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Why is Linux Not More Popular on the Desktop?

Jonathan Boudreau
Containers all the way down.
Updated on ・1 min read

Picture taken from wikipedia.

There are issues when it comes to Linux being more broadly adopted on the desktop. What are the main issues you think and how can they be addressed?

I think that the big issue with Linux is fragmentation. This has been especially an issue when it comes to developers publishing games on Linux.

The solution to this issue are cross-distribution installers like Snap, AppImage and Flatpak. Every application has its own set of libraries, meaning they do not depend on distribution-specific packages.

Another issue I believe is momentum. There's some outdated opinion on how well Linux works on the desktop.

Defeating the momentum will require more effort on the PR front. I don't see this being something that will just fix itself with time.

Thoughts?

Discussion (104)

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ben profile image
Ben Halpern

I’d guess that the people most involved in and attracted to Linux originally didn’t have the sort of design taste, non-technical user empathy, and marketing savvy to make Linux desktop the standard.

Linux grew in a way that reflected its originators and eventually lost too much momentum on the desktop side of things. With tons of success in extra areas, Linux folks started leaning more in on strengths and desktop became more of a niche.

With open source becoming more mainstream and desktop computing stagnating of late, I think there’s room for the next great OS to be open source, and it would be great if it were more grass roots and not a Google project.

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Tamás Szelei

How is that different from Canonical? Ubuntu was grass roots, and they invested a lot into the desktop experience. Also, I think modern distributions don't reflect that era of engineer-minded design anymore (unless that's their explicit goal).

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ben profile image
Ben Halpern

I think you’re right. But I think the history still matters, just like how Apple’s founding history and Steve Jobs still help sell iPhones.

It shouldn’t matter as much as it does, but the world sometimes contorts itself to make it matter.

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Jacob Herrington (he/him)

Do you think a grassroots project could compete with OS X and Windows?

I'd love to see it done, but I think it would need strong sponsorship from at least one major player in the software industry.

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ben profile image
Ben Halpern

Could, yes. It's not the most outrageous idea.

Tough barriers. Maybe not totally grassroots, but a startup. What if it were a startup that built open source software and served a global community of developers, a DEV Community you might say. 😅

I'm just kidding—sort of. It's a project I'd love to be a part of if the stars lined up in any way.

There are some technically cool new OS projects like Redox. Oddly I don't have a lot of expectations that it will succeed greatly, but I'd also get pretty excited about the prospect of personally being involved in making that happen.

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Brian Lampe

To answer the question, first look at why Windows and OS X are as popular as they are currently.

Windows comes with most desktops or laptops you might buy today. To get hardware without Windows, you have to go out of your way. Dell makes machines they'll put Ubuntu on, but it's not easy to find those, and you really have to be looking for it -- which is not what most customers are going to do.

OS X comes on Macs. Most of those buyers want a Mac for whatever reason, and they get OS X with it. I'm an outlier here because one of the main things I like about Macs is they run OS X.

Most consumers aren't out there going "ok, so I need a machine that runs OS X on it, or even I need a machine I can install OS X on it." They get whatever OS comes with the hardware they bought.

There are companies selling Linux machines called "Chromebooks" :) . Again, they're not looking for a Linux machine -- or even a machine that runs ChromeOS necessarily. They want a cheap machine that's secure and can run stuff in a browser.

I think Chromebooks and even Android answer the question here. The only way for "the year of Linux on the desktop" to arrive is for some company to make a device people want to buy that just so happens to run Linux. Most buyers out there don't care what the OS is as long as it does what they need it to do, like run MS Office, run the games they play, etc.

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papey profile image
Jean Michel Functional Programming

I think macOS is at this time, the best for an all purpose machine. You have access to proprietary softwares (Adobe suite, MS Office) and FOSS sotfware (homebrew, docker). macOS is great and somewhat intuitive operating system.

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Sebastiangperez

I post that, if Adobe can run on linux, i migrate immediatlly to Linux here.
Macs are expensive machines.

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papey profile image
Jean Michel Functional Programming

More and more expensive and less and less customizable, unfortunatly.

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anthonyfreedomhowell profile image
anthonyfreedomhowell

I think macOS is at this time, the best for an all purpose machine.

I think Louis Rossmann would have a differing opinion.

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shawonashraf profile image
Shawon Ashraf

He doesn't fix operating systems either.

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aghost7 profile image
Jonathan Boudreau Author • Edited

There are actually other companies selling Linux machines such as Dell, System76, and Purism. I do get your point though, not much that's geared towards general users (most of these options target developers in their marketing).

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Jacob Herrington (he/him) • Edited

I think the biggest issue is UX for non-technical users. apt-get or dnf might seem totally fine to us, but if a non-technical user has to open a text interface to complete a mundane task you can forget about it.

Some projects are working on it, but without some big changes and a lot of marketing Linux will probably always be a niche tool. There is nothing wrong with that if it works great for its niche.

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aghost7 profile image
Jonathan Boudreau Author

So far I haven't had to use apt-get to install GUI software (only need it for some development stuff). Everything can be installed from Ubuntu Software (it integrates snaps, gnome plugins, and apt packages). I'd like to hear what software can't be installed through a GUI.

I personally want to have Linux on the desktop become more mainstream. Right now at work I'm forced to use OSX. I want to use Linux as my only operating system, but due to it not being mainstream enough it doesn't look like its going to happen any time soon.

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Jacob Herrington (he/him)

Where I work people choose their preferred OS and we haven't ever had problems, not sure why that's not more common practice.

I've worked in enterprise before and I can see the struggle with that in those environments, but I feel like devs should be encouraged to work in their favorite OS... 🤷‍♂️

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Kyle Boe

Can't speak to "enterprise" per se but our office is split 50/50 macOS and Linux and we haven't had problems getting work done.

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simbo1905 profile image
Simon Massey • Edited

I was sat in a workshop at an enterprise that has a fifth of a million employees and one of them had a mac book pro. I stared at it a lot as the company has a few hundred thousand IBM thinkpads with the majority running windows7. On the coffee break I ask him if it was indeed a company laptop on the global corporate network. He said it was. The developers at this enterprise are given Thinkpads. So I asked him what he did for a job. He is a data scientist. I guessed that the head of data scientist had argued that they needs macs for some made up reason and the enterprise had gone along with it as a special case as it's very hard to hire data scientist and impossible to retain them if you give them a winows7 thinkpad on their first day 😂

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zukunfter

Not only apt-get. I'm not a geek but I used computers in the 90s. I still cannot use midi on Linux and I've tried for hours and read much info. Some things are difficult to set for someone who just uses the computer as a tool for other things.

