntu repositories. A simple reboot after a kernel update and you’re done.

  • Zillion said:

    Cabreh is wrong, very wrong, and brings up a problem I deal with constantly. That is, Linux zealots who vehemently refute any and all criticism of GNU/Linux. These partisan goons make it almost embarrassing to use Linux and that isn’t going to do anything to help adoption of the system. One problem with people like Cabreh is they lack the vision to look at the world outside themselves. He hasn’t had a kernel update gone bad, but others have. He ignores the testimony of others and gives the facts ONLY as he sees them.

    Kernel updates certainly can cause problems on any operating system. Once I updated the kernel on my system and was given a blinking login prompt after a reboot. I don’t mean a blinking cursor. I mean the entire screen blinked on and off for a tenth of s second every few seconds, only accepting keyboard input while the screen was active.

  • Han said:

    I second cabreh’s comment. Brendan’s comment seems to be some FUD.
    In ubuntu and a lot of distros, Kernel upgrades are managed through the package management system.

    You may have noticed also that upgrades for all software (web browser, mail client…) on your computer are centralized in the update manager. You don’t have to check which software is updated. Something great that Windows doesn’t have.

  • Armando said:

    I like this article because I always liked people who try to look at things objectively. It is not fully possible, but we surely can try.
    Both Windows and Linux are human products and have their strengths and weaknesses, together with technical features which are perceived as defects or merits depending on the users’ needs, experiences and opinions.
    I do not like those self-calling Linux enthusiasts who totally refuse even to pronounce or write the name of Windows and always define Windows’ users in more or less offensive ways, as quite inferior beings.
    Of course I do not like also those (fewer) who behave the opposite way.
    I’ve been using and also studying both Windows and Linux (as a kind of advanced user) for many years now, I have XP as my main OS and three or four different Linux distributions as virtual machines. I happily use them all, for the tasks I find each more suitable for.
    Over time I’ve had some more or less annoying problems with ALL of them, which seems perfectly normal to me.
    As to the “lack” of viruses in Linux: if I was a virus writer trying to get the maximum satisfaction from my work, I would focus on a OS which is used on the highest possible number of computers.

  • Gerry said:

    I have been using a linux based distro for 12 years. I use no other software. I install it on bargain hardware for non-technical friends, who rarely to never experience problems and even those that they do are self acknowledged PEBKAC generated and easily solved.

    The challenge for people such as me, rather than my non-technical friends, is that I fiddle about. So yes, when I first tried to install a new kernel, yes I broke it. Rather than leave KDE at the stable version in the last distro release, I’m running 4.6 RC1, and it’s a bit wobbly in places. Quelle amazement.

    Of course, separation of user data from system data, togther with system designer respect for user data, universally saves me from myself.

    So, ironically, it’s techie users of linux based distros who can’t leave well alone that enable Brendan-style FUD.

    For ultimate stability and trouble free use of modern desktop software stay one release behind the newest of your distro of choice, only update as suggested by your distro provider. There’s absolutely no need to live on the cutting edge. The next time ‘Brendan’ talks about problems with the kernel or X, just ask them what specific feature they were looking to implement and why.

  • Rob said:

    I’ve been dual-booting Ubuntu and Windows for years. I keep one Vista laptop running for my MagicJack phone. My other Windows installs are fired up once a month just for updates. Otherwise I’m in Ubuntu constantly.

    Gerry is right. On those rare occasions I have problems with Ubuntu it is because I’m playing on the edge. My wife’s Ubuntu laptop (no playing on the edge allowed) just keeps on working, no problems (and no virus’s).

    Hardware support in Linux is tremendous, and usually built in with no driver installation by the user needed. Printers can be a problem. I purchased a Brother all-in-one and had to get a little geeky to get it running. A quick Google on the printer model number and Ubuntu gave me step-by-step instructions that worked perfectly.

