Linux for home users – stop the hype!

I’m an open source advocate who has been using Ubuntu for the past three years and just bought my first Linux-preinstalled computer (with Xandros instead of Ubuntu, but that’s okay), but I hate it when people hype up Linux to Windows users. I’m not talking about Linux for embedded devices or Linux for web servers. I’m talking about Linux for home users—what some call “Desktop Linux” (although the demographic seems to include laptop users as well).

Hyping up Linux is counterproductive. I’m an active member of the Ubuntu Forums and have seen too many “I’m going back to Windows” threads started by disgruntled potential migrants from Windows who were oversold on Linux by these “let’s hype up Linux” articles and blogs. Shame on the bloggers/writers. If you want to migrate people over to Linux successfully, you should be honest about the pros and cons, appreciate the good points Windows has to offer, and concede the difficulties people may face during migration.

The most important point to hammer home to potential new users is that Linux is not a drop-in replacement for Windows. Sadly, it is usually only after potential migrants get disgruntled that the Linux users say, “Yeah, Linux isn’t Windows!” Well, if you’d said that in the first place, people wouldn’t have had their unrealistic expectations shattered. They would have just stuck with Windows as they should have.

I’ve collected below a list of links to articles and blogs that overhype Linux (shame on them). The one (ironically enough) entitled “Why Linux is Better” happens to be one of few that admit Linux may not be a good choice for a number of situations, but it throws that in as a P.S. below a lot of hype at the top.

Hooray for Ubuntu 8.10!
Our Linux Top 10 Reasons
Why Linux is Better
10 Reasons Why Linux Ubuntu is Better than Windows
Ubuntu – an amazing alternative to Windows
Switching From Windows To Linux
Everything About Linux
Ubuntu! An alternative to Windows and Mac
Linux Friday: Reasons To Switch To Ubuntu (Or Any Linux Distribution)
Why Use Linux?
With Vista’s View Getting Dimmer, Should You Give Linux A Chance?

You won’t have to read through all those links to get the impression that Linux (and Ubuntu in particular) is the best thing since sliced bread or vanilla ice cream. Linux for home users is a choice many people don’t know they have, and they should be made aware of that choice, but they shouldn’t have that choice shoved down their throats or made out to be the unambiguously “best” choice.

I humbly offer my own write-up to potential migrants. It was written a long time ago, but I think it still holds kernels of truth, even as Ubuntu has become more polished over the years: Is Ubuntu for You?

Don’t believe the hype. Explore your options cautiously, be skeptical of any article or blog that appears one-sided, and come to Linux with an open mind. If you follow that advice, whether you stay with Windows or end up moving to Linux, you won’t regret anything. (I’ve left out mention of Mac users here, because most of these overhype-Linux write-ups target Windows users.)


  1. Wow, that’s the second time today you’ve given me something nice to read. RSS feeds are a godsend. Thanks aysiu.

  2. Don’t forget the spinning cube on YouTube. Users who jump into Linux after seeing that often fall flat on their face or they can’t get their favorite game to run. Then it’s off to their blog with something like “Linux Not Ready For Mainstream”. Unfortunately it was Ubuntu that failed them. Most likely any distribution will fail anybody who’s not prepared but in the last year and a half I have yet to read one of those “Linux is a Failure” posts where it wasn’t Ubuntu.

    Good point though. It wouldn’t hurt for a little reality check. Linux can get by just fine without any hype.

  3. And not just the cube. In fact i know friends that tried to switch because of Avant-window-manager but almost everywhere we try to influence Windows User to switch, the fact is that AWN is seen as a default thing integrated in Compiz-fusion. People most of the time are not saying what you must do to have a desktop like the shiny one you see on YouTube.

  4. Take it from someone who actually fell for the hype, for a time, decided Ubuntu was the right distro, and was sadly disappointed, left for awhile in a “I’m going back to Windows” mood, and then ever so curiously returned to it only to realize that it is simple once you realize how to google, blog, post, and generally ask questions.

    Yes, Linux is REALLY hyped up, especially by all those that feel they have to bash Microsoft with the age old (well, since Vista), “ha, Windows Aero, watch what Ubuntu can do!” argument. Sure, Ubuntu can do cool things, but getting it all working, to even a tenth of the stability and consistency of Windows XP SP2 is kinda mind-boggling. All this cool stuff means only this, more interactivity of services, packages, and apps, more things to break, not work, crash, or be generally buggy if you’re not a programmer that knows how to reprogram it, fix the bug, or are just generally computer useful, but not savvy.

