Will Linux ever be ready for the desktop?

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AK Dave
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Re: Will Linux ever be ready for the desktop?

Post by AK Dave » Fri May 01, 2009 6:35 pm

There are really only two answers to this question, "Will Linux ever be ready for the desktop?" and the answers will invariably depend on how you define "ready for the desktop".

The answers are all variations on one of these two themes:
1. Linux is ready for the desktop right now, because it is easier for a non-technical user to install <mainstream distro> on <random hardware> than it is to do the same with XP, Vista, Windows 7. This is the "nobody needs GeekSquad because you can DIY it" argument.
2. Linux will never be ready for the desktop, because non-technical users don't want to deal with <X issue>. Prime example: installing <mainstream distro> on <random hardware>. Secondary example: installing a favorite application that is OS-dependant on non-Linux. This is the "if GeekSquad doesn't support it, its not ready" argument.

Either its so easy that even a caveman can do it, in which case it must be "ready for the desktop" or it is too intimidating to install.

Linux is not Windows. If you want Windows, use Windows. If you want Windows applications, use Windows. If you want Linux, it is ready for your desktop right now.

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Re: Will Linux ever be ready for the desktop?

Post by FedoraRefugee » Fri May 01, 2009 6:51 pm

Ah, but how can it be better? I think this has been a great conversation, there are different ways of looking at this and everyone does have a different idea of what Linux is. Do I disagree with Shane that it would be nice if things like drivers always worked? No, I do not disagree. But I am hesitant to trade my freedom to bring that about when we are doing okay right now. Everything is a trade off. I am not fully against Linux evangelization. But I think people need to come to Linux and not Linux to the people. Easier is always better but not at the price of functionality. I think something that has not been mentioned yet is the drive for open source to keep pushing forward at an amazing rate while the current stuff is still buggy and half baked. Fedora 11 will be released in 30 days or so but the devs eyes are already on F12. Once F11 is born it wont be "fixed" but only patched enough to keep it afloat for a year. It is one thing if Fedora is the only one doing this, after all, someone needs to lead the charge. But it worries me when Ubuntu follows suite because so many other distros are based off of Ubuntu. If Ubuntu is unstable then most of Linux will be unstable.

Dave, I agree that if you want to use Linux, even your 90 year old senile granny, then it can be done and fairly easily depending on the distro and the help you can rely on. My 8 year old is almost at the point where I can totally step back and let him go. But when we start talking about mass desktop adoption then Shane has many good points. I guess that no matter what is said here though the train keeps rolling. I just wonder sometimes where it is going.

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Re: Will Linux ever be ready for the desktop?

Post by shane » Fri May 01, 2009 7:27 pm

FedoraRefugee wrote:Do I disagree with Shane that it would be nice if things like drivers always worked? No, I do not disagree.
The worst part (and probably Exploder's main gripe) is when a driver works... and then stops working in the following release... and getting devs to fix undo the breakage is another task in itself.

@Dave... I don't think it is as black and white as you made it out to be. I'm sure everyone in this thread uses Linux as a desktop OS... and is capable of handling most technical issues... I, for one, wouldn't go back to Windows as my main OS. I like Linux for what it is technically and philosophically. But that doesn't mean I wouldn't like an OS that would take less work to do what I have to do... Linux is awesome, but not perfect. We only want it to get better... for selfish reasons of course... :mrgreen:

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Re: Will Linux ever be ready for the desktop?

Post by AK Dave » Fri May 01, 2009 8:08 pm

shane wrote:Linux is awesome, but not perfect. We only want it to get better... for selfish reasons of course... :mrgreen:
Alright, thats a statement I can endorse with enthusiasm! I'm all about lazy. :)

Truth is, I'm all about "efficient". But then you and I are the type to install the core OS on our computers every 4-8 months as distros evolve. But my wife's computer at home still runs Daryna, and the Ubuntu on my mother's laptop is Hardy. So truly, whats more efficient? With Linux, its leaving it the frak alone!

Guess what, turns out that the same is also true for XP. Freeze one stock config, leave it the frak alone, update only as absolutely necessary for security purposes, and its pretty solid too.

