Why We Never Had “The Year of the Linux Desktop”

Kev Quirk 27-09-2016

Linux is awesome. In fact, I’ve already told you some of the reasons why Ubuntu is better than Windows 7 Things That Ubuntu Does Better Than Windows Is Ubuntu really just for nerds? No! Ubuntu is as easy to use as Windows... and in some ways, Ubuntu is better than Windows 10! Read More . But if it’s so good, why do less than 2% of desktop computers actively run a Linux-based operating system?


That’s a really tough question to answer. For a long time now, Linux users all over the world have been praying for the year of the Linux desktop Will Linux Ever Experience The Year Of The Desktop? [Opinion] For quite a while now, Linux users have constantly been discussing whether the open source operating system will ever experience a "year of the desktop" where Linux's desktop market share suddenly rises in relatively dramatic... Read More . But if we’re ever going to see Linux gain serious traction, there is still a lot that Linux developers need to improve to be a true contender.

Application Development

Many Linux developers tend to devote their time to the core operating system, leaving application development to someone else. This leads to a huge disconnect between the operating system itself and the applications it runs.

Countless open source applications have started life being the idea of one person, before growing into an unmissable app. Examples include Firefox, Filezilla, LibreOffice, VLC Media Player 7 Top Secret Features of the Free VLC Media Player VLC should be your media player of choice. The cross-platform tool has a bag full of secret features you can use right now. Read More , and many more.

We know it’s possible for the open source community to make great applications. So why are there so many poorly written applications that look awful, don’t work very well, or a have a combination of both these problems?

This is seen time and again in the Linux community. You have a well-written operating system that is slick and looks beautiful. But apart from a few core applications, much of the software looks awful or is poorly written.


Basically, the community needs to start looking beyond the the operating system. There is a reason why Microsoft and Apple develop many of their core applications in house. It’s the best way for users to have continuity in the experience that both the operating system and applications provide.

Elementary OS Application Continuity

Some Linux distributions are starting to think about continuity, like in the example above. But this is very much the exception, rather than the rule.

Installing Applications

If you want to install an application in Windows, you simply download the appropriate EXE file, then double click on it to start the installer. This is the same process no matter what version of Windows you are running.


In Linux it’s a completely different ball game. Linux applications are installed and managed by repositories Your Guide to Ubuntu Repositories and Package Management Read More , which are one of greatest strengths of Linux. However, they are also one of its greatest weaknesses.

There are a number of different ways to install applications in Linux, ranging from extremely simple to almost impossible. Some of these processes are:

LibreOffice Installation Through Command Line

As you can see, the process of installing Linux applications can be convoluted, which can quickly put new users off. Linux is yearning for a simplified, universal way of installing applications. Sadly, this would require a huge overhaul of the fundamental way in which Linux works, so will probably never happen.


Better Support, Less Elitism

For the most part, the Linux community is a thriving, bustling beast that contains some extremely talented people. Installing Ubuntu Install Ubuntu on Your Computer Using a USB Flash Drive Want to try Linux but don't own a DVD burner? Why not use a USB drive instead? Here's how to install Ubuntu from USB in minutes. Read More (and most other flavors of Linux) is a very simple process for the most part, although this doesn’t mean that you won’t need help at some point.

If this happens, you can head over to the Ubuntu Forums — or the appropriate forum for your flavor of Linux — and ask for help. This is where the problems start. People are busy, so depending on what your problem is, you may find that you get little to no response. This means you may have to work things out for yourself, which is never good if you’re new to the “community”.

Linux Nerds Pointing Straight at You
Image Credit: Conrado via Shutterstock

If you are lucky enough to get a response, you may find it’s not the response you were expecting. You see, there is a lot of elitism in Linux and this can sometimes spill over in to places like support forums were users of varying technical ability will be asking for help.


So if a new user posts up a problem, they may be ridiculed for not providing enough information. Worse, they might be accused of wasting time with a mundane issue that can easily be Googled.

Or mocked for just being a “noob”.

Thankfully, this is becoming less and less frequent within the community, as seasoned users are starting to realize that new users need to be welcomed if we are to grow Linux to it’s full potential. But the problem still exists — I’ve seen it first hand — and really needs to be completely eradicated from all facets of the Linux community.

We Need Fewer Choices

Having the choice to pick which Linux distribution you should run Switching To Linux? Here's How To Choose The Right Distro Your first Linux distribution can sweeten or sour your future Linux experience. That's why it's important to get that debut choice right. Read More is great, but you can have too much of a good thing. There are currently 827 Linux distributions listed on Distrowatch. Eight hundred and twenty seven! That’s a ridiculous number for anyone to sift through — even for seasoned Linux users, like myself, never mind new users.

Closeup of HTML on Laptop Screen
Image Credit: Welcomia via Shutterstock

The problem is that Linux is open source. Simply, this means that anyone can download the source code for a Linux distribution and make their own version. If there’s something you don’t quite like, you can fork a project and start your own. This sounds great in principle, but in reality it is pointless. The huge list of distributions for the most part share the vast majority of code and applications.

