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Are you qualified to bash GNU/Linux?

Despite the pervasive growth of mind share and even market share of GNU/Linux in various areas of use, and despite all the hype around GNU/Linux reaching the top this year with releases of Ubuntu Dapper and Novell SuSE 10, I can still see some people complain that GNU/Linux is just too hard to install and use and that it is a nightmare they don't want anyone to experience. They are usually advocating either sticking with Windows or switching to Mac which, as the argument goes, has the benefit of UNIX and the ease of use they require.

When reading these complaints and arguments I am usually left considering those who say this as simply misinformed. The usual sources of this (mis)information are things other people said about GNU/Linux (i.e. heresay), Microsoft propaganda or a personal experience. Well the last one can be valid, but not in the context I am talking about, not when this personal experience is based on ignorance or is just too old to be a valid measure to draw conclusions from.

One thing people should know about GNU/Linux and Free Software in general is that it is rapidly evolving. It is actually evolving more rapidly than anything in the world of computing. If you tried GNU/Linux only few months ago and were disappointed there is an awesome chance that if you try it now things will be different.

Many people who say that GNU/Linux is a geeks OS that is a nightmare to install and maintain have either heard this false rumor from someone else as misinformed as they are now or are basing this conclusion on an experience that, quite frankly, holds no weight today. If you tried it a year ago you have experienced far past of GNU/Linux, not the present. You simply cannot base your conclusions on that past experience anymore when talking about GNU/Linux today.

This said, I am not suggesting that everyone should go try GNU/Linux every month, but I do suggest not to go spread false conclusions you based on an outdated experience you may have had with it. If you didn't try GNU/Linux today or very recently, you pretty much don't have a lot to say about its present state. If you do want to talk about it then make it clear you are talking about GNU/Linux *then*, not today. This way you are acknowledging the source of your conclusions and the fact that they don't apply to the present state.

Another way people can draw false conclusions about present GNU/Linux is, quite simply, by trying a wrong distribution. If you never used GNU/Linux before and then just jump straight into Slackware, for example, on your first try, and get burned by the difficulty you might have installing and using it, you just can't go around saying that GNU/Linux sucks because the distribution of your choice didn't work for you. It would be better if you get informed a bit. Just as well as you found out about Slackware you can find out about easier to use GNU/Linux distributions such as Ubuntu. Ask anyone on any GNU/Linux forums what distro would they recommend for someone just getting started and you'll get the right answers, and you'll be on your way to the GNU/Linux experience tailored for *you*.

In summary, the two major points I am trying to make are (1) that GNU/Linux is rapidly evolving and getting better and (2) it has a lot of flavors to choose from of which not all are suited for beginners. Failure to acknowledge both of these two points will lead you to absorbing and spreading false conclusions about GNU/Linux.

So in the end, you may ask, why the heck do I care? Why is that any of my business? Well, for one I am, admittedly, a GNU/Linux and more broadly a Free Software advocate. I believe Free Software is a way for computer users that we are to finally take control over our computing life in our own hands instead of being constantly dependent on the ones controlling the software we run on our own computers. The latter has multiple kinds of consequences, the lack of control and freedom of users over their own computer software and practical flaws that proprietary software frequently exhibits.

And spreading false information ultimately leaves none in the better.

Thank you


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One thing I sometimes read

One thing I sometimes read is "fonts on linux are ugly". This definitely is outdated information. Just come look at my dual boot laptop. First I'll show you my linux desktop... you have to almost press your face against the screen to be able to see the pixels in text. Then I'll show you windows XP, and "XP" is what your face will look like when you see the pixelated fonts. Quick, back to linux to change your face back to ":)"!

Something to remember:

It's often said "GNU/Linux is the OS for geeks, not for normal people." This is meant to get you to think things like: It's the Corvette of OS's, great for people with time to tinker. Or something like, it's a charcoal grill and most people need to eat now so they need propane.
Or it's a manual transmission, great for people who enjoy it but too hard for most of us.

There are a couple major problems here. One problem is the premise: People who are interested in a thing don't mind putting extra time in. That's a half truth. If you ask any good Linux sysadmin why he likes Linux he'll tell you it's because of all the time he doesn't spend fixing it. He may have been willing to spend time gaining proficiency, but he doesn't want to just waste his time either! It's not a game!

Another problem is saying it's too hard, it requires you to be too smart: That's just crap too. Sure, it might be different, and obviously any learning requires time and some patience. And so they'll say you should save your time: The trouble here is you're assuming you don't spend time learning the changes anyway: The computing world is rapidly changing and it doesn't matter what OS you use, in 10 years you'll have completely relearned it.

