Can Linux Replace Windows?

As a bit of a follow-up to my recent editorial about the different operating systems battling it out, a few readers made comments about Ubuntu and Windows and, essentially, that I was giving Windows a little too much credit. So, I thought I would write another one here specifically to address the issue of Linux actually replacing Windows. Can it?

In short – not yet. And here’s why.

Microsoft Made The Rules

Back in 2001, Microsoft came out with Windows XP. At the time, it was essentially the only desktop operating system worth anybody’s time. At the time, Microsoft Office had won the war of the office suite. Internet Explorer had pushed Netscape out of the market by riding the coattails of Windows’s success and essentially forcing users to Internet Explorer. A legal battle ensued against Microsoft on that one, leading to the eventual loosening of the grip on the internet by Internet Explorer (although some would argue they still have a tight grip). All the time, Linux was quite popular as a server (mainly because Windows is too unstable), but as far as the desktop goes, it was mainly for geeks.

Today, open source has made a bit of a comeback. OpenOffice has become a worthy competitor to Microsoft Office, so much so that it made Microsoft re-think their office suite and now Office 2007 uses more open document standards. Firefox was borne out of Netscape’s grave and is now quite popular. And we have Linux itself having grown into the desktop arena with popular desktop options Gnome and KDE, both of which give Vista a run for it’s money.

So, things have changed. But, enough for Linux to take over? No, and that is because Microsoft’s initial success has basically meant that it made most of the rules. People have gotten used to the way Microsoft’s software works. We’ve gotten used to the way they do things. Microsoft, too, isn’t exactly an open book on how they have done things, so it leaves others to get as close as they can, but not quite there.

The popularity of Windows also means that most vendors dedicate most of their energy to making their wares work in Windows. And therein lies the reference to the capitalist market I made in the prior article. The market has chosen Windows and now we are dealing with that choice. Vendor support for Linux and other platforms ends up being more of an afterthought. Wine is an open source implementation of the Windows API that is available for Linux, allowing you to run Windows software on a Linux system. But, Wine isn’t perfect. It can run some software, but the support is spotty. Another option would include virtual machines inside of Linux to run Windows software, but that doesn’t appear to be very workable at this point either.

The best option for Linux is to use software natively written for Linux, but that supports the Microsoft standards. Now that Microsoft seems to be opening up some of it’s file standards, perhaps this can be done a little better by the Linux world. For example, OpenOffice offers document support for Office files. But, it only goes so far. Some of the fancier features of Office can’t be saved properly in OpenOffice, and that is because the exact format of the DOC files was only known by Microsoft. Now that Office 2007 is using an open XML standard, maybe this can be alleviated.

People Want an Alternative

Microsoft has made the rules here and that is because Linux took too long to go consumer on us. Yes, we are now seeing a comeback for open source, but the progress is slowed in the operating system arena because of the incredible prominence of Microsoft Windows. But, markets tend to give and take, and my sense is that Microsoft is now on an ebb. Windows XP was pretty good, and still is. I am now using Vista, which puts me in a position to recommend to others that they continue to run XP for now. Vista just isn’t ready. Which leads me to my point…

Microsoft’s handling of Vista seems to be a sign to me that the company is indeed losing it’s grip on the OS market. It took them six years to come up with Vista, and I’m left scratching my head on exactly what all the fuss was about. And after Vista’s release, the hardware support in Vista is a bit lackluster. Some hardware vendors are playing hell providing Vista support for their stuff due to the huge changes Microsoft made inside Windows. At the same time, Vista is an absolute beast of an operating system. While it really requires about 2 gigs of memory to run respectably, Ubuntu Linux can do so with only 512 MB.

So, while the success of Firefox shows that people wanted an alternative to Internet Explorer, I really do think Vista is the tipping point for a desire for an alternative in the OS arena. People are tired of Microsoft. They are tired of the barrage of security concerns, of the blue screens, the lock-ups. I, for one, would LOVE to have a viable desktop operating system that is really a drop-in replacement for Windows. But, Linux just isn’t there yet for the reasons above.

What would need to happen for Linux to become more of a replacement?

  • Linux needs to operate more and more like Windows. It is getting there. But, Linux needs to get such that you don’t need a command line hardly at all. Installing programs should be as easy as double-clicking a file (not tracking down package dependencies). Again, Linux is going to have to play by the rules set by Windows in order to take Windows down a notch.
  • Open standards need to become more the norm than the exceptions. Companies should make a special point to use open standards. For example, using OpenOffice rather than Microsoft Office will make your documents more open and more cross platform.
  • Vendors need to flow more effort into supporting Linux. It’s a bit of the chicken and the egg problem, though. They will put more effort into it if Linux gets popular enough to warrant their time. On the other side, Linux isn’t really going to get that popular if these vendors don’t do it.

Moving to the Web

The trend of late is that a lot of desktop software is being replaced by web-based counterparts. In fact, just a couple weeks ago I have officially dropped Outlook as my email client in favor of Google’s Gmail service. I spend most of my day inside my web browser, and it wouldn’t matter what computer or what operating system I am using, Gmail would still work the same way. And Firefox is available for both Windows and Linux.

It doesn’t stop with Gmail, though. There are now web-based apps that cover everything from finance, graphic design, time management, office suites – you name it. All of it is dependent only on the web and the server it sits on. As these types of things get more popular, it just won’t matter what operating system one is using.

With the move toward web-based software, and the valiant efforts of projects like OpenOffice and Firefox, I think the scene is shifting toward open source and away from the days of Microsoft as the dominant force. This will open up more opportunities for the likes of Ubuntu and others, but it is up to the developers of those systems to seize the chance. They can’t re-invent the way the world works, and the computer world is still very much revolved around the way Windows does things. So, open source developers need not be snobbish about being anti-Windows. No, on the contrary, get in there and do what Windows does the way Windows does it, then show people that they’re doing it without any Microsoft labels all over it.

Then you’re getting somewhere.


  1. *. But, Linux needs to get such that you don’t need a command line hardly at all.

    You don’t need a command line at all. Ive used mine twice in over a year of using Linux,once to Ping Yahoo and the second time to check out my video card.
    Everything has been done with the GUI,just like Windows.

    Installing programs should be as easy as double-clicking a file (not tracking down package dependencies).

    There are now download managers which can do that already.
    * Open standards need to become more the norm than the exceptions.

    That’s happening as well.

    * Vendors need to flow more effort into supporting Linux.

    With Dell supporting Linux, this should began to happen much faster.

  2. David,

    I second LR’s comments and will add a few of my own.

    * I have converted our entire home over to Linux (Ubuntu) six months ago. My wife and daughter are technonewbies so command line has no meaning to them. After the initial ‘How do I do….’ phase and a few script/icon tricks by yours truly I have not had a peep out of either one of them since. They do the usual web/email/VOIP/graphics for the most part. I have been able to provide an equivalent replacement in every case.

    * Updates, aaaah what a relief! Instead of the almost daily update shuffle with Windows I now have the whole update cycle cron’d to run apt-update every Friday at 6am. Automatic, and it’s green ball every time.

    * I think you dismiss the virtualization aspects on the desktop at your own peril. Two forces are going to pop this pretty quick — corporate bottom lines and cheap 4 core cpu’s next year. Companies are looking for ways to reduce costs. What better way to do that than to simplify the back up process with virtualization? You put a very thin Linux layer as Host. Virtual on top of that. Then put your working OS on top as Guest. Most of the major Virtual layer products support snapshots. Couple that process with say something like Unison and you have the means to automate desktop backup very easily without using the morass of MS/third party tools. Kaching.

    And don’t forget that most of the large companies also posses the option of having 2 images running concurrently as part of their licensing agreement. If you are a license holder in such standing there will be strong economic pressure to use both concurrently on the desktop to provide more horsepower to the end user. So why burn up a MS license as Host to run a version as Guest. You don’t.

    * Now I will agree that a lot of packaging needs to be updated. But it is improving and one can subscribe to commercial services (RedCarpet) to have a better experience.

    * I guess my final point is cost. For the average business app user Linux for the current distros have a very interesting attribute. If I went to Vista I am looking at a desktop replacement. Most companies will not fork over the labor to pop the case to do the upgrade. Whereas I could drop in say Kubuntu or Suse, whip in Compviz, add Star Office and be pretty much of a comparable stature for those class of users. And I do it using the current hardware. For somebody sitting there with 150k seats that’s about $200m not spent over a period of years. No small matter.

    * Last one. DRM will be the bane of Vista. You hear the horror stories all the time of subsystems not working or valid CD’s not capable of being played. Once a perception gets laid that Vista is ‘crippled’ its very hard to purge it from the collective mindset. Which is where for the home user they seem to be headed. The irony is that from the time that MS responded to the content providers to the time that Vista implemented it half of the major content providers are now backing off DRM because they are losing sales. Heh.

  3. David was actually spot on. Just because things are in the works now that are making Linux and other alternatives more available to every user doesn’t mean that they have made enough of a transition.

    Is Windows falling while alternatives are rising? Yes. However, very few users are aware that anything exists outside of Windows.

    Simply because Microsoft was able to capture the grip on the public before Apple got to them, we saw MS explode in all directions, completely enveloping the market and keeping for itself an Intel-like position on the ladder. Not to overstate David’s point, but they have been crushing the opposition for almost 2 straight decades now.