Imagine what could be accomplished if these of developers decided to contribute to a smaller pool of core distributions, rather than doing their own thing! I think we would end up with a more developed Linux ecosystem with fewer problems.

The Boot Process

When you first boot up Windows, you get a Windows splash screen, then soon after you get a prompt to log in. That’s not the case in Linux. Most distributions use the GRUB bootloader How To Customize The GRUB Boot Loader Using BURG [Ubuntu] Read More  which by default asks how you want to boot the operating system, and it gives you 10 seconds to make the decision.

So as a new user, the very first thing you’re greeted with after installing your distribution, is an ugly command line screen asking you make a decisions like which version of the kernel you want to boot.

It’s a terrible first impression.

GRUB Bootloader for Linux Ubuntu

GRUB is awesome, and it comes in really handy when dual-booting, as it allows you to select which operating system you wish to boot in to. But why does it have to be so unfriendly to users?

Why can’t it be a GUI were the user clicks on which OS they want to boot, and if there is only one OS, skip the GRUB prompt all together. Apple do it, so there’s no reason why Linux can’t. Some distributions are making waves towards doing this, such as Elementary OS. But there is a still a long way to go in order to make the boot process more user friendly.

Mac Dual Boot Selection Screen

We Need to Improve Linux

This article may read like I’m bashing Linux, or that I hate it. Nothing could be further from the truth. I adore Linux and the open source community in general. However, if we’re ever going to have “the year of the Linux desktop” then things need to drastically improve.

What do you guys think? Is there anything else you think should be changed before Linux can truly go mainstream? Or is Linux fine just the way it is?

Feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments section below.

Image Credits: Sofia Santos/Shutterstock

Related topics: Linux, Open Source.

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  1. Ray McAnally
    April 4, 2019 at 6:49 am

    You hit the nail on the head and drove it home with one shot. I currently use windows, but with windows 7 fast approaching it's end of support date, I'm trying to learn enough of Linux to make the transition. Anyone with half a brain can install a distro and a few of the basic apps, and that should do for many users who just want to surf the web and write simple papers or email to mom. After that you crawl through a no mans land. Your distro may have come with multiple apps that do the same thing and you aren't sure what to delete. The apps on the software center have nonsense names that give no clue as to what they do, other than they may be in a certain section like graphics programs. You have to download and sift through a lot of chaff to find a decent app that works the way you want it to. It's pretty bad when you see several reviews that say the software crashed a system. We need repositories that are curated for quality and programs that don't meet a certain standard should be rejected. Furthermore, why do we need so many MP3 players? Microsoft only provides one. Linux distros should do the same. Find the best of the lot and reject the rest, or at least put them in a separate repository for those brave souls who enjoy experimenting and crashing their systems. If Someone develops a superior program to what's currently being distributed, let it become the defacto program in the next distro. and yes, that means establishing standards for how and where files are saved. We have several standard for audio and graphics. do we really need more, if they don't improve the quality of the file being saved? I keep hearing about OGG audio files, but I've never actually seen one. Everything is MP3 with the rare WMA file floating around. I've seen a couple of MKV files, but most video is either MP4 or HTML5. Don't get me wrong, if a new format comes out that can provide equal quality in a smaller package, I'm all for it, but a good program for audio or video should allow for additional codecs without a total rewrite. I too want Linux to succeed, but it won't without standards that everyone can work with. That's my rant for the month.

  2. John IL
    March 6, 2019 at 3:11 pm

    Linux biggest problem is its open source nature. Not that Linux isn't all around us, in servers, Chromebooks, Android, IoT . But Linux as a desktop GUI will never garner anything close to significant market share because frankly the ecosystem is so fragmented. Exactly which distro would become popular when there are so many out there? Not that any of them have any sort of revenue stream to market their own version. Even Linux in general has no real ability to market any Linux desktop to the general public. This is why Chrome OS and Android became the only really popular Linux related OS to make it into the mainstream. Google being a advertising company had more then enough resources to take core Linux and make products people would be familiar with because of Google. Not like you see any Linux desktop app or distro become anything close to having a familiar name or even get mainstream reviews or attention from PC makers. Except for a handful of professional line of PC's specifically targeted at coders. This is why the year of open source Linux desktop will never be, but the closest thing will be systems like Chromebooks, Android devices and specific IoT products that use core Linux. The PC world revolves around Windows and sometimes Mac OS. This isn't a trend its the norm and has been stable like this for decades.

  3. Ron
    September 27, 2018 at 9:38 am

    The year is 2018, comign on 2019
    - Valve have been pushing hard with their platform, Linux gaming is not just a fiddle in the therminal or mess with wine job but an actual reality that now includes windows titles thanks to their new Proton Runtime.

