Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Picking the right target for the Linux Desktop

I think it has long been recognized that having a Linux desktop look "as good as" a Windows desktop has been a pretty low bar from an easy-to-use point of view. Mark Shuttleworth brought it up again at the Linux Symposium during his keynote speech (something he has clearly been thinking about for a while), and I just saw Bob Sutor bring it up again at the Next Generation Data Center keynote speech that he gave.

I think the Linux desktop has gotten a lot closer to the simplicity that the Mac offers or that Windows offers, but in either case, it still has a long way to go. There are still so many areas that I've been fighting with on an Ubuntu laptop (T61p at the moment since the display on my tried and true T41p decided to blink out for good last week). Because I have worked with Linux for a long time, I'm relatively confident that with time and enough good google searches I will resolve the problems. But boy do I rue spending the time on realizing that NetworkManager is trying to take over my wireless and doing everything it can to make sure I can never connect to a wireless access point. Or, I can use the nv driver without compiz, or the nvidia driver without suspend/hibernate. Oh, if I dig through various forums, it looks like there are possible fixes/configuration changes that might move me forward, but if those answers are out there, why does an apt-get install not just fix all those problems?

Then there are the annoyances - I put in a USB key on this box and for some reason there is a hard hang of the desktop sometimes for a minute or two and then Nautilus opens, finally. I put the same USB key in the Mac and Finder just opens. My iMac 24 isn't very mobile but when I powered it up at home, I had to choose/enter an SSID, fill in a password and select an authentication mechanism, and through three wireless routers, several reconfigs and such, it just *does the right thing*. The use cases are a little bit different but Linux still doesn't seem to do the right thing.

And these are just the basics - what about all of the more complex, cool tasks. Dragging video, editing it and copy/pasting subsets of audio or video. Managing my music library or managing TV recordings seems to be always "possible" on Linux but never easy (my MythTV stopped last time I lost power and/or had an automated upgrade).

But I think the message remains: Pick the right target for comparison, and that right target is hopefully clearly not Vista, XP or any past Windows product, but is instead the much more user friendly environment of the Mac...


At 10:08 AM, Blogger Dustin Kirkland said...

Hi Gerrit-

I whole-heartedly support your quest for a Linux that "just works", and believe me, we at Ubuntu are working hard on achieving that.

You mentioned Google-searching for solutions to your common problems... I thought I'd point you to a custom Google search engine that I created that focuses on several very good Ubuntu resources, in a logical hierarchy:

Hope that's useful to you...


At 10:43 AM, Blogger Gerrit said...

Well, that search led me (with one hop) to: which I'm going to try. Looks like it is worth bookmarking that link. Thanks, Dustin! Now if it works, hopefully those updates will be somehow auto-applied in future updates of my distro. ;)


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