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Jacob Herrington (he/him)

Sure apt-get is just an example. Many things aren't done with non-technical or casual users in mind in the Linux ecosystem.

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Nicholas Stimpson

This, in a nutshell. I am a technical user. I've used Unix and an various CLIs, but every time I see a set of instructions that tell me to use apt-get my heart sinks. Give me Windows every time. Download, double click to run - OK - OK - OK - done. And yes I installed a Linux distro recently, and had to run apt-get multiple times to get the software I needed.

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Thomas Junkツ • Edited

Perhaps you could contrast your question with another question: why is linux on the server so successful? Viewed from that perspective every reason why linux doesn't work on the desktop seems like a shallow excuse.

Take for example fragmentation: Hell we have servers running on Ubuntu, Debian, Redhat, suse etc. seems no problem here.

The point is: Linux filled on the server side the need of having an alternative operating system which was cheap and tuneable.

The same goes for android.

But do we have the same need for the desktop?

No.

And that for two reasons:
1) Your consumer product comes with a desktop operating system pre-installed. You e. g. gain no monetary advantage if you choose Ubuntu over Windows. So it's more of an ideological choice.

2) Desktop - or should I say - stationary computing is on the decline. Aside: I am writing this with my tablet lying on the sofa.

So my expectations are, that there will be no alternative desktop operating system an the near future.

@ben Halpern
As much as I would like to see a more "grass roots" type of OS,I am well aware that the main part of the success story of linux incorporates names like Redhat, IBM etc. (even ironically Microsoft is nowadays a big contributor) so that I see that that is not going to happen any time soon.

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ben profile image
Ben Halpern

All good points

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rhymes profile image
rhymes

I wonder if Google Fuchsia will amount to anything in the future...

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link2twenty profile image
Andrew Bone • Edited

Fuchsia is a whole new start, and not Linux based. If Google wanted to flex their hardware muscle we could see any of Fuchsia's layers on any number of devices from the Home product line, future would be "chrome" books or Android devices.

I like the layers idea a lot, it means you can pick as much of the core OS as you want and then build on top of it, hopefully, circumventing the traditional fragmentation issues associated with custom Android builds.

EDIT:
I just noticed the Wikipedia article doesn't mention the layers here's 9to5google's take on it 9to5google.com/2018/03/16/fuchsia-...

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thomasjunkos profile image
Thomas Junkツ • Edited

I am not seeing how Fuchsia is an improvement in terms of the shattered ecosystem Google produces. Reading sentences like

Most[?] phone makers customize the Android user experience to differentiate themselves from the competition, instead of using Google’s default aesthetic. The ability to replace a layer further shows that Google is learning from their experience with Android. They’re making it easier for vendors to use their customizations to the UI without affecting the rest of the system. Samsung, for example, can replace stock Topaz with a TouchWiz themed version

make me sick: If phone makers are able to mix and match everything up to their pleasure, they are just going to do that. Not only comes your next phone with preinstalled crap, it is higly incompatible the rest of the "Fuchsia"-ecosystem.

Coming up next:

App developer's hell

»Your App doesn't work on the recent Fuchsia 1.32.3-HUAWEI-t-mobileEDITION«.

From a consumer's perspective are they doing unwanted marketing for iPhones. Until now, I was not willing to buy wholly into Apple's ecosystem; but dropping Android and coming up with that mixed bag will help.

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link2twenty profile image
Andrew Bone

Think of Fuchsia as a set of building blocks.

|  UI-layer |
| app-layer |
| low-layer |
|  Kernal   |

They have to always be in that order. If you want to replace the app-layer you'd also have to replace the UI-layer.

Companies like Samsung want to look distinct but don't want to put in all the effort of making an app-layer. In Android they replace parts of the code with their new UI meaning at update time we have a stream.

Google engineers -> Samsung engineers -> End user

But with this new way of doing things we have 2 unrelated update streams.

Google engineers (`app-layer`) -> End users
Samsung engineers (`UI-layer`) -> End users

It might not end up being that smooth, but I'm an optimist 😉

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thomasjunkos profile image
Thomas Junkツ

You are missing my point:

Samsung ist going to pee as early in the stream as possible - the same goes for your phone providers in case you are buying a branded phone. You as the customer get only dirt all the way down.

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Vishnu Haridas • Edited

Here in India personal computers became popular during the late 90s, and sellers used to install pirated copies of Windows 95/98 when they deliver computers. During the 2000s the personal computer market grew exponentially, and most of them came with Windows XP --- either OEM installed or pirated.

During that time, Microsoft was raiding offices and institutions searching for pirated Windows, but personal computers were never checked, thus making Windows the number one choice among people. Many applications were built for Windows.

People got used to the Windows UX very much. The UX remained pretty much same from Windows 95, 98, XP, ME, Vista, 7, to 10.

They know that "My Computer" shows what's in their HDD. The letters "C:", "D:" are their HDD partitions. Inserting a CD/DVD and playing music out of it was very easy. They know how to download something and install, how to change the wallpaper, how to change the default music player. Adding a new printer or setting up a network connection was so easy.

Linux was fragmented too much at this time. Also, their UX was not standard across distributions.

If a normal user wanted to try a Linux distro, they started facing many issues.

First of all, installing Linux on a desktop was not easy for a normal user. Then, people couldn't understand the file system of Linux. "/home" was a mystery for people that came from "C:", "D:". People had no idea where to look for HDD partitions. They didn't know how to install an application. Downloading source code and compiling it was not fun for a normal user. Doing something in the command line was cumbersome. Adding a printer/scanner was not easy. Audio may fail because of a driver error. Ooops!

Within days, they would roll back to Windows. I mean, their pirated copy of Windows.

Today, there are better Linux distros with much improved UX. Now there are good office packages, music/video players, and Chrome/Mozilla --- which are the primary apps used by a normal user. Many computers comes with Ubuntu OEM installed. People are fine with that as long as their Chrome/Mozilla works and music/video plays well. GUI based package managers are there, so people are fine with that too. Reading a CD/DVD or adding a printer are easier now. Anyway confusion on the "/home" filesystem still exists among them.

