Part 3! Moving on to Linux. I’ll be looking at Ubuntu in particular because it’s the most popular Linux distribution and the one that I have the most personal experience with. I have also used Puppy, Fedora, and Linux Mint, but I’ll stick with Ubuntu in this one.
It’s Linux. That means that it’s difficult to use for newbies. Even the relatively easy to use Ubuntu never really “just works.” It still requires a complete shift in thinking to use. Keyboard shortcuts are different (ctrl+alt+del, for example). The file system is totally different from Windows and can be unfamiliar to OS X users (OS X makes it harder to access essential files and folders that are easy to see in Linux). Installing stuff can be a complete pain. Most of this does not matter a whit to Linux users, but the high level of expertise required even for Ubuntu, can be daunting to new users.
Inconsistent user experience. Ubuntu, though trying hard to change this, does not have the same kind of identity that Windows and OS X do. Apple developed applications have a very consistent feel and user experience. Microsoft applications do too, though to a lesser extent. But Ubuntu makes no applications. Ubuntu does not ship it’s own browser, or text editor, or picture viewer. And while themes and skins help, there is still an inconsistency between Firefox, OpenOffice, FSpot, and Empathy, which are all pre-installed in Ubuntu.
Why is it so hard to install stuff? It’s easy to get popular stuff that already has pre-loaded repositories. It gets harder to add repositories. It gets even harder to compile stuff directly. Again, inconsistency plays a part here. I understand that it can be difficult for open source developers to get installers and repositories up, but users do not necessarily know that, and may not sympathize.
Free apps can really suck. Few companies make commercial applications for desktop Linux users. So getting good stuff isn’t always easy. There are plenty of Linux alternatives, but a lot of them kinda suck. OpenOffice is adequate, but it’s a very frustrating MS Office clone. GIMP simply does not have the kind of capital behind it to be as useful as Photoshop. Linux does not have good video editors. Also, free games suck. They suck hard. They suck like a vacuum. As much as some Linux game sites want to sell you on the idea of TuxRacer or Vendetta, in all honesty, there is no comparison to big studio games. Bioshock is not on Linux. Crysis is not on Linux. Left 4 Dead is not on Linux. Sometimes you can find ports of Quake Wars and the like, but these are generally years after the fact.
Nothing “just works.” If you use Linux, this doesn’t really matter. But if you have never used Linux before, everything can be frustrating. The amount of access you have to everything in Linux means that you can totally break stuff and not understand what you did. You can lose stuff and never find it. You can download stuff that you didn’t realize that you can’t use.
In all honesty, though, I’m a fan of all 3 operating systems (Windows, OS X, and Linux) for different reasons. They all do certain things well. OS X is generally stupid proof, and very pretty. Windows can game and still offers much of my favorite applications, and the most market share. Linux (if you are really good as customizing it) can be absolutely anything you want it to be. But it’s important to understand the shortcomings of each to know where your options lay and how to make whatever (gaming, productivity, creativity) better.