Is 2008 the Year of the Linux Desktop?

No doubt you've heard the prediction before — "this is going to be the year of the Linux desktop." At the risk of being repetitive, though, I'm going to go ahead and say it: 2008 really could be the year of the Linux desktop.

No doubt you’ve heard the prediction before — “this is going to be the year of the Linux desktop.” At the risk of being repetitive, though, I’m going to go ahead and say it: 2008 really could be the year of the Linux desktop.

Yes, yes. I know — we’ve all heard this before. If I recall correctly, 2001 through 2007 have also been” the year of the Linux desktop,” according to various pundits. Hear me out, though, because it seems a few vendors are starting to get a clue about how they can make Linux compelling.

For quite some time now, I’ve been a bit skeptical about the chances of Linux landing on the desktop in any great numbers. Even the Dell deal with Ubuntu earlier this year did little to boost my confidence in desktop Linux, because the PC giant seemed to be responding to Linux desktop demand with much less than full enthusiasm. Dell’s offerings may be great value for Linux users who know they want Linux on a desktop or laptop, but the Ubuntu Dell systems are relegated to a dusty backroom of the Dell site that won’t be visited by many mainstream users.

So, the fact that Dell is offering Linux isn’t the Holy Grail that many Linux users thought it would be. The” if you build it, they will come,” philosophy just isn’t going to get it done for desktop Linux. Nor is technical excellence alone going to propel Linux into the desktop market. Vendors need to offer solutions that play to Linux’s strengths and put a little marketing muscle behind it as well.

Linux isn’t a direct Windows replacement, and users seeking a drop-in replacement for Windows often come away disappointed. Not because Linux is unusable as a desktop, but because it just isn’t Windows. A lot of people, though, don’t really need Windows. They just need a system that handles basic functions and doesn’t cost an arm and a leg.

I’m talking about the Asus EEE PC and the Everex Green gPC. Both systems are, by today’s standards, cheap, underpowered, and limited in function. They also play to Linux’s strengths by being cheap, underpowered, and limited in function. Despite limited horsepower, both systems are more than adequate for performing basic desktop functions (email, Web browsing, running OpenOffice.org, etc.) and offer stripped-down interfaces that are less confusing for new users.

They’re also, as of this writing, both sold out. The gPC has been selling through Wal-Mart, and sold out in just a matter of days. The EEE PC was sold through a number of online retailers, and also sold out in just a few days. I’m sure both systems were in limited supply, but there’s clearly pent-up demand.

So we have two desktop categories screaming for an alternative. Cheap PCs that will allow home users to do the basics without having to foot the bill for a Windows-capable PC plus the Windows licensing fees. And portable systems that can be used to complement a users’ existing desktop or laptop. The Asus EEE PC, with its tiny screen and cramped keyboard, isn’t going to be a full desktop system for most users (unless they have really tiny hands and enjoy squinting) but it’s perfect for travel. I wish I’d had a EEE PC on my recent trip to Supercomputing 2007 rather than the 15″ widescreen laptop that is just too bulky for the standard cattle-class airline seat.

Do I think that we’re going to see Linux devices overtake Windows in 2008? Not likely. But I think this is going to be the year you’re going to see a lot of companies offering slimmed-down devices boasting Linux for average users, which just might be the stepping stone for Linux to start encroaching on the full-fledged desktop market as well.

Comments on "Is 2008 the Year of the Linux Desktop?"


I just switched from Fedora to Ubuntu on my desktop, and I think its really quite good. Good in the sense that Macs are good: easy to install, full of features, easy to upgrade. It is still bad on video and audio, though inherently less limited than Fedora. ( bad = I have to load some extra stuff and bang around apt-get for a while to get it to work). Unlike Leopard, it is fully configurable, so if you don’t like weird new filesystems or transparent unreadable menus, you can have it your way.

Also, I agree with your trickle-up point about Linux. The Android phone sdk release from Google along with other open-source phone initiatives, make Linux the logical OS for smart mobile devices. Both Sun ( for a Java licensing run-around) and Microsoft ( for missing one of the few growth markets available) are going to take a hard blow if this continues. I don’t know about Symbian.



