Based on what "Mr. Average" would be able to install while using my computer.
Mr. Average is just that. Your average PC user who knows how to boot the machine, install software, check his email, surf the net, play games, listen to MP3s, burn CDs, write documents, and can generally hold his own as long as the GUI cooperates with him. He doesn't know jack #### about how to open his case and fiddle with his hardware. He only knows that the system he purchased ( which coincidently happens to mirror my own configuration, go figure ) works. He's currently running Windows XP, and has in the past used other Microsoft operating systems without much trouble. He's been reading a lot of bad things about Microsoft lately and does not want to be tied down to them in the future because he doesn't like the new licensing scheme they've come up with. He also doesn't much care for the fact that Microsoft OS's cost so damn much money and is sick of the upgrade cycle. Viruses, worms, and hackers are a daily battle for him since so many of his peers fail to take steps to protect themselves and he's getting tired of having to keep up the subscriptions on his antivirus software. Some of his more tech savvy friends have told him about a curious beast known as Linux, which has many different flavors. Unfortunately his tech savvy friends are busy people who haven't got time to help him out, so he'll have to handle this on his own. After doing some research on the net, Mr. Average has found several desktop oriented Linux distributions to try. He's quite excited to find that they're all FREE, or very reasonably priced for those that have retail versions.
Having been educated by one of his freinds in how to deal with dual-boot, he used a copy of Partition Magic 7.0 to split his existing hard drive into 3 pieces. One will remain his main XP partition, in NTFS format for those things XP will still be required for. A second one has been setup as FAT32, for data that can be shared between both operating systems, such as image files, MP3s, and text documents. The 3rd partition has been left unallocated and will be set aside for use by Linux.
So he sits down one day with his DSL line, his burner, and a new tube of 24x CDRs and has at it.
Naturally he comes to this one first, since it's been the most talked about, and some of his friends use it too. The CD boots up with no trouble, and the graphical installer is pretty straightforward. A few clicks later and some typing, Redhat is busy installing packages to the hard drive. Recognized and installed with no need to shuffle hardware ( It liked the HPT372 ) just fine. It even setup the dual-boot automatically. Once done, it asked him to reboot, so he rebooted. The new bootloader screen was easy enough to figure out, and so he selected the Redhat option. It seemed to have liked everything except the sound card, silence. The Windows partitions were intact, and Redhat could even read files from the NTFS volume, although it coudln't write to it. The default refresh that came up in KDE was set WAY too low. Too bad the KDE GUI didn't have controls to alter screen refresh rates. It also installed numerous unnecessary programs for desktop use, which wasn't overly surprising since it was really a Workstation install. Except this means his "Start Menu" is cluttered with a lot of things he has no plans to use. Figuring out how to remove them has proven frustrating, since he can't find the "Add/Remove Programs" equivalent. Closest thing he could find was the RPM manager, which he couldn't quite grasp how to use. He's also got no idea there are servers running in the background he didn't know about, which are making his system seem sluggish. There's also no sound, so his rather extensive MP3 collection is useless to him. The refresh problem has also proven to be more than he can stand. He's given up and decided to move on.
Results: It worked - almost. Mr. Average wants his sound support to function. He's not happy. First 3 coasters on the pile. Rebooted back into XP.
Absolutely excellent as a server OS though.
Mr. Average has heard some hype about a new company called Lycoris. They've apparently got a flashy new distribution called Desktop/LX. He recalls having seen a package on the shelf at Fry's and decided to give it a shot. A couple of hours later he has the CD burned and is ready to roll. The installer was very clean, simple, and easy to follow. Everything appeared to go as planned, and it even asked about the bootloader. Mr. Average was even pleasantly surprised by the solitaire game he was able to play while waiting for the packages to install. Or did they? Ooops. No, they didn't. The system has crashed, saying the packages can't be installed. He has no idea why either.
Results: Failure. Not ready for prime time. One more coaster on the pile. Rebooted to XP.
Note - Mr. Average would NOT do this: After moving the HD to a normal IDE port, it installed. Apparently Lycoris decided to cut off anyone with a Highpoint IDE Raid controller.
Rebooted: Misidentified all hardware except the network card, failed to recognize CD burner. Installed cleanly on an old P2400 system I use in school. Quite a nice little OS, if you have junk for a computer. Which leads to the inevitable slow experience. Any system newer than 2 years will fail, period. Sad.
"Everything just works!" Hardly. It needs to install before you can claim this, yes?
"Linux is for everyone." Agreed. But again, it need to work first.
While poking around the Lycoris forums ( and learning that his failure had something to do with an HPT372 controller ) he ran across a link to another distribution he hadn't heard of yet called Elx. After reading up on their website, he thought "Wow, this should be great!" Downloaded the ISO, burned it, rebooted. DOA. Failed to enter install phase. Mr. Average acquires another coaster. Rebooted to XP.
Pretty sad too, they're making some rather bold claims about being easy to migrate to.
"Everyone's Linux" Nope. Not hardly.
