Is Linux ready for the desktop?

Yes   2 votes - 40 %
No   2 votes - 40 %
Maybe   0 votes - 0 %
Drop out and become a goatherd   1 vote - 20 %
5 Total Votes
It's been ready for years. Are you ready for it? by marvin (2.00 / 0) #1 Wed Dec 19, 2012 at 12:48:14 PM EST
Installation is trivial these days. The biggest problems today are bloat (gnome) and goofy UI philosophies (vanilla ubuntu).

KDE is nice, and last time I used it, it was going all vector-based for icons, etc, making scaling quite pleasant. When it comes to DVD playback, some distros like Ubuntu make it easy by bundling / licensing the non-free stuff, others take a puritanical approach and require you to go hunt down the non-free and DMCA-burdened pieces that you need. Sound is hit or miss - I have horrible memories about sound issues in linux, but I also have horrible experiences with sound in Windows, so ymmv.

I haven't run linux much in the past few years since I only use my home computer for web and gaming, but debian-based distros are my preference. I'll probably drop E17 onto my new-ish laptop over Christmas. Given that E17 has been in pre-release for 12 years now, releasing it on Dec 21, 2012 is fitting.

Check out WineHQ - good odds that your windows software will work inside of Wine. Otherwise, you can run windows in a vm and avoid rebooting.

Linux is OK for me by ambrosen (2.00 / 0) #2 Wed Dec 19, 2012 at 12:59:26 PM EST
There's a few things where I like the way it does things that's enough to keep me off Windows, but not a huge amount. I'm not that fond of the Ubuntu UI, but I can use it.

linux still sucks as much as it did in 2003, by the mariner (4.00 / 1) #3 Wed Dec 19, 2012 at 12:59:54 PM EST
when people on the internet used to muse to themselves about that question. personally, i don't even use my lunix machines anymore. i use virtualbox on a windows machine for ipython/sage/emacs and that's it (astonishingly, i managed to eat up 8 gigabytes with what i thought was a fairly minimal ubuntu setup, so i'm constantly at 98% disk space and too lazy to do anything about it -- late nineties expectations about disk space usage die hard). your external drive idea is a pretty good one. you can get fairly large ones fairly cheaply and they're nice to have. 

also, slackware still exists. not sure what that has to do with anything, but that's where my outrage about ubuntu led me... truth is i need to just bite the bullet and buy a mac, instead of running a junky system with a modern interface emulating a real computer.

if by "As much as in 2003" by wumpus (2.00 / 0) #5 Wed Dec 19, 2012 at 01:30:50 PM EST
do you mean "noticeably less than windows"? I think that between when Ubuntu got their act together and when they tried to shove unity down everyones' throat it seemed to work great. Ask me next week when I will be hip deep in my father's windows laptop what I think of windows. Also, everything but /home and /swap takes up about 6G on my machine. /Home stays on two mirrored hard drives and everything else fits on 16G of a small SSD partition with room to spare: even flash has left your 90s attitudes behind.

I can't argue the bit about a mac, I think the last time I used a mac was in 1992. I like weird and varied hardware and have never considered a mac (also: I'm cheap). This could easily be the best choice for gzt.


[ Parent ]
i would say substantially more than windows. by the mariner (4.00 / 1) #6 Wed Dec 19, 2012 at 01:59:57 PM EST
it's just objectively less functional. everything good about linux for a scientifically inclined user can be achieved from within windows using vm software. if you need a native environment to run serious stuff, you always have your department's systems.

2003 is even before the days of linus torvalds' sneering jokes about using computers to watch youtube videos on the kernel dev list -- as though this were something so frivolous and ridiculous it was irrelevant that linux couldn't do it right at the time. this was a time when it was a craps shoot whether you would spend a week or weekend getting your sound card to work. at that time, windows was a modern operating system. a little schlocky, but modern. linux was not so different from the first systems running x windows i saw in the eighties when my dad introduced me to his nerd buddies at work. worse in that the stock configuration didn't come with a version of breakout. 

but ya, about 6 gb, you add a sage installation on that and your standard numerics, etc. and you're up to 8 gb. i can't believe they need 6 gb to run three damned programs. 

on top of that, what if someday you want to do something like write gpu accelerated code? on windows, getting this set up is so easy even i can do it. on linux, i don't know but my guess is it's a multistep process involving recompiling your kernel, find the right version of glibc (which won't be what you have) and installing it, and reading the entrails of a chicken. 

unless you're doing a lot of fairly middle of the road C programming, i don't see the point of linux on a desktop anymore. if it weren't for sage, i wouldn't touch it with a ten foot pole.