    - Linux mint 19 is out, and it has to be one of the easiest OS's to use; Hardware support has bolstered with more vendors pushing out drivers now than ever and the use of a graphical driver manager makes installing drivers easy if they are required if not included in the kernel by default.

    -Cloud productivity is changing the way people use applications, with most things being done in a browser these days, desktop apps like word are becoming less and less common.

    What would you write differently?

  4. TheMouseCalledA
    May 24, 2018 at 5:10 pm

    Your claim about GRUB is BS. Try installing a vanilla Debian. Next boot you're greeted by a pretty image (which you can customize) and the menu.
    If you don't want the GRUB menu, set the default timeout to less.
    There's much you can customize on GRUB to make it look just like Windows.
    Also, why in the name of Oden do you need to "click" what OS you want? Is the keyboard so scary? Oh, wait, you type your emails on it. It seems to me people like the aesthetic of being able to navigate with a mouse when not required. People will type a search in and then move their hand to the mouse to click the search icon when they could've pressed enter after typing their search string. The problem is with the user. As for too many distros, most are spins of Ubuntu or Debian and use the exact same packages and repos.
    Finally, a DEB file is actually NOT the eqivalent of an EXE, it's more like an installer since DEBs are archived packages installed by "dpkg". Duh! You won't publish this, I don't care.. Just a rant.

    • Nosys
      February 6, 2019 at 9:04 am

      "There's much you can customize on GRUB to make it look just like Windows."
      Yeah, but a noob shouldn't have to. That is mainly the purpose of large parts of the text. And sure, you could argue that people should just buckle down and read a few books and google a couple of things and actually learn what they are doing - but that isn't how the majority of people work. I mean look at the numbers, how well is it working for Linux to be all like "learn it or gtfo you whiny muggle"?

      "The problem is with the user"
      This is the most Linux approach to design I've ever seen. Perfectly illustrates the problem in the community attitude.

      We design things to fit the human, not the other way around.

      (I know about the ease of use in many new distros and I don't advocate the "dumbing down" of Linux, I'm merely responding to the destructive points in the rant above.)

      • Jools
        September 19, 2019 at 8:13 pm

        Agree totally with the remark that grub is absolutely horrendous piece of software. You don't actually edit its config to make changes. but you edit a file that will automagically (yeah the linux community likes that word) make the config for you. But config/setting files are supposed to be static.

  5. John
    October 1, 2017 at 1:01 pm

    I always felt Linux desktop users were either geeks who rejected Windows a long time ago. Or newbies who dabble in what Linux is and yet get frustrated and go back to Windows. Most OS market share stats flat line Linux desktop as simply being a fraction of every other OS. It's always been that way which would answer why so little good applications are available. It's as if Linux desktop users use very few apps and the one's they use get support. Seriously who gives a crap about what OS they use? Its more about what applications can run on a certain OS. Linux people are truly ignoring the lack of good applications and its killing any hope of even marginal interest from the general public. I don't see that ever changing to be honest.

  6. Dan Companion
    May 29, 2017 at 3:19 pm

    Thank you so much for writing this article; I have been a huge fan of Linux and Open Source; however, I simply don't have the time or sometimes the patience to learn all the nuances of the program. Today's world measures success by its convenience and functionality; unfortunately, open source tends not fall into those categories. Open Source is techie and reliable. I really believe this a great conversation starter to bigger movement.

  7. JeepGuy
    May 27, 2017 at 5:48 pm

    Linux needs a directory viewing GUI that is installed on ALL systems - even server applications.

    I am sick of typing: ls, pwd, cd ../../../../../../blah repeatedly trying to find something... only to find I am in the wrong directory...

    Also to think that humans visually can translate file structures based on digitals ignores the visual nature of most human understanding...

    Windows did this "Windows Explorer" and as a result the most casual user quickly begins to learn where all their files reside after a short while...

    If I can see the file structure in a graphical tree I can easily navigate to it...

    And I should not have to go find some GUI application to install in order to do this... 99% of the time we are not allowed to add programs to our servers for security reasons... So we are stuck with CLI navigation commands and VI as the only way to work on our servers...

    For heavens sake... Linux needs to join the 90s so it is only 30 years behind human-technology interface design...

    All that said I still MUCH prefer Linux over Microsoft...

    *off soapbox....

    • Nick
      May 30, 2017 at 11:00 pm

      Hi JeepGuy, Have you used the tree command before? it might help you navigate those directories a little better! Most distro's do include a GUI folder manager though, do they not achieve what you want?

      Also, you could create an alias in your .bash_profile for ..="cd ../" etc?

      • Jim Brent
        May 31, 2017 at 1:19 am

        Holy cow... I used tree back in the MS-Dos days... Didn't realize it was available on most Linux distros. I just looked it up... This looks like a big help - Thank you.

        I just finished a quick CodeAcademy .com course on the profile and never thought about creating aliases for directories...

