back to article Ubuntu? Fedora? Mint? Debian? We'll find you the right Linux to swallow

Linux, it is said, is all about choice. Indeed, the ability to choose, well, pretty much everything, is probably the best thing about Linux. But the huge variety from which you can choose - ranging from distro and desktop to window manager - can also be overwhelming for newcomers. If you've ever thought about abandoning …

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  1. Alan Bourke

    Mint is great but ...

    ... backup / wipe / install new version / restore instead of in-place major version upgrades?

    No ta.

    Lubuntu for me these days.

    1. Sutekh
      Terminator

      Re: Mint is great but ...

      Linux Mint Debian Edition was created to solve that issue.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Mint is great but ...

      Gentoo has always had rolling updates. Why Ubuntu went down the road it did I don't know but the "major version" problem was a killer for me and the wife. One failed major update is one too many and recovering from that is a nightmare. The Unity fiasco is a side-show compared to that.

      1. FrankAlphaXII Silver badge
        Thumb Up

        Re: Mint is great but ...

        Would you really give a brand new Linux user Gentoo? Its a sink or swim distro and most people who have never had contact with any of the commercial UNIXes or any other Linux distribution are not going to be able to handle being thrown in the deep end coming straight from Windows or MacOS.

        Hell, honestly Im surprised noone's suggested to Mac users (out of the comments Ive read so far anyway) to try one of the other BSD derivatives like PC-BSD or even FreeBSD since its pretty much what they're already using anyway, just a locked down and mentally challenged version of BSD called Darwin.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Mint is great but ...

          "Would you really give a brand new Linux user Gentoo?"

          Sort of. I would not give a brand new user of any system something I expect them to maintain themselves. So, a brand new user is someone I expect to help out from time to time as they're learning what's what. in that sense, Gentoo is no worse a choice for a newbie than any other, including OS/X, Ubuntu, or Windows. I expect to set the machine up for them whatever it runs.

          If all they're new to is Linux then the same applies but I'd expect to take the stabilizers off more quickly.

          Most people, IMO, make a dog's dinner out of maintaining their computer's OS because they just don't want to know the details they need to know to do it well. That's why they have sysadmins and/or friends.

      2. sisk Silver badge

        Re: Mint is great but ...

        Why Ubuntu went down the road it did I don't know

        When you create your distro by taking a snapshot of Debian's unstable branch every six months and then tweaking the hell out of it upgrade problems are a given. Even Debian users using the unstable branch straight have problems with upgrades from time to time. One particularly nightmarish upgrade when they were switching from hotplug to udev prompted me back to the relative sanity of the testing branch despite having to settle for slightly more out of date versions of most software that way.

        1. (AMPC) Anonymous and mostly paranoid coward
          Windows

          Re: Mint is great but ...

          Agreed, stay with the stable LTS Ubuntu version..... although Fedora and Redhat are pretty solid releases as well. I'm also a Mint fan.

          A good sub note to this article would have been to talk about Linuxes for really small hardware like Puppy, Lubuntu and Debian squeeze. Some people like to install Linux to keep old under-powered boxes that can't run Windows as viable desktop units (Guilty...) A lot of people also don't know that it is remarkably easy to boot and run a working *nix right off a USB stick or CD, (try that with Windows).

          Good article, most impressed by the number of commentards.... and the so-far non fanatical discussions.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Mint is great but ...

      I was wondering why LXDE didn't get a mention. Especially with so much verbiage devoted to making Windows exiles feel at home. Odd.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Mint is great but ...

        exactly. Many more Linux distros better more beginner friendly than those mentioned, Mageia (successor to the most user-friendly of all Mandrake/Mandriva). Real in-depth article, not.

      2. Number6

        Re: Mint is great but ...

        Mint dropped support for LXDE as a direct-install option, unfortunately. It was my solution of choice for family machines and netbooks.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Mint is great but ...

      I see that SUSE 10 is now on over 3800 security vulnerabilities. Is there actually a commercially supported Linux version that has better security than Windows? Most of the distributions seem to suck for security.

      Security seems to be such an afterthought in Linux with add-ons like SEL and having to run specific file systems to get proper ACLs, instead of having security built in from the ground up like in Windows.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Mint is great but ...

        3800 vulns across the entire distro.

        The standard for comparison is the number of vulnerabilities across the entire universe of Windows-based software from Microsoft and its partners. Anyone with a number?

        Windows doesn't have an equivalent to SEL, although I guess you can buy something in from one of the big security vendors. And ACLs can be added to an existing ext filesystem if you need them, no need for special file system types.

        In my opinion (as one who has been called a MS shill when challenging that funny little Weedon man about the Linux desktop chaos), a fresh install of Linux is more secure than a fresh Windows installation. It doesn't mean Windows can't be made as secure, just that it takes more work to get it there and keep it that way (and a lot of us are grateful for the living that provides).

        1. mmeier

          Re: Mint is great but ...

          I'd say standard distributions "out of the box" (Say Suse and Win8, RedHead and Windows Server 2012) are about equal in security except the one problem Windows has (mostly on the client side):

          Default User has too much permissions

          Easy to fix in theorie. Easy to fix if the software you use is written as it should be since XP. If not you might end up with "local admin" running as the main user. In a company net with proper firewalls, proxies etc. this is doable and done for older commercial stuff that has no alternative. On privat units this is the single weak point in an otherwise very secure workstation os.

        2. Youngone Silver badge
          Flame

          Re: Mint is great but ...

          Good Lord! A polite, well reasoned response in a (potential) flame war.

          1. Euripides Pants Silver badge

            Re: A polite, well reasoned response

            Agreed. I would have said that Ubuntu isn't even worth using as a dogs suppository.

            But I'm an a$$hole.

        3. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Mint is great but ...

          Windows has a better version of SEL built into the core OS - via the Windows kernel and App Locker, cand can be fully managed in a distributed fashion in an enterprise using Group Policies. Windows doesnt have the shortcomings of SEL and similar products like App Armour. e.g. SEL can only lockdown by inode, App armour only by file path, etc, etc. Windows is fundamentally more secure and more powerful in these areas, with features like compound identity, constrained kerberos delegation and dynamic access control, that Linux simply doesnt have equivalents of.

      2. Chemist

        Re: Mint is great but ...

        "Security seems to be such an afterthought in Linux with add-ons like SEL and having to run specific file systems to get proper ACLs, instead of having security built in from the ground up like in Windows."

        Well you stick with Windows if you are so confident - I know what OS is feel most confident with.

        (Are you related to RICHTO because there is an AC whose been posting a lot of funny stuff recently who seem to write just like him ?)

      3. sisk Silver badge

        Re: Mint is great but ...

        I see that SUSE 10 is now on over 3800 security vulnerabilities.

        If you don't understand how meaningless that number is then you have no business talking about security.

        Is there actually a commercially supported Linux version that has better security than Windows?

        I'm tempted to say 'all of them', but the fact of the matter is that Windows has gotten a lot better in that regard. Still, they are all at least on par with Windows and some are better than Windows.

        Most of the distributions seem to suck for security.

        Again, if you take the raw number of security vulnerabilities as your indicator and think it actually means anything then you've proven you're not qualified to comment on security.

        Here's the thing: that 3800 security vulnerabilities is the number of vulnerabilities in the OS plus all the software in the repository. To get an equivalent number for Windows you'd have to count the vulnerabilities in Windows itself, which you can't do outside of Redmond -- I'm not slamming proprietary software here, just pointing out that Windows could easily have that many known vulnerabilities and we'd never know until they were fixed. Then you'd need to count the vulnerabilities in every single Windows application out there. And then you'd end up with an equally meaningless number.

        Here's the thing: the vast majority of those vulnerabilities are things along the same severity of a legitimate user being able to change another user's default font with physical access to the machine. In other words, they are minor annoyances rather than true security concerns. Real security problems like remote execution and privilege escalation bugs tend to get squashed very quickly in Linux (or, for that matter, any other major OSS project). Usually those kind of bugs are patched in hours as opposed to days at the bare minimum with similar bugs in Windows.

        Don't get me wrong: Redmond's a hell of a lot better with security than they used to be. We don't often see major security bugs for which the official answer to 'when will it be patched' is 'never' anymore (there were a TON of those back in the IE6 days). They've almost caught up to Linux security wise. I personally don't like the way ACLs are handled in Windows, but it works.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Mint is great but ...

          Uhm, ok, if you want to play it that way, then I make it ~ known 947 vulnerabilities JUST in the Linux kernel. Thats over twice as many as any complete distribution of Windows desktop or server....

          1. sisk Silver badge

            Re: Mint is great but ...

            Uhm, ok, if you want to play it that way, then I make it ~ known 947 vulnerabilities JUST in the Linux kernel. Thats over twice as many as any complete distribution of Windows desktop or server....

            And that is just as meaningless as the 3800 you quoted before. The raw number of vulnerabilities in a system is nowhere near as important as the severity and access required to exploit them. Looking at the raw number by itself means that you're giving a vulnerability that allows someone sitting at your desk to change the default desktop environment for another user the same weight as one that allows someone sitting in Hong Kong to gain root access and execute the command of their choice on your system.

            As for it being twice as many as Windows, unless you work for Microsoft in the division responsible for patching them, you have no way of knowing that. Unlike OSS projects like Linux Microsoft doesn't tell us about their known vulnerabilities until they have a fix. Also, due to the nature of OSS a vulnerability is more likely to be known by virtue of the fact that outside security experts can examine the source code rather than simply trying things until they find something that works.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Mint is great but ...

              @sisk

              "As for it being twice as many as Windows, unless you work for Microsoft in the division responsible for patching them, you have no way of knowing that."

              Quite. I'm getting the distinct impression that that particular AC probably does work at Microsoft... and is either lying about the numbers, or their bug tracker was designed by Billy there'll never be more than 640 bugs Gates ;o)

      4. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Security seems to be such an afterthought in Linux

        Killer man,

        best laugh I had all day

      5. hplasm Silver badge
        Windows

        Re: Mint is great but ...

        "...instead of having security ground up like in Windows."

        There, fixed that for you.

    5. Number6

      Re: Mint is great but ...

      I've done in-place upgrades before now, but it does involve a bit of hacking that might unsettle a newcomer. I assume Fedora has improved since I last used it then, that was regular upgrades, whereas with something giving long-term support, such upgrades are minimised (Mint 9, 13, and also a bit of Centos 6 here).

    6. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Mint is great but ...

      I'd have to agree on Mint for Linux newcomers.

      Once upon a time, before Unity happened, I always pointed n00bs toward Ubuntu.

      Now Ubuntu has gone off on a desktop Tangent, there's no way in hell I would recommend it for someone coming from windows - complete and utter confusion awaits them.

      Simple things, like "How do I make a desktop shortcut" - erm, you can't - yep, that's the step forward Canonical took.

      Mint, on the other hand, is very easy for windows users to pick up on.

      However, one big caveat in all this recommendation, I would never recommend Linux to anyone who isn't at least approaching a power user. By that, I mean someone capable of installing software on windows, locating files, creating shortcuts.

      You'd be suprised - hmm, actually you wouldn't - that a *large* percentage of people who use computers struggle with even these basic concepts.

      Heck, booting a Live CD would prove difficult for them - why? Well, usually, complete and utter lack of interest in computers. They want to switch on, do stuff, switch off.

      *never* recommend Linux to someone like this, a world of pain awaits...

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Mint is great but ...

        I installed Linux Mint XFCE on my parents computer a couple of years ago, installed all the applications they would need, setup shortcuts on the desktop and set the system to auto update.

        I've had no complaints so far, in fact the only calls I've had is from my Dad asking about this terminal thingy and how to use it. Not bad for an octogenarian :)

        1. preppy

          Re: Mint is great but ...

          Regarding XFCE......it's simpler, cleaner and faster than GNOME. If anyone plans to start out on Fedora (my distro of choice), install XFCE.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Unity

        At first, I thought I'd hate it. Then I started to get it. In particular, it makes finding commands faster, and on a small screen (I use a Thinkpad X61) putting menus on the wide menu bar at the top and not on the windows makes sense.

        Personally, though, I kind of like having a different way of working-it takes extra time to start with, but it's a lot better than thinking 'I'm looking at a bad reimplementation of Windows 95', which is what I always thought whenever I used GNOME 2.

      3. stephajn

        Re: Mint is great but ...

        Agreed! In fact, I would say that for anyone who wants to switch on and switch off and has no real interest in learning anything about computers should just stick to his/her Nintendo DS or Smartphone and leave it at that. WAY too many people stepping up from Windows XP to Windows 7 and (perish the thought) Windows 8 are just absolutely lost because it isn't blue and green anymore. For many people we have sold a Windows 7 machine to who had Windows XP....a whole world of pain and hair pulling "OH MY GOD can you be that dumb???" has been visited upon us.

    7. oiseau Silver badge
      Unhappy

      Linux is great ... But.

      If it were not for the fact that I'm not willing to let go of my Matrox AGP twin LCD board (never been able to get Ubuntu to work with the card) or get an organizer to work with my vintage Palm IIIxe or Motorola cellphone, I would have left XP SP3 for Ubuntu long ago ...

      Cheers,

      .

      1. David Satterfield
        Happy

        Re: Linux is great ... But.

        I would give of the Microsoft world for Kubuntu in a heartbeat if I could find a way to run iTunes(have an iPhone), Skyrim & Thumbsplus(No acceptable replacement found yet).

    8. Criminny Rickets
      Facepalm

      Re: Mint is great but ...

      I switched from Windows 7, and after much researching choose Mint 12 Cinnamon. When Mint 13 came out, I upgraded to that. My biggest complaints pre Mint 14 is twofold. It is a b*tch installing a printer. For some reason, the Add Printer function is broken in Ubuntu, therefore it is also broken in Mint 12. It is also broken in Mint 13, and I found out in Mint 14. In order to install a printer, you have to do a search for how to use CUPS, and install the printer via the CUPS html interface.

      My other complaint pre Mint 14, is the lack of simulated 5.1 surround sound using 5.1 surround speakrs and a on board sound card. In Windows 7, when I play Dark Side of the Moon, it sounds like a different instrument from each speaker with the voice coming from the middle speaker. In Mint, using the same setup, the sound is all combined and comes from all surround sound speakers.

      Another big issue that has come up in Mint 14, and a lot of the newer Linux distros, including Ubuntu, OpenSuse, Mageia etc., is that they have all gone to X.Org 1.13 or greater, which does not work with an AMD/ATI HD Radeon graphics card 4XXX or earlier, which both my laptop (which is just a couple of years old) and my desktop both have. The proprietry AMD drivers for that chipset only work with X.Org 1.12 or earlier, and has AMD has made those legacy drivers, there is little chance of there being an update. Yes, there are solutions to roll back X.Org to 1.12, but they do not always work (didn't for me). I need the proprietry drivers on my laptop in order to get sound to work over HDMI to my sound system and HDTV which I have connected to it.