Linux is just perfevt for small slimmed down devices. Just look at the google os for mobile devices for an example. It looks like this is going to be huge.


Saying “X year will be the year of the blah blah blah” is pure hype. The history of GNU/Linux is of gradual growth, improvement, evolution, debugging, refactoring, addition of features, etc. No year was really the year of anything for GNU/Linux.

Its penetration of The Userland of the Unwashed will also be gradual, insidious, inexorable, and largely unnoticed. Eventually we will observe that a lot of people seem to be using it. “When did that happen?” we will ask ourselves. Even now GNU/Linux boxes are snapped up at WalMart at a savage rate. Where do they go? Who uses them? Do they keep the OS or slap on a pirated Windows version? Is Microsoft quickly buying them all up and dropping them in the Ocean? Who knows.

At my humble home, we are finally migrating away from Windows. All new boxes, starting with one I built last weekend, will run only Ubuntu. This will not be easy, as I have already found that TurboCAD and Cossacks Expansion do not run under Wine. Negative points there. We all have little boxes full of software CDs that only run on Windows. Making sure they are still useful will be necessary for the migration to be truly successful. At the moment some work, some don’t.


I think the only thing that keeps Microsoft in business is the Microsoft Office suite. If they did not have that then Vista would have been the latest nail in Microsofts coffin. As an IT administrator Vista is a real pain. Give me one more good reason to go to Linux Bill! Don’t just change your OS, change all the terminology too, and make my support life a nightmare. Microsoft you suck. There I said it.
As far as Linux goes every flavor I try gets better and better. My latest favorite is PClinuxOS installed on my Dell Laptop. I finally got the wireless to work! OMG what fun I have just using this. I recommend Linux and show it off all the time, and though people are impressed, they still are afraid to go for it. Some would rather spend more money and go to MAC?? Go figure.


I have been using Linux for 7 years as a desktop. I hate the klutzy Windows computers. I like Linux because it is better at almost everything, and you can create new things with it. I have my old copy of Windows 2000 running in a virtual machine, and I can’t bring myself to give Microsoft money for a newer version of Windows because I can do everything that it could do and more with a Linux OS. However, I am a scientist and do a lot of research and publishing.

Marketing is the problem. American consumers have to be told what to buy, and no one is telling them to buy Linux operating systems because there is no money in selling something that is free. Computers are much to complex to have an instinctive appeal. The average person has to struggle to learn how to use one. Each person needs a supporter and a teacher. So, the OS that has the most number of users is going to spread among the home users simply because there are more supporters and teachers of it, ie. Windows.

Market forces are spreading Linux into the server area, where competent system administrators understand the value of Linux, and the cost of commercial server software is a negative inducement.

Linux use could spread in other niche areas. Computer clubs are helping with their install-fests. It could be a good system in academic areas. I wish k-12 teachers would get with it, and it is great for universities. It is evolving so fast that I believe that most people don’t understand how good it has become.

Ordinary commercial consumer marketing is not going to take Linux anywhere. The profits of Linux go only to the user not to the marketer. I think that experienced Linux desktop users should tell people how good it is, because they will eventually appreciate this information.


Instead of naming 2008 the “Year of the Linux Desktop” and then having to turn around and explain why it didn’t happen; call 2008 the “Year that Linux doesn’t happen on desktops” and see what happens :)


I just got a new laptop (VAIO) with Vista Home Premium pre-installed. It’s got 1 gig RAM and 130gb hard drive. Well, I don’t really like MS nor do I like Vista. I’m sure a crack MS OS expert to flail and fillet it down to functional behavior, but over the weeks, it’s gotten slower and slower, no doubt because of the goop and gomm that Vista combined with all the rank shovel-ware that it came with.

So I’ve installed Umbuntu 7.10, which is a slightly better install and use scenario than Fedora. Unfortunately, the fonts are still a bit off. Luckily, the KDE “add new fonts” works finally, but still the anti-aliasing isn’t as good as Vista, and the default sans (which comes up on Web pages frequently) is a jaggy, badly kerned disaster. I know many may consider fonts just eye-candy, but it’s one of the most important things about the UI experience. And not until fonts look and work smoothly will Linux be ready for prime-time…IMHO.


