Linux on the Desktop

The expression a Linux Desktop means different things to different people, to the technical community is means reliability, flexibility, speed, ease of use, to everybody else, it means a free alternative to the likes of Microsoft Windows and Mac/OSX.

The most frequent question in this context; is Linux really an alternative?
The most frequent but unhelpful answer; are you seriously still using Windows?

But what is it really?

Well, you know what Windows is, the Linux Desktop does pretty much all the same stuff, it’s the same only different, it’s as good only better, I guess that doesn’t help. If you’re only familiar with one computing environment, anything else will seem quite alien and hence difficult to describe. To get us started, here are a few screen shots of the Linux Desktop in action, please click on a thumbnail to take a look.

It may look completely different to Windows, but you will notice many of the same concepts. We have a mouse with a pointer, we have a file manager, we have a media player, we have windows, we have icons we can embed on the desktop, we have menus, we have different themes / wallpapers – it’s really not so different!

The really important questions …

  • Will I be able to keep all my files and use them on Linux? – yes.
  • Will I be able to browse the Internet, read my email and MSN chat? – yes.
  • Will it be more reliable and faster than my old Windows XP machine? – yes.
  • Will it automatically immunize me against viruses killing my machine?- yes.
  • Will it talk to other computers (incl. Windows machines) on my network? – yes.
  • Will it see my Windows server and be able to share files and printers? – yes.
  • Will I be able to work with my Word docs and my Excel spreadsheets? – yes.
  • Will I get free security updates on a regular basis, like Windows? – yes.
  • Can you confirm that there are no hidden charges, is it really is free? – yes.
  • Will I have to run defrag on it regularly to stop it from locking up? – no.
  • Will I have to install and suffer anti-virus software? – no.
  • Will I have to pay for upgrades? – no.
  • Will I typically have to pay for additional programs or tools and utilities? -no.
  • Will it make the coffee? -actually, yes, but we’re not going to cover that here.

If this is true, why isn’t everyone using it?

One of the downsides of free community software is that there is no huge multi-national corporate behind it marketing it to death and forcing it into our homes. Indeed the contrary is true, Linux will one day render Windows irrelevant and it’s not something Microsoft are entirely happy about. As it happens they do have lots of money and some of that it seems has gone towards trying to keep Linux in it’s place, i.e. away from you.

Ok, if I’m interested, what should I do next?

Well, you have a number of options.

Just for a change – the choice is yours!

11 Responses to “Linux on the Desktop”

  1. avatar Ravi Gehlot says:

    I have lived in the U.S. for over 10 years and I have never seen a Linux web site like this one — simple, clean, and well explained. Keep it up!

  2. avatar Lee says:

    I am new to this but i want to get rid of my windows xp and install something new but Im a bit overwhelemed by the choice and what to do!

  3. avatar madpenguin says:

    Thanks for the feedback. I agree there is a lot to take in – if you visit the forums (link at the top of the page) and register / log in, there are lots of people who will gladly answer your questions and give you free advice.

  4. avatar Bill says:

    Lee – yes, massive choice! You don’t need to burn your XP boats, though. Speaking personally, and I’ve tried quite a few Linux distros over the past couple of years, I like Ubuntu (others will have their own favourites). Solid framework and I prefer the Gnome desktop. Ubuntu is easy to install and use, has very good community support (google ‘Ubuntu’ to see) and comes just about fully loaded. What I have found (no doubt others will disagree, but that’s part of the Linux world), is that I really need M/soft Office Powerpoint and Access (Openoffice doesn’t quite do it for me there, but is a much better w/p than Word). No problem. Either load Wine on top of Ubuntu (needs Office CD) or do what I do – use VirtualBox to run XP inside Linux (needs XP and Office install CDs). If you are really nervous, and have about 10Gb spare on your XP harddrive, go for a dual boot (google!) XP/Ubuntu. Easy, and reversible. I quickly scrubbed XP from my Harddrive.

  5. avatar JJ says:

    linux sounds an excellent alternative to windows (free part sounding the best :P) but what would the best way be to installing it on a new system, one which has no operating system on it?

    • avatar madpenguin says:

      First you need to acquire an installation CD, you can either download a CD image free of charge and burn it to a CD yourself (using a different computer) or you can buy one. (effectively pay someone else to download it and burn it for you) Then just insert the CD into your new machine, and turn it on. Then just follow the instructions …

  6. avatar JJ says:

    as simple as that awesome, thank you :)

  7. avatar mark says:

    Hi JJ,

    I know it’s been a while since you posted, but it may help others even if you’ve already installed Linux.

    We now have an Ubuntu installation guide -
    http://linux.co.uk/pages/installation/
    The process for other Linux distributions should be quite similar.

  8. avatar bill says:

    i’m referring to JJ and all the reply’s he had. I have had trouble with my laptop crashing SO, i’ve wiped the hard drive for re installation and thought i’d try Linux Ubuntu instead of reloading Vista. BUT, my laptop won’t load Linux and it won’t load Vista!! what does come up is “no operating system” so i think i got the first part of my action right. What am i doing wrong, what should i be doing next?.

  9. avatar madpenguin says:

    You should be posting your question on the Forums where you are likely to get a useful response .. :)

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