        We use CentOS 7 server and I haven't seen or heard of a Quick pre-installed GUI Folder manager... Regardless the Tree command looks like it will do the trick for me...

        Thank you very much.

        (Recovering Microsoft Developer)

    • Ron
      September 27, 2018 at 9:33 am

      It's 2018 turning 2019, Valve have pumped a lot of money and time in to making Linux Gaming something that isn't just a download and compile, repo expadition or a faff around in wine tweaks until you're blue in the face but a actual "Double click to install the steam.deb, log in, install your game the same way you do on windows udner steam, hit run and have fun" deal, and those games now include windows only titles which work flawlessly (those tested at least)

      Mint 19 is out and updating drivers is done in a gui app and hardware support is better than it was 10 years go, Vendors are pumping out drivers more actively, browsers are taking over the way we do things more with cloud apps.
      - What would you write different?

  8. Jaden Peterson
    May 26, 2017 at 4:39 am

    Grub is extremely easy to use, plus Windows application installers leave a bunch of stuff behind when you uninstall them. Linux has the same capability to install applications easily, ever heard of GDebi? Why have a complicated GUI for everything when you can have something so simple as Grub that can be customized (with themes) and uses the arrow keys?

  9. Eddie G.
    October 12, 2016 at 3:41 am

    Ok. A couple of things. First I notice that some people are complaining about there being "too many choices" regarding Linux distros. Listen, if you only had TWO flavors of ice cream to choose from? cream would be the most BORING and almost "offensive" dessert one could buy. I don't see anyone complaining that there are too many options for buying and outfitting a car! And why don't people BMG (B*tch M-oan & G-roan) about having too many choices when it comes to buying a house?...I think when people complain about that? it shows they don't have the power to make up their own MINDS! They want someone to narrow their choices so that they can "follow" the crowd. Utter nonsense, also I see here that people are stating they prefer Windows for reasons like they don't have to configure anything and everything "Just Works" from startup to shutdown. This is true, but you know what? There's spyware on there that tracks you (this isn't hyperbole or rhetoric it's been PROVEN Google it!) So if you're ok with being spied on whilst shopping online, chatting with Grandma and looking up recipes then by all means stay using Windows and don't comment on articles such as this. Linux is not for those who want someone ELSE to "do the heavy lifting" when it comes to their OS and their computer...Linux is for those who WANT to know how to do this and how to do that on their PC's / laptops / tablets.
    But don't be fooled, by the long-standing myths that have plagued Linux for years, there are distros that are simpler to use than even WINDOWS! Example?....Linux Mint running either the MATE or Cinnamon desktops, these are simple, plug-n-play OS'es that can provide years of carefree use without worrying about being spied on or catching a virus, or even worse being attacked with ransom-ware. How do I know?....because my almost 70 year old Mum uses Linux Mint and HAS been using it since release version 12!!! I think a lot of times people flock to the "most popular" because they're afraid to step out of their comfort zone....not realizing that just by doing that?...they can free themselves of being locked in to a vendor or manufacturer's specific product or program. I for one don't use Windows nor will I go back to it for anything, I've got all I need here in Linux-Land!...LoL! and this is a subjective argument?...(How can I make someone who's used to Windows believe that my OS is better?....I can't.....and Vise versa!) So the real reason why there was never a YOTLD? because it wasn't NEEDED! Linux never needed to be "on top" like some other OS'es needed to be. There was never any call to "beat" the other competing OS'es. Instead Linux chose the simpler more sensible route: ensure that it existed EVERYWHERE!...smartphones.....gas station pumps....POS registers.....kiosks.....scientific computing (my favorite?...The Large Hadron Collider!), far-seeing telescopes, the medical industry, the automotive industry, accounting, the entertainment industry...etc. So why bother with a YOTLD....when they already conquered the computing world as a whole?....thats the equivalent of the Gods of Mt. Olympus fighting over the cities of Man!.....Pointless! There was never a YOTLD, and there doesn't NEED to be! Especially now?...with some countries governments choosing in favor of Linux over Windows?.....who CARES about the Year Of The Linux Desktop?....only those who don't support Linux! Those who do?....know better.

  10. Mike Walsh
    October 6, 2016 at 11:22 am

    With regard to GRUB, I couldn't agree more. I run 'Puppy' Linux exclusively, and Puppy uses Grub4DOS, which is a version of the old 'legacy' GRUB. However, it's been 'Puppyfied' to work with Pup's unusual 'root' model, and you do end up with simply a list of OSs, where you just choose which one you wish to boot. I think it's a lot nicer to use than GRUB2, which in my humble opinion is the most horrendously over-complicated beast I've ever encountered.

    It was just one of the reasons (amongst many others) why I couldn't WAIT to get away from the 'buntu-based distros.....