See, I'm of the opinion that Linux is equally "ready for the desktop" as Windows. And equally flawed. Not identically equal or identically flawed, but equally. Both can be easy installs, both can be bears to install. Both can be solid once installed, if you leave them the frak alone, and both can be unstable flakey frustration-centers where nothing works right if you treat them poorly.

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Re: Will Linux ever be ready for the desktop?

Post by exploder » Fri May 01, 2009 8:23 pm

But it worries me when Ubuntu follows suite because so many other distros are based off of Ubuntu. If Ubuntu is unstable then most of Linux will be unstable.
You hit the nail on the head! Too many distributions are Ubuntu based in my opinion. PCLinuxOS has held my interest lately because they are not following the crowd, so to speak. Everything works in PCLinuxOS, it does require some cosmetic work though. There are no wide screen wallpapers by default and gtk apps are not set to use QT Styles but other than that it seems to be problem and error free for everyday use. The Make LiveCD tool by default is brilliant. There is no reason not to have a complete backup to restore the system should the need arise. I am impressed with how the system is completely independent in the way it is built.

I think PCLinuxOS's approach could put Linux on the desktop. Ubuntu needs to concentrate on making things work again and add features when they are deemed to be in proper working order. I do not think that any operating system will ever be completely bug free but bugs like the Intel issues in Jaunty are going too far. If Ubuntu fixed the Intel issue within the support period for Jaunty I would have a better attitude regarding their ability to maintain the release. We shouldn't have to wonder if our hardware will work from one release to the next.

Ubuntu knew that there was a fix coming for the Intel problems, yet they not only decided to release Jaunty as final they also decided to put the fix in 9.10 and leave the issue in 9.04 unresolved. The will be no fix of any kind for this issue in the main repos, period! Distributions like Mepis and PCLinuxOS manage to stay up fairly high on the Distrowatch rankings for having only a handful of Developer's and very little cash on hand. Mepis just put out a point release for improvements they have made, they are quality conscience in my opinion.

Weather Linux is ever really ready for the desktop depends on the quality of what is released. People expect their shiny new computer to have system sounds, DVD burning capability, graphics card support for at least the popular cards and popular application updates. I do not think my expectations for an ideal system are too high.

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Re: Will Linux ever be ready for the desktop?

Post by FedoraRefugee » Fri May 01, 2009 8:50 pm

I remember when Fedora 9 was released last year with the new xorg and NO way to install an nvidia or ATI 3D driver. This was the beginning of the end for me with Fedora! How DARE you release a distro that is not 3D capable? At all? What a bloody sick joke! Everyone in the forum blasted nvidia, but why should they have to create a new driver for a BETA xorg? They nicely did though and it was fixed within two weeks of release. ATI did not fare so well.

I couldnt believe this happened! I am still hot under the collar about it after over a year. I loved Fedora, I used it exclusively as my main distro from FC4. Yeah, I tried every other distro's new releases in vmware, but I was a Fedora user and they let us down bad. The no root GUI login, though I agree that this should NEVER be done, was the straw that broke my back. When I get locked out of anything, even if there is an easy fix, I walk. What is funny is a few of the chuckleheads over there still lambaste Ubuntu for not having a root account by default. But Ubuntu never locked root GUI login!

I like PCLOS, one of the admins over in Fedoraforum turned me on to it when it first came out. It was my recommendation for newer folks until Mint came into its own. I prefer Mint, but ironically I do not like Ubuntu. I am not happy with the buntu base but I am hanging in there and seeing what happens. Mint 6 Xfce is an awesome release, I have 0 complaints. As long as Mint 7 is on par then I am with y'all.

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Re: Will Linux ever be ready for the desktop?

Post by changturkey » Fri May 01, 2009 9:39 pm

Personally, I prefer a rolling release, so long as they can figure out how to upgrade the toolchain and kernels without breaking stuff. Arch seems to have done this, and PCLOS somewhat.

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Re: Will Linux ever be ready for the desktop?

Post by Fred » Fri May 01, 2009 9:53 pm

Well... I would have to say that I am a Linux evangelist. But on Linux's terms and not Apple's or Microsoft's terms. Do I think Linux is ready for the so-called Joe Sixpack mainstream? No, and hope it never does reach that point. Too much would have to be sacrificed to get there.