    So in the opinion of someone who LOVES Ubuntu, after I decided to actually mess with it (now I’ve got three LAMP servers at work running self-compiled Nagios to manage all my networks), it’s not for everyone. It’s not as stable as other OSes when you tinker with it. Of course, being Linux, it’s naturally more stable than Microsoft’s registry based system, and therefore may seem like a better choice, but if you don’t know what you’re doing, and either don’t have the time to learn or friends to teach, or the patience to read, it’s not ready for the average user.

    Read the CIO magazine article, an entire IT department tested Windows Vista, Fedora (knowing there are other distros), and Apple, and frankly said Linux is just too complex with too many variables to be a viable replacement AT THIS TIME. So, maybe in the future, maybe not. We’ll see.

  5. I don’t hype ubunutu, though I have been a debian fan for years. My first distro was Slackware, which I wouldn’t recommend to anyone. I genuinely do not feel it’s over-hyped. I feel that Linux has reached a stage where people can use it easily and I have seen it with my own eyes. I have lots of friends who come to the house and say “Hey, can I check my email?” or “Hey, can I look up something?” This is the primary use of 90% of all home PC’s – the internet, mostly the web. These people never have a problem finding firefox (icon on windowsmaker) and getting to their stuff. They never have a probelm finding my documents and folders if I have KDE up and running (usually it’s just windowmaker, which admittedly is harder to get used to for windows folx).

    I wrote the article after having poker night here last friday and getting in a discussion with 8 friends of mine (all windows users except one mac’er). 2 had upgraded to Vista and were disgusted. I told them to come in, sit down and see what they thought. Their ease in getting on the internet was childlike. What their big concern was had more to do with office. I closed out WM and opened KDE (mine has enlightenment running over it) and showed them OO and not one person had a problem using it. They didn’t all sit down and write an essay and matching spreadsheets, but they were not intimidated by what they saw, which I think is the most important factor when thinking about switching.

    I find the above content interesting in that a company would have so many probelms with Linux. An entire school district in Maine tested TSLinux, first on 20 machines, then one whole school, now the entire district sues it. As I mentioned in the article, the only people who had problems adapting were the older demographic, who typically have problems adapting, which is why they call their grandchildren to program their tivo.

  6. I don’t think anyone is disputing the fact that pretty much anyone who can use Internet Explorer and Microsoft Office can easily adjust to Firefox and OpenOffice.

    That doesn’t mean people who want to sync their palms, print on their Lexmark printers, use wireless with Broadcom, have the just-released iPod work flawlessly, buy songs off iTunes, use Netflix’s “Watch Now” feature, set up a locally shared folder with a few clicks, and create layouts with Adobe CS3 InDesign will have an easy time switching to Linux.

    In other words, it’s not for everybody, and any article or blog saying people should switch to Linux without mentioning the potential migration woes, the possibility of hardware incompatibility, and the culture shock one might face is, yes, hyping up Linux!

  7. 7 years later nothing has changed…
    It is still being hyped because of Windows10 and how much better Linux is. The problem I have is that many people complaining about Windows 7 and 8 (not Win10, whose main complaint is data protection, not usability or stability) are bad computer users. It’s like blaming the car when the driver crashes into a tree on purpose.

    I have tried Ubuntu in 2008 and recently and found any other “Desktop Home User Linux'” version terribly, sorry, “half-assed”. Every distribution never gets anywhere, all I read is a new file system (the 100th) and a new desktop with a glass effect. VLC, Firefox and GIMP are some nice tools – which are available cross-platform. Linux requires less ressources because it also can do less. If I’d start up everything I want (e.g. screen capturing in the background) Linux would just suck up more ressources as well. And the poor driver support is awkward, too. Everything is “beta” or “unstable”. If it’s stable, it’s 2 years too late compared to Windows.

    Take Linux for mindless things, but when I want to get work done, I gotta go to Windows (7).

    Too bad Win10 sucks and if Microsoft doesn’t change their minds, in 2020, when the support of W7 runs out, I have to change back to either OSX or … Linux… *shudder*

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