Linux on the desktop

Posted in Technology trends at 9:55 am by ducky

There’s an article that has been talking about 2008 being the year of the Linux desktop. I think that’s too optimistic.

Don’t get me wrong — I love Linux. I have been using it as my primary OS for about five years now, and have been fiddling with it for eight or ten.

It has gotten way, WAY easier to use, particularly in installing applications. Red Hat 7 was a nightmare of dependency hell. The Gentoo on my work machine in about 2003 was much much easier, although you had to have a certain level of confidence to go around compiling things, and it took a long time to compile stuff. Knoppix on my home machine at around the same time certainly was easier to install (especially all the drivers and stuff), but it was hard to find documentation and help for a minority distro. Ubuntu, now Ubuntu ROCKS. It totally kicks.

Linux appss are clearly getting better all the time. Gimp has a learning curve and Photoshop is better, but Gimp is good enough that 99% of the time I don’t bother to reboot into Windows to use Photoshop. I actually like Inkscape a bit better than Illustrator for what I do.


But there are still warts. I can get away with Ubuntu because almost all the business applications work I do is server-based or text-based. OpenOffice and Gnumeric have come a looong way, to the point where I can use them most of the time, but they are just not bulletproof yet. Neither of them worked perfectly with a challenging spreadsheet I made that included lots and lots of text from different languages in UTF8; one or both of them actually corrupted data silently. I’m working on a .doc file in OpenOffice, and it seems to lose formatting sometimes when I save and reopen.

I do think Windows is doomed. I think they just can’t sustain their operating system in the face of so much competition. However, I don’t think it will be next year, or the year after that. I think it will be more like 2012 before we really see Windows slide.

It’s also quite possible that MacOS will be the big winner. With MacOS being based on Unix, it should be far easier to port code from Linux to MacOS than from Linux to Windows. (If it isn’t already, it’s because of tools infrastructure. Comments from people who know more than I are welcome.)

Another interesting possibility is porting from MacOS to Linux. That should be relatively straightforward, and could be really lucrative for Apple — assuming that they can get people to actually pay for the software. It is my understanding that Microsoft makes the bulk of its money on Office.. and Apple has been steadily creating a lot of applications that I hear really good things about. They could really profit from growth in the Linux market.

Update: I got email from one of the maintainers of gnumeric three days after posting my experience (on a relatively obscure blog!), asking for more info about the problems I was having. This is why Windows is doomed.

Comments »

  1. Best Webfoot Forward said,

    July 22, 2007 at 10:43 am

    […] my recent post, Linux on the desktop, I mentioned that oocalc and/or gnumeric had let me down six months ago when I was working with an […]

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