Linux on the desktop

(14:11:30) jbminn: Linux on servers == great. Linux on desktop == sucks...

This is a real IM session I had with a colleague ealier today, after having spent many, many hours over two days trying to steup a FC3 desktop system for my son. His needs are basic: light word processing for school, and secure (filtered) wireless web browsing. This is all from hardware that was recently running Windows XP Home Edition and attaching wirelessly to a now-dead Orinoco RG-2000 router. This hardware briefly did connect to my current Airport Extreme, so I know it was hardware-compatible.

Not wanting to waste the perfectly good hardware, and refusing to reinstall Winbloze, I decided to install FC3. Let’s return for a moment to the rest of my IM session:

...Until this gap is bridged, Linux on the desktop will never be a serious, widespread option. USB doesn't work out of the box, nor does *any* type of wireless networking. These pieces of functionality have worked, more or less automatically, for years on both OSX and Winbloze. Don't even get me started on sound, which is so basic I cannot even comprehend why it doesn't uniformly work in every distribution.

(14:11:56) Bryant: thanks for sharing
(14:12:01) jbminn: ;)
(14:12:36) Bryant:
(14:19:33) jbminn: The core server functionality is solid, but the desktop apps are just so inconsistent. The driver madness was enough to push me to buy Macs for Jen and I a few months ago. I *wanted* to run a Linux back-office server (that Jen uses for the business accounting) and a laptop; you know - eat the dog food. But the apps I need to run don't function, either reliably or at all, on any distribution of Linux. I love my Macs (Tiger 10.4.2) because they were up & running, on-line is under 20 minutes total.
(14:20:05) jbminn: ...wirelessly as well
(14:20:33) Bryant: yup. it goes without saying that I agree - since both Jen (my Jen) and I run Macs at home ...
(14:20:42) Bryant: and my server is FreeBSD ...
(14:23:38) jbminn: yeah, I know. My servers run fine - both are hardened FC3 Pogo Linux boxes. No problems with either of them, but I don't try to use them for desktop work either. I do use one of them as a "daily" development box, but it is a given that I don't do anything vaguely "un-Linux" on it. like: 1) word processing 2) spreadsheets 3) presentations 4) any graphics at all (Gimp may be powerful, but you need to think like a freakin' moron to understand how to use it - and I just can't)
(14:25:00) Bryant: LOL I tried Gimp on the Mac (under X11). I felt like a moron, then went back to Photoshop.

I got the system setup and they (both my sons) are now happily playing arcade games on cartoonnetworks.com. This is all on FC3 inside a Firefox browser. I’m pleased that is working, but how can this be seen as a realisitc value prop? I have said before that I’m past the tinkering stage with Linux – I want to use it to *do things*, not just use it for the *sake of using it*. This implies a certian level of stability, uniformity and predictability when it comes to how the applications and utilities function.

As I said above, server-side Linux is – and has been for some time – ready to use, even in the data center. Sadly, desktop Linux is not, almost not even in my kid’s room.

Given that I need to setup another machine for my other son, I’m back on the Apple page deciding what to purchase.

John Minnihan

Founder & Chief Architect of freepository, a web-based system of secure, globally accessble on-demand source control repositories.