Linux will not appear on a significant share of desktop computers until a significant share of the applications available for Windows are ported to Linux. I am an IT pro who has used Linux on servers for the past seven years, but I can’t imagine putting it on my home computer. I’d have to find replacements for Quicken, my HP all-in-one printer, my audio recording software, and my drawing and desktop publishing software. I would spend so much time finding and learning to use the replacements that I wouldn’t get any work done for weeks.


While I agree that Linux is not Windows, neither is MacOSX. In the publishing business we use a combination of OSs, I think more out of habit than anything else. Our business office uses Windows-based computers (number crunching and billing functions) while the production department uses MacOSX along with the editorial section. Each has its advantages. However, I run a Toshiba Satellite laptop (about 6 years old – upraded memory and hard drive) with Windows (company policy) on one half of the hard drive and Ubuntu 7.04 on the other half. With this Linux system and its now maturing graphics tools (and Scribus for desktop publishing), I can not only enjoy the best office tools available, along with producing some astounding graphics and manage a website as well. Do I think Linux is ready for the desktop? You betcha. Both my home systems are running Linux as well. I must say that making the transition was a bit daunting, but once I started to think about what I wanted the computer to do, things became a lot easier. With all the latest improvements and the work being done on some of the major projects, 2008 just could be the year for widespread linux acceptance. Time will tell.


Hi All,

Come to think of it 2008 could be the year of “Everything Linux”, not just the Desktop. Linux as the Desktop replacement has been talked about forever, but this time around you could come true.

Let’s look @ the fact that Vi$ta is going nowhere fast, and is a resource hog. Then comes the MAC flap over too many up-dates. Well, harden my arteries with some AppArmour, and give me my Linux.

There are too many companies now shipping Linux Boxes, even Wal-Mart has an offering. Then comes all those server offerings with certified Linux systems.

I’m glad that I was an early adopter

Happy New Year – Linux.




Moving Linux to desktop has these drawbacks, as far as i see.

1) Newbie CANNOT survive in linux
In linux, it needs some learning before understanding the system. and a new bie, as i was, cannot understand it quickly. It needs passion in you to learn it and use it.

2) Multimedia support is almost invisible
Major desktop purpose is playing MP3s, MPEGs and other dvd movies. Browsing, office suites etc are after that. All (i can say all) distros have removed this support. Though i install via RPMs, 80% is a failure.

3) No single distro to follow.
Linux has about 100 distros each offering unique functionality. I want all of them but cannot have them. M$ windows consolidates all features into one and I can use them.

4) Solving a problem is a bit pain
If i have problem in linux, i need to go through some hundreds of incomplete forums, each specifying to use a particular distro. Methods there work for me only 20%.

5) Updates are very frequent.
Linux distros release new versions every 6 months. If they go on releasing new versions, which one should i decide to go. Plus, There is no service pack kind of mechanism followed, where in i can get a single consolidated update file and install it, as windows has.

Hope fully, these issues SHOULD be solved, before declaring that linux can fit as desktop.

- Manda Krishna Srikanth


I have been using Linux on my desktop for 6 years now and have not missed MS Windows as my primary OS at all. I currently use Ubuntu (7.04 and more recently 7.10) To answer some critics….

To ggoodspeed: GNUCash is an excellent replacement for Quicken, and can even import quicken information. I also have an HP all-in-one and the “HPLIP” toolbox has absolutely no problems with it. Not sure about drawing and desktop publishing software, as I don’t do that (I know they exist under Linux; just not sure how good they are)

To Krishna Srikanth: I couldn’t disagree with point #1 more. If you sit someone down who has never touched a computer before (i.e., a “newbie”), learning Linux is absolutely no different than learning MS Windows or MacOS, for that matter. It’s the learning curve of going from one OS to another that is hard. Point #2 about multimedia support also could not be any more wrong. Amarok, MPlayer, Xine, Xmms… all *excellent* media players, as good as, if not better, than anything on MS Windows or MacOS. For point #3, what sort of “functionality” is missing from one distro to another? They all do email, web browsing, multimedia; what more are you looking for that one distro has and others miss? I can agree with you on point #4, but the support I have been able to get from newsgroups and mailing lists is generally far better and more helpful than any paid-for support I have ever sought. Point #5… why do you need a “Service Pack” type of rollup? My Ubuntu checks for updates daily, lets me know when they’re available and I say “Yes” to download and install them; sounds just like how they do it on MS Windws to me. Other distros have similar update mechanisms.

