Like the crib project that received its 4th coat of varnish today, Linux is another subject I’ve let run cold. Actually, its run cold for a good reason. I’m no longer using Linux.
It’s not that I dislike Linux. If I had to run a web server, Linux would be my first choice. If I had to run any kind of multi-user system, I’d choose Linux. But that’s not what I’m doing. I’m doing your normal home-computing stuff, and that’s where Linux is challenged the most.
The pro-Linux folks will tell you that you can do everything in Linux that you can do in Windows. Mostly it’s true, in a technical sense, but not always in a strict cool-to-use sense. The interoperability between peripherals and the system is still primitive in many cases (including my Epson multi-function printer) and everything always seems to require just a bit of tweaking. Not a lot, and not more than most people should be able to handle, but enough that I never got to a place where being able to do a particular thing in Linux quickly was something I could count on. Sometimes you want your computer to be a hobby, and you enjoy it. Sometimes you need it to be an appliance. In these cases Linux tends to fall short. Still, it is, and should be amazing that a free product should be comparable to one you have to pay for. In what other industry can this be done?
If I had more time to spend on it I’d probably still be using it. If I didn’t have a wife who has to be able to use my computer, I’d probably still be using it. In my current situation it just didn’t work. I tried, I kept at it for a while. I even wrote that I couldn’t hardly remember using Windows much anymore, because I hadn’t needed to print any photos, or scan anything, or any other of a small number of things at the time. After a while the thrill wore off, and when I just needed to get something done and done quickly, I ended up in Windows.
One thing that surprised me was how much the lack of visual design in Linux disturbed me. Linux is a distributed development, and each application has it’s own look & feel. Some are quite good, some aren’t so good. Some are very techno-European, and some are just a bit primitive. At first this is campy and fun, and makes it an adventure. After a while you start to yearn for fewer fonts on the screen, more consistent colors and frankly just a more pleasant and consistent visual experience.
Of course, I’ve got a nice alternative to Linux. Windows XP is as good as it gets in the Windows world, and if I was stuck in Windows Mostly Excrement, or in 95 I think Linux would be superior.
I would like to end this with a request: If you’re one of those people who haven’t tried Linux, give it a try. You may not “switch”, but the experience is interesting, and it’s no longer that painful from a technical perspective. At the least, it will give you something to talk about and will expose you to world you haven’t seen. At the most, well, you’ll switch 😉