Monday, August 4, 2008

Desktop Linux Distributions | Expectations of a home user

Here is my fresh article, which can be read at Raiden`s Realm too.

Desktop Linux Distribution is getting fame in every day use among home users and even office users. Given the choice to select from a huge list of Desktop Linux Distributions home users are ought to get confused and it`s not unusual that they do distro-hopping in the quest of what is so called "the best" for them.

I have discussed these issues on various occasions in my previous articles and I still believe that home users need a clear demarcation of what they are looking for when they select a desktop Linux for their home and office needs.

There might be many reasons according to everybody`s own desires and requirements leading to a home user`s selection of a Linux distribution but I am highlighting those which I have learned with my own quest of a desktop Linux distribution and I consider them of the factual importance.

Rock Solid Stability

Nothing can be literally and truly "rock solid" in Linux world or in that case in any other operating system but this is the only thing that really matters when a desktop Linux is selected. The notion of "latest and greatest" might sound appealing but home user needs stability more than the latest softwares on a desktop Linux. Well tested, bugs free softwares with stable and a fully functional system is of utmost importance. Frequent crashes, packages failures or popping up bugs are both annoying and hush away home users who are trying to adopt to something different that their traditional operating systems they had before.

Well Populated Repositories

Give me a base system, an APT and a large pool of well tested, stable packages and updates and I am all happy with a desktop Linux distribution. I remember occasions when I could not find some package in one distribution's repositories and found it on another distribution and vice versa. I know it takes great resources and lots of hard work to have a huge and well maintained repository for a desktop Linux distribution but I personally believe that it is really mandatory.

Hardware Compatibility

One of the major reason that distracts away a home user from one to another Linux distribution is lack of compatibility with common or in some cases a special hardware. This is indeed a huge task for the developers of Linux distributions to test and make sure that their distribution works flawlessly with every hardware available in the market. All major Linux distributions are offering full support for common hardware but still home users sometimes complain about support for some of their hardware at forums and IRC support rooms.


For a beginner home user a preconfigured desktop Linux distribution with all the commonly used packages installed sounds a working idea so that they don`t have to worry about how and where to get them. But for a seasoned home user a base system only with full control over the customization according to one own needs is the best policy to be adopted by the Linux distributions projects. Open Source gives a huge variety of options and choices and I feel the home user should be allowed the choice to get whatever they like e.g. Abiword in place of Open Office. I am a true fan of "remasterme "option offered and fully working by PCLinuxOS and Ubuntu projects. I personally feel that if I want any control over my system, I would ask for how can I back up my custom made system with even my personal favorites and wallpapers. I wish we have such back up and remasterme system on all major desktop distribution e.g. Debian GNU/Linux and Fedora.

Desktop Linux Beautification

This is the least important aspect that one has to consider as a desktop Linux user but since home users are not technical people they should be given abundance of beautification options for their chosen distributions so that home computing is both fun and ease. Beautification also includes desktop environments and the home users need a provision to get a working desktop environment from repositories along with the one already installed by default. I remember having problem getting open box on PCLinuxOS even though the packages were available from repositories but they never worked. I was forced to get Tinyme just because the open box packages did not work on PCLinuxOS.


Regularly updated, easy and comprehensive documentations are of great help to resolve the issues and to work around a desktop Linux distribution. Documentation are important, I wish all the major desktop Linux distributions projects add "read before you proceed" sentence to the documentations part and put it on top along with download links for their distributions ISO files as this will lessen the problems of home users and burden on developers at IRC rooms where users come asking for small problems when the solution is already there in documentations.

Online Help

IRC help rooms play a major role in the learning and fixing of Linux problems for most of the user. This trend is growing but unfortunately the help is at the cost of personal insults and degrading remarks by many of the developers and regulars at these IRC rooms to the home users and other help seekers along with useless, childish questions put by users who come asking for help without doing any home work on their problems. If we have good documentation and those with problems have read them well, I am sure half of the problems will already be fixed before they come to IRC room seeking help for minor issues. We need a professional environment and code of ethics for all these rooms to be maintained both by help seekers and the helpers and it will help to improve the outlook of desktop Linux distribution for everyone


Much has been said, read and done in the field of desktop Linux distribution. If we want to reach our target users for desktop Linux we have to address the core needs and requirements of a home user. I have tried my best to pin point what I see as my own requirement being a home user. I wish everyone else shares what they think will improve this vision of a desktop Linux.


Donald K. Wood said...

Dear Dr. Marwat, I am Don Wood, the historian of the WH Cole Society and am working presently on a biography of Dr. Nyhus. I see him regularly and sad to say, he is not in full control of his mental capacities. He is the same statemanlike individual but knows me, his son and his daughter, but that is about it. If you would like to write, write the letter to can e-mail it and I shall background it and read it to him.
Or if you like address a letter to me at: Donald K. Wood, MD, FACS
5200 Harvey Avenue, Western Springs, Illinois 60558. My e-mail is
I shall be happy to convey your sentiments to the Professor. Kindest Regards, Don Wood

manmath sahu said...

Hi Saleem,
Fully agree with your thoughts. Linux is growing every which way possible - hundreds of distros, multiple packaging systems, multiple desktop environments, and fast coming updates in all these areas. I think there should merger among them. For example, Mepis, Mint and PCLinuxOS are doing great job in desktop, but there hundreds of distros that come nowhere close to these dynamic three. So, I think those budding distros and small communities should come forward to help these great distros instead of trying their hand at creating yet another distro. Most of the time this means waste of time and reinventing the wheel. Linux is such a big community that if many are united it can do wonders... But, this is just my pinch of thought.

PS: I like all your posts. Keep blogging. I am also downloading PLD, but as you told there is network jam - only 15 downloads at a time... will let you know my experience after some time.