Last year I left a laptop at my parents' house with Linux Ubuntu installed. I had it hooked up to their TV for streaming movies.
So, this week he gives me a call and tells me that his Windows laptop battery died and he's been using my Ubuntu laptop. He tells me about how he found the Libre Office spreadsheet and he's been filling out his work documents (he works in high-end custom home construction) with it and transmitting it with Google Docs.
Then he tells me that he was able to add their house printer and print his docs from the machine using the instructions from Ubuntu's help system.
I was pretty much floored. My parents are NOT technical people. I offered to get him a Windows license for the machine but he said that it's working fine for him.
People make jokes about the "year of desktop Linux" but if my dad, without calling me ONCE, can use Linux productively to get things done, then, in my opinion, Microsoft is in trouble. As far as I'm concerned, their claim to usability in the PC OS world is dying.
Maybe this doesn't mean a whole lot in the big picture, but Linux has cost Microsoft at least one end-user license for an average computer user. For my family, I'm not sure how else you define a "year of Linux desktop."
Microsoft's desktop supremacy hasn't been down to "it's got a nice, easy to use interface" for at least 20 years.
Rather, Microsoft is (or was, in the pre-post-PC world) everywhere because of (a) licensing stitch-ups with hardware vendors and (b) network externalities: get into Corporate IT departments with Office, then people will want (or need) to use the same OS at home, and then you can strong-arm hardware vendors into signing exclusive Windows-only-on-our-PCs licensing deals, which in turn convinces Corporate IT that there's no viable alternative to a Windows-only ecosystem ...
Arguments about whether or not Linux is fit for desktop use by non-technical users miss the point: Windows' monopoly status was a virtuous circle (for a value of "virtuous" that approximates to "in the interests of MSFTs shareholders and provides job security for MCSEs") until the wheels fell off when confronted with an even bigger ecosystem that came out of nowhere. Which is the magic rabbit Apple pulled out of a hat with the iPad, and Google seeks to emulate with Android.
The desktop is now irrelevant -- less than 10% of computing devices people use are desktops or laptops: it's all gone mobile frighteningly fast -- but for what it's worth, Linux won. Because the winning Linux desktop is actually a phonetop or tablet environment: Android.
Irrelevant to watching movies and listening to music chatting with mates and generally using a computer for the purpose of entertainment maybe? Because the real work needs a real computer. One with a keyboard you can type on, a screen which can show some decent amount of information, printers and mice and compilers and more than 2GB of ram. There are more computers than ever in play, their numbers have been eclipsed by all these toy devices however. That does not mean the real computers are irrelevant at all.
And even for entertainment, are you seriously telling me these little ARM devices with no good input devices, ps-1 calibre graphical capabilities, and MINISCULE screens are making computers which run the latest big games irrelevant? People who are into games have been talking about GTA-V and the like lately, not simple side scrollers and 2d physics games where you launch birds at pigs.
That's very true. And this is the very reason why tablets and smartphones are so popular - most people need only a screen with the Internet access to consume content, but those who produce the content will still need a bigger device.
I actually noticed this story on my phone during a movie break last night but waited to read it until I could get on my PC (running Ubuntu BTW) so I could read it more comfortably.
Further, I dislike the touch interface of phones. I may connect a mouse to it so I can see if it's more usable. Then I'd need a Bluetooth keyboard too of course. And since my older eyes strain a bit with the tiny screen I'll probably get a SlimPort so I can read the screen on my regular monitor. Wait! My phone is now a PC!!
There is data that indicates that even filling out longer pieces of text and forms is on the rise. places like Plenty of Fish has real data about who is willing to fill out forms with a mobile devices and the numbers were surprising (to me at least)
Similarly after that article was published, I saw the analytics of a large university and could see the amount of mobile use increasing (thought not as dramatically as POF) with tasks as complex as filling out a college application.
In the end, I'm surprised, but yes, people fill out dating profiles, college applications, and even Hacker News comments from mobile devices more and more.
Android's prevalence isn't the victory for Linux that you say it is. Linux is much more about a culture of openness and freedom than it is about the specific kernel used. I—a diehard Linux fan—would be much happier to have a BSD flavor on my phone than the locked-down, carrier-controlled Linux-kernel-based operating system I currently use.
Serious question, since you have the stats: have people replaced 90% of their desktop and laptop usage with other computing devices, or do they now use computing devices generally 10x more than they used to? That is, just because we have smart phones etc, do we really use "computers" less than we used to? I doubt it, since I don't think tablets have replaced computers at work to that degree.
I disagree completely. Why don't you write all your books on an iPad? It's not the tool for the job. In my opinion 20 years from now, assuming we don't have cortical implants or similar, people are going to go to work and sit down in front of a monitor with a keyboard and a mouse. It won't be so different to how people worked 20 years ago.
MSFT completely agrees with you. The see the Zeitgeist going towards more and more devices so they are scrambling to make handsets and tablets that no one wants to buy. They totally ignored the core desktop user with Windows 8. But this has to do with being a publicly traded company I think. For some reason a slow and steady market like desktops isn't good enough. They can't go to the investors and say "We aren't the sexy new thing, but we'll continue to make boatloads of money for the foreseeable future." (Honestly I'm not sure why they can't do that, but companies have to plan on growing for some reason.)
At some point in time desktop was a must-have to get any meaningful work done. Especially a windows desktop. whatever the work may be. today thats not the case. In fact, lot of work cannot be done with windows desktop anymore. We need windows only to access windows specific legacy software, that enterprises are still using, such as outlook, excel, powerpoint etc. It is the IT groups in large companies that is holding the fort for microsoft. But, how long they can defend microsoft? Probably not much longer. Still intel is a major partner for microsoft. With ARM 64 bit coming in 2014, intel faces steep competition. ARM and linux go way better than ARM and windows. IT guys will eventually probably disappear foreever.
So you think the reason you don't walk into an office and see everyone using an on-screen keyboard on their iPad is because of legacy Windows software? We have Microsoft to thank as the last defender of the keyboard?
Microsoft's desktop supremacy hasn't been down to "it's got a nice, easy to use interface" for at least 20 years.
Whilst I generally agree with your statement, I don't think it's due to MS having a good interface as opposed to Linux having a not so polished interface. This was a deal breaker for a lot of people I know in the not-so-tech-savvy world. Things have changed a lot in the past few years, but a lot of damage was done by then.
My mom is perfectly fine using Ubuntu on my old x61 for email, browsing, and YouTube. To be fair she could probably replace it with a tablet if it weren't for the fact that she visits a lot of flash sites (Chinese TV streaming sites).
Likewise my dad is on another Ubuntu machine at home. His work needs access to some software / printers that can't be run via Wine so he's stuck with Windows there.
I tried to convert my 25 year old brother as well, but he switched back to Windows after a month. Despite being the youngest, he hated learning a new system and preferred Windows.
My mom 50+, No technical knowledge, uses ubuntu for email, youtube, and general browsing, and occasionally makes presentations.
My colleagues at work, Programmers, aren't able to get out of Windows, even though they are just writing python. They would rather stick with the pain of having to use git in a crappy console, and suffer loads of pain when shell-ing into ec2 linux boxes, Than learn a new UI and file-system
You know it is possible to use windows without a mouse? I make a living cutting .net code in Visual Studio sans toolbars/designer windows, we're not all as inept as this thread makes us out to be. Not sure if you're being sarcastic or not, but many unix tools have been ported to windows.
Well the whole point is that it is a pain to use them. There needs to be no difference between actual developers trying to use the system, but I stick to GUIs on windows (I run Win at home, Mac at work and deploy to GUI-less Ubuntu) because the other tools simply suck on that platform.
