It's been ten days since my article, Linux Not Ready for the Desktop and I've finally made it through the 300+ comments here at my blog, the handful of blog posts that trackbacked me, and the nearly 1000 comments at the slashdot posting.
I'm happy to have received so much feedback. Thank you all (well, almost all of you.)
Before I start my mini-series covering each one of the four areas I believe need serious improvement for "Regular People" to move to Linux in any serious numbers, I wanted to take a minute and address a few of the responses I got.
One of the common replies I got was basically "Linux doesn't need more users, so don't change anything to accommodate Windows users." While that view seemed to be held by decent number of people, I couldn't disagree more. We need a competitive desktop marketplace and Linux could be a player in that market. The Windows mono-culture is a threat to security and an impediment to progress. There is currently a window of opportunity for Linux to compete in the mainstream and bring some diversity back into the system. We need it.
Another set of responses said "We don't need your Linux bashing," "Are you working for Microsoft," or something similar. Well, I didn't think I was bashing and I certainly don't work for Microsoft. I was offering what I thought to be constructive criticism for attracting and holding onto new users from the Windows world. I've got a bit of experience with that task working on the popular open source Mozilla and Firefox projects for the last 6 years.
A third common reply was "Linux should not become a Windows clone." I agree. Linux should not (and probably can not) become a Windows clone. The very successful Firefox web browser is not an IE clone. It does, however, make moving from IE to Firefox a much easier task than moving from IE to any other web browser and this has been a major factor in its success. Just to take one example, if Ben Goodger hadn't implemented a kick-ass migrator for IE, I doubt we'd have any more than a small portion of the Firefox users we have today. Regular People do not like to fiddle with or troubleshoot computers. Asking them to do that is taking what could otherwise be a gentle learning curve and turning it into an impenetrable brick wall.
The last of the easily categorized responses to the article was the charge that I'm not informed enough to make these claims, that I've either not spent enough time on Linux or that I've only every used Fedora Core 4. Well, I've been using Linux for six years. I've tried Red Hat versions going back to 5.2. I've used several versions of Debian over the years. I've used SUSE starting with 7.0 and all the way up through the current 9 and NLD. I've spent a good bit of time on all of the Fedora releases. In the last year I've tried two versions of Ubuntu, including the current release. I tried Lindows when it was first released and recently got a copy of Linspire 5 and a subscription to their software catalog. I've tried out just about every major distro for the last six years and while I did complain specifically about Fedora, my arguments stand for all of these distributions. Some are clearly going to be easier for Regular People than others, for example, I think Ubuntu (which shows the most promise) would be considerably easier for my mom to adjust to than unixy distros like Slackware or performance oriented Gentoo. But even Ubuntu does not make it easy enough for Regular People and is missing out on millions of potential customers because it does not give Windows users the transition that most of them need.
I'll be following this post with the first in my mini-series of four posts dealing with each of the major issues I highlighted in the original article: migration, stability, simplicity, and comfort.