[TriLUG] Linux for the home user
maxpublic08 at maxwellspangler.com
Fri Jan 23 11:39:07 EST 2009
On Fri, 2009-01-23 at 09:18 -0500, Jason S. Evans wrote:
> Hey guys,
> I'm currently working for a retail store as a PC Technician and while
> I'm not shy about suggesting Linux for the tech savvy users who come in
> looking to build servers, I find myself hesitant to bring it up at all
> for the regular user who just wants to surf, listen to music, and maybe
> run Quicken.
> Is there a distro or maybe a Ubuntu-derivative that is really good for
> the newbie user?
I've had a few opportunities in the past to put Linux environments in
front of completely normal people who have no interest in proactively
supporting one computer environment over another.
Since I use Fedora, I deployed that and let the experiments begin.
Ubuntu would have been my easy second choice since I hear so many good
things about it.
I expected to have problems but surprisingly very few were encountered.
I thought that aspects in which Linux differs from Windows would be a
problem because I assumed the rest of the world is familiar with Windows
and would expect everything to work as Windows does. In the same way
that I expect a truck to have a steering wheel like my car and not
controls like an airplane. Linux, specifically GNOME and KDE's
graphical user friendly features made learning how to navigate in Linux
easy and users enjoyed it.
I was ready to hear frustration from users when Linux applications acted
oddly or unexpectedly crashed or failed to perform some needed function.
As an enthusiast of Free Software I don't complain when something I
haven't paid for or contributed to in any way is a little flaky, but I
assume most users expect Linux software to maintain the same myth as
commercial software: that it is without flaw (like the box says!) and
should never fail or have problems. Nobody reported any significant
problems in this area.
Finally, I expected those common problems of any computer like "I can't
print" to occur and require my attention. I expected my users to be
dead in the water without a Linux guy around to diagnose and solve
problems. But these didn't happen either in my very limited trial
environments. For the most part, Linux was installed, configured
correctly and just kept working.
Based on all I've reported on above I've come to believe that Linux can
be a very good desktop replacement for Windows or Mac when the users are
open to it and their requirements are general. In other words, as long
as they don't need commercial apps specifically and are looking for
functionality a Linux environment can be very satisfying to most users.
We've come a very long way from when I first installed Linux in the
early 90s and had dreams of a Linux that looks and feels like it is
And here's the point I want to make in response to your question: Any
contemporary distribution that packages all the good stuff should work
fine. Any distribution should have a solid kernel, recent version of X,
GNOME, KDE, Openoffice, Firefox, etc. As long as you've got those
things your in a good place to provide the average person what he or she
needs to replace Windows or Mac. A distribution like Fedora or Ubuntu
that are user oriented provide a better foundation and a better support
community to make the user satisfied in the long run.
Research Triangle Park, NC, USA
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