    All of that means that alternative operating systems will remain alternative until they can surpass MS. Making progress isn’t enough for a buyer. It has to be excellent. Right now, MS is their definition of excellent. Whether or not MS is better doesn’t matter, simply because they were 1st.

  4. To me its all about software. More companies need to embrace Linux, until that happens than I will not fully switch over.

  5. Give it a little bit more time. I switched to Linux about 6 months ago and am making it pretty good. I only use the command line for Whois and Ping and thats it. I think possibly in 2008, if things keep going the way their going in Linux development, it will be a direct competitor. I do have a windows box only for iTunes, but it looks like the iPod can sync with amarok, so i may not have a win comp. for much longer.

  6. Bravo. I agree 100%.

  7. “While it really requires about 2 gigs of memory to run respectably, Ubuntu Linux can do so with only 512 MB.”

    Ubuntu works acceptably well on 128 MB. Ubuntu Lite is a variation of Ubuntu that can run on 64 MB. That’s 32x memory less than Vista requires.

  8. In my opinion, Linux gives me a piece of mind. I don’t have to worry about computer viruses much and firestarter gives me a lot of peace.

    I’m pretty sure Linux had already taken over the server market. The desktop market is only a matter of time.

    Vista aero glass effect can be achieved on Linux with XGL.

    What’s so hard about “apt-get update” and then “apt-get upgrade”?

    PCLinuxOS is the easiest Linux, give it a try. So many Linux versions out there, pick and choose. All for free! You can’t do that with Windows.

    In my opinion, first time computer users usually pick Windows, but when they get smarter about computers & OS, as usual they eventually move away from Windows and right into Linux’s lap.

    I guess the ending = happy ending for Linux. Why? Many eventually turn to Linux through time, because Windows is not perfect, and viruses are so annoying, and my friend’s neighbor lost $30,000 of dollars in her bank account because she used Windows.

  9. You’re exactly right when you talk about the things that Linux needs to improve before it will really take on windows. I have been a linux user (Ubuntu) for about 6 months now and I love it. I’m not going back to windows. That said, linux still needs those exact 3 refinements before I’ll be telling my friends to use it.

  10. If you want linux to be more like windows….you might as well run windows

  11. Nope. What Linux needs is a terrific GAME. Something that will sell the OS, and not be playable on M$ systems.

  12. Actually PCLinuxOS is so you don’t need to use the command line unless you want to install VMWare-Server or something like that.

  13. I agree on a few points, but I think there are some critical problems here… I for one do not want Linux to become more windowsy. That would be a step back. Linux needs to improve and evolve, but not pick up on windows’ mistakes.

    If I misunderstood, and you meant Linux needs to become easier and simpler, then I agree. However, cutting out the command line is a horrible idea, and was one of the worst things microsoft did in windows. The GUI has its advantages, but the CLI has some advantages of its own that can’t be ignored. Making the transition easier should be the goal, since I think all will agree that an adept user can do things faster in CLI (usually) than in GUI.

    As for installing programs needing to be simpler, I have had demonic experiences with windows installers, and when they fail, it is virtually impossible to get done what you want done. Installing on Linux is much faster and easier on all fronts, unless you’re compiling. And now there are ways to use software without even installing it! (CNR, Klik, etc.) And package managers make installation quick and easy. So I have to install a couple dependencies… Big deal! It’s better to have a package manager do that for me, and I never worry about it, than to have them bundled in a .exe installer (IMO). And there’s no comparison between package managers handling installed software, installing/removing software, upgrading software, and all the other things they do; versus the way windows does it.

    All this is not to say that Linux doesn’t need to continue to change. I’m all for further innovation and easier usage. In fact, microsoft dropped this entirely with vista; which has no new features worth paying for, and countless ‘features’ you don’t want. I simply believe that Linux can and will, if not replace, then match windows in the market without becoming more like windows.

  14. Quoting: “People are tired of Microsoft. They are tired of the barrage of security concerns.”

    Quoting: “Linux needs to operate more and more like Windows. It is getting there.”

    I know the contradiction wasn’t intentional… but I find it amusing.

    I’ll be arguing from a negative point of view… feel free to flame me.

    I’m a OSX/Windows user (still XP). I’ve toyed with linux back in the day where it was still crudded up, so I’m put off from linux for a very long time. (I spent most of the time finding equivalent apps to windows).

    Linux distros really just need to merge. Yes I’ve seen linux lovers bag windows a lot… but I’ve seen linux users bag out other linux users just because of the distro…. If you want something to win home user market, pick ONE distro and make it win.

    Articles should be titled “Will Ubuntu take over Windows”, or “Will Knoppix take over Windows”. You’d probably go further by making an OS based on linux, and not even mentioning the word ‘linux’ on anything. For every lover of linux, there is one who hates it… but fail to mention it, then at least everyone is curious.

    Just to let the author know -> Ubuntu is a shining example of a reasonably well managed distro. It pretty much does everything windows does, so windows users with not a lot of technical knowhow can use it. Pretty much everything’s automatic in it nowdays. Yes, things aren’t always as simple as dbl clicking a .exe file, but that’s not the distro’s fault is it? Its the programmers who can’t be bothered putting the extra effort in to create installers for the 1001 distros out there… BUT Ubuntu is getting popular.. and who knows.. maybe there will be at least an Ubuntu installer for apps later on.

    Even so.. Ubuntu still can’t beat Windows just yet.
    The problem doesn’t lie in the OS… it lies in the 3rd party apps.

    Open source 3rd party apps have a lot of crap out there. Too many variants of the same thing. Something needs to be standardised. The Ubuntu group is just going through all the crap and finding the good stuff, but it can’t do everything by itself.

    Some comments to Open Source Hippies:

    – Know what ‘Open Source’ means.

    – Not everyone is motivated by price… just because its free doesn’t mean its not crap.

    – Just because something is closed source -> doesn’t mean its not free.

    – If you need to use your Nvidia card, but there are no drivers for u… don’t sit around and twiddle your thumbs and winge to Nvidia. That didn’t work on your parents, so why should it work on them?

  15. I installed Ubuntu, but soon got tired of it – it refused to recognize my printer and N73.

    And ofcourse, for us teens, there are not enough games – only those from the makers of Doom and Quake.

    Linux-specific games suck big-time anyway.

  16. “Linux needs to operate more and more like Windows”, more like OS X!!! Windows is by no means hte benchmark in usability and interface design.

  17. Whay are u only discussing Windows and Linux?
    What about Apple’s OS X, which in my opinion beats both these competitors in usability, performance, look-n-feel, cool factor, stability, etc.
    It runs Microsoft Office. It doesn’t get slow because no registry. The only area I think it is lacking in is support from 3rd party vendors like for instance if I have software for my mobile phone or GPS device, etc and the co. doesn’t write software for Apple OS. I am then still able to get around this with a virtual machine or even booting into another OS.


  18. Linux needs something similar to an “.exe”. Maybe when you download a program from the internet, you would get this file that, when launched, would automatically in the background do all the terminal stuff to install. That way people who don’t like the terminal could have these programs do all the interaction necessary with the terminal.

  19. On “What would need to happen for Linux to become more of a replacement?”

    The first bullet is a done deal. Pretty much all Linux Distributions have clearly SUPERIOR Package managers vs Microsoft XP/Vista.

    The second bullet is coming. More and more people are concerned about who owns their data, and how accessable that data is to multiple applications.

    The third bullet is the main one — but perhaps not for the reasons you site… What drives Desktops more than anything is GAMES. Specifically 3D Games. Linux can compete against Windows, and generally offers better features, in everything but the gaming arena. In order for Linux to compete here it needs NVIDIA and ATI/AMD to support the OS in a big way — and that’s just not happened yet. One good thing is that Vista’s DirectX10 has not caught on, and Vista’s shot itself in the foot with percieved slower performance — leaving an opening for competition… (i.e. OpenGL). If Vendors such as Dell get their way, Linux will indeed soon have a killer 3D environment — and a SW system that Game developers could tweek to the hilt for performance…. If game developers realized this — that they could have complete freedom over the OS and HW to tweak it to the max for their own game… I think that there would soon be a jump the shark moment…

  20. Blue screens? Lock ups? lets move away from Windows 2000 guys – it’s only 7 years old. Or maybe you need help installing and maintaining Windows.

  21. Dont forget about Microsoft having the Graphics nitch – Windows is pretty much the only way to play popular games such as Guild wars and World of Warcraft, which see millions of players each year and make billions. Linux would have a tough time.

    Not saying that I am a diehard fan of microsoft, far from it. I plan to have a dual boot windows/linux system very soon 🙂

  22. just visiting says:

    Hi, you might be interested in the following article, “Linux is not Windows,” which responds to your argument here:

  23. I actually give M$ a lot of credit, they manage to suck money out of ignorant people everyday. In fact my school now requires me to take an Office class to graduate, and if it weren’t for my absolute disdain I might for M$ I might actually by that bloated peace of garbage. Now I will present you with my case. Vista is old it was built off of the windows 98 base. Instead of Sexyifying XP the best move they could have made IMO, they attempted at reinventing the wheel. Then when they realize their software is garbage they try and smash the open source community with patent violations. So as that hot girl from thought works said “Enterprise = Bloated, Corrupt, and Incompetent.”

    So as long as people want to use software that is a money pit let them have it. As most people in the industry I know with much rationale will quickly elevate themselves into a more flexible and productive os.

    Now for ease of use I think ubuntu for surpasses windows. Install time is far less and best of all its free. Driver support is getting better everyday and apt-get is a decent package management system, albeit needs improvements.

