An Idiot’s Tale of Choosing a Linux Distro

I am a long-time Windows user. I started using Windows back with Windows 3.1. I went through 95, 98, served a brief prison sentence with Windows ME, moved to 2000, then XP, and now Vista. So, I’ve pretty much used them all. The newest incarnation (Vista) is a mixed bag, to say the least. On my notebook computer, Vista runs pretty well. On my desktop, it can be an annoying experience. I am actually contemplating bringing the desktop BACK to Windows XP Media Center (which is what it originally came with). Windows XP is SO much more dependable.

This mixed Vista experience (and of course the fact that I own and write for a tech website) has led me to pay more attention to Linux. Now, I have also thought about getting a Mac. I may do so at a later date, but I am pretty much resigned to the fact that I will have to pay through the nose in order to “share in the Apple experience”. Linux, on the other hand, is completely free. The problem is that I am not much of a Linux guy. Rich is more the Linux guy around here. I know just enough to be dangerous. So, I was confused by all the myriad of distros out there. There are just TONS of them. How the hell am I supposed to choose a Linux distro? And what did I ultimately settle on (for now)?

Read on…

Ubuntu Linux

The first distro I installed and tried was Ubuntu. Ubuntu has a lot of buzz surrounding it today. It is marketed as a replacement for Windows. The problem is that it is anything BUT a replacement for Windows. As far as Linux goes, it’s a fairly easy operating system to use. But, in my view, it isn’t too much better than other distros available today. In fact, in some ways, it’s not as good. I do like the Add/Remove feature in Ubuntu which allows easy installation and un-installation of applications. That is a life saver today, because installing programs in Linux is REALLY confusing when one is used to the simplicity of Windows.

Driver support was good, but not good enough. Ubuntu could not properly detect my video card, so I was using a big wide screen monitor with 1024×768 resolution. I thought that I could just install the driver and be done with it. Well, how Microsoft of me, I guess! I found an Nvidia driver, installed it, and NOTHING CHANGED. I ended up having to mess with the xorg.conf file in gedit to manually configure the monitor. And each time I restarted the desktop, the mouse cursor would disappear. I had to reboot the whole machine to get my cursor back. When all is said and done, I still did not get the display working correctly with Ubuntu.

Ubuntu has some nice plus points, but it is not a Windows replacement. If you stay inside the Ubuntu box, you’re fine. As soon as that box is not quite big enough, Ubuntu shows it’s true Linux, command-line loving roots.

Kubuntu Linux

I tried Kubuntu as well. Kubuntu and Ubuntu are exactly the same except that Ubuntu use the Gnome desktop and Kbuntu uses KDE. So, essentially its the same operating system with a different face. But, I actually prefer KDE, so I thought I would give Kubuntu a try. Well, being that it is the same Ubuntu core, I had the same driver problems.

I do want to mention that Ubuntu and Kubuntu both have very user-friendly installations. The distro I ultimately installed to my computer had a more confusing installation, but the Ubuntu products have it down in that department.

Linspire and Freespire

Somehow these distros ended up on my radar. It seems these things have been really overshadowed by Ubuntu, but they caught my eye because the company has really tried to make the Linspire products a true Windows replacement. For example, they are not opposed to putting proprietary software into their distro. Thank you! Generally, I really admire how the open source community tries to do everything for free. But, sometimes proprietary is the best way to get the job done. In my opinion, the Linux community sometimes shoots itself in the foot by being so anti-commercialism.

Linspire is built on top of the Ubuntu 7.04 core. What they did, though, was add CNR, the KDE desktop, some specially coded applications, codecs and proprietary drivers. CNR is the software library provided by Linspire. It provides one-click installation of Linux software into the Linspire operating system. Most of the stuff in the library is free, but they do include some commercial software (usually at a discount).

My hope with Freespire was to provide enough of a commercial mix to Linux to make it easier to use. Problem is, not everything worked. For example, when I tried to search CNR for something, I simply got the same screen to reload. That was completely useless. And aside from that, I was having the same driver problems at the start. So, there I was with some annoyances but no easy way to fix it. So, it just didn’t seem polished enough for me.

PC Linux OS

Rich gave me this distro on a CD. I tried it out and I was impressed. Right away, it properly detected my video card and monitor and displayed at the native resolution of my monitor. By this point, this was a welcome relief because most other distros couldn’t get it right. Now, it didn’t QUITE get it right. While showing at the right resolution, the driver was not supporting any of the 3D capabilities of the card. This meant that I could not enable Beryl (which is built in). So, I used the Synaptic package manager to download and install Nvidia proprietary drivers. I restarted the desktop and I was able to enable Beryl with no problems at all. I was floored. So far, PC Linux OS seemed to be awesome. It didn’t have a nice add/remove feature like Ubuntu, but it did have the package manager. I’ll trade the fancy software library for working hardware any time.

