After about 18 months of having Ubuntu (8.04, 8.10, 9.04) as our main home computer operating system, I recently formatted the drive to use as an application drive for my Windows 7 Home Premium installation.
When I first started with Ubuntu I was quite excited. I’m not a linux guru, but I am able to get around a bit. I had a couple of issues right off the bat with the installer, but a little google and 20 minutes and I had it going and installed. I was also able to configure grub to dual boot to a windows XP installation on a separate physical drive. Everything was awesome.
My wife and kids had no problems adjusting to linux instead of windows. I was able to just show them the link for firefox and open office and they were able to do everything they did before.
Anything requiring Flash (which the kids did a lot of) was a bit of a pain, sometimes it worked, most of the time it almost worked, and sometimes it failed completely. I was finally able to follow some directions online and remove all the crap fake Flash that shipped with the machine and install the real Adobe Flash 10 player beta for x64 based linux. Things were much better then, but performance still was not acceptable.
Next, I wanted to update Open Office. Again, plenty of reading online first and I was able to update it. Then, when I updated to a new version of Ubuntu, it messed up my Open Office installation. A bunch of apt-this and apt-that and it was resolved and I was able to install and use the new version again.
What about eclipse? Much the same. The latest version never seems to be officially supported, so I had to do some manual crap to get it working correctly, but it was one of the easiest.
How about gaming? Well, why do you think the kids were using flash so much? They found some games they liked online and would play those because there really weren’t other good options for playing games on linux. Yeah, I know about wine and all that emulation stuff, and it worked about as well as the fake Flash crap.
Hardware and Accessories? How about a TV tuner card from THE tv tuner company Hauppauge. I couldn’t get it easily working in order to capture our old VHS tapes to the hard drive, and obviously none of the software shipped with the card would work on linux. I had to boot to windows to do any of that stuff. I bought a drawing tablet with a pen. Did that go flawlessly? Not even close. I spent multiple hours trying to get it working. I had to use a driver that wasn’t written for my particular tablet (Genius Mousepen) and do a bunch of manual configuration by following the notes in some nice person’s web page. After all that work, it only worked for my user. I wasn’t sure which of the steps I followed could be modified to get it working for multiple users. I finally gave up and once again booted to windows whenever I (or my daughter) wanted to use it.
So, why did I go to Windows 7? I just don’t think Linux is ready for the consumer desktop. Canonical has made a huge effort and major progress in that area with Ubuntu, but there still isn’t enough support from major hardware makers, much less minor hardware makers and even major software makers. All the things I wanted to allow my family to do were MUCH more difficult in linux than they were in windows.
I was very pleased with the stability of the OS, and the resistance to trojans and viruses, and if I could install it on my work laptop, I would in a minute. Also, if the ONLY thing you are going to be doing with a machine is email and office type applications, then I can also see linux being a good fit, as in a netbook.
I don’t believe I will try linux on the desktop again for a few more years in a consumer role. I’m sure there are some linux gurus out there that can give me pointers on how to fix all of the problems I’ve listed above, but that kind of proves my point. I don’t need to talk to a windows guru in order to install my drawing tablet. I plug the tablet in and it works, even though it is a small brand.
I will be interested to see how Windows Security Essentials does in handling the viruses that I’m sure my kids will bring into the home no matter how many times we talk about being a safe internet user. That’s pretty much the only downside I can think of right now, and it’s unproven so far.