Until recently I thought Linux was just the domain of enthusiasts and cost-conscious corporates, who for whatever reason, wanted an alternative to Windows. I never thought Linux had a contribution to make to mainstream computing. However, after purchasing a ASUS EeePC, a Linux based subnotebook, I’ve realised that I was wrong, very wrong.
I think the problem was that I never really “got” what Linux was about.
Sure I recognised the shortcomings of Windows, and the dangers of the world being overly dependent on Microsoft, but as far I was concerned the mainstream was perfectly served by Windows (and of course, to a lesser extent, Mac OS).
It wasn’t that I didn’t like Linux, I just didn’t really take it seriously. I laughed when I read my colleague’s article about how Linux was the new Amiga, and we all know what happened to the Amiga.
Linux was clumsy, hard to use, and generally not a contender in the mainstream computing game – or so I wrongly thought.
Even when I bought the EeePC from the local office megastore, I made a joke to the sales guy saying that “for what I need to do, I’m sure even Linux will be able to handle it.”
Interestingly, the sales guy was a Linux geek and he started giving me a lecture about the benefits of Linux.
“Whatever,” I thought to myself as I paid the guy and left the store mumbling about Linux geeks.
True, I didn’t have high expectations about Linux, so when I started playing with the EeePC I was pleasantly surprised to find that it was very easy to use.
If you’ve used a GUI – whether Windows, Mac, or even Amiga OS – it takes all of 15 minutes to get a handle on how to operate the EeePC.
I was expecting a nightmare connecting the EeePc to my wireless network, but it took all of two minutes.
I didn’t really expect the web browser to work well, but Firefox on the EeePc seems to work just as well as it does on Windows.
I was expecting to take a backward step with the bundled Open Office word processor and spreadsheet software, but I had no problems working on complex Word and Excel documents transferred from my desktop computer.
I didn’t expect to be able to play video files, but the supplied SMPlayer had no problems playing back DivX files.
I was expecting to have hassles transferring files to the EeePC from USB memory sticks, but again no problem.
So far, I’ve had a very good experience with Linux on the EeePC. Sure, it was preinstalled, and set up to look like Windows, but that’s almost besides the point. It’s clear that Linux works, and works well as a mainstream consumer operating system.
What really impresses me about Linux is that it allows devices like the EeePC to be built and sold at a very low price point:
- Obviously because Linux is open source it means that the manufacturer doesn’t have to pay licensing fees for each operating system install.
- Second, Linux is far less resource hungry than Windows XP or Vista, so it runs well on lower spec hardware. My EeePC has a 900 Mhz Celeron, 512 MB RAM and a 4GB hard disk, and Linux works without any problems.
I’ve never set out to be a Linux user, but after using the EeePC, I’d be comfortable running Linux on my main notebook, but probably not my main PC, as there a number of Windows-only applications that I simply can’t do without. Still that’s a big change on where I was just a few weeks back, where I wouldn’t have even considered Linux.
Perhaps the EeePC will show other sceptics the possibilities of Linux. And perhaps this might be just another little step towards wrestling Microsoft’s market domination of operating systems out of its hands.
No, Linux won’t suddenly find itself taking serious market share from Windows, but in its own way, the EeePC is demonstrating that Linux really is a viable alternative to Windows.
For those that are interested, here’s my review of the EeePC.