The installation of PC Linux OS was not as user-friendly as that of Ubuntu. I was scared that it would format and overwrite Windows and I saw nothing which walked me through it in the install. But, by this point, I was happy with PCLinuxOS so I wanted to install it. I installed a spare SATA drive into my computer and gave the installation permission to format the whole drive. It worked fine and I am now dual booting PC Linux OS alongside Windows XP on my spare Gateway.

Long Story Short

If I am going to use Linux, I need to be able to get my work done on it without being confused. I am a very computer literate guy, but I am also a Windows guy. Linux is a different world, and quite frankly, I didn’t WANT it to be that different. If I have to open up Terminal and type anything into a command line, I’m angry. This is 2007, guys, and I see no reason why I should have to do anything by command line in a modern operating system. Ubuntu is the latest craze in Linux, but it is that distro that caused me to have to learn some of the command line functions. It was ridiculous.

In the end of this latest trek into the Linux world, I come out of it with PC Linux OS installed to my computer. It works well, it detected my hardware properly, and (like magic) I haven’t had to touch the command line even once.


  1. Hey Dave,

    Why not try Xandros. Its’ not free but is very easy to use distro.

  2. What’s wrong with command line? In a lot of cases, it’s a hell of a lot more versatile than a GUI. The only difference is that you actually have to learn the command line, whereas with a GUI you can learn on-the-fly as all of the options are printed on the screen. Same story with manual configuration.

    After learning the Unix/Linux command line, I’ve found that there are many things I can do in that would take me 2x longer to do via GUIs in Windows. (I can type one line as opposed to modifying check-boxes in several separate windows)

    The whole point of Linux and OSS is choice. You can do whatever the hell you want to your OS and software. The problem is that this choice comes with a learning curve, and only computer enthusiasts really care about or understand the benefits of these offerings.

    Case in point: After reading your initial graphics display problems in Ubuntu, I thought of 3 different possible fixes that you didn’t cover.

    Granted, I’m a Computer Engineering/Biology double major, know several programming languages and like to learn this stuff for fun (I currently use Slackware Linux), so maybe I’m a bit unusual in this respect. 🙂

    Linux will probably never be a viable competitor to Windows on the Desktop. It’s designed by geeks, who generally have a hard time understanding how the average person thinks about computers. However, as a server OS, it’s hard to beat.

  3. I’ve met a few of these people who think the shell (“command line”) is somehow antiquated and has no place in their idea of a modern operating system. Not surprisingly, they’re all Windows guys. MSDOS had a command line and no pictures or pretty colors. Therefore, they associate the command line with monochrome antiquity.

    In fact, computers are far too complex and powerful for all their capabilities to be effectively mapped to a two- or even three-dimensional video busybox. There will always be a need for a shell by which the knowledgeable computer user can punch through the candy coating to access the rest of the machine.

    Funny, unix has its GUIs as well, but nobody in the unix community has ever proposed abandoning the shell. What a ridiculous idea. Why throw away the most powerful tool in the box?

  4. Open Source Man says:

    One thing you must keep in mind. If you want to run Linux, you need to have Linux friendly hardware. You don’t run out and try to install OsX on a Windows machine do you? I think it is silly when people try to install Linux on hardware that isn’t supported well by the Linux community. If you have poorly supported hardware, you will get mixed results, depending on your distro.

    I like to play with open-source software. As usual, I have more than one Linux distro installed on my machine. Right now I have Mandriva, Ubuntu, Kubuntu, and I have one unused partition waiting for another distro. One thing I have learned is it really doesn’t matter what distro you have, it’s all the same open source software.

    To get your video drivers working in Ubuntu, there is a nice program called Envy. It does everything and more for you in a nice Windows kinda way. 🙂 When it is done you even have the NVidia controls installed in the “System Tools” menu. All you have to do is click “Yes” and “Next” through the whole install, just like in Windows.

    If you want to experiment with Linux, install Mandriva. It will install KDE, Gnome, and a couple other windows managers. It also installs the KDE and Gnome versions of most software.

    I have an Electrical Engineering degree, so I am very technically inclined, but that doesn’t mean I like the command line. Who has time to memorize all the commands for all the software out there. I prefer GUI’s, however, at times the command line is way easier.

  5. give Linux Mint a try

  6. Hi Dave,
    I have lots of problems with my video card, too. Distros that have detected and displayed correctly (for me) include the following:

    Linux Mint

    All these worked straight off the bat, a blessed relief. There’s lots I like about Ubuntu, but they are still missing the boat by making people with cards that _only_ run on fglrx, have to get down and dirty for things to work.

  7. Chris Pollard says:

    I’ve been using linux at home 100% windows-free for a few years now. PCLinuxOS was the first REAL contender for my everyday desktop, although I had started out in Mandrake 8/9 dual-booting years earlier.

    SimplyMEPIS is another great distro that I used for a while, but Warren was always playing catch-up with the latest and greatest. Okay, CURRENT. It was always behind because of the Debian tie, part of the reason he tried going ‘buntu as the base.