      However, contrary to what I said above regarding 5.1 surround sound, when I play a 2 channel song from my laptop to my sound system over HDMI, it does play in simulated 5.1 surround sound, which I like.

    9. localzuk

      Re: Mint is great but ...

      I don't know why, but I've got past the whole "bleeding edge" obsession. I don't feel a need to upgrade my OS to the latest version as soon as it comes out. When I was using Ubuntu, I stuck to LTS editions, for example.

      I want to use my computer, not to have to constantly be setting it up or updating it. So, having to do a full reinstall every couple of years is not a problem to me. I'm more likely to be replacing the computer anyway!

  2. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge
    Linux

    CentOS for me

    It does everything I want from a Linux Distro. Still with Gnome 2 as its primary GUI.

    Tux Naturally.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: CentOS for me

      CentOS is my favoured distro, but I do find that Gnome2 is much more a GUI for a server than a GUI for a desktop (that said, it's what's on my netbook, because I just didn't get on with Gnome 3, and I really wanted to.) If you're going to have a GUI on your server and let's face it only the purist doesn't want one for occasional use, you can't do better than Gnome 2.

      1. Pirate Dave
        Pirate

        Re: CentOS for me

        I'm not a purist, but I don't have X on my CenOS servers. Two primary reasons for that:

        1. Takes up a lot of space (yeah, I know, disks are huge now) and adds unnecessary cluttering services

        2. Keeps me from using a production server as a "one-off" desktop

        3. Only a LAMER runs a GUI on a server.

        Heh, ok, #3 is old-fashioned troll bait.

        But, I do run X on my SLES boxes, since they are eDirectory servers and in a worst-case scenario, I COULD take some pills and run ConsoleOne directly on the server if I needed to. In fact, IIRC, it's a bit of a PITA to get the SLES boxes to NOT run a gui. DAMN YOU NOVELL!!!!

    2. Mage Silver badge
      Linux

      Re: CentOS for me

      CentOS and Debian are good idea for Servers and Appliances. But for an ordinary user with no Linux experience Mint or OpenSuse are maybe better. I used to recommend Ubuntu, but what on earth are they smoking and drinking? What ever it is need a Mental Health warning.

      1. keithpeter
        Boffin

        Re: CentOS for me

        "CentOS and Debian are good idea for Servers and Appliances. But for an ordinary user with no Linux experience Mint or OpenSuse are maybe better."

        @Mage and the original article's author.

        About Debian...

        1) Download DVD1 from the (RC1) Wheezy install set and burn it to an actual optical disk

        2) Get that old PC off the shelf/out of the attic, the one you don't need the old OS on

        3) Boot off the DVD

        4) Stumble through the install by selecting defaults (see http://www.sohcahtoa.org.uk/pages/linux_debian-wheezy-install-from-dvd1.html ) Just make sure you type the WPA2 pass phrase in correctly or be prepared to restart the installation

        5) Boot into a nice useful desktop with a decent range of apps. Jogs along ok on an Atom based netbook.

        6) Click a couple of checkboxes in Synaptic so it forgets about the DVD and adds in the contributed packages

        Any different to Ubuntu before 10.04 really? I reckon anyone who has installed Windows+drivers on anything in the last decade would cope with this ok.

        And I say this as one who runs CentOS on his main laptop and Ubuntu/Unity on the desktop.

  3. nigel 15

    too many words

    i need a diagram.

    1. Flocke Kroes Silver badge

      Re: too many words

      http://www.eexploria.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/12/lix-distros-2011.jpg

  4. JimmyPage Silver badge
    Coat

    Who remembers ...

    Stob's take on this ?

    The conscientious would-be Linux user should take time to mull over the pros and cons of the Red Hat versus SUSE, and Debian versus Gentoo. He will want to evaluate the various package installation schemes - comparing .deb with .rpm - and will spend many hours on the web absorbing great quantities of freely offered advice over whether to go for Gnome or risk post-Trolltech takeover KDE, or just run the whole thing in text mode, like a Real Beard.

    After he has done all this, he will install Ubuntu, because that's what everybody does.

    1. John Doe 6
      Mushroom

      Re: Who remembers ...

      ...thus he will end up with the Windoze of the Linux world.

      1. sisk Silver badge
        Mushroom

        Re: Who remembers ...

        Personally I don't think Windows was ever as bad as Ubuntu. I really wish that turd of a distro would stop getting so much press. As much headache as using Debian, as many bugs as pre-SP1 Windows XP, and all the ugliness of my color blind grandfather's desktop all in one neat package.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Who remembers ...

          It's a Linux hipster out in the open hating on Ubuntu. That's such a rare and unique site.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: the Windoze of the Linux world

        Admitted I installed Ubuntu pre Unity, but Ubuntu was straightforward to install, supported all my hardware straight out of the box. I had no issues upgrading from version to version, and I just can't imagine why anyone needs Windows these days.

        Stable and with an SSD, makes my aged laptop perform like a new machine.

        When Unity came along, I my initial reaction was to jump ship into another distro but although I didn't like Unity at first, like beer, I got used to it.

        Anyhow, there is plenty of similar choice out there.

        I'm not quite clear who the article is aimed at - windows IT professionals or home users, but I'm not sure I'd encourage people to experiment in virtual box unless they already knew how to use it - why not make a booting memory stick or live cd and see how you get on.

        And I don't think I use the command line in ubuntu any more than I used dos-box in windows.

        One of the reasons windows is popular is it is easy to use, and the same is true of ubuntu

        1. plrndl
          Linux

          Re: the Windoze of the Linux world

          As a user of multiple virtual boxes and OSs on Ubuntu, I can assure you they typically run at near-native speed (AMD 1100T X6 & 16 Gb RAM). Running any OS on a memory stick or optical disk is so slooooooooooooow, it would drive a normal person insane. It's certainly a very poor way to assess an OS.

  5. Jan Hargreaves
    WTF?

    http://mate-desktop.org/

    Why does MATE look like a 4x3 TV feed stretched on to a 16:9 screen?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      WTF?

      > Why does MATE look like a 4x3 TV feed stretched on to a 16:9 screen?

      Not sure what you mean: it doesn't on my Macbook Pro.

      1. Jan Hargreaves

        err... look at the website. it just looks stretched.

        1. desht

          Err, it's very obvious that the images across the top of the Mate site are cropped sections. Just look at the images for more than half a second.

  6. GettinSadda
    Alert

    Lets see if this self-fulfills

    The biggest problem I find with Linux is that any attempt to get help tends to end up with hordes of gurus flinging abuse at me for a) not knowing the answer already and b) not just downloading the source and coding the fixes I want into the kernel

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Lets see if this self-fulfills

      Sadly true far too often, I only have to read the replies from others brave enough to ask the about the problems I have, in the first place!

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Lets see if this self-fulfills

      Not the case on say the Linux Mint forums, where they are only too happy to help people with various queries. Although historically, yes there has been a certain amount of Linux elitism, but things are changing, and it really depends where you are going to ask for assistance.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Lets see if this self-fulfills

        For most of us, it is a lot easier to help someone who has already tried to help themselves.

        I too, have seen plenty of rude put downs of noobs in Linux forums, but overall, I find most community users will help noobs, whenever they can, particularly if they identify themselves as such.

        Like most things in life, attitude has a lot to do with it.

    3. Flocke Kroes Silver badge

      Re: Lets see if this self-fulfills

      http://www.catb.org/esr/faqs/smart-questions.html#intro

      1. AndyS

        Re: Lets see if this self-fulfills

        Flocke: This guide is great if I'm investigating the mis-behaviour of Apache when configured to use port 8082 and accessing from the local machine (although it's fine from a remote machine on the same sub-net, or local machine filtered through a proxy). The problem is most user-based problems aren't like that. What if my Ubuntu installation crashes to a black screen immediately after install? I have no way of knowing what hardware is causing it, or if it's even hardware related. What if Firefox crashes, then refuses to re-start? It may seem obvious to a self-described 'hacker' to type 'kill -9 `pidof firefox-bin`' and re-launch it, but as a new user, that's not simple. Especially when the dialogue simply says it's still running.

        In other words, this guide is largely aimed at the wrong target when talking about user-space problems.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          @AndyS - Re: Lets see if this self-fulfills

          If you don't want to be bothered to learn how a computer works, then why would you want to use Linux ?

          1. mmeier

            Re: @AndyS - Lets see if this self-fulfills

            Because some people claim it's better and cheaper than Windows? Can do everythink that Windows can for free? And if most people hear free they add "as in beer" mentally. So they want "cheap" and want to use it not learn about computers.

            Or because people get the idea for an application that needs internet access but not that much bandwidth, do not want to expose a Windows-box to the net / do not have a spare windows licence and look for an easy to use alternative? And quite a few distributions (Suse, Ubuntu) claim to be that. Again those people look for a box that does not need a PhD in Computer Science.

            Computers are (thankfully) approaching the point where they can simply be used WITHOUT knowing how they work. Like cars, microwaves or DVD recorders. That is what people expect this days. That's why Macs and iThingys(Both Overpriced. underpowered and locked down) are so popular today.

            1. Mark .

              Re: @AndyS - Lets see if this self-fulfills

              It doesn't have to be polarised between "locked down and easy to use" and "open and hard to use" - you don't have to know how it works to use Linux or Windows - or indeed, Android, which is far more popular than ios. (Plus the people I know with Macs seem to like them because they have Unix shells, hardly the "easy to use" argument...)

          2. AndyS

            Re: @AndyS - Lets see if this self-fulfills

            Maybe because I prefer it? Or maybe because in 10 years time I might know perfectly well how computers work, but right now something is broken in a way I can't figure out, and doesn't fit even slightly into the famous 'How to ask questions' tutorial? That tutorial is very much aimed at programmers and advanced users, in the 90s, who had technical questions. It's very helpful, and has a whole lot of other advice, but since one of the most commonly occuring lines is "...or just don't ask the question at all," it's not great for end-user advice. RTFM is a good answer if I need to know the exact ins-and-outs of ffmpeg, but not if totem crashes when I insert a DVD. Mostly, that guide would simply tell me, in the latter situation, not to attempt to contact 'hackers.' Which is valid, but doesn't make it relevant to this conversation.

            As others have said, the format of answering questions advocated by the guide has done a lot of damage to Linux's usage (although if everyone asked questions like it advises, the world would be a better place.

          3. This post has been deleted by its author

          4. Gray
            Devil

            Re: @AndyS - Lets see if this self-fulfills

            "AC" said: "If you don't want to be bothered to learn how a computer works, then why would you want to use Linux?"

            Exactly right! But I do presume that your automobile of choice has the basic hand-crank starter, a carburetor mixture control, a spark advance, a maual choke, a manual gearbox sans synchro-mesh, made irrelevant by intutitive double-clutching skills -- and to eliminate the extra complexity, weight, and maintenance -- a battery-less magneto ignition sparking system? Hmmmmm ?? How's that? Hi-intensity pressure-fed kerosene headlamps and a battery-lantern tail-light system too? Oooooh... you are a fundamentalist devil! Please, show me again, that fold-down windscreen that eliminates the air-conditioning system and the need for wipers!

            1. Peter Gathercole Silver badge

              @Gray

              I can only assume that you've never used a modern Linux.

              All mainstream distros on mainstream hardware will do pretty much everything a home user would want to do out of the box, with the possible exception of patent restricted file formats, and there is no way in hell that you can blame the Linux community for that problem.

              1. dajames Silver badge
                Windows

                @Peter Gathercole

                All mainstream distros on mainstream hardware will do pretty much everything a home user would want to do out of the box, with the possible exception of patent restricted file formats, and there is no way in hell that you can blame the Linux community for that problem.

                Agreed ... up to a point.

                Unfortunately there are some specific pieces of hardware and software that require Windows, and any user who wants or needs to use one of those has to use Windows.

                In my case -- I can't update my TomTom SatNav without Windows because TomTom Home only runs on Windows (even though the TomTom device itself runs Linux), I can't use the software provided with my Canon DSLR without Windows, and I can't use my copy of the MemoryMap OS mapping software without Windows. In the latter two cases a VM is OK (but I still need a licensed copy of Windows to run in it) but the TomTom software is happier when it can connect to a real (non-virtualized) USB port. For these, I keep an old P4 box running XP.

                The problem is that there is no incentive for TomTom, Canon, and MemoryMap to produce Linux versions of their tools because they can pretty-much expect that any potential customer has access to a Windows PC. As long as that remains true Windows will be the OS of choice for everyone who runs only a single PC.

                On the bright side, I can use my old 16-bit Windows copy of the Shorter Oxford English Dictionary under Wine on my 64-bit Linux box, whereas 64-bit Windows won't run 16-bit software at all.

                1. Peter Gathercole Silver badge

                  @dajames

                  I overlooked that one (and that is strange, because I had the exact same problem with TomTom myself). Ironically, I also have problems updating my Android Phone and Tablet because the installers both need Windows (although I think the tablet could be done using an update stored on the micro-sd card if I tried hard).

                  But I would also wonder whether the myTomTom (or whatever it is called) would suffer the same problem as S-OED that you mention.

                  So, how do we pressure these shortsighted vendors to provide native Linux apps? They'll have to something to cater for tablet filled PC free households at some point.

                2. Chemist

                  Re: @Peter Gathercole

                  "I can't use the software provided with my Canon DSLR without Windows"

                  I only use Linux and have 2 Canon DSLRs - I don't find it necessary to use the Canon software.

                  I can process the raw files to 48bit tifs, adjust exposures etc and drive the camera remotely all from Linux.

            2. alisonken1
              Thumb Up

              Re: @AndyS - Lets see if this self-fulfills

              Hmm. Fond memories. I actually learned to drive on a '31 Ford Model A pickup. Fond memories indeed.

          5. teebie

            Re: @AndyS - Lets see if this self-fulfills

            "If you don't want to be bothered to learn how a computer works, then why would you want to use Linux ?"

            Because an OS aimed at consumers should, for the most part, just work

    4. DrXym Silver badge

      Re: Lets see if this self-fulfills

      I've seen it all through the years on sites like Slashdot, Linux Today etc. I'd make a comment that a dialog was missing / broken / unforgiving, or that some common device didn't work, or that I shouldn't have to edit some file to make the desktop work properly and I'd be greeted with outright hostility at times.

      It's like some people truly believe that Linux should mean groveling around in HOWTOs or in hand editing text files just because the desktop is too retarded to include a checkbox that would turn something on or off. This RTFM attitude and zealotry has done as much damage to Linux as anything Microsoft has done.

      Fortunately Linux has moved on a lot in the last decade but this ugly arrogance and defensiveness is still there.

    5. Fred Goldstein
      Happy

      Re: Lets see if this self-fulfills

      Well, you know the old saying. 98% of Linux fans make the other 2% look bad.

      The distro that had the friendliest user community, really not hostile at all to newbies, was MEPIS. It was a very nice distro too, but hasn't been updated enough lately.

