It’s Coming

At the moment almost nobody uses Linux on their desktop; even in Hursley. Windows is everywhere but in the short time that I have worked here (~ a year), I have noticed a difference! Linux desktops are definately increasing in number.

I certainly wouldn’t recommend that most people install Linux, Windows is (in my opinion) currently better for the average desktop user. If you split computer users into four broad types then I would suggest that some of them might look into Linux:

  • Complete Novices: This type of user is going to need some hand-holiding and what they use should depend on what their friendly “expert” is comfortable with. If my Gran got a computer, I would install Linux – I’d set it up for her and have a couple of icons on the desktop. She would use those and not dream of changing the setup or installing new hardware without my help – Linux would be ideal, I wouldn’t have to worry about viruses etc. and I’d be comfortable answering questions because I’d be intimately familiar with the system.
  • Normal Users: The largest group of users and, at the moment, I think they should steer well clear of Linux. My Dad uses Windows, he might buy a scanner or a new camera, plug it in an expect it to just work. Windows is still way ahead in this area – hardware manufacturers often don’t support Linux, the market is too small and installing drivers can often be fiddly. Windows just works. Linux (currently) doesn’t – there is no competition yet (even the CEO of Redhat agrees).
  • Experts: These are people who know and understand computers, but are different to my fourth category (geeks) because for them the computer is a tool. Most of this group of people use Windows, it’s easier to setup and certainly in the past would have made them more productive but I think that is on the cusp of changing, I’ll elaborate on this in a minute.
  • Geeks: The difference between a geek and an expert is that geeks fiddle with computers for fun. Basically the only people who currently use Linux as a desktop OS fall into this category. Many geeks currently use Windows but have played with Linux on and off. I think many geeks will soon ensure they have access to Linux because I think this is where computers are changing most quickly. Even when innovation happens on other platforms, it quickly comes to Linux as well. Because Linux is evolving so fast little, tiny ideas are appearing that might take a while to appear on other platforms.

So although some geeks have been using Linux for a while, experts haven’t. For them it is all about the applications. They are arriving… Fast!

Applications, applications, applications

Total Cost of all these applications? 0.00

Given that people here at Hursley are either Experts or Geeks, I hope a few more might take a look at Fedora, Ubuntu or one of the other Linux distributions that include the majority of the programs listed above. There will be some initial setup pain but I think some people at least will never want to go back.

3 thoughts on “It’s Coming

  1. Your definately right about this, I still think the productivity and simple setup keeps a lot
    of people on Windows at hursley. Plus the Windows implementation of SWT is just so much
    nicer than the GTK one and when you spend most of your life in Eclipse it’s definately a plus side.

    While I was on Extreme Blue 2/11 people were using Linux (Ubuntu) most of the time, I know
    a lot more of the guys would have if you didn’t have to jump through so many hoops
    for reading mail (Lotus Notes on Wine http://www.opentechsupport.net/forums/archive/topic/30866-1.html).
    Once you can read your mail and keep your IBM life up to date on Linux I think a lot more people will
    switch!

  2. I think that’s a good summery Jon, but it also feels like more and more of the applications we use are delivered through a browser. A lot of those applications are running on Linux servers so even Windows users (like me) are sort of running Linux applications remotely.

    It’s the same with Java. I run only a few Java applications on my desktop, but a lot of web apps I use daily are J2EE ones.

  3. Neil: Win32 SWT might look better than GTK SWT but Fedora Core 4 comes with a version of Eclipse compiled to native code – it doesn’t look any prettier but as improvement to gcj (java compiler) happen it’ll get faster and faster…at the moment I try to avoid using Eclipse on anything but recent hardware so I’m looking forward to seeing how this evolves. I know that making things work under Wine can be a pain but for Fedora, IBM apps are easy because somebody has taken the time to package them. You download a config file (from the Fedora C4EB internal site) then just type “yum install notes6-client” it will get all the bits of software it needs and install and configure them. The same goes for Ubuntu (I’m told). External people have a job on their hands but internal people might find it easier than on Windows 😉

    Darren: I once heard someone say that at a conference he asked he asked a room “Hands up everyone that has used Linux”, a few hands went up. He then asked “Who has used Google?” and then argued that everyone who has used Google has run Linux. A little facetious but you both have a point I guess.

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