Linux Not (Never?) Ready For The Desktop
The idea that Linux is to be an alternative to Windows for the desktop is mentioned every so often. It is said that an average user can cut ties with Microsoft for good and plunge into the world of Linux at home. This has been the subject of 1000s of articles and tutorials. Times have changed and it is of course much easier to get (download) Linux iso files, burn them to a CD and try or install one of many Linux distributions. The old geeky days of command line installs and indecipherable screens are mostly behind us. Once installed there are also many good software that are very good alternatives to Windows equivalents, the exception being Microsoft Office alternatives that are often headaches in the opinion of yours truly. The biggest or most important reasons the title of this article has “Not” and “Never” in it is that there are two important failures when it comes to daily Linux use. These two deeply effect a so called newbie and even an above average user.
The first is wireless internet performance. This post is not delving into that issue – hint: maybe your laptop happens to have a ‘good’ chipset, may be not – and it is suffice to say that Google queries like “linux wireless not working” return millions of results.
The second is the issue of updates. In this case for Linux Mint or Ubuntu. It is important to note that the latter is often cited as the most user friendly of Linux distributions. To get software and other applicable updates the Update Manager monitors the computer and presents a list of available updates. The user sees notifications and can proceed anytime, when the Update Manger is opened a list is either fetched or just there. Let’s say users are updating Mint 13 LTS and decide to refresh the list in the Update Manager, they notice that the list is taking a long time to load. After they do load they are accompanied by a number of errors similar to:
‘Failed to fetch http://packages.medibuntu.org/dists/precise/Release.gpg Something wicked happened resolving ‘packages.medibuntu.org:http’ (-5 – No address associated with hostname)
After searching, try it it is not very easy to find the explanation, one arrives at posts like http://blog.linuxmint.com/?p=2469 that announce that the update repository (packages.medibuntu.org in this case) is no longer maintained and show how to avoid the errors in the future. The announcement doesn’t even offer a clear alternative so users are entitled to wonder if they can get the updates previously offered via medibuntu without further action after removing it from the software sources list. Other user to user support forums answer with lines like:
What this means? That you should remove the repositories from your sources.list to prevent errors and look for the packages you needed somewhere else or stick with the old ones that you have installed.
Of course this is just a single user replying to a question but to be in this state long after Windows 8 and years and more than a decade after fiascos like Windows Vista and ME is a failure in providing an alternative. Linux is a good thing, a very good thing, but it is not ready for mass home adaption and if it isn’t now it is perhaps never going to be.