Desktop Linux: Can Your Users Even Handle Windows?


The trouble with most comparisons between desktop Linux distros and Windows is that they are written from the perspective of someone who is comfortable enough with a PC that they can undertake a feature-for-feature comparison in the first place.


Consider the following statement:

It all compares pretty favorably to Windows's Add/Remove Programs system, which should be familiar to everyone reading this.

If you believe that most of your users are, in fact, comfortable knocking around Control Panel, then the informal benchmarking in InformationWeek's Serdar Yegulalp's head-to-head comparison of Ubuntu Linux and Windows Vista should give you a fair idea of what your business could expect in an OS migration.


And even if your users get lost just trying change time zones on their system clocks, there's plenty of useful info in Ubuntu.


I was most struck by Ubuntu wins the install test, primarily because you can run a reasonably full-featured instance of the OS from a boot CD without wiping down your hard drive. That's a real plus, particularly for a small shop without a big test lab.


Migrating to the Thunderbird e-mail client (Ubuntu's druthers) sounds like a nightmare, but then again what e-mail migration isn't? I was more taken with this assessment of Ubuntu's hardware management capabilities:

The most common types of hardware and usage scenarios are handled the best, but the further you drift from that, the more complicated it gets. At its worst, Ubuntu's way of dealing with hardware often involves manual hacking to accomplish things that ought to be trivial (and in Windows usually are).

Another red flag for most businesses:

... if you're considering moving to OpenOffice from Office and working with existing files, make sure the documents you want to work with can be read first.

Granted, Microsoft's diddling with open document standards efforts is a major pain -- note, I didn't say surprise -- but businesses have to be able to use Word and Excel docs. Period.