    If a person is going to transition from XP to Windows 7, or from Windows to Mac there is going to be learning curve. The curve is no greater in the transition to Ubuntu and it is free. Give it an honest try. I doubt you’ll be disappointed. And thank you Mr. Nobles an honest assessment of Ubuntu.

  • joe said:

    and along came bumtu to make things easier… what a crock.

    Distros like Mandriva have been making desktop linux easy for years. Long before bumtu’s copied/hacked/broken distro came along. Mandriva maked bumtu look like a broken piece of junk. Way better tools, nicer desktop in any flavor you want. ect ect ect.

    all bumtu has is money from a dork with his own vision. nothing great has come from bumtu except a bunch of fan boys and marketing hype.

  • cabreh said:


    I happen to be a system administrator for an international organization and have had quite a few years experience with Windows, unix and linux. In fact the main part of my work is with Windows in my current position. So experience speaks here as opposed to your personal attack type of comment.

    Please grow up a little.

  • blackbelt_jones said:

    I switched eight years ago without much computer background to speak of, and for me, migrating to Linux was pretty difficult, but also extremely worthwhile. I’m pretty sure that new users have an easier time of it today than I did, but I’m not complaining. For me, it was a year and a half of frustration, followed by six and a half years of awesomeness.

    There are real reasons why Linux makes headway with such glaciarlike speed, and 90 per cent of them have to do with support. You do have to learn quite a bit to take full advantage of Linux, but if you intend to be using a computer for the next 20, 30, or fifty years, it’s a good investment.

    Linux evangelists don’t want to tell you this; they’re afraid it will scare you away– but the real key to Linux is the command line. These days, Linux has a perfectly good Desktop GUI. (Okay, I lied. It has several!) but the command line is where the real power and the fun lies. In Linux, the command line is integrated. It’s part of the Desktop. It’s not that hard to learn the command line gradually, when you have the desktop GUI to support you. You can run Linux entirely from the GUI, but that’s running Linux as if it were Windows, and Windows will always be better at being Windows.

  • Robert Pogson said:

    GNU/Linux is a superior OS accessed by GUI, commands, scripts, remotely etc. That other OS slows down, collects malware, fails to boot, supports less hardware out of the box, requires more re-re-reboots, phones home, sniffs for DRM, and generally wastes valuable resources. You get much more bang for the dollar, flexibility and freedom to change things with GNU/Linux.

    Where I work we got fed up with the problems of XP and there was no budget to chuck all our hardware to go with “7” so we installed Debian GNU/Linux and never looked back. Most of the problems of keeping the system running disappeared. Now we can concentrate on expanding the system and getting better performance from it. Booting takes about half the time to a usable desktop and applications open faster. We will never go back to that other OS.

  • W. Anderson said:

    The article author is listed as a “recovering attorney”, which explains his deference to Microsoft and the ambiguous but complimentary comparison of Windows to (generic) Linux.

    Windows 7 is “technically” better than Windows Vista and XP, however it still retains the very weak security and reliability infrastructure that necessitates anti-virus/malware/phising/etc. that has yet to negatively impact GNU/Linux use.

    Good luck to those millions of Americans looking for a miracle cure for Windows, even in abstract appraisal by amateur writers like this one.

  • Ethan C. Nobles (author) said:

    Jeepers, W. Anderson — glad to see you stopping in with some high praise.

    Bear in mind that I’m just a computer user and have worked well with Windows for years. Frankly, I have no problem with Windows and see “generic Linux” as a good alternative to it. I’ve got no interest in bashing Windows and don’t apologize a bit for it.

    Praising one platform doesn’t necessarily involve criticizing another one.

    By the way, I”m rather partial to Mac OS X, too. Heavens to Betsy!

  • Eli said:

    I’ve used Ubuntu since about April of 2006, and don’t miss Windows much at all!
    The best ‘program’ to add to Ubuntu is “Ubuntu-Restricted-Extras” which is a meta-package that adds Flash, codecs, and some other programs.


