Many people would like to change their computer, but are afraid of Vista and/or don’t have the money to buy expensive computers with Vista. On the other hand MAC’s are quite expensive compared to PC’s, and therefore are not a valid alternative for many of us. Then there is this Linux, that is hard to use and hard to install and you need to use the command line all the time and no drivers are available for my hardware.
But wait a minute. Is it really that difficult to install? Is it that difficult to use? Do you really need to use the command line?
First question is definitely a no. It is very easy to install, especially if you are running Windows: you can just download Wubi, which will install Ubuntu (a Linux distribution) from within Windows, without erasing Windows. At start-up of your computer you can choose which operating system (OS) you want to run: Windows or Ubuntu. Otherwise you just download Linux for free, burn a cd/dvd and install it from there. Also in this case it is not very difficult to install. Just answer about 7 questions and wait about 45 minutes (depending on the Linux distribution you downloaded) and you’re done. An extra advantage is that most common programs are already installed altogether with the OS, programs to write documents, make presentations, modify photo’s, chat with friends, surf the internet, listen to music, burn cd’s/dvd’s etc. are all present after finishing the installation of the OS.
Of course this procedure is less user-friendly than buying a PC with the OS already present, but unfortunately most PC’s are sold with Windows. A big advantage though, is that Linux will run very well even on older PC’s, and therefore you will be able to safe lots of money. If you’re not up to installing Linux though, there are some computers with Linux pre-installed out there.
Easy to use?
Second question is if it is easy to use. The graphical interface is as easy as the graphical interface of MAC’s and Windows. The only inconvenience you have, is that it is a little different from the other OS’s mentioned. But this doesn’t make it difficult to use. Just like in Windows, you just have to click (or double click) on an icon to open the program or the file. Like in Windows you can click on the menu to open a program you want to use, etc.
The only problem is when you are used to specific Windows/MAC software and you are not very flexible. For example Photoshop does not run natively in Linux, but Gimp is a more than valid alternative. Some documents made in Microsoft office might have some layout problems in OpenOffice (most common office you will find in Linux distributions) and amarok and rythmbox are different from windows media player or iTunes. It might take you some time to learn Gimp to do the things you used to do with Photoshop, but on the other hand, Gimp and OpenOffice are completely FREE. To compare, Photoshop: US$ 500, Microsoft Office: US$ 200. Two programs that safe you US$ 700!! Furthermore, Microsoft Office and Photoshop and other software you pay for, ask you money each time a new version gets out. Instead, open source programs like OpenOffice and Gimp are and will always be free and you can update to the latest version for the modest cost of US$ 0!
Also the rumors that you need to use the command line all the time is a thing of the past. If you are an average user that doesn’t want the newest of rings and bells, it is likely that you will not even have to use the command line (not that the command line is that terrible). And onlyif your hardware is not supported or if you want to have the latest coolest software and rings and bells, you run the risk of having to use the terminal.
The rumors that no drivers for hardware are available is simply not true. Linux supports more hardware natively than any other OS! Then why do I hear so many people complaining about hardware that is not supported? With Windows, manufacturers usually provide a cd with the drivers. However the manufacturers usually did not write drivers for Linux. MAC-users used to encounter the same problem, but nowadays manufacturers provide MAC drivers as well. Instead Linux drivers had to be written by the Linux community. Lately this is changing rapidly, though not every new hardware product is shipped with Linux drivers yet. Therefore you might encounter driver problems, especially if you buy brand new hardware.
You can solve these problems easily by checking out the hardware support for the hardware you want to buy on the internet (for example here: http://www.linux-drivers.org/).
Ok, here we get to the weak point of Linux: nearly all games are written for Windows and though many games do run, using wine, many of the newest games are incompatible with Linux. But hey, how many people are complaining that they can not play the newest games on their MAC? Most of the games people are complaing they can not play on Linux, do not run under MAC either!
To the question if Linux is ready for the average user I would answer with a firm YES, though there are exceptions: If you’re used to Windows, Photoshop and Microsoft office, and are not willing to learn and adapt, don’t bother. If you want to have the newest hardware/software with as many rings and bells as possible out of the box, forget about linux. If you want to buy a specific brand new PC, without having to install your OS, probably you will have trouble finding a PC with Linux installed. If you want to play the newest games without the risk of encountering any problems: stick with Windows.
However, if you want to safe money and free yourself from proprietary software you have to lots of money for: try Linux. If you are willing to adapt, using alternative (free) software (that usually is not that difficult to learn), go for Linux. If you are a geek that wants to modify everything on your OS and want the maximum of flexibility: Linux is a must for you! If you’re just curious: Give Linux a try (but give Linux a fair chance: use it for at least one month without using anything else, otherwise don’t bother!).