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Is Linux finally ready for the desktop?

For the last eight years, I have seen articles proclaiming that Linux is almost ready for the Desktop. In fact, on sites like Slashdot, comments along those lines tend to get modded as ‘Funny’. But the tide seems to be turning. AMD is reportedly backing an open-source project that is looking to port the Android operating system onto PCs powered by x86-based processors.

If this sort of initiative gains momentum, will it finally see Linux make it to the mainstream market for desktop computers? And if so, is it too late? Nowadays the tech-media would have us believe that everything is shifting into the cloud. The tablet and the mobile phone have become king. The desktop computer is dead. In this article, I want to look at some of these claims and see whether Linux has any hope as a mainstream desktop operating system.

Death of the PC?
With mobile computing dominating the technology media, it is very easy to start to feel that it has become the norm. In fact, some have been bold enough to claim that the PC is dead, and some are following Steve Jobs in his declaration of a ‘post PC era’. While it is true that the PC market is somewhat different to what it was some years back, I tend to hold a much more conservative view and fall more in line with Richard Keggans’ opinion posted on Technorati earlier this year. It is clear that the large majority of business is still done on PC workstations and the Microsoft Windows still holds around 86% of the global market share. Meanwhile, Macos X holds a clear 6% and Linux owns a meagre 1%. To put that into some perspective, iOS is used by around 4% of the global population and Android by another 1%. These figures come from NetMarketShare, so they are skewed in the sense that they are calculated based on end-user internet usage. Still, it is quite sobering to realise how small a portion of the market is actually mobile based. That means that there is still hope for Linux if it is going to make it onto the mainstream desktop.

Aside from the statistics mentioned above, it is true that mobile platform usage is growing at an unprecedented rate. It is also true that all of those mobile users probably also use other devices to access the internet, so the proportions in those statistics are further skewed. The hope for Android in all of this, is that if people have familiarized themselves with the platform running on their mobile phone or tablet computer, they will be far more amenable to using the same platform on their workstation computer. Its not the vision that so many Linux advocates have hoped for, but its a good start.

Specialisation and the Cloud
One thing that mobile phones and tablets are teaching us, is that people don’t care as much about the platfrom when it comes to these sorts of devices. That’s largely because they are bought as commodities to perform pretty specific functions. Admittedly, expectations are growing and the list of functions that a phone needs to be capable of supporting seems to get longer by the day. However, I don’t expect to use my phone as a full-scale gaming console. I certainly don’t expect to use it to write lengthy articles for Memeburn. If it doesn’t run most of the applications that I need to do my work on a daily basis, I don’t see it as a flaw in the phone’s operating system. In the end, I believe that we are platform agnostic when it comes to phones because we know that they are not ideally suited to many of the functions that we expect to be able to perform on other devices, such as the PC.

So, when it comes to non-mobile devices we are a bit more picky about platforms. There are two core reasons that those statistics I mentioned earlier are so heavily biased toward Windows platforms. The first is because Windows is used ubiquitously within the large majority of workplace environments. That’s because applications that are commonly used within the workplace are frequently designed to run on Windows platforms. A great example of this is Microsoft Outlook and Microsoft Exchange. Since Outlook is really the only mail client that can take full advantage of all of the features offered by Exchange, it is the most sensible client to use within these environments. While there is an Outlook client for MacosX and OpenChange has produced a library to use inside of Linux, neither option really competes with running Outlook natively on its home platform. Indeed, there are a host of other business applications that are native only to Windows that make the use of an alternate platform almost impossible. The other huge factor, for the dominance of Windows within the marketplace, is the games market. With dedicated Games Consoles becoming more of the norm, this card is likely to be playing out its last rounds. Nonetheless, it is clear that the many users who still game on their PCs are held captive to the Windows market.

It is this specialization that makes platform adoption so strong within the realm of the PC. But technology pundits are telling a different story today. Data is rapidly moving out into ‘the cloud’ and our business applications are increasingly web-based. Cloud based computing is all about escaping the bounds of your local computing platform, so that you are able to perform all of your computing activities on any device, wherever you are. If this is the case, it strongly suggests that businesses will have a powerful cost incentive to switch to using Linux workstations within the enterprise. With the exception of many 3D games, home users will also find that using Linux on their PCs will reduce cost of ownership and will help to minimize many security issues. But if all of our data is sitting out in the cloud and all of our applications are running out of a web browser, does it even matter if we are using Linux or Windows, or should we now be worrying about what web browser we should be using?

