Linux at Home - Is Linus Ready For The Home PC User?

The big news in Linux for the past two years has been its increasing use by huge organizations, from IBM to the Chinese government. They are spending their considerable resources building servers and routers with Linux OSes, as opposed to Microsoft's.

Some of the industry blogs (including wireless "always-on" advocates) are predicting a huge increase in home use as well. In fact, HP and WalMart are already packaging Linux with their electronic hardware products.

I don't see Linux taking off that quickly, however. On the single-user level, Linux is still for people like me, who like to tinker with new technology. It's not for home users who purchase PCs like many people would purchase a car or refrigerator;i.e, for style and convenience.

As an example... 

For the past few weeks, I've been setting up a dual-boot system on my home PC. Why dual-boot? Because I don't feel like purchasing a new PC at the moment, just so I can have one that runs Linux and one that runs Windows.

I chose to use Red Hat Fedora 2, because I was already familliar with the Red Hat distro. I went to RH's site to see if I could download it, partly because it's free that way. But no dice - I didn't have the disk space.

So, the next step was to purchase a new hard drive. I went to the site, which had some excellent bargains. I purchased a 40GB Western Digital, and waited a few days for it to be delivered.

I then happily installed the drive and booted up the PC, only to discover that the motherboard (ASUS P3B-F) wasn't recognizing it. Went to the ASUS site and downloaded the latest BIOS config, flashed it onto the motherboard, and then re-booted. The BIOS still didn't recognize the drive.

Eventually, I contacted Newegg, who said they would replace the drive with a new one. To make the long story short, I received the replacement drive a week later.

I installed the drive, and success! The motherboard saw it!

The next step was to install the Fedora OS. I decided against downloading it from Red Hat, because if the new hard drive blew out, then I would have lost the download, so I purchased the Red Hat Fedora Bible, which contained four CDs of the Fedora 2 distro.

I disconnected the drive with Windows on it, and then installed Fedora on the new hard drive.

Worked like a charm!

OK, now the next step was to reconnect the Windows drive, and configure Fedora so it would boot up giving me the option of choosing either Windows or Fedora. To do this, I had to add some lines to Fedora's grub.conf file (Grub being the Linux boot file).

I rebooted the PC, and there were now two boot options, Fedora or Windows XP. But when I choose XP, the screen went blank!

Two hours later, after some serious reconfiguring and rebooting, I concluded that Fedora had blown away the Windows boot sector!

Okay....The point of the narrative is this: No way is Joe Consumer going to go through all these gyrations simply to say he has Linux on his PC.

The saga continues... 

I don't mean to make the Linux install sound like an ordeal, because if you like tinkering with PCs, you will learn a lot. On the other hand, I don't think the average home user is ready for this.

OK, I temporarily gave up on dual-booting and am now working on Linux exclusively. That's OK, because it'll force me to learn more about Linux. (On the other hand, there are no drivers available for my sound card or scanner.)

The good news is that surfing the net is "smooth" with the Mozilla browser that comes with Fedora. In fact, all the apps so far that come with Fedora have been very quick. The only one I'm disappointed with is the graphics package, GIMP. You can't print images with GIMP, you can only post Web images. If you do try to print, the image comes out with a lot of funny dots on it. According to the docs, the app has no CMYK capability.

I checked the Windows hard drive yesterday, and determined the data is still there. Unfortunately, the OS doesn't work any more, after Fedora wiped out the boot sector. My next step is to wipe the drive and install Windows again. This time, however, I'm going to partition the drive with a product called Acronis Disk Director. When I purchased it, I ordered the CD version but it won't be delivered for another four weeks, maybe. I found this out after about ten emails. Even then, they didn't give me a shipping number. Sloppy service, but I've read reviews about Acronis and their products rank highly.

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