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    I disagree with the assertion that Linux is for experts. I think it’s for experts, but also for complete non-experts.

    Experts will be fine with Linux (or *BSD, for that matter). In my experience they’re much better OSs for most types of power user than macOS or Windows (but not all).

    My claim though is that non-experts will also be fine with Linux. My mother in law ran Mint and then Ubuntu for years without any issues, because her support process for both Linux and Windows was exactly the same: call me and ask for help.

    The epiphany struck when I realised that I was doing all her admin anyway, so it would make zero difference to her whether she was on Windows and MS Office and Firefox, or Linux and OpenOffice and Firefox. I was right, too; there no perceptible difference to her, and my life became a damn sight easier.

    Really the only people I think will might have a rough time are power users with specific requirements (e.g. graphic designers who really do need to run macOS- or Windows-only software), or moderately skilled users with no support on call.

    Edited to add: Re. preferring to support Linux than Windows - it’s not that I’m a Windows n00b. I was a Windows dev for around a decade, and my most recent “Windows support call” for my MIL was investigating a seemingly intermittent WiFi dropout that turned out to be a combination of a bug in that particular driver where it didn’t come out of power saving mode correctly, and a Windows update that turned power saving on by default for that device. It’s not that I can’t support Windows, it’s that I much prefer not to ;)

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      I disagree with the assertion that Linux is for experts.

      I disagree with the idea that there is a single scale from non-experts to experts. I consider myself an expert, in the sense that I have been coding professionally for about twenty years. That should count for something, right?

      I also have been exclusive on Linux for about ten years. Recently there were a few occasions that I tried to help some family members to fix some things on their Windows machines. (Things like: get the printer working again.) You know what? I felt like a complete idiot. I could not even figure out how to de the simplest of things. Even the interface baffled me. I had to ask them to navigate to something that resembles a desktop for me. Several times.

      We got there in end (because the most important computer skill is perseverance), but I was as helpless on their laptop as they would be on mine. Even searching for solutions on the internet was harder than normal. Because while the information is all there, it is written on different sites, in a different style. Normally I see in a glance whether a page has potentially useful information. Not here.

      There is no such thing as an intuitive computer interface. There is only a grab bag with a haphazard collection of ideas that probably made sense to the person who designed it, but that relies on so many hidden assumptions and metaphors that very few people can grasp it without significant experience. This goes for all flavors, Linux, Windows and Mac alike.

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        They don’t assert that Linux is for experts, but rather that new users trying to support themselves will meet a somewhat newbie hostile community. Your MIL has you to support her, so she doesn’t need to know tech and doesn’t need to interact with the Linux community at all. I assume you don’t answer her questions with “You shouldn’t use those drivers as they aren’t Free. Use these instead.” but rather “Sure. I’ll fix it the next time I’m over.” Her experience is an anomaly and not how newbies interact with the Linux community at all.

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        Both the linked article and a lot of comments are skating towards where the puck was 10 years ago.

        First off, the majority of people with “computing devices” are using Linux because they’re using Android.

        Second, “Linux on the desktop” started as a goal, evolved into a bitter joke, and has been passed on by events. A computer with a desktop is simply not the main way people use computing devices nowadays. If you use one, you use it because your work requires it, or you’re a gamer, or you have specialized needs or are a developer “for fun”. A significant number of these people have access to more than one computer[1] and might be perfectly happy to install Linux on it, use it for whatever, and never really run into any pain points (or be savvy enough to google for solutions).

        In other words, Linux fills a niche, but is probably not the only computer for that user. Pain points in Linux are easy to deal with if you just visit your bank (for example) using a phone , or attend meetings like @b1twise mentions.

        So where does this leave the idealistic idea of the original “Linux on the desktop”? It was, in my opinion, based on the idea that people would get a computer, pay less for it because there was no OS bundled in the price, and get an equivalent or superior computing experience.

        But computers got more complex, and more locked down, and Apple and Microsoft stopped charging upfront for their OS (probably because Linux was seen as a competitor), and Linux distros ran into problems keeping up with stuff like audio, high-DPI monitors, and Bluetooth. And as a swelling tsunami, phones appeared as the main computing device and only Apple caught that wave. Linux couldn’t keep up.

        Apart from abtruse ideological justifications, Linux is not a better experience for most users. But it is a great experience for stuff like servers, or pi-holes, or for people who want to do home automation etc etc.