The truth of the matter is that there are many limitations when it comes to cloud computing. Firstly, with all of that ‘ease of access’ comes a range of security implications. Then you have migration costs. If you’re a business and you have working software, you’re not likely to migrate unless there are real business pressures that are forcing you to do so. And then, just as with other platforms, the applications that you tend to use, just might not have made it out into the cloud yet. These factor slow down adoption, and while straight technologists and the media are really excited about the prospects of cloud computing, realistically most businesses are still at least a decade away from having all of their applications out in the cloud. That leaves one last hope for Linux adoption. Virtualisation.

Many years back, when I wanted to run Windows applications, I had one of two choices. The first option was to run in a dual-boot environment and restart my computer whenever I wanted to access anything in Windows. That was a nightmare. Often I only wanted to do something for five minutes in Windows, and then carry on working in Linux. Option 2 was far friendlier. Wine, ironically named so because ‘Wine is not an emulator’, is an emulated Windows environment that allows you to run many Windows applications under Linux. It works pretty well, but it has its fair share of bugs and certainly there is a long list of software which just won’t run under Wine. In the last few years though, PC computing power has reached a level where the average home computer can run multiple virtual operating systems at once. There are a number of ways to run an Operating System image within a virtual machine under Linux, but VirtualBox is probably one of the most user-friendly.

By running a Virtual Machine on your PC, it is easy to take advantage of the best of both worlds. You can choose the platform that you feel most comfortable running and then load a virtual machine to access the applications that are platform specific. This provides the enterprise with the chance to allow end users to switch platform while still maintaining existing software and services. For businesses, virtualization helps to reduce costs and ease maintenance significantly, and as a result it is something that many businesses already make use of in some form or another for their server infrastructure. But it is high time to start exploring virtualization for the common workstation.

As a long-time Linux user, I would say that Linux has been ready for the desktop for years now. But, if Linux has any hope of mainstream desktop adoption, projects like the Android x86 will help to drive this. The fact that many users are already familiar with the Android interface makes it easier to adopt. Of course, for Android to gain any respect in the enterprise workplace, it needs to improve its reputation with regard to security. While Android isn’t your usual idea of a Linux distribution, its Linux core offers many of the benefits that Linux advocates believe in. The fact that devices are slowly converging, means that having a common platform to work with across your devices is very appealing to end users.

As applications and data move out into the cloud, it is clear that your workstation platform will become less and less relevant. But we have a long way to go before we get anywhere near there. Linux can, and does, offer many opportunities along the way. Lower costs and generally good security are appealing to businesses and home users alike. For any Linux distribution (including Android) to make it onto the mainstream desktop, those virtualization tools will need to become a lot more seamless. That’s not far away. I was particularly impressed by Ulteo OVD, which allows you to access both Windows and Linux applications from a single virtual desktop. This flexibility to run different applications on a common desktop served by different underlying operating systems is a powerful concept. You can run Linux quite happily, while using virtual machines to handle all of your application platform requirements.

When Linux finally makes it to the Desktop, it will not be anything near to what any of us ever meant.

Image: G-Cyborg

Author | Rowan Puttergill: Columnist

Rowan Puttergill: Columnist
Rowan Puttergill is a technology evangelist and software engineer with a long career working in enterprise environments. He brings with him the experience of being the Technical Editor at SA Computer magazine, and a career history as a technical author. He is a huge advocate of open-source technologies, and... More
  • Linux has already been on my desktop for many years, and I couldn’t be happier. But as far as “the year of the Linux desktop” goes, where Linux topples Windows on the desktop, I don’t see it happening. If Apple can’t do it after all these years with all of their advertising revenue and clout, I don’t see Linux doing it. And it doesn’t need to. As long as there is a need for it, no matter how small, and there are people willing to invest time in it, it doesn’t need to be #1, or even #2. It can stay in its #3 spot and be perfectly successful. It succeeds by filling a need where Windows and MacOS can’t, even if that need isn’t mainstream. Some Linux distros are extremely easy to use (I’m using Linux Mint, and it’s easy, and great!). I’m happy to let Linux Mint make me more productive than Windows and Mac ever could.