    6. Barry Rueger Silver badge

      Re: Lets see if this self-fulfills

      I haven't found that for a couple of years - and yes I was victim to the "READ THE MAN PAGES" mafia back in the day. These days I find that forums are where all of the useful info is found, and that in most cases people are really helpful.

      Of course it helps that modern distros (MINT for me) are actually able to install and run with 99% no problems. By the time you run into an issue it's usually a real problem with a real solution that someone has already found.

    7. Gordon Fecyk
      Go

      The even like / dislike count suggests there's some truth and some exaggeration to this

      It's nice to know I wasn't the only one scared away from Linux by hostile technical support.

      Now you just need the nice ones to get on the cases of the not-so-nice ones and make them stop biting the n00bs.

      1. Cipher
        FAIL

        Re: The even like / dislike count suggests there's some truth and some exaggeration to this

        A perfect example regarding the use of "sticky bits".

        http://forum.linuxmint.com/viewtopic.php?f=90&t=34691

        In the next to last post, a user is non-plused by the attempt to not answer his question.

        He/she restates the question details what he/she has done on their own to find an answer.

        This results in End of Thread. No one even tries to explain practical use of "sticky bits" to them...

        And this is in a Mint forum, among the better ones out there. Isolated case? Not even close, you can find these abandoned threads everywhere...

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "Comfortable with the terminal"

    And that is the phrase that is still one of the biggest steps between Linux getting any significant market share on the desktop. While you are I are relatively happy staring at a command line, Joe Punter isn't. It's an obstacle that needs to be overcome.

    1. Chemist

      Re: "Comfortable with the terminal"

      ""Comfortable with the terminal" "

      For the last griefing time - You do NOT need to use a command line to install or use most modern Linux distros.

      BUT if you do it can greatly enhance the experience.

      1. Alan Bourke

        Re: "Comfortable with the terminal"

        "For the last griefing time - You do NOT need to use a command line to install or use most modern Linux distros."

        Until you want to use something that isn't in the official package manager, or an application or dependency goes wrong. Then you'll be in a command line world, and this still happens a lot even on Ubuntu.

        1. Chemist

          Re: "Comfortable with the terminal"

          "Until you want to use something that isn't in the official package manager,"

          I do often without using the command-line - the point is that an install and use of the (GUI) installed packages doesn't need the command-line. I'm not against the CLI - indeed I use it all the time as I write a lot of programs as well as building/running scripts but there are far too many people out there who spread the FUD " Linux installations need CLI or programs compiling or whatever else. "

          They don't !

          1. Dave 126 Silver badge

            Re: "Comfortable with the terminal"

            >For the last griefing time - You do NOT need to use a command line to install or use most modern Linux distros.

            Yes, but you might, just as you might in Windows or OSX. Just the other day, I thought I would try the approach that is often recommended to novices- installing Ubuntu on a VM Ware virtual machine. I clicked 'Easy Install', and the virtual machine got stuck in a loop (VM Ware's fault- it was trying to install helper tools, but Ubuntu 12.04 was too new for it.) It took three lines of command line text to fix the Linux installation

            -What makes a virtual machine suitable for novices is that they still have access to help on the internet during the installation process if they don't have a second real machine to hand. What took the time is that first few pages I consulted said "It's buggered, reinstall it" before I found one that told me how to fix it).

            I usually have a Linux installation on a second partition and GRUB, 'just in case'. There are tools available for it that aren't easily found for Windows, and I thought it would make a better platform for on-line banking (if only because its exposure to nasties would be lower because I wouldn't use it as much). It is also reassuring to have an OS outside of your primary OS, for images and recovery, diagnostics and virus scans etc- though modern hardware can boot off a USB stick so partitioning the HDD isn't essential. Ironically enough, my practice of dual-booting stems from when one MS OS wasn't enough (at uni I needed both NT.40 and Win 98)

            1. Chemist

              Re: "Comfortable with the terminal"

              "Yes, but you might, just as you might in Windows or OSX"

              I did qualify it by saying it enhanced the experience, I also used the words "most modern "

              You might well have had a problem with one install of one distro where you needed the command line but most people don't have with most modern distros

          2. tom dial Silver badge
            Stop

            Re: "Comfortable with the terminal"

            Debian has a decent graphical package manager (synaptic) with a facility to add repositories - no command line needed here. Ubuntu, and I suppose Mint and other Debian or Ubuntu based distributions also should have this and possibly other possibilities. Command line use may be more convenient for some, but is unnecessary as long as the desired package can be found in some distribution compatible repository.

            It becomes necessary to use a terminal at about the point where the install process has become "download, extract, configure, make, make install." Fewer do that than install an OS, and not many do that. The fact is that Gnu/Linux will not become common on user desktops until some time after a major manufacturer offers it in place of, or at least on a par with, Windows. As has happened with Android and phones/tablets other than those from Apple.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: "Comfortable with the terminal"

          Or you update the kernel and it fails to update the boot filesystem image (hello Centos...)

          1. Number6

            Re: "Comfortable with the terminal"

            Or accidentally uninstall all the kernels and rebooting before realising this. I managed that, it's an interesting exercise getting the system back.

            Bootstrapping oneself out of a cock-up is a great way to learn things, even if it's only "don't do that again".

        3. Michael Habel Silver badge
          Linux

          Re: "Comfortable with the terminal"

          Best example here, being the installation of nVidias' non-free Drivers.

          Yeah have fun trying to install this w/o any cli experience.

          " You appear to be running an X server please exit X before installing."

          So is it...

          # init 3 or

          # init 5?

          no it would seem that you would have to now type:

          # /etc/init.d/gdm stop (or # gdm stop)

          to kill X. Be sure to use CTRL+Alt+Backspace to that X11 got flushed too.

          Then if your lucky the nVidia Driver will install. IF YOUR REALLY LUCKY it'll also write-up a working xorg.conf for you too. In my experience this happens about 50% of the time, On Desktop Linux.

          1. Chemist

            Re: "Comfortable with the terminal"

            @Michael Habel

            NVIDIA drivers install perfectly in my experience (OpenSUSE) and that's on about 10-15 occasions in recent years.

            I've never seen "You appear to be running an X server please exit X before installing"

            I just install from the NVIDIA repository and logout and back in. NO CLI

            1. M. Poolman

              Re: "Comfortable with the terminal" (nvidia drivers)

              Have to agree with OP on this one. Recently having to install them on a couple of debian boxen recently was the single most horrible task I've ever undertaken, and I'm by no means a noob.

              BUT

              This is not the fault of Linux, but of nvidia for releasing their drivers with an appalling installation script.

              Happily in 99% of scenarios the free (nv) drivers work just fine. To anyone reading this who is wondering about whether or not to give Linux a spin, I'd say "sure, go for it", but if you've got an nvidia card, stick with the drivers that come with the distro, until you've unless you've got access to some local expertise.

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Flame

                Besides

                ..you can use the free drivers first and get your work done. I am smelling M$ FUD here.

            2. Vic

              Re: "Comfortable with the terminal"

              > I've never seen "You appear to be running an X server please exit X before installing"

              I have. A *long* time ago. I exited the NVidia installer instead...

              > I just install from the NVIDIA repository and logout and back in

              Yep. Me too.

              Vic.

          2. tom dial Silver badge

            Re: "Comfortable with the terminal"

            If you enjoy doing it the hard way, go for it. Debian includes an NVidia non-free installer that works well. I would guess that Debian-derived distributions like Ubuntu and Mint do, and wouldn't be surprised if many of the others I haven't used, such as Fedora and OpenSuSE also do.

          3. Marcelo Rodrigues
            Happy

            Re: "Comfortable with the terminal"

            OpenSuse. From... 10 onwards?

            1) Install as usual.

            2) Login.

            3) Open Yast (the graphical one)

            4) Choose "Add Repository"

            5) Select "Community Repositories"

            6) Choose "Nvidia" or "ATI"

            7) Open the software manager.

            8) Install the driver.

            No a single look at the command line. And (not so) newer versions of the X doesn't need a config file anymore. They detect the settings on the fly.

        4. Vic

          Re: "Comfortable with the terminal"

          > Until you want to use something that isn't in the official package manager

          This isn't true.

          If you want to use GUI-only tools, they're there. It all works.

          The reason you'll often get command-line advice is because some of us *prefer* it.

          Vic.

      2. Ben Holmes
        Thumb Up

        @Chemist

        And THAT'S the problem. It might not be the case any more, and as a Mint user, I wholeheartedly agree that using the terminal can improve your experience. But the perception amongst the wider user community (i.e. Not Linux Users) is that Linux is still defined by the terminal, and that's an obstacle that the Linux community isn't really helping to overcome.

        Honestly I think at this stage Canonical need to start running TV ads or something, and make this point in big shiny capital letters. Because Ubuntu is the closest thing we have to a household name at this point.

      3. Piro

        Re: "Comfortable with the terminal"

        No chance, really, I recently tried installing Mint 14 on an older machine, (Pentium 4 3.2.. etc etc) and booting from the DVD yielded a grey screen and a white flashing cursor after selecting the boot option in the Mint boot menu. Yes, I'm sure someone will say I can apply a couple of switches to the boot command and it will turn off certain features and will boot OK, but that really isn't OK...

        1. DigiTime

          Re: "Comfortable with the terminal"

          Piro, just out of curiosity; did you manage to install Windows 8, 7 or Vista on the older machines (Pentium 4 3 2... etc etc)?

        2. Peter Gathercole Silver badge

          Re: "Comfortable with the terminal" @Prio

          Did you check that your DVD drive worked and the disk was readable in it? This is the biggest problem I get when trying to use older systems. They may load the bootstrap, but get stuck further in on the disk. Does Mint have a 'Check Media' menu item on the boot strap?

    2. GregC

      Re: "Comfortable with the terminal"

      "And that is the phrase that is still one of the biggest steps between Linux getting any significant market share on the desktop."

      It's also a phrase that the (rather good) article only ever uses once, specifically in the context of a distro suitable for developers and sysadmins. Also identifiable as "people who will be comfortable with the terminal".

      1. Anonymous Cowherder

        Re: "Comfortable with the terminal"

        I've got a windows background but run linux on my main work PC and have had a macbook for about a year. I use the command line on all operating systems, not because I need to but because I can. How do you find the IP address in windows? Run, cmd, ipconfig/all, on a mac I'd use the gui in preferences but could also do it on the cli.

        Pointing and clicking is good, the command line is good too, there are times when one is better than the other and I like to think that I use the best tool for a task, much like I try to use the best OS for specific tasks.

        Computing is there to help us, not hinder us.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: "Comfortable with the terminal"

      It's funny how rarely (ie, never) one sees the other side of this coin: "if you're comfortable having to do everything with a mouse/your finger". I'm not and never have been.

    4. Flocke Kroes Silver badge

      Re: "Comfortable with the terminal"

      "Linux will never get any market share until XXX"

      Phrases like this keep turning up. Usually XXX is already available for Linux, and was probably available before it worked on Windows. Let's pretend you actually find a statement where XXX was on Windows, but not on Linux when the statement was published. How did DOS ever get any market share?

      1. mmeier

        Re: "Comfortable with the terminal"

        Microsoft Office :) And no, for quite a few things OO/LO is not a full substitute.

        As for MS DOS getting a market share:

        It generated the market. It was as good as the alternative (CP/M 86), cheaper and IBM promoted it. And when the IBM PC and it's clones marched into the office so did MS-DOS. And with THE big player producing a cloneable hardware platform MS-DOS has something that earlier CP/M systems could not deliver - a limited, well defined hardware standard that made certain development tasks easier.

        Remember that back then there was a strong division between "Office" computers and "home" computers. Sometimes with the home computers being the more capabel ones (Atari/ MegaST or Amiga2000 vs 286 based DOS-Boxes). "WinTel" units did not become the typical home unit until the early 1990s (partially because Atari and Commodore foulded up)

        Windows (Dos-version) did the same. Came in at the right time, ran on existing hardware and delivered stuff that software companies liked (Like OS delivers graphics/printer/mouse driver). Here IBM dropped the ball with the technically superior OS/2. Timing was good with people that got exposed to GUIs through home computers and university (Sun Workstations) coming into the jobs and finding them useful for certain jobs. And MS delivered some useful software (Excel) quite early. Actually Win 2.11 was more often used as a base to run Excel than anything else.

        1. dajames Silver badge
          Headmaster

          @mmeier

          ... "WinTel" units ...

          WinTel?

          That's "Windows" + "Intel".

          Small 't' please, capital 'I' at your discretion.

        2. dajames Silver badge

          Re: "Comfortable with the terminal"

          ... Windows (Dos-version) did the same. Came in at the right time, ran on existing hardware

          Not unless your existing hardware had graphics capability it didn't! A lot of businesses had PCs with text-only IBM mono display adapters.

          1. mmeier

            Re: "Comfortable with the terminal"

            Opem case. insert card, close case. :)

            Actually the Hercules card could run Windows 2.x IIRC since it was monochrome but graphics capabel.

    5. DrXym Silver badge

      Re: "Comfortable with the terminal"

      Linux is a lot more robust these days so the console is something that a normal user shouldn't have to use. If you look at OS X or Windows, the console is for programmers and advanced admin purposes, but for every day use no OS should ever expect someone knows anything about it.

      I don't think Linux is quite to the point of Windows or OS X but it's getting far closer than it used to be.

    6. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      @Mr C Hill - Re: "Comfortable with the terminal"

      But I don't give a damn about Joe Punter! That guy wants to be able to fly an F-16 in 5 minutes without first learning to read and write. Just keep him away from Linux and let the rest of us go on with our lives, OK?

      1. Cipher
        Linux

        Re: @Mr C Hill - "Comfortable with the terminal"

        This is a major reason Linux is at 2% market share. This attitude and the elitist nature of most forums. "Learn Linux BEFORE you ask for help." I have heard many new Linux users complain that it seems that the linux gurus of the world do not want a broader user base, as they seem to go out of their way to make it as hard as they can for the newbie to use it.

        And the "free" part of Linux means nothing to consumers until they can buy a computer at a big box store and hear: "OK, that will be XX$, now what OS do you want loaded on it? Windows costs ZZ$ extra..." Another thing is the endless squabbling over desktop choice in Linux. Utter BS, you run apps, right? Far too much concern with look and feel. Libre Office looks the same no matter what desktop schema you run...

        I feel that Microsoft inhibits innovation, is a security nightmare and is way over priced for the quality it delivers, yet Linux is going nowhere in the current environment.

        Down vote away boys and girls, "The Year of Linux Desktop" isn't on the horizon now, nor will it ever be if things don't change...

    7. AdamWill
      FAIL

      Re: "Comfortable with the terminal"

      Way to take things out of context. Let's put it back in context, shall we?