Today a good percentage of laptops come with Windows 10 OEM installed and a few models with Ubuntu (or some other distro) installed.

The popularity of Linux (primarily Ubuntu) is increasing slowly, but it can't dethrone Windows in a near future for sure.

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aadilayub profile image
Aadil Ayub

You nailed it.

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codemouse92 profile image
Jason C. McDonald

I would say the lack of PR, paired with Microsoft's historic smear campaign (which they appear to have quit), is half to blame for the lack of Linux popularity on the desktop. It certainly has nothing to do with ease-of-use!

I've introduced more average computer users, especially those considered "computer illiterate," to Ubuntu, and most of them have raved about it to all their friends, with them detailing how much superior it is to Windows in their estimation. It takes me 15 minutes to get an average user comfortable in Ubuntu, and they very rarely need to contact me for support. (Once in a blue moon, I get a phone call.)

I'd say the other half of the problem is the big software companies refusing to offer support for Linux. Adobe, Autodesk, Avid, Ableton, Intuit, and (decreasingly) Microsoft have waged a war against the platform for years. Thus, the main obstacle to adoption for many users is "my software doesn't work there." There are two dimensions to this:

  1. Protools (Avid) and Ableton, as well as some Adobe and Autodesk products, sport workflows that their users are well-accustomed to. Typically, however, this can be overcome once they find open source alternatives that have the same features.

  2. The larger complaint I hear is "I can't open/save the file formats I need." Intuit, Adobe, and Autodesk are especially infamous for this, so much so that I wrote an article calling out their products as ransomware.

Of course, the only reason those products are so ubiquitous is because users are told they're ubiquitous. For example, the majority of schools and universities push Adobe and Autodesk products, even though there are many studios and companies that refuse to use those products, many preferring in-house or open-source tools. And ultimately, the only reason the schools push the products is because they're told those are the standards...and the only reason those are allegedly the standards are because the companies in question claim to be so.

I could go on, of course, about how any decent educational program will teach workflow-agnostic skills, so the student becomes proficient with ANY related software...but I digress.

In the end, then, Linux and open source aren't more ubiquitous primarily because the competition saturates all marketing channels with claims of being "the standard. The only way to overcome this is to do what the open source world has been doing for decades: educating one person at a time.

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nerfur profile image
Slava "nerfur" Voronzoff

So true and let's not forget about different "near bribe" projects and sponsorship of schools from big companies that helps them to choose "industry standard"

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sebastiangperez profile image
Sebastiangperez

Yes , that's true.
How much can you save in a company only buying one soft like, for example, Adobe Master Collection? you won't need a linux license per pc.

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thebouv profile image
Anthony Bouvier

Because Desktop Linux experience is terrible.

Every couple years I try to go back to a Desktop Linux experience. My dev machine for the longest time was Linux with fluxbox/blackbox as the wm. It was fine for me when I wanted to tinker more and didn't mind the hoops to get things working.

But nowadays? I tried to give my daughter an Ubuntu powered laptop. But then I had to keep getting it from her to configure this thing or that thing or whatever. Wouldn't play videos on some sites. Couldn't run Spotify. Speakers only played mono. Printing was a pain. Wifi was spotty.

My younger self would have tackled it. But now? Ain't nobody got time for that when your kiddo is trying to do homework and just not worry about drivers, config files, etc.

I use Macs with OSX cause I never have to think about that stuff and be interrupted, plus I can run whatever OSS I want (either as a container or via homebrew or whatever).

Linux for servers though? Nothing better imho. But Desktop Linux just still isn't there and likely never will be.

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aghost7 profile image
Jonathan Boudreau Author • Edited

Its unfortunate that you've had such a terrible experience; seems like a bad audio driver might've been the cause of all your issues. When I disable pulseaudio to do some music recording I can't play youtube videos, much like you describe.

If you ever decide to give Ubuntu another spin, I recommend purchasing your hardware with Linux in mind. Its a bit of a pain when compared to Windows, but when it comes to OSX you have to do the same thing.

ps. I haven't tried it, but there is a database of Ubuntu being tested against different hardware: certification.ubuntu.com/certifica...

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Anthony Bouvier

I could see doing it for myself some day, but never again for anyone else.

Linux on the Desktop is the realm of power users in my humble opinion.

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Sergey Spitsyn🐧🖥️

I use Linux on desktop more than 10 years. When I started use Linux, I felt what catched all troubles. But, step by step, then I get experience I know how to solve many troubles. For solving trouble I should get knowledge how it work, and then I catch similar trouble I know how to fix it.

Today I use Arch Linux it's helps me to avoid more troubles what I had in Ubuntu.

PS: sorry for my english

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Anthony Bouvier

I'm glad you enjoy the experience.

I think it is fine for developers.

Desktop Linux definitely, for the most part, is not ready for the average user. Or even the average power user.

At the end of the day I don't want to have to constantly solve problems on my workstation just to get to the work I have to solve for ... well, actual work.

I used to find fighting those desktop linux challenges fun (ooh, I'm going to recompile the kernel myself to get this driver for my sound card to work!), but now I'm too apathetic to want to do it. I got bigger fish to fry and now just find those things annoying.

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Slava "nerfur" Voronzoff

unexpected imo here:

I guess it is because lower computer literacy in modern society created by corporations and education system. While apt-get/dnf thought by @jacobherrington is true, it is just result of this. Anybody remember DOS/Home Computers era and how much time MS and others spent to push GUI as desktop OS? Main problem is people don't want to learn how to use their products anymore and IT helps them with it.

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Jacob Herrington (he/him)

I think that might be selection bias, 20-30 years ago everyone wasn't using computers. And the average person was using computers for very different tasks than today.

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Slava "nerfur" Voronzoff

Sure, not everyone, but nobody thought about computer like about "don't need to read instructions" thing. Level of illiteracy on mass market is like "oh my god! there is no button labeled Start! only mystical Begin! What will I do!". People use computers and devices mindlessly and nearly panicking if got some text message or instructions. While it is good for "sellers" it is disaster for society and communities.

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jacobherrington profile image
Jacob Herrington (he/him)

I'd disagree. I think we just need to know who we are writing software for, which is why I'm okay with Linux serving a niche.

I don't like Windows, but it has enabled millions to have access to information like humanity has never seen before.

