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A Look at Ubuntu from the Other Side - page 2

Blessed Are the Geeks

  • January 12, 2011
  • By Emery Fletcher
The people who own those desktops need some kind of operating system, and they need it badly enough that for years they have been spending a lot of money not just on the system but on the accessories they need to keep it alive, like firewalls, antimalware, and the software to make it do something useful or entertaining. And unless they want to pay someone to fix it when something goes wrong, they have to be do-it-yourselfers, adventurous and persistent enough to study it...

Ah, now we're right back where we started, and that's on purpose. If you look at it from the point of view of a potential user, the only difference between Linux and a Windows system is that the operating system, the firewalls, the antimalware, and the software don't cost anything. Problem is, at this point in time it's nearly impossible to find someone you can pay to come fix it for you. You can't even find really thorough, well-written documentation for how it's supposed to work.

For some Ubuntus you can find a fair amount: Keir Thomas's Beginning Ubuntu Linux series (up to the fifth edition now) is only one or two versions behind in giving an explanation beginners can understand, yet which is still useful after you've mastered the basics. But I will freely admit that when I got my first computer, seven years ago, what was necessary to get me started was the literary side of the Windows ecosystem: the For Dummies books of Windows, Office, or Word, and books like Windows Plain and Simple, or Office 2003 Visually, or a clever little picture book from which I learned to copy documents to CD. I'm not ashamed to admit that my PhD in Astrophysics was inadequate preparation for learning to manipulate a Graphical User Interface, nor will I hesitate to confess that those silly little picture books were much more help in the beginning than some far more serious volumes.

Canonical, under Mark Shuttleworth's leadership, seems to be headed in the direction of molding Ubuntu into a form of Linux that is at least as fully usable from the GUI as Windows is. Much as the geeks who built Linux will scream at that, it is what will have to be done if The Public is ever to accept willingly a Linux system and use it at home, at work, at the library, at school... And to raise the hackles of the Experienced User still further, someone will need to write the Dummies books, the LibreOffice Visually books, and even the picture books that will show the earliest beginner how to download software.

I can agree that this is probably not the future many current Linux stalwarts have envisioned for their system, but neither is the overwhelmingly successful Android. It is my opinion that if any form of Linux as a stand-alone operating system ��� neither phone-based, cloud-based, nor server - is to be a successful challenge to Windows, it will be the sort that Ubuntu seems destined to become.

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