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Apr 29, 2007 4:42 PM StevenEddy StevenEddy  says:
I use windows XP at work and used to have a pristine install of Win2K on the home PC, but my home PC finally received the last bit of spyware that I was going to put up with. I installed Linux.My work PC is frustrating to use on a daily basis, constant crashes, restarts and sloooww. This is a modern machine I am using. It shouldn't be so slow.With Linux I don't have to restart after installing updates or new programs. It never crashes. Never.Can we handle windows? You bet we can. But who wants to when we can get Linux, and....it does a better job.Real power users use Unix based OS's and followers use Windows. I know what the advantages of windows are, and if the only advantage is it's a good gaming machine, then I can do without windows.Microsoft products have a shelf life, and although this is good for business, it doesn't have to be this way. Wouldn't it be better to sell service or a new OS all of the time. What about global pollution? Linux will run very well on older hardware. Windows doesn't. Think of all of the old PC's that are leaching their chemicals from PC boards in our landfills when they could be recycled into usable machines.Linux can be used on an old 486 to be a phone answering machine, a fax machine, a print server for a SOHO, an automatic lighting and HVAC controller. Windows? I guess if you BUY a program to do these things it could, but not on OLDER HARDWARE.Linux is for real world users with real world hardware.Just my two cents... Reply
Apr 30, 2007 9:23 AM Old Dog Old Dog  says:
I don't realy know how many business give their workers a PC a few CDs and tell them to install and configure their PC, but I doubt there are many.If a business is serious about changing to Linux, rather than change the whole bundle, they should start by installing Linux software on their Windows PCs, for example start with OpenOffice, firefox, etc one at a time, allow them to get used to things like menues being in different places, this should be the most painful bit. But surely not much worse than upgrading an older version of Windows Office, Explorer, etcOnce they are used to the new software, changing the OS won't be a big deal, with the great advantage of using a more stable and secure system. Reply
Apr 30, 2007 9:36 AM Ilde Giron Ilde Giron  says:
All of my customers' employees amount to something near 800. We are talking corporate users and this does not include IT staffs and the like. Most of them can hardly enter the control panel as they don't know what is it for. What they usually do is process information employing a datasheet or a word processor. Very few will feel comfortable merging a list of persons into a letter without their supervisor's aid. So, the choice of operating system and asociated applications depends entirely on the IT management. In a corporate environment it is easier to setup a bunch of machines with identical features under Linux, than it is under Windows. I have helped moving some 200 desktops to Linux. One of the implementation goals has been to keep appearance as simple as needed for a corporate environment: no fancy desktops or screen savers, with very light window managers as Icewm and Xfce.Applications have been kept to a minimum: OpenOffice.org, Mozilla Firefox and Mozilla hunderbird. Other applications are installed as needed; Full control here. Formal training for employees has not taken more than 16 hours: three 4 hour modules prior to switching to new environment, and one module after a week or so, with some coaching in between. It is important to point out that migration has not been done all of a sudden. It's better to migrate some ten to twenty desktops at the time.Obviously, IT managenment has to do a lot of work before even thinking of changing a bit. Users generally tend to accept whatever tools they are given. They usually welcome the oportunity to learn to use other programs and environments. Reply
Apr 30, 2007 10:07 AM Jim Garrett Jim Garrett  says:
I don't follow your reasoning. If Windows users can't use the Windows control panel...should they be using Windows?You seem to assert that when system administration is required, most users (Linux and Windows) will have to find someone to help them.At least with Linux, when something is set up, it typically stays set up. Reply
Apr 30, 2007 12:11 PM Bob Bob  says:
Certainly in the home environment I don't think most home users can manage their Windows PC's. I end up being the "tech support" for numerous friends and family members and I have yet to find a single home PC that doesn't have at least one virus, trojan, spyware programme or some other type of malware on it.In the business environment, it doesn't make economic sense to be running Windows in most situations. Most business users are doing light office tasks, a bit of web surfing and e-mail. All of these things (and more) can easily be done with a Linux desktop.In most organizations, you might have 10% of users who are "power users" who might need the extra "bells and whistles" in a Windows (or Mac) based application.The simplest path to make the switchover is to gradually migrate the "non-technical" users over to using free and open source based applications (like Open Office.org) on their Windows-based machines. As support for Windows 2000 and/or Windows XP Pro draws to a close, one can migrate these users over to a Linux-based desktop. Since they'll have gotten used to the free and open source applications on Windows it'll be relatively easy to migrate them to these same applications on Linux.Just keep Windows and/or Mac around for that small set of "power users" who need a particular software application that isn't available yet on Linux. Reply
Apr 30, 2007 1:30 PM Chris Chris  says:
I'm certainly in agreement with most here.I'm the typical power user who administers (and builds) their own computer. To say to me "you're too dumb to use Linux" is an insult, and I've found the learning curve fairly good, and even "fun" - something that I've not experienced for a long time when doing system admin tasks.As for the non-power users, you will always need to be tech support for them. Period. My almost computer-illiterate wife managed, within 2 months of me buying her a cute compaq laptop, get it infected with more malware, spyware and junk that she got quite cranky, with the usual instructions to "fix it". So I did - I wiped out Windows XP and whacked on Ubuntu Dapper. Now, I have one less computer that I have to "tech support" because in the past 9 or 10 months, I've not had to fix anything up. She finds it easier to use, and given she isn't a gamer, has no use for XP.If someone is setting up a computer for a non-gamer, they could do it with Linux, and cut the cost, and probably plug up the holes where people like my wife tend to stuff everything up. Reply
