Is Linux Ready for Prime Time?

This is a topic that has been covered an untold number of times, but is still relevant, and, in my opinion, should be returned to from time to time.

I used Knoppix for safe browsing for a couple of years, then Debian occasionally, then Ubuntu and Windows sharing one monitor/keyboard/mouse through a KVM switch, and finally Ubuntu exclusively. I’ve found a few issues at each stage of the way, that make me wonder if Linux is ready for the average user, with no programming experience or interest.

Knoppix had a problem at one stage when printer drivers were switched. To be fair, I don’t think Knoppix is meant for the average user, as it’s a live distro, meant to be run as such. The same may be said of any other live distro. I think that the non-technical person simply wants something installed on their PC that works, period.

Ubuntu has been my best experience with Linux to date, although some of that may be due to my growing experience and knowledge of Linux. What most impressed me about Ubuntu was how easy it was to install (the alt or light version), the fact that Firefox, Thunderbird, Open Office and Wine are all current, and that everything I’ve tried to date ‘just works’. There’s also an impressive collection of free software (open source AND free), that can be downloaded quite easily. Thunderbird wasn’t included as a default, but I just selected it in Applications Add/Remove.

The best way for someone new to Linux to proceed is to use the Ubuntu Help Center. This is the life preserver icon at the top of your desktop. The next step after that is to got to the Ubuntu forum, http://ubuntuforums.org. Registration is free, and with that you can post, as well as read.

The main problems getting into Linux are adding a printer, and drivers. (My graphics card is quite old, the drivers proprietary; I eventually figured out how to find the driver – System Administration Hardware Drivers. I’m not sure if I see a way out of this that will satisfy everyone, although I’m also not sure how much of a problem this is. How many modern monitors are not supported by Linux? ) Adding a printer is fairly easy.

A minor annoyance I had was uninstalling Windows programs under Wine. I had to go into my home directory, in ./local/share/applications/wine/Programs, and delete the folders for programs I had just uninstalled. I don’t think that this should have been necessary.

Other than this minor glitch in Wine, I think that Ubuntu is indeed ready for prime time. It will be helped by the fact that some PC vendors now offer Ubuntu pre-loaded, and Best Buy sells it, for $20 US. Unfortunately, these cases are only in the States, as far as I know. The Asus Eee PC comes with an option of Xandros Linux, and some Dells with Ubuntu.

Linux is making progress. I don’t think it will be earth-shattering, but incremental. Where will things go from here? I don’t know, but it will be interesting to see.

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