This begs a comparison to driving a stick shift. The only person this is too hard for is, well, someone missing a limb. That's fine, if you really believe yourself to be mentally retarded (missing a "brain limb" if you will) then great, don't use Linux. Otherwise you're plenty bright enough to figure it out.

To actually ignore what geeks pick in a field is just stupid. If the geeks are using something, you should be too. If the geeks buy Chevy, buy Chevy. If they use Linux, use Linux. If they won't touch lead paint, neither should you! If they think plastic plumbing is good enough, they're probably right.

Of course the reality is that geeks don't choose Linux. I know, shock. Geeks choose every major platform. For every Linux geek you find there's likely an equally proficient Windows geek, Mac Geek, BSD Geek, and who knows maybe even an OS/2 geek!
So if you're avoiding the geek's choice you should avoid PC's in general.

There are hundreds of user groups out there filled with dozens of guys happy to help people get started. There is no excuse to not be using Linux if you don't want to these days. People are complacent (more often probably ignorant, which frankly it's not *that* big of a deal).

Yes, yes I am qualified.

 

I love linux, I love the whole open source movement. I do think sometime people get over evangelical about the cause (but only some times). I have Ubuntu 6.06 installed on a couple machines and I love it. That being said I don't think it is ready for prime time and here is why. I installed a fresh copy of Ubuntu and asked my mother to accomplish a few basic tasks (send an email, post to her blog, play a game and install a program). She was able to post to her blog and play a game. She could figure out the email client onher own and could not install a program on her own. I asked her to do the same tasks with Windows Vista. She had a small problem settingup her email but the wizard walked her thru the entire process. I call this the mom test. The last time I tried it she could only browse the web (she didn't have a blog at the time), so it have come a long ways.

I like the analogy of a car. Linux is definately a _tuners_ OS and Microsoft is the daily driver. Macs are the stuck up snobby Bentlys Eye

I hope I didn't hurt anyones feeeling I just call them as I see them. Peace out

ma_d wrote:Of course the

ma_d wrote:

Of course the reality is that geeks don't choose Linux. I know, shock. Geeks choose every major platform. For every Linux geek you find there's likely an equally proficient Windows geek, Mac Geek, BSD Geek, and who knows maybe even an OS/2 geek!
So if you're avoiding the geek's choice you should avoid PC's in general.

That's quite a good point. I suppose it used to be said that GNU/Linux geeks are more "geeky" than the rest because their OS required more effort to master. Today this is simply not true anymore. GNU/Linux is, all things considered, on par with Windows when it comes to ease of use. It is different, of course, but it is not supposed to be the same as Windows. Noone should expect it to be like Windows and noone should expect a desktop ready OS to be like Windows. Who says that Windows is the truest and best measure of a good desktop operating system? GNU/Linux may well be the one to set that standard and raise that bar as it continues its rapid evolution.

Archeious wrote:

She was able to post to her blog and play a game. She could figure out the email client onher own and could not install a program on her own.

First of all, welcome to Nuxified. Smiling

Maybe she couldn't have installed software on her own, but that's why you are here to do it for her and show her how she can do it as well. Noone can expect people to know everything at once. Her inability to install a new program on her own might not have anything to do with it being hard to do, but simply it being different to do on Ubuntu than on Windows XP. I believe Ubuntu has brought installing new programs to a level way beyond Windows in terms of ease and overall user experience.

I think that just isn't a strong enough evidence that Ubuntu isn't ready for "primetime". Smiling

Archeious wrote:

I like the analogy of a car. Linux is definately a _tuners_ OS and Microsoft is the daily driver. Macs are the stuck up snobby Bentlys

That sounds like an apt analogy, at least on the surface. But the thing is that GNU/Linux is not just one operating system like Windows or OSX. It is a whole world of operating systems. I could say that the term "GNU/Linux" here represents more of an OS platform rather than an OS itself. The OS itself is a specific distro like Ubuntu, SuSE, Arch, Slackware etc..

Within this world of GNU/Linux OS's you've got all kinds of types. And all kinds of car analogies could apply. For example, Gentoo and Arch are definitely "tuners" OS's while Ubuntu is already pretty much a casual driver's OS. I'm not sure about Bentlys yet, but I do believe we'll once have an option of that level too, only not so pricey. Eye

Thanks
Danijel

 
Quote:

That sounds like an apt analogy, at least on the surface. But the thing is that GNU/Linux is not just one operating system like Windows or OSX. It is a whole world of operating systems. I could say that the term "GNU/Linux" here represents more of an OS platform rather than an OS itself. The OS itself is a specific distro like Ubuntu, SuSE, Arch, Slackware etc..