There is an old saying in the part of the world that I live in that goes like this; "Never play another man's game." You don't get into a knife fight with a surgeon. You don't play pool for money with a pool shark. And you don't go toe-to-toe with Microsoft on their terms. These are all looser's games.

Building a Windows clone is out of the question for a number of reasons. First, nothing will ever be closer to being Windows than Windows itself. Linux will always be second best at being like Windows, no matter what Linux does.

The commercial world is not what Linux was designed for. That was never a design criteria for either Linus T. or Richard S. For those that don't know, Linus Torvalds was the originator of the kernel. Richard Stallman was responsible for the vast majority of the tool chain and supporting infrastructure. Neither of these gentlemen felt the need for a fixed API. A fixed API is almost essential to having a product that can build a commercial development community around it. No big software makers, the Adobes of the world, are going to willingly invest the programming time into building a program and rebuilding it every time a new kernel comes out with API changes. Without fixed APIs Linux will never have the breadth of commercial support and programs that so many seem to want.

No fixed APIs means no legacy restraints on development. It can go full speed ahead without too much concern about breaking things. This gives Linux the flexibility to go where ever it's users/developers wish, as fast as they wish. Yes, things break, they get fixed, then you break something else, and it gets fixed. Over time it becomes more and more robust and flexible. It was never meant to be an OS for Joe Sixpack.

When commercial entities like Ubuntu try to keep-up and maintain a release cycle they usually blow it. Ubuntu is the best example I can think of. A six month release cycle is obviously more than they can handle. I honestly think they would be better off going with a 2 year rolling release, based on a well thought-out and tested kernel and infrastructure and did a rolling repository update as needed for applications and securiety. Leave the cutting edge stuff for the smaller more specialized distros.

This is a bit off topic but while I am at it, I can't help myself. :-) I have heard so many times that FOSS is democratic. That everybody gets to vote, as in a democracy. This is absolute bull! Linux is not a democracy, it is a meritocracy. Those that contribute their time and talents get to vote in proportion to the quantity and quality of their contributions. There are lots of ways a non-coder can contribute, so I am not talking about coders only. The cream rises to the top so-to-speak. The shrill voices of the taker's complaints are ignored and lost in the background noise, as it should be. Nowhere does a persons reputation and good works mean more than in the FOSS meritocracy.

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Re: Will Linux ever be ready for the desktop?

Post by exploder » Fri May 01, 2009 9:56 pm

I am hanging in there with Mint, I just do not like the Ubuntu decision making process at all. The last release the test machine ran awful because of poor ATI support, this release it is Intel and poor support on my main machine. I used to wonder why so many were still using Daryna, it's because it is the last release that you could get everything working on.

I have been trying to sell used computers to make up for all of the hours I am not getting at work. I can't sell someone a machine with a Ubuntu base that has no prior knowledge of Linux, it would be a support nightmare! So far my best solution is either to spend hours fixing the bugs and upgrading the packages in Mint 5, (caused by the Ubuntu base) or using PCLinuxOS 2009.1 and creating a restore disk to go with the machine. I will not sell a computer with an illegal Windows install.

I can fix everything in Mint 5 except some of the system sounds. I sold a computer with Mint 5 installed with all updates, application upgrades from removed and every other known fix and the guy is happy with the machine. Word of mouth gets me computers to fix and sells these used machines I salvage, so high quality is extremely important for success. I can completely understand why Dell stuck with the LTS for their Linux machines.

PCLinuxOS has the ability to create a Live/Install CD in minutes with about three mouse clicks. I can get a machine ready to go out the door with a minimum of time spent and the new owner has the ability to easily restore the system. This ability adds value that my competition does not have.

You can see why I am so interested in quality. I have to have a desktop environment with all of the bells and whistles, it has to be reliable and it has to be very user friendly. I do not want people calling and asking things like "Why can't I burn a DVD ?" So far, people are sending me business because I can offer better quality than the other guy in my area.

I would like to be involved in the computer field again for a living rather than working on an assembly line wondering if I can put in enough hours to pay the bills. I am trying to make a go of it with computers, it's not exactly as nice as the desktop support job I once had before the factory closed but at least it's worth a try. There are no IT jobs to be had around here so I am trying to offer a service that I think can be successful. Ubuntu is killing me with their regressions and bugs!

