back to article Linux on the desktop: cheap trick or pragmatist’s dream?

Welcome to our third and final poll on desktop operating systems. First, we looked at Vista readiness for business use: you can check out a short write up of that one here. Then we moved onto one of the main contenders to desktop Windows, Mac OS X. In this week's poll we turn our attention to desktop Linux: the challenge is to …


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  1. Alexander

    bit one sided?

    Quite few options missed from your questionaire which makes it rather unbalanced, still objectivity has never been a strong point here at El Reg.

    But why bother share figures tell you all you need to know. I.T is usually just a function in most organisation's and it gets dictated to by other units and functions within the company. it does not lead the way , it is lead by the nose meaning business aplications dictated the OS not the other way about .

    Still a bit of a wet dream for the linux fanboi's which will probably make the whole exersise rather pointless.

  2. Jonathan Richards


    Corrections: for Quite few options read Quite a few options.

    For organisation's read organisations

    For it does not lead read It does not lead

    For way<space><comma> read way<comma>

    For lead read led

    For aplications read applications

    For exersise read exercise.

    For description of your contribution, delete all words between Quite and pointless.

  3. David Hicks

    Usual Alexandr

    Making a judgement before any of the evidence is in.

    We know you don't like linux (either it's not enough like windows or it's just trying to copy windows, which is it today?) but some companies are pushing it internally now. Government organisaations too.

    Sorry if that rubs you up the wrong way.

    I use Linux, windows and solaris on the desktop, just to set things straight before I get called a fanboy.

  4. Anonymous Coward

    Opinion unimportant

    People's opinions are not important. Individually people are clever but together they become stupider than beetles.

    Opinions mean nothing. We could use opinion to say "Hitler was a very popular man", based entirely upon the opinion polls (elections) in pre-war Germany. It might have been true then but things have certainly changed (and it didn't take long!)

    My prediction is that the El Reg polls reveal that Winblows is great and popular and that OS X and Linux are weak and only used by the retarded.

    Personally I can't wait until Winblowz is no more and is remembered only as a foot-note. People will say things like "Remember those rubbish OS we had back in the early days of computing" and their friends will nod knowningly and say "Windows... <spit>"

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    I think El Reg missed a trick, they could have had a section which asks people how they refer to other companies/products, so for MS have a check box for M$, Microsloth, etc For Windows have a checkbox with Winblows etc, and Solaris/Slowaris, Apple/Crapple, then just ignore all of those entries as they're clearly made by schoolchildren who don't know the first thing about enterprise computing.

  6. Dale Vile

    Come on guys, keep it clean

    As part of the team behind this survey, I would like to emphasise that the exercise is not about advocating desktop Linux or otherwise. There are clearly quite a few organisations doing something with it, and a lot of IT professionals trying to encourage its use. The purpose of the poll is to gather real world experiences in a business environment so we can pass on some practical 'tips, tricks and traps' type information to those who are interested in exploring the desktop Linux option objectively. With that in mind, we have deliberaely avoided too much in the way of pure opinion questions, and on the basis that we almost certainly haven't thought of all possible responses, provided room for freeform text entry so readers can add anything we have missed, as well as express themselves freely.

    So, thanks to those who have completed the survey so far (quite a few hundred already) and to anyone reading this with experience of desktop Linux, we'd appreciate your input.

  7. Trevor Pott Gold badge


    Everyone's got one.

    Here's mine:

    Windows, like it or not, is an important part of the modern IT landscape. It's developer base is enormous, and there are whack-tonnes of applications extant with no viable open-source alternative.

    That said, how your organization treats Windows is entirely up to you. I happen to LIKE active directory as a directory server, so I use it for authenticating all my various machines. I *require* Windows on a limited subset of systems to run mission-critical apps which have no open source alternative.

    That said, outside of those, I treat windows entirely as a legacy operating system. We stopped at XP, and have virtualized all our copies of XP used for "office use." The metal boxes under the average user's desk run Linux. We have started the long journey towards replacing exchange, office, and dozens of other applications.

    For now, Linux is used primarily as a thin client, RDPing into the Windows XP office boxes, however we are slowly (slowly!) training our staff to use it, and migrating the odd application locally. The goal of course is to have a well-designed PXE "live" launcher that makes the actual hardware under the user's desk irrelevant, and makes for a central change point.

    Once we opened up to the possibilities of Linux, (but realizing that Windows was critical, and had to be maintained in certain environments,) there was this whole other world of ease-of-administration available to us.

