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My dad unexpectedly uses my Linux laptop to get real work done
395 points by itsboring on Oct 26, 2013 | hide | past | web | favorite | 349 comments
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.

Again, it need not be a "windows" desktop. you can do seriuos work with Linux or Mac desktop. And you may be more productive as well.

The desktop is now irrelevant -- less than 10% of computing devices people use are desktops or laptops: it's all gone mobile frighteningly fast.

It's ironic that you probably typed that with a desktop or laptop. Irrelevant? Hardly.

Dirty little secret: most people aren't content creators, even for values of "content" such as discussion topic comments.

I think that's the point. While ~10% of computing devices are keyboarded, traditional machines,.. >>10% of content is created on them; which makes them hardly 'irrelevant'

I compose the large majority of my hacker news comments on my nexus 4 phone.

And what percentage of your total content creation output is that?

Well before I started posting code on github a few months ago, it was probably a pretty high percentage. But I see what you mean.

But 90% of content is made on them and is hardly changing anytime soon.

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.

FYI -- don't always assume this. I frequently type posts of this length and detail on my Droid 4 (good keyboard).

Phones with keyboards are a dying breed, however -- that's more interesting.

Laptops/desktops = producers. Mobile = consumers. It's that simple.

Seriously naive given the number of people using tablets for content creation. For me, most of my notes and writing are done on my iPad rather than my laptop. It is a more focused experience.

Programming/development it my MBP.

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.

Linux kernel has been a huge success for many many years but GNU/Linux distributions are a mess.

This. No sane person should respond to "I need something simple" with "I'll install Windows"

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 agree, I think cstross is extrapolating from sales, which (as per recent discussion[1]) is not a reasonable assumption to make.

[1] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=6606056

I'd like some citation to the 'less than 10%'.

The best I can do is find some browser stats - in this case, mobile seems to be making up 17% of the browser user agents as of July.


edit: interestingly, chrome appears to be growing faster than all mobile browsers combined.

> desktop is now irrelevant

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.

"less than 10% of computing devices people use are desktops or laptops"

You're going to need a citation for this, I don't believe it to be remotely true.

Both my parents are 60+.

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

That's what drives me craziest about programming in windows, the freak'n console is awful

That's what I never got about Windows and especially Windows devs. How can you get anything done with all that clicking and no unix tools?

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.

IDEs and Stockholm syndrome.

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.

Haha yep

Vmware + linux + unity mode. Vmware Workstation has always been very seamless with things like copy/paste between the guest and host. Havent used Virtualbox for a few years but I'm sure thats ok too.

...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.

All I'm saying is that if you have to use a winbox for work (because of corporate/it policy), then getting nix tools via WMVware and Unity Mode is quite a good experience.

VirtualBox running linux server, share folders with Windows host, PuTTY

I don't know, for me Far Manager for Windows seems way more useful than Midnight Manager for Linux.

Cross-compilers[1]. Treat Windows as a strange embedded platform and target it from Linux.

[1] https://fedoraproject.org/wiki/MinGW

To be fair, this is how people with tiling window managers feel about the rest. It's just another step further.


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.

You should switch to using ConEmu[0] as a terminal. Completely fixes the rectangular copy blocks. Just set it up to launch PowerShell as your default shell.

[0] http://code.google.com/p/conemu-maximus5/

Indeed, Powershell is awesome.

But Cygwin is also usefull ;)

Cygwin :)

When future arrived we just did not miss it. GUIs are more natural, it's much better then learning each tools crappy mini console DSL.

> When future arrived we just did not miss it.

This might hold water were it not for the fact that pretty much all console unix tool users started off on Windows or Mac.

> GUIs are more natural, it's much better then learning each tools crappy mini console DSL.

Yes, GUIs are more natural. But for most of us, the time spent learning how to use common unix tools pays for itself very quickly by increasing productivity: it's an investment.

GUIs are more natural people who are not software developers.

I recommend installing Console 2: http://sourceforge.net/projects/console/

And msysgit (https://code.google.com/p/msysgit/downloads/list?q=full+inst...) which includes the "git bash" shell. It's got almost all the basic unix tools installed by default.

I moved to consoleZ: https://github.com/cbucher/console

Its a fork of console2.

+ Adds Splitting Tabs into views

Console2 development seems to have slowed down.

I moved to ConEmu: https://code.google.com/p/conemu-maximus5/ from Console2 at work. I find that to be even more feature rich than Terminator for Linux which I use at home.

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.

I did this for a while, but mintty is good enough now and comes in Cygwin's standard packages.

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.

rxvt is also a good choice.

Among the first things I wanted to find when I bought and paid for (yes) Windows NT ... over 15 years ago now. I'd heard it was all multi-user and powerful like Unix.

The terminal _sucked_. It was the same crappy DOS box I'd seen since, well, DOS days and Win3.1.