  • Kevin Fishburne

    Linux is like sushi. Most people say, “Raw fish, yuck! Where’s a Domino’s or Burger King?” while those who know what’s up with sushi couldn’t imagine a world without it. I personally love sushi and eat it as often as possible.

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  • Running Linux on my desktop for almost a decade now. I still use Windows from time to time, dual boot or through a VM.  Until you can get over your Windows mentality, shifting to a Linux desktop will always be hard. That is tough for the majority of the people because they can’t let go.

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  • dave

    Really tired of these articles.  I sell more Linux-based systems, than Windows nowadays.  It’s always a simple matter of cost.  I show them how much Windows will add to the cost of the system I never more than the actual price tag, for Windows, but it’s naturally so high that it scares off 90% of my clients.  Which is fucking awesome.  I typically demonstrate a customized Ubuntu setup that wins over even the most closed-minded people.

    Here’s the secret that no one wants to discuss.  People don’t need Windows-based products anymore.. and if you do happen to need Photoshop or some specific video editing software, you already make enough money to afford Windows, so it’s a no-brainer.

    In truth, most of the people who claim to “need” Windows, only want it to continue pirating expensive software.  When you stop pirating and really weight the costs, the average person can’t even come close to affording a nice system.

    This is a fact.  So, please.. stop trashing Linux with this “maybe it’ll be ready someday” horse shit.

  • dave

    “I never CHARGE more than the actual price tag” I omitted an entire word, duh!

  • Rowan Puttergill

    Indeed… I have been a Unix/Linux user for years now, and I have generally been very happy with it as a desktop operating system. Part of the push to get Linux into the mainstream is to also encourage developers to support their applications on it. A great example is my new Garmin Forerunner (kindly purchased for me by a bunch of friends who think I really need to get some more exercise). For the last 5 years or so, Linux users have complained incessantly to Garmin to ask for better support under Linux. Some great workarounds have been achieved, and I am happy to say that I can get things working fine, but everything is really cobbled together with a bunch of command-line tools and scripts that would scare the living daylights out of your average non-techy user.
    The point is… that as Linux gains momentum within the Desktop User market, software and hardware manufacturers need to take it more seriously when they release their applications and products.

  • Rowan Puttergill

    Actually, I am far from trashing Linux… I use it every day. It has been my mainstream desktop for well on 10 years now. Before that, I was a BSD man ;-)
    Statistically, as a desktop operating system, it has always been exceedingly marginal. I am intrigued that you are able to succeed at outselling Windows machines with Ubuntu to end-users. Where are you based? Do you think that Linux is commonly used as an end-user desktop environment? Do you sell to businesses?
    My point is that even with initiatives like the Android port to x86 PC architecture, Linux still has a long way to go if it has a chance of gaining mainstream desktop user following and if it ever does, it may no longer be relevant which operating system you choose to make use of.

  • Rowan Puttergill

    Yes, but its often surprising how quickly non-tech users adapt to Linux desktop environments. For close friends and family, I have managed to convince many to try it out before upgrading their copy of Windows. Most of them have just stuck to it once its installed, and are more than happy using it. Okay, they have the benefit of my own personal support. Still nothing warms my heart more than hearing my mum say: “so I did that sudo thing… how do I install the movie program again?”

  • Rowan Puttergill

    I’m a vegetarian… I’m still trying to work out what that means in your analogy… maybe its a hangover from my BSD days ;-)

  • dave

    I must admit to skimming your article; my apologies for the trashy implications.

    I currently reside in central Florida and work out of my home.  Sometimes I’ll travel to a customer, but I usually make them come to me.  I do phone and web based consulting, as well.  Coming to me however, gives them the opportunity to see several different incarnations of Linux, whether it’s an HTPC, something budget/entry-level, or a big-ass workstation.  The hands-on demonstration experience certainly sells itself.  Despite what some may believe, the average person does not play games on their computer and has no practical use for expensive, professional software.  The average person also already has all of their accessories and monitor.  Big companies always want to make you get some extra crap, just buy the system.

    It’s all about cost and options.  When people see all the variations of interface layout, they’re always astounded how flexible it is.  Then the low price seals the deal.

    I haven’t sold many full-time servers.  I also don’t sell a lot of laptops, because I despise working on them.. but I am going to have to change that soon, because I’ve REALLY begun to feel the demand.  I am considering joining the Shuttle affiliate program, but I’m also looking at Intel’s brandable ultrabooks and possibly a line of tablets, though I still feel like the novelty is about to wear off for most people.