    Other companies have different approaches. The fact that we have the choice is waht is excellent. Any choice except a Mac is one I respect, as long as it is administered properly.

    Flames because Administering Macs in a business environment makes me irritated, and I thusly like to inflame the Mac fanbois.

  8. Anonymous Coward

    @Jonathan Richards

    Typical smug/aggressive fanboi response. Alexander's point may not be one you like, but it's factually accurate. In your world I presume Ringo was a really good drummer as well?

    I'll leave you to pick holes in my grammar or spelling - yawn...

    The Linux Community : Hobbling FOSS uptake since 1066

  9. jake Silver badge

    Linux works on the dessktop.

    One caveat ... It has to be setup by someone who knows what the end user needs to do with the computer. I'm not talking loading up a shovel-ware DVD (are you listening Ubuntu?), I'm talking a stripped-down version that ONLY contains the tools that the user needs. For the most part, that's a GUI, a word processor, a text editor, email, and a web browser. Throw in networking, and picture/music/video viewers, a PDF reader (spit) and perhaps a few games, and most home users will be happy. For Dad I also threw in Kstars & a spreadsheet program.

    Keeping it lean & mean makes it easy to fix if anything goes wrong. It usually doesn't ... my aging aunt hasn't needed help in many months, mom & dad haven't needed help in a couple years ... and my brother's 5 kids, all aged under 10, have never needed me at all since last thanksgiving's install-fest. In fact, the eldest (9yo) found a computer somewhere, and figured out how to install a copy for herself! (Yes, I keep them all properly patched.)

    The nay-sayers can babble all they like, but Linux does work as a main OS for probably 95% of all users, at least in my experience.

  10. Damien Thorn

    no chance

    How the hell does anyone plan to get joe average to use linux? most cant use windows yet.

    Most on the internet are too stoned and running after chicks to work it out.

    The argument over compatible programs holds no water.

    Office / openoffice

    photoshop / gimp

    cad / more powerful cad

    programming / programming with multi os support

    games / games (buy a fucking playstation) ! linux does have games anyway.

    video / video with additional extra cool features

    And lets see how joe public handles the install process, wonder how many thousands of forums would spring up if windows vanished, the nearest a windows user might get is trying fruitlessly with rpm's - only after a suitable slap with a manual will the ignorant unwashed then realise for each linux install make and ./config go hand in hand.

  11. Noodle Noggin

    Re: no chance

    Damien, with regard to your question, I suggest you read the AC's comment of 8.30. Specfically the last bit. And he's not the first to point out that people like you are probably the biggest obstacle. Do you actually think you're going to bend people to your way of thinking with abusive nicknames? Even Linux evangelists who start with (correctly or incorrectly,) reasoned arguments fall back to 'Well stick to Windows if you're stupid then" if people don't see the light about Linux (or rather how great they are for pointing it out.) Pfft.

    You should also bear in mind that the opposing argument is just as often about actual programs rather than compatible programs. If Linux doesn't have something for a given task with all the required functionality then it's not suitable for purpose, is it? That's your Playstation comment invalidated too, by the way. Consoles don't have the games I want to play. "Wine, anyone?" someone will say. Gosh, never tried that. Oh - yes I did. Too slow. And I don't know whether 3rd parties will support their stuff running on it. Thankfully I've kept my Windows install so I truly have a choice.

    "More powerful CAD." How so? "Additional extra cool features." Such as? Cool and/or powerful when on Linux, bloat when on MS platforms. Got it.

    Apologies to the survey guys for the rant, and to well-adjusted Linux users if you feel included in it. You aren't. It's purely an anti-zealot rant. Which they'll no doubt paint as a rant against Linux, as usual.

  12. Tim Bates

    Install process?

    WTF is with near-nerds always mentioning the installation of Linux as one of the reasons people shouldn't switch? 99.9% of Windows users have never seen the Windows install process in action. And about 95% have never even seen the damn CD/DVD!

    Most users are so-called because they use. They don't care about how you install stuff. That's what the IT guys are for.

  13. foo_bar_baz

    @Alexandr & AC

    The desktop PC I use daily at work must be a figment of my 'fanboi' imagination. NDAs prevent me from disclosing details, suffice to say either we have a proactive IT dept or management gets it.

    Hint: things change.

  14. Walking Turtle

    O hae, o hai, o hee...

    The Linux Life for me!

    Had another one only last night. This one needed the entire O/S replaced due to the end-user not having patched the Mandriva 2008.0 live-CD installation at all since first install. (Inadequately effective instruction on my own part at the time contributed to that, in all honesty.) Still, it lasted most of a year that way, in daily use - not too shabby for a free'un.

