Practical Technology

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Teenagers, sex, and the Linux desktop

“The (Linux) desktop is like teenage sex. Everybody’s talking about it, but nobody’s doing it.”

Is it? Is it really now?

Putting aside that, while I don’t know what Red Hat CEO Matthew Szulik’s teenage years were like, mine certainly included some “doing” — the Linux desktop is alive and well.

I know what he meant though. Getting people to buy into Linux desktops hasn’t easy.

I’m not sure why, though.

I, for one, use Linux desktops every day.

I don’t use a Linux desktop because I like Linux. I use a Linux desktop because I like good desktops.

Period.

In my home office, every day, I use SUSE 10, Xandros 3.0, and SimplyMEPIS 3.3.1. I use several Linux distributions because part of what I do for a living is kick the tires of operating systems. As I find good desktop operating systems, the best of them move over from test systems to my production boxes.

Today, those are my personal best of breed Linux desktops.

But, even if testing operating systems wasn’t part of my day-in and day-out work, I’d still be using a Linux desktop.

Why?

Because they’re stable, they’re powerful, and they run all the desktop programs I care about.

For example, SUSE 10 is currently my top-dog Linux and I’m running it on both my main workstation — a Gateway 503GR with a 3GHz Pentium IV, a gigabyte of RAM, and a 160GB hard drive — and on a Toshiba laptop.

Both machines have been up for weeks, and I’ve patched them with dozen of small improvements. Unlike Windows, where security failures abound and which may, or may not, be patched in a timely fashion, SUSE is constantly pushing forward its operating system forward.

The upgrades are transparent, don’t impact the systems or running applications at all, and do nothing except what they’re supposed to: make the system better. Windows? Microsoft took three shots before getting one recent critical Windows 2000 security fix right, which had been breaking applications.

I also run all the desktop software I need on Linux. I run OpenOffice 2.0, Firefox 1.07, Evolution 2.4 for email, GAIM 1.5 for IM, Internet Explorer 6, and Quicken 2003.

“Internet Explorer and Quicken?” you ask.

Of course. Quicken is still the hands-down best personal finance management program on the planet, and I use one Web-based application that throws fits if you try to use it with anything besides IE.

But, I don’t need Windows to run either one. Instead, I use CodeWeavers’s CrossOver Office. If I want, I could also run Office 2003 on my SUSE Linux systems, since the new version supports it.

Of course, unlike Windows, I’m not subject to all the various worms, viruses, and so on that comes with running Windows applications on Windows.

You know, your desktop operating system isn’t like death and taxes. You get a choice.

So let me see now. The Linux desktop is more stable than Windows. The SUSE Linux desktop, for one, has better support than Windows. The Linux desktop runs all my work programs. And, it’s a lot more secure than Windows.

While I certainly hope that my teenager doesn’t get involved in sex too early, I do have her happily running a Linux desktop. Maybe it’s time we all have our teenagers running Linux. And, while we’re at it, maybe all the rest of us should start using it too.

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