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Re: Will Linux ever be ready for the desktop?

Post by midas » Sat May 02, 2009 12:47 am

Hé Exploder...I am corporate-quality manager working at a trailer factory so I am also used to think within a proven quality approach (lean/six-sigma). It sounds complex but is actually nothing more than thinking (and working) in a systematically and sanely and logically way. The 'Toyota-approach' in short. In my eyes it could have a huge positive strategically impact when Mint would walk away from the 'release-fever' of many linux-distro's. Mint as a distro has touched my heart. Because it is quite new and fresh and simply because of the unique desktop-experience. I love the community around Mint. But if other distro's like Mepis or PCLOS simply perform better in most of the cases on many computers...specially older computers...I also have a decision to make. Leaving Mint as my main distro would break my heart...but at the end it is all about having a SAFE AND WORKING computer. No discussion about that.

If Mint decide to keep building their releases on Ubuntu-core and meanwhile simply improving quality they have to use the LTS-editions. Another possibility would be lagging behind Ubuntu-release-date (for 2 or 3 months). A lot of glitches would be ironed out by then but NOT the structural shortcomings (broken videocard for example).

In my (personal) eyes...but also thinking within a quality-mindset, the combination of the techniques of Mepis or PCLOS and the desktop-experience of Mint would deliver a real KILLING distro !!
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Re: Will Linux ever be ready for the desktop?

Post by MALsPa » Sat May 02, 2009 3:17 am

FedoraRefugee wrote:people need to come to Linux and not Linux to the people
That's how I feel. Linux is ready for the desktop for just about anyone who is willing to take the time to learn to use it. It might never be "mainstream," but I really don't care. What I care about is that I won't ever have to shell out hundreds of dollars again for Windows, or for a Mac. Linux doesn't have to be perfect. I don't need it to everything that Windows does, or that a Mac can do.

I like Debian Stable, Mepis, PCLOS, and the LTS versions of Mint and Ubuntu. If I had to stick with only one of them, I'd choose Debian, because it seems to be the most solid, and because I can let it sit without having to reinstall every 6 months or whatever. But ever since I came over from Windows, I have not wanted to be tied to any one OS or any one distro (they're all so interesting!), so I multi-boot with a few different Linux distros on my main pc. I keep a copy of XP on a spare computer, but I don't go online with that one at all. We only use it for things that we can't do (or that are difficult to do) with Linux. Specifically, some of the games that the kids play, and for some of the mp3 players that don't work well or at all with Linux.

My approach is not a "mainstream" approach, by any stretch. Most people are gonna want to use one OS, or one distro, and they're gonna want that one OS or distro to meet all their computing needs. That just doesn't work in my world. Linux isn't a replacement for Windows here; like I said, I do use Windows for certain things, and use Linux for most other things, and I try to take advantage of the best aspects of each Linux distro that I use.

Any OS or distro is just a tool. I don't try to get by with only one tool in my toolbox. I don't see a day when I'll be happy using only one OS or one Linux distro -- if I had the money, I'd also have a Mac at home.

But Linux is "ready" for THIS desktop. And I'll never have to rely on Windows again.

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Re: Will Linux ever be ready for the desktop?

Post by Fred » Sat May 02, 2009 3:24 am

MALsPa,

Very good post sir. And one I can agree with completely. :-)

Fred
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Re: Will Linux ever be ready for the desktop?

Post by midas » Sat May 02, 2009 4:04 am

Mmmm...interesting discussion! Will Linux ever be ready for the desktop? But will Mint be ready? Please read back the topic 'Why do you use Mint?' under 'Non Technical Questions'. For the people who posted there the desktop-experience, the trouble-free installation and everything working right out of the box ranked quite high. I think at least something to take into consideration when strategically planning the future of Mint. Most of Mint-users are newbies to linux (like myself) :wink:
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Re: Will Linux ever be ready for the desktop?