Within this world of GNU/Linux OS's you've got all kinds of types. And all kinds of car analogies could apply. For example, Gentoo and Arch are definitely "tuners" OS's while Ubuntu is already pretty much a casual driver's OS. I'm not sure about Bentlys yet, but I do believe we'll once have an option of that level too, only not so pricey.

Thanks I think I will enjoy my visit to Nuxified. You are right, linux and GNU are not the same thing. (Just like a car is a vehicle but not all vehicle are cars). Personally I don't like to lump GNU in with Linux and vice versa. There are many F/OSS program that will run on other platforms. Apache, MySQL, PHP (the all mighty web development trifecta), GIMP, Ethereal, etc, etc. Linux is the operating system and a fine OS it is. I absolutely love it in a server enivroment. One of the benefits/problems with the _linux_ UI is the multitude of choices. KDE, GNOME, fwm, etc. I personally I like KDE more then GNOME but GNOME is the default in Ubuntu. Back to my analogy sometimes the lack of choice is the best choice. Most people don't know what a _hemi_ is or that most modern vehicles have hemispherical cylinder header. It is a choice placed before consumers that can lead to an uninformed decision. So is GNU/Linux ready for prime time is like asking if a car is ready to race in the Indy 500. Ubuntu could very well be the best contender and now that my mom knows how to install using Ubuntu she has promised me she will give it try.

Once again I love linux and I use it in many situation both personally and professionally. That being said I use Windows personally and professionaly as well. I also use F/OSS on both platforms professionally/personally. I like to consider myself an equal opportunity geek. As a side note I have almost convert the entire office to GIMP over photoshop and I turned a ton of people on to open office for their home computers.

Thank you for promoting free

Thank you for promoting free software and open standards!

I'm a bit confused about what you mean with GNU and what you mean with Linux. The definitions that I use are:
GNU - a set of utilities developed by the free software foundation
Linux - the kernel that Linus Torvalds created
GNU/Linux - the operating system you get when you combine the above (and usually some parts that are neither GNU nor Linux)

Note not all GPL'd software is GNU!

About choice: it is a good thing. If you want default choices made for you, you can choose a distribution that does so for you. This is also choice. If you like Ubuntu but prefer KDE, you should try Kubuntu.

Archeious wrote:Thanks I

Archeious wrote:

Thanks I think I will enjoy my visit to Nuxified.

Good to hear. Smiling

Archeious wrote:

You are right, linux and GNU are not the same thing. (Just like a car is a vehicle but not all vehicle are cars).

Actually I wasn't making a point about GNU and Linux or anything regarding their distinction. "GNU" does not represent all software in addition to the Linux kernel, but only the software produced as part of or in association of the GNU Project which was the the project of building a Free Operating System. So alot of the GNU tools are the necessary system tools for GNU/Linux to be a functioning OS. They infact already had everything but the kernel, a role which Linux kernel filled. When I say "GNU/Linux" I mean the OS, or as I pointed out, the OS platform.

Distros are something else. They're variations of this OS with different kinds of packaging and different sets of software. They're all still GNU/Linux.

Archeious wrote:

One of the benefits/problems with the _linux_ UI is the multitude of choices.

I consider that one of its biggest benefits actually.

Arhcheious wrote:

Back to my analogy sometimes the lack of choice is the best choice. Most people don't know what a _hemi_ is or that most modern vehicles have hemispherical cylinder header. It is a choice placed before consumers that can lead to an uninformed decision.

Actually I don't quite agree with that. Just because there are alot of choices doesn't mean that the user is forced to be the one to choose. If he doesn't want to bother then he should just let someone else choose for him. In most cases they will then be recommended Ubuntu and that's what they'll deal with. They wont be choosing between KDE or GNOME or Xfce or whatever. They'll just use what Ubuntu offers by default, GNOME.

It's not that choosing is a forced thing. It is an option. In the windows land you don't have this option. In GNU/Linux land you do, but you don't have to opt for it if you don't want to. Just let someone else do it for you.

Of course, alot of people do end up attracted by the option and want to choose for themselves, and that's the freedom they have.

Archeious wrote:

As a side note I have almost convert the entire office to GIMP over photoshop and I turned a ton of people on to open office for their home computers.