  • Armando said:

    I’m sorry, clumsy mistake.
    Did not know how to delete or edit, so I’m posting again.

    As the author wisely said,
    “Praising one platform doesn’t necessarily involve criticizing another one.”

    Moreover, if praising A always requires taunting and offending B, one could think that A does not have enough value on its own, which is surely not the case with Linux, an undoubtedly very good OS.

  • Ethan C. Nobles (author) said:

    I’ve deleted the first one for you, Armando, and thanks for the kind words. That’s really what I meant — Linux is great on its own, so why tear down Microsoft whenever talking about the good points of Linux? Odd strategy — I’d think a better strategy would be to simply talk about the good points of Linux (free software that does great things, a stable OS, protection against virus/security problems, etc.) rather than antagonizing Windows fans and (oddly enough) bashing people who are starting to warm up to the “alternative” OS…

  • Bernard Swiss said:

    I was going to post a fairly long comment — but “Rob” said it all, and shorter and better.

    It’s an interesting phenomenon whenever “Linux versus Windows” discussions get going on a forum, that people claiming and or implying extensive experience and expertise with Linux, spout nonsense that even moderately experienced Linux users can easily identify as either ignorant or dishonest or even both.

    To be fair, a very few of these “Linux detractors” are people with genuine and substantial Linux server experience, who mistakenly conflate server-oriented versions of Linux (eg. RedHat) with Desktop-oriented Linux installations — an understandable error. Many of these will make a point of mentioning that they do run Linux on their server(s), but don’t consider Linux ready for ordinary users or on the desktop.

    It is also worth bearing in mind that the overwhelming majority of Linux advocates used to be (and often still are) experienced Windows users. The Windows advocates are rarely possessed of any substantial — let alone equal — experience with Linux.

  • Zillion said:


    Your self-testimony and praise fails to impress me. In fact, if you had as much experience as you claim, it’s likely you would have seen enough problems with Linux to know that kernel updates CAN go bad.

    Grown up or not, you remain wrong and ill-informed.

  • Armando said:

    As for me, I’m not a Linux detractor at all.
    I simply try to look at things from a technical point of view, keeping away from all those “exciting” fights whose primary purpose seems to be NOT to affirm the quality of a product BUT rather to demonstrate the filthyness of another and the profound ignorance (to say the least) of all people who use it.

    In my Windows experience I configured many and many computers with all kinds of applications and I nearly never had all those BSOD of system hangs or viruses which many Linux experts define as extremely frequent.

    Using good hardware, compatible drivers and trusted applications I always worked with very few problems. Exactly the same can be said for Linux, in my humble opinion. If you take a good computer and install a Linux system with all the proper device drivers you get a very solid and reliable system to work with. If you don’t, you’ll have some things not working, performance problems or even system hangs.
    Which is perfectly normal and “human”.

  • ObiWanKenobi said:

    To the author of this post:

    You forgot to mention Knoppix, who was a real pioneer of live CD and easy installing even before Ubuntu.

    However, I have tryed Knoppix sever times recently and it is not so good any more.

  • Ethan C. Nobles (author) said:

    Obi Wan — Thanks for mentioning that. I mentioned Ubuntu because that’s the one I installed after doing some research. Works quite well.

    I have noticed, however, that everyone seems to have his or her favorite Linux “flavor.” Interesting…

  • Armando said:

    everyone seems to have his or her favorite Linux “flavor”
    That is actually one of Linux’s most intriguing features, at least from a certain point of view.

    A car which every driver could fully customize (apart from the very core of the engine) as he likes and also modify at any time, would certainly be more attractive than another only available in few colors and with the same dashboard for everybody.

  • JJ said:

    @Ben: There is no native version of AutoCad for GNU/Linux. So you are spreading false information. There is however, bricscad which is cross-platform.