Mr. Average returns to his previously researched list and moves on to Libranet. Downloaded the ISO, burned it, rebooted. Mr. Average is greeted with something really uncool - a text based installer. The first thing it did was lead him to something called cfdisk, which was apparently for partitioning the drive. After trying to get it to work, and having no luck, he gave up. Rebooted to XP.
Result: Failure. Coaster.
What Mr. Average didn't realize was that this HAD actually written something and the installer simply died afterwards. Failed to proceed past partition editing. This would seem to suggest it recognized the drive though, which is an improvement.
Also making some rather grand claims about being easy to use, but the portions of the installer I was able to get to weren't even graphical.
"Libranet is user friendly for new users" Somehow I don't think so....
Growing tired of the frustration, he moves on to Slackware. Burned CD, rebooted. Again he's greeted by a text based installer, only this time he has no real idea where to go from here. It asked him to log in as root, so he did. It sat there, cursor blinking. Nothing.
Result: HELL NO! Mr. Average nearly fainted, then deleted the ISO and tossed the CD on the coffee table. Then he rebooted back into XP.
Mr. Average was spared the truly awful grief of getting into cfdisk, making partions, and being further greeted by yet ANOTHER non-GUI installer. Ok, fine. I can handle this, I'm a very above average kind of person. Failed to proceed past Swap partition formatting. Obviously it must have recognized the drive, or it never would have made it this far. No idea why it decided to crash after making it to this point. Installer is complex as hell, though they aren't making any claims that it should be easy, so no strike against them here. Though one does have to wonder how they got included on a list of DESKTOP distros.
Mr. Average was unable to find the ISOs anywhere for this and gave up. After having been stopped at every turn thus far, he's not about to risk paying good money for this.
Result: Unknown. Hey, no coaster at least.
It should also be noted here that SuSE is apparently making some rather bad decisions along the lines of closed-source and per-seat licensing for the OS. This reeks too much of M$ tactics.
Mr. Average balked immediately at the idea of paying ANYONE $99 for beta software. He's already done this twice before with previous versions of Windows. He's also seen nothing but bad press on the net about it.
Result: Failure. But at least it didn't become a VERY costly coaster. *I* won't spend the $99 either!
The one thing Lindows currently has in their favor - a cushy deal with WalMart. The only problem? All the bad press about Lindows recently is going to spill over generically. What do I mean? People like Mr. Average will probably equate it like so: Lindows = Linux. Lindows = bad. Therefore Linux = bad.
Mr. Average has heard alot of nice things from some of his smarter friends about this one. Except there's no download available. So he had to pass.
This is another distro making some bold statements. Time will tell.
Mr. Average was unable to find the ISOs anywhere for this and gave up.
Result: Unknown. But at least it's not a coaster.
Mr. Average therefore came to the conclusion that Linux isn't going to work for him. Although he may not like the direction Microsoft is headed with their licensing and privacy issues ( Palladium anyone? ) he's decided that he has little choice but to remain with XP for now. Afterall, XP does everything he wants to do, and does it without crashing. It has the support of every major hardware vendor on the planet. His games all work on it. But hey, he's got 7 new coasters which are sure to make good conversation pieces someday. Oh, and a nice new tube of CDRs to burn some of his MP3s with.
Now then. Hopefully this piece has made it clear that we haven't arrived just yet. We're working on it. Just hasn't happened yet. In addition to having messed with the above, I'm also planning to take a crack at the Mandrake 9.0 beta, as well as the Redhat 7.4( Limbo ) beta. They both make claims of being geared more toward the type of people Mr. Average is meant to portray, but being beta software would be unsuitable for someone like him. I've also been to the Gentoo page and liked what I was reading about their Portage system and the whole "emerge" way of installing packages. This of course would be WAY beyond the scope of anything Mr. Average would want, but it does look like a damn nice way to do things.
You may also have figured out by now that I'm annoyed at the fact that such a common piece of hardware is not supported by anyone but Redhat. It may also have been somewhat obvious that I've made my displeasure known on the Lycoris forums about this as well, since I spent an undo amount of time with that particular distro. How was I repaid? In typical fashion - by being asked to alter my current hardware configuration to accomadate THEM, instead of the way it should be. What's more, it seems I may have pissed them off in telling them that the hardware needs to be supported. Attempts to leave posts on the forums using Mozilla are flatly rejected, saying I have no post permissions. I've got a registered account, and can use it from school. Appears they have IP banned me or something. While using Opera, I'm repeatedly bombarded with "poisoned cookies" that seem to bear this out since the cookies simply identify my connection as "user=deleted". Praise Opera for being able to circumvent this by repeatedly refusing to accept the cookies. I *WANTED* to like it, and in fact I do. Quite a bit actually. It's currently sharing space on the drive I use for school. Classmates have commented on how cool it looks. They've even gone so far as to ask for copies of it, which I happily provided them. I'm expecting that they'll encounter the same issues I had when they install it. Yes, you guessed it. Three of the five people I gave copies to have HPT controllers.