        “Linux on the desktop” is outdated because the desktop is not where people are anymore.

        [1] Personally I have access to one work computer running Windows, a personal Macbook, one VPS running Ubuntu, a used NUC running Ubuntu as well, and a RPi4 running Raspbian.

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          According to the 2021 Stack Overflow survey even developers use Windows or MacOS more frequently than Linux for development. If devs, probably the demographic most equipped to thrive with a Linux install, don’t use Linux as a majority, I can only imagine what the usage is like for non-developers.

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            I’ve always taken the approach of using what I get paid to use at work at home also. That has been mostly linux or a version of unix of some kind. Knowing that my career would be doing this kind of thing, I was happy to invest time in learning the tools of my trade. This has ended in an environment I’ve very comfortable with and that extends over time as I learn new things. I can boot into windows or bring it up in a VM, but it just doesn’t work the way I am used to doing things and that ends up being frustrating. I think the closest thing to success of linux on desktop is ChromeOS, but the hardware manufacturers are really hurting it with unreasonable prices and specs.

            I do agree that generally the normal person has a laptop because they use it for work or are in school. Beyond that they can probably be happy with an iPad and/or a cell phone. And most casual software is just designed for phones. The android tablet experience is still plagued by poor support by apps. I see it as: a child gets a tablet, gets older and graduates to a phone, gets farther in education and needs a laptop, graduates and probably gets a laptop for work and buys their own phones. If they are inclined they may also have a tablet or a game console. And a smart TV. And I’m fine with that. Over the years, it has significantly lowered the amount of tech support I provide to friends and family.

            I considered giving someone an old laptop with linux on it due to its lower specs. For the extended support lifetime, I installed Ubuntu 20.04. I got as far as the app store and realized it wasn’t being fair to put them through that.

            I’m quite interested in the reviews of the new mbp models. If thermals are good and battery life is good I am willing to deal with macos until linux is viable (if ever).

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            I found the commandline section weird… Not because it’s objectively wrong, but because there’s emphasis on things that sound weird in comparison to other systems. First, both MacOS and Windows sometimes rely on commandline - whether it’s homebrew or some option only exposed via setx / powershell, you’ll run into it one day. Second, if someone is capable of doing the comparison and deciding to try out Linux seriously, they can learn how to use the terminal after one or two times. Imagine I made the same list for windows control panel, starting with how to use the a gui, move windows, click on buttons, why the UAC covers the whole screen sometimes, etc. We take a lot of “people will just learn this” for granted in popular cases, but Linux terminal - whoah… :-)

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              The specific example, ‘sudo make install’ is actually a great one, for the opposite reason that the author intended: if you don’t know enough to understand what this means then you don’t know enough to be able to do it safely. This command will put files somewhere in your system, possibly overwriting files installed from packages. That’s absolutely not something that you’d make a novice user do and it’s something that a more experienced user should be nervous about (and make sure that they’d compiled with a sensible prefix to avoid these problems). A novice user should be installing software from packages, ideally via a GUI front-end if they’re not comfortable with the command line.

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                I remember that many many years ago I wanted to use this “Fluxbox” WM thing as that looked cool; at the time the “last stable version” was quite old and they recommended you just compile the dev version yourself “because it’s not that hard”. I remember being pretty intimidated by it, although I did end up succeeding in the end (I think? I don’t recall exactly but I did end up using Fluxbox for a number of years).

                At this point I was already using FreeBSD, this Lisp-based WM thingy (sawmill IIRC), had been programming a bit for a number of years (though not in C), etc. And FreeBSD makes it relatively easy because you have a development-ready system (packages install headers by default, C compiler, make, etc. installed with base).

                Even today when faced with an ecosystem I’m unfamiliar with it’s not necessarily that easy to “just building” something. When I wanted to build a Go program years ago it talked about all this GOPATH stuff and I was confused how it all worked. Later I started to properly program in Go and it’s really not that hard, but if you “just want to build something” then you don’t want to invest a lot of time learning all these concepts. A few weeks ago I did some C#/Mono stuff and it took me a bit to properly understand how it all fits together there too.

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                  This command will put files somewhere in your system, possibly overwriting files installed from packages.