I hereby declare Linux more than ready for the desktop.


I agree with Olwe Melwasul about the Ubuntu font problem (and I’m sure the same applies to the other distros). I think having clear, sharp, readable fonts that don’t tire the eyes is important. Maybe I just don’t know how to get it right, but in my experience Linud just isn’t there yet on that score.


You forgot the decTOP in the cheap PC list at$99.00 its the cheapest in the bunch.

Linux is here and has been for a while, it is already on the desktop, of a few of us, the question is will 2008 be the year of mass desktop Linux adoption? I think the answer is ‘very probably’ the price of the hardware will be the driving factor and this is the authors key argument. However MS won’t take this lying down it can’t afford to, the eeePC is going to have an XP version and MS could start selling an obsolete XP OS/office bundle to OEMs tailored for low end hardware at a give away price, the devil you know to the devil you don’t, the average user faced with such a choice will sadly go the MS way.


I’ve been using linux on the desktop since redhat 9, currently Fedora 7. For my clients I have been installing Ubuntu on the majority of new systems since ver 7.04 was released – a very user friendly distro.

BUT I hesitate to say that Linux will ever take over the desktop whilst the majority of the banking community stay tied to Explorer for online transactions (which is the case here in South Africa) – a MS presence is required for banking & credit control funtions. I don’t regard Wine as the answer as you end up with a “neither fish nor fowl” solution with its own inherent problems – not ideal.

I sometimes wonder what licensing discounts the financial sector receive from MS.


Doniel, re fonts, my Linux (Linspire, KDE) fonts are much better than my Windows fonts.

Is anyone going to explain why Tiger orders 4,000 Linux boxes, sells them out almost instantly and then doesn’t reorder?

And when will the Linux core grow up? Try to post a bug re Konqueror’s rendering, but I can’t. “Version not late enough.” Can I DL the latest version? Nope. “DL the sources” and build a new one. As long as the community is run by “DL the sources” insiders, Linux isn’t happening on the desktop.

The technology is there. The attitude is not.


I am finally making the switch to Linux on an old laptop (not too old). I am Running VMware virtual machine to run XP for all my old programs. It seems to work great for me and should be a great bridge to using only linux and it should help shield me from Microsoft’s incessant upgrade strategy. XP is the second full version of Windows that I have ever had to purchase myself and I hope that it is my last.


As someone has already mentioned it’s the price of hardware that will drive people toward Linux as their desktop. The cheapest Mac is ~600 and you need to spend at least that much to get a box that Vista won’t grind to a halt. Considering that all most people want to do is email, surf the web, play media, light weight photo manipulation, write letters, maybe a simple budget spread sheet, and printing, a $200-$300 box is plenty (and could probably still be done for less). Once configured Linux does all of that really well. The hang up there is in the “once configured”.

Here are the hurdles I see to your average computer illiterate user being happy enough with their Linux box to go brag to their friends about the great deal they got.

1) Linux is not a “free version of Windows” it’s another OS. No one should expect a Linux box to behave like a PC any more than they would expect a Mac to behave like a PC (thank God!). If you are used to another OS there will be a leaning curve. If people know this going in they will be less upset when they find it to be so.

2) Multimedia support. Yes Linux does do a great job in supporting all kinds of media. I’ve yet to run across anything I can’t play (something neither windows or OS X can claim) , but I had to spend some time on the web figuring out how to get this to work. Someone needs to figure out how to get around the legal hurdles for bundling standard media CODECs into the pre-installed commercial Linux boxes. If this has been done mea culpa. I build my own boxes and do my own installs. I did once pay for a commercial copy of Suse thinking it would come with multimedia support and save me time. It didn’t so I’m assuming the preinstalled boxes don’t either.