      "Anyone planning to primarily use Linux to write software or develop web applications will likely be quite happy with Fedora, which does a good job of shipping up-to-date developer tools like Python, Ruby (and Rails) and web servers like Apache. The software installer may not be the best, but the command line Yum installer works just fine so long as you're comfortable with the terminal."

      So, what's the context? First off, we're talking about "Anyone planning to primarily use Linux to write software or develop web applications". If you're writing software or developing web applications and you're not comfortable with a terminal...erf. Secondly, note the lead-in: "The software installer may not be the best". This is picking up from an earlier paragraph where Fedora's default graphical package installer (PackageKit) was criticized for not being as good as Ubuntu's and Mint's. So what this paragraph is saying is "if you're a software developer, the benefits of Fedora in terms of having a wide range of up to date development packages available outweigh the minor disadvantage of the graphical package manager not being the best, particularly since you're probably going to wind up using the command line package manager anyway, since you're that kind of person".

      But no, fine, by all means, take four words out of context and stick to your two decade old bash if it makes you feel better.

  8. Chemist

    Whilst it might be useful to try a few distros I find that long-term sticking with one distro/desktop means a much easier life. Of course I occasionally still try new or 'improved' distros but generally in a VM.

    For me OpenSUSE/KDE has proved super stable, easy to install on all sorts of hardware including by USB pendrive and has a wide range of programs including many not actually in the distribution.

    1. Lars Silver badge
      Linux

      @Chemist

      The easier life. That has happened to me too, I suppose it has something to do with "long-term" and like you I am still playing with "new" distros (on a spare laptop).

      For new users I would suggest an open mind with plenty of playing around.

  9. Amorous Cowherder
    Happy

    Xubuntu for me!

    All that Ubuntu goodness but with the super-fast, super-minimal XFCE desktop and none of the crap packages you know you don't need. Heck, even the Nvidia drivers worked perfectly on my old Quadro card driven dual-head setup!

  10. Dave Pickles

    Rolling upgrade or versioned?

    Another decision to add; do you prefer a distribution which releases discrete versions, or would you prefer a rolling release? The former is better for stability but means that you have the pain of upgrading every year or so to keep current. A rolling release trades the upgrade hassle for the slightly greater risk of instability.

    The best rolling release distro for newbies is probably PCLinuxOS.

  11. This post has been deleted by a moderator

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Mint is the best distro at the mo

      I have to agree. Despite being a Linux user myself, I have generally advised those who aren't particularly computer literate to go with Windows 7 in the past, as I've found Linux to be just 'not quite there', however with the advent of Windows 8, the latest versions of Mint are more Windows like than Windows now, and I find myself recommending Mint 14 as a suitable alternative, as each release of Mint seems to get better and better. Cinammon has the the familiar 'Windows 95' layout, which the vast majority of people will have experience of, rather than the oddity that is Unity, and the window controls are on the right hand side, unlike in Ubuntu (yes they can be changed easily, but someone new to Linux isn't going to know how to do that straight off). And in my experience, things 'just work' in Mint, be it detecting network and wireless cards, printers, digital cameras and whatever else you can throw at it. As Mint is based on Ubuntu, means that all the stuff now targeting Ubuntu such as Steam, also work fine on Mint.

    2. Schultz

      Re: Mint is the best distro at the mo

      Not for me ... I became too large to fit on the 4 Gig SSD family netbook and got booted for Bodhi linux. The latter offers similar ease of use without the bloat. But Mint definitely created an easy transition into the Debian / Ubuntu world of Linux.

    3. Gert Leboski
      Linux

      Re: Mint is the best distro at the mo

      Well put Eadon. I use Mint for the same reasons.

      Also have Windows 7 PC, iOS on iPad and iPhone, Android on ASUS TF101 and a WinPhone HTC. I have to use Windows 7 at work too.

      Linux is by far my preference. Normal 'end user' stuff can all be achieved through the GUI. I'm a power user so I choose to work in the shell a lot, as I get things done quicker or better automated. Funnily enough I have CygWin on my Windows 7 box, to get the same toolset on there as I have with Linux.

      Security, stability and efficiency are the reasons I'm a penguin.

  12. G R Goslin

    All very well.

    All very well, nicely written. But, the article didn't actually tell you anything. I've been (almost) exclusively using Linux for years. However, I've not managed to persuade a single one of my friends to install it, simply because they regard it as "hard to install", which it isn't. Well, at least the distro I use isn't. Most people don't want the perceived problems of installation, and will always stick with what the hardware came with. Even if it's Vista.

    1. diodesign (Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

      Re: All very well.

      "I've been (almost) exclusively using Linux for years"

      Perhaps you're overqualified for this article? :-) I believe Scott's aim was for newcomers.

      C.

      1. Andraž 'ruskie' Levstik

        Re: All very well.

        I've been using GNU+Linux(Yes one of those) exclusively since 2004. I didn't bother converting friends. I showed them, explained them and then out of the blue a friend of mine switched completly to Linux on his own. With me doing nothing else to persuade him. I don't evnagelize the system. I show what it can do. I show what Open source/Free software can do. Most people in my cicrles run atleast some open source/free software apps even if it is on windows. And they get curious about the rest and try that. Some like it enough to have a permanent dual boot others try it and find it's not for them and some stick with it.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: overqualified?

        a beginner would still want to know something, and as said it doesn't say anything.

        A droid wouldn't necessarily want to know anything. Perhaps it should be aimed at them?

    2. plrndl

      Re: All very well.

      Re-read the article. It's not about distro/OS wars, it's about what to choose if YOU WANT to try Linux as a newbie.

      As for converting friends, why bother? If someone is happy with the system they have, leave them alone. Linux is a powerful system, and with power comes responsiblity, and the need for knowledge. If someone wants something that "just works" I point them at Apple's wares. When I meet someone who likes constantly patching and re-booting his computer, I shall point him to Windows.

    3. Tom 38 Silver badge
      Happy

      Re: All very well.

      "Hard to install" is code-word for "leave me alone, I don't want Linux on my computer". They're your friends, they don't want to hurt your feelings.

  13. Hairy Spod
    Linux

    guide for

    "If you've ever thought about abandoning Windows or Mac OS X for Linux, but stopped short because you weren't sure which variety of Linux to choose, this guide is for you."

    Any guide like this needs to take more time explaining the relationship between the distro and the desktop. It took me an embarresing length of time to even figure out what Gnome or KDE were and why the different distros worked so differently when I first tried Linux a couple of years ago.

    Although the article mentions many by name goes on to mention some of their features, it doesnt really say enough about what they are and how they seem different to a good guide to a beginner.

    Apple and Windows users dont have a choice of desktop environment so it's a fairly alien concept to majority of casual users these days

    1. Dave 126 Silver badge

      Re: guide for

      Yeah, those were the little barriers when i first tried Linux- I didn't know what I didn't know. Lots of little things that were new to me and made sense individually- SUDO, shell, mounting disks, package managers, strange names- were a bit much to swallow all at once. Fortunately, my friend and I were just installing it (Mint) for fun, to see what all the fuss was about- this was about five years ago when people recommended Linux as being a good way to get more life out of older machines- in this case an old donated Thinkpad with audio hardware that the Linux forums had warned us was tricky. We got it all working in the end, and got a sense of satisfaction out of it- though in the end he hacked a boot loader onto a PS2 and used that as media player instead.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Test 'em first in VMs if you can.

    If your box can handle it, run a few distros up in VirtualBox/VMWare before committing to one you like. Saves so much time and hassle and you find out very quickly if you like the way things are done. You're testing on standard "hardware" that will almost certainly be supported by almost any reasonable distro.

    Unlike real hardware, if it screws up you're not left without an O/S to boot to get help or download the ISO again. Nothing worse than downloading an ISO, burning it to disc or USB and then watching it crap out half-way through a real hardware install and leaving you to dig out a tablet or worse mobile phone to try to get on forums for answers!

    1. Chemist

      Re: Test 'em first in VMs if you can.

      "Nothing worse than downloading an ISO, burning it to disc or USB and then watching it crap out half-way through a real hardware install"

      Don't do it then. Use a LiveCD that will not affect your existing setup. Check if the hardware works that way then install.

      There are several liveCDs at : http://software.opensuse.org/122/en

    2. Dave 126 Silver badge

      Re: Test 'em first in VMs if you can.

      Plus, if you try a VM you can have it on one side of of your screen, and use a web browser with a guide (or forum thread if you encounter issues) to hold your hand through the process.

      To the novice, the concept of a Virtual Machine (a computer inside a computer) might seem strange, but the practice is very straightforward and unintimidating.

  15. Lars Silver badge
    Linux

    One word of advice

    Run any distro first from a CD/DVD and check that your internet is working in case it's the only PC you have at home. This advice may be a bit old fashion but without the internet you will not get much help. Also if it does not work "out of the box" try an other distro. And well, have a separate PC you can fuck around with to your hearts delight. It's fun and worth it. Try different desktops and distros. A distro does not have to be big to respond to questions, a small one may respond much faster.

    (so much for "one word of advice")

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Another example of why Linux fails to gain market share

    This article is another example of why Linux continues to fail on the desktop. Anyone who is not already a Linux person would read this article and come away even less likely to want to switch. "Life is too short."

    Here's another example: how the Linux FOSS community doesn't really love tablets or phones with Android -- it's not "real" Linux to them, it's too GUI, too user-friendly, it hides the underlying kernel too much for them. If Android's kernel were swapped out for something else and the GUI remained the same, most users wouldn't even notice or care, and this wrankles the die-hard Linux FOSS fans.

    My two cents: Ubuntu is the leader, so everyone please just promote that, even if it's not "best", to try to win some market share, and don't let the zealots and purists and FOSS radicals define the entire movement.

    1. Gio Ciampa

      Re: Another example of why Linux fails to gain market share

      If - by "leader" - you mean the one installed on most desktops... doesn't that mean you're advocating sticking with Windows? Rather negates the point of the article wouldn't you say?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Another example of why Linux fails to gain market share

        @Gio Ciampa

        "If - by "leader" - you mean the one installed on most desktops... doesn't that mean you're advocating sticking with Windows? Rather negates the point of the article wouldn't you say?"

        FFS, and there's your typical "linux guru" being pedantic as fuck that newbies have to contend with!!!

        Try reading the sentence in *context*!!! - The article and his post is about linux distro's, so do they really have to spell out the bleeding obvious?!?!

        But just for you - the AC meant Ubuntu is the leader (perceived or otherwise) of the unix distro's.

        It's exactly this sort of anal pedanticness** that was mentioned earlier in the comments

        (** yes, I know it's not a real word)

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Another example of why Linux fails to gain market share

          pedantry**

          ...but agree totally with your post.

          I was lucky when I delved into Linux, I was offered support by various users. Most were probably a step or two ahead of me and happy to share the knowledge they had accrued.

    2. Thomas Whipp

      Re: Another example of why Linux fails to gain market share

      I was about to write exactly this comment - I got to half way through page two before the article started to give any advice that I could consider putting in front of someone new. Frankly they'd never see that.

      This article can be summarised as choice is good but scary, now let me throw huge amounts of choice at you.... if you're still reading here are some basic summaries of leading distros.

      This could have been an excellent piece, as another comment said it needed a flowchart diagram at the top.

      I've used any number of distro's over the years and have contributed code to FOSS projects in the past, but be honest with yourselves. That article was of no use to anyone who didnt already know the subject well, and for them it was probably little more than an opinion piece.

    3. Thomas Whipp

      Re: Another example of why Linux fails to gain market share

      PS: as it happens I did install Ubuntu for my mother about 12 months ago when she needed a little netbook bringing back to life for internet use.

    4. Graham 32

      Re: Another example of why Linux fails to gain market share

      Totally agree. Linux too often feels like the kit-car of the OS world. Sure you can make it be exactly what you want, but it takes so much time and effort barely anyone can be bothered.

      The app stores of Android and iPhone (does Win8 have one too?) are showing it's all about the user experience of getting apps installed and working so people can get on with real-world tasks. Linux needs an equivalent but developers can't even agree between .deb or .rpm! Perhaps Steam can sort it out - at least they have a financial incentive to make it work.

      1. David Hicks
        FAIL

        Re: Another example of why Linux fails to gain market share

        "The app stores of Android and iPhone (does Win8 have one too?) are showing it's all about the user experience of getting apps installed and working so people can get on with real-world tasks. Linux needs an equivalent but developers can't even agree between .deb or .rpm! Perhaps Steam can sort it out - at least they have a financial incentive to make it work."

        This is about the most ignorant thing I've ever read.

        Linux has had app stores (repos) for years, way ahead of the likes of Android or iOS.

        The distro devs can't *and don't need to* decide between deb and rpm because it's irrelevant. Users should never, ever have to deal with a deb or an rpm. They just install software by name straight from the repo. Years ahead of the competition. Installing new stores is trivial too.

      2. mmeier

        Re: Another example of why Linux fails to gain market share

        Actually Windows has more than one Appstore. Win8 has a build in for Modern UI software "ääps". And Windows 7 and 8 have amazon and other sides that sell full sized software in "download only" format. (Quite sure XP compatible software is sold there too)

        Each Linux distribution has it's own "Appstore" aka Repository. If a software you need is in there and compiled for your version of the distribution it will work nicely, maybe even smoother that amazon. And a resonably sized distribution will also be a "known good" source that should deliver backdoor-free binaries. If you need stuff that is not in the repository it get's interesting. Even more if it does not support your kernel version and/or general family of distributions.

        1. plrndl

          Re: Another example of why Linux fails to gain market share

          Most apps are trivial to install from source code these days.

    5. Michael Thibault
      Go

      Re: Another example of why Linux fails to gain market share

      >Ubuntu is the leader, so everyone please just promote that, even if it's not "best", to try to win some market share...

      Good luck with that approach, as you'll be fighting the fact that linux distros tend to metastasize. Can't be arsed to find the obligatory xkcd strip to cover the situation, but the truth is out there.

    6. John Doe 6
      Linux

      Re: Another example of why Linux fails to gain market share

      Androids problem is that it is not directly compatible with any other Linux, it is the "Windows RT" of the Linux world. We do love Android but it is not the tablet Linux we all would like to have.

      Ubuntu is not the leader, the leaders are RedHat, SuSE and Debian everything else is a derivative of one of those.

      No we do not want to promote Ubuntu because Ubuntu is not the best solution for anything, it is not even the best UI experience.

      1. Roland6 Silver badge

        Re: Another example of why Linux fails to gain market share

        >Androids problem is that it is not directly compatible with any other Linux

        Is it Androids problem or is it actually Linux's problem?

        Given the popularity of Android in the marketplace, many normal users will be approaching Linux from having used Android...

        1. plrndl

          Android's Problem?

          Dev preview of Ubuntu for phones touching down February 21 (http://www.theregister.co.uk/2013/02/15/ubuntu_touch_developer_preview/).

      2. plrndl

        .. and then there were 2

        SuSE is a Red Hat derivative.