The available console or ssh apps are horrible compared to the same apps or linux or mac; and the unix tools have sort-of-been-ported, and I can use them through, say, cygwin but they're not 'nicely working' as they should be. I mean, it's simpler to just ssh to an ubuntu instance than get&use the same tools directly on your machine.
That wasn't GPs point though, "all that clicking and no unix tools" seems like FUD.
I dunno, I must have a different usage pattern to a lot of people here, but I've used tools such as git/ruby/node/telnet/etc across Windows(conEmu + bash)/Linux/OSX and don't really have a strong preference for any OS in this regard. I get that there are differences, and maybe I'm just lucky and haven't seemed to hit these issues that make Windows so horrible for a lot of devs.
IDE's rock. Eclipse anyway, it runs wherever I need it, runs finr with ssh -X. Eclipse gives me the same solid user experience on Windows and any Linux I've ever tried it on. I can't remember arcane keystroke combinations and the refactoring in Eclipse can't be beat. How about Navigating to the Implementation for a method? Eclipse makes this easy. This isn't Stockholm syndrome it's programmer nirvana.
You can't remember arcane keystroke combinations and yet you like Eclipse? While I admit it's no emacs in the keystroke department, it is very inconsistent with pretty much every other UI tool out there in terms of keystrokes.
Powerful tool, but the "we'll go our own way despite commonly accepted UI standards" has always made me a little crazy.
...what do you accomplish with all this? I was forced to use Windows at work once so I had a Linux Virtualbox to do specific tasks, but it's not at all an ideal setup. I'm not sure what the advantage is over just using Linux as your host OS.
Powershell, Powershell, Powershell! Seriously, people, if you have to use a windows system, put some time into learning Powershell.
* Most simple grep and sed commands are entirely do-able. Bit more verbose syntax, but that comes with a hell of a lot of easy-to-access power
* It's all about objects, rather than plain text. This can often be a pain, but Import-Csv and Export-Csv are utter LOVE. Adding additional new properties could be easier, but it is an option and can be used to great effect
* It's basically .Net for the command line, and you can get to all the power locked away in the .Net libraries
* No installation required on modern windows machines. Assuming your network admins are not overly restrictive, you get a proper shell without having to install cygwin
I can get used to the verbosity, but the archaic block editing copy/paste makes Powershell painful to use for anything more than the basics. Copying multiline text in Powershell first requires pasting it into an intermediary text editor and fixing up the new lines. And since the commands are so verbose, more often than not a command will span multiple lines.
If you're forced to use Windows and need a terminal, I recommend running Cygwin's xterm with a rootless (i.e. no "root" background window, so windows share a desktop) X server. It's a lot better than running Cygwin's bash in cmd.exe.
It's been a while since I've used Cygwin (using Linux Mint for everything except gaming and music editing now), so I hadn't even heard of mintty. I'll check it out if I find a need for a good console in Windows again.
A couple of items to consider. Does Linux support ALL the applications the programmers need to interact with other people in the company? The answer is "no" in my workplace.
Our company has a lot of legacy VBA code that would need to be replaced. Don't get me wrong, I think it would be smart to replace this. I hated the way VBA changed on every release and broke my code base. The last straw was when I needed to access spreadsheets that used 3rd party VBA modules that were locked. I ported my whole back-end data analysis/report generation code base to Open Source R/Sweave/LaTeX. But I'm just one user and did it myself as a spare time activity.
I still think Visual Studio is a pretty nice development environment for C++. I'm trying to get up to speed with Eclipse. I do prefer Open Source. Now that our corporate budget is REALLY tight, that is a big help. Guess the IT folks think it would cost more to switch than pay the annual tribute to Redmond
Yeah, same here dude. My mom couldn't distinguish between Windows and Ubuntu and also has not seen any difference between Word and OpenOffice, except that she couldn't find the bulk letter function. She kept using it for years, luckily the most important thing to her, "The Browser" didn't change at all. Luckily Firefox is the same experience on every OS.
She was against every subtle change, so putting another OS on her machine was hard. She even resisted to use a much faster Computer, because she likes when things "just work" and really doesn't care what the name of the system is or about the specs of the system, as long as things can be done the "usual way" and she doesn't need to wait 5min. for things to happen. Her old computer was a 1GHZ, this one has 3.2GHZ and for her it's the same. To be honest, things aren't really getting faster for an average PC user, except when you install an SSD.
> I tried to convert my 25 year old brother as well, but he switched back to Windows after a month. Despite being the youngest, he hated learning a new system and preferred Windows.
I've found this myself. My Grandfather loves Windows 8, my mother absolutely hates it. My Grandfather loves his new Android phone, my mum hates Android and refuses to use anything other than her iPhone.
Younger people may be more "tech-savvy", but at least anecdotally for myself they are the ones who hate change the most. Perhaps it's because the older crowd have fewer preconceptions about how things are "supposed" to work?
Perhaps your sample of younger people are just short of time and have the applications they want working in the way they want?
In defence of 'younger people' generally I hand my X60 Thinkpad running Debian Wheezy with the default Gnome 3 desktop around sometimes in class. It does not take them long to work out how to access Firefox and a maths video on YouTube after suggesting they press the windows key. They generally find the trackpoint harder to deal with than the actual interface so I take a USB mouse in with me.
I wanted to voice my concurrence with the sentiment ensconced in the rudeness you are probably being downvoted for: I am in my twenties, generally operate from the perspective of one who thinks he "has shit to do" (in fact I use that very phrase frequently to characterize my obligations and commitments), and don't see myself having time to learn a new tool, method, or technique every time I have a need to express myself, whether professionally or personally. I don't believe this attitude is uncommon and is probably worth taking into consideration by those who would persuade people like your brother and me to use new things. Such as node.js.
I'm 28 and since I was 20 I have been saying there is never enough time! I'm an electrical engineer, I also write software for everything from PLC's, microcontrollers through to applications for Windows and linux (and if I feel the need on mobile platforms) I am currently in China for the next 2 months, working 75+ hours a week... There is no time... Saying that I still seem to be able to dabble in learning new things and keeping up to date on the things I already do. In my twenties so far I have studied and worked a hell of a lot, I didn't do it wrong as I have enjoyed myself all the way. I am one of few people who can say they love their job and I am extremely happy with my life. While I have no time, I still seem to make time for the things I find important. That is learning and playing with new systems. If someone doesn't find that interesting they would be wasting their time by doing it. If you are happy with how you work, what you know and the tools you use, awesome! Don't let other people tell you that you are behind the times or computer illiterate because you don't use their system or even understand it. But please don't be one of those people who hate the tools they use or the life they lead and don't make the effort to change and learn.
You took that idea to the logical extreme, dude. Nobody is saying that if you have even a little free time, you should be a polymath. But if you don't have time to learn a little something new (especially something that relates to the career field you plan to spend the rest of your life in), you either find the time, or you'll find your career stagnating before you know it.
Also, stop being offended by every comment that doesn't agree with yours. fit2rule's comment could be considered a bit presuming, but it is neither nonsensical nor condescending. On the other hand, your comment is both of those things.
Funny, I find that I like having a bit of time here and there to think -- not running around "being social," not spending time on assigned work. I wind up doing those three things better after some time to sort things out in my head.
Of course, I could be doing things wrong. Who wouldn't want to have every waking hour consumed by other people?
You should keep an eye on Mozilla's Shumway (https://github.com/mozilla/shumway). I recently installed it as an add-on to the firefox browser on my Android Tablet (Galaxy Tab 2 7) and have had luck with a few flash sites.
