The Year of the Linux Desktop: Is it here yet?

In 2014, I installed Xubuntu on four of my friends’ laptops. At least one of them is using it actively, for day-to-day tasks.

Impressed by the performance, Sud avoids booting into his Windows 7 installation, unless absolutely necessary. However, I’m not sure if he’d be able to utilize GNU/Linux to the fullest without me around.

Observing Sud’s case, I notice three areas which have been holding back the fabled Year of the Linux Desktop.

Sharing

India is a place where people believe in sharing. And that extends to software as well. It is common to find Android users sharing APKs with friends. That means GNU/Linux, which encourages the idea of sharing, should be quite popular in here, right?

Wrong.

With the current situation of the ecosystem, sharing of GNU/Linux applications is overly difficult. Let’s see. How would you go around sharing a copy of an application with Sud, when he’s running low on his Internet pack?

  1. Say you get it from the Ubuntu repo. What next? The files are scattered across the scores of directories in the file system. Would you run around fetching each one of them?
  2. Another way: you might download the .deb file from the APT repo. Next thing you know, it has 38 dependencies. Nope, sorry.
  3. Building from source? What a drag!
  4. Fetch a binary from the website. In most cases, all they would give you is an executable file. It won’t show up in the menu and you won’t see update notifications. Few applications are available directly as .deb or .rpm, so that the repos are added automatically.

Now let’s say you want to do something similar on Windows: all you have to do is share the setup.exe and you’re good to go. End of story.

(Before you ask, no, I’m never going back to Windows.)

Update: Alldeb and Superdeb are trying to tackle this.

Installation

The installation of most distros seems to as easy as it can get. But is it easy enough for a noob?

Turns out, if you want to install a distro, you need someone with at least rudimentary experience at installing it (or enough curiosity to rummage the Web and find out for yourself).

There’s not much that we as a community can do in this direction. The only way out of this, is that OEMs sell more machines with GNU/Linux preinstalled.

Necessary proprietary evil

Quick question: Sud just booted up his freshly installed copy of Xubuntu, only to find that movies won’t play. What is the first thing that comes to his mind?

Option a: “Whoa! No codecs! I should immediately do a sudo apt-get update and install the xubuntu-restricted-extras package.”

Option b: “That sucks. I’ll just go Windows for now.”

Again, there’s not much we can do here, other than sulking and waiting for the download.


These are some of my observations on what has been putting off the Year of the Linux Desktop. Would you rather have had a longer list? Or perhaps shorter? Do comment about it.

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7 thoughts on “The Year of the Linux Desktop: Is it here yet?

  1. reached your article from your comment on “http://betanews.com/2015/01/25/windows-10-is-the-final-nail-in-the-coffin-for-the-linux-desktop”

    1) on your “installation argument”:
    1.1) i may point that there is superdeb format
    1.2) http://portablelinuxapps.org/ is also one solution
    http://sourceforge.net/projects/portable/files/64bit/
    ********This^ is the real solution****
    1.3) probably docker based apps may also lead to solve this problem
    so we are progressing towards it in good way

    (apart from that: within next 5 years internet charges dropping even more and with introduction of Windows store in MSwindows, people are going to be more accepting of the fact of installation of app through internet)

    2) on “necessary evil” i will like to mention that even if we ignore mint(with codecs bundled) linux, still the most important thing is that FAT,mp3 and lots of important patents are going to expire in year 2017 . So apart from H.264 , many of the important restricted formats will become free(as in freedom). Even in case of H.264, after introduction of cisco’s openH.264 into firefox 34, shows that this problem will also solve. Apart from that Daala scheduled release in 2016, which i expect to become IETF standard – should give a significant run to upcoming H.265. So this argument of yours regarding restricted formats is valid this date, but will almost become auto-invalid when these patents become vapour in year 2017. So yes, second argument can go away only in ubuntu 18.04 LTS. Before that use Mint.

    Like

    1. Hello i2matrix, thank you for commenting.

      Your points about app installation are perfectly valid, and a great option. However, they’re still not the average noob’s cup of tea. Agreed, superdeb could make things awfully easy, but you can’t expect the everyday Sud to know or find out about it on their own.

      As for 2), well frankly, I did not know. Yes, in that case, it’s worth the wait. And the community is indeed very quick to come up with open source solutions as soon as they see the opportunity.

      Like

  2. Hello, Darshak Parikh.

    It is very interesting to know the highest interest of me in GNU/Linux (package management system) is being concerned by someone in another country like you. First, I’d like to say you have made the first point clearly. To say “That means GNU/Linux, which encourages the idea of sharing, should be quite popular in here, right?” and self-answer it “Wrong” is very beautiful. I had no idea before to choose “Sharing” as the term of this concept. It is beautiful term too. Yes, you are right. This problem happens in Indonesia too. In Indonesia, even a personal phone (a very private stuff) can be shared with friends. But when GNU/Linux enters Indonesia, more than about 20 years now, it didn’t make GNU/Linux popular here.

    Second, I’d like to say I’m glad I see someone else in another country to address the same source of problem (package management system). A little bit shocked when you point to Alldeb (yes, how shocked I am) as a solution. And for Superdeb, this is the first time I know it. Very glad to know. Thank you.

    Third, actually I thought about how to overcome this problem, but to create it probably somebody needs big resources. Think about http://apt-web.dahsy.at or http://apt-web.tk. Yes, Indonesian guy build them. How if somebody add automatic packaging system to them? I mean, when you ask them to give you xubuntu-restricted-extras, they will package all dependencies first then show you one single file to download (either .tar or .alldeb or anything)? Yes, it will cost big RAM and big HDD on the server side. But it will help all offline users like crazy. Darshak, unfortunately I have no power to do big thing like that.

    Fourth, I am sure you know about Mac OS X package management systems already. One of the most interesting part for me is their DMG system. Chakra GNU/Linux once has similar implementation to this concept, they said it was Chakra Bundles (single package to install GTK-ish software). Darshak, think about it closely. How if GNU/Linux (say Ubuntu) keep their apt-get but give us also DMG-ish system? Personally, I will welcome such implementation closely and that definitely helps GNU/Linux socialization in Indonesia. The most easy to use system in this world (for me) is Mac’s DMG. It is even easier far away from Windows’s MSI. I dreamed about DMG-ish solution to come to GNU/Linux.

    The last thing, I don’t know about India. But in Indonesia, internet is still very expensive. I can say probably from 1000 people in a village, there are just 10 or less people to have home cable internet access. I don’t talk about wifi internet, I talk about the normal one, LAN internet. But generally every GNU/Linux user needs LAN internet. That’s why sharing-based platform like GNU/Linux can’t be popular here because it is less sharing-able than the not sharing-based platform, Windows. So, what you and I said about offline package management system, will definitely needed in Indonesia. And once such solution exists, that will help so many people in Indonesia. I maintain http://bengkelubuntu.org so I know how Indonesian people need and love offline solution. Yes, I admit it.

    Glad to see this blog again.

    Like

    1. Hi Ade, nice to hear from you again!

      Turns out we’re caught in an awkward situation. CDs are obsolete, but the Internet is not yet ubiquitous. The package management war is as bad as it was a decade ago, if not worse. And the most popular distro has an embarrassingly slow and ugly software centre.

      But somehow we still use and love Linux.

      Liked by 1 person

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