    I use debian etch, its ubuntu without the training wheels, and at the office I use OS X.

    In closing I hate M$, I hate M$ users. And while apple maybe corrupt and steve jobs sucks. NOTHING beats a bash shell

    dos?? wtf

    • Vista was not built off of the Windows 98 base. It may still have some legacy code but the kernel is it’s own.

  24. Sad to say but I believe that Windows will rule the roost here in America for at least another 30 years. Not because Linux is the lesser (which as an OS it is just barely the lesser….but it’s mainly driver support and apps that are holding Linux back) but because people do not like change. One of the few reasons people will change is money. If Linux is able to continue to provide what they have so far for free, or substantially cheaper than Windows, that’ll be what makes people switch.

    Fact is Linux isn’t there yet….but Linux has made leaps and bounds faster than anything I’ve ever seen. However if your a basic computer user or new to computing then Linux IS there….I would highly recommend Ubuntu to a basic computer user or someone new to computing….I have my mother running Xubuntu on her year 2000 Gateway for about 6 months now and it’s absolutely perfect for her. We are even scanning in all of her picture albums using her computer…she downs the pics from her camera…prints docs…plays games (way hooked on mahjongg…LOL)….the whole shebang…with very few problems. She is in her mid 60’s and the transition for her from Windows was absolutely nothing! Just like Dr. Dog there was a few How do you do’s and that was it.

    Video editing, a few games, and a couple of pieces of hardware are what keep me having to use windows. None of which have anything to do with the actual OS. Actually my main game UT2004 comes with a Linux install right on the Windows install disk! So really for me it won’t be much longer.

    The rest of the world however will switch much faster than America….MS is an American company and the rest of the world have no loyalty ties to MS….and would love to send MS packing and will.

  25. one word on Command Line Interface.
    Yes, you *do* need a CLI.

    Not for everyday use, but when it comes to “advanced user” things, it’s so much simpler, and can run “unattended” in simple scripts.

    As a result, Vista itself includes now a new full featured scripting langage for its CLI.

    And true too : everyday life is easier with GUI, and now linux offers that.

    But, having to mess aroud right clicking hoping you’ll find the right option is just a bad habit inherited from windows. Replace that habit with “edit the right conf file” is much easier – given the fact that being “open”, linux *is* well documented.

  26. If you’ve never had to use the command line you have been very lucky. I’ve had Unbuntu installed for 3 days and have had to plow through a couple of tutorials to get drivers installed that required the command line. Every question I raise and find an answer to requires the command line in the tutorial.
    Here why Linux isn’t ready. This is an example tutorial from the unbuntu ati driver wiki.

    Method 1: Install the Driver the Ubuntu Way

    sudo apt-get update
    sudo apt-get install linux-restricted-modules-$(uname -r) # (Okay if it is already installed)
    sudo apt-get install xorg-driver-fglrx
    sudo depmod -a

    If the system complains about dependencies, use your preferred package manager to download python2.4 and, if necessary, its dependencies.
    [edit] Method 2: Install the 8.39.4 Driver Manually

    * Note: This is just an alternative installation method for the section above. It might help if you still get ‘DRI missing’ errors.

    Download the ATI driver installer: (this installer is for 32bit and 64bit systems)

    Change to the download directory. Make sure that you have the universe and multiverse repositories enabled in /etc/apt/sources.list before doing these steps.

    There is a detailed manual with screenshots at Ubuntu Wiki.

    By default, Ubuntu does not enable the Universe and Multiverse repositories. But they include some important programs and codecs, so it is highly recommended to activate them.

    If you read all that, and at no point thought ‘eh?’ then i guess it’s desktop ready. If like me you read and frequently thought ‘wtf’ as more jargon rolled by…on the other hand I did manage to follow it and get the driver installed, but ready for the masses….no.

  27. MS is NOT moving towards open standards. Their so-called OOXML is not at all open, including many features that are “defined” as “handle [feature] the way that MS Word [version] handled it”, and the so-called standard actually says that these features are too complicated to actually specify! How can something like that be seriously called either a standard or open?

  28. The only thing that’s stopping me from taking a 100% switch to Ubuntu is iTunes and Photoshop. The vmware solutions are effective but not practical to be used daily. Hopefully though with the momentum that Ubuntu has at the moment it will be just a matter of time…. here’s hoping!

  29. I have used Ubuntu Linux full time for that last year without ever needing Windows. Its very user friendly. Your habits and thinking must change from Microsoft!!! In most general user cases Linux certainly is a excellent replacement for Windows! Open Office,Firefox,Thunderbird,Gaim,K3b,Rythmbox,Tomboy Linux for Skype, PDF and others do the job admirably. Excellent free Edubuntu games for kids!
    Ubuntu Linux is stays faster and much safer (permanently) from start to finish. All my HP printers, USB devices work work work!! Literally if I had to change back to Microsoft my quality of computing would suffer greatly. Command line (CLI) is STRICTLY OPTIONAL for any user. Shame on you for saying CLI is required. And last of all Linux can change menu (60) languages at login screen. Microsoft does not allow that either. Thanks alot for the freedom Ubuntu and others!!!

  30. Some 9 million people now run the distribution Ubuntu alone (according to repository logs) with that number increasing rapidly every day. In other words, for many people Linux has and will continue to replace Windows just fine..

    Of course it won’t completely replace the Windows OS and that is fine. The last thing I would want is an OS monoculture Windows, Linux or otherwise. However, what the computing world does need is a more balanced competition between operating systems. As it stands the only real reason MS has dominance in this area is because they are paying for the privilege of pre-installation on most of the worlds computers. That’s all there is to it.

    It’s not because Windows has greater usability (Linux did used to be much worse than Windows) or diverse desktop applications. That comes later as application authors want to support the dominant OS.

    Now that Dell is shipping laptops with Linux on it (and selling really well) it’s fair to say this is changing.

    Now to the article.

    1. Installing programs:

    Where software installation is concerned, if you download a package (ends in .deb) made for the version of Ubuntu you run, you can just double-click it and it will install, grabbing what it needs behind the scenes. The files it needs are there for the benefit of ‘dynamic linking’ meaning that many programs can all use the same file.

    For newbies to Linux a good first thing to point out is the following: Linux users don’t go to websites to find and install software. They use a GUI (or CLI) tool to search for the software they want, read about it and click ‘Install’ to install it.

    This tool (‘Synaptic’ on Ubuntu/Debian systems) grabs the software from a security-cleared repository, downloads it and installs it, checking it against a special key to ensure it hasn’t been tampered with.

    If you download a file ending in tar.gz or zip, no you can’t just double click it.

    Once you learn this basic rule all is well.

    Rationales for ‘package management’ on Linux.

    Often on Windows and OS/X when you download software you’re downloading a whole bunch of files (DLL’s or ‘software libraries’) you _already have on the computer_ and it just copies over them or copies them into a new location. This is silly, consumes disk-space and creates mess.

    Linux package managers will _always check_ to see if you have a file already that the new software needs to run. If you already have it, it won’t download it again. This ‘dependency’ is a good thing. It keeps the system tightly integrated, is disk-space economical and easy to administer.

    I don’t want to download ‘exes’ for Linux. I want to download packages that fit into the way my system _already_ works.

    You almost never need to reinstall Linux to ‘clean’ it out. Google and Adobe however will release installers in the form of shell scripts that just copy files it needs onto the system. Linux users generally don’t like this for the reasons I mention above.

    It seems that Google is now releasing packages however, perhaps because they use Linux on their workstations/desktops in-house now.

    Regardless, if you can’t just double-click these to install the software (you normally can) then you should write to them to tell them it’s either broken or too hard.

    Why the Windows software installation doesn’t work in the long-term:

    When you install Photoshop on Windows it actually patches core DLL’s on the system in order to run. The order of software installation – of this cumulative software patching – on Windows greatly affects its performance over time. This is one reason – along with the bizarre problem of file-system fragmentation on Windows- that makes Windows slow down. As a result you either reinstall, buy more RAM or consider a hardware upgrade.. but that’s another story (we can thank Windows for giving us such cheap hardware over the years by increasing the demand for more and more performant machines).

    Secondly, there is no security auditing! When you’re installing software onto your computer you’re placing a lot of trust in the developer that they haven’t accidentally shipped you a virus or that they haven’t written in a back-door. While rare, it is easy to trick someone into installing software when the software is found and downloaded from websites.

    Linux repositories however, have tens of thousands of eyes watching over them and as a result there have been no cases (as far as I’m aware) of mal-intent getting it’s way over a user. This is an amazing track record for an operating system..

    2. You don’t need to use a command line with a system like Ubuntu. Only those power-users really into customisation or trying experimental software will need to do this.



  31. I think the useful parts of Linux are already here. Easy installation; office software; web browser; e-mail client; instant messengers; multimedia… that’s maybe 70% of what people do with computers. The many small specialized applications are another 10%; they will mostly come *after* people will switch to Linux. Now the missing important 20% of software is — games. It also depends of the user group; for children it is more than 20%. And which OS they learn to use in childhood, that they will continue to use later; because switching to another OS is not easy and requires a decision.