    • Kev Quirk
      October 7, 2016 at 2:28 pm

      Let's hope that over time these kind of issues are resolved. :-)

  11. jsannn
    October 4, 2016 at 10:24 am

    I recently switched to Ubuntu on my work computer because of project requirements. I also used Linux for extended periods during my career (work in IT). And honesty can say that prefer Windows by far. The main difference for me is that Windows just works while Linux needs tinkering with command lines and text based configuration files for even the simplest things. Countless times I needed reading through forums and message boards to make stuff works where they should be plug and play affair. Recent example - I bought a external DAC/amp to power my headphones. On win when you turn it on the sound output automatically switch to it and back to the previous configuration on turn off. On Ubuntu I needed to google how to do it, test it a couple of times to settle on working configuration and then create a config file with the appropriate commands for it to work when I restart the system. Honestly I think my time is spent better elsewhere. And that is the main problem, Linux can be super stable and secure but for an average user its is almost impossible to work with. Until that changes it will remain just 2% of the market.

    • Kev Quirk
      October 4, 2016 at 12:19 pm

      That's true, there are times were you really do need to get under the hood in Linux, were you may not have to in Windows.

      I think this is why Linux has the reputation of the "Geek's OS".

    • Jaden Peterson
      May 26, 2017 at 4:41 am

      Don't blame Linux for hardware support, ever. Developers work their butts off "guessing" how the hardware works because the stupid manufactures won't make drivers.

      • Bonjour
        June 20, 2018 at 11:44 am

        And why don't they make drivers? Because 2% of desktops isn't worth pursuing from a financial perspective.

    • Jaden Peterson
      May 26, 2017 at 4:46 am

      I think this all comes down to philosophy. Linux gives you control, let's you know exactly what's going on at all times. The GNU OS was founded upon that idea. I find it really disturbing, knowing that clicking a simple button could do a million things on Windows and I wouldn't know it. The reason I switched to Linux was because of nearly all the things you said. I wasn't a very technical person but I wanted more choices.

  12. Doc
    September 29, 2016 at 8:16 pm

    "Executable files — These work like EXE files in Windows. But there are different formats for different flavors of Linux. Ubuntu uses DEB, but Fedora and SUSE use RPM, so you need to know which executable files are compatible with your distro."
    Um, no, DEB and RPM files are not "executable" files, they're more like Microsoft MSI (Microsoft Standalone Installer) files, that trigger the installation process when activated.

    • Kev Quirk
      September 30, 2016 at 7:11 am

      Actually, if you want to be pedantic, a DEB or RPM is not like an MSI either, as they're not just for installing applications. DEB and RPM files are simply packages that can be used for a multitude of functions. So actually, a DEB or RPM is closer to an EXE than an MSI.

      However, in this example, I described them as "executable" so that people who were familiar with EXE files had something to compare them to. Mentioning that they're packages and have a number of other functions wasn't required for the context that I was using them.

      Hope this clears up why I described them as "executable".

  13. Joesph Birch
    September 29, 2016 at 9:59 am

    I totally agree with everything in this article. I've been using Linux exclusively now for nearly 9 years. The number of distributions is frightening. I like to try different flavours but it's still daunting for me.
    As for the forums. I have tried to use them in the past but very rarely and not for a long time now. There is nothing worse than entering an active chat room and encouraged to ask your question only to be ridiculed that google or the man pages have the answer. Google is very good but when you're faced with over 1 million potential answers and all the answers very, where do you go then?
    Linux is fabulous but elitism sucks.

    • Kev Quirk
      September 29, 2016 at 10:55 am

      Obviously, I agree. Thanks for the comment, buddy.

      • JeepGuy
        May 27, 2017 at 5:34 pm

        Ditto... I am tired of being ridiculed for asking a question that I should supposedly understand in the Man pages... The man pages are NOT intuitive and vague when you are still learning...

  14. UserResearcher
    September 29, 2016 at 9:00 am

    I think one thing LINUX (or at least some particular distro - Ubuntu?) could do is start really leaning into making the user interface consistent and understandable. It's been a while since I tried a distro, but I was stunned to discover that their interfaces were very rarely tested with users - in fact, it was more the exception than the rule that any interface testing took place at all. This leads to the oft-joked-about creation of "Developer UI", interfaces that made sense to the developer at the time of their creation, but not to anyone else - users in particular. I would be willing to bet that confusing and/or inconsistent interfaces are a big part of what is holding back "the year of the LINUX desktop."

    • Kev Quirk
      September 29, 2016 at 9:05 am

      I would in inclined to agree with you. The community does put out betas etc and gets feedback, but from what I've seen, that's more for bug tracking than anything else.

      There are certain distros where UI and user experience is the number one priority. Elementary OS is one that springs to mind.