3) Kernel updates screw up many drivers compiled against the kernel. On several occasions I have installed a “security” update to the kernel only to have it kill my X server. Fortunately I keep a copy of Nvidia’s shell script in my home dir and can rerun it from the command line. I’ve also had kernel security updates kill my LIRC controlled remote, and reak havoc with VM player’s ability to see USB devices. I’m used to this and now know not to install kernel updates (or “security patches”) when I won’t have a few hours to get things straightened out afterwards. But I shudder to think of the vapor lock it would cause the average Joe.

4) It is still way too dependent on the command line and hand editing *.conf files. Now we’re starting to approach the power user (hence this is at the bottom of the list), but it’s one of my biggest gripes. It seams like every time I want to start doing something out of the box (like say a home network), every solution I find starts out with “open a command line and type sudo vi /some/ conf/file”. First, stop telling people to use vi. Anyone who didn’t grow up with it is just going to get frustrated with it. Second, there should be a GUI for that. Also each distro should bundle all of those GUIs into a single administration application. Suse does a reasonable job with YaST, but then there’s still the KDE admin console (both of which I use for SAMBA along with a third independent app smb4k and I sill find my self occasionally hand editing smb.conf and fstab to get things set up and mounted.

I don’t see any of this as insurmountable, but I’m not sure if it will happen in time to make 2008 “The year of the Linux desktop”

Krishna Srikanth
The different Linux distros (at least the main ones) all offer different looks and feels but roughly the same functionality in terms of available applications. Find one you like and stick with it a while I’d recommend openSuse or Ubuntu.

Your software installation problems sound like dependency issues. You generally shouldn’t be grabbing and installing individual packages. You should use a package manager pointed toward full repositories of RPMs to get your software. The manager will see the other required packages and fetch them from the repository.


The Gong Show known as Windows Vista should send people scurrying to other OS platforms. I am generating remarkable revenue down/up grading Clients new laptops to dual boot Linux and XP and removing Vista altogether.

People are feed up with being jerked around by MS…(ME is still leaving a bad taste) … they are not willing to be beta testers any longer….they certainly do not want to pay for the privilege.

Imagine an organization so arrogant that they expect everyone to purchase a new router/firewall because they re-wrote their TCP-IP stack. This also requires hardware manufacturers to re-write their firmware. All this because Vista has fits when confronted with a SPI firewall. What happened to standards and conventions? Is MS now writing these?

I have over the years built Web, Mail, DNS servers using various distributions of Linux… some have run for as long as 5 years through upgrades etc without a reboot. Try that with an MS server of any sort. We have replaced numerous NT boxes with Samba Servers. Users have no idea any thing is different. Customer server support costs have been reduced as much as 50%. Linux and Samba are extremely reliable.

Enough ranting.

I jumped off the MS train completely three years ago. My office is Linux based. I run Slackware…old habits die hard…and Centos. There is nothing I need to do in my everyday dealings that requires any MS product. IMHO there is nothing “almost” any small business or home office really needs MS product for unless you require very specialized software ie. Solid Works etc. For Newbies it is no more difficult than learning MS Windows, Open Office is remarkable, Opera and Firefox are terrific, Evolution and Thunderbird work well. There is reasonable multimedia support and it is improving daily.

Linux is ready now depending on the “Distribution” and will only get better with time.


Hi, I’m from Sweden and the main reason I’m still stuck to MS are among several:

1. Some media outlets have web-TV apps that requires a mixture of QuickTime, Windows Media Player and IE to work !!!

2. I use an excellent translationprogram called Babylon. It works by middle button clicking a word and a translation pops up in a sec. The greatest advantage is that if u have an idiom it “scans” to the right and left of the word and if it finds the word being part of an idiom it is translated !! Also they have a marvelous development tool to create your own vocabularies. Hitherto they have refused to port their app to Linux.

3. I’m using Skype and the Linux-version is substandard. Also so called Skaypecasts do not work.

4. The web cams I have, have no driver support for Linux.

These are the main issues intuitively forcing me to my MS partition instead of my Ubuntu partition every time I log on !!!!



Great people with great thoughts. But in these comments, the people speaking against linux are getting negative points against their names. I wonder why that happens.

