Monday, December 10, 2007

Ubuntu - is Linux finally ready for the desktop?

I've now been using Ubuntu on my laptop (a Sony VAIO - btw, the quality of the display is absolutely astounding: two years on, I'm still delighted by its brightness AND battery life) for quite a few months, and I must confess my perception of it has entirely changed.

As you can see from previous entries in this blog, I've been rather critical of Ubuntu and certain design choices - however, the more you get used to the `sudo` thing and the general approach that you don't really need to `su` to root to get stuff done, then it becomes pretty natural and, indeed, most stuff does get done.

However, the one thing that most convinces me that the folks at Ubuntu are definitely travelling down the right path, is the ease of use of the user interface (which looks way better than Windows) and also how easy has it become to add functionality.
Adding hardware has also come a long way from the times when even getting Linux to "see" a WiFi card meant compiling some drivers, editing scripts and all that nonsense that was so frustrating for all those, like myself, that saw using a Linux box as a means to an end (eg, doing development, running a web server, getting a database server up and running) as opposed to the end in itself (as it still to me seems the case with some parts of the Linux community).

Ubuntu definitely is a massive stride forward in making Linux a much more compelling proposition to the "computer savvy" professionals - developers, and IT experts - who are sick and tired of buggy, insecure and drab Windows; but at the same time don't have the time and desire to spend entire days and weeks trying to figure out why that particular kernel driver does not compile.

However, it is also important to say that Linux will really never become the OS of choice for the "great unwashed" - but this is no bad thing: trying to "dumb it down" would mean introduce technologies (such the infamous Universal PnP and suchlike) that make Windows such a security nightmare.

In other words: for those who can, Linux; for those who can't, Windows...