Adobe has officially stopped supporting flash on Android. The last version you can still install flash on is 4.0, and while you can still sideload the apks in higher versions they get extremely buggy (as they do on my Galaxy Tab).
My reason of interest? Many things on the internet still rely on Flash, but Adobe has historically showed that they are not capable of delivering secure software, based on the number of exploits in Flash, Reader, etc.
My dad's 60+ as well. I've had him use Ubuntu on an older laptop when his newer one was broken (several times now). He only uses music players & browsers (he uses stock trading websites, so needs java & flash plugins). He says he likes it but always goes back to Windows when he can.
My parents are both 50+. My Dad's a Sales guy and my mom is a high school teacher in a primarily non-English, government school. They use Ubuntu for all their tasks. Mostly includes Browsing(YouTube, Epapers), talking to my sister in the States (Hangouts), Media (music, photos and videos) and LibreOffice. The stuff they discover sometimes amazes me, all along I've been believing this would be too hard for them.
Nobody has mentions the UI. I know Ubuntu has come a long way but Windows' UI is much, much nicer. It may sound silly but I think it's a valid reason for some. The same reason why one would buy an iPhone over another less expensive (or non-apple) phone, you pay for looks (it may not be the only reason of course but it is part of it). People like nice-looking stuff, and older folks seem to care (or notice) less these things, especially if they're not technologically inclined.
Bullshit. That's just your own very subjective opinion of UI preferences.
I personally really don't care at all for the ridiculous glassy look of Aero in Windows 7; it's ugly to me.
I think the biggest problem with Linux is that many people plainly prefer what they're used to. Additionally, if you're a so called Windows "power user" you have vested more knowledge in the Windows ecosystem - specialized knowledge that is useless in the Linux world. An older person doesn't have this specialized knowledge, computers are all the same to them. THAT'S why it's easier for them to switch. They're used to being n00bs and knowing little about the OS they're using. It really doesn't matter which OS it is.
>Bullshit. That's just your own very subjective opinion of UI preferences.
>I personally [...]
You're rather rude there. I don't agree with what you said and I can say the same thing about your statement. I know plenty of people my age with Linux experience that don't use it as their primary OS precisely because of the UI. And no, they don't want to waste time on config files with a WM, they did that when they were 16-18. And BTW, I was talking about Windows 8, not 7.
The Windows 8 UI is the most annoying thing I have ever dealt with -- and I am not alone in making that statement, even people I know who frequently use Windows have said so. Microsoft took a UI designed for touchscreens and tried to make it work on desktops and laptops; it is not even that great of a touchscreen UI.
I find it ironic that you talk about wasting time on config files. My experience in Windows is that doing anything beyond the 10 tasks Microsoft determined to be common results in hours of clicking through menus, configuration dialogs, and in some cases dealing with the registry editor. Trying to troubleshoot a problem is a nightmare. Trying to set up something unusual is beyond a nightmare.
I'm sorry I came across as rude. Your blanket statement about Windows and iPhone being prettier presented personal bias as fact, which annoyed me, so I called you on it.
Yes, you may not agree when I say Windows (7) looks butt ugly -- and that was my point. It's all quite subjective.
Linux has a big advantage, though, in that you can quite easily switch between different Desktop Environments and/or Window Managers. Configuring the look and feel of your desktop is just a lot easier. And config-file time wasting is entirely optional, I promise.
Please don't try and pass off your personal preferences as fact. Beauty is just a matter of preference.
Personally I've never cared for Microsoft's design. XP always looked chunky and gaudy to me - I hated it. Aero looks unfinished compared to Compiz (but part of that might be down to the fact that Linux has been doing desktop compositing for years before Windows finally caught up). And Windows 8 just looks like Microsoft forgot the last 2 decades of OS design and reverted back to the 320x200 days of square windows, square widgets, etc.
So I'm happy you find Microsoft's design to be your particular eye candy, but don't patronise us by arguing that this preference is fact.
No I'm not. The former commenter was on about aethetics because he was talking about people being drawn to pretty things. However I don't think Windows has better usability / experience either. If it did, I wouldn't be running Linux as my primary desktop. But again, usability is partly down to personal preference / workflow as well.
I'm talking purely about aethetics. I couldn't give a toss about what ever excuses you have for the massive usability fail of Metro (and it is seriously lacking as a desktop user interface) in a discussion about personal preferences with design aesthetics. But who cares about a level headed discussion when people like you can instead post condisending fanboy BS...
That's a shame, the start screen is very useful place to organize shortcuts to your most often used tasks.
I use oblytile to generate custom shortcuts and I have (organized by location / purpose) 12 shortcuts to start a ssh/rdp session to a remote server. It also has shortcuts to spotify/outlook/xencenter/vsphere and gmail.
My experience runs 100% opposite to yours: I got a new Macbook Pro, installed Ubuntu on it, and have been running it just fine alongside OSX for months now, with no issues. In fact its running so well that I no longer need my Linux workstation PC, which I .. might .. just turn into a Steambox..
Apple has a hard time matching the speed and flexibility of a lightweight GNU/Linux distro (presumably because OS X's focus on polish, integration and aesthetics means they want to tip the scale of compromises back in that direction, and that's fine). Some of us don't mind not having drop shadows and pervasive "cloud" integration if it means we can have full control over our own computers :)
Mum is in her 60s and I installed debian for her some years ago when I replaced her Win2k machine that I got second hand for her.
She has been mostly happy, I found running printers to be less fun than it could be and the linux photo management apps aren't always that great. Recently gave her a thinkpad with Mint and she is still happy.
I'm actually considering buying a tablet for an elderly relative, an iPad would have been ideal were is not for the fact that it cannot stream flash, they watch news clips and things and so that is a deal breaker... so Android it is!
Your mother wants access to her content. Same with my partner Ruth. She is happily using CentOS (with the Stella repositories for multimedia) on an X61s with Ultrabase for surfing and watching videos and DVDs. It gets the job done, and I had the Thinkpad around anyway when her iBook stopped working.
Does your brother need access to specialised software (e.g. having to hand in College/University work in some Windows specific system or using business applications)?
As much as I cringe to say this, you can get into a pretty decent groove with Word as far as footnotes/endnotes go. I remember in College hating the knowledge that I was using Word but being able to fly through citations pretty quickly without losing my train of thought as I wrote.
is it because you got used to using Word or because you found Word better? I'm pretty dependent on Photoshop and Illustrator. Most likely because I've used them for so long. I get really frustrated using GIMP. I figure that's the frustration most people feel when they switch to Linux... that one program that you're so productive and "automatic" in is no longer the same.
It must be getting used to it; I tried to use Word recently and ended up so frustrated that I almost switched to writing a layout script and making a pdf via Ruby. But other people use Word just fine so it must not be as shit as I think it is.
(La)TeX is a half-decent language to write layout scripts in. That's mostly because of the good libraries available. (The language itself sucks a bit. It was never really meant for general computation, and it shows.)
Having done several years of college using LaTeX religiously, I can safely say it isn't a replacement for Word. I found my documents were immaculate, but I wasted a lot of time on relatively simple things (getting the pt's right, margin's, title pages, etc..)
Meh, but once you have them right in one document, reproducing that ‘right’ layout is really easy. I also doubt that I’d spend less time in Word to set up a simple letter template than I did in LaTeX to do the same, and now my letters take roughly 2 minutes to write (including typing in addresses and such).
