About seven years ago, I tried to free myself from the oppression and misery of running Windows ME by installing Linux on my PC. Ever installed the Linux operating system? It’s not for the faint of heart. So, when it was recently reported that Linux-based netbooks are being returned at a rate four-times higher than their Windows-based brethren, I can’t say I was surprised.
To lop a few hundred dollars off of the final ticket price, it makes sense that these lightweight, stripped-down laptops like the MSI Wind and ASUS Eee PC would offer an option for Linux instead of Microsoft’s pricey operating system. But, does Joe Windows know what he’s getting into with Linux?
This week, I installed Ubuntu on my Macbook Pro to get a taste of what today’s desktop Linux experience is like, and I can see why those return rates might be so high.
The first reason would be the perceived lack of software. The truth is, there’s absolutely no shortage of software for Linux—just a shortage of what some might call “mainstream” software. When the average netbook buyer brings his low-cost, Linux-based laptop home, the first thing he’s going to try and do is boot up Microsoft Word, Internet Explorer and iTunes. Of course, that ain’t happening. But, for every Windows and Mac program out there, a similarly capable Linux alternative exists—you simply need some confidence and time to get up and running with them.
If that doesn’t scare the average computer user back into the arms of XP, then the overall presentation of the OS might. Linux looks and feels like you’d expect an operating system to: It’s got windows, icons, logical keyboard shortcuts and dropdown menus full of programs. But, while OSX and Windows do their best to disguise their technical underpinnings behind a lot of user-friendly gloss, Linux has all of its underlying machinery proudly on display. Kernel? Mount? Root? Bin? Lib? Terminal? Those all sound pretty scary, and aren’t necessarily the kinds of things the non-techie wants to see as he clicks around his computer.single page
Five amazing, clean technologies that will set us free, in this month's energy-focused issue. Also: how to build a better bomb detector, the robotic toys that are raising your children, a human catapult, the world's smallest arcade, and much more.