[ Parent ]
gpu by gzt (2.00 / 0) #9 Wed Dec 19, 2012 at 04:30:58 PM EST
the gpu server thingy we have in the department is a lunix box.

[ Parent ]
sure, it's possible. by the mariner (2.00 / 0) #12 Wed Dec 19, 2012 at 05:58:56 PM EST
would you want to set it up yourself? i wouldn't. 

[ Parent ]
I wouldn't, either.... by gzt (2.00 / 0) #13 Wed Dec 19, 2012 at 06:06:22 PM EST
...but the GPU stuff I will do if I do it will be on a Lunix server, so, there you go.

[ Parent ]
by that token, you could do whatever C programming by the mariner (2.00 / 0) #14 Wed Dec 19, 2012 at 07:01:50 PM EST
you're going to do on a lunix server. what, do you not have cuda/whatever capable hardware or sth? i mean, i admit not everyone does this stuff -- i don't even do it, i set it up for my wife because she was considering using it in a project and i was curious about it. i'm just saying, i took one look at the docs for linux and it was 2003 all over again. by contrast, it was pretty straightforward on windows. 

[ Parent ]
For you, yes. by wumpus (2.00 / 0) #4 Wed Dec 19, 2012 at 01:16:03 PM EST
Linux is slightly more ready for the desktop than windows 8, but you will have to get around the desktop that inspired metro to get there (i.e. unity, the bane of desktop ubuntu). I'm assuming that R works better under Linux. Linux has been ready for the desktop for at least 10 years, more like 15. Ready for those who think that whatever Microsoft did is the only possible way a computer could work, not so much. On the other hand, I'm not sure that windows 7&8 are ready for the internet, and I'm sure that xp and before certainly weren't. It is all a matter of finding applications you prefer, and the list of tasks you mentioned are going to work far better under Linux. Non-geeky tasks are a little harder to fill. The best I've gotten games under Linux has been at the "dancing bear" stage, although this can be useful if all you want to do is MMO auction fussing.

The big issues in installing linux are unity, funky 3d desktop tricks, and games. If you are ok with unity, just go with ubuntu. If you aren't ok with ubuntu but don't want the fancy desktop effects, XFCE is said to be fine (works with ubuntu). If you want the effects, my guess would be to go with Mint or try to update ubuntu to fit.

My big issue with Mint is the installer. They use Ubuntu's installer, which while a fairly good installer doesn't handle things like software raid drives at all. Ubuntu falls back and includes the standard debian installer, which can handle such tricks. Right now I'm running debian testing as I can't stand unity but insist on using software raid (mostly to mirror my /home directory).

I'd keep a dual-boot partition, just in case you want to do something that isn't wine friendly (pretty much any game, for example). Remember that windows hates competition, so put it on first and then Linux.

On new drives: It is pretty hard to fill up non-home non-media areas. Consider the smallest available SSD when looking for new drives. Drives for media shouldn't be an issue.

In the end, I'd install Ubuntu, then install a bunch of desktops (unity, Gnome 3, KDE4, XFCE, Gnome 2 reboot, the-mint-one-if-it-will-go-on) and see if you like any of the ones that seem to work. If you can get Ubuntu working with a decent desktop, the compatibility with everything else is likely worth it. Don't expect Canonical to have done much work on anything but unity, so if that fails you might want to switch to Mint.


