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Migrating to Linux not easy for Windows users

The marketing blather promises easy upgrades, but that's not what one newbie found

(LinuxWorld) — Windows 95 works well enough for my needs, but I'm eight years behind the technology curve. While I realize there are still many who rely on Apple IIs and Tandy 100s for their daily computing chores, it's time for me to start planning a migration route. I was mulling the possibilities when the OfficeSuperGeek (tOSG) talked me into a CPU upgrade, gave me a suitable motherboard from his bonepile, dumped some Linux distributions on my desk and said, "Here... try these." What follows is an 18-month tour of recent and now not-so-recent Linux distributions.

Before we proceed, let me set your expectations about this overview. It isn't scientific. It's based on my impressions as a technical writer, Linux neophyte and curmudgeon. It's an appropriate and fair look from my humble newbie perspective. If you are a hairy-chested Linux administrator or programmer, you will undoubtedly find yourself screaming as you read the following. Save your breath. Here's what I want:

SUBHEAD2: The migration destination

My non-negotiable requirements for a new operating system center on simplicity for me. Spare me your "how much more enlightened, knowledgeable and confident I will be if I know the intimate details of my computer if the installation is treacherous!" speech; I want an operating system that works like a Honda Accord and not a kit-car project.

  1. It must have a GUI interface for installing and configuring the system. I'm a lousy typist, and text mode is not an efficient way for me to interface with an operating system.
  2. Existing hardware must remain usable. At a minimum, the printer, modem, and CD player/writer must work, and the new operating system must make them work without my having to tweak configuration files. If it can't get that far, it's not ready to inflict on the general public as a migration route, and I certainly will not recommend it to my friends.
  3. Existing software must remain usable unless the new operating system has equivalent features to the ones I use, there is no loss of data and data-transfer is easy.

    Note: Requirements 2 and 3 eliminate WindowsXP as an upgrade route. I would need to buy a new computer, probably new peripherals, and replace some eXPensive software to get the dubious benefits of product-activation codes and embedded functions I don't want and can't delete.

  4. A bit of incompatibility with legacy Microsoft Office documents is OK, but using an old Microsoft Office file with Linux should be no more of a pain in the neck than using an old Office file with a new version of Office.
  5. I must have the ability to edit documents created by clients with Windows systems and return them to the client in their preferred format.

    Requirements 4 and 5 can be handled by OpenOffice.org's 1.01 release. It doesn't have perfect compatibility with MS Office files, but it's as compatible as any version of MS Office is with any other version.

    It looks like the solution is a dual-boot system with Win95 and Linux.

  6. Because a dual-boot system is the best solution for me, the Linux distribution must make it easy to create a dual-boot system. It has to recognize and preserve the existing operating system and its data, give me access to the data on the Windows drives and be reasonably unlikely to wipe out my system.

Expectations & foreshadowing

It was supposed to "just work." (Note the foreshadowing here, folks. The supposed to is a big hint.)

I assumed that I would partition drives to make room for Linux, set the BIOS to boot from a CD-ROM drive, reboot with an installation CD in the drive, make some on-screen selections, let the distribution know what hardware to use, twiddle my thumbs for a while as it loaded software and then have a working system. I expected the installation routine to configure whatever needed configuring after it detected the hardware or I told it what I had. That's what tOSG expected, too.

My installation approach

I have installed various Linux distributions on four variations of my PC over several months. If a system is not mentioned for a distribution, it's probably because the hardware was no longer available at that time. I did not test all my requirements on all the systems. If a distribution flunked a major requirement, it was pointless to continue.

Bare essentials
GUI interface for installation/configuration
Existing printer, modem and CD-R drive must remain usable
Existing software must remain usable or have a Linux-friendly equal
Compatibility with Microsoft Office documents and files
Can create a dual-boot system

Before each installation, I deleted the Linux partitions from the drives and restored them to formatted FAT32. I did this so that every test could start with the same conditions, as if a user were doing his or her first installation.