That lead me on an exploration of MKS, UWIN, Cygwin, and finally, Red Hat, over the course of a few months. And I realized Linux Didn't Suck.

Another few months and I wiped NT off my hardrives and repartitioned with RH. Never looked back.

It's both the shell and the terminal software that's awful.

Conemu comes pretty close to solving the terminal software problem, and there are alternatie shells, e.g. Powershell or bash from cygwin.

the windows console sucks, but there are a couple of tools that keep you from throwing your workstation out of the window:

readline completion à la bash: http://code.google.com/p/clink/

nice console emulator with tabs: http://code.google.com/p/conemu-maximus5/

gnu tools on windows without cygwin: https://github.com/bmatzelle/gow/wiki

not perfect, but actually usable...

shameless plug http://bliker.github.io/cmder/ Not really that bad

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.

About git in a crappy console on windows - I feel their pain - you might want to suggest your colleagues http://sourcetreeapp.com/ an awesome and free windows git client. Just saying :D.

> 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?

"Despite being the youngest, he hated learning a new system and preferred Windows" which does not mean he was wrong, he just made his choice.

I agree, just FYI. That was a quote, not something I said.

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.

My grandfather just concluded a NZD$40mm business deal while I was in NZ visiting him. If anyone's short of time, it's him! :)

Your brother is 25 and has shit to do. I'm sure that once he's old and retired he'll be glad to have learning a new system to take up his time.

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.

Were you trying to be anything other than condescending?

Node.js is just JS running on server. I would rather invest in learning some strong functional language. The more different high-level _paradigms_ you learn in your twenties - the better.

it's a strategy that Ubuntu should use, i think... that "killer app" strategy.

The killer app is gvim and ctags.

25 and no time to learn something new? You're doing life wrong.

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're right, why don't I have a paper published in every possible field of academic inquiry?

Seriously, just because you had too much free time doesn't mean I do. I appreciate your nonsensical condescension.

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.

Oh, p'shaw! 20-something, and you're already complaining about not having enough time on your hands? Lets talk about it again when you hit 40 and have gained a little real wisdom ..

Agreed, it's always about three components: being healthy, being social and doing your main job/studies. If you suddenly have a lot of free time, then probably one of those three is missing.

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.

Why would you need to do that? Android tablets run flash?

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.

Just a suggestion: next time try Xubuntu with one bottom panel. Sufficiently close to XP/Win7 interface for ingrained responses.

You could be very cheeky and set the RedmondXP theme in XFCE4 just as a joke.

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.

Similar experience.

Mom is 55. Very non technical person, she learned how to send text messages a month ago.

Nevertheless, my dad set up the computer in their house with Ubuntu two years ago and she's been using it for email and web browsing ever since.

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.

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.

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.

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.

I think you're confusing aesthetics with usability/experience.

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.

Wow, you really don't understand what tiles and metro design are about? Have you considered the power fonts have? Have you thought of making content a first class citizen in GUI?

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...

One word: Cinnamon

It's what Ubuntu should be, its what Windows 8 should be! it's classic and yet functional and customizable, both my parents laptops are using it as UI and I hear no complaints.

I have to refute that statement in regards of Windows 8 on desktop. The amount of confusion in that UI, even for me, is a handful.

If we ignore the metro side of things, I agree with you however.

>If we ignore the metro side of things

Yes, absolutely. My start screen is an empty, blue wall with a large tile taking me to the desktop. Despite the start screen I like everything else about the system.

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.

But that is just your Start menu expanded to take the whole screen... Were you removing all the items from Start menu on older versions of Windows as well?

The new one has a setting that boots to desktop, if that helps any.

yea--just too much. Same with Bing. Sometimes I want to see a blank screen--especially if I'm not quite awake.

My Dad has been begging me to install Ubuntu on his MacBook Air. I think it's time I did.

It has been my experience that running Linux natively on Apple hardware is a huge pain.

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..

Anecdote: I've been running Debian Stable on a Macbook Air I bought in 2011 since then, it's been great (and doubly great since Wheezy, the support is basically 100%).

Not anymore. It's flawless for myself (iMac from late 2011, MacBook Air from 2009).

but why? if you paid for Apple hardware, OS X is ten times nicer than ubuntu.

Ubuntu's not the only choice, though.

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 :)

That's a matter of opinion.

OS X has better support for its own hardware, like the trackpad. How can that be a matter of opinion?

That OS X has support for it's own hardware is fact. That OS X is better than Ubuntu is opinion.

It's also worth mentioning that Ubuntu has perfect support for the current Macbook Pro and Macbook Air, so I don't know what point you're even making by saying that OS X has hardware support for Macs.

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)?

if you have a paper to write or something, some younger people i've seen, they've really gotten accustomed to Word and Powerpoint.

