The NYTimes has an article on installing Linux
March 1, 2001 6:28 AM   Subscribe

The NYTimes has an article on installing Linux for novices. Is Linux really getting mainstream? This article requires a free subscription to be read.
posted by Loudmax (13 comments total)
If I had as much (or more) difficulty installing Linux as the I had in following what the writer did, I am certainly not ready to jump to Linux. He makes the point that it is risky,m a bit complex, etc and not for ninnies like me.
posted by Postroad at 7:17 AM on March 1, 2001

Any 5 year old can do a linux installation these days. A 7 year old can do a custom install on your laptop so it saves space and perform a few adjustments so it doesn't crash.

The only place where I see problems for setup is hardware detection/drivers, but the overall installation process for most new distributions is simple, pop bootable cd in, go through a setup, select packages, install lilo and that's all.

There is however no point in switching to Linux you see, sure it is stable, but X is not a lot of times, you have to spend hours to get stuff like ttf to work, installing something is a mess requiring hand coding a lot of the time, and there is no good software for it.
posted by tiaka at 7:42 AM on March 1, 2001

I guess it depends what you mean by "good software" :)
posted by sonofsamiam at 7:52 AM on March 1, 2001

Felix, do you think your parents could go through a linux install? pop bootable cd in, go through a setup, select packages, install lilo and that's all.

Riiight. Like most people even know what a package IS. Five bucks says that the average neophyte installer probably throws in sendmail and apache simply because they don't know enough not to.

I do, however, agree with you on the "no point in switching to Linux" bit. For the average user, (ie. your girl/boyfriend's parents, or your grandma, or somebody who just wants to 'do email') there's no point in running linux. This debate always comes up... Is Linux "getting mainstream", or will it "de-throne M$"?

It just won't, because you have to have an innate desire to understand the internal workings of your machine to want to run linux. Your dad probably doesn't need to run things from the command line, and your next door neighbor has no desire to bust ass to find a compatible NIC card for his default redhat install. The simple truth is, you plug shit in in windows, and by and large, it works. The same can NOT be said of Linux. Until it can, the "mainstream" discussion will best be left to all of the places that Cam doesn't like to go anymore.
posted by liquidgnome at 8:28 AM on March 1, 2001

I guess mine, coming from mac/win side, is Adobe and Macromedia stuff, Photoshop, Dreamweaver and so on. I guess that's what I use, thus that is my definition. And don't even try to tell me about gimp, gimp is powerful in that 'I can create 10k new filters that create bumpy backgrounds' type of way but it's like hell to use and the best features, modeled after photoshop, are undeveloped and often don't work well. There are like 4-5 games for the mac, quake and I guess starcraft could run fine through wine though no for you.

And you are right, lg, maybe my parents couldn't install it, but the point I guess I was trying to make is that it's not as hard as everyone makes it out to be, often times it's linux itself that's the problem, not the installation.
posted by tiaka at 8:46 AM on March 1, 2001

I'd hate to be this writer's friend mentioned in the article. I can imagine the late night calls every few days: "I just shut it off, and now when I boot it is says I have to run fsck in root, what is that? Where do I download things and how do I unzip an rpm? What are 'patches' and how do I install them? Is it bad to see a message saying I am now 'owned' by someone?"

If the writer wants to dabble in *nix, MacOS X is probably more their speed. A shiny happy face on bsd that lets people stay in a GUI until they want to go command line.
posted by mathowie at 8:51 AM on March 1, 2001

The actual linux installation is never the problem. It's the maintenance and daily use of the system. Unless there is a big push from mainstream app developers I don't see much of a point for linux on my desktop. Linux as my server on the other hand has been fantastic for a number of years.

I looking forward to OSX, and for one of my co-workers to upgrade their mac so I can snag the machine to play with OSX on. :-) Though $3000 for a desktop unix machine is a bit much.
posted by captaincursor at 9:55 AM on March 1, 2001

I installed Linux for the first time the other day. RedHat bootable CDs. Easy-peasy for an NT pro like me ;-). Except it wasn't. For some reason, I didn't get the lovely graphic installer I read about in the PDFs. For some reason X wouldn't start. For some reason the xf86config program (great name) actually corrupted my settings file rather than allowing me to fix it. After manually editing the file, and doing a complete reinstall, I got it to work.
Unfortunately, that's just not good enough. The problem is that Linux people aren't (generally) interface people, and interface people sell operating systems.
Linux won't stop evolving, and I hope that the interface evolves too, but without getting the right people interested, it's going to be an uphill struggle.
posted by flimjam at 9:55 AM on March 1, 2001

I'm guessing -- wildly, perhaps -- that writing executable code is something that can be done by masses of people, but crafting a distinct, coherent graphic interface cannot. So far Linux has, as the writer described, a sort of generic Mac/Win sort of look, nothing new.

That startling sort of stroke so many of us are waiting for -- something analagous to the introduction of the Mac in 1984 -- is not going to emerge from the Linux community in its current configuration.
posted by argybarg at 10:44 AM on March 1, 2001

I wouldn't give Linux to my mother - that's what BeOS is for.

I think it's unfair to say that installing Linux is difficult in comparison to windows. Most people don't install windows. If they did they would find Corel Linux, Mandrake or Redhat easier to install (they all have automatic installations for idiots, they even preserve the windows partition). When all you want is a word processor, email and web browser, printing and a spreadsheet/database - then Linux doesn't offer anything that Windows doesn't (BeOS... BeOS).

I would give the mandrake 8 beta to my sister, though.
posted by holloway at 3:58 PM on March 1, 2001

i have caldera openlinux on my laptop in a 550mb partition. it has gimp, wordperfect 8, apache, mysql, php and netscape. i find caldera, suse and corel easy to install and use. some how my laptop never worked well with redhat.

the only reason linux is not flying off in the desktop is the lack of printer drivers. the bottleneck is in the ability to share the work u do in your computer. also, there arent too many isps that support linux. if aol made a linux version, that could go a long way in legitimizing linux on the desktops.
posted by tamim at 10:44 PM on March 1, 2001

Most people don't install windows.

No, most people install it over and over again...
posted by Jart at 9:00 AM on March 2, 2001

No, most people install it over and over again...

No, most people just complain and whine about how crappy and slow their computer is getting until either (a) a tech-savvy friend gets around to reinstalling for them or (b) they get a new PC.
posted by daveadams at 12:05 PM on March 2, 2001

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