                  The other day, I saw either on here or on the orange site a GitHub repository linked whose installation instructions were a copiable box of “curl blablablah | sudo bash -”, and they explicitly noted that their script would install their software to /usr. Not /usr/local, not /opt, but /usr. I cringed out of there hard, and wiped the knowledge of what the project was for out of my memory using strong drink.

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                    they explicitly noted that their script would install their software to /usr

                    That sounds POSIX to me! /s

                    Seriously though, how weird.

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                      It is a highly worrisome trend that I see everywhere - download a random script from the internet and pipe it to bash as root. :-(

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                  I develop for Linux on the server and (mostly) enjoy it. I’ve tried using it on the desktop twice, once about 2 years ago and another time a decade before that, and gave up after a few days each time. If you come from an environment where everything more or less “just works” (MacOS in my case, although quality is palpably declining in recent years), it’s borderline incomprehensible why people put up with such a buggy and user-hostile environment. I’ll bet my company wastes at least 30 minutes each week on screwed-up video calls thanks to buggy audio and video hardware support in desktop Linux.

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                    I honestly don’t experience this: I run Linux as a dev environment & everything just works!

                    If anything, the user experience for USB devices is better under Linux than Windows - stuff just seems to be supported OOB & I don’t even need to go hunting for drivers these days.

                    It’s possible that I have been lucky with hardware choices, but I do find it quite weird that my experience is so out of line with the rants I see about it online from time to time.

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                      If you come from an environment where everything more or less “just works”

                      Perhaps I’m affected by having used Linux from 1996, but seems to me that Linux is the environment where everything just works. With the exception of exotic hardware, but those are relatively easy to circle around these days by a bit of planning.

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                        it’s borderline incomprehensible why people put up with such a buggy and user-hostile environment.

                        While this is true on average, it’s not like Mac or windows are strictly better. There certainly are reasons to prefer Linux. Mine are (in comparison to windows and Mac circa 2014, not sure what’s the current state)

                        • setting up dev environments. Installing Python on windows was a nightmare. Homebrew sort-of works, but you are still fighting the system.
                        • installing software in general. If I need a thing, I just type “install thing” in the terminal, and it just works. I don’t need to manually install each piece of software or babysit the updates. I update system whenever I find it convenient, the whole process is fast and I can still use my device while the update is in progress. As the sibling comment mentions, no futzing with drivers either like you have to do on windows.
                        • I personally don’t like mac’s GUI. Un-disablable animations, dock eating screen space and window management don’t work for me. I much prefer windows way, where win+arrow tiles the windows, and win+number launches pinned app. It’s much easier to get that behavior in Linux, and, with some tweaking, it is optimizable further.
                        • Modern windows tries to stuff a lot of things from the Internet into your attention, with suggestions, news, weather and the like. On Linux, you generally use only what you’ve configured yourself.
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                          You can hide the dock on a Mac, and it no longer “eats screen space”. You can also trivially install an app to do window snapping. I love my Linux desktop but there’s no way I’d say it’s easier to set up window management in it.

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                          I do video calls on my phone. It has a better camera and far superior microphones. And, it just works. On my desktop, the issue is usually with really poorly done end user software. So, the exception is Google Meet since it is browser based. I’ve just come to realize that the different devices I own are good at different things.

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                            If you come from an environment where everything more or less “just works” (MacOS in my case, although quality is palpably declining in recent years), it’s borderline incomprehensible why people put up with such a buggy and user-hostile environment.

                            Curiously, I use Linux for exactly the same reason: it “just works” without faffing about, whereas I never had this experience with Windows, or with my (brief) exposure to macOS. I don’t know if this is different expectations or different skill-set or something else 🤷

                            Then again, I also just have a simple Nokia as I feel smartphones are hard-to-use difficult user-hostile devices that never seem to do what I bloody want, and everyone thinks I’m an oddball for that, so maybe I’m just weird.

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                              It’s not that Linux “just works”, or that any OS “just works”, for me. It’s that I have a strong likelihood when using Linux that there will be a usable error message, a useful log, and somewhere on the Net, people discussing the code.

                              So debugging user problems is much much easier on Linux (or *BSD) than it is with Windows or MacOS.

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                              As someone who is slowly migrating to a linux desktop, I agree.

                              I keep reading online about bluetooth, fingerprint, suspend/hibernate, multi-monitor scaling issues plaguing linux and these are things I just never have to worry about on my mbp.