    How can Linux most easily replace Windows in games? Moving games to web? This could work for some simple games and puzzles; but I cannot really imagine it for real-time strategies or first-person shooters. It could be really convincing if the freshly installed Linux would already have in browser thousands of links to web games. 😉

  32. The bottom line is that Linux can replace Windows. Just because it doesn’t work just like Windows, does not invalidate it’s usefulness. It really just comes down to a matter of choice. For most users a distribution like Ubuntu replaces windows out-of-the-box. Windows is an operating system. So is Linux. By default one can replace the other. If people don’t want to take the time to familiarize themselves with a new product, their problem exist between the keyboard and the chair.

  33. I use Ubuntu 7.4, and I can say I do use command line everyday. Mostly because I like it better then the gui. I know a lot of old users who say they loved dos but hate how complex windows new operating system can be. I think people get to freaked out about command line, like its some kind of phobia. There isn’t anything to creepy back there. I mean 98% of the command line stuff I do, I can get done with the gui in GNOME, KDE or XFCE. I think that saying command line is holding back linux is a just some lame windows-fan covering up how bad windows command line has gotten.

    I really say the only thing holding linux back is people who don’t want restricted/closed source drivers and lack major software from big names like adobe and stuff from the videogame industry. For me I could care less if the driver is closed sourced, as long as my device works. I would love to see Photoshop and Dreamweaver for linux, I mean they have a mac version and mac is BSD/UNIX I don’t see why a port couldn’t be done. As for gaming the only company I see doing anything is ID software, Quake 4 and the new Quake wars game work in linux.

    As for the talk of Dell, Ubuntu has better support for dell’s devices then fresh windows XP Pro with SP2 out of the retail box. I had to install like drivers for ALL my drivers on XP but for Ubuntu all I had to put on was graphics card drivers which was all

  34. Have you considered checking out REACTOS.

    It is a free open source replacement for Windows.

    And contrary to some opinions it does not contain any stolen Microsoft code.

  35. I stopped reading partway through for one stupid, completely inaccurate statement that many people, unfortunately, believe is true:
    “Linux needs to operate more and more like Windows.”

    No. Linux is not Windows and will never be Windows. Thinking otherwise is counterproductive. You can do the same things with Linux as with Windows and that may mean learning new things. But consider:
    1. New users need to learn how to do anything on whatever system they use.
    2. Users who want to upgrade will have to re-learn numerous things.
    That is the way of change. And there is no way to get better without changing. Always trying to be the same is unhealthy and accomplishes absolutely nothing beneficial. This does not only apply to operating systems, but everything.

  36. “Linux needs to operate more and more like Windows. It is getting there. But, Linux needs to get such that you don’t need a command line hardly at all. Installing programs should be as easy as double-clicking a file (not tracking down package dependencies). Again, Linux is going to have to play by the rules set by Windows in order to take Windows down a notch.”

    I disagree with this. I think command line package management is one of the best features of ubuntu. To install say, VLC, all I have to do is type sudo apt-get install vlc. It installs and thats that. If there are missing dependencies, sudo apt-get -f install, installs the dependencies as well as the original package. Downloading and installing a .deb package is just as easy.

  37. When you administer thousands of remote desktops – and the people who use them – you quickly see why Windows will stay dominate on the desktop for years to come.

    Windows simply works. It helps my company gets its job done.

    I don’t care about OS “cool things”. I care if I can get the job done, and done quickly. The computer is a tool to do work, not an end point. When I have a room of people to train, teaching them how to force Linux to work like Windows is a waste of time — and time is money.

    Linux might get there. I hope it does: there are a lot of things under the covers that it does well, and would alleviate me from having to be proactive with security and such. However, its not ready TODAY for the enterprise, for many of the reasons David mentions.

  38. David Risley says:

    There are obviously a lot of opinions on Linux and it’s comparison to Windows. Everybody’s experience is different. I had to use the command line a lot. Others say they never do. So go figure.

  39. I installed Ubuntu 7.0.4 on a Compaq Evo N620c last month.

    I did so because I had seen a friend’s brand new Vista laptop crawling along. With 1 GB of RAM!

    I did so because I did not have an XP key for this laptop, and needed to reinstall an OS onto it. I did not feel like using a cracked copy of XP; I was tired of the (admittedly occasional) WGA hassles.

    I did so because I was puzzled as to why my older 1 Ghz AMD with 512kB RAM ran SO SLUGGISHLY only three months after a fresh install of XP (sorry for yelling). I believe it is the anit-virus and Spyware detection SW, as well as XP being sluggish itself.

    I wanted to see what I could do with a Pentium M 1.6 Ghz processor with 512 Kb of RAM. I had wanted to use Ubuntu for a few months; I had played with Red Hat off and on since it came out, and it had been awhile since I had played with Linux on my Desktop.

    It took me a lot of time to get my Linksys wireless card working on the laptop (critically necessary), and a lot of time to figure out how to get Compiz working beautifully (completely frivolous). Other than that, installing Ubuntu using some tutorials on the web had me up and running as fast or faster than a fresh install of XP, and I am an expert at XP. Overall, it was a lot more cumbersome to get everything working in Ubuntu, but now that it is setup, I expect this machine will run as reliably a year from now as it is running now. With XP, it takes a lot less work at first, but a lot more work down the road, as things start to work less reliably (wireless networks are suddenly not reliably attached to, other computers in network neighborhood are suddenly invisible, buttons in the taskbar suddenly disappear (Vista!), the usb device that has been recognized for the last year is all of a sudden not recognized, etc.).

    I make a living repairing XP computers, so I had seen all of the problems inherent to that OS. I also saw that it worked, most of the time, if you knew how to set it up. The average person, who does not know how to set it up, ends up with a practically unusable machine after a year or so of use, assuming that no (proficient) one is doing regular maintenance to the machine.

    Ultimately, I agree with David that Linux on the desktop is not ready yet. However, after seeing Vista, I think that MS is moving backwards, and it is pissing “regular people” off, making them more likely to listen to the fact that there are alternatives. For many reasons, including the ones I have mentioned above, more people are becoming open to Linux on the Desktop. The bottom line to me when I think about this is: what would I give to a relative that is computer illiterate? My answer now is XP, because they can get help anywhere without bugging me constantly! 🙂 If I didn’t mind holding their hand for a fairly steep learning curve, I would throw Ubuntu at them.

    Other thoughts:

    The command line is too scary for the average user. And yes, it is necessary, at least according to every tutorial I have seen on how to get various things working on Ubuntu. Once it is all setup, I agree that it is largely unnecessary.

    Program installation in Ubuntu runs MUCH better than Add/Remove programs in XP, as far as I can tell so far. Updates are seamless (so far and keep my fingers crossed), and everything is updated as it needs to be. With XP, everything is in charge of updating itself, and it is more cumbersome. Also, when I remove a program it is actually removed! No registry trash left behind to slow things down that much more. Added bonus: I rarely have to reboot Ubuntu. XP requires more reboots.

    Ubuntu Ipod support is severely lacking. I cannot believe that after 5 years of mp3 player dominance, there is not a seamless way to copy songs from the ipod to my fresh Ubuntu install. I have searched for this for a couple of hours, and every solution has drawbacks. The best I have found, btw, is floola. It gives me errors on some songs during copying to my HD, where the id3 tags are not copied. This is a pain in the butt; I do not want to have to retype id3 tags. However, it gives the most features as far as ipod management, in my opinion.

    My 512kB RAM, 1.6 Mghz Pentium M laptop is faster with Ubuntu, with more of the eye candy (Compiz is cool!), than my friends Vista laptop that has twice the speed and twice the RAM. This is subjective (I have no benchmarks), but the speed advantage is obvious within a few minutes of use.
    This is why I am ultimately happy with my laptop, despite all of the Ubuntu flaws.

  40. There are too many Linux versions. There is only one Windows. Some Linux versions are easier to install than others especially if one is not a computer scientist. Lots of hardware is Microsoft specific which makes conversion difficult. I tried switching to Linux years ago, but could not configure my printer with Red Hat 8.0. Did it easily with Mandrake. If Linux is to be more than a nerd’s hobby, we need one easy, all inclusive version. Unfortunately the different manufacturers cannot agree, much like Sony and Toshiba can’t agree on an HD TV format.

    Lots of individualists think the idea of one Linux destroys creativity and resembles the end of the world. I got kicked off a Red Hat discussion list for this suggestion. I think those who think everyone should be free to fashion a unique version of Linux are mistaken.

  41. I think those who are so tired of MS are those that have already made the switch to anything else. I don’t see any serious problems in Windows. It’s been ages since I last saw a blue screen and avoiding malware it’s just a matter of common sense. Windows is not the joke it used to be. XP works fine, it’s stable, quite secure since SP2, and although there’s room for improvement, it gets the job done. And while Vista is not mature today, it won’t be long until it is, and it will end up dominating the desktop without a doubt.

    Linux is not ready, and it will never be because it is not designed to be a desktop OS. It’s a monster assembled from the pieces that third parties make. It lacks coherence, it lacks ease of use, it lacks integration, and it lacks vision as a whole. That’s fine for servers or computing farms, but it’s not gonna work on the desktop, where it should be much, much better that whata it is right now to take the throne away from Windows.

  42. f0rw4rd.sl4sh says:

    I think Dell has made a big statement by offering Ubuntu on certain models. Now HP and Acer are talking about offering the same. Last time I checked these were some big authorities on technology. To have any of these manufacturers offer this operating system on their hardware is saying it is good enough for the masses. If only more people were aware of their choices..Anyone putting a quality product above their revenue is cool in my ebook..