Empathy is a big part of this discussion.

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nerfur profile image
Slava "nerfur" Voronzoff

Sorry, but IMO, not Windows provided access to information, it was lowering of hardware prices. There are already was fair amount of different OSes before and in same time with Windows. In many countries in schools and even some colleges/universities/etc "computer science" was (and still) synonymous to Windows + Office button remembering instead of teaching concepts of computing.

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jacobherrington profile image
Jacob Herrington (he/him)

Fair enough. It's hard to point at one cause of the explosion in computing, and you're definitely right about hardware prices.

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frontear profile image
Ali Rizvi

I think the extreme diversity of distros is what fundamentally ruins Linux's experience on the Desktop.

For most people, it's either Windows or a Mac. It's usually that simple, and makes for a relatively easy choice when deciding on an operating system.

Linux however, doesn't fall under this. It's a kernel, which is built upon by others to create operating systems. The problem any new linux user finds when attempting to join is, which to use? People will commonly say things like 'Ubuntu', but to an end-user, that doesn't mean anything. They still don't understand why there are so many choices. It confuses them, leads them into problematic situations of choice, learning, and other horrors.

Think about it. If you have an issue with your OS, usually you'd simply search up 'Issue with Windows' or Mac or such, but when it comes to linux, no such situations are universal. When can sudo apt-get be used and when is sudo pacman -S used?

The vast choices also make it hard to try it out. You have choices from things like Debian, Arch, Fedora, OpenSUSE, etc etc etc. What does the user choose? What is easiest to work with, starting as a noob.

I think fundamentally, the main problem ends up how diverse distros are. It's so unclear and confusing where a new user should go to learn stuff that they simply stop trying to enter the ecosystem.

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Angel D. Munoz

Freedom has it's price when it comes to Desktops unlike phones which seem a lot more personal and deserve more "customization" in which stock android already dictates how that experience should be, I don't see any stock Linux in the same sense there's a stock android.

Agreed! there are many choices!

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rhymes

Us developers weighing in on why Linux isn't mainstream on the desktop is one the reasons why Linux is not mainstream on the desktop :D

Others are: historically ugly and inconsistent UX, the fact there isn't a single Linux but many distributions, Windows being pre-installed on millions of machines, years of Linux not being really ready with people blindingly say "it's ready" (and they were all devs), the existence of Apple, OEM deals, millions of dollars spent on UX research in the other two major OSes, major apps not being available (Windows Phone is dead because apps weren't available and devs didn't want to code for Windows Phone), compatibility of formats.

I don't think there's a single reason why Linux is not more popular on desktop.

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Gijo Varghese • Edited

A daily Ubuntu user here (switched from Windows)

I've been a big fan of Ubuntu since 2008. I constantly switch between Windows and Ubuntu. After 10 years, looking back I see that Windows and MacOS have grown much much better in UI/UX when compared to Ubuntu.

Why I hate Ubuntu

I always keep up to date with the latest versions of Ubuntu. Still, I'm facing a lot of problems

  • Hard to find drivers
  • Lacks development tools. Whenever I search for tools like Client for Postgres, Git GUI, most of the popular software says "Download for Windows/MacOS". All of my colleagues use Mac (it works!) :(
  • Getting WiFi is still painful after 10 years of Ubuntu experience
  • "Ubuntu Software" is buggy as always
  • Poor UX, constant switching between GNOME and Ubuntu One. I appreciate Windows on their speed of improvements in UX
  • Hard for non-techies to install software, configure something

Why I'm still using Ubuntu

  • Can't afford a Mac
  • Super fast in running projects (react, node) when compared to Windows
  • I get the exact environment as in server (we use Ubuntu in all servers, it works great!)

PS: I'm switching to Mac very soon

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Jonathan Boudreau Author

Postgresql comes with pgAdmin, if that's not what you're looking for there is also SQLEctron. Personally, I prefer to develop from the terminal so I use pgcli.

Which issues have you run into when it comes to the Ubuntu Software application? Also, what is the biggest concern you have when it comes to the GNOME UX?

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Gijo Varghese

pgAdmin is very buggy and not smooth, especially v4. I haven't tried SQLEctron. But looks like it's based on Electron, so I'm not going to try. Electron apps consume a lot of RAM, which slows down my whole system! I hate electron apps

I'm not saying pgAdmin is bad, but just compare it with the tools like "Postico" in Mac. You'll be amazed at how smooth it is. Right now I'm using "DataGrip". It works great, but a great RAM eater!

There are no. of issues with Ubuntu Software and GNOME UX. I'm not listing them all. But I work with colleagues who use Mac (occasionally I use their too). Mac is generally having great support, better UX, a better community in development when compared to Ubuntu

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aghost7 profile image
Jonathan Boudreau Author

I've never tried pgAdmin 4, but 3 is pretty stable in my experience and has more features than postico.

Could you please at least list one issue with Ubuntu Software's UX? What do you find better with the development community of OSX?

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Ryan Smith • Edited

As a developer and someone who doesn't mind tinkering, it became a bit too overwhelming. I wanted to use Linux for development and did not want to go too far into customizing, but using Linux always caused more frustration than joy.

In my opinion, there too much configuration for not a lot of benefit. There was always something I did not like on the distros I tried. I could change it, but that required a fair amount of searching and then copying and pasting things I did not fully understand. It was always something minor that may not bother others but bothered me a lot. Things such as middle click to paste, the number of lines to scroll with the mouse wheel, mouse sensitivity/acceleration, changing the boot menu timeout, sound not defaulting to the front headphone jack, etc. There was not always a GUI option and editing files was hit or miss. It led to frustration when solutions online didn't work. Running updates to stable releases of programs or distros would often leave things in a broken state. Trying to get issues solved was a timesink that killed productivity.

For me, I think visual polish is another reason. Some users are functionality over looks, but I tend to like nice looking interfaces. There are some distros that look pretty good, but they always retain that "Linux look" that is hard to really put into words. I think it has to do with the fonts used and the font smoothing, but it just makes it feel dated. This is definitely a superficial opinion, but looking at Apple's popularity I think there is more of a demand for good-looking stuff.

I've settled on Windows 10 and Windows Subsystem Linux. I'm used to the Windows environment and WSL gives me what I need from Linux command line tools. I still have Ubuntu installed, but rarely reach for it. I think Linux is still very much for enthusiasts that are more into the open source movement.

