Yes, the Linux desktop still matters!

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Today in Open Source: Linux is alive and well on the desktop, despite the naysayers. Plus: A review of Quirky Linux, and free Valve games for Debian developers

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Yes, the Linux desktop still matters!

ReadWrite has a very negative take on the Linux desktop.

Rather than Linux, I suspect the new "desktop" winner will be Google. Not Android, per se, but Google. As Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols notes, Google's Chromebooks have been flying off the shelves as they offer a great, low-cost complement to Google services.

Linux is irrelevant to Valerie's needs. Not because it can't fill them, but because it forces her to conform to Linux, rather than having it conform to her needs. And guess what? There are billions of Valeries on this earth, people for whom the choice of desktop OS is not a matter of politics but rather of convenience. The Linux desktop is long on the former, and falls short of the latter.

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Wow. Talk about a Negative Ned take on the Linux desktop! I'm somewhat flabbergasted at this blithe dismissal of Linux as a desktop operating system. And almost all of it is based on the anecdotal experience of the writer's hair cutter friend Valerie.

Is it me or is that just a silly way of making sweeping generalizations about Linux? I'm sure that Valerie is a fine person, but she doesn't represent "billions of people" any more than I do. She's just one person, with one particular set of computing needs.

Linux may or may not be right for her, but that doesn't mean that it's not right for millions or billions of other people. I also suspect that the writer has a "US-centric" mindset in his thinking. Linux is used by millions of people overseas, and many foreign governments have begun using it successfully to replace Windows. So it's unwise to make generalizations about billions of people without taking those two things into consideration.

While I'm pleased that the article cites some of my commentary in a previous article about the Linux desktop, I can't help but feel that the writer almost entirely missed my point. I never said that Linux was perfect or that it wouldn't require some relearning on the part of some users. But it is there if people want to use it, and it has many advantages over Windows for some users.

Is Linux right for all users? No, but then neither is any other one operating system. Each has its advantages and disadvantages. It's up to each user to figure out what works best for him or her, and then switch to it with the full understanding that it will be necessary to learn or relearn how to do things.

I was also a bit aghast at the section of the article that covered Valerie's attempt to use a MacBook. Here is a very good example of the need to learn or relearn how to do things when you switch to a new operating system.

Is anybody out there going to make an argument that OS X is some horrifically hard operating system to learn how to use? Of course not, but like anything new it takes time to get adjusted to it. Instead of teaching her how to fix the problem or routing her to a local Apple store for instruction and assistance, he just throws up his hands and tells her to buy another Windows laptop.

Huh? This makes no sense to me whatsoever. The author claims in the article that this is a common problem with Seagate drives by citing a discussion thread in the Apple support forum from 2010. That was three years ago! Three years is an eternity in technology time so I don't buy that as a viable reason to push somebody back to Windows.

Also, if the Seagate external hard disk was the problem with the MacBook then why not try it in Linux? My guess is that it would have worked perfectly well with Linux, but the author apparently didn't even consider this. Yet he's more than willing to dismiss Linux on the desktop despite the fact that the Seagate drive had a problem with OS X not with Linux.

The author also cites Google's Chromebooks as a better solution for folks like Valerie. I have to admit I chuckled when I read that. Chromebooks have their advantages, and they have something to offer certain kinds of users for sure.

But if a person cannot adjust to a MacBook for their computing needs, does anybody think that a Chromebook is going to be much better for that kind of user? I doubt it. Plus, not all users want to be reliant on Google's services. In fact, some folks prefer not to go anywhere near Google's products due to privacy considerations.

The truly hilarious thing about this column is that it cites Android as the preferred platform for phones and tablets for Valerie, and also cites ChromeOS as a possible solution for her. Well, here's a newsflash for the author: Both of them are different flavors of Linux. Yep, that's right. The writer of the article is citing one successful mobile version of Linux, and he's touting another version of Linux for laptops as an alternative to Windows.

One thing is for sure: Linux is alive and well on the desktop. It's here, it's viable and it works. And the best thing about it is that it comes in many different flavors, on many different kinds of hardware for any person that wants to learn how to use it.

What's your take on Linux on the desktop? Do you think it "doesn't matter any more" or do you think it's alive and well? Tell me in the comments.

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