  43. Yo, Ed… I agree that there are a lot of Linux versions, and when I first began looking at installing Linux to try it out, I was totally lost. However, I think Ubuntu is stepping up as the main entrance distro, and I think most if not all will agree that it is best suited for newbies. The existing Linux distros will never merge, and I don’t think they should. I think Ubuntu and its deviations should be lifted up as the noob’s first choice, and once they figure out what they are doing, let them play around with more advanced stuff.

    Oh, and by the way… What planet are you on where there’s only one windows? How many vistas are there? There were two XPs, and I think at least 5 vistas. It doesn’t compare to the hundreds of Linux distros, but you can’t just ignore that the user has to choose a vista as much as they have to choose a Linux.

  44. Looks like the most discussed ‘feature’ of anything non-Windows here is the command line and lots of people are saying that it’s great and helps them and that it’s ‘the way’ of doing things and that others should learn it.. Well, all these people completely dismiss the fact that they are technical people, while most computer users are not (and should not be) technical. Moreover, if we talk about progress and moving forward we should remember, that command line is a way to interface with a computer and was invented only for this purpose in times when GUIs were not feasible, and we should think about new ways for people to interface with machines and not get stuck with 40-year old way of doing so.

  45. David,

    Have you actually used Ubuntu? Your comment, “Installing programs should be as easy as double-clicking a file (not tracking down package dependencies)” seems to indicate you’ve never actually used Ubuntu. Ubuntu’s tools for installing programs *far* exceeds anything in Windows. More than 20,000 applications are installed just by clicking a checkbox. All of them are then kept up-to-date automatically with patches through the same simple interface. Windows is far behind in this regard.

  46. David Risley says:

    Of course I have used Ubuntu. And I stand by what I said. Yes, the Add/Remove package manager is nice, but it isn’t so nice the moment something you want to use is NOT in Ubuntu’s library.
    Ubuntu is fine if you stay inside the box. Otherwise, it’s a pain in the butt.

  47. It was the constant maintenance that drove me away from Windows. Besides all the patching for Windows, Office, Java, Adobe, etc. each requiring their own special update software, there was the virus checkers and adware scans which also need to be updated, registry cleaner, and the hard drive defrag program that needs run occasionally. After six months or so, Windows seems to slow down and thrash the hard drive a lot especially on boot up. There’s also the licensing and activation annoyance. It was getting to where I would sit down to use the computer and end up doing maintenance tasks instead.

    I migrated to Firefox first to avoid IE’s security holes, then to because I wasn’t willing to spend hundreds of dollars for Office, and finally I made the move to Ubuntu “Dapper” about a year ago. All the updates are done in one place daily and unobtrusively. There is no need for virus or adware scanners, registry cleaners or hard drive defragging. It’s all very easy to use, and I’m perfectly happy with the application software available for Linux, and it all gets better and better with each six month release. If I screw up my system, I just take an hour or two and reinstall, because I don’t have to worry about licensing and activation. Also, it’s all so exciting to see the Linux world develop, and that’s hard to quantify.

    So, I hear what you’re saying about how people aren’t going to give up Windows, and one very valid reason you didn’t mention is the lack of games available for Linux. Also, I disagree with several of your reasons, and others were true at one time but not anymore. I found the transition to Linux was quite easy, and I can’t imagine why someone would want to persist in using inferior Microsoft products when there is another option, other than for games compatibility which I can understand.

    I used Windows for many years, and even wrote software professionally for it, but I just find it so annoying, restrictive and expensive that I will never be back.

  48. Great article. You were able explained something that a lot o people have a hard time to understand. I like to have the option of a different OS too. But Linux is not quite there yet.

  49. Why does everyone fear the command line? We all use 1 to 2 different friendly command lines _every_single_day_ and it turns out that it’s the most efficient way to do the things that we want to do…

    What are these command line tools?

    1) Your Address box in your favorite browser.
    2) Google.

    And Honestly, to Aunt Tilly, the command line is not all that intimidating compared with all of those funky buttons and boxes sometimes spreading themselves bewilderingly all over the screen and sometimes confusingly buried beneath several layers of tabs and interface. To the experienced; however, the command line is the most wonderful environment there is to get real work done.

    The Command Line is dead! Long live the Command Line!

  50. Dan Bergen says:

    For some applications it would be fine. I work in public accounting, however, and I just don’t see any applications for either our clients or ourselves.

    Nothing comes close to quickbooks or even simply accounting. I’ve looked at SQL ledger and Nola, and was not impressed. You would think in this age of AJAX people could at least put together a decent user interface. No lookup fields or drill down, or filling of fields based on previous values.

    I don’t think there is any tax preparation or research software, or any working paper software in Linux.

    I suspect the problem is that much serious business software gets written in Visual Studio / .NET or in the case of our tax software, Delphi. I’m not much of a programmer, so I am not sure why. All I can tell you is that I like the way my windows accounting programs perform.

    I would think it would take a development environment that would equal Visual Studio or Delphi that could produce programs in both environments in order for Linux to succeed in the accounting world. Perhaps products like that exist already, it would just take developers to be sold on them.

    Hope I didn’t offend anyone, but I do like the user interface that quickbooks and my tax programs gives me. Any comments, especially about development environments, as I am somewhat ignorant about what exists in Linux?

  51. Jeffrey Kaldera says:

    To get ordinary people to use Linux system is difficult because there are many equipments that they cannot just plug in and use them. If you buy a printer or a Scanner there are no drivers from the manufacturers. They have drivers only for Windows and this makes them to select Windows over Linux. Why those manufactures do not to provide Linux drivers? What is the seceret? Also sometimes the external Hard disks cannot be use with Plug and Play. For Linux you have to learn many commands and they are very difficult to use and usderstand.

    The Linux OS must be able to use just like Windows. People who use to Windows will never use Linux unless the Linux system can offer everything just like Windows.

  52. Look at all these linux fans trying to point out that linux is better. I agree in a lot of area’s it is better, I perfer it but I end up using windows because of the “chicken and egg problem” Microsoft holds so many industry standards, look at todays websites for instance, IE-hacks is the standard, xhtml is “nice to have”. I can’t run decent directX games on linux, and it’s to hard to bother with WINE or CEDEGA and even if they do work the performance will suffer.

    Can linux replace windows? The operating system, hell yes, just not all the add-ons for windows – hardware and software.

    GNOME and KDE are great, nobody ever has trouble using these in the computer lab at my uni, it’s just an awareness problem. It’s good to see companies like adobe and dell supporting linux, it’s a good sign.
    It’s getting better slowly, maybe in 5 years most(50%+) people might actually know what linux is.

  53. The windows command line is very alive! try editing the programs that start with xp or vista(search for run in vista) without going in the start menu and using (run) “msconfig” try finding all your directx settings or video card info without “dxdiag”. I needed to use the windows command line to get my network stuff to work right.
    You know what this is why everyones xp is broke few understand how it works fully or how complex and diverse the options hidden in its command lines truly are!

  54. matthews: I’m sorry, that’s just plain wrong. Start->Run is not a command line, it’s a program runner. Try putting “C:\WINDOWS\system32” in Run. Now put it in cmd. Run gave you an explorer window (yuck) in C:\WINDOWS\system32, while cmd said “Whaaa??” Just because you’re executing a program in your PATH variable doesn’t mean you’re using CLI. The windows command line is mostly dead, and it does take someone with extreme patience and knowledge to use it.

    The Linux command line is something else entirely. You see, people fear the command line because of the lie windows told them: that it is difficult and complex and you have to be an expert to use it. That’s insane!!! The Linux command line is very simple. I picked it up quite naturally, and now I love it, and I’m certainly no expert. Besides, using a command line requires much, much, much, much less knowledge than using a GUI. Not to bash a GUI, I like GUIs, but sometimes CLI gets it done now, while GUI is still stuck navigating buttons, icons and links.

  55. okay it’s not technically a command line but it is hidden and cryptic like one with hundreds of poorly documented dialog boxes that change thousands of options and yes the Linux command line is very useful for a power user much more than a windows anything.

  56. For Dan…

    The only native Quickbooks replacement I see on Linux is GNUCash. GNUCash is a serious double-entry accounting package thats, yes, uglier than Quickbooks (it doesn’t hide things nearly as much), but it does have some features that QuickBooks lacks (e.g. foreign currency transactions).

    GNUCash is likely already installed with your Linux distribution, but the new 2.2.0 version also has a Windows port that you can play with & attempt to import your Quickbooks files into. See the URI for more info.

  57. To Jeffrey:

    Honestly, for most devices, linux device support is better than Windows, and most definitely better than Vista. In Linux, the driver is likely:

    1) Included with the Kernel/Distribution.
    2) Much more secure than Windows.

    Ever try to install Windows from scratch? It’s a nightmare of repetitive, frustrating, and oftentimes confusing “insert Vendor CD, Install, Reboot, wait” — and what happens to you if you are missing one of the vendor CD’s?

    The only things I see really lacking now on Linux driver side:

    1) 3D Graphics drivers.
    2) Webcam drivers.