        1. Marcelo Rodrigues
          Happy

          Re: .. and then there were 2

          Weirdly enough - no. Suse is a Slackware derivative! Not much is left, but it is true. Weird, huh?

          See it here:

          http://futurist.se/gldt/

          1. jake Silver badge

            Re: .. and then there were 2

            To add to Marcelo Rodrigues' commentary ... IMO, S.u.S.E. split from Slackware so long ago that SUSE is it's own entity these days, and no longer exactly what I would call a "derivative"..

            I've been using Slack from release 1.0 (I fiddled about with it prior to that ... I was looking for a replacement for Mark Williams Company's "Coherent" when it became obvious that they were going to close their doors). In my mind, after all these years, Slackware still works like a un*x ought to work ... but then I came from the BSD world. If you haven't tried Slackware recently, give Slack 14.0 a spin. You might like it.

            1. Nexox Enigma

              Re: .. and then there were 2

              Agreed, Slackware does just what I want, which is to say: not much. No automation (because sometimes I don't want a USB stick mounted when I plug it in,) no package management (always causes me more trouble than it saves,) and no unnecessary patching of sources.

              Then again, I do maintain an internal LFS distro in my day job, so compiling and scripting don't exactly scare me. Then again, again, I only got the job because I learned everything the hard way with Slackware.

        2. AdamWill

          Re: .. and then there were 2

          "SuSE is a Red Hat derivative."

          No it isn't. It uses the same package format. That's not the same thing at all.

        3. alisonken1

          Re: .. and then there were 2

          Hmm. Last I checked, SuSE was derived from Slackware.

          http://futurist.se/gldt/wp-content/uploads/12.10/gldt1210.svg

          (Warning - VERY big graphic of linux distro's)

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        'it is not the tablet Linux we all would like to have'

        Your best bet, frankly, is Unity. Other than that I can't imagine full-on Linux ever getting anywhere on tablets. How could it?

        A better bet is wait ten years for Android to update, expand and become more complex as users' demands magnify.

    7. Lars Silver badge
      Linux

      Re: Another example of why Linux fails to gain market share

      "market share"

      The market share Linux has in super computers, the web, embedded devices, the cloud and so forth, is so huge that Linux is more or less becoming an industrial standard.

      Companies and people in those fields, are experts, they choose what ever suits them best.

      The desktop is a different animal. Seen any Linux adverts lately. Any shop with pre installed Linux.

      I have seen some, as a matter of fact, but none with anybody keen to tell me all about it. And I can understand it very well. Selling and delivering Windows is much easier.

      No body with any power (IBM, HP, Lenovo, etc) is pushing Linux on the desktop.

      The Linux desktop is for those who make the decision them selves and for large organisations with the power to pull it through. Expect more of the later in the future.

      This article is just OK, the most used distros are mentioned, as in every similar article.

      How could it be different, suppose you had to write an article addressing people thinking of buying their first car.

      Would those people be too frightened, by the amount of cars too choose from, that they decided to take the bus in the future too.

    8. tom dial Silver badge

      Re: Another example of why Linux fails to gain market share

      "Ubuntu is the leader ..." - maybe not forever, though; see

      http://www.linuxquestions.org/questions/2012mca.php

      Almost all PCs come with a preinstalled (Windows) OS and only a tiny percentage ever install a new one. It would be interesting to see what fraction of those who do so install Linux rather than a new version of Windows. Although I doubt it's a majority, I suspect it is far larger than the fraction of Linux in the entire PC population. Furthier, I suspect that those who install Gnu/Linux now are not that much more technically sophisticated than those who install Windows; and they don't have to be to be successful with most of the major distributions.

    9. M. Poolman

      Re: Another example of why Linux fails to gain market share

      'Ubuntu is the leader, so everyone please just promote that, even if it's not "best", to try to win some market share, and don't let the zealots and purists and FOSS radicals define the entire movement.'

      Ubuntu depends on Debian, by "winning" - as in destroying all competitors, it would be effectively destroying it's own life support. Having said that, I'd certainly recommend Ubuntu to anyone wanting to dip a toe in the water.

      Nonetheless FOSS is a bit of an oddity, inasmuch as there is lot of mutual interdependence between players that in other spheres would be seen as rivals: talking about a a distro as being "leader" really doesn't make a lot of sense.

    10. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Frankly, this is the problem

      'Here's another example: how the Linux FOSS community doesn't really love tablets or phones with Android': have to disagree here. Mozilla and Ubuntu are desperately looking for things to do with themselves now the buzz is focused around mobile, but most Linux nerds are looking at CyanogenMod or similar, not anything else.

    11. Anonymous Coward
      Go

      You Mean

      "Ubuntu is the leader, so everyone please just promote that"

      Ballmer has a secret deal with $huttleworth to ultimately sabotage Linux ? Yeah, makes a hell lot of sense what you say.

  17. mark l 2 Silver badge

    Been using Mint with mate for over 12 months now quite happy with it on my 5 year old dual core Dell laptop. Sold a few self built PCs before with Mint installed and not had anyone come back and say they wanted me to put Windows on it yet.

    Even put damn small linux on an old 200mhz Pentium 2 PC with 64mb RAM and a 6gig hdd for someone as well that just wanted a basic PC for writing letters and doing email, it ran suprising quick booting faster to the desktop than a 3 year old PC with Windows 7 installed.

    1. mmeier

      The boxes did not come back since installing Windows is so easy every Tom, Dick or Harry can do it. :)

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      I'm going to try Damn Small on an old PC for a neighbour's little boy. All he really needs is a browser to get to his school website, which works in FireFox, Chrome and IE.

  18. Tom 38 Silver badge
    Devil

    If you just want a replacement for Windows

    If you just want a replacement for Windows then all of these are fine choices.

    However, if you really want to get to grips with the why and how of things, I'd recommend something with a little less hand-holding. Gentoo is both less and more hand holding simultaneously, which is a little clever, Slackware has less hand holding, but both offer the sort of minimal structure that requires you to work out what it is that you want and then go and do it.

    You could do worse than using my favourite OS, FreeBSD. FreeBSD has some nifty features you just can't find on Linux, like ZFS, but it's not designed for someone who just wants to sit back and have everything done for them.

    It's also a real OS, which means that that there is a core of software (the 'world') that *is* FreeBSD, it's not a collection of glorified packages that you install that hopefully makes the kernel 'go' - plus you get an awesome Beasty logo!

    The benefit of all of these options is that there will be things that go wrong over time, and you (yes you!) can go and fix them. This will (hopefully) teach you why they went wrong and stop you doing the same thing in future, or at least going "aha, I know what this one is...".

  19. gerryg
    Linux

    the unbelievable truth

    While I've been using openSUSE and its predecessors since 1999 it remains true that I chose it for being European and that I could buy the 6 CDs and the manual for £20 or something from the bookshop near where I worked. I'd never heard of KDE per se nor Gnome. Luckily (IMHO) I got KDE and I've used it ever since. I'm used Gnome occasionally, elsewhere, I still like KDE. I could go on about that but not now.

    I think the best advice in this article was choose your desktop.

    All these performance benchmarks are largely tosh unless you are doing video processing (from experience) or 3D design/gaming (apparently) but I'm using a ten year old computer with 200 MHz DDR2 recently upgraded with an SSD because they've got cheap, and all's well.

    I don't understand why people "test drive" distros but its their decision. I got lucky with S.u.S.E. Over time I've got to grips with how it's organised. They've got good core and community support. I now consider myself a power user. It's the one I recommend to other people because I'll be able to help them.

    As far as I can see most distros are the same at the core and similar at the edges.

  20. Paul 135
    Linux

    I for one welcome our new KDE overlords

    All these more likely to be distro-specific desktop environments such as Unity, MATE or Cinnamon are pointless, and are a fragmented waste of effort in the open source community. Time to simply get behind KDE as it is the only environment with enough momentum and wide support behind it too snowball into success. That means OpenSUSE.

    1. Dave 126 Silver badge

      Re: I for one welcome our new KDE overlords

      I wouldn't say that Unity is useless, but just that it isn't the best for mouse and keyboard machines. In the future there may well prove to be a place for a GUI that works for both mouse+keyboard and touch, if it can be made to work. Arguably, it hasn't yet:

      MS have tried using a mouse+keyboard GUI for touch devices (albeit older single-point touch devices where to stylus is akin to a mouse cursor) and more recently for multi-touch PCs tried the approach of bolting two GUIs together. Others have tried the other direction- using tablet versions of Android with mouse and keyboard. Apple haven't really tried combining the two- maybe because they would rather you own a Macbook and an iPad. XP Tablet Edition wasn't a complete flop- it was adopted by people with specific needs- car mechanics for example use 'ruggedised' laptops, and 3rd party engine diagnostic software is designed to be used with people poking at the screen or a mouse.

      The trouble is, the mouse gives you a single, accurate point with modifiers (either different buttons or a keyboard key), multi-touch gives you less accuracy but different modifiers (number of contact points and 'gestures'). These differences extend beyond the GUI of the OS and into the applications used with it. Reconciling these differences in a coherent, efficient and easy to learn way is no small task.

      Using a direction pad ('D-pad', game controller, IR remote control) is a another input method, one that is given in its own GUI in most OSs (Windows Media Centre, OSX Front Row, XBMC), so the 'multiple GUI' approach seems sensible to people in some situations.

  21. Dyason
    Meh

    The Truth

    Most average users out there don't want any of this. They want a box that lets them go on the Internet. Maybe they will want some word processing or other utilities. Some software for poking at the pictures they take. This will be what came on the computer, whether that's Chrome OS, Windows, OS X or Linux (Very rare for the latter). Of course Windows is preferable as it's the most common and most things on the Internet are assured to work with it without faff.

    This is really an article aimed at the slightly geeky looking to expand their knowledge but not really learn anything deep about linux. I avoid desktop linux like the plague. Windows runs 99% of the apps I need for my job, and 100% of the games to relax. Linux will be my server OS of choice but I don't want to spend time outside of work fiddling on my computer just for the fun of it.

    Interesting article, but I'm not sure about the intended audience.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: The Half-Truth

      I don't disagree entirely, but desktop distributions like Mint do exactly what you are saying what average users want. Windows 8 is a very different kettle of fish to Windows 7 or XP (or even Vista for that matter), and the confusion between Metro and the dumbed down desktop interface on it, is arguably more complex for average users than say Mint, or KDE based distributions, which resemble what average users are more used to than Windows 8 does.

      1. mmeier

        Re: The Half-Truth

        Q: What has been "dumbed down" on the Win8 desktop? It is the Win7 one without "Start" that has been replaced by Metro.

        For casual users that never used the few features of "Start" that are lacking in Modern (Attachment of files to programs) the Modern UI is as easy to use (if not easier) than Start. They will simply klick/touch/select the element and run, not caring if it is Modern or classic software. (Likely: Not even realizing they are different)

        1. David Hicks

          Re: The Half-Truth

          "For casual users that never used the few features of..."

          Many fo those casual users have been trained over the last 15 years to click start so they can find the thing they want to run. Many of them will be thoroughly confused.

          Not because the UI is confusing, and not because the UI is worse, but simply because 'Whar my start buttun?'

          I don't know if they'll adapt very well. I anticipate many more confused parental phone calls after the next round of computer updates, whenever that may be.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: The Half-Truth

          A lot of people who speak positively of Windows 8, either completely hide Metro by using 3rd party tools to restore the desktop to Windows 7 / XP functionality, or are at the other extreme and want to see the desktop phased out, with a complete Metro interface. Casual users may find either of these two extremes usable, but jumping from one to another, with no clear pattern between them, and relying on hot corners, and hidden bars to activate things is certainly not going to endear them to it. Nor is having to remember the name of programs, to search for them, or a ton of keyboard shortcuts, which those who like Windows 8, suggest make the best ways to nagivate the system.

          An entirely Metro-ised system might indeed be easier for the casual user. However once they try and do any sort of proper work, or indeed need to organise their files, the interface shows its weaknesses. And having a completely different style of interface for these tasks, is not making it user-friendly.

          Linux distributions which keep the familar XP style user interface, are going to be a lot easier for casual users to make sense of, than Windows 8. Indeed one could argue that the 'Start' menu in say Linux Mint is superior to Windows 7, because it effectively categorises programs by their type, rather than manufacturer.

          Incidentally, one of the reasons desktop Linux is criticised is due to the perceived lack of applications available for it (note: I said perceived, I have found plenty of decent software on it, and as many people have said, maybe the introduction of Steam might be a step to change these views). It is worth pointing out that Metro has no killer or compelling applications. Most of the reports on it appear to be about Twitter and a lack of Facebook 'apps', which may be an issue on mobile platforms, where bandwidth is at a premium, but on a fully fledged desktop with web browsers, is quite frankly crazy.

        3. dajames Silver badge
          Windows

          Re: The Half-Truth

          What has been "dumbed down" on the Win8 desktop?

          Start menu, gadgets, sidebar ... anything and everything that was useful on the desktop has gone.

          ... that has been replaced by Metro.

          Exactly. Microsoft decide that Metro/TIFKAM was the One True Way and removed the functionality from the desktop. Instead getting a simple pop-up menu to start programs you now have to suffer a switch to a completely different GUI to run a program. Insanity!

          TIFKAM may be an OK-ish sort of interface on a phone or a tablet, but it's a bit rubbish on a desktop without a touch screen and useds should have been given a choice.

    2. David Hicks
      FAIL

      Re: The Truth

      " I don't want to spend time outside of work fiddling on my computer just for the fun of it."

      Then you are not the employee I am looking for! Why are you even reading a tech site?

      Also the circular trap (no games->no users->no audience->no games) is slowly coming to an end with the advent of linux Steam.

    3. Prof Denzil Dexter

      Re: The Truth

      This is really an article aimed at the slightly geeky looking to expand their knowledge but not really learn anything deep about linux

      Thats probably me up there. Moving from the "geek by work" to "geek by choice". Would like to learn more about Linux. would happily learn something deep about linux, but would need to know my way around the environment first.

      Don't feel any further enlightened after this article., Shame. i got excited when i read the title.

      1. Dave 126 Silver badge

        Re: The Truth

        Some people are born geek, some people achieve geekness, some have geekness thrust upon them.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: The Truth

        check out - UNIX Made Easy: The Basics & Beyond!

    4. DiBosco

      Re: The Truth

      For me, the reason I use Linux is precisely because I wanted to spend less time tinkering with the OS and more time just using something that is rock solid. I really got fed up of Windows' flaws especially back in the days of Win98 when my machine would regularly fall over in heap while writing Delphi programs. Also, I was fed up of Winrot, viruses and disk defrag which meant regular maintenance. All these things made me want to look for something more reliable where I would have to spend less time worrying about fixing the OS and more time just using the computer.

      So, here I am over ten years later and I am so much happier and relaxed using a computer. Far less tinkering.

