Sunday, November 20, 2005

Windows easy to use?

Lots of people refuse to try GNU/Linux because their Windows is so easy to use. Justin at The Mighty Linux Blog shows just how easy it is. Is it possible that people have just gotten so used to one set of quirks and irritations that they can't handle a system with fewer?

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I don't refuse to try GNU/Linux -- two of our three household computers are partitioned between Windows and some wacky Unix variant my husband has been nurturing for years, while the third is due for mercy-killing as soon as we can afford it, to be replaced with an honest-to-gosh commercial Linux distro which I will learn how to install. However, I genuinely do find Windows easier to use, in large part due to the automation of both installations and upgrades, and in small part undoubtedly because I know the quirks of Windows OSes a lot better than comparable Linux ones.

While I appreciate your posts on the subject, incidentally, I thought that the link you provided -- as well as a lot of the Linux-oriented blogs -- tended to be a bit dismissive of reasons why anyone would fail to accept the Gospel According To Linus Torvalds (or a synoptic text). I enjoy flaunting geek cred as much as the next woman, but that kind of thing isn't going to win a lot of converts. :)
 
You're probably right. Lots of my Linux/Windows posts are the result of venting from someone who has to support (noncommercially) both Linux and Windows systems. I always find the Windows systems much harder to diagnose and support.

Anyway, Why use a commercial Linux distro as a starter on a home system? There are plenty of good free ones (like Ubuntu and some of the other Debian variants). In the Windows world, the "free" (as in $) versions are usually cheap, crippled demo versions meant to make you buy the full product. In the Linux world, "commercial" does not mean "better." Many of the noncommercial versions are just as capable as -- or more capable than -- the commercial offerings.

I also hope that the commercial distro you're planning on looking at is not Linspire. Some of its features remind me of the worst features of the other OS. (Pay-for-upgrade subscriptions, nag screens trying to get you to buy more products, insecurely defaulting the everyday user account to be the administrative account). If you really *need* a commercial Linux, try SUSE.

By the way, most modern GNU/Linux distributions are easier to install and upgrade than Windows. Because of the free software distribution model:
(1) The distribution's package management system can provide a list of thousands of titles of available software. Installation and removal are always done through a consistent interface (whether you use the command line or graphical tools). This process is especially advanced in the Debian-based systems, where the "apt" software takes care of downloading all package dependencies (a big hassle in the olden days).
(2) A single button (or command) can be used to upgrade *all* software on the system. The last time I had to upgrade a Windows system, each component (operating system, office suite, security software, etc.) had to be upgraded separately, requiring navigation through many unfamiliar web sites.
 
Nah -- I was thinking Ubuntu, actually. (Does that count as "commercial"? Perhaps not.) And OpenOffice, which if it works will solve most lingering compatibility issues. Truthfully, I miss the days when I actually knew what most of the files on my system did (that ended somewhere around the time I installed Win95). Now I'm just trying to figure out a tactful way to allow my husband to admit that he will share his worldly goods and most intimate secrets well before he will share his root password. ;)
 
Ubuntu is commercially-backed. I don't really consider it a "commercial" distro, because it's volunteer-managed, has no per-CPU or per-machine "support costs" and contains no proprietary software.

I've found that OpenOffice.org 2.0 is very good with MS Word documents, although you can expect that any documents with complicated formatting may have conversion issues, especially if the formatting was done in a particularly stupid way. The same is true, by the way, for different versions of Word itself.

As for the root password, really, which is more important? :-)

Personally, I use Debian unstable* at home and Debian testing** at work. (I have one Windows machine running an appratus). elf uses a Mac, and the rest of my family is on Windows. I'm expected to be able to support all of them.

* unstable has the latest and greatest software and changes often. There is some danger that the packaging will break. The software itself is usually made up of stable, released versions from upstream.
** testing lags anywhere from a week to a few months behind the most up-to-date software (depending on the complexity of the upgrade), but, the packaging system works with few problems. For reference, Ubuntu release versions can lag up to six months behind the most up-to-date software. Debian stable releases are meant for servers, and can lag up to 2-3 years behind the most up to date software.
 
Is it possible that people have just gotten so used to one set of quirks and irritations that they can't handle a system with fewer?

Anyone for revising the keyboard layout?
 
It's been done already. Keyboarding requires a lot more straight procedural memory than just computing, so, switching to a new keyboard layout may not actually gain you anything.
 
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