I use LaTeX at work, but usually through Org-mode. I usually give other people around me who are not LaTeX users PDF but if they insist on having something editable I either give them a plain text or whatever they want through ODT export through Org-mode. I don't have to touch MS Word it can happen all on Linux...
My brother has become proficient at using Windows, so his switching costs are higher. He didn't want to learn the Linux equivalent of task manager, adding startup applications, updating / installing software. Also he's in finance so 99% of his work is spent in Excel.
By comparison my parents are rudimentary users of technology, and thus their switching costs are low. As long as there is Firefox / Chrome they're ok. Some Chinese sites still depend on ActiveX but they've been replaced with Flash for the most part.
There are better things than Excel, Gnumeric for example.
The main issue is that there is no drop in replacement for Excel. There are spreadsheets that do calculations, statistics, scripts, etc... better, but there aren't any that can perfectly replicate Excel and perfectly read XLSX files right now...
Excel is really stupid fast. There are old stories of the Excel team at Microsoft being the most performance-obsessed group around. Excel really is a very great product. Can you demonstrate equivalent performance with Gnumeric?
Haven't seen any benchmarks, but tests have proven that Gnumeric is more accurate, and it certainly has more functions (especially for statistics). It's also extensible with Python (and I've seen plugins for other languages), which IMO is preferable to VBA. Python of course also has some pretty good statistic and scientific computing libraries, which are quite performant...
If you're really performance obsessed, a spreadsheet isn't really the best solution anyway...
> If you're really performance obsessed, a spreadsheet isn't really the best solution anyway...
I agree with this, but tell that to the millions of non-programmers the world over (including almost exclusive use in the finance sector) who use spreadsheets for, well, programming.
I have heard it's not unusual for huge spreadsheets that take upwards of 15 minutes just to regenerate all the calculations and VBA macros it contains. Yes, this is horrible, but it's absolutely ubiquitous and so performance does matter. VBA support also matters for backwards compatibility with these monolithic, battle-tested behemoth spreadsheets. Python support is a great extra, but drop-in VBA support is the feature Gnumeric needs to find widespread use.
I can't fathom what you mean by "more accurate". Accuracy is binary. Are you saying Excel is inaccurate?
Definitively. Especially if you work in finance there are many products that integrate with Excel (i.e. Bloomberg apps), modules, pre-created formulas, books teaching financial "programming" with Excel etc..
Then I don't know if macros/programming in Calc can be seen as equivalent to VBA (and relevant integrations) in Excel.
BUT, having said that,I think there are tons of users that could use Calc for their basic calculations (I worked in a couple of banks and I think probably just 5-10% of users used it as "powerusers" and I suspect less than half of them used functions/code that have no equivalent in Calc)
It is an interesting phenomena, but it's pretty easy to explain: the barrier for an older person is "using a computer". The barrier for a younger person is "using linux". The older person doesn't know or care about the operating system - they are going to use the computer (or not) for very specific things. The younger person, who is probably more of a power user, is going to be more "enmeshed" with the details of the OS, and find it harder to give up certain things.
Heck, the last time Windows was my main OS was in 2007 or so, and I still think in terms of "Alt-Tab" with the Command button replacing Alt (since I'm in OSX). (And the never-disappearing menu bar, and the inability to tab between windows, and the fact that the maximize button is broken, still bugs me).
It's funny; ten years ago the explanation was exactly the opposite. "Maybe young people can pick up Linux, but there's no way my grandma could ever figure it out." I'm inclined to believe that both are post hoc rationalizations of a phenomenon whose true cause is entirely unrelated.
Because ten years ago you had to partition your HDD with fdisk and configure WiFi network by editing /etc/wpa_supplicant.conf.
I'm pretty sure none of the nontechnical users mentioned here would be willing to do that.
Ubuntu moved lots of configuration to the GUI, making it easily discoverable and usable for people who don't already know where to look for things. Ubuntu may be sucky, buggy and inflexible, but it's much easier to use than old-style GNU/Linux.
Not really. There were several consumer-friendly Linux distributions at that time that automated dual-boot and provided GUIs for configuration, including Mandrake/Mandriva, Lindows/Linspire, etc., and WPA didn't really exist.
You're right. I'm sure it's no dumb luck Microsoft and Apple try to get their products into classrooms. Getting those young minds used to their designs and specific ways of doing things, setting them as lifetime customers. Who here doesn't have a handful of things they like simply because they have a childhood fondness of them?
Since mountain lion added full screen mode I haven't had a single window maximized, what I do use though is bettertouchtool with window snapping enabled. It's pretty much windows 7's snapping feature that allows you to drag a window to the side to snap to that half of the screen, works really well.
This thread is awesome. It always feels like I'm the only person on the planet using linux in school; school requires us to use Windows and teaches several other proprietary vendor lock-ins; and very, very few friends actually use Linux, even though most are programmers.
Tomorrow I'm going to an open source event, mostly to show support for foss in general. Ironically the event will be in school: the very thing most important for the future generation of programmers and yet a place teaching us to be dependant on expensive, limiting and non-free software.
Reading this thread I almost feel that showing support is not needed that much anymore. We're there; our goal is reached. Too bad it's not. Monday morning I'll still be required to prove my competence (dependence?) in using certain non-free software while running the school's spyware in the background... which only runs on Windows. Ten years ago the Dutch government unanimously agreed semi-public institutions should use open software. In 2013, nothing changed.
Even despite the Snowden news, it feels like we're still at square one. At least threads like these give me hope :)
Nearly all the exact sciences departments at my (Dutch) university used Linux, LaTeX, python, etc. all the time.
Weird that this is so different at HBO.
Also I know some people that teach computers at a highschool/MBO and they're really pushing Linux and open source. Although I do have the feeling they're probably more exception than the rule in this context... :)
What kind of Dutch school is that? High school? I studied Computer Science at University of Amsterdam. I think I was the only one who was using windows. (I would ssh into a university computer to do most programming).
In the Netherlands, there is a vast difference in Linux usage between universities and HBO/MBO schools. At the company I work for, we regularly have interns from a HBO school and virtually none of them ever worked on Linux. We require them to work on Linux for the whole duration of their internship.
Hmm, I'm not sure I want to tie too much information to my alias publicly, but I guess with enough effort you can piece it together anyway (as far as I'm aware there are not that many open source events in the Netherlands today).
I'm doing some IT study at Fontys. Not a university by Dutch standards, but their english name is "fontys university of applied sciences". In any case, we have one other Linux user in class and one macbook (I consider a Unix lookalike at least a tiny bit better than Windows), and we're an advanced class doing the study in three instead of four years. Some first year students I know (not doing the advanced track) are totally happy using Windows 8 with all the vendor's crap still in place.
For about last five years most linux flavours have been more usable than windows. Ubuntu and Debian have superb out of the box experiences, even more so given the disaster that was Windows 8. For example ElementaryOS is by far one of the best UI out there right now, and Gnome 3.1 finally pulled finger and created everything I'd been wanting in a desktop shell.
But the real "year of the Linux desktop" will only ever happen when manufactures get behind it. Like it or not, ChromeOS was a major step in the right direction. The complicated relationship that Microsoft has with their OEM partners and their Surface fiasco might be the bump that will cause the Wintel tower of cards to start falling. I'm interested in why OEM partners even still use Windows given it's a major cost and their profit margins are so thin. It's been a renaissance in instruction set architectures in the last decade with ARM taking over many market segments, and this is something that costs less and Linux has a huge advantage in. Windows will take years to catch up in terms of ARM compatibility and even then it's likely that it will be extremely limited.
Actually, I've since learned that Brother does indeed support that printer in Linux, and has published .deb and .rpm's for their users. So, I guess its really more that the OP doesn't know what they're doing ..