    I also used Kubuntu on my desktop for a few months, but never found it satisfying. Nothing was ever quite ‘right’. So when Texstar got the first betas of PCL 2007 out, I was hooked once again. PCLOS 2007 has been running FLAWLESSLY for me. The repos may not be as big as the *buntu crowd’s, but they DO have everything I need in them. And if there’s something you need that isn’t there, you can just ask for the package in the support forums and Tex or his devs will often make it available if enough people want it. That’s service!!

    PCLinuxOS is bar none the best linux distro I’ve ever used. The buntus get all the hype, but I found them a real PITA to configure and make work the way I wanted them too. And that was with several years of OTHER distros under my belt!

  8. It is different. For us that like it. The difference is nice. If you like XP, use it. It works fine for the majority of PC users in the world. If you really want something different, equally as useful, but different, use Linux and only Linux for a few months. It is likely you won’t go back.

  9. Actually, I tend to drop to the Windows command line more than I do Linux, and for exactly the same reason you did with Ubuntu – “something” goes wrong, and that’s the best way to fix it on *any* OS.

    Nonetheless, I’m pleased you found a distribution of Linux that works well for you. One MAJOR advantage of Linux over Windows is *choice* – if you don’t like the one you have, you can always try the next one on the list. With Windows, the list is only one item long.

    Isn’t freedom sweet? 🙂

  10. David, like most users the command line scares you. I understand, I lived this way once, however, I decided to learn to use the command line on Linux. Of course, being a Windows developer, I was mighty familar with it anyway.

    The command line is the best thing ever. I get way more done by typing than I do using a mouse. I spend 10% of my time in a GUI now, the GUI just lets me open about 100 terminals for getting my work done.

    Check it out.

  11. The first distro you installed and tried was ubuntu, had problems and decided that it wasn’t much better than the other distros (which of course you hadn’t tried yet.) You never got it working properly but decided you prefer Gnome over KDE.
    I use PCLinux OS. It is the best distro I have tried and I have been a disto hopper for a couple of years, so I agree with your assestment of that OS. However I feel that perhaps your writing talents lean more toward a fiction writer base on the pure bs of your article.

  12. There is _NOTHING_ wrong with using the command line. I work for a company that is 99% Windows, and I routinely use the command line. For example, if I need to get my IP address, it’s a hell of a lot easier to type “ipconfig” at the command line than anything else. Another example, if I need to find the user logged into a workstation and the netbios name of the workstation, and I only have the IP…. nbtstat -A IPADDY. Done.

    GUIs are a crutch. They allow joe-schmoe to use his computer, but not actually command it. A GUI makes the OS the controller, not the controllee. The command line always has been, and always will be, more powerful than a GUI, no matter what OS you use. OSX, Windows, Linux, BSD, etc…

    I routinely show my boss at work, a 10 year Windows engineer, all these things he can do at a command line in 5 seconds… Things that would take him 5 minutes to do pointing and clicking. Like it or not, the command line has been around a lot longer than GUIs, and have had a lot more time to mature. No matter which OS you choose, a GUI will always be a crutch.

  13. Well, sometimes a change in using a tool as in this case a new OS requires a change in mindset and the way in doing things. The reason for having an alternative OS or software, besides being free and open, is to try to approach a problem and do things differently in hope that it is better. Software developers will have ideas of creating a good software and even they backtrack on their ideas and often redo their programs. Linux is an OS unlike Windows and it will never be like Windows. What’s the point of being like Windows since we know what’s wrong with Windows? You really need to face the fact that Linux requires the users to change the way we do things.

  14. TangoMikeMike says:

    LINUX is NOT Windows….

  15. I agree with Scott. Linux will not make it big in desktop and in server world it is good.
    Although I am bi-os(ual) [my term of saying i use both linux and windows where appropriate], I do admire the architecture or windows and its ease of use and ability to get things done without confusing the hell. Linux is about freedom. We are free to chose and do whatever we want. Mostly we want things done with ease and be secure. So for few things Linux is damn good as compared to windows.
    A desktop user dont want “possible fixes”. Possible is the biggest drawback of opensource. It may or may not work. Windows will and always with me has worked the way it was supposed to be.

  16. I can see your point, but at one point you had to learn how to use windows as well. I have a Dell laptop that is probably about a year old that I (used) to dual boot with XP, then later Vista. After a fresh windows install, none of my hardware was detected, no wireless, NIC, sound, Card Reader etc. But I have learned through the years of using windows how to remedy this, you download the drivers, install-reboot, install-reboot until all the exclamation points are gone in device manager.

    The same can be said for Linux. Ubuntu happens to detects all of my laptops hardware out of the box accept the video card, but through my years of using Linux I know how to remedy this as well. And soon I had 3D and beryl etc.

    I guess my point is, Windows, Linux, OSX etc. they are all different operating systems and have different ways of doing things. At one point you had to learn the ins and outs of Windows until you felt comfortable with it. You cant expect Linux to act like Windows because it isn’t Windows. If you want to spend the time getting to know Linux like you have with Windows you may like it, then again you may not.