This is more of an experiment to see how ready Linux is for the average Windows-user than how it stacks up for my own migration to Linux. As a technical writer, I've watched users install software. They have amazing faith in the programmers who write installation modules. A typical user follows on-screen instructions, clicks the most obvious choices, accepts the defaults and seldom resorts to reading manuals. If Linux is to become an upgrade path for ordinary Windows users, at least one distribution has to be installable the way the ordinary non-geek computer user will install it.

To give the distributions a real-world test, I used only the help sources provided with the distributions. I can hear some of you now:

  • "The newsgroups are where you should go for help!"
  • "Website 'A' has the documentation you need!"
  • "You have to read the man pages!"
  • "Use 'apropos'!"
  • "It takes an expert to install and configure an operating system!"

Well, you shrieking geeks, I don't have a shelf full of Linux reference books, and I don't plan to buy them. As I mentioned, I think a computer is a tool rather than a hobby. If software is distributed in mass-market retail outlets, I expect it to work straight out of the box.

To get to the man pages, I have to successfully install the distribution, the operating system has to boot and the graphics-card driver has to make them show up on the screen. To use newsgroups and Web sites, I also have to get a modem working, find a browser and newsreader, set up my Internet connection and print out the help files or Web pages as a guide for tweaking the configuration files.

The systems

I have a PC from a manufacturer that went out of business. All of the hardware supposedly had Linux drivers for it. Windows 95 ran on all systems with no problems (except for the expected total catatonia when I swapped motherboards).

SUBHEAD2: Internal on all systems

Two CD-ROM drives — the original Toshiba and a newer Sony CD-burner (on the same IDE cable with the Toshiba as master); hardware fax-modem card; Adaptec SCSI card; Sound Blaster; SIIG CyberParallel dual expansion board; 30-gigabyte and 6-gigabyte hard drives (on the same cable, with the 6-gigabyte as master). Each drive has space for Linux: 1 gigabyte for swap on the 6-gigabyte drive and 14 gigabytes for the Linux installation on the 30-gigabyte drive.

SUBHEAD2: External on all systems

OKIPAGE 6e parallel-port printer; ancient SCSI UMAX S-6E scanner; SCSI HP Photo scanner; and a parallel-port Zip drive. The computer has a USB port, but I have nothing that uses it.

  • System 1: My original 1998 266-MHz Pentium-II with 128 megabytes of RAM and Rendition Verite 1000 video card. Neither distribution I tried (SuSE 7.1 and Mandrake 8.0) could produce a post-installation GUI, and Mandrake killed Win95. I got a blank, black screen or, if I was lucky, a text-only interface.
  • System 2: System 1, plus an ATI video card. I dumped the CDs and manuals in tOSG's cubicle — along with some vile comments about the ancestry of Tux — after the System 1 debacle. He had to do something to keep me from dashing back into the clutches of Microsoft, so he loaned me the ATI video card.
  • System 3: System 1 with a new video card based on the SiS300 chipset. There would be a slot shortage on my new motherboard, and I wanted to make sure the new card was working before swapping motherboards. I was surprised at the difference a change of video boards made in the Linux installation. Not all of it was for the better.
  • System 4: AMD K6-500, 256 megabytes of RAM and the cards from #3 (with a new motherboard).
  • System 4.1: I bought a new monitor for system 4. The degaussing controls on the old one failed, and it degaussed continually.

What almost always worked

The modem. All but one distribution with an operable GUI was capable of configuring a hardware modem and connecting to the Internet. There was one I didn't try to configure. One distribution thought it couldn't connect, but it was mistaken.

SUBHEAD2: What almost never worked

The printer. It is a non-PostScript OKIPAGE 6e running as an HP LaserJet4 under Win95, but only some of the Linux distributions could do more than make its lights flash. Annoyingly, most of the configuration routines would correctly spot the printer at first but then fumble the information into the bit bucket as soon as I clicked "Yes." Then I would have to manually select it.

SUBHEAD2: What didn't work as well as it should have

The video cards. I had well-known, mass-market video cards with chipsets that were allegedly supported, but getting a GUI to show up was never a sure thing.