  58. I think that Ubuntu is a FAR better alternative for MOST people than at least Windows Vista and possibly too Windows XP. I myself am a developer and I face to some extend some problems I must admit. I develop for ASP.NET and Mono and I must say that the things that holds me back now is only the IDE for Mono (MonoDevelop has a really long way to go)
    Apart from that I use Ubuntu for everything!!
    Email I use evolution, web I use FireFox and Opera, office I use Open Office and it all just makes sense until I’m about to fire up my IDE which is the only thing I miss from Windows (Visual Studio is just better than MonoDevelop) but I think that too will change now that Mono Project is mature and Miguel De Icaza and his team probably will focus more on MonoDevelop and less on Mono core…
    (as long as they don’t get confused by trying to do that Moonlight stuff that is…;)

    Even when my apps are finished built I use Linux for my server too due to the extremely elegant ASP.NET support in Mono…

    Anyway my conclusion is that for a normal user not to consider Ubuntu as a far better alternative than at least Vista and probably XP too is just insane…!!
    If all you need is Office and Email not to use Ubuntu is utterly complete madness since it’s a 100 times more stable!
    You don’t get virus and you can say NO to spyware…!
    Maybe some hardcore gamers disagree and I understand their claims. Maybe too some people are dependent upon SW written for Windows, those too have valid claims. But they should also claim from their SW vendors to deliver PORTABLE solutions. Either in the forms of std compliant web apps (SaaS) or through using portable executables.

    I think if you as an application vendor today don’t have a conscious Linux initiative then you’re in for a rough ride. And I changed my mind about 1 year ago after being a developer for more than 20 years…!


  59. I help out with various volunteer organizations in a tech support capacity. We are given various computers, some of them a bit ancient. I have been installing Ubuntu on all of them. It works fine, is free and even non-techies like it after just a short time. The open office suite is easy to use and even those volunteers used to M$ office adapt to it quickly. I think Linux, Ubuntu especially, may make real inroads into Windows. Especially for us poor folks who can’t afford 2 gig of RAM and a fancy computer! 😉 Bob B.

  60. I tried the ubuntu live cd–The problem for me was that my scanner was not recognized. Otherwise, Ubuntu is really slick.

  61. You said one thing that wasn’t out-dated and actually made sense; that was that “open source developers need not be snobbish about being anti-Windows.” And I would add, in contradiction to something you said, that not only do they need not to be snobbish, but they also need to stop emulating windows so much. It’s not about re-inventing the wheel, but rather about doing the best you can do and emulating windows isn’t the best that linux developers can do. Users can and will learn if it’s better (i.e. more productive.)

    The rest of this article could’ve been published 10 years ago and would’ve made more sense.

  62. John Bales says:

    Linux proponents should never downplay the command line. The power of the Linux command line is one of the primary advantages of Linux over Windows.

    Popular Linux distros should include tutorials on the use of the command line. Once users see the utility of the command line, they won’t go back to Windows.

  63. I do not agree with this article.
    I have been using Windows from Windows 3.0 thru to Win95 and now WinXP. I also gave vista a spin. I have come to be regarded as a Windows guru by most of my friends and family. And yet after all these years, with one short trial with Linux, I have to say that Linux is the superior OS. None of the windows versions come close in terms of flexibility, security, stability and ease of use. I have now gone through several distros, Ubuntu, Mandriva, OpenSuse, Sabayon, PCLinuxOS, all are equaly good and user friendly.All are easy to install and work well out of the box. Windows was a drag with all the different driver issues and incompatibilities. Currently, out of the 7 computers I have, 6 run Linux, with only one computer running Windows (for Photoshop which I need for work). The linux machines show exceptional stability and have not had ANY virus issues unlike the windows machine.
    Linux is ready for the desktop, the only problem is people like you and M$ who go around spreading FUD just to convince people to not even give linux a chance.
    This is totally unacceptable and irresponsible journalism for a publication like PCMechanic.

  64. Good article and straight to the point.
    I guess those who don’t use the command line don’t really use Linux very much in real life.
    Every install I’ve done with Linux I’ve had to use the command line sooner than later.
    Just installed Linux this afternoon and to get to do what I want it’s been a command line commands for about an hour.
    Up running nicely now but Joe Bloggs would have had no chance.
    Linux needs unified installer and all packages should be made with this in mind. This should include all needed libraries.
    There should be only one way to install a package not several different ways to do the same thing thing within the OS.
    Standard uninstaller across platforms.
    Programs, Libraries and startup scripts need to be located in the same place not varying from one distro to another.
    As soon as that is sorted Linux will start gaining more usage. Vendors then might start providing more drivers as they would find it easier to right them as well without having to right for one specific distro.

  65. But, isn’t Microsoft starting to break their own rules? They’ve gone completely berzerk with the new ribbon interface in Office 2007 making experianced Office users feeling helplessly lost. And you’ve already discussed Vista. I agree taht Linux is not ready to take over, and that Vista and Office 2007 will not necessarily shift the balance towards Linux. But I bet, the next version of Windows and the Office suites will definitely do it.
    I hope that wouldn’t happen, I’d hate to shift to a non Windows platform 🙁

  66. All you anti-Linux people always say “If only it did this…” and “Once they do this , then Linux will take over.” You totally mis the point! Linux is ready NOW. The only problem is no publication. I know that big computer manufacturers are picking it up, and that’s good, but I still haven’t seen a Linux computer in any of their brochures. The still advertise vi$ta like it’s the greatest thing, when they themselves are looking at it and saying it sucks!

    I run two Linux desktops here at home. They are both far more stable and much faster than the windoze system I keep around for tax work. The windoze system won’t even go online! It can’t connect to my network for some inexplicable reason. Both Linux systems go online and stay online quite well.

    As for command line, people shouldn’t be afraid of it. Still, many are. For this reason, GUI frontends are written. You no longer need to use the command line to use Linux. Everyone who says you do is either outdated, or they use it without looking for a frontend because they know CLI is faster and easier. I use CLI frequently not because I have to, but because I want to. I get more information faster and with less effort than I need to use a GUI.

    My very first Linux install (which means NO knowledge of the command line, Linux or windows) was Debian. It was a text-based installer, and I didn’t install a graphical environment (I had someone helping me, I had no clue what I was doing) and was left with the CLI as my only option. I quickly discovered that the Linux command line is simple, intuitive, and just makes sense. In Linux, I was comfortable in a command line long before I even touched a GUI. It took less than a week to learn 90% of what I know about the command line. It’s easy, folks!

    If you haven’t really, honest to goodness attempted at installing and using Linux, you have no excuse. Moreover, IMHO you have no right to be posting about it because you don’t know what you’re talking about. I myself and countless others will testify: Linux is ready for the desktop. The last step is to try it and see!

    ArchLinux Duke

    KDE 3.5.7
    Qt 3.3.8
    Linux DPArch 2.6.22-ARCH #1 SMP PREEMPT Mon Jul 23 21:13:22 CEST 2007 i686 Intel(R) Celeron(R) CPU 2.66GHz GenuineIntel GNU/Linux

    Usability: 500%

  67. @Nathan:
    Typical reply from a Linux user: bitter, angry, self-important, pompus etc. etc.
    If this is what using Linux does to humans, I’d rather stay with Windows 😀

  68. @Shwartz:
    If you don’t like me, take it out on me. Linux has nothing to do with it.

    I’m neither bitter nor angry, I just really don’t like micro$oft. I want to help people see there’s something better out there. Any human being would.

    Typical response from a m$ fanboy: attack the messenger, ignore the message.

  69. Have you considered the tought that people saying that Linux is not ready does not mean they are anti-Linux or Linux haters?

    I’ve been using Linux at home since 1998, and while the progress on the desktop is undeniable (KDE4 is going to be really sweet), Linux is still not ready. It’s OK for my desktop, and for many others, but it’s not going to replace Windows, at least in its current form. It was never meant to be a consumer OS, and it might never happen, since the goal was to build a reliable, useful, and low cost open source OS, but it never was intented as a system to conquer the consumer desktop.

  70. To be totally straight with you, I really couldn’t care less what it was designed for. I care what it does, and it does a whole lot more than windows will ever do, and it does a lot of it a whole lot better.

    I’m not on a one-man mission to save the world from microsoft. I just want to tell as many people as possible the fact that in most cases, Linux is better. If you’re a gamer, I understand; still, Linux is catching up there as well (slowly, most definitely). If you have some windows-only app, then the company that makes it needs to support Linux. Until then, put windows in a VM where it belongs. Windows doesn’t compare, and that’s the truth of it.

    vi$ta is another matter, I do hate vi$ta with a passion. I’ll admit to it freely.

  71. As suggested in the title, I guess it is impossible, at least for the next 5 years. Microsoft has a strong foothold in the software market, and vendors have been writing drivers for Microsoft Windows, yet not much for Linux.

    If the vendors’ driver issue is not solved, end-users will find it hard to switch to Linux.

  72. Until every program for Linux I could possibly want to install is made into a package or made easy to install then I’ll never use Linux for an OS. My Ubuntu CD is still one of my most valuable tools though.

  73. It seems to be an article of faith that we need lots of operating systems and lots of distros, I suppose to give some people something to do or figure out. One Linux distro could easily replace Windows because Linux is both better and cheaper. One Linux distro won’t happen for any number of reasons, the main one being the desire to keep Linux for those who see themselves as superior to the computer illiterates who want to turn the machine on and have it work.

    One Linux has the advantage of allowing us to begin dealing with the many problems created by the huge number of hardware suppliers. I have three printers a Konica Minolta, a Sharp and a Cannon. None of them work with Linux. I don’t know if someone at some open source site has come up with drivers. The issue is who is Linux for? The comparatively few million advanced users or the rank and file who want to turn on the computer, have it work, and not look under the hood. Linux will never hit the really big time as long as it is controlled by people who can’t see the forest for the trees.

