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By Steven Vaughan-Nichols  |  Posted 2005-08-11 Print this article Print

Now, when it comes to the Linux desktop, I dont have any such problem. The Linux desktop, whether its from the big guys like Novell or Red Hat or from smaller, but interesting players, like Mepis or Xandros, has areas that still clearly need improvement.
Program installation still needs to be cleaner. Linspire really does have the right idea here with its CNR (Click-N-Run) online software department store.
Linux vendors also still need to figure out a way—short of dynamite—to get hardware vendors to turn over enough of their APIs so that Linux can support Wi-Fi networking and the like out of the box. We can also use better front ends to many of Linuxs tools. That last is why, of all the Unix/Linux-based desktop operating systems—all desktop systems, actually—I continue to favor Mac OS X. Click here to read how Windows Vista compares to Apples Tiger OS. Yes, with Linux you get far greater control over exactly how your computer does its work than with any other operating system. But, on a day-to-day basis, how many users really need, or want, to tweak their TCP/IPs MTU (Maximum Transmission Unit) setting? Im both a network and Linux geek, so I can think of lots of situations where I want to play with what my network cards are doing. Im not most people. Most people need simple, easy interfaces. "Press a button, fix the network connection" is what folks really need. While Linux desktops are getting better that way, it could still stand improvement. Vista though … well what I think most people want from Vista can be summed up as two things: better security and fewer failures. Oh, and one, not two, versions for a decent price. The good research people at Gartner told me recently that just over 1 percent of enterprise users are running Linux desktops. That sounds about right. In a separate forecast, Gartner estimated that only 3.2 percent of non-consumer users will run Linux by 2008. That sounds low to me. "For most companies, the cost to migrate away from Microsoft Windows is simply too high and outweighs the benefits companies expect they will receive," said Michael Silver, research vice president in Gartners Client Platforms group. "Most large companies have hundreds, if not thousands, of applications, and the cost to migrate them to run on or be accessible from Linux clients is huge." True, as far as it goes. What Gartner doesnt tell us is that many of those large companies are still running now-obsolete Windows 2000; that even those companies that are running XP Pro will almost certainly need to replace their hardware to run Vista; and that it looks likely that youll need to buy new, Vista-capable software for those new computers. I dont know about you, but the cost to do all that sounds pretty darn huge to me. And what exactly will you get for that? Darned if we know. Better security? Like the three, count em, three, major IE patches Microsoft had to re-release on Wednesday? What was that all about anyway? Click here to read about Microsoft re-releasing three major IE patches. Microsoft isnt saying how it ended up with corrupted files on the Microsoft Download Center. That sure doesnt make me feel all warm and fuzzy about Microsofts protection today or tomorrow. Come on, Linux desktop guys. Theres a golden opportunity to take the wind out of Microsofts sales sails here. All you need do is to keep making the Linux desktop better. Microsoft is already doing its part to make itself an also-ran. Senior Editor Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols has been using and writing about operating systems since the late 80s and thinks he may just have learned something about them along the way. He can be reached at Check out eWEEK.coms for the latest open-source news, reviews and analysis.

Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols is editor at large for Ziff Davis Enterprise. Prior to becoming a technology journalist, Vaughan-Nichols worked at NASA and the Department of Defense on numerous major technological projects. Since then, he's focused on covering the technology and business issues that make a real difference to the people in the industry.

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