Lunix? What's wrong with FreeBSD? by georgeha (4.00 / 1) #7 Wed Dec 19, 2012 at 02:01:03 PM EST
OR maybe GNU/Hurd, you have the facial hair for GNU/Hurd.

woah, there's a stable release of gnu/hurd? by the mariner (2.00 / 0) #8 Wed Dec 19, 2012 at 02:03:34 PM EST

[ Parent ]
I went almost a year without a Windows partition by clover kicker (2.00 / 0) #10 Wed Dec 19, 2012 at 05:28:49 PM EST

If you don't need games Lunix is plenty good enough.

there are a few things in my case by gzt (2.00 / 0) #11 Wed Dec 19, 2012 at 05:50:32 PM EST
MATLAB, chess software, and my budget software (YNAB), so I'm not going to give up the ghost there.

[ Parent ]
Matlab is available for Linux by bobdole (2.00 / 0) #19 Thu Dec 20, 2012 at 08:03:11 AM EST
at least my institution has it. There is also a lot of chess geeks on loonix and other OSS-platforms so you might even find decent alternatives.

R Studio runs pretty much the same on any platform. I've turned to a macbook (pro) for my main platform, with important software being R(studio), Python, Java and a plethora of database backends (oracle, postgres and the occasional mysql work).

Some of the more heavy work backed by a combination of Linux and Windows (i.e. where I need more CPU power than my laptop).
-- The revolution will not be televised.

[ Parent ]
yes, but i have a license for windows by gzt (2.00 / 0) #20 Thu Dec 20, 2012 at 09:22:46 AM EST
i also won a copy of some expensive chess software for windows that's very nice. free chess software for linux is quite nice, but nothing is as good as this.

[ Parent ]
student license? by bobdole (2.00 / 0) #23 Thu Dec 20, 2012 at 03:26:35 PM EST
because the professional license is platform agnostic IIRC....
-- The revolution will not be televised.
[ Parent ]
yeah by gzt (2.00 / 0) #24 Thu Dec 20, 2012 at 03:45:25 PM EST
I mean, the student license might be, too, but I don't know whether I can be like "hey, i want to use this in lunix now" without paying money. maybe i can. it's something i'll figure out at some point.

[ Parent ]
Depends on the hardware by technician (2.00 / 0) #15 Wed Dec 19, 2012 at 07:45:16 PM EST
but yeah. I use Mint for some things, CentOS for work. CentOS has a little less flexibility with regards to new hardware.

Xubuntu by Oberon (2.00 / 0) #16 Wed Dec 19, 2012 at 08:05:06 PM EST
When Ubuntu improved their UI I tried Mint for a while. Not sure whether it was my fault or Mint's but I always ended up with weird package problems, plus the Mint branding is truly hideous (of course given the time one can eradicate it).

I tried Xubuntu and stuck with it. XFCE is basically a no-nonsense version of the Windows 95 UI that old people like me can deal with. One tip: being "lightweight" it doesn't come with LibreOffice by default, so you'll probably want to install that and set it as default application for Word docs etc.

How now, mad spirit?
I run Kubuntu by dev trash (2.00 / 0) #17 Wed Dec 19, 2012 at 08:56:19 PM EST
Almost exclusively, my Nuvi and my GoPro want Windows for updating.  You'll want to go to for all your media related things, but once it's added it's updated just like anything else.

Son, I am disappoint. by ammoniacal (4.00 / 1) #18 Wed Dec 19, 2012 at 11:02:37 PM EST

"To this day that was the most bullshit caesar salad I have every experienced..." - triggerfinger

Obligitory comment by Gedvondur (4.00 / 1) #21 Thu Dec 20, 2012 at 11:17:58 AM EST
Linux Desktop = Waste of Time.  All I'm going to say about that.

If I may suggest, why don't you look at a Synology NAS?  The small ones are very reasonably priced, great place to keep media and still have access to it.  You can even load Plex on it.  Comes with iTunes compatibility and a host of features, both native and add-on.  Just a thought.

"So I will be hitting the snatch hard, I think, tonight." - gzt
that's like $200 by gzt (2.00 / 0) #22 Thu Dec 20, 2012 at 02:26:34 PM EST
plus cost of hard drives to put in. This is just cost of a hard drives - and the lunix thing is sometihng to consider independently, as programming flow is easier to set up on it.

[ Parent ]