  74. Ed – you are right on the money. The purpose of the OS is to run applications and operate the things attached to the computer. No one loads Linux or Windows or OS/400 or OS X and says “WOW! I’m productive!!!”

    It isn’t the OS, guys, its the applications. Windows runs the applications. When Linux runs the applications, it will be viable. But it isn’t a chicken & egg issue – the farmer on the next farm is serving omelets already!

  75. Dex said:
    “It isn’t the OS, guys, its the applications. Windows runs the applications. When Linux runs the applications, it will be viable.”

    Wonderfully put. There’s really nothing more to debate about.

  76. I agree to a point, but in 90% of computer users cases (well over 90% of computer users are total imbeciles who just haven’t heard of Linux, or think it’s something it is not) the applications for their activities (freecell and checking e-mail) are already there and quite usable. Linux has also been used quite successfully on the business desktop, and it’s indisputably the best server OS. The main reason I hear that people don’t get Linux is because of some specialized software with an arrogant company, or games.

  77. The last few times I commented I made the mistake of leaving my email address in here. So, I had the misfortune of reading this: “over 90% of computer users are total imbeciles.” I don’t know how old you are, and I don’t wish to insult you by guessing.
    A long time ago, even before I was born, computers were used only by scientists, engineers and the like. But then somebody came up with this idea of presonal computing. And ever since then, most of the promises of Information Technology had been about making life better for the common man. But have we really delivered on those promises? Not even close. In fact we have made software so bizzare that people pay enormous amounts of money to learn. Have you seen the videos of the little kids navigating through iPhones. That’s the kind of usability as developers, we should dream of achieving. While I’ve never used a Mac OS, I know that they are the best in usability. While us devs think MS screwed up big time with Vista, that’s what they were after as well.
    If anybody wishes to argue that Windows sucks in the server market or where scientific research needs to be done, go ahead. It might or might not be true. But since, it’s not my area of experise I don’t know enough to aruge. What we are talking about here is the consumer market; the world of personal computng. If Mac fans want to claim their superiority there, well I agree with them. But then our reach as developers is limited to a smaller consumer base. That probably is bad marketing on Apples part. But if anybody’s claiming Linux is ready to take over the consumer market, that just isn’t true. Maybe some distros are making huge strides at getting there. Good for them, those are the people who’ve got the right idea: Making so that the masses can easily adopt it.
    Being a developer, I have to and will live in the world my end users would live in. Right now that’s Windows. Regardless of what’s “better” for the technically elite, the elite must remember the purpose of their existance: which is to make the world a little easier for the rest. If you cannot solve a problem inside the customer’s “world” and demand that they stop being “imbeciles” and move over to the world you are comfortable in, you are just a miserable failure as a developer/designer.
    “Arrogance” is an interesting concept to be thrown around by somebody who feels the world needs run the way he wants it to.

  78. You know, that didn’t read the way I intended it to be read. I’m not saying you’re an imbecile because you haven’t heard of/don’t use Linux, I’m saying most computer users have no clue whatsoever what they’re doing beyond a few simple tasks like reading e-mails and sending IMs.

    That said, I think I’ve wrought enough havoc on this poor list. I’m out.

  79. Sir, I have been using computers from 1984, Well never heard of anything called Microsoft at the time, I personally feel you are talking about people who started using pcs much later say sometime in 95 and later, Please make that clear when you write these things and do not mislead people, LINUX SHOULD NEVER BECOME A wIN-DOS OR WHATEVER CLONE, They should stop supporting anything M$ , After all all these talks about Linux reaching where windos is is not acceptable ,Linux developers should not even read these filth and continue writing code which they prefer to use and should not target any market,If someone feels windos is good for him let him/her use it , Linux should not be forced on anyone, After all I would say the talk of linux v/s windos is total waste, While Linux is one’s passion Windos is forced on you like compulsory military service in some autocratic states

  80. I would like to say I have nothing against Linux. I have used it, but I prefer MS Word and Excel and I do not see anything out there as good to replace it. I have open office at home on one Windows PC and I consider that sub-par. It just can not be compared to Microsoft Office Suite. I am just stuck on windows because I want to use microsoft office suite. I think MS is missing the boat and could stand to make some money if they had a Linux compatable Word and Excel Package. Maybe Linux people would never buy it. Who knows.

    I think what will kill Windows is overpricing the market. I look at some of the prices for Windows as a commercial product, and probably only large OEM’s can afford to purchase Vista Business Professional. I would not buy it if I had to purchase it separately. Microsoft purposely overprices the operating system, and hates any consumer who does want to build their own computers. There is no way in Hell that Microsoft can say they are for the average consumer or the little guy.

    These large OEM’s are a detriment to intelligent thought and innovation. How can anyone bring any innovation to market if it takes 10+ years to get a new standard approved?

  81. The argument is about individualism vs. collectivism. Some want to do what they want when they want. Although we have all sorts of laws regulating behavior, they don’t want the concept extended to computing. Some people don’t want to look under the hood of their computers. This doesn’t make them imbeciles. Their interests lie elsewhere.

    Cooperation and standards are far more powerful developers than competition. The big three auto companies supposedly are each developing a hydrogen vehicle. Think of how much more efficient if they cooperated. Now each reinvents the wheel which may have been invented by one of the others. The same is true for the two competing HDTV formats. We need one format, the best we can manage, but we won’t get Sony and Toshiba to cooperate any more than we will get the various Linux distros to cooperate. We’re not there yet.

  82. The argument is about individualism vs. collectivism.

    This sounds like mumbo jumbo you copied from some place. Is this from your corporate anti-culture?

    We need competition. Innovation comes from competition.

  83. That just isn’t true. Special interests and profit are currently driving the markets in nearly every sector, let alone computer tech. Unfortunately, profit will always stay there, because without it the companies would collapse, but cooperation is much more efficient. When we have format wars like with HDTV, we have millions being wasted on one format that won’t be the standard when the time to make a decision comes.

    Windows and Linux can’t really be categorized the same way Blu-Ray and HD-DVD are though, because each one is basically set up for a different crowd with different tastes. The problem is that Microsoft holds such a firm grasp over the market that competing with it is just about impossible. Check out the video games section of a tech store and you’ll see one good example. Do you see boxes anywhere that are labeled “Games for Linux”? Nobody is focusing on Linux because Microsoft has become anti-competitive in owning so much. If they teamed up with Linux distro makers, they could end up receiving more profit from Linux users buying Windows software while still being a cooperative and progressive force in the industry. Instead they came out with Vista, which was a multi-billion dollar flop. Same as one of the HDTV formats will be, same as many of the alternative energy cars that are coming out.

    Cooperation leads to gain, yet we still squander loads of money on anti-cooperative efforts. Does this make any sense to you?

  84. Charles @ 90

    The idea competition begets innovation is usually mistaken especially here where open source (a real innovation) started as true cooperation until it was corrupted by capitalism. Even Torvalds profited from the Red Hat IPO.

    You must distinguish innovation that matters from innovation intended to garner market share. Microsoft often includes something in its operating system (i.e. a Real Audio like application) which doesn’t improve on the original, but was created to switch people from the original to Microsoft’s version. “Innovation” without a gain in performance (most “innovation” falls under this category) wastes everyone’s time and unnecessarily complicates things. Some people like things complicated so they can feel superior to people who for various reasons are not inclined to deal with it.

    As for individualism v collectivism, I copied it from my book which you can read at

  85. Has the author even tried Ubuntu. I think not because of the statements made in which I will get into in a bit.

    I just purchased Vista and got so fed up that most of my older software did not work with it that I have thrown in the towel. I refuse to be forced to spend hundreds of dollars on upgrades. Unfortunately XP will eventually become plagued with viruses as it fizzles out from lack of support so….

    I’m running an AMD dual Core Athlon 4200+, 2 g of memory, 22 inch monitor, Radeon x1300 card with 512k memory.

    I got a hold of Ubuntu Ultimate 1.5. Faster install than Vista. Found it has more than I will ever need to be productive as a desktop office computer.

    Hmm, no lexmark support, but hey I blew off the dust on an old 820 CSE HP printer and lo and behold it worked perfectly. Wow I feel so retro.

    I am no fanboy of any operating system, as I just want something that works and does not an arm and a leg!

    Now to the authors statements:

    1) * “Linux needs to operate more and more like Windows. It is getting there. But, Linux needs to get such that you don’t need a command line hardly at all. Installing programs should be as easy as double-clicking a file (not tracking down package dependencies). Again, Linux is going to have to play by the rules set by Windows in order to take Windows down a notch.”

    Hello….did you even try Ubuntu. Ubuntu offers windows interfaces that surpass MS. Flavors such as Gnome, KDE, Xfce, and numerous other choices. No command line to use at all unless you really want to. I have had to use the command line in MS as well to fix such things as a corrupted registry and startup problems in MS Windows. You failed to mention this. Oh and no blue screen of death or computer lockups that I cannot get out of.

    Uh…you can tell Ubuntu which programs you want to install and you do not have to double click. Third party programs such as google programs and adobe programs are easily installed into linux now by downloading them and clicking on them as you would in MS windows. No dependencies to track down. You also forgot to mention that MS also requires tracking down dependencies. Can we say .net framework and drivers, and DX6 through 10, etc.

    By the way MS did not make the rules….how old are you..apparently not old enough to realize that mainframes are running the world as is *mix machines run the backbone of the net….okay I will give you that MS bullied itself into the home market..but this position will be losing ground as third world countries come on line and cannot afford MS products.