  • Paul Brookman said:

    Thanks Ethan; a very nice, and informative Article.
    A lot of differing opinions flying around here.
    I am no expert on Windows, or Linux. But, I do know what I like and dislike.
    I like what Linux represents in terms of Freedom of use and cost.
    I dislike what Microsoft represents in terms of Monopoly and cost. I am not trying to cut down their operating systems at all. I do not like the “ATTITUDE” of the Microsoft corp.
    Most the world runs on Windows; they are not happy with that and exhibit response behaviors bordering on paranoid!
    I currently run Debian, Linux Mint and on Suns Virtualbox, Win XP. I won’t support Microsofts “Monopoly” by upgrading to 7 or higher till XP will no longer do what I need to in windows.
    I live in both camps right now; Linux and Windows.
    I like them both. I just do not like Microsoft.
    Thanks again for your Article, especially the history.


  • Vlah said:

    It’s interesting to read about how difficult to use Linux used to be, because I only started using it recently.
    I quit using Windows after a security nightmare (my computer that I use for work and has my work data stored had a botnet virus and was probably part of a botnet). Before that I was dual-booting with Linux (Mint) for a while but that virus really accelerated my decision to switch completely. It took some time to adjust, just getting over old habits, it’s been about a year and a half now, Windows is very much out of my life for good :)

    I guess Windows is the right choice for people who don’t pay for it using pirated copies, but that’s not an option for me, or who never connect to the internet, because once you connect, that’s where security trouble starts. And I won’t be upgrading my hardware all the time so that for example I can have enough RAM to run both Windows and antivirus software that fails me anyway. I’d rather spend my money elsewhere instead of buying new computers just so I can run Windows. There’s all these different things that brought me to Linux, but for me using mostly my browser, IM, word processor, photo editor and playing music and videos, it’s really perfect.

  • Ethan C. Nobles (author) said:

    Vlah — you touched on exactly what impressed me the most — how easy it is to get up and running with Linux now as opposed to a decade ago. The install was very easy, almost all of my hardware was identified and the thing feels incredibly “normal” (for want of a better term). Yes, I’ve only had it up and running about a week, but I’ve got all the applications I need and haven’t felt like I’ve “come up short” in any area because I don’t have Windows.

    Yes, people will talk about how Windows is necessary for games and that may be true. However, I’ve got everything from an Atari 2600 through an Xbox 360 and Nintendo Wii for that — no problems here, then.

    Liking Linux so far. I’m rather surprised more people haven’t at least played with one Linux distribution or another yet. They don’t know what they’re missing.

    Still, I don’t feel the need to go around bashing Windows. Linux, so far, has worked very well and appears to stand on its merits as a very capable OS. Thank goodness it’s easier to use than in the past…

  • Armando said:

    The issues of “freedom” and “no cost” are very delicate ones when talking about Linux, GNU software, open-source and so on. Actually they get very often mixed together, more or less intentionally.
    No coincidence that this very point gave rise to the disputes which led, for example, to the birth of the distinction between “free software” and “open source”.

    It has honestly to be said that many people “choose” and “love” Linux BECAUSE they can legally have and use it without spending any money.
    I think that statistics would be different should Linux cost as much as Windows.

    Surely many people, especially amongst professional and advanced users, love and choose Linux because of it’s OTHER features and would pay for it even more, but I have the feeling they do not constitute a majority.

    This obviously has nothing to do with Linux being better or worse as an OS.

  • Paul Brookman said:

    “Vlah — you touched on exactly what impressed me the most — how easy it is to get up and running with Linux now”
    I agree; the first time I installed Debian, I ended up with a basic install. A black screen and a command prompt. Today, their installer is so much easier to use!

  • Randall said:

    In writing this story about Ubuntu, you missed the *biggest* story about Ubuntu: the community and its ethos. You can spin nearly any popular OS that is based on FLOSS and achieve success. However, there is only one project that can provide you with a large, friendly, and vibrant community right in your back yard. That is Ubuntu.

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