Ok let me tell you my linux experience. People, who told many good things about ubuntu made me download 7.10 a whole day. Later i burnt it on cd and restarted as the live cd.

1st restart – It was fine. I was able to see the desktop with all those window effects as in vista. I thought to install it, so restarted in windows and made some freespace and went back to ubuntu

2nd restart – this time i was not able to get the screen. Some strange color dots were displayed. So i restarted in safe graphics mode

3rd restart – this time i was able to login. i started to install. but in step 2/7 i found a bug. I am in India/Calcutta time zone, but my sys time was shown as african time, and changing timezone changed my sys time.

Laptop:- I have HP Pavilion, dv6516 with vista, and tried to run as live cd. But speakers, altec’s one, were not recognized, it was so calm. I could not dare to install ubuntu on that and loose vista on the whole. so went back to windows.

Manda Krishna Srikanth


I have been using Linux for over 8 years now, along with windows. IMHO, possibly the only way Linux can get accepted by the masses is through schools. Windows is THE system as far as the current generation of general public is concerned. All sorts of valid reasons are there which goes for it or against it, but Windows is THE ONE, right now. For another OS to get accepted, it should get injected into the society seemlessly, unnoticed (as hhemken pointed out) and as i see it that can happen only over a generation or two, that too if it is injected through the schools. People SIMPLY RESIST CHANGE (or they are made to), especially with systems/machines/toys that we want to use quickly, and we expect no fuss to get created, and it doesn’t help to know that i’m an odd one out using Linux than Windows. Its wonderful that Linux runs most of the embedded gadgets these days, but the point is that the user doesn’t need to interface directly with the OS in those systems and hence they don’t notice. We need to create a generation which is aware
– that there IS CHOICE; that choice is good
– that they need not study rocket science to work with alternate OSes, or use the systems running 2-3 alternate OSes

Hence I believe that the long term answer lies in schools. Get the kids to work with these systems, get them to love these systems and get them to ask their parents to buy them these systems! And make sure that the apps on Linux keep pace with windows!

Till then dual boot systems might be the best bargain that Linux market can hope for to get a significant footprint.



Plus. Windows is the first popular desktop. Even than Mac. Obviously users try to compare other os’ features with the ones they experienced in windows. Like games, softwares and especially drivers.

In windows, there is a rare chance that users need to go to command line. But in linux, still command line rules the OS.So first preference to make linux on desktop should be devoted in developing GUIs for almost all of the functionalities.

Though linux can be accepted at workstation desktop, it might take some (may be long) time to replace home desktop. As I said, Multimedia, Gaming and device drivers are a big concerns.

I agree with Satheesh babu. Though unix studies are in universities, schools and colleges still depend on windows because their softwares are still in win. even c, c++ and java are taught on windows.

Ok. I had enough of views declared. Let me tell you that i have taken my first step in taking linux to home desktop. I installed ubuntu 7.10 on my home sys (dual boot) and will try to survive in that. I would also like to participate in ubuntu development, not as a developer, but as a frontend user and articulating what is needed further.

Manda Krishna Srikanth


An American proverb says:
“The grass is always greener on the other side.”

2008 could be the Linux’ happy year as it has reserved the green grass of a land.

A condition has to be mentioned:
Both Linux and Windows were created for the same newbies.
In Romania, Linux-based servers are popular. Teenagers “eat” Linux, bread and … edulcorates.
Windows or Linux, this is the “en-vogue” question !
A French proverb:
“L’herbe est toujours plus verte chez le voisin.”
Meaning: ‘The grass is always greener at the neighbours.’
Sincerely yours,
Dan Gheorghe


I have already switch few months back to Ubuntu at my home and office machine and its surprisingly more easy (no virus,spyware, boltware, etc).