      I do agree with you though, that Linux needs to come pre-installed. Most people cant install any OS, whether it be Windows or Linux. My experience is that for people wanting to change, if I do the install for them they are up, running and very happy. There has to be that desire to change though, otherwise you're trying to get them to use something they're not really interested in.

      I also agree it's not a great article for noobs.

      As for things working off the Internet without faff, I think it's been a few years now since Windows was better than Linux at that. I would agree that at one point there was so much IE specific stuff, some sites could be problematic, but those days are long gone.

  22. Seanmon
    Stop

    Right.

    "all your hardware should work right out of the box."

    But doesn't. Put me right off my last casual flirtation with linux. I mean, I could, but who can be arsed?

    1. Dave 126 Silver badge

      Re: Right.

      About five years ago the main argument the Linux fold were putting out was that it was a good way revitalising older laptops... alas, some of them could be quite esoteric machines.

      Rather than just asserting that it works out of the box with most hardware (it might nine times out of ten, but Sod's Law is what it is) , a more useful approach would be to promote a list of distros for specific machines. Just a website that's asks you what machine you are using and then gives you a choice of suitable distros that have been tested by other people in the community.

      CAD vendors do it the other way round, and publish a list of specific machines that have been tested with their products.

      1. Lars Silver badge
        Linux

        Re: Right.

        @Dave 126

        Yes that would be nice. Anybody you feel is obliged to do it, anything you would like to pay for it. Anyone you feel you could blame for an error in the list. Want to start building one your self for the good of the Linux world.

        Just accept Sod's Law. Nine out of ten is not that bad and the reality is still better.

    2. Peter Gathercole Silver badge

      Re: Right. @Seanmon

      Tried any Windows install from Microsoft provided (i.e. not vendor supplied recovery) media recently? If so, did every bit of hardware work, especially on a laptop? What! You've never installed Windows yourself? Then you're not qualified to comment.

      From experience, I absolutely know that Ubuntu or Mint will be able to use more hardware from generic install media that Windows without the vendors drivers disks.

      What you are complaining about is that you can't get a system with Linux installed.

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    My take

    I have been forced to use windows for some time because development work I had to do, but not any more. I have a windows partition for games but it has no use beyond that. I did have fedora installed but while gnome3 didnt look bad it wasnt very user friendly when I wanted to be productive. I changed the desktop to cinnamon which I think is amazing and was very happy at the productivity. Excluding the major irritation that the gnome SSH keyring didnt work. I couldnt get my ssh keys added on startup and the known bug had yet to be resolved. ssh-add in the startup did nothing either and this was the end for me and fedora.

    On my laptop I run mint because it actually runs on the (low spec) laptop in a reasonable manner, unlike windows 7 which is painfully slow and very unusable. So I replaced fedora with mint. A decision I am very happy with and again mint seems to run faster than windows. However I do get some tearing with mint and changing drivers causes its own problems. I can live with a little tearing although I dont know many normal users who would.

    Interestingly the windows install on my desktop occasionally gets a black screen and the Nvidia drivers crash/recover. This doesnt happen during games but it does happen when browsing the internet.

    I have found faults with windows, fedora, mint and ubuntu (which I found almost unusable with unity). So I stick with what I like which is windows for games and mint for work. However I do miss the yum installer from fedora.

    1. AdamWill

      Re: My take

      "Excluding the major irritation that the gnome SSH keyring didnt work. I couldnt get my ssh keys added on startup and the known bug had yet to be resolved."

      Known bug? I'm not aware of one and it works fine here. Is this Cinnamon-specific? Or are you using autologin?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        @AdamWill

        On fedora 17 I could run ssh-add in the command line to import my keys. If I put this into the startup programs (or whatever it is called) nothing would happen. It should have popped up an input box I believe.

        If you go to activities and search "keys" a key management program was available (cant remember the name). However the import feature has a known bug that it wont import your public key unless you have the private key. Which defeats the point as you should only have the public SSH key on your system.

        The only solution I could find was to manually open a terminal every time I logged in and then ssh-add. After a while I installed Cinnamon hoping it would fix the problem, but it didnt.

        This was a couple of months ago so it may be fixed now but I surrendered to mint (not at all a loss).

  24. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I'll jump to Linux when...

    1) The likes of Open Office or Libre Office are 100% (and I mean 100%) compatible with MS Office files (I have to open, work with and send back documents sent by corporates that will continue using MS Office for the foreseeable future).

    2) Adobe releases a version of PS for Linux or another software package overtakes PS to become the industry standard. And yes, I know that Gimp can do 80%+ of what PS can do, but I'm a power user, so those 20% do make a difference. Also, the ability to operate the industry leader helps employability. I don't see many job adverts asking for GIMP knowledge, but plenty ask for competence in Photoshop.

    My 2 pence

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I'll jump to Linux when...

      That day will come when Microsoft Office files are 100% (and I mean 100%) compatible with other versions of Mirosoft Office, than the one they were created on.

      1. Dave 126 Silver badge

        Re: I'll jump to Linux when...

        Steam might set a precedent for commercial software on Linux. It will be interesting to see what happens, and if productivity applications follow in the wake of games. The attitude that 'we don't need commercial software, you must be a snob if you do' is not helpful to the adoption of Linux. Professionals and business will happily spend a few hundred pounds per user if it saves them time over a free alternative.

        The other possibility is that more commercial software gets used 'as a service' or 'in the cloud' (useful for software that benefits from team collaboration and rented compute resources, such as engineering design and simulation) and the user's OS becomes irrelevant.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: I'll jump to Linux when...

          "Professionals and business will happily spend a few hundred pounds per user if it saves them time over a free alternative."

          You haven't worked for IBM any time recently then?

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I'll jump to Linux when...

      1) The likes of Open Office or Libre Office are 100% (and I mean 100%) compatible with MS Office files....

      WRONG!

      Every and I mean *every* single, mildly complex (e.g. some text, a few pictures with captions etc.) Word document over 2 pages that I've opened in OO/LO has had some sort of formatting error. Vice versa for opening docs originally created in OO/LO, in Word. A common one I've seen recently is LO resizing images so that they take up the width of the page, rather than respecting the margins of the document. This simply does not happen with other Office suites, such as the excellent and free Kingsoft Writer - the nearest I've found to a true Word clone.

      To be fair OO/LO warns you about incompatibilities when you attempt to save in .DOC format. I'm just sick of hearing the fanboys pretending otherwise.

      1. David Hicks
        Linux

        Re: I'll jump to Linux when...

        Did you miss the title, that he said that he'll jump to linux WHEN... 100% compatible?

        Because it seems like you missed it and in fact the whole point of the post, in your eagerness to find something to argue against in a post that actually entirely agrees with you. Muppet!

        (BTW, OO/LO compat is as good as word's own compatr between versions IMHO)

        1. Rukario
          Facepalm

          Re: I'll jump to Linux when...

          Actually, the first time I read the post, I missed the join between "I'll jump to Linux when..." and the post contents. I almost went searching for a Linux version of Photoshop before re-reading!

          And, you are right about OO/LO compatibility... I frequently have to use LO to convert Office files from 2010 or 2011 saved as Office 97-2003, to something that can actually be read in Office 2003.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Office issues

            This is the funniest argument I encounter but I do hear it often. The problem is that microsoft are the incompatible ones in the computing world. People pay the price for a system which is incompatible with the rest of the world, often even with its own products.

            So the question is if it makes sense that the well behaved and standards compliant products should be 100% compatible with a broken product or the other way around. I am not pushing the joys of linux here only stating that MS office is a moving target. Always wrong and very broken.

            Unfortunately MS has the market. The broken product is the most widely distributed although the more expensive. Openoffice isnt restricted to linux but people wont use it because it is not 100% compatible with their broken product of choice. Thereby making the argument backward but relevant

  25. NB

    Xubuntu gets my vote

    Fast light and the DE doesn't get in my way and is infinitely configurable. I've always found Unity to be horribly buggy and one of those terrible design mistakes that occur when some management type decides it's time to changes for changes sake.

  26. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Opensuse !

    Still a good old lady.

  27. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    There are what at least 100 linux distros about 10 different window managers and 2 maybe 3 different package managers? No need for so many distros. If they want to make a real impact and displace windows they should focus their efforts on four or five distros targeted at different areas (gaming, tablets / touch screen, low performance, high performance)

    I know the beauty of it is that it is 'roll your own' but it will never take off when there are so many distros which leads to so much confusion amongst non linux users which prevents migrating.

    Another major flaw with Linux is ironically caused by what should be one of the strong points. I use linux myself and I think it's great there is a fantastic community out there putting all this time and effort in to free software, but the community is very hostile and you have to learn the hard way. Even if you are very good at finding information on Google all you will find is links to threads where someone asks the question you have and someone bites their head off for not searching the forum and locking the thread. So you search the forum yourself and find the same sort of posts where the question is asked and the threads are locked....

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "they should focus their efforts on four or five distros targeted at different areas"

      Silly prick. Who are they. Anybody you know, anybody I should know. Perhaps you should send them a line.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Flame

      And I Think

      ..you are just regurgitating the talking points from the M$ Propaganda Sheet.

      M$ is indeed confused by the many heads of Linux. It drives your paymasters mad that Linux is like a hydra and when M$ has destroyed one head (e.g. SuSE), seven new heads have grown in the meantime, out of sight of M$. What your paymasters want is a single, coherent competitor which can be attacked via A) patents B) bribes C) targeted smear campaigns.

      Diversity is a massive strength of the FOSS community, just look how quickly we have routed around the Shuttleworth Defect, because there were alternatives. Or, the SuSE Bribe. I am sure Ballmer will shell out billions in order to subvert Linux and other major FOSS, because he thinks it can be squashed with the methods of the sleazy bizman. It worked with Netscape, why should it not work here ? (In his mind).

      I hope he will pay Linus Billions for sabotage. Then we will simply fork the kernel or go BSD and slowly bleed M$ white.

  28. David Hicks
    Linux

    I love these posts about how it will never take off.

    Linux owns the mobile space, the embedded space and the server space. Hell, it's probably even in your tv.

    Just because you don't see it on the desktop everywhere.. well it doesn't mean squat.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I love these posts about how it will never take off.

      Really????? This is about the DESKTOP environment for mr & mrs joe public.

      Equating embedded versions of an OS with desktop versions does you no favours in the credibility stakes.

      And don't even get me started about the mobile space - for every person who claims Android is linux you'll get at least another claiming "it's not the same/real thing"

      1. David Hicks
        Linux

        Re: I love these posts about how it will never take off.

        "Really????? This is about the DESKTOP environment for mr & mrs joe public."

        Not really, when people (probably people like you) keep muttering this misguided nonsense about it being a niche OS that only crazy hobbyists contribute to or would ever run. That's demonstrably false, it's ubiquitous.

        Android is not the same thing as GNU/Linux, no, but it is yet another example of the linux kernel (and a few other parts of the system) getting out there and getting things done. It's in cars, it's in network equipment, it's in tvs, it's in everything.

        "Equating embedded versions of an OS with desktop versions does you no favours in the credibility stakes."

        It's not a version, it's the same OS, which is why I can install firefox on my NAS and run it via remote desktop if I want to (not that that would be useful). I'm not sure how this affects anything in 'the credibility stakes', but it certainly doesn't do the assertion that it's never going to take off any favours either.

        If there isn't a consumer UI that struck it big in the desktop space, so what? That's not even the growth market any more.

      2. plrndl

        Android is Linux.

        Linux is a kernel, not an OS. Android uses the Linux kernel.

    2. Mark .

      Re: I love these posts about how it will never take off.

      Linux the kernel has certainly taken off. GNU/Linux the operating system is not so widespread. (Not a criticism - just noting the difference, most "Linux" users/advocates are concerned with GNU/Linux, and we only get into this confusion because of the same name applying to the kernel and the operating system. Maybe RMS had a point after all with saying it should be "GNU/Linux"...)

      1. David Hicks

        Re: I love these posts about how it will never take off.

        "Linux the kernel has certainly taken off. GNU/Linux the operating system is not so widespread."

        You'll find it's probably in many (most?) houses with any up to date tech in them somewhere as it runs NAS boxes, routers and TVs these days, along with various other types of consumer electronics. And yes, GNU/Linux rather than Android or other userspace on top of the kernel.

  29. Anonymous Coward
    Pint

    Trisquel GNU/Linux

    I recently ran into Trisqual GNU/Linux and I have to say that its been very pleasant working with this one as an alternative desktop.

    The distribution is based on Ubuntu but obviously doesn't copy all the lame nastyness which has been added as of late. If you're interested then here you can find a whole chart explaining how they set things up.

    Their whole motto is basically providing a Linux distribution which is fully free, or in their words: "Trisquel is different. We naturally want to bring you an operating system that is tight, beautiful, and robust. We want your software to be feature-rich and work exactly as you expect it to. But we'll never compromise your freedom, either." (see their FAQ page here).

    All in all a pretty decent distribution IMO, I enjoyed working with this one on occasion.

  30. John H Woods Silver badge
    Happy

    Am I just thick-skinned?

    I don't understand the idea that the Linux community is hostile. A bit of gentle taking-the-piss when you ask a stupid noob question is a very small price to pay for free support! And most of the time I haven't even got that, just people earnestly trying to help - and it's always amazed me how much total strangers will go out of their way to help you. (*Looks at PS/2 lead Dvorak/Qwerty switcher custom made for me at cost ($5) by some South Korean I've never met*).

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Am I just thick-skinned?@ John H Woods

      "Gentle taking-the-piss"

      You're not thick-skinned, you're obtuse.

      "stupid noob question"

      And getting the Linux zealot snobbery that people have been pointing out down quite nicely, too.

      Why didn't you help him by paying a bit more than cost, then? You know, give back to the community?

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Go

      Re: Am I just thick-skinned?

      I think the average Linux expert is only pissed if he suspects an MS $hill posting bogus questions. if it really is a problem, go to your local Linux User Group.

      Just type "Linux User Group" in google and hit enter. The Linux machines of Google will infer your location from your IP address and display the next local LUG.

    3. Marcelo Rodrigues
      Angel

      Re: Am I just thick-skinned?

      I agree. Every time I had to ask something the community answered with good will. Granted, I asked a question - I didn't demanded a solution. There is a big difference, and it is not forgiven.

      So:

      "My computer doesn't work! Whats wrong?" Will trow You in a (digital) world of hurt.

      But:

      "I am using OpenSuse 12.2, and don't know how to play a video. What should I do?" Will, most likely, result in a polite and useful answer.

  31. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Linux != Windows

    I tried various Linux distros and went back to FreeBSD.

    If I want to install Windows then I'll use the real thing instead of some poor man's version.

  32. DrXym Silver badge

    For the novices the answer is clear

    The default answer is tell them to install Ubuntu. It has the lowest risk, it works, it has proprietary drivers where necessary, it has a simple GUI, it's supported.

    If the person is somewhat more knowledgeable then you can discuss other dists since they're more likely to appreciate what the differences actually mean.

