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Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Living with Linux on the Laptop: Reflecting on It Later

I simply couldn't devote any more time to the Linux on My Laptop experiment. It was an extremely interesting and, in spite of the frustrations, enjoyable experience. I'm very glad I did it and will attempt it again in the future...maybe over the Christmas holidays.

Some thoughts...

I ran into similar issues when I tried to put Vista on my laptop. The lesson is not whether Vista or Linux (or whatever O.S.) is any good or not. The issue is finding hardware that is compatible with your operating system and applications. If I were a rich guy, I'd go buy a laptop that's certified for Linux and I'll bet it would work great.

I was approaching the experiment originally from the perspective of seeing if Linux is ready for "Ma and Pa", but the way I did it is not a valid "Ma and Pa" kind of test. "Ma and Pa" should not be installing operating systems today, whether it's Vista, Linux, XP, or whatever. So, is Linux ready for "Ma and Pa"? I can't say. If "Ma and Pa" pick up a pre-configured Linux laptop at Wal-Mart and all they want to do is surf the Web, check email, and do some word processing, Linux is probably fine, especially if it's Ubuntu. Is it ready for the enterprise? Sure, if you have an IT department to support it, but isn't that the same for Windows?

I see three areas where Windows offers benefits over Linux: Availability of mainstream applications (this is improving, but it has a long way to go), familiarity, and ease of integration (for example, Outlook and Exchange). People, in general, are just more familiar and therefore more comfortable with Windows, in spite of its quirks and limitations. Frankly, it's the same reason there are still people running Windows 98. They're familiar with it and they don't see a need (or benefit) to change. The benefit that Linux and open-source software offer over Windows and commercial software is freedom: freedom to experiment, freedom to customize, and freedom from licensing issues. It's not even the cost of the the licensing that is the issue; it's the frustration (and fear) of ensuring licensing compliance that makes open-source so attractive.

What draws me to Windows? Habit and simplicity that comes from familiarity, plus the simplicity of integrated solutions. What draws me to Linux? Freedom.

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