I am an avid fan and faithful user of Ubuntu Linux OS. It is the only OS on my laptop. I personaly do not use MS Windows except at the work place where all the machines are configured with it. I love Linux and the level of security and reliability it gives me. I no longer think of installing all the “antis” that I would have to if I were using MS Windows. No doubt Linux is a great OS platform. But I have my reservations about its ability to take on the Redmond giant or be a viable alternative OS.
The reason is that in my opinion, it is too much of a “geeky” deal. You see, with MS Windows, virtually all the work is done by just pointing and clicking. The average Pc user, who I must admit are the majority, have no time for lots of things that unfortunately Linux requires you to do. 
For instance, if I want an application which is not available in the system repositories, then I would have to Google it. That sounds simple and innocent. But wait a minute, the file I downloaded is in some compressed form where I have to “compile it from sources”. How many home PC users can make sense of that? Or you have a problem with your network and you have to do some “Sudo” this or that to just get things fixed.
Most people are used to just clicking next, next and then finish. Thats it and they have their application installed. Most of the Linux repositories I must admit have vast numbers of applications. But its not always that one finds what he wants and hence to the big G for help.
And then there is the issue of the terminal. Even after using Ubuntu for close to a year, there still are times when I shudder when I have no option than to head to the terminal to get things fixed. The terminal is an integral part of the Linux kernel that is very vital to the system. Unfortunately too, it is the number one thing that drives people away from anything that has to do with Linux. I frankly don’t think people should have to memorize lots of terminal commands just to get basic things like seeing a detailed list of their hardware done. I personally have tried to get some of my friends and colleagues to try Ubuntu, and most of the time they like it initially only to turn away from it completely when it things require the use of the terminal.
You see, I have nothing personal against the use of the terminal, what I wonder however, is whether it can’t just be relegated to the backseat. Where calling on it will always be the last resort. Windows has the command line, but I can’t remember the last time I had to use it when I have a problem on my PC at the work place.
It is very sad to see that Linux has been around for close to 20 solid years but still has less than 1% of the desktop market. I think this alone calls for a rethink in the way that the Linux kernel works. To put is simply, it is just not friendly enough for the average home user who does not care much about the uderlying nitty gritty of the OS. All that lots of people want is to have a PC that works and thats it. When they need something, they just Google it and click next,next and finish. No compiling anything from any sources or “Sudoing” anything. Linux is seen too much as an OS for hobbyists and geeks who just don’t understand why people do not use their creation.
I however have to admit that lots of work has been done to make Linux as friendly to the average user as possible.This is especially true of distros like Ubuntu and Fedora that have made great strides. But there is more work to be done, and I frankly believe that the rise of Linux as a viable OS alternative to Windows will start from the day that it relies less and less on the command line to get things done.
I really love Linux and want to see more and more people use it, but as it things are now, it makes it nigh impossible to effectively evangelize it. I know there are lots of you out there that will disagree with me. But these are just my views and I would very much like to see your comments on what I think.


  1. yeah thats a good point.
    I'm an avid Linux user maself but there are times where even I admit to the impracticability of using the terminal. Bn using Linux for close to six years now but I at times feel nostalgic of the click to enable features of MS, I guess it's even easier with the Mac. But the main thing is when I'm in Windows I realize the lack of freedom and the weakness of the command prompt. Sometimes the terminal kicks ass, thats more than I can say for the MS-DOS[Command Prompt]

  2. You hit on the key points on why Ubuntu (and Linux in general) doesn't have a wider adoption (even when it's handed out for free!)

    When Win7 came out, we learned from MS that the whole Windows architecture was a big mess that needed tons of time cleaning up & optimizing. This was the equivalent of taking a huge ball of tangled strings and trying to unknot and unravel them all. They've only just begun to do so, but this has already led to some good optimizations in Win7.