    I have only managed to wrangle 2 ACTUAL business customers in the last year (both small offices that were completely redone) – most of my clients are students, the unemployed and the self-employed.. I mostly rely upon word-of-mouth.  I use (fe)eBay as little as possible, but it’s necessary during slow periods.

    I sell plenty of rebuilt/used machines, too.. because of how much money it saves the average client.  Example: I just sold a Pentium4 system (with AGP!) for $150 and the guy was nearly crying because he was so happy with the performance.  (I was given a big hug at the end of the deal)  He had just lost his job and the death of his computer could not have been more poorly timed.  I only charged him for the parts, basically, because he ditched his dead eMachines for me to part-out. 

    Imagine you’re unemployed, not a technician and your computer is DEAD.. but you NEED it (to apply for jobs and continue living somewhat of a normal life).  You know a new computer will cost you at least $400 and even then it will be the bottom line.  Despite what the manufacturer claims, it runs like a crippled pig, when using Windows 7.  Then someone shows you something that runs better than your old computer, does everything you need it to, looks prettier and is $250 cheaper.  It’s a no brainer for the average person.

    My prime example is my mother.  She is intimidated by all things-computer, yet has been happily using Linux for about 5 years.  I have to swoop in to help sometimes, but it’s got nothing to do with Linux being difficult to use.. ;)

    I guess just start showing it off to people you assume won’t care.  They will be impressed if the circumstances allow it.

    I should note that I never tell anyone to avoid Windows, if I know they need it.  Windows is fine.

  • Yk1spartan

    there are no windows computers in my house and it has been so for the past 5yrs. my kids have no issues using ubuntu and click away like its the norm, even though they use windows at their school. my only issue with suppliers is the windows tax i have to pay when i need a new laptop but i reckon with the new consumer protection act i can finally get a refund. at least with the starter versions of windows the tax is not so high.

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  • glen quagmire

    The only thing more tedious than the Death of the Desktop computer (which is even more irritating when you consider that the PC-less utopia is an american market ideal and doesnt touch the realities of the rest of the planet) is Is Linux ready for the desktop?
    Its ready, its been ready now for the past 3-4 years.
    Fully functional and better with much more variety than the two other OS.
    Great on new computers and even better to prolong the life of old ones (nothing is greener than NOT buying a new computer every 6months and recycling older ones), the Linux desktop(S) are ready.

    Market place penetration is another.
    Depends on a multitude of factors (like the BestBuy salesman pushing the 250$ Win netbook a few years ago because he can sell a 150$ package to install antivirus and anti malware programs) and the netbook saga showed exactly how much control Microsoft has over OEM’s (you think the 1gb limit and 250GB HD were an accident? Or the sabotaging of the OLPC?).
    Having a good product does not guarantee anything.

    I switched to Linux around 2007 when the desktop was finally solving all its problems (wifi, etc) and XP was coming to its end.
    4 years later and I have an XP partition left than I use for a chess game I like.
    I am writing from the XP side and cant remember when teh last time I used it this year (when this HD goes it wont be a dual boot but XP will run in Virtuabox). I tried Linux a few times over the past decade, using it to save people’ info on dead computers and 2007 (PCLinuxOS got me to switch)
    was when I thought my immediate family could handle it.

    And as the ‘computer guy’ in my family, I have since moved a good majority of them to Linux (saving me tons of time) and with a dozen seniors now using Linux regularly, I can say that the Linux desktop is ready for mom and pops (mom, aunts and inlaws never used a computer before).
    Best of all, a desktop like KDE allows me the freedom to configure it to how the USER WANTS it. Not me or some UI genius.
    My family (kids use everything, my sons friends all use KDEnlive to edit their stunts and have no problems when theyre here) is the best example that Linux has been ready for some time now.

    Whether some distro manages to make deals with OEMs has nothing to do with it being ready.

    One is about marketing-deals-BS and other is about technology

    I agree wtih waht you wrote but I dont think Android will do much for the Linux desktop with Joe User who doenst know that Android uses the Linux kernel. You know and I know but the average consumer doenst EVER see Linux mentioned in ads.