Post by FedoraRefugee » Sat May 02, 2009 11:04 am

midas wrote:Mmmm...interesting discussion! Will Linux ever be ready for the desktop? But will Mint be ready? Please read back the topic 'Why do you use Mint?' under 'Non Technical Questions'. For the people who posted there the desktop-experience, the trouble-free installation and everything working right out of the box ranked quite high. I think at least something to take into consideration when strategically planning the future of Mint. Most of Mint-users are newbies to linux (like myself) :wink:
Great point!!! Thank you! Yes, I posted my reasons for using Mint there and have enjoyed that thread. As has been stated numerous times the problem preventing Linux, or at least Mint anyway, from mass adoption is not a factor of ease of use or quality, it is a factor of support, compatibility, knowledge, and even interest or desire. Anyone CAN do it right now. The problems Mint 6 has are minor and anyone with a 3rd grade (literally) mentality can install and use it. It really is not rocket science. The thing keeping Linux off of desktops is lack of support number one. It scares people to know that they cannot just take the thing up to the computer shop or call MS. They dont know anything about Linux and dont want to jump into something that will be over their heads. Sure, I can build a BA desktop for $300-$400 American right now, but most consumers are buying $1000 laptops. This is still a major investment to them, they cannot take a chance on something they know nothing about. Next we have the reputation and misinformation about Linux. Oh, Windows has this too, look at all the Vista haters. I have been particularly bothered by this the last week and have a couple fights going on where I am claiming that Vista is indeed as secure as Linux IF you do the things you need to secure it. But FUD prevails and the majority of people still feel Vista is a honeypot full of holes. This is unfounded, Vista users will almost unanimously tell you that they have experienced no spyware or viruses. I digress though, sorry...People hear all these things about Linux and they are scared to try it. Last we have simple interest or desire. Dave points out many times that Joe Sixpack doesnt really even care what OS he runs, it comes with the computer, he plugs it in and hops onto his favorite pr0n site. If Joe is in a store buying a new laptop and considering he has zero knowledge about that geeky computer stuff, and he sees two equivalent laptops that he likes, one with Vista and one with this Ubuntu thing he has briefly heard of, and even considering the Ubuntu laptop is $150 cheaper, which one will Joe buy? Joe knows what Windows is, Fred across the street has this Vista on his new laptop and it worked. The best buy salesman tells Joe that Ubuntu is cool but that you cannot buy software for it. Say what? Yeah, Joe is gonna pay the extra money for the safe bet. After all, this isnt a $20 dinner that you can experiment on it is a $1000 investment that Joe needs to work. Then we have desire. Simply said, those who desire something different will usually enjoy Linux. But most people just have no desire. They dont care about toppling the MS empire, they may have bad feelings about MS like I have bad feelings about Comcast and the electric company and the oil companies who are making record profits every quarter. But I still need gas for my car and I have to pay whatever they charge. These are just some of the things preventing Linux from reaching the masses.Some of it is already changing, linux is getting some good exposure lately. But as has been traditional, when these opportunities come up Linux usually blows it. The fact that we are in a building cycle right now, with many core changes taking place like the migration to HAL policies, policykit being rough, xorg kind of up in the air the sound issues...unfortunately this is going to show Linux in a bad light to all the people with renewed interest. In short, we need to get our kit together before we go out and conquer the world.

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Re: Will Linux ever be ready for the desktop?

Post by Shaddix » Sat May 02, 2009 1:03 pm

I forgot to mention something

I have a pretty recent desktop that is not compatible with Vista or Windows 7 (it is with XP though), but it is with Linux 8)
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Re: Will Linux ever be ready for the desktop?

Post by AK Dave » Wed May 06, 2009 12:59 am

There is a lot of logic to the RedHat support, and not just the self-serving type, but the logic that linux belongs on the server not the desktop. On the server, it does everything you want it to do, reliably, week after week, where it is stable and secure.

On the desktop? These days people expect their desktop to be an immersive interactive 3D entertainment experience, a place for recreation not work. Mess up someone's 3D compiz sphere, hurt the framerate on their FPS or MMORG, interfere with the easy plug-and-play of consumer electronics, and you trigger the hue-and-cry of the internet lynch mob.

I appreciate linux on the desktop, but I'm a tinkerer. So it suits me. But it doesn't suit everyone. Its not Windows. Its not OSX. Its Linux, in a thousand different flavors. And its marvelous. But its still not Windows, and you can expect something old to be fixed, something new to be introduced, and something familiar to be totally friggin' broken with every release of every distro.