  15. J
    September 29, 2016 at 7:26 am

    I just read an article on this topic within the past day, about improvements in the Raspberry Pi's new desktop:

  16. Hein
    September 29, 2016 at 5:40 am

    I don't agree.
    It is quite easy. Just use plain vanilla Ubuntu and it is much easier than Windows. Software center will install almost any app you could wish for. Snaps will be a further improvement when it comes to easy installation. Ubuntu is easy to install. In general Ubuntu users are friendly on forums and are willing to help, as long as the answer isn't there by just a simple 'google' which is completely understandable and justifiable.
    Grub needs a graphical screen? No please why? Non graphical works always on any display.
    Choice isn't bad at all. You don't need to pick one of those small projects- just ignore- go for Ubuntu (or one of the other big distros) and be happy. The so called fragmentation is only used for obvious FUD reasons.
    What is really needed is availability of hardware pre-installed with Ubuntu. I am typing this on my XPS 13- a machine that worked out of the box from day one

    • Kev Quirk
      September 29, 2016 at 8:49 am

      I actually have to add repos and do terminal installs quite often because the software isn't available in the software center. Like I said, it's only as good as the repos you have added. I would say around 1/3 of my software is installed via terminal Maybe that's just me though.

      The reason I think GrUB need a nice GUI is for new users. Getting a command line prompt straight away isn't really the best firs impression.

      Choice isn't bad, I agree. But for a new Linux user, the amount of choice is overwhelming. Many of the smaller distros are pretty rubbish, or completely abandoned. If a newbie installs one of those, they could be unjustifiably put off Linux. Luckily though, Ubuntu is starting to becoming a household name, even if people don't really know what it is.

      • Mike F
        September 29, 2016 at 4:14 pm

        It's been a while since I've tried Ubuntu, I can't speak to how that sets up grub, but at least with Linux Mint, if it's the only thing installed, it sets the grub timer to 0 so that you never see it. It goes straight to the Mint boot splash.

        As far as additional repositories, I've found that the basics are all there by default. It's only when you need a niche app that you have to delve into PPAs and such. I also need to point out that Windows also has just as many different ways to install software. Windows store, exe's, source code, binary files in folders, etc.

  17. BaronHK
    September 29, 2016 at 12:13 am

    When Microsoft gets their partners to reach out and attack Linux by blocking it from even being installed, like Lenovo did on the recent Yoga laptops, it's pretty easy to see why many people couldn't even use Linux if they wanted to.

    Lenovo is an evil crappy company with horrible customer support. Could be why their stock is worth pennies on the dollar compared with last year.

    • TinFoilHat
      September 29, 2016 at 3:40 am

      That's not what happened in the least. Linux doesn't have a driver for the RAID5 configuration that is set up on the solid state drive on that device. Remove the tin foil hat and breathe. Everything is alright and someone, somewhere, will develop the needed driver.

    • Kev Quirk
      September 29, 2016 at 8:53 am

      That isn't true. Lenovo has made a statement confirming that the issue is to do with a proprietary RAID configuration that simply has no drivers for Linux.

      If you're interested, here's the full statement -

  18. Carl Draper
    September 28, 2016 at 7:22 pm

    On the first point, not many of own Microsoft's actual applications are decent or useful, Windows is barely useful without third party apps.

    On the second point, there's often no need to look at 4 different methods of installing apps, when the first one usually works

    Choice is part of what makes Linux great. Really there are only 3 or 4 major distributions, not 387. Debian/ Ubuntu, Red Hat and Arch being the major ones.

    "So as a new user, the very first thing you’re greeted with after installing your distribution, is an ugly command line screen asking you make a decisions like which version of the kernel you want to boot." Ubuntu almost never shows that screen unless you're dual booting.

    • Kev Quirk
      September 29, 2016 at 8:56 am

      Hi Carl, thanks for commenting.

      If you want to, Windows is perfectly capable of being used out of the box. We've just become spoilt with other applications, like Office and Chrome.

      There are still a number of bundled Windows apps that I use day to day. Snipping Tool being one of my favourites.

      True, there are only a few main distros. But a new Linux user wouldn't necessarily know which they are.

      My machines always show GrUB after installing Ubuntu, even when not dual booting, and it always defaults to 10 seconds for the splash screen. Changing it to 1 second is usually one of the first things I do in a new install. :-)

      • CMD
        September 29, 2016 at 2:28 pm

        Is this a fresh install? Because I have Kubuntu 16.04 recently freshly installed on my Dell latitude E6500 and it goes straight from the BIOS to the Kubuntu boot splash, GRUB does not even show!

        • Kev Quirk
          September 30, 2016 at 7:12 am

          Yep, fresh install of Ubuntu 16.04. Maybe that's something the Kubuntu team suppress? I'm also running Elementary Loki at home, and that doesn't do it. So I think they have suppressed the prompt, like Kubuntu (I assume).

  19. Steve
    September 28, 2016 at 4:00 pm

    In my limited experience, the biggest issue I've had is with video card drivers. I recently came back to Linux, currently using Mint, and it is best to use opengl instead of d3d to keep frame rates up while I'm playing WoW. The same card works fine under Win10. Thanks to a wealth of info by a lot of people smarter than me I have my installation up and running but the video performance certainly isn't as smooth as under Win10.