Three cheers for you! :cheer:

EDIT: Didn't see tbuitenh's comment above. He pretty much in short said what I meant to say. Smiling

 

it sounds like You, libervisco, and I have all been in the scene for a while. I for one still find the jargon confusing. I know what GPL means, I also know the difference between free software and open source software. The problem as I see it is mixing of terms. Using strict definitions GNU (the tools made by FSF) / Linux (operating system started by Linus Trovalds) is not useful until you load it with other applications. So in strict terms Ubuntu != GNU/Linux it is more like GNU/Linux/Gnome/etc/etc. IMHO this is one (if not the only) thing holding back wide adoption of GNU/Linux/whatever. Kubuntu (I need to try it out) != Ubuntu which is good for the likes of you and I.

Now let me put on my system adminstrator hat. That is terrible I have 700 computers running 100 different flavors. The window manager, word processor, speadsheet, and browsers could all be different. I am expected to help all users on all apps. This wouldn't be too bad if every application was completely bug free and interoperable. I say wouldn't be _too_ bad. I would still need to now how to do everything in every prorgam to support my users. I could always force my users to use my setup but then choice is eliminated. Unfortunately we run exclusively Microsoft XP desktop here at work. The main reason is we know all the MS products will work together. Through group policies I can enforce certain policies across the board (desktops are across several states).

If I could instantly train all my users how to use Ubuntu I would. This is one reason I am trying to get them to use F/OSS application that will run in Windows. If I can get enough users compfortable with OpenOffice and Gimp then it shouldn't be too hard to switch out the underlying OS. General users (not us geeky types) don't care about OSes or F/OSS versus proprietary, they care about "Will this make my life/job easier."

Sorry for the detour, back to my point. Expereinced users like ourself cannot agree on a standard, wether that standard if jargon, distro, or window manager. This is great for experienced or curious users. Long live choice. This is terrible to the average user who just wants to surf the web and make movies. Non-standards also make my life as a systems administrator a nightmare.

Archeious wrote:The

Archeious wrote:

The problem as I see it is mixing of terms. Using strict definitions GNU (the tools made by FSF) / Linux (operating system started by Linus Trovalds) is not useful until you load it with other applications.

"Linux" is not an operating system, but merely a kernel which on its own isn't of much use. Coupled with GNU tools it forms, even if minimal, a functional operating system. Adding stuff like X, GNOME and applications is simply adding things on top of that operating system. How much you can add is pretty much limited only by the amount of disk space you have.

GNU also represents the phylosophy behind Free Software in general which is the biggest reason why alot of us still don't give in to abbreviating the whole OS as just "Linux", by its kernel. We want to acknowledge the original true goals behind Free Software which were the goals behind GNU Project.

Archeious wrote:

If I could instantly train all my users how to use Ubuntu I would. This is one reason I am trying to get them to use F/OSS application that will run in Windows. If I can get enough users compfortable with OpenOffice and Gimp then it shouldn't be too hard to switch out the underlying OS. General users (not us geeky types) don't care about OSes or F/OSS versus proprietary, they care about "Will this make my life/job easier."

It is a process. It is reasonable not to expect the switch to be instant. Doing it one step a time is good as long as you reach the goal. Is it worth the effort? It must be considering monetary savings, independancy from proprietary vendors and their control and the flexibility of GNU/Linux as an unix like platform. But you know that. Smiling

Archeious wrote:

Sorry for the detour, back to my point. Expereinced users like ourself cannot agree on a standard, wether that standard if jargon, distro, or window manager. This is great for experienced or curious users. Long live choice. This is terrible to the average user who just wants to surf the web and make movies. Non-standards also make my life as a systems administrator a nightmare.

I don't think choice equals absence of standards. Ubuntu and SuSE may pretty much set the standard of GNU/Linux desktop computing and that's what you too can standardize on as an offering for your users. Not all GNU/Linux distributions are of the same popularity and user base. Currently Ubuntu has the largest market and mind share and hence it's a flag bearer of GNU/Linux which will be supported, much like Windows is, everywhere. It is a good option to standardize your offerings on.

So what if hundreds of other distros exist besides it. They can do what they wish and users who want to use that will use that. The rest who just want everything by default and chosen for them will use one of the "standard" GNU/Linux distribution that will be supported by most commercial entities.

Has anyone tried to install Win2k or XP recently?

 

I agree. The idea that Linux is any more difficult to install than Windows is a total fallacy today, which is perpetuated by the fact that no one ever 'installs' Windows.

I installed Win2k on a hand-me-down computer for my girlfriend (at her insistence), and it was the biggest pain in the rear ever to find the appropriate video/sound/ethernet drivers and get the hardware working without the original driver CDs. I booted up a live CD of Puppy Linux to get some more info out of the machine, and all the hardware worked perfectly out of the box. You can't say that about Windows. And upgrading to Vi