More Stories By Tsu Dho Nim

© Tsu Dho Nimh. Tsu Dho Nimh is a long-time technical writer whose hobbies include gardening, herbal medicine and poking geeks with sharp sticks. Nimh has worked with almost every OS and editing tool on the planet -- from mainframe to Mac, troff to FrameMakerSGML -- and is currently writing installation and user manuals for large diesel-powered compressors for firefighting vehicles and datasheets for the next generation of high-speed CMOS12 I/O cells (not at the same company, of course).

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Most Recent Comments
Melissa 05/01/04 06:19:44 PM EDT

I'm going to have to agree with many of the points made in the original article, and the more recent feedback comments by "rakamaka".

Several months ago, I got a new computer, and had WinXP Home installed on it. After relatively unhappy experiences with both Win98SE and WinME on my previous machine, I was, and still am, quite pleased with WinXP Home (eight months without a single "freeze", "crash", "BSOD", etc...and I run a *lot* of resource hungry programs on this machine!). This WinXP machine also runs pretty much 24/7, and unless absolutely required for some specific operation, I hardly ever think about "re-starting" just to recover memory, etc.

Still though, my lingering curiosity about Linux, and a spare hard drive in this machine was all I needed to decide to give Linux a try. Shortly after Mandrake 9.2 was realeased, and after reading about the supposed "ease of migration" it offered to us "Windows Wimps", I ordered my "Mandrake 9.2 PowerPack".

Unlike the writer of the original article, I was not reluctant to participate in several Linux/Mandrake news groups, online message forums, mail lists, etc., as I really wanted the best chance of "getting it right", and learning as much as I could about my new Linux experience.

Now...I'm not a programmer or "übergeek" by any stretch of the imagination, but I'm also not your "average Windows user", in that I'm quite comfortable digging deep into my Windows system to tweak all sorts of things that most "average users" couldn't even imagine. So...

Initial installation of Mandrake 9.2 when relatively smoothly, though for no apparent reason (no error messages, or any other indication that something didn't install as expected), my first installation of MDK 9.2 showed signs of instability...right from the start (even before I commenced the required "tweaking" to adjust this or that). Since my use of Mandrake (or any other Linux distro) was not "mission critical" to me at the moment, I figured that I would just tweak away (from reading, or following the instructions provided by various "Linux gurus"), and if I hosed the installation, I could just start over (and I did exactly this...several times). I did get quite good at re-installing MDK 9.2, and for still unknown reasons, some installations were less - or more - successful and/or corrupted than the first.

I can see that if I continue with this "review" as I have, it'll soon become a short novel, so I'll skip all the details of my problems and subsequent tweaking, and just move on to a couple more generalized comments in conclusion...

I'm a "computer user", not a "computer hobbyist". I use a computer because it can be a wonderful tool for many purposes. While I have found it useful to learn as much as I can about my currently preferred operating system, so that I can tweak it to my preferences, I must say that learning to tweak Windows - and having such tweaks *act as expected* without much of a headache, is much easier than the same with regards to Linux tweaking. I've come to the conclusion that I *will not* recommend Linux distros to "average Windows users" who are simply looking for a tool that will work for them. At this point, I consider Linux distros for the desktop to still be "not quite ready for prime time", and in order to really get one's Linux distro to work for them, one *must* either be an "enthusiastic computer hobbyist", or at the very least, somewhat masochistic.

One other - though not minor at all - problem I had with Linux...

Finding a combination of software packages that I felt could truly make a complete migration from Windows to Linux a practical reality for me. This was simply not possible in my case...even with regards to very "basic" types of programs...like email clients.

