I’ve really made a conscious effort to try to be aware of as much as I can in the area of "technology" – including stuff from the dark side. Every couple of years, I would build up a Unix or Linux machine to A) understand the good and bad of it and B) make sure I’m not "missing something" on why people still use it! I feel it’s important for me to do the install and configure it, so I understand it at a deeper level too – not just use the system, but install it.
I started doing this in the olden days when the Slackware version of Linux came out, then followed Red Hat – I still have a SparcStation that I ran SunOs 7 (I think? on) – and I messed with SCO Unix at home too.
Well nowadays, all of this becomes a lot easier because of Microsoft Virtual PC and of course, the speed of home internet connections. So within a day, I downloaded the latest Ubuntu and Fedora images (two most popular distributions of Linux) and installed them on VPC. These are both free distributions of Linux where you can download the .iso image.
First, if you want to install either – hit up live.com and search for "paravirt" and the name of the OS you are trying to install. For both OSes, you have to make some changes to the boot prompt for them to boot up OK. After that, it’s relatively smooth sailing.
So I bring this up for two reasons: 1) you should do this! It’s a good way to understand the competition and what the draw might be and 2) I wanted to give my opinion of these OSes:
In short, although they have pretty UI’s and have come a long, long, long, long, long way from Slackware (where bringing up X-Windows was a Hurculean effort) – I still come to a couple of conclusions. There isn’t much "real" software that’s runs on these. When i say real, I mean popular software that is supported by a company. I mean the installer for Fedora had several bugs – and that’s the installer for the OS! Like when you choose the hostname, you can put in DNS and gateway information, but if you go to set DHCP (which it’s already set by default) – when you confirm that, then gateway and DNS are not settable anymore (i.e. they should’ve have been settable in the first place)!
Secondly, I’m amazed at how much these UI’s are such a rip-off of Vista. In Ubuntu, they have a "UAC" type prompt for EVERYthing! And lastly, I guess I’m still disappointed at how complex everything still is. Even in 2008, you have to go to a command line and type a long statement to edit a file, then search in this config file and change a line that reads like this: kernel /vmlinuz-184.108.40.206-18.fc9.i686 ro root=dev/VolGroup00/LogVol00 rhgb quiet
For example, check out this guy: http://blogs.technet.com/seanearp/archive/2008/05/19/installing-fedora-9-sulphur-in-virtual-pc-2007.aspx – and statements like this are true:
"As mentioned before, I chose the option to encrypt my boot drive. The screenshot below is the highly intuitive user interface asking me to enter my passphrase. What else could "Enter LUKS passphrase for /dev/sda2" possibly mean?"
It’s just – Linux is still overcomplicated and obscure for the sake of being obscure. Kind of like those technical people that you meet that go out of their way to try to sound super-technical or smart, or that try to make things confusing – so they seem smarter for understanding it. It’s just counterproductive. Clearly, "let’s make this as simple, yet as powerful as possible" is still not the motto for Linux. Instead, it’s "let’s make this as complex as possible, while still trying to make it usable".