I had been trying to get my parents to move to Linux for a long time and now, after a few months of struggles, it seems they are actually liking it (xubuntu).
It all started years ago when my dad got a virus on the windows laptop, then I told him to use Linux (all they do is watch movies and browse the web) and installed Ubuntu for them. My mother got angry at me because she couldn't use Internet Explorer (ugh) and it "looked different" even though my dad was enjoying it, so we had to revert back to Windows... turns out half a year later they are full of viruses and crap, with a thousand toolbars in the browsers and all that stuff.
They asked me for help to clean the PC and I pretty much told them that they need Linux if they want to get rid of viruses (I moved to another country so I have no time to go back there and fix it every time they get a virus). My dad managed to convince my mom to use Linux, he pretty much forced her to tell you the truth, however now they both love Xubuntu and have been using it for more than a year without problems. They both think it's actually faster and cleaner than Windows.
friend of a friend kept bringing me old xp laptop with that 'cyber police, transfer money to us' extortion-virus. when it happened third time in half a year, I installed mint in dual boot for him and haven't heard from him ever again.
As I'm reading through the comments I see only two types of users:
- the hackernews audience
- 60+ low level users (no offence)
The former group has enough experience and knowlegde to get the system (linux) adapted to their needs.
The latter are only using it for either browsing, checking email or watching movies.
I think we're forgetting the important 'middle' group: the ones that aren't in IT but are working with a PC daily for their work. Linux is getting no real traction there (yet!) because of the poor native support of tools that are pretty common the in corporate world.
The only reason Linux is not more mainstream than Windows is because its not pre-installed on your computer when you buy. Even installing popular linux distros like Ubuntu from scratch on a new system is much easier than installing a Windows OS on a new system. I recently had this experience and I was stunned to see that for Windows I had to search and download vendor specific drivers for windows to even work with my monitor properly. I did the same with Ubuntu and no special driver needed to be installed. But only after completing the installation and seeing that everything works as it should, I had the option to install proprietary drivers (I don't have any philosophical problem with them) but I chose not to because it was working just fine.
I don't know if this is common maybe someone with more experience can vouch for it?
Just because the examples look similar doesn't mean they are the same thing. For one, Android had a huge headstart before WP, the phone market itself is quite different from Desktop OS market, specifically compare to the time Windows cemented its dominance.
Other counter example includes iOS taking over BB and Nokia from behind, Android surpassing iOS (in terms of usage) coming from behind.
Mobile market and desktop market is not the same thing, so its a silly point to bring up.
There won't ever be support in Linux for the 'custom software' part you mention. There are companies which won't upgrade from XP, because their custom software would break without IE 6.0 - can they ever want to migrate to another OS?
I feel the same way about Windows. Endless issues with printers and drivers especially. But somehow it has managed to hold on to market share with fractured hardware support.
If hardware vendors had better Linux support, there would be no problems. Mac OS can only work well as it does because Apple optimizes the OS for the hardware. Fortunately, we are starting to see some good hardware support from vendors like System76, but their ultrabooks still don't result from close collaboration between software and hardware engineers, and they get 5 hours battery life for the Macbook Air's 15.
I hope hardware vendors continue to hire more Linux specialists and we see a reversal of this trend.
I've had that experience with Windows (7, as it happens) myself. That said, I also agree that there are a number of rough edges that haven't been smoothed out, which frustrates me. That's why I'm getting involved in development with Elementary OS :)
The main point might be that your parents aren't technical people (whatever that means), and the laptop was set from the start (they never had to care about hardware compatibilities).
We did a similar thing with my inlaws, leaving an ipad behind to facetime with their grandson, and recently they called because they couldn't see their new mails anymore (their provider changed the imap servers), they also happened to mainly browse sites on the ipad now, installed a few other apps for learning english and we don't hear about windows problems as much as before (they still need the laptop for standard Word/Excel/Powerpoint work and to print since they don't own a blessed HP model)
As you did we give them an opportunity to switch to linux, but they would need a well supported and preinstalled machine somehow, and that's not trivial to find. DELL seems to have some available on their net store, but it's a hard pill to swallow for people used to buy VAIO laptops in person and in store (not that they cared about the brand, but they look very nice and the sales person is reassuring).
Going the Apple route would bring more or less the same upsides as ubuntu, while skipping all the hardware support parts, giving real exclusive advantages (battery life etc), the bonus being they'd see anouncement in the press they'd understand what the fuss it is about. Linux could be viable, but it seems too late now that the Apple lineup is leaps and bound ahead of everyone else.
That "missing" wifi driver is not there because it's proprietary. It doesn't make sense to blame a free operating system for faulty hardware. In any case, I know that in Ubuntu, the user is informed of nonfree drivers being available and it's trivial to install the drivers from that point.
> It doesn't make sense to blame a free operating system for faulty hardware.
This mindset is toxic because it does not adequately think about the end user. I mean--drivers? What's a driver? Why do I, a user, care that it's difficult for Ubuntu to do something that Windows does? It doesn't work, that's all I care about.
> It's not Ubuntu that can't do it. It's the hardware manufacturer that refuses to do it.
Thanks for the explanation, but I've written (very simple) Linux device drivers before, I am aware. :) But my point was that you are making a distinction that simply does not matter to the end users that are under discussion. That a hardware manufacturer doesn't produce drivers for Linux doesn't change that, to a user, "Windows can do this and Linux can't."
It's great that you buy stuff that works with Linux. Linux's problem for normal people is that it doesn't work with everything. Windows does work with everything that a normal person is likely to run into and OS X comes pretty close to the same.
I think the average user understands better than you give them credit, since OSX, iOS, Android, and Windows RT/Phone have fragmented the device OS market... The computing scene is no longer a MS monopoly, but is fragmented between a bunch of incompatible OSes. Nowadays that means you buy peripherals that adhere to standards, or that don't. It's in the manufacturers' interests to create products based on standards, which of course will work with Linux...
When my wife sees that her iPhone is a pain to connect to the computer, to her car, can't mirror to our TV, etc..., yet her Android tablet does perfectly, she doesn't blame the computer, car and TV...
Honestly, I've had better luck installing Ubuntu or Mint then I ever have with Windows. Assuming that a Linux driver exists, the only case I've ever seen a driver not get used automatically is with proprietary drivers. Even then, it's usually just one more click on a GUI that tells you which ones were not used.
For Windows, at best everything is working except for graphics. Even then though, the drivers are usually not the same one's the OEM used, and you have to go Googling to find the correct stuff and current versions.
I don't disagree with you though, installing an OS is not something a normal user should be doing, even if the install dead easy. But as far as installing goes, I've always found Ubuntu and similar Linux's to be miles ahead of Windows at this point when considering ease of install and usability after install.
I recently bought a new laptop and dual boot Windows 8 and Ubuntu 13.04. It took me 3 hours to get all the drivers working in Windows whilst the only issue I had with Ubuntu was the fact my video card drivers (ofcourse, Nvidia) were going to be proprietary.
Very true, if there are driver problems then it becomes a big ordeal. However, we must consider that most Windows installations are set up by an OEM, and in my case, it was already set up by me. In those situations, what matters most is the usability of the system after it's already set up.
I doubt my parents would be able to install a fresh copy of either OS without my help.
My parents had no problems. They went on google, typed in the exact error messages, and found step by step instructions for basically every problem they had without really understanding what they were doing.