If you're not an expert on the one program you need that's only on Windows, I think you can get comfortable quickly with Linux without missing anything.

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...

lyx makes does a good job wrapping latex for casual use.

This is really interesting. I would love to see if there is anything about this generation of people not liking technology changes.

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.

The change wasn't moving configuration to the GUI - the main thing was making most of the configuration unneccessary.

End users don't want easy HDD partitioning and easy WiFi configuration - they want to avoid them altogether, and have everything work out of the box.

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?

-> the barrier for an older person is "using a computer". The barrier for a younger person is "using linux".

Interesting, I never thought this way.

In OSX you tab between apps with Command-Tab, you tab between windows (within an app) with Command-`

I'm aware of this, thanks. But it's a distinction that isn't in windows.

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.

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.

This is the real reason. Excel. There is simply no replacement for it.

If there was, the usage of Linux would double within days.

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...

Are you sure Gnumeric is better than Excel?

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?

I don't use excel in professional level so I don't know much about it. Is there a vast difference between MS Excel and Linux (OSS) equivalent, or something like Google docs?

My mother recently had me adjust the Gantt chart she created in Excel. She works for KPMG as an accountant.

There's a large difference, unfortunately, but it's the edge cases that the difference lies in. Some professions rely on those edge cases exclusively however.

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)

severely so. Again, it's not about the technical merits and demerits - but I would daresay its around the VBS + XLSX compatibility issue.

In fact, my personal opinion is that Libreoffice should abandon PPT and Word - both with adequate online equivalents - and go all out only on Excel.

There is simply no equivalent for Excel on Linux or Mac.

Photoshop + Excel on Linux would be it's killer applications.

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 :)

What do you mean, nobody uses Linux? At my Uni, in CS you couldn't not use one *nix or another. All the classwork happened on some timeshares.

That sounds like it should be really. As far as I know, this isn't the case for Dutch, French and Argentinian schools (the ones I have experience with, or know someone that has experience with).

When I was student in France, in a "grande ecole" it was all Windows. When I did an Msc in a standard university (Jussieu), they were using Ubuntu. This was in 2005, maybe it has changed...

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.

> We require them to work on Linux for the whole duration of their internship.

google-google Awh in Rotterdam, a bit too far away for me. Sounded like an interesting place to intern at!

Edit: No way to escape asterisks it seems, they'll be italic ifnot surrounded by whitespace no matter what :/

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.

OS X is actually compliant with the UNIX spec. http://blog.opengroup.org/2012/07/25/apple-registers-mac-os-...

That's one of two reasons that I like using it. The other is that it will always run the Adobe CS painlessly. Can't really find that combination anywhere else.

I studied CS/AI at UvA begin 90s and they had those horrible win 3.1 machines (the sysadmin there hated them); a lot of my classmates preferred that over the unix machines. Nice to hear that improved.

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.

I tried using cygwin for a while too, but I finally gave up and tossed windows out the...uh...window. The cygwin folks have made a heroic effort, but it still feels like putting lipstick on a pig.

start up SSH server in cygwin and life gets much better.

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.

Do you know Powershell? I admit it's not quite as good as the real thing but at least you can 'ls' on Windows.

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.

Linus seems to agree with you: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KFKxlYNfT_o

I'm so pleased to see people talking about elementary OS. It's a cool project. Some links for the lurkers:



This is one way to look at it.

Here's another: I have Ubuntu on a couple of machines at home and still can't get them to talk to my Brother MFC-685CW printer. I'm a PhD in EECS.

In my experience, printer compatibility is worse in Windows 8 than in Linux. I've seen lots of common budget laser printers stop being supported in Vista, 7, and 8.

Linux has plenty of compatibility problems (scanners are especially bad, imho), but printing is not typically one of them.

In my experience, PhDs in EECS are actually worse at day-to-day computer operation than many other people (Source: All my profs who couldn't get their laptops connected to projectors) :P

But yeah, your point is valid. I just couldn't resist the urge to poke a little fun.

Another way to look at it is.. So is my professor and he can't tell the difference between when he is on Windows or on a UNIX machine.. :-\

He teaches OS design, right? :P

That's a sad reality in hardware that's not standards compliant, so only specific tuned-for-Windows/OSX drivers work.

FWIW, there are decent drivers for HP OfficeJet wireless printers, and printing "just works" from Ubuntu.

Here's another: old people are smarter than PHDs. (tongue in cheek)

It means I have seen people who were smarter than themselves :).

Well, hassle Brother to release some Free printer drivers. They are one of the last major holdouts.

Brother has deb and rpm packages for that printer.

And source code for the scanner driver and CUPS-FAX wrapper.

Printers and scanners are the zit on the face of the modern linux desktop.

Your comment should be downvoted for trolling.

Thats not your fault, its Brothers. Not all printers are going to work in Linux, simply because most printer manufacturers only support Windows.