  17. I’ve been a PCLinuxOS user for almost a year, and believe me I tried many distros before, it’s a hopper stoper.

    Now, I don’t use windows anymore. I’m not a programer, for me the computer it’s a tool that help me to do my work and sometimes a center for recreation also.

    PCLinxOS has a plus, the community in the forums, where there is not a stupid question, just questions and respectful answers.

  18. I have a LINUX blog called, I write about Linux from a Writer’s point of view, I am not a Programmer, just an Advanced User! I highly recommend Fedora 7, it is a replacement for Windoze and a supplement to MAC OS X! It is the offspring of the defunct Red Hat Linux, research it at

  19. Have You tried openSUSE ? The finale stable version 10.3 will be available on Oct 4th in this year.

    IMHO is much frendier distro than the others

    – most of the things You can play around using YAST – graphical interface with 100 modules to configure Your desktop and server.

    Of course installation its sometimes annoying but the after that – windows and other dstros doesent count.

    soryy for my english 🙂

    “Linux will probably never be a viable competitor to Windows on the Desktop”

    no, you wrong – its matter of time 😛 … when game geeks developers finaly will see that… the rest You can write yourself 😉

    “It’s designed by geeks, who generally have a hard time understanding how the average person thinks about computers.”

    happily the geeks starteg listening the users => hello – KDE 4 :> and maybe openSUSE 11 😀 😉

  20. I can understand that if you have been a Win-person for long enough, the command line must seem like an antiquated anachronism in the year 2007. Indeed, dropping to a ‘cmd’ shell in windows is a PITA, and often a frustrating experience. That mostly because the windows command prompt is so … useless.

    However, take your time to get used to the power of a Unix shell, and you may come to realise that the command line is in fact a Killer-App that sets linux well apart from Windows. Sure, there are a lot of strange little commands available from the command line that (on their own) seem to be fairly useless. But string them together, and you soon discover that you have the most amazingly powerful tool at your fingertips. In the Unix world – the command line is like having a handful of magic nano-dust that you can chuck at a problem and reduce it to something simple.

    Here are some tiny examples of some tasks that you can do from the unix command line with a 1-liner, which are just not possible to do under a pointy-clicky interface :

    – Ouch, im running out of diskspace! give me a list of just directory names which currently contain over 300MB of data.
    – Go (recursively) through this directory, and for every image that you find (in jpg,gif,png format), create a thumbnail image 256 pixels high in .gif format, add a watermark to the image based on the filename, and store the thumbnail in this other directory over here. There might be a dozen images, or there might be millions of them.
    – Get a list of names out of this SQL database over here, generate a .wav file for each one that says ‘Hello _name_’, and then email that generated file to each of them in turn.
    – Go through the the 300,000+ files on this CD, and for whichever files are ascii text files (regardless of file name extension), replace the spelling of ‘center’ with ‘centre’, eject the CD, and then burn a new CD with the fixed up files.
    – Dont want my flatmates using my internet connection whilst Im out tonight – so at 6pm, turnoff the ethernet controller (to disable all web access). Turn it back on after 4am, when I expect to get home.

    We are NOT talking about writing programs here – these are just 1-liners that you can type in at the command prompt once you discover the magic. You dont need any fancy add-on applications to do any of this – its all there with a vanilla install of Linux. Its quite powerful. Of course, if you want to write a batch file or a more powerful scripted program, things can get a whole lot more powerful ! Then of course, you can get into real programming and even modify the kernel if you want.

    You might say ‘Thats just excessive – I dont ever need to do anything that complicated !!’ .. well have a think about that comment. Do you genuinely NOT need to do things like this on Windows, because doing them would be too hard or way too time consuming ? When you find that doing things like this is really easy – you will find yourself doing it more and more. When something hideous raises its head, you can confidently think ‘Ah yeah – I reckon I can do that’, and off you go. No need to write a program, no need to scour the internet for some special utility program, no need to sit there for hours clicking the mouse in some repetitivve machine-like fashion.

    With good command line competence, you will find yourself infinitely more productive than Windows ever allowed you to be. A GUI+mouse is great for some tasks, but it quickly gets in the way when the task at hand is large scale and requires repeatable precision. Any of the examples I listed above could be done purely by clicking around in explorer and doing things manually using the basic tools that come with Windows, but would take hours if not days, and mistakes would be common.

    So please, have a think and be prepared to spend some time with that ‘Old fashioned stone-age command line’. You might well be overlooking something incredibly valuable

  21. Sigh – is softwareinstallation really difficult? I right click a package in Konqueror and select “install” (OpenSuse).
    The software installation system in UNIX/LINUX is far more sophisticated than anything MS has ever offered. For example, you actually can get a list of the files getting installed, after an installtion you can see which file belongs to which software and so on.
    You might have a look at the packetmangement system

  22. who said that type commands is not modern ? is a super duper windows gui more modern that type a simple and clear command well documented and specific for a task command ?

    who said it was more functional pick everithing with the mouse and get your hand stressed that type some 5 or 6 letters ?