Being somewhat of an "email junkie", I've tried just about every available email client for both Windows and Linux, and *nothing* comes close what "The Bat!" for Windows can do for me. Granted, in order to get the most out of a program like "The Bat!", there's a lot to learn (up to and including writing complicated and convoluted customized regular expression macros for use in templates on several levels). However, even for someone who doesn't demand quite that level of functionality from their email program, The Bat! still offers much more "advanced - yet easy to use" functionality than any of the Linux - or Windows - email clients I've used. Even when Sylpheed-Claws or Emacs users describe what they can do with their email clients, I just sit here quite content, knowing that my "Bat" can do all that and more. :-)

I won't go into the many other bits of software that I use in Windows yet can't find *truly comparable* counterparts in Linux, but suffice it to say...there are many. I do understand and appreciate the differences between developmemt of "free, open source" applications and the commercially driven development model of programs written for more widely used *desktop* operating systems, so I understand that software development in certain areas will be slower in the Linux world (in *certain* areas, it's better for Linux, but for the types of programs an "average computer user" wants to use, Linux program development is woefully "behind the times").

I'm sorry to go on so long about this, and obviously, I could go on and on even more, but I'll try to spare your eyes for the moment, and leave it at this.

No doubt I'll be trying other Linux distros in the future, because philosophically, I do kinda prefer the "linux way" over the "Microsoft way" in terms of "business model", but in terms of "out of the box funtionality" for those of us who just want an operating system and associated programs that *work for us* without having to become semi-programmers ourselves, I'm going to have to recommend WinXP over the various Linux distros. Perhaps I wish this weren't so, but alas, this is the way I feel about it at this point.

Melissa

Melissa 05/01/04 05:02:00 PM EDT

I'm going to have to agree with many of the points made in the original article, and the more recent feedback comments by "rakamaka".

Several months ago, I got a new computer, and had WinXP Home installed on it. After relatively unhappy experiences with both Win98SE and WinME on my previous machine, I was, and still am, quite pleased with WinXP Home (eight months without a single "freeze", "crash", "BSOD", etc...and I run a *lot* of resource hungry programs on this machine!). This WinXP machine also runs pretty much 24/7, and unless absolutely required for some specific operation, I hardly ever think about "re-starting" just to recover memory, etc.

Still though, my lingering curiosity about Linux, and a spare hard drive in this machine was all I needed to decide to give Linux a try. Shortly after Mandrake 9.2 was realeased, and after reading about the supposed "ease of migration" it offered to us "Windows Wimps", I ordered my "Mandrake 9.2 PowerPack".

Unlike the writer of the original article, I was not reluctant to participate in several Linux/Mandrake news groups, online message forums, mail lists, etc., as I really wanted the best chance of "getting it right", and learning as much as I could about my new Linux experience.

Now...I'm not a programmer or "übergeek" by any stretch of the imagination, but I'm also not your "average Windows user", in that I'm quite comfortable digging deep into my Windows system to tweak all sorts of things that most "average users" couldn't even imagine. So...

Initial installation of Mandrake 9.2 when relatively smoothly, though for no apparent reason (no error messages, or any other indication that something didn't install as expected), my first installation of MDK 9.2 showed signs of instability...right from the start (even before I commenced the required "tweaking" to adjust this or that). Since my use of Mandrake (or any other Linux distro) was not "mission critical" to me at the moment, I figured that I would just tweak away (from reading, or following the instructions provided by various "Linux gurus"), and if I hosed the installation, I could just start over (and I did exactly this...several times). I did get quite good at re-installing MDK 9.2, and for still unknown reasons, some installations were less - or more - successful and/or corrupted than the first.

I can see that if I continue with this "review" as I have, it'll soon become a short novel, so I'll skip all the details of my problems and subsequent tweaking, and just move on to a couple more generalized comments in conclusion...

I'm a "computer user", not a "computer hobbyist". I use a computer because it can be a wonderful tool for many purposes. While I have found it useful to learn as much as I can about my currently preferred operating system, so that I can tweak it to my preferences, I must say that learning to tweak Windows - and having such tweaks *act as expected* without much of a headache, is much easier than the same with regards to Linux tweaking. I've come to the conclusion that I *will not* recommend Linux distros to "average Windows users" who are simply looking for a tool that will work for them. At this point, I consider Linux distros for the desktop to still be "not quite ready for prime time", and in order to really get one's Linux distro to work for them, one *must* either be an "enthusiastic computer hobbyist", or at the very least, somewhat masochistic.

