[Techtalk] What distro?

Myrosia Dzikovska myrosia at gmail.com
Fri Oct 22 19:57:46 UTC 2010

> I suspect the biggest reason is that nearly every computer you can
> buy comes with Windows preinstalled, whereas to use Linux, you have to
> - know it exists
> - somehow choose one distro over all the others
> - download an ISO and burn it to a CD
> - install it, facing the scary prospect that it might somehow wipe
>  out your Windows install
> - Deal with any issues specific to your machine (special wireless
>  drivers, suspend issues or whatever).
> That's all a huge barrier compared to just buying a machine and
> turning it on, so it's no surprise that fewer people run Linux.

I am really, really late to this, but I have a relevant story to
share. I am just back from vacation, where I helped some people in my
family sort out their computers. As it happens, I am the only tech
support available, and therefore they run Linux (as in, "I don't have
time or experience to support Windows. So either you run Linux or pay
a lot of money to have someone else support your Windows). So, two
stories, actually.

Mom wanted a webcam. I looked at the internet shop she was using,
picked up the cheapest camera they had, checked the "linux webcams"
page. It was listed there, so we bought the camera. It arrived with a
driver CD, a 5-page instruction manual describing how to install the
drivers, and big bold warning that you have to install all drivers or
the camera won't work. Mom immediately started stressing out about
what I need to do and pushing the CD at me. I said "Mom, relax, it
says on the Linux info page that it should work out of the box in
Linux". And you know what - I plugged it in, and it did. No setup or
configuration necessary, drivers included by default in OpenSuse 11.2.
Way faster than doing the Windows install ;-)

At the same time, my nephew needed a BIOS update for his machine. It
turned out that the manufacturer distributes BIOS updates in a format
that requires Windows to run (honestly - not just DOS, but a
full-blown Windows install). His laptop was linux-only, with all
hardware working "out of the box" immediately. I made some free space,
dug out a Windows CD that came up with that machine originally, and
installed Windows. OMG - after spending 1 hour on system installation,
 the screen resolution was horrible, and neither wired nor wireless
network worked, because both required separate driver installation
from a different CD. It looked like I would have to tinker for at
least another hour to make the system perform even the most basic
tasks. This is not to mention installing office software, something
for editing graphics, etc., which would be necessary in a practical
system. Compare this with booting a LiveCD and getting immediate Net
access on Linux, or spending 1 hour on installation and getting a
fully working Linux system "out of the box".

So, yes, if the manufacturer does all the work for you, it's easier to
buy a pre-installed system. But if you ever have a serious crash or
hard drive failure, or need a system upgrade, you may well discover
that Linux is a far easier option to get to work.


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