The Linux Desktop and a Myth or Two

Its been one of the major areas of discussion and blogs cover it every so often. Is the Linux desktop suitable for desktop use? What would an enterprise Linux desktop look like? Gnome? KDE? Is there a better one? Where does all this lead us when you also consider Linux adoption in enterprises? One of the myths I think is that Linux users must simply suffer these days because of some inability using any Linux desktop product. Even the so-called best of breed Linux desktop distributions like SuSE, Mandriva, Fedora all cannot produce a viable product or even service to woo people away. I blogged awhile ago about some process, control, management requirements for Linux; but I honestly think I was wrong there in some regards.

Over the past months, I’ve gone back to using Debian GNU/Linux as my desktop and laptop of choice. I don’t particularly need a fancy desktop environment since I’ve grown used to using WindowMaker and it suffices for me in most regards. My needs now are pretty simply met these days by Linux. I need a nice email application that can do IMAP decently. A modern web browser and the ability to play movie streams that are embedded is nice. Support for USB devices like my IPOD, USB Drives, my Treo 650 is nice. With the more recent 2.6 kernels these things work very well and I’m pretty satisfied. In fact, in a few areas, there are no comparable windows programs that do things at the same level. GTKpod does IPOD management for me pretty well and it takes just a bit of setup to get things right. For USB drives, I don’t need some fancy device manager since I’m kinda used to just mounting the device how i want to. Finally, my Treo 650 adapts to life with Jpilot pretty well.

But the big points are the things I don’t need. I don’t need anti-virus software and I don’t need spyware/malware applications. I don’t have this mysterious thing called a Registry which then can get corrupt and require applications to vacuum it. In a few words — I am lazy. I just have reached the pinnacle of slothfulness and laziness. Linux just kinda works and if I want to change really advanced network settings I rarely reboot to do it. I’ve reached a good point with my laptop now after doing a lot of reading about different APM modules.

Life is good I would classify with only a few reservations. One is flowcharting and diagramming. We just must have better applications for that. It used to be that I needed complex Project Management applications but these days, my needs are pretty simple there. Finally, OpenOffice 2.0 seems to suffice for most thing for me these days and I spend a bit of time in it. I don’t do a lot of graphics but I do a bit of text editing so the combination of Gedit and Vim are great!

Basic message here: If you have a set of needs and you see applications on Linux that can do the things you need. Linux makes a good substitute. But you have to be a habilis user; a tool user. You have to look at things honestly. Don’t remove the one and think without some study the other will work. Some file formats won’t be recognized (like VSD). Perhaps some day they will and we’ll have visio-like applications on Linux. I personally think Linux would really do this stuff well.

In the meanwhile, I’ve reached my laziness quotient. I understand that enterprises and ISVs may have different indicators of use and they have to explore it differently. For me, the absence of certain utilities and applications makes things very nice in the place I am at now with the tools I’ve found to use.