The Wrong Question

When it comes to Linux the wrong question to ask is this: “Is Linux ready for the Desktop?” It is a meaningless question with just as meaningless answers.

Is Linux ready for the desktop?  Which desktop?  Mine?  Sure!  I’ve been using Linux fairly exclusively for the past 10 or so years to browse the web, read email, do productivity work.  The only thing that holds any flavor of Windows on any of my machines are my games.  But depending on whom you ask that is either a show-stopper or a non-issue.  Either they don’t game at all or, if they do, chances are they have a console for gaming and look at the computer as a place to do work.

Is Linux ready for the desktop?  Which desktop.  Define the desktop for which it is supposed to be ready. My desktop has little need for graphics or movie making.  My desktop has little need for gimmicky methods of accessing the pictures off my camera.  It’s got an SD card, my machine has an SD card reader.  Both Windows and Linux see it as just another drive.  My desktop does not need a webcam.  I’m not a hot late-teens/early-20s female so I pretty much fall outside the demographic that most of the internet wants to see in full motion glory.

Besides, particular peripherals, like a webcam, working with Windows has nothing to do with Microsoft or Windows.  It has to do with the hardware manufacturer bothering to make drivers for a target OS.  Want it the hardware to support Linux, yell at the hardware manufacturers to make the appropriate drivers for Linux!  Don’t yell at the Linux community for the manufacturer’s failing!  Think about it, if your mouse doesn’t work with Windows do you blame Microsoft or the manufacturer.  Yeah, for all 0.1% of you that honestly said Microsoft guess who they point the finger at.  The manufacturer.  Time to put that particular herring to bed,. thanks.

The point is that there is no single desktop.  Every OS can be said to be ill suited for the desktop because it doesn’t exist.  The needs of individual users vary wildly.  Because of this by asking “Is Linux ready for the desktop?” one is giving a default pass to whatever choice they are comparing it to.

The normal comparison is against Windows.  So let us ask the honest question.  Is Windows ready for the Desktop?

I will admit my last install of Windows XP was quite a while ago so I am not familiar with the latest install.  I have a knack of not having to reinstall my Windows partitions once every 6 months.  But back then when this question was posed about Linux I found that Windows was lacking.

A fresh XP install didn’t come with an email client.  It came with an insecure, bug-ridden, standards hostile browser.  It did not have a word processor, a spreadsheet nor a graphics editing program that wasn’t a joke.  Its image viewer and media player were weak and did not support many formats to which I had long since grown accustomed.  It did not come with a decent GUI FTP client, no SSH client to speak of and heaven forbid having an SFTP (FTP over SSH) client.

At the time my distribution of choice was Debian.  It did come with a secure and standards compliant browser.  A word processor, spreadsheet and a graphics editing program.  It had an excellent image viewer and the media player’s only issue was dealing with draconian DRM.  That can either be a plus or a minus depending on your view of DRM.  I think my opinion of that particluar topic is clear.  Moing along.  It cames with SSH, a decent GUI FTP client and that GUI client defaulted to using SFTP.

Is Windows ready for the desktop?  Not mine. Given that Office has not been bundled in with Windows Vista, IE is still a joke, MSPaint is still standard and Microsoft still has trouble with telnet and ftp on the command line much less ssh and GUI ftp w/sftp I doubt that Windows will be ready for my desktop now, either.

The question I have for everyone else is this.  If after you install the OS you still have to install an office suite, a secure browser, a decent email client, and other such tools is it really ready for your desktop, either?  Does the fact that the hardware manfacturer bothered to make a driver for the webcam trump the fact that you can’t actually do anything without dropping a few hundred more dollars on software mean anything?


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