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
- Office:OpenOffice 2.0, AbiWord, Gnumeric, KOffice
- Internet: Firefox, Thunderbird, Gaim, Evolution, Nvu
- Graphics: GIMP, Inkscape, OO.org Draw, Sodi-podi
- Desktop Publishing:: Scribus
- Programming, GCC (and Mudflap!), Eclipse, Valgrind, Anjuta, KDevelop, Gambas
- Games::Battle for Wesnoth, Glest, FreeCiv,VegaStrike, Nexuiz, Vulture’s Claw, Armagetron Advanced, TORCS, VDrift, and MANY more
- Misc: Evince (Document Viewer (PDFs etc.)), MPlayer & Totem (Media Players), Beagle (Desktop Search), K3b (CD/DVD burner), GNOME & KDE (Desktops)
- One day: F-Spot (Photo Organiser), Diva & PiTiVi (Video Editing)
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.