    Upgrading to 2008.1 "Spring" with KDE 3.5 (live-cd again) and again demo-ing the (now vastly improved) updater's action once installation and first-run config were done (ten minutes max for that last) was more work for "The Robot" than for myself. Got credible promises to properly patch/update it this time, too.

    Result: That ol' nVidia-equipped H-P box is purring like a kitten again. The newly acquired all-in-one printer that prompted the call in the first place took off and ran like a champ right out of the box. All parties come out happy as can be, with NO loss of the prime user's homework, bookmarks or other work files at all, despite my having full-formatted the system partition (there's the key!) as one step in the replacement install.

    Of course, we've all got friends who have not been so fortunate in similar circumstances with the corpy O/S from Redmond; the Patented Unitary DIrectory Structure from Hell that that corporate product features under its Very Shiny Bonnet is the difference that matters in that regard.

    Summary: Linux (Done Right) builds strong friendships; strength of this sort defeats all manner of enemies in a sweetly preemptive way. With all enemies defeated, we have productivity and peace in the 'hood all day and all night too! So install Linux always, and enjoy sweet productive peace in (your own bit of) the world today!

    It just works out that way. Why place yet another hard-pressed American home at risk with a massively-hated and 2-3asy-to-pwn corpy O/S when we have THIS? Happiness, contentment, intelligent convo all along and a full belly too, with smiles all around - who might ever want more?

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @Walking Turtle

    The trouble is that we're discussing enterprise desktop Linux here, not you doing one of your mates from school a favour. You are aware that an install base into thousands, tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands of seats couldn't exist without a pretty powerfull directory system? Currently the only directories that I can think of that are up to this are AD and maybe Novell's offering at a push.

  16. zig158
    Gates Halo

    Market Penetration?

    The sad fact is that if you install ubuntu on a windows user’s computer and replace the start screen with one that says “Windows 7” the vast majority wouldn’t know the difference.

  17. Walking Turtle

    @Fraser :)

    Duly noted and thanks for the graciousness of your reminder. To be sure, I had overlooked that (to myself) mega-upscale aspect. Our tallest building is only maybe twenty stories; people who mostly don't do much business at all just live in it. We just aren't so very mondo-corporatized as that in this our own green and pleasant region of the planet, is what.

    So what *is* the upper directory limit under Linux today, anyway, please? (I had not actually thought of things on your own sphere's apparent scale, ever, is why I must ask.) :)

    Actually, you know, a full-scale Enterprise Installation in these green and pleasant wilds'd be anywhere from ten to forty-fifty desktop machines and a server box in-house as well, if it's a credit union or somesuch job. Just guessing, but I expect that range is well within today's Linux/*nix capabilities. One or two principals, three or four machines plus a printer ot two and a NAT router/gateway is pretty much as big 'n' scary as anyone hereabouts needs it to be, most every time. "Growth for Growth's Sake" just isn't "where it's at" in these parts. There's probably even still a bit of Colonial Scrip still stuffed into the walls and/or under the flooring of some of the older houses here and there. Been found a time or two before. (This is country livin'.)

    Nice to meet, anyway. Thanks again for the tip, too. I'll keep your reply in mind as things progress/devolve Out There. Coat... Yeah.

    Mine's the one with the well-worn Mandriva distro, magnetic-needle compass and tin of waterproof strike-anywhere matches in one pocket, also there's a handily small though fairly accurate transdimensional star-map of our somewhat harmless-in-spots galactic locale in the other. And the towel, of course - yeah, that's the one. :)

  18. jake Silver badge

    @Fraiser @zig158

    "You are aware that an install base into thousands, tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands of seats couldn't exist without a pretty powerfull directory system? Currently the only directories that I can think of that are up to this are AD and maybe Novell's offering at a push."

    Oh. So my 100K+ seat client doesn't really use Linux & BSD, then? News to me.

    Just because YOU don't know how to do it doesn't mean it's not being done.

    zig158: My aging Aunt calls it "Windows" even though the splash screen is Slackware :-)

  19. Walking Turtle
    Thumb Up

    @ jake (Wednesday 1st April 2009)

    > ..."So my 100K+ seat client doesn't really use Linux & BSD, then? News to me"...

    Jake, if ever I should find myself in the unlikely position in this life of actually needing to know how to scale up to such a thing and all Google-izations just fail the concept, I think I'd lke to ping you next.

    Until then, I'll keep the faith and count my blessings. Thanks for the good word. :)

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