    • Kev Quirk
      September 29, 2016 at 8:57 am

      Linux is nowhere near Windows when it comes to gaming. But the gap is closing, with a lot of help from Steam.

  20. jymm
    September 28, 2016 at 3:17 pm

    I love Linux, but agree with you on the problems. I am over60 and a GUI guy. I still have never successfully installed a tarball on my own. Linux needs a universal package. Maybe Snap or Flatpak will be it.

    Second is disappearing OS's. I started with the original Solus, and that went away. I then tried Point, which was great, but the developer seems to have lost interest and the forum is dead, with no moderators appearing and the last posts months and years ago.

    I have now switched to a dual boot of Debian Mate and Ubuntu Mate. I had never had a problem with forums, but just reading the Debian forum I would never post a problem there, as I considered the many rude responses. I just want my OS to work, not to become a Linux expert. I was able to deal with my very first hardware problem on my own ( a Broadcom wireless card). I did realize it could be a problem when installing as Debian will not provide proprietary software as most other OS's do. I had no problems with Ubuntu Mate or it's forum.

    I have not had a problem with software I want to run, but I had used a lot of open source software before moving to Linux. I still see the packages as the biggest problem for Linux and still hope for a universal package.

    • Hein
      September 29, 2016 at 5:26 am

      Installing from a tarball? Hardly ever needed that way. That was about 10 years ago I guess.
      If you use one of the most used Linux flavors like Ubuntu you won't have a to do a lot of rocket science stuff to get the software that you want. Ubuntu won't disappear overnight like Solus and other projects. Yet these projects are interesting as they can bring new insights and new software.
      t is true that on especially the guys running Debian, Arch and the likes can be extremely rude towards newbies and non-technical users. Hey they just have small d!cks and need to compensate somehow I guess. Just move over to Ubuntu: users are more friendly there.

    • Kev Quirk
      September 29, 2016 at 9:00 am

      Luckily, we don't really need to install from tarball any more. For me personally, 99% of the time it's either a software center, or adding a repo and using apt-get etc in terminal. Both of which are simple, but I can imagine the latter would stump some new users. Which is obviously a problem.

      Hopefully snaps will help solve this issue. But it's all dependent on how the wider Linux community takes this approach. If only 10% of developers are making snaps, then it's a pointless exercise that only further fragments Linux.

  21. Jeff
    September 28, 2016 at 1:42 pm

    One of the biggest problems I had switching was video drivers (Intel Graphics). The default drivers in Linux Mint wouldn't work well enough for me to run VMware Workstation properly.

    Also, finding suitable replacement software was often difficult/impossible. I use Snagit and a clipboard manager that I couldn't live without.

    I really want to switch as I am starting to loathe Microsoft as much as I do Apple but everytime I try I have to switch back.

    • Kev Quirk
      September 28, 2016 at 1:57 pm

      It's strange that you have had issues with Intel drivers. My laptop uses Intel drivers and I haven't had any issues. I just select the "install third party drivers" during the installation and everything always works.

      With regards to SnagIt, I'm not sure what you're using it for specifically, but I personally find Shutter to be the best screen grabbing tool on Linux. It's really good.

      Usually there are alternatives to most applications, but some a deal breakers - for me, I still have to use a Windows partition as there are simply no good, stable video editors for Linux. Hopefully it will improve with time though.

  22. William Vasquez
    September 28, 2016 at 6:42 am

    A form of Linux IS being accepted by the general public. It can be found running the very popular Chromebook laptop computer. I know advertising is expensive, so why not have a computer hardware manufacturer extoll the benefits of Linux. Say things like, 'Our computers cost less because the operating system is free; most of the software you'll ever need is already included or get more free; if you already know how to use Windows or Mac, you're already 90% on the way to learning Linux. Advertising is how most people found out about Microsoft or Apple, the same would help Linux.

    • Kev Quirk
      September 28, 2016 at 8:14 am

      I agree, ChromeOS is being widely adopted. However, it's not a full OS and is quite restrictive on a lot of things. If all you are after is basic web surfing etc, then it's great (I've had mine for over 3 years now and I love it) but for any "heavy lifting" it's pretty useless.

      Maybe the new "Andromeda" merger will fix this.

  23. Colin
    September 28, 2016 at 3:15 am

    If you do not like grub, you can use burg instead. Nicer graphics(just notice the burg link). Used it a few years ago, but grub works well and you only see it for a few seconds. Most Linux comes with their own software centres, so finding software is easy, you do not have to search all over the web for something and worry if you are downloading something else. Ubuntu forums do have a section for new users, but a little googling will usually find answers to your problem. There are to many distros, but only about 5 or 10 that most people would need to check out. The rest are mainly to play with if you have the time.

