Linux vs. Everything Else

For the first time since I moved this past August, I powered up my Linux machine at home. It turns out that I needed some files on it, so I spent about an hour bringing it back up to a working condition. Spec wise, the machine isn’t bad — Athlon XP 2400+, 1.25GB RAM, etc, etc, etc. It works well for the most part, and doesn’t give me much trouble at all. In fact, I would say it’s been one of my better machines that I’ve owned. But, I just don’t use it. In fact, the big reason I stopped using it was the Mac mini that I purchased 2 years ago — a 1.42GHz G4 with a slow system bus, less memory, and a slower hard drive. But really, it was OS X that did my Linux box in.

Now, don’t get me wrong — I love Linux. I’ve hacked on the kernel a bit — even got a few things submitted upstream. I’ve written lots of code that runs on Linux — both in my professional career and in my spare time. For a programmer, Linux can be fun. But, as a user, I just don’t find it as fun.

I’m not really sure what it is that has bothered me about Linux on the desktop — honestly, maybe nothing is wrong with it (well, that’s being a bit generous). But, I do happen to find both MacOS X and Windows provide better user experiences than Linux. Sure, the gap has shrunk a lot between Linux and Windows — especially if you’re already using open source packages under Windows (think FireFox).

I certainly encourage efforts to improve the experience of Linux on the desktop, but I can’t help but fear that it’s only going to lead to something like Windows. And I just can’t see the point of replacing Windows with something that is just like Windows.

Now, my personal preference has always been for OS X (at least since it came out, of course) — this is what I feel the desktop Linux people should be aiming for. Apple has never been afraid to get rid of what they see as crap and use something better instead — OS X is proof of that. They have actually been innovating, and that’s what has continually made me appreciate OS X over the alternatives. And, the Unix base (a.k.a. Darwin) satisfies my geek side as well.

I can also understand the perspective of Windows users — of course, I wouldn’t mind seeing them at least giving OS X a chance. From their point of view, Windows works better than Linux. Sure, Linux has uptimes measured in years, but it just doesn’t have the same level of software support as Windows (and OS X, for that matter). And let’s not even talk about games under Linux…

I would really like to hear from other people on their feelings about Linux and the alternatives. I mean, if Linux can’t satisfy someone in their core audience (a down to the metal programmer like myself), what do other less-geeky people feel about it? Is it all about software freedom? Or is there something I’m just missing?

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