    2) * Open standards need to become more the norm than the exceptions. Companies should make a special point to use open standards. For example, using OpenOffice rather than Microsoft Office will make your documents more open and more cross platform.

    I agree and it is being done. Universities and elementary schools are starting to use more open source. So guess what …the next generation will have a head start on using such programs.

    3) * Vendors need to flow more effort into supporting Linux. It’s a bit of the chicken and the egg problem, though. They will put more effort into it if Linux gets popular enough to warrant their time. On the other side, Linux isn’t really going to get that popular if these vendors don’t do it.

    Uh…we have HP on board, AMD (which owns ATI video cards now), Google, Adobe (getting their feet wet), and various other large name vendors for both hardware and software. I think you sell Linux short as it is becoming quite popular in the European Union and various so called third world. I believe vendors are taking notice and realize that MS is not calling the shots.

    Not everyone can afford to upgrade their computers to Vista and the hardware that comes with it. Even Dell took a hit when Vista came out and tried to force consumers to purchase Vista. Guess what Vista was buggy (still is) and Dell had to offer XP again and is also offering Ubuntu. The market speaks and MS was not controlling it this time – Hallelujah –

    I still dual boot into XP as I like a certain genealogy program that I have used for years, but this may change as I play with a couple of programs called gramps and phpgedview, and TNG ( a pay for program that I run on my internet server).

    It is interesting times we live in and my 4 and 9 year old are happily typing away on their Ubuntu machines not knowing or caring which OS is on it. A brave new world.

  86. In some point, I agree, a years back i’m triying to move to linux but its very hard. but right now i’m falling in love with linux, spesialy ubuntu and using it about almost a year, great work guys.But i’m running ubuntu with a help from WUBI, thanks alot guys. The reasons why i’m using WUBI is:

    1. I can not format my laptop, beacuse it came with OEM, its too pity to format it, that i will losing my OEM lic (I’ll sell it if some one want it :D).
    2. I need my outlook to do the email, because EVOLUTION doesn’t work yet with MSExchage 2007. but now i can use Outlook with Virtual Machine, so my laptop almost all time running Ubuntu.

    The hard part (but not too hard as i though) using Ubuntu is:
    1. I have to do the command line to get an option of monitor resolution, but it solved already, easy one.
    2. I used to use Hyperterminal to console switch, etc. I’ve been looking for months to get the replacemen. It also solved, but i have to remember the numbers to configure, it’s ok
    3. I still stuck wit MS office because i used to work with it for almost my whole life. But i still learning to get used to work with OpenOffice

    my laptop run faster with ubuntu and faster compare to my friends PC with Vista that has 3x memory that i have in my Laptop, and have more speed of procesor (2 Ghz, with dual core). no need to upgrade HW to get vista look, it done by compiz,more beautifull, IMHO.
    I love Linux. no need too reboot the machine after some instalation, no wories about virus,spyware.

    Sory for my bad english, and sory if i have hurt somebody feeling

  87. Windows is good..for public especially for teens like us..we need a good games which can easily run from it..thus most of us used to windows..but as server..window is suck and i choose linux is the best..again i say windows is good for public or developers as many 3rd party and others sees and set their invention based on windows standard and requirement but linux is the most powerful OS on earth…some people say linux is hackers heaven….lol

  88. I use Windows XP, Vista, Suse Linux, whatever it does not matter to me really but that is mainly because they are all the damn same. You type keys and click your mouse and it performs. Sure there are differences as anything would be. As for windows cutting out the CLI? Not sure where you got you copy but CLI is still a part of windows and is very usable. Sure they have some nice GUI’s that make the process simpler that linux lacks most often but the CLI option is still available to those who know how to make use of it. Linux does need to become more like Windows in this area where things are click and go. Does that mean linux is following M$ mistakes? Not at all. It means they should learn from those mistakes so when they make their simple GUI’s they do not fail in the same areas. Windows however should become more like Linux and has been as time passes.
    Now as for stability. I have Windows XP installed for 3 years now. Not a single crash. I have had one crash on my Suse server in the first 6 months. What gives here? Simple. I know Windows in and out as most server admins know linux. I can make Windows just as stable as a linux server. The only issues sits between the keyboard and chair.

  89. To be fair, the misconception that the command line is always invoked in Linux is easy to see.

    Though most major distros have a nice Gnome or KDE shell with lots of friendly Administrative tools on top, most of the help you solicit for a Linux problem will bypass all of the GUI stuff and go right into editing a script somewhere. Unfortunately, in many cases once you have done script tweak, the GUI won’t configure that ‘thing’ anymore. You’ll have to use the shell to configure it from then on.

    If you go find some Linux software or other on the web, it usually has a .tar.gz file and a README. Usually there’s a package/application tool with a version available that was built and tested with the current kernel and environment, and you can grope/click in the GUI all you like to get at it, but as often someone will say ‘sudo apt-get install xxxx’, or give RPM instructions or whatever.

    Yeah, free Linux distros could be a lot easier, and even most of the GUI versions of tools could use some usability studies, and better help (which is usually non-existent).

    All of that said, Linux is just fine for a ‘magic box’ that the typical, clueless end-user doesn’t tinker with. Something like the Asus Eee PC works great with Linux, and would be a useless brick with a Windows OS like Vista.

  90. Linux does not need a command line…EVER…with latest distros. The only reason for the command line is for people like me who actually compile applications for various reasons that a normal user would not do…and in most cases would never be interested in doing.

    Gaming is where Linux is left out. But if you are not a gamer…You are losing absolutely nothing by switching to something like Ubuntu.

    It is more stable, uneffected by viruses, spyware, doesn’t need defragged every other day…

    What are you waiting for?

  91. I just bought a new computer, installed Linux Ubuntu and said goodbye to Windows.
    My theme is “Close the windows and open the door to Linux”.

  92. I do not really dislike Linux. In fact some versions of Linux like SUSE are not that much different from MS Windows in how they appear to work. However, some big business people are not equipped to deal with a window-less world.

    This articles points out that Linux laptops are returned 4 times as often as MS Laptops. Take it with a grain of salt.

    I dont always agree with this guy, but it makes an intersting read. He tends to be a Microsoft king of Guy.

  93. Why should you cheer on for Windows?!? Linux Rocks! Period.

    • No, Linux does NOT rock if you want run software with “PC-CD” on the label.

      Not all Linux alternatives for software are commercially viable. I get sick of people just adding “linux rocks!” to these type of feedback pages, because it just doesn’t yet.

      The day it can facilitate ALL Windows compatible software, THEN you can say it rocks as it will also bury M$ at that point.

  94. I have a question. I bought a laptop from a guy and it had linux on it. my wife wants windows. I have an XP disk, my question is how do i make the switch? i tried putting the XP disk in at start up, nothing happened. Anyone have any idea for me? Thanks

    • When the computer boots up go into BIOS. It should tell you how to do it. Usually it’s press the delete key. When you get there change the boot disk to the CD rom. Then try booting up with your XP disk. Reformat the hard drive, but this will cost you all the data on it. One caution. Microsoft keeps a tight control on how many machines get their OS from a specific CD rom. You are liable to find yourself talking to some lady in India trying to convince her to give you the key so you can proceed with the installation.

  95. I think Linux is great except for when you want to install software. IMO, Mac has it best, and Windows has it second best. In Mac, you download a program and it a program. No need to install (just put it in the apps folder or wherever you want). In Windows, you download whatever program you want and use a simple installer. You can find it in the start menu or in the Programs folder.

    In Linux, however, it’s the only major thing I dislike about it. First off, there’s not much good commercial software for it. Talk about wine and opensource or whatever, but still. Second, the only way to install a program is (a) set up confusing repositories and use a software manager or (b) go through a complicated routine of compiling it from a tarball. And it’s in the launch menu or some weird /usr/bin (or something) location. And the update managers that come with it (for all software on the computer) don’t always seem to work (eg my Linux Mint will update Firefox to 3.0.12 but it says that that’s the latest version, it’s not updating to 3.5). Having software managers for everything is NOT a good system, so until Linux desktops go the way of the Mac or Windows with individual programs, I don’t think it can replace Windows. Hey, Linux isn’t too different from OS X, maybe they can find a way to gain compatibility with .app files.

    Setting up drivers for printers and video cards can be a pain too, but that’s more of a one-time annoyance.

  96. very Nice info.but for common man window will be the choice and for avg and above the linux

  97. powerlinux says:

    Yeah, Linux needs to be user friendly like windows (point and click) in order to win the battle

  98. Very useful article, and interesting comments. A similar discussion is taking place on my company’s site should you care to chime in…

  99. simply put, youre wrong, linux will win because windows is costs. the price of hardware has been falling for years and in the past few years has only started dropping faster. as windows becomes a larger and larger part of the cost of a computer (its about 1/6th the cost of a decent computer today) companies will begin to offer linux based operating systems more often than not. already, ubuntu is being offered instead of windows on a few dell machines. expect this number to rise.

  100. Dragonlordthunder says:

    You probably have not used linux enough. We do not need linux to be a windows clone to run windows programs. It is another operating system, ease of use, driver support and applications is what it needs. But apart from that, linux is a powerful and fun system, it still beats out Win7 on netbooks in performance and provides power users and developers with tools that sometimes rival anything available on Windows. In my own world, I would be using all linux if not for a couple applications that require Windows and that because emulation is too slow. Otherwise I can get nearly everything done in Linux and with less overhead and cost factors.

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