You can have exactly the same problems with drivers. Especially on laptops which came with one type of Windows, while you are trying to installer some newer one. Most non technical people can't install Windows themselves anyway. So installation has zero advantage against Linux, especially these days when Linux installation is easy. The main advantage of Windows is like before - it comes preinstalled in the vast majority of cases.
That was true back in the xp days but I haven't had to manually hunt down drivers in years. Although I still manually install my graphics drivers since the ones you get through windows update aren't near as current.
It's definitely still true. Every windows install from a non-OEM copy in the last few years has required me to sneakernet my network drivers before I could do anything (including get other drivers). Linux has actually been much better for this since the release cycles are shorter and the barrier to getting a driver officially included seems lower (requires WHQL certification on windows, which presumably is not only work but costs money).
It's actually been quite a while since I've had to do the driver hunt for Linux, but it's been routine with windows (unless you use the default oem install, obviously).
I guess one thing Windows does well is pulling drivers from Windows Update. So if your network card is supported there is a good chance you'll get things working. Unfortunately not every network card you can throw at it will work out of the box.
Pretty much every time I install windows (only for the games) the first step is to boot into linux, download a windows driver for my network card, then boot into windows to install it so I can start downloading other drivers.
"Windows installation is breeze, just pop-in the disk and it will install everything for you."
LOL! I recent had to reinstall Windows 7 on a machine that was shipped with it. The manufacturers recovery disk didn't have the drivers for system. It took a couple of hours jumping through hoops to get the system up, then a couple of more hours to wait for Windows Update.
I had Linux Mint installed in less than one third the time the time with some minor issues with the wireless configuration.
I use Linux and I find this post sad actually. It's 2013 and Linux users are still insecure enough about the OS to gush about someone using the OS for something productive? Isn't that what all of us have been doing all this time?
Yes, us. People on Hacker News are either professionals in some technical industry or enthusiasts, for the most part (I'd imagine). On the other hand, if someone who isn't tech savvy can use it over another system that they've been trained to use for many years, then that's significant.
Just have to say, Apple has been working the usability angle a lot longer than Ubuntu and it doesn't seem to be upsetting Microsoft too much. Of course, this comes from a person who has never been able to rationalize spending his own money on a Mac.
Exactly - Apple products are expensive - despite their usability, not all users are willing to pay a premium for that. On the other hand, if there was a highly-usable free alternative to Windows (which Linux seems like it's well on its way to becoming), that might be a different story. Of course, being free, Linux doesn't have the marketing budget that Apple does - so I don't see it stealing too much of Microsoft's market share any time soon.
(And then of course there's the fact that Windows machines are actually subsidized by Microsoft, making Windows effectively cheaper than free. Plus all the other factors that make folks Windows users - the proprietary software, use in schools, etc.)
That's true, but I do have to point out that I recently gave a mac mini to my mom before my dad started using the Ubuntu laptop. I went that direction rather than upgrading her PC from Vista, so it's cost them at least two sales.
I realize that means nothing in the grand scheme, but I still feel it's a powerful anecdote given that my parents are "average" computer users.
Back in 2002, I went for work to the US for about six months. Calling India on the telephone was quite expensive then, even with calling cards. So, I left my GNU/Linux machine at home with my parents and made it to login without password. It was running a version of KDE and had netscape mail. I used to connect to the internet using this little program called 'kppp' and there was a nice option in there to open any program of choice when a connection to the internet is made.
So, I made it to open netscape mail on connection.
My father was quite uninterested to learn to use the computer, though he took elaborate notes while I explained to him how to send and receive email. My mother who cannot write english, listened to what I was explaining. Both of them had never touched a computer before and had a tough time operating the mouse. Once they adjust the pointer to the right menu and they lift their hand up to click and the mouse pointer goes somewhere else. :)
But at the end it worked quite well. My mother used the computer to send me email. She wrote transliterated malayalam (my native language). Both of us understood what we were talking about and we exchanged emails almost every day of my six months of stay.
There were times when the internet service provider couldn't provide a connection to a ppp request and kppp printed weird error messages. I had a friend who used to visit my home and see if there are problems. Barring a couple of simple problems, it worked reasonably well.
Every time someone complains that GNU/Linux is difficult to use, I narrate this story to them. Yes, there are still rough edges, but we have come a long long way since 2002. Oh, did I say my parents were both 60+ in 2002?
But in all seriousness,
plugging printer power cable to power grid,
plugging it to printer.
Plugging usb cable to printer,
plugging it to right port in computer.
Switching printer on.
Waiting for it to install.
Knowing which printer to choose.
It could take up to hours.
I find this is especially true when comparing to the mess that is Windows 8. Just finding the power button in that OS is a nightmare.
It's also interesting to see that it was Ubuntu, presumably with the new Unity interface. It's not something I personally like or even find intuitive, but it looks like it's fairly easy to pick up even for non-technical people. Along with the push by Valve to support Linux, I really hope this increases take-up of linux on the desktop.
I went to my Dad's place a few months back. He had a new win 8 laptop and asked me how to get going with it, he's not an idiot and has been using windows since the 3.x days. As a linux guy I had trouble too but we got there.
Agree completely, I feel like it would have actually been harder to teach my parents windows 8 than the systems they're using now. Trying to explain the difference between the metro screen and the desktop just sounds like a nightmare.
I'm a Pro-linuxer and never have any Windows machines near my home.
So this means, Ubuntu netbooks and laptops all around and my mom and sister is very familiar with Linux. They are using these easily.
Once I found out my sister tried to install wine via source code :) She needed some windows software for some firmware update and all her research lead her to wine and source code install. The thing is she did not asked me anything about the whole process.
My dad replaced his XP netbook with an older 11" MB Air I had. He has since downloaded Xcode 5 and started working on learning objective C in his mid 60s. His only subsequent request was figuring out a solution for my mother's machine requirements around an iPad. She's one of those that clicks on emails they shouldn't.
I installed xubuntu on a 60+ year old man's laptop. It was surprising to see him go from typing "www.google.com" in the yahoo homepage search field to searching for and installing packages on the software center. He needed help when he updated the kernel but he has taught himself a ton of things.
Linux becomes more and more usable for non-technical users and has done a lot usability-wise on desktops but let's face it there's still a long way to go.
If for instance you use Ubuntu (the most popular distro for desktop), it is still plagued by bugs(and even the Long Term Support version). Have a look also at the Linux Mint forums it seems better but many users complain about buggy Cinammon. Well all in all, the desktop environments suffer of more bugs than on Windows or Mac.
Here are the reasons that keep me switching for my home PC (Ubuntu is only installed on my spare PC that I use for testing) :
- No decent Flash support. The hardware acceleration by the GPU has been disabled (no option to enable it) and when I watch videos on youtube CPU reaches 100%. There's still Chrome which has its own Flash player and it improves significantly with a CPU consumption of around 50% but still far from I got on Windows 7 between 10 and 20%...
- Battery draining : again a hot topic and mostly related to bad integration with popular graphic cards and other hardware components (wifi cards) but most people complain of reduced usage on battery (50%) compared to Windows.
- For Java developers who use Eclipse, SWT looks ugly and performs badly on Ubuntu (not tried on other distros). Swing based IDE like IntellijIDEA or Netbeans are better but they don't match their Windows counterpart.
- Ubuntu or even kernel upgrades that tend to break things like for me a webcam support.
I wish these problems were solved because as a developer I still prefer Unix based OS. It is very subjective but what has changed for me recently is that now I really find Ubuntu to be more visually appealing than Windows 8 (and same for Gnome 3.10). The login screen, the dash, software center are really nice. Even the Nautilus file manager that I used to dislike now looks really nice (now it is named Files) The desktop experience is much more "consistent" than it used to be and Ubuntu with Unity/Gnome shell and Gnome have worked hard to make the desktop user friendly and sexy.
