posted by Mike Martin on Mon 14th Jul 2003 17:42 UTC
IconAfter reading yet another "why Linux is not ready for the desktop" article/discussion, I decided that, as someone who uses Linux exclusively at home, its about time I wrote my response to the attitudes expressed. I have been using Linux since January 1999 (Red Hat 5.2 off of a cover disc).

Editorial Notice: All opinions are those of the author and not necessarily those of


Initially when I got it installed, it was a case of WTF do I do now, but the more I looked at both the system and the underlying philosophy the more I liked it. This was after around 10 years of using various varieties of DOS/windows ups to NT4, gradually getting more and more frustrated at what windows would not allow me to do.

Linux was a breath of fresh air.

Fast Forward to the present.

I currently use a base of RH9 o what is classed as "low end hardware, (K6/2 500 256Mb, 6Gb HD), with cutting-edge cvs stuff (gnome, abiword, gnumeric, evolution, epiphany).

This probably marks me out as a geek,BUT, I also work in an office environment in the DB analysis field. Also when I do install a stock RH, I normally keep it stock for a few days to see what its like.

To get with the program, I hear SO many times, "you have to drop down to the command line to do basic stuff in Linux" - lets get real, I consider myself to be a very competent Linux user (not a guru or a geek), and this is what I do at the command prompt, usually because its quicker with the appropriate GUI replacements.

file operations (ls,cp,mv)nautilus
rpm operations (install, remove, query)GUI
perl scriptingN/A
user/system admin Full set of GUI tools under system menu
ftp (ncftp)gftp

Apart from compiling/scripting, if I wished to use my system in the "windows" way, I would not need to drop down to the GUI.

For comparison this is what I normally do at the GUI level

Setup printing, networking
CD burning/ripping (nautilus-cd/ sound-juicer)
web-browsing (epiphany)
mail (evolution)
editing text files (gedit)
creating .doc files (abiword/OO)
edit/create spreadsheets (gnumeric)

The fact is that for most anything that a "windows user" ie: someone accustomed to the windows way of working, for 95% plus of hardware/software stuff, you never need to go to the cli on a modern distro.

What can't I do out of the box easily that a win/office-pro user would expect

Some multimedia issues (normally to do with propriety plugins/drivers)
decent GUI DB frontend ala Access/paradox - this is a major issue I accept, but does not affect most users)
the occasional broken web-site with broken JS does not load (by design - ie they block non ie)
Games - could not care less personally.

What cant I do out of the box easily on windows that I expect from any Linux box.?

decent shell
decent help system
multiple workspaces
horrible fonts
automatic setup of 90% of hardware
easy access to sys/net logs

(please note I am comparing stock Downloaded RH9 to windows and office pro)

To tell the truth most of what I do on the PC is EASIER to do on a Linux box, than to do on a more expensive windows setup.

Finally a few comments on software installation

Despite the various complaints about software installation on Linux - I have always found software installation on Linux a lot easier, than on windows. Sure sometimes it can be annoying that gee_whiz_app_by_I_have _an_ego can cause problems with obscure libraries, but most of the time, if your system is anywhere near current, problems do not arise.

And the same issues arise on win boxen, from the neccessity of loading a service pack (which may break your system) through missing DLLs to applications corrupting DLL's.

Also what I love about RPM's is that a simple command tells you exactly what is installed on yor system in contrast to windows programs.

About the Author:
I am a Linux/windows user with a distinct preference for Linux. Other interests include Isaac Asimove and other sci-fi and the Clash.

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