One other - though not minor at all - problem I had with Linux...

Finding a combination of software packages that I felt could truly make a complete migration from Windows to Linux a practical reality for me. This was simply not possible in my case...even with regards to very "basic" types of programs...like email clients.

Being somewhat of an "email junkie", I've tried just about every available email client for both Windows and Linux, and *nothing* comes close what "The Bat!" for Windows can do for me. Granted, in order to get the most out of a program like "The Bat!", there's a lot to learn (up to and including writing complicated and convoluted customized regular expression macros for use in templates on several levels). However, even for someone who doesn't demand quite that level of functionality from their email program, The Bat! still offers much more "advanced - yet easy to use" functionality than any of the Linux - or Windows - email clients I've used. Even when Sylpheed-Claws or Emacs users describe what they can do with their email clients, I just sit here quite content, knowing that my "Bat" can do all that and more. :-)

I won't go into the many other bits of software that I use in Windows yet can't find *truly comparable* counterparts in Linux, but suffice it to say...there are many. I do understand and appreciate the differences between developmemt of "free, open source" applications and the commercially driven development model of programs written for more widely used *desktop* operating systems, so I understand that software development in certain areas will be slower in the Linux world (in *certain* areas, it's better for Linux, but for the types of programs an "average computer user" wants to use, Linux program development is woefully "behind the times").

I'm sorry to go on so long about this, and obviously, I could go on and on even more, but I'll try to spare your eyes for the moment, and leave it at this.

No doubt I'll be trying other Linux distros in the future, because philosophically, I do kinda prefer the "linux way" over the "Microsoft way" in terms of "business model", but in terms of "out of the box funtionality" for those of us who just want an operating system and associated programs that *work for us* without having to become semi-programmers ourselves, I'm going to have to recommend WinXP over the various Linux distros. Perhaps I wish this weren't so, but alas, this is the way I feel about it at this point.

Melissa

rakamaka 04/24/04 01:40:17 PM EDT

i tried latest versions of mandrake, fedora, debian, knoppix and faced exactly same problems described in this article.
i am relatively comfortable with commond line scripts but so far no luck(after six months) with setting soundcard, printer and webcam.
my sugestions
--i dont need 3GB software
---someone on forums pointed analogy...you have a car. but needs to read 1000 page manual open hood check engine etc. takes hours before you know how to turn on ignition key. only a dumb ediot will go with this type of system.
--linux programers think themselves next to eienstein. stop treating newbies as dirt.
--make some sort of GUI for printer and soundcard working
--new versions of LInspire, Xandros, Mandrake etc are just collection of softwares arranged on startup menu of KDE then you have to PAY for that even it doesn't help to set a printer?
--rather i will pay for MS
--STOP collecting free linux softwares rearrange start menu and sell as user friendly distro..... it is not apealing to common user.

jamie 03/26/04 09:55:57 AM EST

I read an article* which says that MS is planning to include a new "Comand Line Interface" called "MONAD" in future versions of windows. It is said that Monad is set to rival the UNIX-based shell.

This is a backflip decision after trying to phase out MSDOS in its recent versions.

* Ashton Mills. 2004, The emperor's new CLI, Atomic, Maximum Power Computing, issue.36, pp.016, AJB Publishing.

Kurt 03/23/04 01:22:21 AM EST

Oops! I meant:
...installer works great for the programs on their 3 disks but what about other software like Adobe Acrobat for Linux. Why can't I use the same tool...

Kurt 03/23/04 01:19:24 AM EST

I am sick and tired of pulling up to the table of the M$ empire for software and I have just started using Mandrake 10 Community version.

I am a long time M$ Win user and no one wants to kick the habit like I do now after my 3rd XP crash in the last year.