    1. Piro

      Re: For the novices the answer is clear

      Disagree, I'd say Mint is a far safer option, because it doesn't have a crazy UI by default.

      1. DrXym Silver badge

        Re: For the novices the answer is clear

        Unity isn't crazy. It might be aggravating for a power user which is why I explicitly said novice where they just want to be up and running with no nasty surprises.

        As for Mint, yes perhaps someone might later move to that, but it offers choices for things which a novice is not in a position to make an informed decision about.

        It's this profusion of choice which is half the problem of Linux. People make it so damned complicated when it doesn't have to be.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: For the novices the answer is clear

          I have to respectfully disagree. On Mint the a novice user might want to for example load up a paint program. They can click on the Menu in the same location that Windows 95 - Windows 7 had one, choose graphics, and a list of graphics programs are listed. They will see "GIMP Image Editor", as opposed to the other default applications and try that, and end up in a paint program.

          On Unity they would have to know the paint program is called Gimp, and would have to search for it. Hence the difference.

    2. davtom

      Re: For the novices the answer is clear

      Sorry, but I have to disagree with you. With Ubuntu it is far too difficult to find all the programs that are installed.

      Mint is what should be recommended to all newcomers IMHO. It is most similar to what they are already familiar with.

      In fact, it's not just for the newbie. I've used Linux for well over a decade, and these days I just stick to Mint. It works, gets out of the way, and lets me get on with what I want to do.

      The only question is what variant of Mint. I would say that if you have a computer older than about 5 years, use Mint with MATE, otherwise use Mint with Cinnamon.

  33. strangelybrown
    Happy

    Mint Cinnamon for me...

    Still running an Ubuntu laptop (the kid's one), but Unity is a mess... not to mention the constant updates. The endless updates being the reason I dropped Xubuntu on my little Sammy NC10. Mint Cinnamon is a bit heavier than Xubuntu, but no daily upteen thousand package updates makes me a happy camper.

    I'd venture to suggest that Ubuntu is actually the biggest issue for entrants to the Linux world at the moment - for newbies it seems to be the first place they end up (I did, several years ago). Whilst the install is relatively simple for anyone with four or more braincells, the GUI Pile-Up that is Unity is enough to make most people not bother getting past the live USB stage.

    The support forums for Ubuntu are awful - I just don't bother with them these days; if the search returns nothing then you've got the choice of your question either insta-locked and linked to something vaguely relevant, or ignored. The best you can usually hope for is that it goes in a pile with a load of other related bugs where someone may eventually fix it. I've not had cause to try the Mint support yet, after 6 mths installed on two netbooks.

    Anyway, interesting comment regards Mint being very 'Windows' in it's feel - hadn't really occured to me. I like Mint because it's clean, relatively light (using around 130mb RAM at idle on this 2Gb netbook), and aside from installing the Samsung packages in Terminal I've had to do the square root of nothing to make it work.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Stop

      Re: Mint Cinnamon for me...

      I am running Ubuntu 10 LTS and I always found my questions answered after some googleing. If that hadn't worked, I would have visited my local friendly Linux User Group for a beer and a chat.

  34. h3

    I don't agree about choosing a major distro other than Debian.

    Debian and the niche distro's have decent support (Freenode irc).

    The support from #slackware is ace (And it supports Vector and a few others that are based on Slackware).

    The Ubuntu and Opensuse support is god awful in comparison. (I have a reasonable amount of experience so I can tell when people are advising stupid stuff that is going to cause large amounts of hassle later.)

    As a first distro I wouild probably go for Debian it has quite reasonable decent documentation and good irc help on irc.oftc.org or irc.freenode.org #debian

  35. h3

    Oftc #debian seems to have less bickering so that is what I use. (And it is what irc.debian.org points to).

  36. VaalDonkie

    I'm not a serious Linux user, but I've had experience(s) with a few distroes. My favourites ones by far from a setup and usable-out-the-box perspective are Ubuntu and Suse (in no particular order). Knoppix was kind of cool, but the other two were nicer.

  37. Valeyard

    OpenSuse

    I love OpenSuse, Can't really do any wrong in my book.

    I did have kubuntu for a while but heard it was being deprecated so made the jump and glad I'm did, the effort gone into that interface is pretty nice. Just the little details make it feel a lot more professionally done.

    Even got native Steam working on it over the weekend through a one-click-install link

    I'll use my win7 boot for development and gaming, but pretty much all else is OpenSuse

    1. Rukario
      Linux

      Kubuntu deprecated?

      I hadn't heard that! I'm downloading the latest Kubuntu images now. Been using it since Gutsy, now using Precise almost exclusively (except for the compulsory Wintendo). Wouldn't install Ubuntu Unity if you paid me... I've got Windows 8 in a VM at work and find it a pain to use at best, though I admit part of that could be Virtualbox.

      I've even installed Kubuntu Precise on a computer for a friend who is computer-clueless (approaching clue-resistant). He is quite comfortable with it, and is even getting used to, yes, the command line.

      1. Valeyard

        Re: Kubuntu deprecated?

        Yeah, it was a shame cos it was my Linux of choice for the no-hassle way of doing things in a KDE interface but I heard they're just going to let it fizzle out while they concentrate on unity ubuntu

        But like I said, since my main criteria interface-wise was "must be awesome in KDE" OpenSuse was joyful compared to kubuntu

  38. Sporkinum

    Kubuntu

    My wife has been on Kubuntu for years, and prior to that, Mandrake/Mandriva. Her old PC died and we bought a new one, it came with Windows 7. She tried it and didn't care for it. The machine is dual boot, and she might boot into Windows a few times a year to run something she can't run in linux (audible books). The problem with that is that Windows usually way behind on updates and need to spend a couple of hours downloading and rebooting. She is not a computer person and it works just fine for her. She also has an HP Touchpad and prefers WebOS to Android on it.

  39. sjsmoto

    why either/or?

    On my laptop I'm running Ubuntu in VirtualBox seamless mode under Windows 7. In Ubuntu I use GIMP, Meld, KLinkStatus, and VLC media player. In Windows I use various MS development tools, and one I can't do without: SQLyog.

    But even if I had nothing to use in Windows, I'd still use it as a VirtualBox launcher to run different Ubuntu environments. If nothing else it does a great job of that. ;)

  40. agricola
    Boffin

    From a

    (1) Microsoft user--DOS 2.11 through Win7, but not Bob, ME, or Vista

    (2) Linux/Unix user since 2009: BSD, Ubuntu, SuSE, Mint, Knoppix, Debian

    I've taught college for over twenty years, from Boolean logic to assembly-language programming to Operating System Design, and I've always ascribed to the philosophy that the best way to teach a new subject is introduce it gently. If the 'gentle' tool(s) used turn out to be elegant, powerful tools--they most always do--then so much the better.

    To use a topical example, I would never use LibreOffice or Office to teach a begiining course in word processing; even if the goal of the course was proficiency in a 'powerful' WP, using AbiWord as an introduction to the subject would be most beneficial to basic and lasting knowledge of the subject. And, as it so happenst , Abiword seems to be able to do almost all that one would want from a word processor while not being intimidating.

    In a similar vein, considering power, lack of intimidation, and lack of ego-inspired "capabilities"--which only add to the new-Linux-user's burden--the best choice, and the one I suggest to those who are interested in switching from Windows to Linux with the least effort and highest productivity is Linux Mint.

  41. Refugee from Windows
    Thumb Up

    Sneaking in with the Raspberry Pi

    I'd say that Debian has sneaked here in the guise of Raspbian. That's a million computers that will never run Windows sold, and to a lot of people who didn't know Linux existed before that as well.

    1. David Hicks
      Linux

      Re: Sneaking in with the Raspberry Pi

      You can tell they had no idea linux existed before because of the proliferation of 'How to do <really obvious linux thing> on Raspberry Pi' blog posts.

      It's most entertaining, like a bunch of teenagers who think they invented music, or kissing or something. Still, good that they're learning about it one way or another.

  42. agricola
    Boffin

    "When setting out to explain something, make the explanation as simple as possible. ..but no simpler".

    [paraphrase]

    --A. Einstein

  43. cd

    No Mention of Pinguy?

    I'd think it would be a top contender for a beginner/switcher. Rarely takes any explanation when I've installed it for folks. Just put the stuff they want in Docky and let them at it.

  44. Radelix

    Debian

    Debian cause I don't have issues with it. Even got the Nvidia drivers to install correctly once I got the dependencies installed. Same with VMware. Got it running in dual boot on my desktop, running as a daily driver on my 5 yo laptop and netbook. Very happy with it so far.

    1. Vic

      Re: Debian

      > Debian cause I don't have issues with it.

      The installer's horrible. Stopping part-way through waiting for user input is a PITA.

      I also had problems with Debian 5 (which a 3rd-party tool vendor required - Deb 6 wasn't supported) and sssd. Never did get that one sorted...

      Vic.

  45. Stoneshop Silver badge
    Mushroom

    OpenSuSE

    but thanks to a really well done KDE release,

    Thanks to a really well done, KMail explicitely excluded, KDE release. There, fixed that for you.

    Kmail2. It's the most astonishing pile of festering parrot droppings.

    Kmail 1.x would occasionally eat a couple of mails from one of its folders, leaving zero-size files and requiring you to exit and restart Kmail, then reindex that folder, losing any meta-information on whether you had replied, etc., as well as those eaten files.

    Kmail 2 "solved" that by dumping *all* message files in a single directory, and storing meta-info as required (which folder(s) the message was filed in, among others) in akonadi. Which then proceeded to eat that info, leaving just the huge pile of message files in that single directory..

    Remove, reinstall (including akonadi), check settings, re-import, try again.

    Same shit.

    Remove, reinstall (including akonadi), check settings, re-import, try again once more.

    Same shit.

    I'm now using mutt. TYVM.

    KDE4 is (mostly) fine, but KMail is an inflamed pustule on its nether regions.

    1. Chemist

      Re: OpenSuSE

      "KDE4 is (mostly) fine, but KMail is an inflamed pustule on its nether regions."

      So use Thunderbird, that's also installed by default

      1. Stoneshop Silver badge

        Re: OpenSuSE

        So use Thunderbird, that's also installed by default

        May well be, but the first thing KDE throws at you when you first start it, and want to start using mail is KMail. Which people would do well to utterly avoid.

    2. Marcelo Rodrigues
      Facepalm

      Re: OpenSuSE

      Sad, but true. Never had problems with KMail. That's it, not before KDE 4.x. Using Thunderbird now - but really liked the old KMail...

      Ah, well...

    3. Vic

      Re: OpenSuSE

      > Kmail2. It's the most astonishing pile of festering parrot droppings.

      Something about v2 code under KDE :-)

      Amarok v1.4 remains my favourite music player/manager. It's properly excellent.

      Amarok v2 (pick your version...) is buggy and far less competent. And I hate the look :-(

      Vic.

      1. Nexox Enigma

        Re: OpenSuSE

        Plus, KDE4 randomly renamed some programs - Apparently KPDF and KView were too obvious, so we got Okular and GwenView, respectively.

        As for Amarok v2 - that mess caused me to quit monolithic media players all together and switch to mpd (the clients for which were also lost in a KDE3 vs KDE4 crapstorm for years.)

      2. Peter Gathercole Silver badge

        @Vic re Amarok

        Agree on Amarok. When I did a dist-upgrade of my Ubuntu desktop box from Hardy to Lucid it did the 1.4-to-2.something upgrade for me, and I was lost for weeks trying restore all of my music.

        The bugs are mostly fixed now (at least the ones that were affecting me), but I still find it bloody annoying to maintain music on an external device. It was sooooooo much easier with 1.4.

  46. Kevin Reilly
    Linux

    My problem is that due to the Nvidia graphics on my laptop most of the live CDs fail and freeze up. I could get round this by using the alternate Ubuntu text based install CD. But now they have abandoned it. Last time the upgrade failed. The workaround I used was to install Xubuntu who still do an alternate disc. Then install the Nvidia driver and apt-get the unity desktop. Then I decided to try Cinnamon. Added the PPA, downloaded it and never looked back. I have Mint on Virtualbox on Win vista and if I could I would probably install it as you get all the multimedia goodies. I would probably choose the Debian edition of Mint rather than the Ubuntu based flavour.

    As it stands though I will stick with my custom Ubuntu + Cinnamon cos it rocks & I can't be arsed to mess about with the computer anymore. If Windows Vista was anywhere near as good as OS X I would not have bothered with Linux in the first place.

  47. Anonymous Coward
    Linux

    Lots Of Propaganda Operatives Here

    So let me cut through all the disinformation and get a few facts straight:

    1.) Modern distros such as Ubuntu are way easier and faster to install than Windows and Windows applications on 99% of current PCs. There is a centralized software installation/updating system and not an installer/updater per program.

    2.) You will never touch the command line if you just want to do text processing, spreadsheets, image manipulation and similar things. For the masters of the IT trade, the command line is the most productive and precise tool to operate computers, though. Very much like a scalpel in the hands of an experienced and well-educated surgeon. Or like an Endoscope.

    Windows has never been designed for proper command line operation, but for the GUI approach.

    3.) The Command Line of Linux is for Expert To Repair your computer if something has gone wrong. Windows does not have a proper command line infrastructure and instead often requries "full re-installation" or "25 registry hacks". Computers are more complicated than modern cars so you sometimes need an Expert to fix it. Full Stop.

    4.) Linux User groups meeting in the "real world" are very helpful to new Linux users. After they know you, they will surely help you out with some Command Line wizardry, when something has gone wrong. They will also answer all your conceptual questions.

    5.) Linux machines simply run and run. For years. You don't need this collection of "tuning" and "security" programs of the Windows world. In most cases Linux machines die from hardware problems or from too much dust in the heat exchanger on the CPU.

    6.) There exist Linux versions which will run on quite old computers with (for today's standards) moderate hardware such as 256MB RAM or less. E.g. some Xubuntu versions. There was a time you could run Windows NT on 48MB of RAM and they did not add much substantial since then. Instead they added lots of eye candy so that you need 2000MB now. With Linux, you can still run on 48MB, if you really like. Your Linux-based DSL router probably runs on 16MB or less.

    7.) Whereever real IT professionals work, they use Linux for the heavy-duty work. Facebook, Google, Eurex, CERN and most of the world's supercomputers run Linux. Because it is a heavy-duty, professional-grade system. And yeah, Facebook is probably one the most massive computer systems, as it needs to handle 400 million teenagers.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Meh

      Overstating it a bit?

      "Modern distros such as Ubuntu are way easier and faster to install than Windows and Windows applications on 99% of current PCs. There is a centralized software installation/updating system and not an installer/updater per program."

      True and false. Most users never install Windows from scratch, so they wouldn't know. I agree that installing Windows as a clean install (like I may be just about to do on a laptop with a replaced hard drive) is no picnic, but even most users who bother will be using an OEM CD with drivers.

