Saturday, November 14, 2009

Why I’m Done with Linux as a Desktop OS

Linux was cool for a long time.  I started with Slackware distros back in 1998, no X windowing, just CLI.  That was fine because, at that time, it handled mutli-tasking pretty well and it ran on old hardware with meager resources.

But times have changed.  Gnome and KDE have evolved to chase OSX and Windows with respect to piling on the GUI features, which is understandable.  But the aims of Linux have fallen off the wagon.  The argument used to be unified: It’s stable and requires few resources.  But then they got into the Kool Aid and began trying to copy OSX and Windows.  The “me too” stuff grew into repeated publication claims that it would “soon” replace Windows on the desktops of the world.  It never came close.  In fact, it has declined in that segment.

The only place Linux makes sense anymore is on server platforms and in small embedded devices (mobile devices, set-top boxes, appliances, industrial controls and monitoring for example).  The only segment that I would even consider it on for true “desktop” use is in non-profit environments that simply don’t have the budget for Windows or OSX.  Even then, I don’t see nearly as many non-profits hunting for hand-me-down hardware as I used to.  Most are getting new systems with Windows pre-loaded, or 2nd-hand hardware that also has Windows installed.

I don’t even fire up Linux distros in VMware anymore.  I used to feel an eagerness to stay up to date on Suse, Mandriva, Ubuntu, Fedora, and several others.  Not anymore.  My time has become more and more limited (and precious) and, risking the sound of a PR minion: Windows 7 does everything I need and I really like the UI and automation/CLI changes.  Did they move closer to a CLI manageability state with Linux?  Yes.  Did they move closer to a UI cleanliness state of OSX?  Yes.  Did they do that intentionally?  Who knows.  Who cares.  When the patient gets up from the the table and begins to run, you don’t ask how or why.

Is Windows 7 perfect?  No.  Technically speaking, it is superior to any previous versions of Windows ever produced.  But technically I’m happy with what it brings to the table.  What I’m not happy with is the licensing and cost aspects.  They missed the mark there, and that made Windows 7 fall short of being a truly “perfect” solution for my needs.  But I’ll stick with it regardless.

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