  23. I must just be lucky, but after using Ubuntu (and the other ‘buntus), Xandros, Mint, Dream, Suse, and a few others, I’ve only had a problem with a driver once. That was with Ubuntu Edgy. It worked, but I needed the Nvidia drivers for Beryl. It took some effort but not much thanks to the ‘buntu forums. Feisty was even easier to set up. I use Ubuntu Feisty exclusively on my desktop and laptop and have had no issues since. My lack of problems may be that I fully embraced Linux and read 3 books on it during my transition. RTFM, anyone? Since I’ve seen the “Total Moron’s Guide to Windows” in several book stores I know people buy those to learn Windows. The soloutions for nearly any issue in Linux is as close as google. It sounds as though the author was not so much trying to convert as dabble. If you only dabble (and expect basicially a free MS OS) you’ll be lost for a while. If you’re really interested, do some research. But as I said before, maybe I’m just lucky and should start playing the lottery.

  24. Linux is not windows. I’ve been using Mepis for years. Did you learn how to use windows overnight? I can do alot more on my linux box than I ever thought about in windows and not have to worry about all of windows viruses and malware (without the command line) I’m tired of these people expecting Linux to be exactly like windoze and then complaining when it’s not. It’s better – just give yourself a little time to learn

  25. As with any other *different* technology one needs to invest time in learning it. There was no real sense to try tens of distros if you are not ready to spend time on any of them to learn it a bit. You could get any of them doing the job for you if you wanted, yet what you wanted was to complain that they are all bad. If this is so, do you think anybody will whine if you go back to Windows? No body will give a damn. And this is the real question: why would anybody bother if you are going to be a Linux user (“If I am going to use Linux…”). It is like you think every body else cannot wait to see you or some other ignorant person to be a Linux user. What is in it for us? What is in there for me, being perfectly fine with *any* OS, from the fact that you are or you are not going to use Linux? The technology *is* there, it was not designed for you specifically and it is not a question if *you* specifically is going to use it as there are many people who find that it serves their needs, pretty much any distribution. And those people are also happy with the way this technology is evolving.

  26. David,

    Part of your experience is because of hardware manufacturers unwillingness to release Linux drivers, so the Linux community in some cases has had to create generic drivers for chipsets. As for your comment regarding the command line, the command line is not an antiquated interface. If you think about it, the command line with parameters permits command shell scripting. Don’t forget that Linux inherits UNIX’s design philosophy, and before Linux, UNIX was the OS for many users, multi processor setups. The are many jobs and processes in a computer that are better controlled by a script than a check off or a field in a window. Just because command lines have been around for a long time does not mean they are invalid. If anything, time has proven their utility. Another thing to consider is scripts tend to work in later revisions of the same OS. Command line arguments tend to be maintained and extended for more functionality. As a single desktop user, you may not appreciate this, but start maintaining a network or many users and machines, and you begin to realize the importance of automating some sys admin operations to save you time and make results consistent. Trust me, it’s work learning the command line, it’s worth learning to shell script, and it is worth spending the time to understand the underlying philosophy of Linux/UNIX. The modularity of the Linux OS (I’m talking more than just the kernel here) allows the OS to scale in many directions. Windows is much more monolithic because of the extra code it employs to encapsulate everything behind a graphical interface and Microsoft is having increasing trouble getting their products out on time because of all that encapsulation.

  27. Afraid of the command line?

    Read “In the Beginning was the Command Line” by Neal Stephenson

    It says it all.


  28. “Linux is a different world, and quite frankly, I didn’t WANT it to be that different. ”

    If it weren’t different, what would be the point of changing from what you have now? If you switch to Mac you will discover that it is also different from Windows. You’ve forgotten that once you had to learn Windows. If you want to change to something else, you will have to learn something else. That’s life.

    Anyway, I’m glad you found a distro you like so quickly. Enjoy!

  29. Congrats on getting Linux up and running!

    I chose PC Linux OS on my machine as well, and I agree. I’m no stranger to the commandline, and I still use it from time to time simply because I know how to do things there, but everything I’ve wanted to do I’ve been able to do from the GUI with PCLOS. My reason for using it was similar to your’s, I have a video card with hard to find drivers. PCLOS was able to detect not only that, but my onboard wireless with no issues at all. The only things that don’t work are some of the extra proprietary keys IBM has on the keyboard.

  30. If you don’t want Linux to be different from Windows, well, there’s no reason why you should use Linux.
    Linux works so well _because_ it’s entirely different from windows; if you want the advantages, you have to get used to a different world. Sorry.

  31. You know that in vista you need to use the command-line for some of the more powerful functions, ie, changing the options for its bootloader.

    I’m of the opinion that you shouldn’t have to do anything with the commandline, especially when you are setting things up, but being blunt the CLI is so useful when you know how to use it that it’s foolish to say it’s antiquated – that it the windows view because you used to use MS-DOS… the linux shell is much better, much more useful and once you spend some time with it completely indispensable.