  • Anonymous

    ” use it every day. It has been my mainstream desktop for well on 10 years now.”   Doesn’t feel like it. Feels like more of a paid NLP article designed to keep people scared away from GNU/Linux.

  • Anonymous

    OMFG. My 70 yo mother uses Ubuntu while probably doesn’t even know how operating system is called.  I call this ready.

  • Orion

    I am a teacher and have introduced Ubuntu to quite a number of students who are still using it and, over time, in preference to Windows which they keep and use really only when they want to play games.

    Their Internet browsing and work are done almost exclusively in Ubuntu. Surprisingly, almost none of them use Linux Mint, even 12 with the tweaked version of Gnome 3.

    I guess the difference here is the generation gap. They have grown up more accustomed to a graphical-icon interface than older adults who have grown up with the traditional Windows desktop interface, which I believe explains the adult prefence for the Gnome 2 interface.

    Day before yesterday, I helped one student install the latest version of Ubuntu after he had messed up Ubuntu 10.10 and did not know how to rescue it. He had Windows on his computer but still insisted that he wanted Ubuntu.

    When I first installed Ubuntu for him, he insisted that Windows should be the default choice on Grub. This time, however, he does not care. In fact, most of his computer use is on the Internet and for this he prefers Ubuntu as he says Windows is getting slower and slower. Part of the reason may be the 3D games he installed in it. And, like the rest, he truly uses Windows only for the 3D games.

    After the new install, I showed him how to download, burn Clonezilla, back up the new Ubuntu installation and did a mock run of a restore.

    There is one common thread through all the discussions and debates and also happening at school and with the students on their Ubuntu installs – the use of either Docky or Cairo Dock in preference to either Unity or Gnome 3.

    I personally prefer Docky and in Unity I can drag and drop program icons on to it. I have not succeeded with Gnome 3 but a student found out that after opening a program, he could “pin” the icon permanently on to Docky.

    With the Internet also, I find my students using more and more cloud services as well as Google Docs.

    As a desktop OS, Linux is more than ready. The only disadvantage is the support from software and hardware vendors, or the lack of it. Hardware, however, is becoming less and less of a problem while software on Linux is more than good enough for the average person and even for enterprise users. The French Police have made Ubuntu their official OS.

    A couple of months ago, we purchased a new colour Ricoh multifunction copier / printer / scanner (the latest model) for the library and connected it to the network. Ubuntu 11.04 only had the previous model’s driver which still worked properly though somewhat slow. When 11.10 came out, it identified the model correctly and we have been printing and scanning more speedily over the network with no problems. Ricoh did not have a Linux driver. Funny thing, though, Lubuntu 11.10 did not have the latest driver and not even the older one.

    For this, I at least have to admire the work done on Linux (or Ubuntu) to keep up with the drivers to run newer hardware while retaining older (discontinued) hardware. HP printers are a good example.

    On the number of distros and desktops available, I hold a different view from most other users and that is I believe this to be a good thing and not something that is holding back the adoption of the Linux desktop. It’s like buying a car or any motor vehicle to suit one’s needs as under the hood the basic techonology powering it is the same. If I don’t like Unity, I can switch or adapt, like adding Docky or Cairo Dock with a couple of simple clicks.

    Observing my students using Ubuntu and Mint is a prime example of how good this is.

    I believe the answer for the future lies in the younger generation. Already, some students have actually installed and started using Linux on their computers in primary school at 9 or 10 years of age, with one of them starting with Ubuntu 8.04 while I did not start until 9.04.

    When they grow up and start their careers and later some become CEOs, which path will they take? The Linux or Windows or Mac path? One parent is already migrating his workplace to Ubuntu – server and desktop.

    I personally believe the young will carry (though not all) the Linux flag into the future simply because they have already learned to like it whether in the form of Ubuntu, Mint or any other distro.

    Till now, none of my students have said they dislike Ubuntu or Mint and uninstalled them from their computers. The reverse have actually happened with Windows Starter being completely wiped out from purchased netbooks – recovery partition and all – and replaced with Ubuntu 11.10 (with Docky added).

  • Noam

    Linux is great and I have tried various distros since 2007. 

    Unfortunately, I still use Microsoft Windows XP OS (with a lot of tweaks to run my machine faster, but perfect) as my main OS.
    The only problem that I see in Linux is compatibility with Microsoft Office, mainly with Word and Powerpoint files. Till now Openoffice or LibreOffice does not give a fair answer. If you create a combination of text and images in documents or slides, in most of the cases there will be problems with opening and mainly with editing those files, to send them back to an Microsoft Office user (on Mac or Ms Windows).

