Sunday, July 26, 2009


I am an avid fan and faithful user of Ubuntu Linux OS. It is the only OS on my laptop. I personaly do not use MS Windows except at the work place where all the machines are configured with it. I love Linux and the level of security and reliability it gives me. I no longer think of installing all the "antis" that I would have to if I were using MS Windows. No doubt Linux is a great OS platform. But I have my reservations about its ability to take on the Redmond giant or be a viable alternative OS.

The reason is that in my opinion, it is too much of a "geeky" deal. You see, with MS Windows, virtually all the work is done by just pointing and clicking. The average Pc user, who I must admit are the majority, have no time for lots of things that unfortunately Linux requires you to do. 

For instance, if I want an application which is not available in the system repositories, then I would have to Google it. That sounds simple and innocent. But wait a minute, the file I downloaded is in some compressed form where I have to "compile it from sources". How many home PC users can make sense of that? Or you have a problem with your network and you have to do some "Sudo" this or that to just get things fixed.

Most people are used to just clicking next, next and then finish. Thats it and they have their application installed. Most of the Linux repositories I must admit have vast numbers of applications. But its not always that one finds what he wants and hence to the big G for help.

And then there is the issue of the terminal. Even after using Ubuntu for close to a year, there still are times when I shudder when I have no option than to head to the terminal to get things fixed. The terminal is an integral part of the Linux kernel that is very vital to the system. Unfortunately too, it is the number one thing that drives people away from anything that has to do with Linux. I frankly don't think people should have to memorize lots of terminal commands just to get basic things like seeing a detailed list of their hardware done. I personally have tried to get some of my friends and colleagues to try Ubuntu, and most of the time they like it initially only to turn away from it completely when it things require the use of the terminal.
You see, I have nothing personal against the use of the terminal, what I wonder however, is whether it can't just be relegated to the backseat. Where calling on it will always be the last resort. Windows has the command line, but I can't remember the last time I had to use it when I have a problem on my PC at the work place.

It is very sad to see that Linux has been around for close to 20 solid years but still has less than 1% of the desktop market. I think this alone calls for a rethink in the way that the Linux kernel works. To put is simply, it is just not friendly enough for the average home user who does not care much about the uderlying nitty gritty of the OS. All that lots of people want is to have a PC that works and thats it. When they need something, they just Google it and click next,next and finish. No compiling anything from any sources or "Sudoing" anything. Linux is seen too much as an OS for hobbyists and geeks who just don't understand why people do not use their creation.

I however have to admit that lots of work has been done to make Linux as friendly to the average user as possible.This is especially true of distros like Ubuntu and Fedora that have made great strides. But there is more work to be done, and I frankly believe that the rise of Linux as a viable OS alternative to Windows will start from the day that it relies less and less on the command line to get things done.

I really love Linux and want to see more and more people use it, but as it things are now, it makes it nigh impossible to effectively evangelize it. I know there are lots of you out there that will disagree with me. But these are just my views and I would very much like to see your comments on what I think.

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By Seraaj Muneer with 5 comments


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