    • Kev Quirk
      September 28, 2016 at 8:18 am

      Yes, you can use Burg, but my point is - new users won't know what GrUB is, never mind what Burg is or how to install it. It should be more user friends by default.

      I agree, there's only a core few distros that really matter to most people. However, again, as a new user, they wouldn't know which ones they are.

      Ultimately, a user doesn't have to install a new bootloader in Windows if they want a better experience, and they don't have to choose from over 800 variations (or even 10 for that matter) of Windows.

      These are intrinsic issues that really need to be fixed if we're ever going to achieve real uptake in the desktop market.

  24. Riley
    September 27, 2016 at 10:35 pm

    One of the key obstacles to Linux adoption that is that Windows and Macs are what most people use at work. So when they fire up their own computer after work they aren't at all interested in wrestling with a different operating system and the programs that run under it. Especially if that operating system is inescapably more technically demanding than the more nicely productized operating systems they already know how to use.

    That impediment to Linux adoption will be practically speaking impossible to surmount because Microsoft early on made it easy to develop distributed applications based on Windows. So today a huge number of industries including but not limited to financial services, health services, travel, and others run their businesses on deeply embedded Windows I.T. applications. The complexity and manifold burdens of migrating every aspect of those existing distributed apps to Linux simply can't be costs-justified. Especially because Microsoft and Apple will always be sure that the prices of their products never overtakes the costs required to migrate away from them.

    The problem is thus self-reinforcing: People will continue to use something other than Linux at work until there's ice skating in Hell which in turn means they'll probably not use Linux at home. Ad infinitum...

    • Kev Quirk
      September 28, 2016 at 8:21 am

      Yeah, I think you're right, Riley. It's this self-perpetuating issue whereby Linux will never gain traction because it's not popular in other facets of society, and it's not popular in other facets of society because it has never gained traction.

      Maybe the shift to mobile, and Android may help in the future. Who knows?

    • Someone
      December 18, 2016 at 5:35 pm

      Spot on.

      In fact, I'd go even further and say that it's down to MS Word.

      If you ask any number of people what OS they use on their phone, their answer will be 'Apple' or 'Nexus/LG/Sony/etc.'

      They have no idea what an OS is, don't understand the question, have no desire to and never will.

      I've lost count of the number of people who, over the years, told me that their operating system is 'Word.' That's right, 'Word' - they didn't even know they are running Windows.

      The most I've ever been able to get out of 90% of people regarding their OS is 'Apple/Mac' or 'Word/PC' (maybe 'Chrome/PC' in more recent years) - and 99% of the remaining 10% who could at least say 'Windows' had not a clue as to what version.

      There are two things that keep people using iOS/Mac OS and Wndows.

      In the case of the former, it's the fact that Apple have cult status - Apple products users like to consider themselves cognoscenti with flair and good taste.

      Despite this, Apple still has little to no user base outside of mobile to this day - very few people have ever owned a Mac ... they all had Wintel boxes.

      So, as far as the PC desktop is concerned, we can ignore Apple.

      In the case of Windows it's MS Office and games.

      If Office weren't so entrenched ... in fact, not even Office but the .doc(x) and .xls(x) file formats ... and if there were better support for games on linux, I think we'd see a different OS landscape.

      Of course, the desktop has moved online these days and is now mobile.

      And this is where things could change if a major OEM or two started making the point that Android is linux - it would make people aware.

      But, as ever, I doubt there would be huge public interest: you gave nine out of ten people an Ubuntu Phone they wouldn't hear more than 'Blah blah phone' any more than they do when you say 'Blah blah iOS/Android' - they have a phone and the operating system is 'Google'/'Nexus 7' ... or 'Sony'/'Experia' ... or whatever OEM/model they have.

      Linux will never take over the PC desktop because of Office/games - even if Steam means more people CAN use linux, Word and Excel mean that it'll only be gamers, not the majority.

      And it'll never take over the mobile desktop because it already HAS (in the form of Android) ... and nobody has even noticed let alone cares.

      Android already IS linux on almost every desktop that matters to most people and nobody even knows or cares about it - just as nobody knows or cares what a search engine is and just 'googles' things.

      There's no reason for anyone to pay attention to linux: they use 'Apple' or 'Word'/'Excel'/'Windows' and/or a phone and/or tablet and they don't care about the OS ... if they even know what an OS is - and 99% don't know and don't care.

      Until there's a major publicity campaign by mobile device OEMs ... or someone comes up with a killer new mobile OS that catches everyone's attention, 'JUST WORKS' on all mobile devices, runs MS Office (not something 'mostly compatible but not 100%') and is heavily promoted as 'LINUX INSIDE!' ... linux will never be popular and never 'take over' the desktop.

  25. Electron826
    September 27, 2016 at 9:49 pm

    Very interesting article, I totally agree with your points -
    Well done!

    • Kev Quirk
      September 28, 2016 at 8:21 am

      Thanks buddy, appreciate the positive feedback. :-)