AS a Linux newB the problem I am having now is with installing software and menu icons and plugins. I know you all don't want to be a replica of XP and I don't want that either. I just don't understand why the following problems exist in an otherwise great OS.

- Mandrakes software installer works great for the programs on their 3 disks but what about other software like Adobe Acrobat for Linux. Why can I use the same tool for installing that? Instead I have to figure out shell commands. (XP users didn't like playing in DOS so why would they want to do this just to install a simple program like Acrobat?)

-How the heck do I make a menu icon after I install? (XP right click >Create Shortcut then drag to desired location.) I finally got an icon for Acrobat but it doesn't look like any icon from Adobe.

-Ok... I think this is an executable program file??? Double click gets me a system busy mouse icon followed by??? NOTHING! Ok... Does this mean its running somewhere? Was that the right file? Am I supposed to double click that? Sure would be nice to get some acknowledgement from the OS that something did or did not occur after trying to start that program.

-I am trying to install a Citrix ICA client plugin for Mozilla browser. (For windows I just download plugin, execute and it works.) I found instructions online and went through way too many steps to install it and I even had part of it running at one point. I still can not figure out how to get Mozilla and ICA client to work together to check my work email from home.

My point is that even though I hope to learn all the ins and outs of Linux, I can't do it fast enough to get the basic stuff setup that I need now. I will continue to try and learn it but I hope the Linux developers will take some pity on us broken up windows users who aren't looking to learn shell commands as a first step towards moving to Linux Desktop.

All that said I also wnt you all to know that I tried Linux about 4 years ago. I am very pleased and grateful for the hard work and dedication that has improved the Linux OS so much since then. I would not even attempt the move I am making today onto what was Linux then. Thank You!

jul 10/12/03 09:49:17 AM EDT

Of course installing a computer is not for everybody : when a PC is shipped with windows it has already been installed an end user hardly install it himself (especially laptops). Installing windows or mac OSX is also painful especially with another OS already installed.

Having an operationnal operating system is a question of time and work you aquire either as an hobbyist or as a specialist. The myth of the OS installing painlessly and magically is bullshit, whatever the OS is.

As a conclusion if you want the OS to be installed properly don't be greedy, pay someone to do it properly.

By the way, I am quite sure the mentioned harware won't install on windows NT or XP.

Jon 09/04/03 08:27:35 PM EDT

AS a more experianced Linux junkie I am not surprised that desktop migrations can be difficult, and probobly not a task a newbie would want to do - espically one involving dual booting (although I have not installed any recent commercial distros as I have been turning into more of a FreeBSD junkie & previosly used Debian). I would like to point out a few things though - When was the last time you tried to set up a dual boot from a windows install - Xp reportedly does OK with other windows, but anything else? And forget accessing your NTFS partions from 9x, let alone anything from another OS. Without CD's from the manufacturer for whatever version of windows your installing I have also found installations to be hellish and time consuming, unless its XP (as much as it hurts to admit). I have also found that once people get over the install shock, and get used to a -different- destkop they find kde quite acceptable. GNOME used to be cool, but got ghetto as of late and should be avoided (plenty will disagree). Final note - the rough edges are definatly still there, but are going away. Expect alot more user-friendlyness as more non-geeks start to use it.

will be newbie 09/02/03 04:04:04 AM EDT

wish me luck people!

my linux experience only goes as far as redhat 7.? way back when (my experience is extreamly limited though)i had no problems with redhat.....until i started messing with the root and kernel..oh well you guess the rest. i just hope this time around i will be a little more ummm carefull and take it easier. but from what i have read and partly seen it sould be a much much better experience. i am going to install Mandrake
9.1 PP because of the fantastic user docs i have found on the distro. i WILL be keeping windows (xp home) i just can't through away $170. i hope my machine isn't going to have a spastic and screem out in agany when i reboot from the install! i will let you know how i do

jamie 08/07/03 12:13:34 AM EDT

WOW! what a great response. Thanks Brian, for your post about Xandros. Things are looking good for an alternative to windows. I'm getting excited.