Apr 30, 2007 2:01 PM bimbo bimbo  says:
Can Windows Users even handle Windows? You bet they can't.I used GNU/Linux and haven't had any chance of using WinXP that much. But my WinXP cousin goes for me to do simple settings or setup -- he is a lawyer by the way.:DYou think Windows is easy. It's relative according to the type of user. Reply
Apr 30, 2007 3:39 PM Aladdin Sane Aladdin Sane  says:
A simple syllogism:If users can handle neither Win nor Lin;And if Lin costs less than Win;Then Lin is the proper, economical OS choice. Reply
May 1, 2007 5:32 PM Mic' Mic'  says:
Well I couldn't agree more with all these comments. I am dealing with my mother's as well as my girls friend's computers, both running windows xp. I have so much trouble with small annoyances (programs asking for an update: no option to shut their mouth off; no possibility to rip a cd without having to login with administrator rights; Windows Media Player changes the music tags without asking even thought explicitly asked not to change anything; slowliness; viruses...) that I finally gave up an switched my girl friend to Ubuntu. What a blessing! I am now considering to switch my mother, although she is a heavy user of msn videoconferencing which is not very well supported in Linux. Ubuntu really is bringing a revolution! Reply
May 1, 2007 7:59 PM Ilde Giron Ilde Giron  says:
Jim:I think a little explanation is in order."I dont follow your reasoning. If Windows users cant use the Windows control panelshould they be using Windows?"Many Windows users have learned over the years that playing around with the control panel can be a factor of distraction in their daily work, and in some cases it could lend their system useless (i.e. when they remove an application or when they remove fonts and then all they see is a giant-font screen in front of them) so most of them just avoid it. In a Linux environment they could not even change their terminal appearance --with the corporate logo, background, etc.-- if the sysadmin doesn't allow for it."You seem to assert that when system administration is required, most users (Linux and Windows) will have to find someone to help them."Most of the sysadmins I work with, would rather keep users out of administering tasks."At least with Linux, when something is set up, it typically stays set up."Of course. This is one of the best things than could ever happen to sysadmins. They upgrade when, and if they decide an upgrade is appropriate, and even then, seldom do they have to worry about the upgrade trashing their carefuly crafted setup.regards. Reply
May 3, 2007 11:04 AM kannan kannan  says:
Linux the Secure,Inexpensive bet,The transformation & mind sets is still not driving the wave as expected globally as compared to Win.The IT management with changing technologies & the life cycles of the platforms is poised with challenges when it comes to migrate/change platformsAn important considerations to transform from Win to Linux platforms is of course the need to support legacy as well as current applications deployed, leave alone the new develoments in place/WIP and not the least to have them too incorporated. Reply
May 3, 2007 2:35 PM vikram vikram  says:
we have to fear, when linux becomes popular than(or equals)windows, then virus will start migrate to linux ,is it ? Reply
May 4, 2007 11:53 AM kannan kannan  says:
Open Source is the Way & the operational management would be lot more easier with the solutions/fixes being available for a given problem with a whole lot of community supporting the technical aspects.It is the mindset that has to change along with proper migration plans to switch over to the platform. Reply
May 4, 2007 7:15 PM Ken-Hardin Ken-Hardin  says:
Apologies for not returning to this thread earlier -- annoying VP stuff get in the way some weeks.As a point of clarification on what is probably not my most lucid bit of writing as of late -- Windows end users have become familiar with Windows (and really, more importantly, Office) via simple osmosis over the last decade or more. However, as commenters note above, they still need support for those systems. Imagine those costs over a cycle of adapting to entirely new software. Change is always costly, and the simple extent of support cost has prevented a lot of shops from making to move to software that most folks agree is quite capable and has some definite technical and entry cost advantages.I also don't mean to imply that users are stupid -- in fact, reading what I wrote as "stupid" reflects some ways the point I'm trying to make. They aren't stupid -- they just don't like computers.Thanks all for the constructive feedback -- Ken Reply
May 7, 2007 11:21 AM puritian puritian  says:
I have never liked MS Windows, except for 95b and 2000. I had to go to school to learn how to handle all the upgrades that MS has installed over the years, (from buying out companies, who stole utilities programs for Windows), and now I am very good at all windows basic programs. This was at a cost of $2300.00.I am a real big fan of linux and always been a fan, as linux is nothing more then the Soul of CPM. If you had a CPM computer, back in the 80's, you're know what I'm taking about. Yes, linux is catching up with MS, as there is little more that can be invented for the Personnal Computer, that has taken so much time for linux's program writers to accomplish at this stage of the game. Now its all abount securing your system.Windows Vista is a major pain in the ass. I have advised people who come to me about upgrading to Vista, the following information. Do not do an upgrade on your now personal computer. Instead, buy a computer with Vista already installed. You do this because, you don't know if your hard ware in compatible with Vista. Once you put Vista on your computer, you can not take it off. It is only good for (1) installation. If you run into trouble you have to get another key from MS. This can be in itself mind boggling. Whereas, with linux, upgrade are extremely simply.Thanks,Benjamin J. Bell Reply
May 7, 2007 11:24 AM puritian puritian  says:
Thanks for excepting the information I just posted on your website. Benjamin J. Bell Reply
May 8, 2007 9:12 AM Arnold L Johnson Arnold L Johnson  says:
I have been dual booting MS Windows XP and Ubuntu Linux on my home computer. Ubuntu is a good choice and a complete solution for my computing needs. What I have found is that most MS users aren't even aware of Linux and when they see it are so amazed, "hey it has windows", etc.I think that overcoming the MS Windows inertia can be done with a "live CD of Linux" also. I know people who still use AOL because of all the free discs they received. To try the product without risk is good, to be given a choice is better. Reply

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