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zk profile image
zk

The biggest reason IMO are apps not having a Linux version. Users are hard-pressed to switch to Linux if they can't run their Windows app.

What the world needs is some sort of container for desktop applications. Developers should be able to code in whatever language they want and ship it as cross-platform by default.

The OS vendors should team up and make a standard API to enable containerized desktop apps. This way the desktop world can stay afloat in the cloud-native era, where webapps are becoming more capable than before.

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Shawn Hansen

So, Electron?

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rhymes profile image
rhymes

Hope not. Imagine having 10-15 apps all self contained Chrome browsers :D

Maybe if they shared the same runtime... like an operating system ;-)

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zk profile image
zk

Correct me if I'm wrong but AFAIK Electron is JS/HTML/CSS only. Meaning you can't do apps that require special runtimes/engines/dependencies e.g., Photoshop / Video editors / Advanced 3D games or anything that requires a native desktop?

What I think is missing is a "Docker" for these kinds of apps.

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Das Böse Büro 🍆

The reason is very easy: Microsoft Exchange and the related ecosystem. It makes hard as hell to introduce linux desktops inside companies. So people at work will always install Windows, and maybe Linux in some virtual machine.

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John 'BBQ' Wollner

I've recently dumped windows 10 on my home machine in favor of fedora 29. I agree that one of the challenges to Linux being a mainstream desktop contender is fragmentation of the market, along with the perception that Linux is hard to work with. No one wants a tool that is going to cause them additional work to get the experience they have with windows out of the box.

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sebastiangperez profile image
Sebastiangperez

I have been using Fedora since version 24, i use for work and for gaming ( yes, gaming with Steam Play or Wine and DXVK). I had few issues with Ubuntu after some updates and the sound didn't work anymore.
Besides that every time there is a kernel update, i have to reinstall Nvidia propietary drivers but Fedora is one of the bests.

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jwollner5 profile image
John 'BBQ' Wollner

I think I posted earlier that I'm in the process of switching to Linux and so far I'm on my 3rd distro, trying to find the right combo of stability, hardware support and features. Coming from Windows, where I spend my professional time, I need an environment that just works so that when I sit down to develop, I'm cranking code,not trying to get the platform to work.

Not that Windows is without warts, but in terms of being productive quickly it far out shines Linux for out of the box UX.

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sebastiangperez profile image
Sebastiangperez

Try Fedora, it works for me

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jwollner5 profile image
John 'BBQ' Wollner

I like Fedora, but find gnome annoying. I'm currently using Ubuntu budgie and I love it

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sebastiangperez profile image
Sebastiangperez

I change it to cinnamon, is better and friendly than gnome.

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jimpriest profile image
Jim Priest

Think it's just fear of the unknown. People are comfortable using Windows or Mac and have heard how 'difficult' Linux is to use over the years so why switch.

Everyone I have switched over to Linux always says the same thing "I wish I had done this earlier"... most of these are not 'technical' users.

Today with most people doing a majority of things online Linux is a great platform, it's just not convenient for most people to switch.

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treddson profile image
Taylor Short

I ask myself this as well. I had used Ubuntu for quite some time and loved the fluidity and customization - not to mention it being open-source. I'm convinced more people would convert (especially from Windows) if they gave it a shot.

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krusenas profile image
Karolis

I think it's just the ease of use. After switching completely to Linux ~10 years ago I was amazed by speed and the amount of tools available for software development. Then, when I switched to MacOS I was also surprised that a lot of things from Linux just worked on there too and the setup was a lot easier.
~8 months ago I switched back from MacOS to Linux Ubuntu and yet again I was surprised how much OS has changed:

  • Automatically detects and installs correct drivers
  • Lots of auto updates for OS
  • Looks way better than MacOS & Windows (well Windows I guess is a spent horse so it's unfair to even compare)
  • Faster
  • Docker works natively without some witchcraft with "lightweight" VMs :)

I think Linux community did a great job. Current versions of Ubuntu and Fedora can be used by anyone (even your parents).

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travisboss profile image
Travis • Edited

Read a lot of discussion on here about OSX and Windows and how it just works. I think what you are seeing is OEMs are building their computers to work with Windows, not with Linux. Apple is all in-house so it will always work.

I used windows a long time ago, I used OSX up until recently then switch back to Linux after a long hiatus. What I found is I was treating OSX a lot like Linux, using brew exclusively as I am so used to a cli package manager and prefer that. I do not like having to sign in with an apple ID to download a package. Some packages would be available on a website, some direct you to the app store.

No city is begging a group of Linux devs to come to their town and get a bunch of tax breaks to build a giant facility and bring a bunch of new jobs. One day I hope so.

Also branding and name are going to be a big part of it to go mainstream. I think KDE/Gnome look about the same across different distros however not all install LibreOffice or they use a different software with a weird name.

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Sophie The Lionhart

I'm surprised honestly that there's literally no talk of ChromeOs particularly with Crostini here.

We all know ChromeOs as being a super locked down linux base, on some less powerful machines. A few years ago the introduced android apps that barely worked, but they scrapped it and re-did the entire feature and now its pretty good. That also paved way for the above mentioned Crostini.

Crostini is essentially a special container running debian off the chromeOs kernel, that lets you install software with apt-get as well as .deb packages. Gui programs automatically open in ChromeOs as native windows and get launcher icons in chromeos so you don't even have to open the terminal once they are installed.

In addition, if installing from a .deb file you can double click it in the file explorer, and it will install for you without having to do anything with the terminal or another. Also in the pipeline is the ability to simply type the program(from apt-get) you're looking for into the search bar and install it with a click. Currently the main limitation is that there is no hardware acceleration for the applications in the container though that is now in alpha testing and coming down the line. Steam runs but the games barely run due to that.

So ChromeOs you can run basically every Android app, and basically anything from linux land, with none of the normal driver BS you sometimes have to deal with. I've gotten IntelliJ running, Gimp, you name it. And its so simple. It's still a bit incomplete but its still technically in "beta", that said, its basically everything I want a linux desktop to be.

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aghost7 profile image
Jonathan Boudreau Author

I've personally never tried it, but I did recommend to some non-developers.

I think the driver issue is solved if you buy the machine for Linux specifically (buy from Dell, System76 or Purism). The problem is that you have the freedom to install Linux on any machine, which is where most of the driver problems come from. Not all vendors support Linux well.

