So, about that Linux people talk about…
Anyone who says Linux is a contender to replace Windows on desktops any time soon is nuts. I've been running Linux on one of my home PCs for at least six months, and it's been a major butt pain. Simple things such as figuring out how to connect to a shared drive on a Windows PC on my home network; printing a few docs occasionally; or getting a wireless card to work reliably, required my studying one of six Linux books I keep handy.
Meanwhile, I can't recall ever having to refer to a guide or manual to do anything in Windows, or in the Mac OS for that matter. Heck, I don't even own a how-to book for Windows or Mac OS.
There are lots of things Linux does well but very little that you can't already do as well in Windows. Running Linux reminds me of my early experiences with home computers like Commodore VIC-20s, Atari 400s and Apple IIs. You really had to be motivated to want to use them. It was as much as a hobby as it was an attempt to do really useful work. Linux is old tech like floppy diskettes.
Most people don't want to have to call the Geek Squad just to print a few docs every now and then. They don't want to update their kernels and other apps virtually every day. They sure as hell don't want to unpack code and and resolve dependencies just to install a stupid game. Sure, there are RPMs, and gee whiz, they work almost as well as the plain vanilla installers that come with plain-vanilla Windows apps.
I love the look and feel of Gnome. It's far more intuitive than Windows and it's faster. And there are several things that Linux does really well-I connected to my home router, and burned CDs in less time than it took me to do the same things in Windows, for example. It's hard to argue against having access to the zillions of excellent and free Linux apps. I threw away Photoshop and now use GIMP on my Windows and Linux machines, and I'm really starting to like OpenOffice.
But isn't the idea to make things easier and simpler? Why should I or anyone have to be a tech maven to use a PC? Working with Linux is like heading cross country in a covered wagon. You'll get where you want to, but it's going to take a lot of time, and you're bound to get lost (or worse) along the way. If you want to play with computers, use Linux. If you want to work without a fuss, use Windows.
Michael Alexander is editor-in-chief of Application Development Trends.