I think this, and the rest of the comments have missed the point, It's not linux or windows really that's going on, but that "computing" for the masses has shrunk down to the browser and Office (or it's clones) - the operating system these days has become marginalized for most people. the File Open dialog is about as far as they interact with it, along with CTRL P and the dock. Linux is perfectly capable of this.
I run linux on my laptop, I run hadoop, a virtualbox for some VM's, a dozen terminal windows spread over two monitors and python. When I go home I have a similar setup on a MBP and most of the time I can't tell one from the other. The operating system, even for development has become quite irrelevant. I havnen't tried windows in decades... have they fixed the C: nonsense yet, or (stupidly) using the wrong slash in file paths!
Nope, and (to contradict your point a little bit) I pretty much refuse to do development tasks on Windows because it's the one remaining OS on which I find it impossible to be productive. Have you ever tried working in a Windows command line compared to a UNIX terminal? Yes, I can install cygwin, but I really feel like I shouldn't have to.
If you're doing any work at all with .NET, Visual Studio is the greatest IDE in the world. Believe it or not, people can be productive without a command line--especially if you can use VS to automatically generate thousands of lines of code.
I'm gonna set my 70+ neighbor up with Linux because the Vista that the computer shop sold her a few years ago as "the future" is dying miserably (all by itself, she doesn't install tons o' stuff) and she also feels it's a slow pain to use.
I'm a freelance consultant so she asked me how to get rid of all the "problems" (meaning BSODs, malware, viruses etc.) because she needs to get real work done. When I mentioned I use Linux and never have a BSOD or virus, she asked me if I could "upgrade her computer to Linux" - her words :)
AFter fighting with virii and malware upteen times on my Mom and Dad's laptops - which I have to correct every few months or so, I simply gave up on Windows and installed Ubuntu for them. I didn't even bother training them - just pointed them to a few tutorials and help.ubuntu.com. The only hard part where I had to chip in were the printer drivers...aargh. Frankly, windows required a lot more help.
However, I will not deny that something like the Chromebook is a serious competitor to the Linux desktop - for the casual user.
I see many people against windows...I have 2 PCs one with linux(programming) and windows(gaming)..Windows is not that bad for programming as well...its just the set up for your coding env matters....i do sometimes end up programming in windows after playing some game..so i have some tools etc installed which give me almost equal experience of doing it with linux...saying that i still prefer linux laptop for coding, one reason can be addictive games missing in linux...
The only real trouble with Linux is possible driver issues (caused by trying to shoehorn an OS onto hardware for which it wasn't initially designed). If more OEMs would put Linux onto laptops directly this wouldn't be a problem.
It's still tough to find a good, decently priced laptop OEMed with Linux though. I can't get my hands on the Dell XPS with Ubuntu pre-installed in my current country of residence...
Support for Optimus is horrible. Even if you get it all working, you still can't use both the LCD and an external monitor seamlessly. (i.e. you can see a desktop on both, but you can't move windows from one to another)
You CAN do this if you turn off Optimus and just use the NVidia card... but it cuts battery life down by 40%... :-/
I am a huge Ubuntu fanboy (I am even installing it on my old Vaio as I write this), but I would love to have it running on hardware that was designed from the ground up for Ubuntu instead of having to patch together various drivers and troll through forums looking trying to find out how to get the mic and camera working (etc...).
Can't you give back the Windows license and install Ubuntu yourself? In Turkey, companies are required by law to uninstall Windows once you buy the computer if you ask them to. They give you the money you paid for the license while buying the computer if you haven't activated your computer yet.
After i read this thread and since i was really busy in the past couple of months, i just realized that for the first time ever all my devices (2 laptops, 1 desktop) are all Ubuntu, and yet i didn't feel i needed to change anything, i think the cloud based apps + the nature of my work (programming) made the choice on my behalf and i couldn't agree more!.
At work, I threw arch on an old-ass laptop we had sitting around, and then installed steam and portal, hooked it up to the office TV and then had to sit there a minute to marvel at the fact that it all just worked. Never would have predicted that a decade+ ago.
My mom's 81. Ubuntu's been her primary OS for 3+ years. Started with Windows on a low-end Dell laptop. When any of her 19 grandkids played on it, they'd leave new toolbars and malware behind. The machine got so slow, she was happy to see her email and browser on Linux.
Fair enough, but the point was that I ddin't force anything. Like I said in the post, I offered to get him a windows license, but he didn't need it. I didn't try "making" them use anything, as you put it.
Let's see what will come out the current development of Ubuntu. Currently it kind of feels like the Windows Vista of Linux Distros. Slow and clumsy but usable if you don't know anything else. Will 14.04 be the Windows 8 of Linux Distros?
The moment I really realized how much things have changed was when I plugged an old printer into a 64 bit Windows machine, searched for drivers, and finally found out that Microsoft's official position was "Buy a new printer". Then I plugged the printer into my laptop running Ubuntu and it said "Please wait while we set up your printer... OK your printer is ready to use".
I used to advise novice users against Ubuntu because troubleshooting can get pretty hairy. But that's my ex-Mac user bias showing. Compared to Windows, it is at worst a toss-up, and I feel that's being very generous to Windows.
The first computer i donated to my folks was win 3.1 no internet. Then win nt 4 still no internet. Finally xp with a dial up connection. Now in their 70's they don't use a computer at all. Finally no more support issues.
In my experience only people who think they know something about computer have problem with Linux. My wife and my mother are Linux users without even knowing what it is and they have exactly zero issue with it.
I had a similar experience with my cousin, except with Chrome OS. His laptop died and he asked to borrow any extra laptops I had around, and the only one I happened to have was a Chrome OS machine. I was worried he'd need a more desktop-like environment, but it turned out he loved it -- everything we do is on the web these days and there wasn't really anything that he was missing. He moved from Excel to Google Spreadsheets without much trouble and didn't really need anything else. Just a browser. Amazing where the web is going.
Family has been linux for the past 10 years... I would say about 3/4 years ago the complaints completely stopped with ubuntu 9.10. Since then there has been some pain with unity (which we disabled for a year or two). Older computers run either older versions of ubuntu or Elementary OS or
Chrunchbang OS #! http://crunchbang.org/.
Occassionally people still need help with LibreOffice oddities. Also I've had intercompatibility issues with MS Office with powerpoint.
My mom is 50+ and used XP for a couple of years before my dad installed Xubuntu on her netbook. Turned out she didn't really need Microsoft Word for writing, she only used it because she knows it from work. Same with Outlook. I think many users are in a similar situation and could easily switch platforms saving money for both hardware and software. The only reason why there is still an old Windows PC at my parents home is the Adobe Software for their Sony ebook reader. (Damn you, DRM!)
A couple of years ago, our home desktop which had windows 7 died. My parents needed a new desktop and i gave them my old laptop running ubuntu. Most of the time, my parents use it to browse websites and little bit of spreadsheet and powerpoint. The default ubuntu installation had all that.
Also the flash support has increased considerably. There was a time when hangouts or facebook video chat had issues. now it works butter smooth
Same story for me.both my parents are using Ubuntu on 1 PC and 1 Laptop. Since I've installed and set them up, I never had a single call like: where the hell is X or why the hell is Y producing strange error popup...not even speaking of the complete absence of malware. I myself did not even expect this when starting this experiment, but it proves to me: Linux IS arriving at the desktop! ...and its about time.
