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Guide Gets Readers Away From Windows Gotchas - page 3

Introduction

  • September 8, 2005
  • By Ibrahim Haddad

So, is it fair to say you are aiming mostly at home users who are new to Linux?

Yes, and also SOHO (Small Office/Home Office) and educational users. People who are completely new to Linux get the information they need to start using it. People who have already got their feet wet and dabbled in Linux a bit will find much material that lets them get to a higher level of productivity.

Linux has been making great strides in the education sector, as school staff recognizes how they can stretch their budgets by using open source software instead of contributing to Microsoft's monopoly super profits. The state of Indiana recently announced it was switching to Linux for all its high school teaching needs. This is probably the largest such switch so far in the US, involving more than 1600 new desktop PCs for the back-to-school semester. Ultimately the deal may number more than 300,000 new Linux desktops.

In September 2005, the state of Massachusetts announced that it was going to switch to Open Office instead of Microsoft Office. Once they have a track record of success with open source applications, it's just a small step to dump Windows and the virus of the week club and switch to Linux as well. My text will help all these users.

Your book includes a live CD. How did you pick the Linspire distro as the one to include?

I went through a scientific procedure of evaluating more than 20 distros on aspects like:

  • Desktop-centric (is the desktop the main focus of efforts)
  • Ease of use (does it play flash, mp3s, wmv's etc, out of the box)
  • Actively maintained
  • Professional support
  • Up to date with bundled content
  • Active and helpful customer forum

Many distros were good on these measures, and some were excellent. But the Linspire distro was head and shoulders above all the rest on just about all the desired characteristics. And that's the distro I selected for the live CD included with "PvdL's Guide to Linux."

Linspire is a Debian-based distro with a KDE GUI, so it's right in the Linux mainstream. It was founded in San Diego three years ago by Michael Robertson, who founded the wildly-successful site MP3.com. He has a knack for popularizing technology, and he founded Linspire with the goal of making it "the world's easiest to use desktop Linux."

My objective assessment is that the Linspire distro is closer to meeting that goal than any other distro, and closing fast on it. If you buy a PC with Linspire preinstalled, it is already the world's easiest to use desktop Linux.

The beauty of the Live CD is that readers can pop the CD in their drive, boot from it, and be running Linux in just five minutes without installing anything. The Live CD will boot on at least 90% of all PCs and lets people try Linux without installing anything or changing their Windows system at all. After playing around with Linux for a while, they can easily fall back to Windows until the next time they are ready to learn some more linux. Live CDs are great!

How do you think that choice of distro will play with the Slashdot crowd?

Linus Torvalds recently described Slashdot as a bunch of "people getting together and making their own 'insightful' comment on any random topic, whether they know anything about it or not." I find that filtering on article scores helps keep the signal/noise ratio reasonable. I like the slashdot.org site, and review it just about daily. Slashdot keeps me in touch with high tech news, with a Linux-friendly slant.

One the other hand, there is a small number of hard core Linux fans who on some level don't want to see Linux popularized for mass use. After all, look what happened when the Internet went that way--endless spam.

These elitists can be disparaging of commercial distros. But they need to face facts: the high volume of users that Linux needs to displace the desktop monopoly can only come from growing the non-technical user base. And that requires a commercial distro that charges, and provides professional support.

The majority of distros these days are commercial in nature. The die-hard not-for-profit fans who disparage commercial distros need to look at the big picture, and rethink their goals. Their knee-jerk reactions are not helping the cause of Linux.

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