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samuraiseoul profile image
Sophie The Lionhart

On the driver issue, yeah but if I buy a windows machine I never would really have that issue."

Also for some reason its ALWAYS the wifi driver that fails and there's never an ethernet port. :P

Chromebooks are great for non-devs but they are quickly on the path to be a dev device as well due to the increasing native linux support. The linux support and android apps also make it really robust for non-devs too where just the browser isn't quite enough for them.

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mindplay profile image
Rasmus Schultz

I'm a web developer, so there is obviously a lot of motivation for me to move to Linux - being the platform my code gets hosted on. The environment differences, and the generally poor Windows support for supposedly "cross-platform" languages, and so on.

I've started using Ubuntu on Windows, and it's still a somewhat prickly experience. Certainly better than waiting for a dependable Windows build of anything. And at least I get a stable, dependable UI for everything but programming languages 🤨

I'm the type of person who reluctantly picks a Linux every year or so, and have for more than a decade. It typically takes about a week of agony to make me go back to Windows.

This is just to provide some context for my experience.

What are the main issues?

The first is stability. Even the experienced Linux people I work with are constantly showing up to a presentation with a laptop that crashes just because you unplugged your monitor and went to a different monitor in the next room. Even a smaller hardware change seems to be enough to make it break down.

More systemic changes like taking out your harddrive and putting it in a new computer is almost guaranteed to either brick your system completely or at least leave you with lots of manual updates and/or things not working.

Probably the driver model is broken? Or perhaps the drivers themselves are neglected by the vendors and/or contributed by third parties? I don't know.

I never have problems like these on Windows. Drivers and hardware needs to just plug-and-play, with no intervention on my part. Having to fight the OS to achieve stability is completely out of the question for me.

For reference, I have seen Windows 10 crash precisely twice since it came out.

In the same time period, I must have seen my coworkers Linux machines crash (or just wig out) often several times daily.

The second big issue for me is software distributions.

On Windows, I download one file, double-click, and walk through an installation wizard.

On Linux, even with some of these vendor-supplied "app stores" attempting to make things more accessible, installation is usually a complete mystery.

The typical experience is something like a terminal window with thousands of lines of weird messages flying across the screen - and then, at the end of that, typically you're left completely in the dark, probably with some assumption that you know precisely what you've just installed and how to invoke it?

And for things like languages, these "app stores" aren't usually even an option, because everything they have is outdated, and, if you're installing a programming language, typically you need the latest version. The it's off to Stack Overflow to find obscure commands to manually add (often "unofficial", which feels really spooky) "repositories" to yet another mysterious tool just to be allowed to download and install the thing.

Who wants to know any of this stuff? It's the Dark Arts. I want to be a programmer and not a systems administrator.

So those are the two biggest problems from my personal point of view.

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aghost7 profile image
Jonathan Boudreau Author

My experience with installing programming languages is the same on OSX and Linux - using version managers (pyenv, rvm, nvm). I don't recommend messing around with system-level dependencies. Its so bad that debian patches pip to prevent people from upgrading certain dependencies that are global.

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Alejandro

I think fragmentation is a big issue, but there is also people with closed minds that will not accept anything that is not Microsoft related. For instance, a few days ago I had a job interview and the interviewer said something like If it were for me, all the servers would be using Windows, it's simpler... after he told me he had to use Linux because his architect told him so.

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Ivo Limmen

I have spend a lot of time fixing other people's computers; most users I see don't know what Linux is or that it exists. They just buy a computer and it comes with Windows. Then a few years later something goes wrong, I fix it by installing Linux (it it suits their needs) and they are all (yes I have had no exceptions) "Why haven't I heard of this before?", "How can this be free?". All my friends that are well educated do know of Linux (because they know me) but don't care and have enough money to "just buy a Mac" (that also why I make fun of them because I pay less and can do more).

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webreflection profile image
Andrea Giammarchi

I'm using GNOME on ArchLinux, at least since 2014, and I feel like I'll never look back.

The dark theme, before every other OS, looks just stunning since about ever.

The UI is buttery smooth, and the alias open=xdg-open makes me forget I'm not on macOS for the pretty much only command that I like about my macOS bash experience.

The Random Wallpaper extension makes me forget I'm not on Window, offering me amazing wallpapers from various sites curated by people, with all details when needed.

If I miss one thing from macOS, it's the Emoji widget on ctrl+command+space, something replaced by Emoji Selector extension, but not nearly as well integrated.

If I miss one thing from Windows, is just the ability to play, from time to time, whatever game, even if most things work well via Steam and/or Proton and/or dxvk.

If I could have both previous things on top of what I have daily, I'd say my perfect OS would be already a reality: blazing fast, community driven, usable in laptops, as well as Raspberry PI (or any other SBC, really), and Desktop PCs, and it's always updated 🎉

As developer, you'll indeed have always latest stable version of any package, but you can also create your own packages and publish those in AUR, where AUR is the best thing ever for community packages creation and developers.

To anyone still associating Linux to Ubuntu, just give GNOME on ArchLinux a chance, and you'll start writing posts like this one 'cause you'll be super happy, but sad if others haven't tried this combo too.

If you wouldn't know how to, give AntergOS or archibold.io a try.

I've installed these to my family and few friends, and everyone is happy.

All packages that work in Debian/Ubuntu will eventually work on ArchLinux too, so even the fragmentation excuse is not really an issue.

Now, answering to the question: why not more users?

There are still various famous "premium" softwares that work on Windows, or macOS, only.

Adobe does that, but so does Origin, EA, and many many other Games related Software Houses.

They just don't care about Linux, and not because it's difficult to distribute anything, simply because they ignore a minority of users.

There is also outdated softwar, full of bugs, security issues, yet used by banks, public administrations, etcetera ... and until they do the switch, and there are various countries where PAs already did switch from Windows to Linux, we'll still have a minority so that selling software for Linux would mean putting some effort without a certain income.

And people also keep associating the Linux world as if everything must be free while they can sell on Windows and macOS: this is simply not true at all, yet hard to drop from many people mind.

All this could change only if people started ditching the latest game, the latest software, or the latest whatever, if it doesn't have a Linux version too.

This, although, won't probably ever happen, 'cause people don't like being in charge.