Many in comments acting like Ubuntu is teh only linux distro/UI out there, many of the linux community now despise Ubuntu and see it as an OSX wannabe, if you want a real linux experience install archlinux and pick from over 1 dozen Ui's (DE/WM's) surely one will fit your needs. personaly for programming you cannot beat xmonad, and for play you cant beat openbox.
After reading most off the coments.
It feels that we are going in the right and healthy direction. People will be able to chose what OS they want without losing the benefits of actualy doing useful work.
Some will want Windows 8, some will go for Linux and some for Mac OS. We are not yet there, but having a healty market distribution of the major OSes will benefit the end-user.
Nice -- just need to eliminate the "has to be Microsoft" mentality in the enterprise (our shop refuses open source anything since "there's no support model") and Linux can finally make in roads in the organization. But as they say - you don't get the big bucks for backing non-proven technology , ie., non-Microsoft solutions. SAD
After my nephew's laptop (Windows) stopped working two or three years ago, I bought one with pre-installed Ubuntu for him and introduced him to Open Office and Gimp. During the first few weeks, he missed some of his games, but he got used to it pretty fast. No he is using it for studying and everything else and I never heard of any problems afterwards.
I am stuck with windows for now because we develop Windows software. But I have Virtual Box image of Ubuntu on this machine, which I use for web surfing and al manner of other activities. I just prefer Ubuntu. After having reformatted my Windows machine last week because of a bad virus infection, I have decided to do all of my web surfing on Ubuntu..
I think it is just a matter of conditioning and habit. I have been using linux on and off for the past 5-6 years, but using it exclusively in the past 2 years. I am a little uncomfortable on Windows 7 now, and I am totally lost on windows 8. The UI isn't user friendly for me any more. I'd take Unity, or even Gnome 3 any day.
my dad salvaged an ancient notebook from work to use as a living room computer (usually if he sees something on TV that interests him, he starts googling it), or use for vacation planning etc.
tried to install windows but failed twice due to errors i can't remember. i then told him, fuck it, as you use it only for surfing, we'll just put linux on it and installed ubuntu 8.10. worked like a charm. everything ran out of the box, no hassle, nothing.
a week later i asked him how it was going; he answered: "everything's perfect, but i don't like desktop background - the skull."
the skull ... what skull? then it dawned on me: "dad, that's not a skull - it's a stylized ibex."
I think that over time everybody gets to a certain level of proficiency where such interfaces and concepts are not as daunting to them as before. Back in the 90s and even 00s, people were so uncomfortable with GUIs and then the internet that getting them to try a Windows alternative was not worth the effort.
I had bought my mother her first Netbook 2 years ago and i installed Ubuntu on it.. She is using it after like an hour introduction. While it was her first time to use a PC. 3 months ago my dad got her a new Laptop which had Windows on it. she called me the next day to install Ubuntu on it !
My dad is 60 and non-tech and he switched to Linux a month back. First Ubuntu but then to Mint because that felt similar to Windows. He hasn't complained even once. Personally I have to Windows only because my office dictates that - some of their software's wont work otherwise.
Linux Mint is actually a very easy and natural transition from Windows.
A few years ago, I installed Linux on my parents' desktop (dual-boot) and told them that they were "forbidden" to use any other computer for web browsing, document editing, etc. I told them that this would be more secure, and that's all it took to convince them.
I figured that, this way, at least I could fix any of their computer problems remotely (over ssh), instead of helping with Windows on the phone.
It's been 2 or 3 years now, and they've had zero problems. I haven't even needed to ssh in except to do periodic software updates (which, even then, are superfluous for their purposes).
 My dad's work requires some very specific Windows-only software
The thing is Windows XP, with all its warts, will still run comfortably on a 6 or 8 year PC that was low-end when it was new. A few weeks ago, when my wife's old XP computer finally wouldn't boot anymore I got a new hard drive and tried to run Ubuntu on it. Couldn't even get through the installer without it freezing up. Lubuntu installed but wasn't stable.
OpenBSD with KDE was pretty good, and I would have stayed with that but lucked out and was able to get a clean low-level copy of the old hard drive to a new one using 'dd' and get back to the original system.
Ubuntu seems horribly bloated, and the installation takes forever. Try Knoppix livecd, they have a pretty quick program to flash the installation to an external usb. Plus you can get all the latest debian packages.
Good that you could restore the old system, but as others have said depending on the graphics card Ubuntu stock may not be the best candidate for installing on a low spec machine.
I'd go for CentOS in that situation with the Stella repositories for multimedia, but would also consider Debian Wheezy XFCE4. As others have suggested one of the Mint flavours might work well.
Having said that, Debian Wheezy 'full fat' with Gnome 3/Shell works fine on this X60 manufactured in December 2006 and fitted with 1Gb of RAM. Admittedly, that was not a low end machine when it was manufactured.
I'm running the latest Linux Mint on an old Dell XPS M1330 (Centrino Duo and 2GB Ram, end of 2007) and it runs quite well.
Ubuntu is too heavy for an old machine like the one you're talking about, try Mint
>> few weeks ago, when my wife's old XP computer finally wouldn't boot anymore I got a new hard drive and tried to run Ubuntu on it.
>> Couldn't even get through the installer without it freezing up.
It sounds like the machine may have had additional issues. I ran Ubuntu 7.04 - 12.04 on my 2005 machine until this year and could really have made it another year or two but thought it was time to treat myself to an upgrade.
If you need to try that again have a look at Mint XFCE, I run version 15 on a 1.4Ghz Celeron-M with 1.25Gb RAM and it is usable for surfing and writing (it's an old Thinkpad R50 and the keyboard on it is so much better than my i5/16Gb Vostro that I often use it for longer documentation).
I think Mint is a wonderful distro, always love using it. I'd set dad up with that, but he's made so much progress with Ubuntu that I don't want to upset the apple cart at this point. Maybe in a year or two.
My 70 year-old mom can't handle the swipe unlock on an Android phone and won't answer or use it if I unlock it. My dad also 70 is OK with using it and even put on a password but he keeps shutting it off when he isn't using it, neither use a computer.
I gave a linux pc to my coworker, for her kids, and they have been using it for a while to do homework. They have some issues now and then, but it works pretty smoothly. The computer is really old - a Sempron with a couple gigs of RAM.
I need to brag a little because I'm proud of my dad. He's 63 years old and can boot his Grub configuration to 14 different Linux distros last time I looked ( which was about 8 months ago ). Yes, he is technically inclined.
Same thing with my mum. I installed Ubuntu on her slightly old laptop a couple of years ago and when she bought a new computer she asked me to replace Windows 8 (which she found pretty confusing) with Ubuntu again.
Let me start by say that I am actually a fan of Linux, but not much of a fan of the community that surrounds it and for what it's worth, this is just my opinion. Obviously everybody's milage will undoubtedly vary! My personal experience of Gnome 3 is the polar opposite of yours. I cannot stand it. The UI elements are just horrible and I find the paradigm clunky and lacking in coherence. In fact I find the experience similar to Windows 8, with it's confused metaphors. Unity, while visually more appealing is not much better in terms of usability; the lens paradigm I find irksome. While there is no doubt, IMHO, that it should be surprising that anyone can get "real" work done with the software available on the various Linux desktops available, I feel that there has be a regression in the UX that really does need addressing.
My in-laws, 60+, have been running Ubuntu on their old Macbooks for a few years now. They've never once complained about it, and everything Just Plain Works - internet browsing, email, youtube, office-apps.
For us, at least, the year of the Linux Desktop was two years ago. Its been a very productive release from the dual hegemonies of both Apple and Microsoft ..