I made a decision that I am going to use Linux from now on and removed all Microsoft crap from my machine. Took a month to get used to but finally done. I am enjoying this :) No more boltware. Machine is working as it is after months of heavy usage – no sign of slowdown :)


I switched to Ubuntu on January 4, 2008, and I haven’t looked back. I can do almost everything a Windoze computer can do, sans iTunes. I’m sure there will be a port of iTunes to Linux soon, as everybody in the industry is going digital. I can count on my extensive family of Ubuntu programmers out in cyberspace to come up with the solutions that we all want. Apple needs to start thinking about the rest of us. They need to either open-source their OS & Apps, or stay at 3%. The price of their premium system, is twice to three times the price of a comparative Dell, HP or dare I say, Lenovo system, and OS X is UNIX! Ubuntu 8.04 Hardy Heron is going to be a big deal. With Gutsy Gibbon 7.10, I have tried to get all of those who would want to switch, to try it. Those who don’t, are either serious gamesters, or Multimedia hounds that need to download MP3′s from iTunes or Urge. I have had a great experience with Ubuntu Linux, and I am sticking with it! The real competition in Linux will begin when Open SUSE 11 comes out! Then it’s going to be a real fight in the Linux world over the best desktop around! because of its stability, I’m puttin’ my dough on Ubuntu 8.04.


I’ve been working with the Linux OS since 1997 but mostly on servers of one kind or another. Firewalls, mailservers, webservers and so on. All this time I’ve tested from time to time the available desktops starting with SuSE and Redhat. They looked great but never quite did everything I needed so I staid with whatever windows was running at the time. From 1985 to 1998 I used the Mac the most but gave up on it because of notorious instability until OSX came along.

Lately I have been trying out many distros and many of the could at any time now replace Vista on my desktop. Fedora 9 and Ubuntu 8 are really good and have withstood almost all my tests. We have also been testing LTSP and just a few days ago set up a Kubuntu netcafe. So far the customers love it. It’s fast, simple and reliable. It seems to me that there is a big shift this year towards Linux. It may have something to do with Ubuntu 8 reaching a certain level of usablity.

For those that want to try Linux I recommend setting up a virtual machine on your computer instead of dual boot. Try VirtualBox from Sun. It’s open source and works great on many platforms. Once you are comfortable using Linux, shift to Linux as your major OS and run Vista or XP as a virtual Machine on Linux. Use all your legacy Windows stuff there and enjoy the virus free security of Linux/Unix with snapshots and all those great tools that VB provides.


Yeah, well that “I finally go the wireless to work!” is the key. the ONLY thing that Ubuntu as at Jan 2009 is still bad at is auto-install of wireless cards. Many laptop brands use Broadcom (www.broadcom.com) wireless mini-cards inside the PC, and as of 2009 Broadcom are still refusing to have their low-level firmware interface included in any Linux distros (though they freely allow M$ to supply to non-Broadcom customers)… Dell and others need to put pressure on Broadcom and any others which (even inadvertently) cause Linux to be hard to get working straight out of the box.
Sort the wireless, make Wine a bit more intuitive and Ubuntu is BETTER than any M$ desktop OS.
Graeme Harrison (prof at-symbol post.harvard.edu)


Even in 2009, Linux as an overall system, including all markets, is a minority operating system. It has significant penetration into certain server markets, but much of that penetration has simply been at the expense of much higher priced UNIX server systems, which it has replaced. I was personally involved in one such effort, replacing a large Sun Solaris market data network with a much less expensive one from Red Hat Enterprise Linux.

On the desktop, Linux has indeed been capable for a number of years. 2001 was probably one of the big years that Linux first made major inroads. I’d say that 2005 was another of those years, and both 2008 and 2009 have been good years. Nevertheless, news stories write that Linux has just cracked 1% penetration. While I question that number, actual desktop use is certainly under ten percent, but perhaps in the 3-6% range rather than the 1% range indicated in those surveys.

On embedded devices and in other places that are difficult to record, Linux certainly has some action. But is this – or any other time, the year of the desktop for Linux? What does that mean? For me, sure, “Linux: Now is the Time!” as I wrote in 2001 for Extreme Tech. But what about the consumer? For more than 95% of them, the answer would be either “Who cares?” or “That’s not for me” or “I can only use what I know” or something like that. To change this state, the entire cloud of computing has to change. If the majority of computer storage really is done “in a cloud”, then that could make the difference. Some netbooks are promoting this strategy right now. I have my doubts that it will attract more than a percentage point at the most unless some entertainment venue makes it appealing enough. Write back in another 5-10 years; things are unlikely to change overnight.


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