    MS kept the ability to open a DS prompt for a reason, even if the MS version has nothing on the linux one, the CLI is a very valuable tool.

    What version of ubuntu were you using, I’ve found the only version that works properly is 7.10 (testing ver 5), but damn does it work well! Personally I find PCLinuxOS annoying, but that’s mostly because it uses KDE (I find KDE annoying and it’s little pictures childish, it just irritates whereas I find GNOME functional – maybe KDE4 will change all that?) and it’s attempts to integrate NDISWrapper were just a mess at installation time, whereas on ubuntu 7.10 it was all out of the box working, even resolution too.

    Given that it’s so easy to install proprietary drivers, software etc (at least in ubuntu 7.10) I tend to see this as a non-issue, but it would be nice to atleast get a big fat message telling you why it’s not included, and a big fat button saying take care of it! This is almost the case anyway, hence my lack of problem.

    Personally, I think it’s just a little rough around the edges, and a little spit and polish would do it wonders – along with focus group with the target audience, ie, current (happy) windows users. Then atleast linux would be properly ready – if it would be used is another question. Only just beating Win98 hurts, it hurts bad…

  32. David, thank you so much for having the courage to say what many other Windows users think when they try to use Linux:


    The whole problem with Linux is that the true geek crowd has decided that the command line is a great thing, and they look down their noses at people who don’t want to use it. Unfortunately, by acting that way, they are assuring that most desktop computers will be running something other than Linux for the foreseeable future.

    What they don’t seem to “get” is that this hurts them as much as it does us. They wonder why they can’t get drivers for some types of hardware, or why certain games aren’t offered in a Linux-compatible format. Well, maybe that’s because only about 10% of the desktop computers run Linux (and that’s probably an optimistic estimate). If you develop primarily for Windows machines, why would you care about a small minority of Linux users, especially when they treat you like bastard stepchildren the moment you express a desire to use a GUI rather than a command line?

    Some people say using the command line is easier. Well, some people say playing the piano is easy, but that doesn’t mean everyone can do it. Some people would like nothing more than to take apart the engine on their car and try to make it run with maximum performance (and look down their nose at those of us who take our cars to the quick oil change place), but most people just want to drive their cars and couldn’t care less about what’s in the engine.

    Linux users, by virtue of the fact that Linux is still harder to use than Windows, tend to have a higher percentage of the “let’s rip the (software) engine apart and see how it works” people. What they have not figured out is that most users are not like them, and not only that, most users have no desire whatsoever to be like them. They just want to use the computer. They may hate the direction that Windows is taking, they may hate the fact that it is insecure and buggy, but that doesn’t mean they want to become command-line lovin’ geeks.

    The geeks, perhaps because of their poor social skills (many geeks have Aspergers’ Syndrome) simply can’t fathom this. They think that because they view the world in a certain way, ever other right-thinking person should too. Therefore, if you express a preference not to use the command line, they feel they must at least jump in and try to correct your wrong thinking (as several here have done). Failing that, they feel perfectly justified in putting you in your place, letting you know that perhaps you don’t “deserve” to use Linux because you don’t have the right mindset (theirs). They may not say it quite that way but it’s certainly how they come across.

    I wish someone would start a blog or a forum specifically for people who have used Windows for quite some time, and who maybe want to dip their toes in the waters of Linux, but who do not think of themselves as geeks, and simply want to use the computer without having to learn a bunch of arcane commands. By the way, ever notice that most Linux commands are not the least bit mnemonic? For example, whereas MSDOS used DIR (for Directory) and Apple used CAT (for Catalog), Linux uses ls (what’s that stand for? Linux sucks?). It’s almost as if some sadist decided early on that people would have to memorize a bunch of meaningless commands in order to do anything in this OS.

    Anyway, if I were running such a forum, I’d have two rules: If you ever tell another user to use the command line, you’re out of here. You MIGHT get excused if there is absolutely, positively no other way to do some task by using a GUI, but the words “command line” or “command prompt” or “open a terminal window” would normally be considered grounds for being booted from the forum.

    And my second rule would be, if you ever tell another user to f’ing Google it, you’re out. If someone asks a question and you don’t know the answer, then simply refrain from replying. Ditto if you DO know the answer but don’t want to be bothered typing it out (or at least pasting a specific URL where someone can go to get the information).

    And for crying out loud, you Linux geeks, see your doctors about that Aspergers. There are medications out there that will help you stop feeling like you are God and that your way is the only right way. Just because someone doesn’t want to do things your way doesn’t mean you have an obligation to jump in and correct them! I can guarantee you that such “help” isn’t appeciated. Don’t get me wrong, the world needs the “mechanics” that can figure out how things are done by delving into the innards, but there are also plenty of people who just want to press on the gas (or click on the mouse) and go. Neither group is “wrong” but it is wrong to think that everyone in the world should belong to only one of those groups, both because no one should try to force their opinions on others, and because it never works when you try to do it, but it sure irritates people. In this case, many of the sufficiently irritated either go back to Windows, or go on to some other OS (such as Mac OS X).