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  • Rowan Puttergill

    Wow! Thanks for your lengthy and insightful comment. Its good to see feedback like this, and to hear how well Linux adoption is going in schools. Your point about the generation gap is really important. I believe that as we get older we really struggle with change. Kids that are growing up in an environment where they switch devices and interfaces all the time seem to have much less trouble adopting different technologies. In my article, I suggest that general user familiarity with Android may help to ease the transition for many older users.
    You also helped to point to some of the common hangups with Linux adoption, the main two being 3D Gaming and Software/Hardware support. Certainly, hardware is generally becoming a lot easier to deal with, but on the software side there is still a lot of reservation on the side of software vendors to commit to porting and then supporting their applications under Linux.
    From all of these comments, which really are commendations for the operating system as a standard desktop environment, I hope vendors take a bit more notice.

  • Rowan Puttergill

    I guess that part of the problem here is that we still have this idea that we need to save things in formats the MS Office users can handle. I often think that since OpenOffice and LibreOffice are free and capable of running on Windows, that expectation should shift. Certainly, at the very least, if people working in Open Document Format sent their files in their native format, MS Office would need to handle opening these files more easily. Also, it would help to educate MS Office users that sending files to other Internet connected users in a proprietary format is really unacceptable.

  • Rowan Puttergill

    Good to hear that your kids are comfortable working between the two operating systems. A number of novice user converts on my side seem to be able to do the same without too much trouble.
    The ‘windows tax’ is interesting. In Europe, this problem has almost disappeared. There are a load of computer vendors that allow you to buy without an operating system installed and at a discounted rate. On the other hand, if you run Linux, having a copy of a Windows license is always handy if you want to run Windows on VirtualBox for some of those devices or applications that are just overly Windows friendly. Nowadays, I see it as less of a tax, and more of an opportunity to be able to use two Operating Systems in conjunction with each other. :)

  • Rowan Puttergill

    I wish I got paid by the NLP. Money is always welcome. :D
    I am sorry that you feel that this article was a ‘scare’ article. Actually, my original title was just ‘Linux on the Desktop’ and I toyed around with something like ‘Linux and the Death of the PC’, which probably would have been better.
    My point was not so much to say that Linux is not ready for the desktop, but more about how mainstream adoption is affected by various trends taking place in the market at the moment.

  • Rowan Puttergill

    Thanks for your comment. KDEnlive rocks! I started playing with it a number of years back and spent some time on their IRC channel giving testing feedback etc. It is amazing to see how polished the team have made the product in such a short space of time. If you need to do any video editing under Linux, KDEnlive is definitely worth checking out.
    I fully agree that Linux is actually perfectly usable for any desktop user. The thrust of my article is really about technology trends and how they will affect mainstream adoption. Your point about Android effectively hiding the underlying OS is interesting. Actually, this is very evident when you look at the statistics I mentioned in my article. For some reason, stats sites and the media in general, always seem to differentiate between Android and Linux usage. Its actually a bit annoying… I guess I have partially fallen into the same trap.

  • Noam

    You made a good point, but… how do you think will be the best way to convince them to use ODF  files?
    I have an idea but I am not sure it will work.I am a scientist, and like all of people that doing research, we read a lot, work and then publish our results – all of this using office applications mainly, most of us share our data with other researchers around the world previous publishing and that the way we build the article. 99.9% of the scientists I have seen are using MS Office under Windows or Mac.  In the submission of the article to the related magazine, we have to upload in a Microsoft doc format. So if we will convince all those important magazines like “Nature”, “Science”, “Cell” ext. to upload the final manuscript in Open Document Format, what will happen is that all the scientist will be exposed to this format (most of them in their first time). This will saw the first seeds…Why?? Most of those scientist are working in universities and teach a huge population of students that replaced every year. If they will start to use ODF the students will use the same format and with this way the population of ODF users will grow logarithmic and will open the gate for forced MS Windows users use Linux smoothly.The only problem now, is how you convince those Magazine editors.