      "You will never touch the command line if you just want to do text processing, spreadsheets, image manipulation and similar things."

      If you want LibreOffice 3.6 and the current LTS Ubuntu release you need to add ppas in the command line. It's trivially easy, to be fair.

      "Whereever real IT professionals work, they use Linux for the heavy-duty work."

      That's for servers. Zuckerberg wrote Facebook on a Mac.

    2. sisk Silver badge

      Re: Lots Of Propaganda Operatives Here

      1) Truth.

      2 & 3) One slight correction here: Windows DOES finally have a proper CLI, though it's about 20 years late. It's called Powershell, and as of Windows Server 2012 you can finally run the whole system from it without ever touching the mouse.

      4) LUGs are great if you happen to have one nearby. Personally I'd have to drive 3 hours to get to the nearest one I've been able to find. The joys of living in the boondocks.

      5) No joke. My file server's been going for 7 years now. The only time it's ever been off was when the power was out. Since it's cut off from the internet I haven't even bothered with security updates, so the only maintenance I've done on it is to poke the power button to boot it back up after a power outage. My web server isn't far behind (except, with it being a web server, I do keep up to date on the security updates on it).

      6) I had a machine set up for my kids a couple years ago that had 64mb of RAM and ran Damn Small Linux. Sure it was slow as snot, but it was built in the late 90s so what do you expect.

      7) Truth.

  48. Robin 12
    Linux

    It is about the money and applications.

    The reason Microsoft is still on the desktop is the money that Microsoft pushes onto the suppliers to get it out. Also, remember that FOSS isn't just for Linux but Windows as well. Point out sites like ninite.com to Windows users and they will learn.

    As one person said, purchasing a computer with Linux on it is hard to impossible for most people. Yet they will purchase Android without thinking. Microsoft has made it hard by bundling their OS with the hardware. You pay the licence fee and then get counted as a user, even though you wipe it ASAP.

    As for installs, this is my major headache. I would love incremental upgrades but that has not worked. Part of the reason is major code changes and library changes. This can be a real killer. I just installed Fedora 18 on two machines and found that this was a major headache. Someone tried and decided to install 17 instead of 18 due to the poor installer. In all cases it was due to custom disk partitioning and not wanting to use LVM. I have used the Fedora upgrade path with success on simple system in the past but it fails if you use encryption or more customized installation.

    Of course, upgrading from Windows XP to Windows 7 and then Windows 8 won't be any easier. In most cases, it would be a purchase of a new computer. So the upgrad mess isn't that nice with Windows either. Of course with Windows in a location without an Internect connection, that can be a problem registering.

    Get Windows off of new computers or out of the "Bundled price" and the move to Linux will grow. Once people see that they have to pay an extra $50-100 for their new machine and they will start looking around.

    A move to standardized file systems is a good move to make it easier for deveolpers to package their software for multiple systems. The issue comes into the particular libraries being used. I have had issues with different versions of included libraries (dll's) on Windows computers that seem similar to Linux systems. Now there needs to be a simple packager that can create compatible packages and resolve dependencies across distros. A tool that can create RPM or DEB packates.

    My father runs a Centos server, plays with different versions of Linux. He purchased an android phone to learn about it and now says he is going to get a new, more powerful one, just a few months after getting his new phone. He is in his 80's. My daughter installed Fedora 12 on her own laptop a few years ago. Using Yumex on Fedora gives me a nice package manager that allows me to search for applications that I may not know about.

    I use Linux at work and home. Have not owned or operated a Windows computer (other than forced licenses.) since Windows 3.1. For work, I wish I could get Autocad Inventor but even thought their roots are in Unix, they don't support Linux.

    Using LibreOffice I have saved files that were saved in MS Word but wouldn't open again.

    Peoples complaints about Video drivers is also becoming mute. I have installed onto both nVidia and ATI cards using the default drivers in Fedora and ended up with 3D graphics. I don't think I have used the closed source drivers for over two years on any machine.

    1. AdamWill

      Re: It is about the money and applications.

      "In all cases it was due to custom disk partitioning and not wanting to use LVM."

      Whatever you set the 'Partition type' dropdown on the 'Installation Options' screen to before you go into custom partitioning, will be the default type for newly-created partitions in the custom partitioning screen. So if you want to use plain ext4 partitions, it'll be easier if you set that dropdown to ext4 before you enter custom partitioning. Even if you don't, you can change the type after creating the partition; select the partition, expand the 'Customize...' expander on the right hand side, and you'll see the relevant options.

    2. Vic

      Re: It is about the money and applications.

      > A tool that can create RPM or DEB packates.

      It's called "alien".

      Vic.

  49. CaptSmegHead
    Windows

    I have no background in linux but have enjoyed setting up a home multimedia server using a Mint and an old laptop.

  50. Lopez

    Preferred Distribution

    As I do a lot of Oracle testing, my preference is 64-bit Centos 5

    It has always been very reliable.

    Running 3 Oracle instances and a couple of VM's has been fine on a machine with 6gb Ram

    For testing any Windows setups I use VMware Player

    P

  51. agricola
    Boffin

    And THE Linux problem IS...

    ...that there is no organization [sic] (your woord prosessor don't spiel chek good) or entity which has an interest in giving coverage to testimonials such as appeared above, to wit:

    "I have no background in linux but have enjoyed setting up a home multimedia server using a Mint and an old laptop."

    Please understand that this is not an indictment; merely a statement of fact. It is a fact that the best model for generating robust software must find a way, and reason, to generate revenue, which would lead to "honking its own horn."

  52. Herby Silver badge

    If ALL machines....

    ...came without an operating system, and users had to install it from scratch, I feel that it would be a different story. I don't know if anybody installs W7 (or W8, WXP for that matter) from installation media these days. It is a ROYAL hassle. You need to do silly licensing stuff and even more.

    Yes, given a choice (which users really aren't) there might be different statistics on what is what.

    Until that time, I will gladly use the Fedora 17 install DVD and dual boot the nice W7 machine I use at work (with KDE thank you!). Of course I really haven't use W7 at all, but if I need to break the glass on the fire alarm, I may need to use it. But in the mean time, my Linux installation works just fine.

    Thank you very much!

    1. mmeier

      Re: If ALL machines....

      Installing Win7 on a typical box is a lot of things. But not a hassle. Insert DVD, start box, accept defaults and enter serial key. Done. On first boot it configures the network and (if present) workgroup and done. Assuming you have a legal licence that is.

      If you want stuff like more than one partition or domain integration you have a tad more work to do but even that is straight forward on the typical privat and corporate workstations.

      Linux sometimes works (Suse) and sometimes did not (xBuntu) [Mid 2012 (1)]. Getting some CSS only stuff to work on it was a PITA same for getting the quite recent graphics card on the unit to run at it's full capacity(1). Printer setup was "interesting" and worked because I know the compatibility of the printer (Not in the list). On Windows it was "plug and play" for both.

      (1) If I pay for it, I want full use of it. Even if the UI normally is not used on a "server"

      1. Vic

        Re: If ALL machines....

        > not a hassle. Insert DVD, start box, accept defaults and enter serial key. Done

        ...And then look for all the devices it's failed to install drivers for. Particularly troublesome if one of them is the network interface (thank you, Sony, you bastards).

        Boot into F14 from my USB drive, connect to the network, download drivers. Reboot into Windows and install :-)

        Vic.

  53. Matthew Collier
    Happy

    Coupla Points....

    The proprietry nVidia drivers, on Ubuntu and Kubuntu at least, are offered to you, as a choice, by the hardware wizard, once booted up inside the O/S. Obviously, the installer goes with the standard open driver to start with and you are offered the choice of a change (which of course, you can choose not to, and even if you do, can also choose to change back if you wish).

    Adding Reops, again, you do not need to drop to the command line to do if you want to use the Software Package GUI that came with your distro to do it that way. You can do it either way, which ever you prefer.

    Kmail2 was a disaster zone in the re-write from Kmail1->2, but they have pretty much nailed it, finally, on KDE 4.95/4.10 (which will be the default on Kubuntu 13.04). In fact, I would say they nailed KDE4 overall, finally, on 4.9.5/4.10 also.

    Kubuntu, is not "deprecated" or in any way anything other than going from strength to strength. The fact seems to be that people didn't understand that all that changed was, Canonical stopped paying the wages of the single dev they had employed (J Riddel), but he continues anyway (the rest of the Kubuntu team were "community" anyway/already). So now, Kubuntu is in the same place with regards to Canonical as Lubuntu, Xubuntu, Edubuntu, i.e. support other than financial, from Canonical (and all with their very good points).

  54. Moktu

    Cheers for that!!!

    I've just spent a productive 20 minutes creating a dual boot Win 7 / Mint workstation.

    It's been simply years since I tried Linux, and to be honest didn't have the patience to persevere. I have to say, i'm impressed with the improvements.

    time to have a mooch round, while the boss isn't looking.

  55. Tank boy
    Linux

    So many choices...

    I settled on Xubuntu after Kubuntu, and a failed attempt at Ubuntu, as I have a rather older computer. So far, I have no complaints, other than the seemingly unending stream of updates, but that's not always a bad thing. There was a learning curve switching over from XP, but nothing unmanageable.

    I'd really like to try out Mint on my wife's lower-spec laptop after reading all the comments. Making a convert out of her will probably be more difficult though...

    1. (AMPC) Anonymous and mostly paranoid coward
      Thumb Up

      Re: So many choices...@Tank boy

      My Mint laptop (an ancient IBM a21p) has become the backup web browser for the whole family (one wife and two pre-teens). There was a little resistance at first, but it evaporated when they saw it could do most of what was needed (surf, send mail). Learning curve was small to none (login, click here, select Internet and select Firefox). I also tried Puppy, Lubuntu and Xubuntu but found Mint provided the best hardware support.

      Mind you, this laptop is nearly 12 years old (an Intel P III), and has a whopping (maximum) 512 MB of memory.

      The box is way too old to run WIN7 and used to struggle with XP which is why I tried Mint, after a friend's suggestion.

      Some assembly was required to make all laptop features work but this is also a great way to learn about Linux.

      If your box is somewhere above that spec, you should be happy but I would try a Live CD trial first before going large.

      In the interests of full disclosure, I do get a little more resistance when this laptop can't play the occasional You tube video.

      It also can't run Chrome (because it runs out of memory) so FF only, instead. If anyone here can suggest a better browser for this venerable laptop, please do. I can't put anymore memory inside. It works reasonably well with HTML5 sites that do video.

      But these are all hardware resource issues, not OS issues. Otherwise, no complaints.

      I found one of the best things about MInt was the community of people who have made it run on a large variety of hardware platforms (old and new) and are happy to share their experience.

      Go for it. !

  56. A Man from Venus
    Thumb Up

    Started with Slackware

    I started with Slackware 8 (I think) and had great fun building Mythtv so many dependencies to track down and build. . . in the end I found trying to keep up somewhere close to current to be a chore (package manager doesn't / didn't check dependencies). I've since had a couple of buntu's and SUSE before settling on Gentoo. I left KDE when things like Akonadi and Nepomuk reared their ugly heads and installed XFCE instead! Miles simpler. Great thing about Gentoo is the documentation is pretty good (although without it I doubt anyone would ever successfully install).

  57. Nick Pettefar

    Raspberry Pi

    I'm just waiting for a decent version of Unix to come out for the Pi so I can ditch the awful Linux crap (***BSD probably but I'd prefer a System V - a shame Open Solaris still isn't around, I'm sure they would have made a Pi port!) . It's not an OS, it's a hobby. The people on the forums are a nightmare and stuff changes overnight with no documentation. ALL their ideas and tech is stolen from Unix. Pah!

    1. Peter Gathercole Silver badge

      Re: Raspberry Pi @Nick Pettefar

      Don't get me wrong. I'm System V through-and-through, but you have to regrettably admit that it's pretty dead now.

      OK, Solaris and AIX are still mainly System V versions of UNIX, but I can't see IBM doing an R-Pi port of AIX any time soon, and I think that the license for OpenSolaris would prohibit a port.

      In case you hadn't noticed, UnixWare (the last linear descendent of the Bell/AT&T code) of pretty much died with SCO, and any chance for a reversion to Novell died when it got subsumed into Attachmate. That pretty much killed any chance of a new System V variant.

      And there's an interesting point. I wonder who you would approach if you wanted to become a new System V source licensee? The OpenGroup?

      1. jake Silver badge

        Re: Raspberry Pi @Nick Pettefar

        Peter: It's fairly easy to make Slackware look & act SysV-ish.

        I suspect the actual old Bell/AT&T code would be extremely difficult to bring up to modern standards (even if you could pry it out of the cold, clammy hands of the lawyers) ... i mean, how long has it been since anyone did any dev work on it?

  58. Kaltern
    Devil

    Soon as Linux can play Windows games without fuss, then I will happily switch. Not a good enough reason? I can't imagine I'm alone in the casual PC userbase.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      @Kaltern

      Check out steam for linux. According to their early tests it ran L4D faster than windows!

      1. Kaltern
        Angel

        Re: @Kaltern

        True, but I'd probably like to play more than the very few Linux games out there.

        Of course, I'm not suggesting that there is a magical solution to this, it's just a shame that things like Wine are just not up to the task of playing modern games.

        Naturally it's all M$' fault anyway for using DirectX to control the market.

        1. Kaltern
          Facepalm

          Re: @Kaltern

          Did I get a downvote for mentioning Micro$oft?

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: @Kaltern

        It ran something that was optimised for Linux faster than the same non optimised code on Windows.

        Using standard OpenGL benchmarks that are the same on both platforms, Windows is significantly faster.

  59. Domino
    Linux

    For existing Window users I've found picking the applications before a distro works well. Move them to cross platform apps on Windows for all their major uses, and once everything they use has a Linux version, the change from Windows to Linux is a minor thing to handle.

    Personally I've been through a few distros, my most recent ones were Ubuntu, when that decided to make the gui hard work I went to Mint, which still wasn't quite what I wanted. So now I run Sabayon with XFCE and have been happy enough not to change for a couple of years.

    As far as the command line complaints, it's a LOT easier to talk someone through doing something when you are just dealing with text. It's simple to make sure the commands they enter are correct and to get accurate feedback on any errors that occur. Trying to talk a novice computer user through a GUI process is often near impossible without the aid of pictures and even then you end up with the occasional clown who has their own ideas about what clicking in a particular box means.

    1. mmeier

      What's the cross-platform version of CivV, Battlefield3, ...

  60. Brian Allan

    Wow! I'll just stick with Windows...

    After reading this article, 90% of which I didn't understand, I'll just stick with Windows!

    Why is it that Linux people have to use abbreviations for everything? What the heck is a "distro"? Ubunto... sounds like something out of Africa!? Fedora is some sort of hat, no?

    No thanks... but an interesting read...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Wow! I'll just stick with Windows...

      You forgot Windoze.....

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