  33. Thanks for giving Linux a fair shake. You can read my response to your article on my blog.

  34. You don’t know Jack…post #32

    **”Well, maybe that’s because only about 10% of the desktop computers run Linux (and that’s probably an optimistic estimate).”**

    This is what GM said about Japanese imports back in the 80s…..

    **”Linux users, by virtue of the fact that Linux is still harder to use than Windows”**

    My 75 year old mother who knows how to point and click will disagree with you….got her working on Mandriva with her Microsoft Bicycle Games using wine…she is paying her bills on line…thunderbird for mail etc…

    **”And for crying out loud, you Linux geeks, see your doctors about that Aspergers.”**


  35. David writes:

    Now, I have also thought about getting a Mac. I may do so at a later date, but I am pretty much resigned to the fact that I will have to pay through the nose in order to “share in the Apple experience”.

    Exactly where you store your money and how you disburse it in payment for goods and services is your own matter, but please don’t perpetuate this myth about Macs.

    Do this simple experiment, let’s say with the Dell Inspiron line, or even the new 1330: Configure your choice with the same specifications, minus the illuminated keyboard and IEEE-1394/800 which will not be available, as the MacBook Pro Core 2 Duo Santa Rosa chip set and LED display.

    If you’re interested, or qualify, use the student/educator portal on both Web sites, and get back to us what Dell’s got that will even come close to Apple’s $1799. We won’t even get into Vista vs. OS X, Leopard due in a few weeks.

    What I believe you meant to say, and the only kernel of accuracy to this urban legend, is that one can purchase a Windows OS computer cheaper than an OS X OS computer.

    Not a fanboy here, as I’ve been using Linux for 10 years now starting with RH 5.1…just a seeker of truth.


  36. @frank: “…please don’t perpetuate this myth about Macs… Configure your choice with the same specifications…”

    OK, I’m game. Using and, I selected these systems respectively (feel free to follow along in your own browser):

    Dell Inspiron 530N / Apple Mac Mini
    1.8 GHz dual core Pentium / 1.83 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo
    1 GB 667MHz DDR2 SDRAM / 1 GB 667MHz DDR2 SDRAM
    160 GB 7200 RPM Disk / 160 GB Disk
    16x DVD+RW Drive / Combo Drive
    10,100 Ethernet / 10,100,1000 Ethernet
    10 USB 2.0 ports / 4 USB 2.0 ports
    IEEE-1394a port / FireWire port
    Ubuntu Linux 7.04 / Mac OS X 10.4 Tiger

    That’s quite similar hardware – faster Ethernet on the Mac, more USB ports on the PC; the PC can write DVDs and CDs, the Mac only CDs; but otherwise the systems are nicely comparable.

    Pricing? The PC is $459, the Mac is $847, or 85% more than the PC. Try it for yourself. It only takes a minute.

    Or try a Dell Inspiron Notebook 1420 N vs. similarly configured Apple MacBook – $974 vs. $1099 (I selected a faster CPU and larger screen on the Inspiron than on the Apple, just for fun). Configuring these systems is left as an exercise for the reader.

    As long as the topic is price, David’s claim is no myth: Apple does indeed cost significantly more. I’m happy to grant that Apple’s quality of hardware, styling, and service are top shelf; but you *pay* for those features, even (arguably) “through the nose” as David said.

    You have to decide if the “Apple experience” is worth the extra money. If so, I’m delighted. Choice is a Good Thing.

    I’m not anti-Apple, just pro-truth. 🙂

  37. If Linux is truly about choice shouldn’t the Users have a choice to not use the CLI?

    If a hardware vendor offers “Closed” drivers shouldn’t a Desktop Linux distribution use them? Is it about the users or the politics of FOSS?

    No matter how you fight it Windows has set the standard in look and feel. To get people to switch and feel comfortable may mean you have to look and feel some what similar to Windows. That does not negate in anyway Linux or how things work differently under the hood.

    Isn’t the offering of different Linux distributions the reason to give people a choice. If you like the CLI stick with Ubuntu or Gentoo or any other distribution that requires you to use it. IF you like that it’s your choice. However a vast majority of Normal Computer Desktop users are not familiar with the CLI as the only reason in Windows you need to go to the command prompt is to troubleshoot or fix something that’s broke.

    The main issue with Linux Desktops that claim to be Desktop oriented is that they’ve disconnected from true Desktop users. They can’t relate. YOu can see it with their users who post comments like Windows is not Linux, The CLI is a powerful tool etc.. The common Desktop user could care less about those comments. They just want it to work like it did in Windows or better. Unless you can offer that you’ve missed the boat.

  38. command line should be optional. if the linux community dreams to convert windows users to linux users, there should be minimal usage of command line. end users are lazy, enough said.