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Palash Bauri 👻

I think one of the major reason is that, when you buy a new PC/Laptop, Windows or MacOS Comes Pre-installed. Most of home or office users aren't that tech savvy to dual boot Linux , and most importantly why should they! They are getting everything they need!

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Haris Secic

Count the steps and time needed to get the good driver for graphics or sound on Windows vs Linux and you'll see why non-technical users stay away from it. Constant bugs, experimental base versions which produce pain for users that want to get on with their lives etc...
Microsoft has a way of reaching different manufacturers and those create good enough drivers for the hardware in need (you can write down list of problems it's still stable for large number of users) then linux guys have to figure out how to catch up and cannot get all of the specs while writing drivers. It sounds stupid for Linux users but just test it and see. It's not fun to configure PC for 3 days just to get it to work when you only need system to work as fast as possible. It looks like this is currently changing but it's not. Any time I try to get back fully on Linux I have issues regardless of the distro.
It's a bit matter of business where MS has it's way to force hardware makers to do stuff for them in the personal machines part while servers are not that of intrest to them. On the other hand Apple has it's own specific hardware and they make it work :D

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aghost7 profile image
Jonathan Boudreau Author • Edited

To install drivers all I have to do is enable it in the settings, its actually easier to setup in my experience. Intel integrated cards work out of the box. Things might be different if you're using AMD though.

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greenroommate profile image
Haris Secic

and nvidia :D :D ... Not always but usually i get the bugs for graphics and sometimes I even need to edit some settings in config files which is boring me out. But sure if you get lucky all of your devices work just fine and even better sometimes than on windows. Forgot to mention network cards where ubuntu had problem with wifi and constantly dropped connections. Also I usually get high temperatures from using KDE and Gnome. As I said it's pretty common to encounter bugs as soon as you install the distro. If this gets fixed I think we could see more people using it on Desktop as non-tech users will believe it's good enough.

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tradesouthwest profile image
And we got to get ourselves back to the garden.

The answer has nothing to do with popularity or usability or familiarity or anything UI/UX. It is all about advertising and [semi-redact above] familiarity or comfort. Windows was so bam bam in the beginning that it dominated the market, and became what is know as the Coke syndrome where the very idea of an OS, for desktop, was to assume Windows. "...I'd like a coke please." interprets to, "...I'm buying a new desktop" and now the buyer is only assuming that it comes with Windows.

Oh well, my flavor is Mint or any Debian with smaller PCs (media centers and 3d-printer boxes) favor towards LinuxLite. distrowatch.com/table.php?distribu...

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mkenzo_8 profile image
mkenzo8

I cannot see my mum install packages or writing on a terminal😜🤣

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v6 profile image
🦄N B🛡 • Edited

// , Allow me to refer you to the Unix Haters handbook:

freecomputerbooks.com/The-UNIX-Hat...

The authors discuss the fundamental issues with the variants of Unix, including Linux, usability in depth.

Many of the issues we see today would persist even if a billionaire took up the cause.

Oh, wait, did that already happen?

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Fabio Rosado

The reason why Linux isn’t used as much as windows and Mac is mostly due to the way they where created.

I’m old enough to remember when computers where pretty expensive in Portugal and only a few people had computers - mostly running Windows 3.1.

Back then Macs where insanely expensive and only “elite” people would be able to afford a Mac.

Windows became available in schools and libraries and things became cheaper so everyone started to buy a desktop and it came with windows installed.

Back then installing Linux was a real pain/impossible if you didn’t know what you were doing. Forwarding a few years I remember already having internet at home and tried to install Linux on one of my machines but I could never make the internet work and without internet I had no way to figure out how to install internet on my Linux distro haha

The fragmentation of Linux can be an issue as well since most people are afraid to choose the wrong distro - something that doesn’t happen on Windows and Mac.

In my opinion the Mac got even more popular because “kids” like me were able to finally afford this “elite” brand and I’m sure every single one of us where amazed by actually be able to afford one haha

These are my views from Portugal, perhaps it’s different other places

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Itachi Uchiha

Millions of people still want to use "next, next" buttons. Let's assume 3 billion people using computers. Maybe all developers' count is 15 Mio.

The other people might don't want to understand technical things. Because of this, most people using an easily understandable operating system.

Although I don't like Windows, the Windows offers an operating system which even most stupid people can easily understand.

I'm using Linux since 2007. I was starting with Pardus. It was very complex for the newbies. I had a hard time installing Pardus but I could install Windows myself.

And comments are saying, the design isn't good. There are different window managers. Nothing has changed during all these years. This shouldn't be called stability.

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leob profile image
leob • Edited

For a large part of end users, a "friendly" distro like Ubuntu SHOULD be a perfect alternative to Windows.

Just try to explain both Windows, and Ubuntu (with the Gnome Classic UI, I would say) to a complete noob, let's say your proverbial completely non-technical mother-in-law (with no prior exposure to Windows) ... I predict that Ubuntu won't score worse than Windows, and maybe even better.

My sincere opinion is that a user friendly distribution like Ubuntu can actually be a lot EASIER to use than Windows (easier to install, manage, use), however the public image that Linux has is the contrary: nerdy and technical, and most users have already been spoon-fed Windows and trained to use it, and so have already been more or less brainwashed in that regard ... ;-)

Fragmentation is indeed a problem, the proponents of the different distributions can be like followers of religious sects.

My advice: getting behind Ubuntu as a "de facto" Linux standard for the desktop (and maybe even for the server). It arguably has the largest community and 'ecosystem' around it and the most mature desktop implementations.

Despite my argumentation for using a "standard" I'll quickly add that I'm personally a proponent of using Gnome classic rather than Unity on top of Ubuntu, however the various desktop managers are all well supported on Ubuntu and for 95% of the apps it does not matter.

The result of getting behind a standard: wasting less time and effort on learning (and developing, and maintaining, and supporting) competing command line utilities and package managers and whatnot, more answers to be found online, etcetera.

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ucgordonam profile image
Gordon

My biggest problem with Linux desktop was that elevated explorer file operations aren't possible sometimes without Terminal to launch the FM.

Additionally further on this, autodetection of dpi awareness is another problem, got a 4k monitor? Sure, run 3, 4 terminal commands to up console and UI resolution. It should be automated.

The UX can be pretty bad in places too but this never made it a write off for me.