    Now, the Linux architecture, at least from the kernel aspect, is already modular, pretty optimized, etc, etc. This had been a huge strength for Linux in the long run. So why hasn't Linux taken off more? If folks complain about wanting fast OS', optimized OS', etc, etc, you'd think Linux would be taking off like wild fire.

    But, like you said, it's the front-end experience (or lack there-of) that keeps non-techie people away. They want a polished front-end experience that doesn't rely on typing in commands. They want to be spoon-fed with “wizards”, and only one way to do things from the "OS" perspective. In other words, they don't want to mess with different desktops (Gnome, KDE, XFCE). They don't want to mess with different network manager applets. They don't want to mess with all the other weird stuff that is usually spoon-fed to them in MS Windows. And I don't blame them. This is all “clerical/secretarial” crap that the computer should handle for them. The avg comp user doesn't care about the OS or desktop stuff…they care about the applications they use.

    Ubuntu does a good job of pre-packaging a lot of stuff into a user-friendly distro with wizard dialogues and spoon-feeding, but there is still those times when you have a problem, you google it, and you see people start out with "open your terminal and type these commands". Eeekk!

    Also, while Mark Shuttleworth stated that "Bug #1 is Microsoft has leading market share", I think Ubuntu should NOT try to be a Windows replacement. The instant we try to sell folks on it as being a Windows replacement, they will assume it can do everything Windows can do. I don't just mean having a desktop, connecting to internet, etc. No, I mean being able to install an .exe file/app from the net like they do with Windows. Being able to go to the software store, buy a game and install it on their computer. Being able to do all that stuff which they do in Windows. When they're told Ubuntu is "just like Windows", then they find out the latest software they bought to do their taxes won't install on it, they suddenly feel lied to and will not only give up on Linux, but will bad-mouth it to all their friends.

    Ubuntu/Linux is not a Windows replacement. It's a computer OS alternative that's different, and it should be made very clear from the start that's all it is … it is not 100% compatible with Windows. WINE is not a viable Windows replacement. Etc, etc.

    There's just all these little hurdles that are in the way for adoption, and ironically optimized architecture is not one of them. People would rather buy, use and complain about a bloated Windows version (EG: Vista) than try a free, lighter, more optimized alternative.

    I think the biggest example of why Linux is not ready for the masses is that you can't even find a pre-packaged fan speed control application in the repo's. You have to get some lib's, jury-rig some scripts, etc, etc. Windows has speedfan application to quiet down PC's while preventing them from over-heating. But Linux … you still have to kit-bash something together. And yet, programmers would rather spend their time working on other things, like making more desktop themes, or creating new programming languages nobody will use. I think that example right there about sums it up. Linux is about freedom … freedom to do what you want, not necessarily the freedom to be spoon-fed.

  3. Hi Kelz
    Yea sometimes it's just damn easy to just click than having to type in some long commands

    You are right. The distinction between the words replacement and alternative though subtle can make a difference.

  4. Yes there is a lot that could be done. Ubuntu doesn't have wizards that provide menus and easy point-and-click system maintenance.

    Since Ubuntu is a non-commercial, community-based FOSS project, the only way this will happen, is if we all pull together and make it happen.

    Expecting Ubuntu to be like Redmond, with paid programmers offering up the holy wafer of proprietary code is clearly unreasonable.

    If something bugs you with the system, fix it yourself, and share the fix with the community. If you can't fix it, then find people who can. This is the Ubuntu Way.

    Free the Software and Free the Internet.

  5. When using linux it is what it is just as windows is the way it is.
    When running Linux or windows you can always use a V ritual machine or Dual-boot.
    Most hard drives have ample space now that the old complaints about space and storage damage are no longer the case. Especially with 1TB drives & SSDs.
    Virtualbox, VMware, Xen, etc are around to solve some of these things. As for the UI and package issues they uniquely come with all OS packages. we just have to learn to deal with them, design our own solutions (opensource systems allow this fortunately) or move on to a better system if it exists.

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