                              Aside: I will say though that it seems like mac is the only OS able to get bluetooth right. On my windows machine it barely works and every once in awhile I have to re-pair.

                              Linux has come a long way since I first started using it 20 years ago but you really need to enjoy tinkering to get it right.

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                                Somehow, Android gets bluetooth right, on more-or-less the same kernel that Linux desktops run on. But I have never seen bluetooth work reliably on a Linux desktop. Intermittently, yes, reliably no.

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                              Human beings can use more than one operating system. If you’re able and think it’d be nice for you to do so, you should use more than the one operating system you’re hypothetically using now. Everything else is zealotry and debate club gaffes.

                              All computer systems are flawed and suck in one way or another. No one system can ever “win” this game. Linux for example is almost guaranteed to fail culture wise or in terms of user interface for one person, and somehow be absolutely perfect in every way for another. Meanwhile alternatives sometimes share many if not all the flaws one might find in Linux. Any one of these pros or cons likely means very little in the grand scheme of things but can be meaningful on a personal level (especially if you have to deal personally with a toxic person in the process).

                              But no, it is time to rank and choose only the “best” operating systems as if this personal abstraction means anything outside of your own personal experience with what is little more than a tool you can load (really really quickly I might add) onto a machine. These personal experiences are incredibly important and useful to share and discuss, but don’t pretend your experience is always going to be universal. And yeah I don’t like Linux culture much either. Just really don’t like the framing despite whatever “disclaimer” is tacked on.

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                                There is a cohesion on other systems Linux doesn’t approach.

                                Not to say it can’t, but it requires a conscious integration attempt, sort of like a BSD. You know, I wonder if anybody took a BSD to become a mainstream platform by integrating everything with a few simple rules and a cohesive vision? That could be seen as a luxury artist-oriented computer OS, and all it would take is gluing together things and making it look good. It could be great, especially if they go so far down the stack they end up making their own processors.

                                Separately from the above, I’m looking forward to Linus Tech Tips’s video about trying to switch to Linux as a savvy but Linux-ignorant person. It seems like a real good faith attempt, and the issues I’ve noticed raised so far are all excellent observations about the state of the Linux world.

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                                  There is helloSystem from the creator of AppImage that is geared toward this way.

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                                    Linus Tech Tips’s video about trying to switch to Linux

                                    I’m eagerly awaiting that one. It’s got a real potential of a serious approach and significant time commitment. I’m just worried that it won’t be obvious it’s “savvy but Linux-ignorant person who’s an extreme windows power-user”. There will be lots of use cases (like multi-screen live streams with pro audio interfaces) which are both non-trivial and very uncommon on any system.

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                                      The average person has their workflow. Linus is answering the question of “Can I do my workflow on Linux?”

                                      I don’t see why having pro-audio or lots of live streaming is in fact different from any other actual real challenge people face on their machine.

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                                        It’s not representative of what people do. You can cover majority of use cases with “you get a browser, a media player, and some office suite”. For gamers you add a steam library and controllers. Anything past that is a decent specialisation.

                                        It’s a good question and premise, I just hope people keep in mind that “I suffered with this setup because the things I had a custom, specialised workflow for in Windows don’t have a 1:1 equivalent” does not mean “Linux is not a usable daily driver for an average person”.

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                                          It is representative of the challenge for normal users, if not the tasks normal users would complete for their own workflows.

                                          Does that make sense?

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                                            It makes sense, but I still think it’s a little misguided to see this as a normal user thing.

                                            I see this as a bit of a mirror of myself, I am simply unable to get work done on Windows, there are 1000 paper cuts (as a developer) for me. I have been using Windows continuously on my “main” desktop computer at home since I started using computers in the mid 90s. But I am very glad that I could leave working on Windows behind many, many years ago, because I simply can’t do things that are easy for me to do on Linux (maybe on a mac as well). And this is reverse, it’s not an inherent flaw if people with opinions on Windows usage can’t reproduce everything 100% on Linux.

                                            Coming back to my first sentence, I can do “normal user things” just fine on any OS, including setting up some sort of launcher to have easy access to some tools. Or most “boring” tools are available on any platform.

                                            But I’m also looking forward to this video, now that I read about it. Incidentally in some videos I noticed he seems to be doing things on Windows I’ve never done that way, without being able to name concrete examples, but I watched a ton of their videos last year.