It's not Brothers fault. Consumer demand decides what gets supported. Don't they typically support MacOS as well?

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.

I'm happy.

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.

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)[0] 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).

[0] 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.

On the contrary I believe Ubuntu installation process is straight forward and fast. But the os may be a bit bloated. At least with the newest additions of Amazon integration.

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

Mint is just as heavy, unless you're talking the XFCE edition.

DE's matter more than the distro when it comes to the amount of resources consumed...

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.

>> 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).

Try building up from ubuntu minimal instead. I've had a lot of luck going that route with older hardware. It does require access to a wired connection though.

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.

You could probably install cappuccino on Ubuntu as another option and then he's half way there to mint.

> 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.

Why did you not set up Windows to be able to do the same thing?

I haven't used Windows in years. I run Linux on all my computers, so it's much easier for me to troubleshoot my parents' problems if they are also running Linux.

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.

Think: - vpn software - voip tools - login procedures - custom software - etc etc

I'm not seeing this fixed in the near future...

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?

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?

Windows 8.1 downloads drivers without prompt.

Yeah, and the only reason WP is not more mainstream than Android/iOS is because it's not pre-installed on your Samsung Galaxy/iPhone when you buy.

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.

I've been using Linux since Redhat 4.0, whatever kernal version that was. I've always been a "desktop" user but very much know my way around bash and can throw together pipes and scripts.

Last week I setup a fresh Ubuntu box in our office, on a fairly new Dell PC in order to view a webinar. I wanted to show off Linux (ended up looking like a moron.)

Flash issues on Firefox rightaway, no matter what I did it would not let me full screen a YT video in the second monitor. Finally I figured a hack to F11 full screen the browser window and it let me.

Next the sound wouldn't work and I had to apt-get for another 10 minutes, then spend another 2 minutes editing som config file. Somehow it worked.

I freaking LOVE Linux and will always love it, but it has a very long way to go until it can ship on any device.

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.

That's pretty much my experience with Linux (Ubuntu). I used it for 2 years and I like it, but dude I was in config files and consoles all the freaking time, I mean it, every single day something.

That was my experience with Ubuntu as well, then I switched distro. That mess gets too much hype.

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 :)

I don't see these issues, odd that our experiences are so different.

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.

"their provider changed the imap server"

"learning english"

Funny, I had to fix a very similar issue with my french in-laws IMAP just yesterday. Just for science, are your in-laws French and using Free.fr as an ISP?

They could have been as well, my parents are in France with orange, and they don't seem happy either.

The same experience here. My parents also use Ubuntu now (firefox, Libre office).

The main issue with Linux is, some one needs to install and setup everything for them. Finding and installing that missing wifi driver is not something that they can do.

Windows installation is breeze, just pop-in the disk and it will install everything for you. Hope pre-installed ubuntu systems get common.

>Finding and installing that missing wifi driver

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.

The user doesn't care whose fault it is. If the WiFi doesn't work in Linux, but it worked fine under Windows, then Linux is worse.

> 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.

> Why do I, a user, care that it's difficult for Ubuntu to do something that Windows does?

It's not Ubuntu that can't do it. It's the hardware manufacturer that refuses to do it.

I personally choose to vote with my feet. I only buy computer hardware/software that works with Linux. If someone refuses to support Linux, they don't get my business.

If everyone does this, eventually everyone will support Linux or go out of business.

There isn't anything that Linux can't technically do. It's simply a matter of who is willing to support Linux.

> 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...

But doesn't Ubuntu give you the option of installing third-party software? Why doesn't this take care of such issues?

It does, at least for hardware I've installed that requires a proprietary driver -- on first boot, it pops the screen asking to install it. That's my experience anyway.

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 honestly cannot relate to this at all. I have not had Windows drivers issues in years, up to and including Windows 8.1.

Neither did I. It just works.

At the very least, you don't have to fucking activate it. I hate Microsoft activation with a passion.

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.

> Windows installation is breeze

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.

> Windows installation is breeze, just pop-in the disk and it will install everything for you.

Actually, in the majority of cases your OEM or your IT department does this. It's not uncommon to have missing drivers when doing a clean install from the stock image on the retail DVD.

(Disclaimer: I have some history with this as I used to work in the team that created Windows Setup.)

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.

Depends a lot on your hardware. I've had the most problems with network drivers. With 7.

I think that is also partly because XP lasted a very long time.

"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.

Same here. A few years ago I got my mum a mac mini and no problems ever since. But I just can't get myself into buying one of those "things".

Interesting. I wonder if your father resorted to the Ubuntu laptop because your Mom refused to give up the mini :P

Yeah, that's very possible. All I know is that neither of them have had to call me for help so far.

I would actually disagree with that, as far as stats go Windows is losing market share. Not extremely fast, but they are.


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