  39. Jared, well said! I was going to write something but you said it better than I ever could have. I have found PCLinuxOS to be the one for me, like they say “it just works out of the box”. I like the forum at they are friendly and take the time to help.
    I still use Windows for somethings but for everyday use I use PCLinuxOS. I am 71 years old and do not want to go back to the “DOS” days of using a computer. Now if you do that is OK, but I think it is OK if I don’t

  40. Oh my it looks like it was Jack who wrote what I liked not Jared. Who ever it was “Good Job”.

  41. TangoMIkeMike says:

    If DELL configures a Linux PC the way it does WIN…you will use the command line as much as you do in WIN which is NIL…Mandriva has a control panel to configure just about every hardware and much more options than ther is in the WIN control panel…I have family members using Mandriva and they don’t know what a console or shell or command line is. Everything can be done in A GUI but most things are done faster using the command line..

    I give them a fully configured Linux box so there are no issues. Just boot up and click away, much like Windows…no defrag or virus or spyware etc…just a smooth computing experience.

  42. Welcome to pclos. The video driver issue is one of the main reasons a lot of people stay with it. But the more you use it, the more little reasons you get for keeping it.

    Best of luck..

  43. I find it odd that an author (David Risley) calls himself an idiot, just because they’re talking about Linux.

    I’ve noticed this trend among many people who try Linux for the first time. Its a terrible mindset to be in from the start. You’re not an idiot, you’re just unfamiliar, that’s all. To put yourself down from the start just tells me you’re really not interested in leaving your “comfort zone” of Windows.

    When you’re trying something new, your mindset shouldn’t be “how can I take my existing skills to the new thing?”, BUT “What can this alternate or new way offer me? What would be the Pros or Cons?”

    Put it this way, would you use your bike riding skills on a skateboard? So why are you doing the same with Linux and Windows? Just because they have a GUI doesn’t mean they’re the same underneath! The power behind Linux/BSD/other Unices is not the GUI, but the CLI. To learn and know the CLI lifts a huge glass ceiling you place upon yourselves.

    You should empty your cup of knowledge and start with a “beginner’s mind”. Willing to explore and play with it. (Like a child)

    Approaching it this way, and you’ll discover things in a much more pleasant way.

    You don’t have to be perfect at it. When you do something wrong, Linux will tell you or records the issue in the log file. (typically located in /var/log). When you something right, Linux says nothing. Regardless right or wrong, its OK to fumble around.

    I used to be an MS product user, (been there since MS-DOS 3.03 and Windows 2.0 to Windows XP…Not bothering with Vista)…I have found the transition not too bad. In fact, I’m using Arch Linux instead, as I’m comfortable in CLI from my DOS days.

    I started using Linux in 2005. Today, everything I did in Windows, I can now do in Linux. (Actually, I can do far more than expected!)

    I suggest giving Linux distros time. The rate of development is quite fast. Maybe try again in a few years time.

    As part of the Linux community, we don’t actually dream of converting every Windows user over. We would like to convert a few now and then, but realistically, that’s not the main goal. (Even though some prefer to get as many converted and knocking MS off its porch).

    The point is to provide an alternative OS who’s aim is to allow you and anybody else modify, etc to meet your needs. You don’t need to sign an NDA or pay for some stupid license, etc. All one needs to do is comply with the GPL/BSD/etc licenses and do things in respect to the community.

    This is why Linux is loved by geeks. Its flexible and highly affordable (monetary wise). Its like clay. Mold it to the shape you like it. Whether it be for desktop, server, cluster, firewall appliance, NAS, robots, digital engine control, missile defence, etc, it doesn’t matter.

    I personally think people are better off with other OSs (Linux, OSX, etc) in the long run. Its true that there are limitations at this time, but these issues will eventually be resolved. You might as well take the time to learn something about it now. (use virtualisation via VMware Server or VirtualBox. Both are free and run on Windows and Linux).

    Typically, if I must use Windows, I stick it in a virtual machine (Linux is host, Windows is guest) and prevent it from accessing the web. Windows, to me, is only used for apps that I can’t run in Wine. (Yes, CounterStrike Source DOES run!)

  44. A friend of mine talked so much about Linux I tried out a few Live Cd’s and I too was bit intimidated by the sheer number of distributions around. Seeing all the buzz about Ubuntu at the time I installed on a spare PC I had. It worked well enough. My biggest headaches was driver support and installation. I had problems with my old video card and my wireless network adapter. After reading pretty poor documentation for hours much of it assumes your already a Linux geek know how to do basic still like install drivers using the command line. After days trying to get it to work I reinstalled Windows 2000 which I knew worked(with all it’s faults). The Ubuntu worked well enough but in my opinion Linux still has a way to go before it thinks it can challenge Microsoft.

  45. terminal_user says:

    what’s so wrong with the command line? I mean seriously all you have to do is copy some code into it and it works, the only problem is that you have to use ctrl+shift+v rather than ctrl+v

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