Linux, is it ready?

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So I’m trying out Linux for the first time in over 5 years. Mainly to get back on board with Enlightenment development, partly due to frustrations with Mac OSX and also because every software engineer should be up to speed with how it’s progressing. This leads me to the question if is it ready…

Ready for what? Wide stream adoption? Frustration free desktop? A better alternative to what’s out there? “Yes” and “It depends” get thrown in there as answers – it depends on your requirements and the ability to pick the right distro. Ubuntu offers a seamless install and gets you booted to a complete system with all the typical user software pre-installed, their software manager akin to Apple’s Mac App Store is essentially a recommendations engine on top of the apt-get package manager and works well. Of course as a geek it’s cheerful light grey rounded-ness and hiding of details quickly missed the point – Mac does that well and I don’t see Canonical beating Apple at the user experience game. Arch Linux is a widely used engineers choice – it offers close to the wire control without the pain and ricer obsessiveness over customised packages of Gentoo. There is no installation UI or default desktop but it does offer great control, a solid base for development (1 package sets up a full C/C++/autofoo environment) and it has a command line package manager called “pacman” ;).

So should I switch? Well as you’re already reading this then you should probably give it a shot, yes. Don’t ditch your current system and move completely – compatibility is still an issue and multimedia has a couple of issues (mostly due to closed source licenses, patents and no silverlight plugins) but it really does seem ready. Don’t recommend it to your Gran though – as much as I hate software monopolies they do enable people to easily discuss simple tasks or basic problem fixes with their non-techie friends. You do not want even more “help fix my computer” calls right?

So, given that it’s ready for use, will you like it? Is it really something that Microsoft and Apple should be worried about? I’ll cover that in a future post in my return to enlightenment series.

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