I use Linux desktop where I can but supporting it and running it for a long period of time is hard.

The large array of choices when it comes to desktop environments is also a bit overwhelming for new users, this obviously can't be 'oh just delete them' but there really should be one main environment that everyone tries to target which isn't designed for a tablet os. Looking at you gnome.

Unfortunately the main competition has the market share in the desktop world because of the single desktop environment and out of the box UI to control all the things without Terminal / CMD. Which I feel this is where Linux has fallen short when it's put together in a distro.

Anyway, I absolutely love Linux it's a great system for what I use it for (servers), but it won't be replacing my desktop os until I find a distro without these gripes.

Elementary os came closest to being what I wanted but still heavily relying on the terminal for certain tasks puts me off.

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rpoirier profile image
Reese Poirier • Edited

There are 3 things Linux doesn't have that prevents it from being my daily driver OS:

  • Microsoft Office
  • Adobe CC (also CSP)
  • games

Those 3 things, plus developing software are the main things you can only do well on a desktop computer compared to other personal computing form-factors like phones and tablets.

And since developing software is the only one of those things that I can do in Linux, that's the only thing I use Linux on the desktop for.

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aghost7 profile image
Jonathan Boudreau Author

I personally haven't had to use MS office for years. Which feature can't you get from the web GUI or Libreoffice?

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antonrich profile image
Anton

I'm on Linux, but it took me a couple of attempts to actually settle on it completely. First attempts were unsuccessful because I would often ran into problems and then ask myself why it has to be so hard? and then went back to windows xp. At a certain moment windows 7 appeared which I never used. Then due to perseverance or stubbornness I went back to Linux. I think after a third attempt I never went back to windows. I have never regreted it.

If I had someone around me who knew Linux perhaps I would have needed only one attempt.

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syntaxseed profile image
SyntaxSeed (Sherri W) • Edited

I just stumbled on this older article & want to chime in.

I'm a convert from Windows desktop to Ubuntu. As a dev I'm more technical than average, but at the time I was a huge Windows fan & not super comfortable with the terminal.

Though I think I was the perfect target for Ubuntu... it was still a transition that required a high level of dedication & determination. As great as Ubuntu is, the entire Linux ecosystem lacks 2 main things: focus on user-friendliness & polish on the available applications.

The simple fact is if you want to market an OS to mainstream users, they never, ever want to run terminal commands to do anything. And even Ubuntu is only about 70% there. The gui has to be intuitive. It took me forever to first figure out how to get an app shortcut on my desktop. Fix the driver & hardware compatibility issues. Etc.

Second, I have so far found a Linux alternative to every piece of software I used to use on Windows years ago (except my accounting software, but I moved to cloud). However, without exception each one is visually uglier than the Windows alternatives. They may work as good or better - but if the GUI looks like the 1980s... people think it's old - even if it's actively updated. Microsoft makes Office & Outlook which are two of the main things people use. They keep the design polished, modern & consistent.

The public likes simple & shiny. Microsoft & Apple deliver this- even if they are bloated, vendor-locked & full of spyware, people won't care. Remember when Windows' Aero Glass theme came out? People were gaga over it.

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joelbonetr profile image
JoelBonetR • Edited

Well Linux is more used in desktops those days thanks to... Microsoft and its Windows Subsystem for Linux :D

The reasons why Linux is not so popular in desktop are, in my opinion, the following:

  • Stability. Lack of quantity and quality hardware drivers.

  • Software catalogue. Most devs had dual-boot before WSL2, specially those devs that are also gamers and if you try to play something different than minecraft on a Linux you'll learn why.

  • Frustration. People that would use Linux usually face issues that needs to be solved with the terminal, and muggles (non-IT users, and fake IT users) have the bad practice of copy and paste each thing they find on internet on a vague try to solve it's issue and go on without ever trying to understand the issue so it quickly ends up on a mess and the need to format after typing ROOT from the beginning and executing some commands found on wherever blog about something "similar" to it's issue.

Linux is and always was an OS made by "nerds" for "nerds". If you want to push a product to the market as "consumable product" you need to push hard on usability and avoid user's silliness to end up in a mess or on a weird path. This is something Windows did nice since time ago. It may push a blue screen to your face so you know something went so wrong it had to stop, on Linux you get an error on a specific "module" so you can keep trying to solve that and you'll be able to solve that only if you know about Linux. Simply setting a "safe mode" for that and not the Linux current safemode (which is primary about disabling drivers that malfunction) would be better while showing "orange screen of death". Oh and.. you'll need to maintain all the modules that shape and form an OS version, otherwise you'll end up with issues here and there and oh this is not maintained anymore and so...

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sebastiangperez profile image
Sebastiangperez

The problem is Adobe here.
Mac and Windows still exists because of that, many people relay on his software to keep using those OS.
If someone makes that Photoshop or any other Adobe software runs on Linux without using wine, bye bye Apple and MS.

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jmsche profile image
jmsche

One of the reasons (the one that hit me last month) is, install it correctly & successfully. I mean, every time I installed Windows (any version: from XP to 10) there were no issues.

Last month I got a brand new Dell XPS (9570). Maybe I am doomed, but it took the entire weekend to install Mint (tried Ubuntu first, but same errors). I think I launched the install process about 10 times before it was installed - and then I had some other issues to fix (allow the laptop to enter sleep mode, fix the freeze happening after a few minutes...). I hope my next install will be smooth :)

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woddell profile image
Chris Weir

For me it was app/driver support. I use Ubuntu at work and was using PopOS at home till I recently purchases a Macbook pro. I got tired of things not working at home on my laptop and the solution being pages long. As well as some apps just being buggy or not working.

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Jorge Castro

Linux's UI is broken: X-Window, Gnome, KDE, XFCE, all of them are broken.

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jpiszczala profile image
Jarosław Piszczała

On this topic I have only one sentence: Linux is not clickable enough. And this is problem for many users, when they hear 'Linux' they hear 'writing something in terminal to do anything'.

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luqman10 profile image
Abdul Qadir Luqman

The story of Linux on the desktop is like the story of pied piper in the silicon valley series. Brilliant from an engineering point of view, unnecessarily complicated from a user point of view

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steelwolf180 profile image
Max Ong Zong Bao

I'm actually looking forward to kids who are taught Raspberry Pi in school. On what they will do to adopt Linux as part of their goto platform when they grow up.