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Tuesday, 10 November 2009 17:24

Linux: not ready for prime-time (perhaps never will be)

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Sometimes it's hard to choose which foot to shoot.  What the heck, let's line both of them up.

At a recent press event, a technical representative from a well-known anti-virus vendor (it doesn't matter which) commented that Linux will never overtake any version of Windows because Windows is already good enough.  The strong implication being that the 'interloper' must be significantly better before people will pay attention to it. 

Clearly, Linux is a great windowing operating system, but it doesn't have the compelling feature.

As far as Joe User is concerned, if the OS can surf the web and serve up his favourite pr0n sites, if his kids can use Google to find someone to write their essays and his wife can find new recipes, all is good in the world.

After-all, Windows came with the PC he bought from that most reputable of vendors (insert your favourite el cheapo vendor here), so why on earth should he change anything?

Let's look at the choices Mr User has available.  Firstly, he can become a Jobsian.  This would require limiting his hardware choices… the trade-off being that his software 'issues' would probably decrease.

His next, and VERY obvious, choice is to do nothing.  Try buying a PC without Windows.  I dare you!  As I said earlier, Windows (in pretty-well any variant) will help the kids and provide the pr0n in equal measure.  In addition it will play Joe's favourite movie disks (or ripped versions thereof).

Effectively, the only other choice Joe has is to look at Linux.

But, he has an immediate problem.  At last count, there were over 300 distributions to choose from.  Multiple personality disorder?  Sybil ain't got nothing on those guys!!

So, which one does he choose? 


Not only are the choices seemingly endless, but the ability to differentiate is entirely beyond him. 

He peruses the newsagent shelves for help.  The magazine choices are either simplistic general-purpose technical publications trying hard to appeal to everyone (and effectively no-one) or overly technical in-depth views of the finer art of re-installing custom-built printer drivers (I exaggerate!). 

Darn, no help there.

Better (or is it worse) any magazine hoping to attract the new Linux user has a disk glued to the front cover (or available from behind the desk for a small additional fee).  Unfortunately, for as many magazines on the shelf, there are an equal number of Linux distributions glued to them.

Let's imagine for a (very fleeting) moment that our friend Joe has bitten the bullet and installed one of the Linux distributions (is he mad?). 

What does he experience?

Generally, all his functionality is there.  His Pr0n is as uplifting as ever; his kids find all the essay material they need for school.  Even his wife remains happy in the kitchen.

All is cool in his world.  Until it comes time to experience the Linux equivalent of "Patch Tuesday."

As soon as that day hits, Mr Joe User will be running back to his el cheapo demanding his Windows be reinstalled.

Clearly not ready for prime-time.  Not convinced?  Just look at this typical update dialog box.  Read it and weep, as they say.  And while you're weeping, just try to explain to Joe what it's about.

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David Heath

David Heath has had a long and varied career in the IT industry having worked as a Pre-sales Network Engineer (remember Novell NetWare?), General Manager of IT&T for the TV Shopping Network, as a Technical manager in the Biometrics industry, and as a Technical Trainer and Instructional Designer in the industrial control sector. In all aspects, security has been a driving focus. Throughout his career, David has sought to inform and educate people and has done that through his writings and in more formal educational environments.

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