  • Noam

    You made a good point, but… how do you think will be the best way to convince them to use ODF  files?
    I have an idea but I am not sure it will work.I am a scientist, and like all of people that doing research, we read a lot, work and then publish our results – all of this using office applications mainly, most of us share our data with other researchers around the world previous publishing and that the way we build the article. 99.9% of the scientists I have seen are using MS Office under Windows or Mac.  In the submission of the article to the related magazine, we have to upload in a Microsoft doc format. So if we will convince all those important magazines like “Nature”, “Science”, “Cell” ext. to upload the final manuscript in Open Document Format, what will happen is that all the scientist will be exposed to this format (most of them in their first time). This will saw the first seeds…Why?? Most of those scientist are working in universities and teach a huge population of students that replaced every year. If they will start to use ODF the students will use the same format and with this way the population of ODF users will grow logarithmic and will open the gate for forced MS Windows users use Linux smoothly.The only problem now, is how you convince those Magazine editors.

  • Rowan Puttergill

    If you already publish in any of these magazines, contact them and ask them if you can provide your articles in an alternative format. Explain that you and your colleagues tend to use word-processors that output in ODF and you would prefer to provide your documents in this format. As far as I know, Microsoft added ODF support to Office way back in 2008, with Office 2007 SP2 being capable of opening ODF documents. Admittedly you might find that there are a few formatting issues, but on the whole support is not that bad, particularly on the word processing side, so there is no reason that a magazine should turn you down for sending your articles through in an open format that they have the tools to access.
    Memeburn gladly accepts my documents in my own quirky plain text format, with wiki style markup. I guess if a magazine really wants to publish what you have to say, they will be willing to accommodate the format that you provide your writing in. That said, Memeburn is pretty forward thinking and friendly with their writers!

  • Orion

    You’re welcome!

    Yes, it’s true about the age part. I notice that the teachers in the school are almost all “stuck” with Windows and MS Office.

    To “add more fuel to the fire”, just today, two new students showed up, aged about 12 and in our conversation, I learned that they had experimented with different operating systems on their computers, and one is trying his hand at video and adding special effects too.

    I notice too that the younger teachers who have just graduated from university move around in Windows much more quickly than the older teachers as well as being able to be more flexible when faced with computer problems.

    Yes, it does take older users longer to adapt but it’s not impossible as I have seen quite a number of times. One student’s mother refused at first even to consider using Ubuntu though she only browses the Internet, but now she does – 2 to 3 years later.

  • Noam

    I will give a try

  • Pingback: Is Linux finally ready for the desktop? | Virtual Desktop()

  • Been using Fedora for 2 years now (both at work and at home) and I am never going back to Windows. It’s so much easier to use and maintain, I can’t believe I’d been banging my head against the wall (well, window) for so long. But it’s very important to have someone close to you to show you that all the talk about Linux not being user-friendly is just bullshit. 
    My parents are also using Fedora, but they had never used anything else, so they were pretty much clean minds, easier to adapt. They mainly use Skype and a browser, so it’s a perfect fit. And we can upgrade the OS remotely.

  • Sharkfinger

    I asked for my new work machine not to have an OS pre-installed, so I could install Linux. Then installed Ubuntu. The following story will be familiar to far too many people:

    Oh wait; the multi-head graphics card isn’t supported. Better swap it out for one that is, then download and install the drivers from NVidia. Oh wait, the on-board intel ethernet port doesn’t work (really??!!). Download and install the driver (E1000 module) first.

    If you think I’m just talking about drivers and that’s not really Linux’s fault then consider the following:

    I’m behind a corporate proxy but don’t worry, I can configure that system-wide. Turns out you can’t:

    6 months after it was initially reported, this bug still isn’t fixed. So do I downgrade to the 3 year old version or just struggle on? No; I install windows 7 and use Linux in a VM.

    Corporate users just cannot have these kinds of problems; time is money. They will ditch it and get something that makes their people productive. Linux gets branded as a false economy.

    Now, there are those of you who’ll flame me for what I’ve said. A few years ago I would have done the same but bear in mind that I’m by no means a newbie: I’m an IT pro and I’ve been using Linux both at home and professionally (desktop and server) for over 16 years and it sickens me that Linux not only not progressed in the last few years, it actually seems to have regressed in terms of usability (Gnome3 anyone?).

    BTW, I used various distros on my laptop at home and get lots of the same problems. I have neither the time nor inclination to battle my O/S every day.

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