Every year or so I get some incredible itch to install Linux. I suppose it's because I read so much online about how great it is, how it is finally ready for all the desktops of the world, how Microsoft is the coming of the Apocalypse, and how the latest version of it is better than ever.
So I would download the latest ISO file, burn it to disk (the last few times I was smarter and used a CD-RW), and install. Things like no support for SATA or an install process that required a deep knowledge of Linux file systems used to get in my way, but of course the next version always promises to fix this (and that's usually correct).
Fast forward to the beginning of January. I get most of the way through a Gentoo install (an attempt to "learn more about the inner workings of Linux"). I don't know how much I really learned, basically I was just copying command line commands off of the Gentoo handbook. I never finished, and the machine sat there, 3/4 complete, powered on for 2 months, until...
I figure it's finally time for me to get a Linux install that works so I can start learning some stuff. Pop in Ubuntu CD, next next next, complete. Pretty easy, right? So up comes the desktop, there it is in all it's glory at 1024x768. For all the people who criticize Windows XP for looking like a kids toy, they evidently haven't seen Ubuntu at this resolution. It may not have blue and green colors, but there are wasted pixels and bloat everywhere, including a bar at the top AND bottom of the screen. Efficient power user OS indeed...
My LCD supports 1280x1024, and so does my video card. What video card doesn't right? I figure, "It's 2007, I damn well better not have to edit a config file just to change my resolution." To my surprise, I found the option to do it, nice point and click. Also to my surprise, there was no option for 1280x1024. The highest was 1024x768.
Now I wonder how to fix this. Do I update the driver? It seems that it should be able to support this standard resolution right out of the box. Will I have to edit some config file? Who knows. I'll get to that some other day, because 1024x768 is livable for a little while.
So I look into joining our domain. This is a VERY easy process (please click that link just to see how easy it is) on Windows: set DNS entries, enter domain in text box, click OK, and enter administrator password. What is the Linux equivalent? Ensure 6 packages (plus dependencies) are installed, edit 3 text files (be careful lest you make one typo and it doesn't work), restart 2 services, and issue the actual command from the command line (admittedly there are better things in place in case of failure on Linux than Windows--you can check the log files, whereas in Windows you would be left hanging). Needless to say, I won't be joining my domain at work for a few days. Someone please tell me how this needs to be so much harder than in Windows.
Is it unfair to ask Linux to measure up to Windows? Maybe. Does Linux need to be as easy as Windows to gain appreciable market share? Most definitely. Is it very close? Nope.