Does any-one know if microsoft products contain spyware?
Such as msn or hotmail using tracking devices to record user habits?

James 08/05/03 04:28:32 AM EDT

KreateCD (included with KDE) is as easy to use as Roxio,
free, and more reliable.

Brian 08/04/03 01:04:36 PM EDT

I have no experience with it, but from what I've been hearing and reading, the new Xandros Linux (formerly Corel Linux) is a piece of cake to install and use. Apparently, it mimics the look of Windows pretty faithfully so the GUI is intuitive for Windows users, yet being Linux it will surely be more stable and simply work better.
The install supposedly finds everything, i.e., NICs, soundcards, printers, scanners, etc. and also configures one's machine automatically if on a Windows network! Amazing accomplishment from what I understand (I'm no computer nerd).
In any case, the website is at:
http://www.xandros.com

Read what the customers are saying, as well as the industry reviews. Seems to me this is likely THE FIRST LINUX that a regular, non-technical person completely unfamiliar with Linus, could install and use with little or no problem.
Forget the Red Hats and Mandrakes, etc. of the world. If this Xandros works as well as the reviewers and customers say it does, seems to me all the others have simply been left in the dust. Of course, Linux techies that prefer to 'tinker' may prefer those, but the millions of Windows users that need to be targeted by Linux surely don't! Good job Xandros...I'll likely get a copy to check out perhaps when I put together a simple PC later this year.
I just wanted to make people aware of Xandros as it's still quite new (just debuted in I believe Jan., 2003 or thereabouts), and the momentum is still slow but building. This could be the 'deal breaker' when it comes to having a true alternative to Windows for most typical PC users.

qcg 08/04/03 12:19:12 PM EDT

Please define "learn". Windows users who can surf the web, read email, type documents, etc. can do the exact same thing on linux because Gnome is very similar to the windows gui.
Thats not all that most people want though. They want to know how to setup a printer, how to securely connect to a home lan consisting of both windows and linux, how to burn CD's, how to install programs, scan pictures, connect a USB camera, etc, and thats *NOT* trivial, compared to how easy Windows XP or 2K makes it.

For instance: I'm not a novice by any means but when I tried to plug in my USB thumb drive into linux, first of all the term plug'n'play goes out the window. I have to read through pages and pages of documentation and had to use obscure shell commands to get it working. Equivalent on win2k: plug it in, an H: drives pops up in my computers.

Another: Someone please tell me a program thats as simple as Roxio CD creator on linux.

Kurt 08/04/03 11:22:37 AM EDT

One of my many jobs is a teacher. I have now had the opportunity to teach Red Hat to everyone from age 9-59 with approximately a 99% success rate. Those who didn't get Linux didn't get Windows either. The trick is to teach them from the ground up. How computers acutally work. The revelation was out of the mouth of babes when I had a 9 year old ask me why Windows does everything backwards.

Brenda 08/03/03 07:29:45 PM EDT

i am a 54 year old computer illiterate user.Istarted on windows in 1998 and all i ever learned how to do was surf web sites and read email.I heard about Linux and started learning about it.After 6 months of questions and hanging on IRC channels that support the distros i decided to go with Mandrake 8.2.i had all 3 discs and started a journey that has been the most enjoyable experience ever.My first install was simple.Then i got a new computer and put Mandrake.9.0 on it.it great except after 7 months something happened to a bios setting and i thought it was a something else so i reformated and lost my install.this 3rd install was a nightmare but after several days i finally had to reformat again and i did everything right this time. I really just got too over confident and had made some different choices than i did before.If this grandmother can learn to run Linux then anyone can.

jamie 08/03/03 12:23:27 AM EDT

The author of "Migrating to Linux not easy for Windows users" is correct, the process is not for newbies. Although i would like to see improvements to the installation process, Tsu Dho Nimh's recomendations to the article seem to suggest making Linux more like windows. A better way to use Linux, is to buy a machine that is purposly built for Linux, or with Linux pre-installed. Hopefully this option will get more popular in the next few years.