Linux is like one of those puzzles that can be rearranged to an endless variety of shapes and images, but its always missing at least one piece. Sucks for you if thats the one piece you need for the picture you want but you can always try a different box and the pieces will likely be interchangable. The puzzle is also available in instruction form only, expecting you to cut your own pieces out as-needed.

Windows is another puzzle with a missing piece, but it only makes two different pictures, and is missing several pieces but there are plenty of expensive 3rd-party options to substitute for them.

OSX is a puzzle that comes pre-assembled. The trick is taking it apart to do anything else, since it comes wrapped in acrylic and cased in shiny white plastic.

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Re: Will Linux ever be ready for the desktop?

Post by exploder » Wed May 06, 2009 4:11 am

I am seeing a couple of distributions that seem to want things to work without all of the regressions. Mandriva 2009.1 and PCLinuxOS 2009.1 seem to be heading in the right direction to become mainstream. I am not a big fan of rpm based distros or KDE but PCLinuxOS 2009.1 is the most bug and regression free distro I have looked at in a long time. Mandriva 2009.1 KDE really surprised me! I expected it to be incomplete and sluggish like Kubuntu 9.04 but it was not! Mandriva seemed feature complete and I could tell that they had put some thought and effort into making KDE 4 usable.

Mandriva has recently moved up to the number two spot on Distrowatch and after checking out their KDE release I can see why. We shouldn't expect things to be broken in new releases, we should expect things to get progressively better. Linux can be ready for the desktop and for Joe six pack if distributions take the time and care to do things right.

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Re: Will Linux ever be ready for the desktop?

Post by sarahmarienc » Wed May 06, 2009 1:47 pm

This read was very interesting.

My husband is Joe-six-pack. He is forced to use my Linux desktop because he has crashed both his computers and needs hardware replacements. So in the meantime, he is using my PC. At first he grumbled about getting used to it being different, acting different, etc. But when he found out that everything he does on his laptop he can do on my PC- including importing pictures from his Nikon D-60 and D-70 and edit said pictures in picasa, he stopped grumbling. He even likes firefox and my wireless runs so much better here than it did in windows. But he's been using my computer almost six months and finally feels comfortable with it. He noticed that the desktop looked different today (I'm running the LM 7 RC1 Live CD) and said "that looks nice. I like the new menu." So we must be doing something right.

But my concern is with our ubuntu base. Ubuntu has issues. I read through their release notes and it's more like a laundry list. Call me crazy but I hate basing our beautiful Mint distro off of something we KNOW is broken to begin with. Now I know, I've probably opened up a can of worms here, but it's my opinion.

I love Mint. I want Mint to succeed, but I hate that we are based on a distro that quite frankly can't get it's ducks in a row and keeps releasing broken upgrades. They should be called downgrades. I'm sorry, but I hate it that much. My computer runs almost flawlessly in Mint. In Ubuntu my first day they had me copying and pasting codes trying to fix things that were broken, and I never did get them fixed with their solutions.

So my conclusion is that I'm ready for Mint and Mint is ready for me. But, I'd like to see us get away from this base where things are so unstable. What are we going to do when we just can't fix the ubuntu crack-ups any more? Why should we get to that point? Why not make an effort to change it now? I love Mint. I can't say that enough. But I want Mint to be the best it can be, and that requires change.

JMO.
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Re: Will Linux ever be ready for the desktop?

Post by rivenathos » Wed May 06, 2009 2:53 pm

So, will Linux ever be ready for the desktop?, eh? For me, it is all I use. Do people actually still use Windows? I have not used Windows since March of 2000, and have been using Mint since 3.0 "Cassandra."

Yeah, being based on Ubuntu is a mixed bag, but overall mostly positive. For a while there, I was concerned with Ubuntu 9.04 not acting right on my hardware, but it looks like Clem has cranked out another miracle with Mint 7.
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Re: Will Linux ever be ready for the desktop?

Post by shane » Wed May 06, 2009 5:42 pm

I have never had the need to use a Windows machine since 2004 unless I had to... and if I think I've only had 4 occasions when I had to use Windows... 1) build some Flash animations, 2) Run the client for VMWare ESX server (even though the virtual machines run on Linux... shame on VMWare for that), 3) Test websites on IE 4) Test mint4win on windows. Otherwise, I have never had the need to run Windows.

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