1. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    A viable OS alternative for non-IT folks?

    Discussion in 'Software' started by Wreybies, Sep 1, 2016.

    There are at least two threads currently running here in the forum and uncountable conversations happening in the internet concerning a deep dissatisfaction from Windows users as regards the latest iteration of the product, less directed at performance and abilities and more directed at ever increasing encroachment upon personal privacy.

    On the other side of the coin, Mac users (like me) are still wary after the atrocious hiccup that was OSX Yosemite (the first OS to be released after Steve Jobs), and the latest move on the part of Apple to hard-solder some of their machines so that trying to upgrade memory - while still do-able - is much more of a faff than most people are willing to put up with. And in the case of Macs, OS and hardware are inextricably linked.

    What's the alternative for someone who isn't IT savvy? Is there one? I've looked at putting together a Linux machine more than once over the years, if only to give a second life to machines that have aged into the upper shelf of my closet. Every time I do, I realize that it required more knowledge than I have or am likely to ever want to acquire.

    Is there a plug-&-play Linux solution? Is there a viable different alternative?

    It would seem to me that the moment is ripe for someone to create an alternative that can be used by the average Joe.

    Thoughts?
     
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  2. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    Look at ElementaryOS (https://elementary.io). That's basically plug-and-play. I've never had trouble with it finding all of the necessary drivers etc. It's a bit of a Mac-inspired distro.

    Linux Mint is probably the all-around best for ease of use and working right out of the box, and the Cinnamon version is a nice desktop.

    Both are based on Ubuntu, which is also a good distro and also tends to work right out of the box.

    For years now, the most user-friendly Linux distros have been pretty much plug and play. I can't remember the last time I had to get into the terminal after install to get something done on one of those distros. There are other distributions based around the idea that you're going to go in and do that, but that's outside the scope of what we're talking about here.
     
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  3. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    By the way I was quite excited when I got into the terminal on my Mac and was able to get around using my linux commands :D
     
  4. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    Well, you can run Windows, Linux, etc. on a Mac. I know that Windows is running native; I don't know for sure about Linux.

    But I don't want to run any of those, so that's no help. :)

    I feel that "non-IT folks" wouldn't care that much about upgradeability--upgradeability seems like an IT thing. I think that for non-IT people, a computer is an appliance. People don't usually complain that they can't upgrade their dishwasher or their toaster.

    I'm not sure what the problem is with Yosemite. I think I was using it, but right now I'm using El Capitan, so I don't know.

    For me, the Mac is a delightful "appliance" computer. I use it for a few years, eventually it gets old, and I buy a new one. I do work in IT, but part of the joy of a Mac is that I don't need to use any of those skills.
     
  5. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    You can dual boot (or install as sole OS) Linux on a Mac and run it natively, or run it in a VM.
     
  6. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    More like was, since it's already gone, but it had some issues when it came out. It was to Mac users what Vista was to PC's. Slow, glitchy, suddenly the spinning rainbow ball of wait was everywhere to be seen. It was a mess. They addressed a lot of it, but it was just really a let-down after the solid, stable, secure, pragmatic, "it just works, every time" attitude of OSX Mavericks.
     
  7. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    And there are several ways to do this. I'll soon be installing a second internal drive to one of my MBP's and I'm playing with the idea of making that drive a second machine within a machine. Maybe with the Linux solutions you mentioned above.
     
  8. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    Yes, true. I meant that more in the other direction. If what you want is a Mac OSX environment but don't want to deal with this new little game they're playing with some of their hardware, getting OSX to run on a non-Mac machine is like trying to produce a patronus charm under pressure.
     
  9. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    I tried to make a Hackintosh once. Got past the splash screen but could never get the desktop environment to load, and I've dealt with some tricky Linux distros where you had to configure and install the desktop environment and everything else from the terminal, which is all you got from the distro on initial installation (see Arch linux).
     
  10. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    Been a while since I've heard the term Hackinstosh. :-D
     
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  11. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    @Wreybies I just came across this a moment ago: https://www.apress.com/9781484213933

    Haven't seen the book, but the table of contents covers a fair amount of ground (and has both Mint and elementaryos listed). Might be worth a look.
     
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  12. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    This sounds like me! :whistle: :-D

     
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  13. Michael Pless
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    Michael Pless Active Member

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    I agree with @Steerpike - Linux Mint is excellent and easy to use. The Cinnamon version is crisp and has great visuals. I have used it for several years now and never been dissatisfied with it. (Unlike Windows.) I do have to delve into the Terminal from time to time, but it is not so traumatic as it once was. There are increasing numbers of drivers and hardware support in Linux. Fedora is also worth a look, although I found it less... worthy than Mint. Open SuSe is very good, but requires far more technical nous than others, and the forum is thick with "... read this..." when someone asks a question. Mint KDE is nothing short of beautiful.

    The truly big plus for Mint is the user forum - you get help in a supportive environment that really is helpful. It is also complete, allowing you to (if/when necessary) to do a simple copy-paste of commands that work.

    The biggest minus as far as I'm concerned is battery life, which can be sorted with a little research and use of the terminal - and again, the instructions are complete and they work.
     
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  14. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    @Michael Pless I've also found that for those new to Linux, having a distro that works with .deb files is nice. Once you start trying to explain how to extract tarballs, use 'make,' etc. to get new software installed, people start looking back at their old OS. I know a lot of distros have software centers, but in my experience when you come across software that isn't in the software center, or has a new version that isn't in your distro's repos, it's a lot easier to find .deb files. Maybe that's just the programs I've looked at.
     
  15. Sack-a-Doo!
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    Sack-a-Doo! Contributing Member Contributor

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    Yeah, that's what I was getting at in that other thread where we were discussing laptops, etc.

    Anyway, I have a suspicion that Apple is moving away from laptops/desktops since the biggest part of their business is pads and phones (or am I wrong about that?) As a result, they're looking for ways to decrease costs in markets they no longer care about.

    It's too bad, really, because last summer I was ready to take the leap, but when I saw the limitations they were building into their 2015 models, I backed off.

    I've explored Linux and FreeBSD several times since the demise of the Commodore Amiga (my computer flavour of choice up until 1994 when they went out of business) but they really aren't for the digitally faint of heart. Even those distributions that claim to be user-friendly are nowhere near easy when it comes to installing/removing software after the initial installation of the OS itself.

    In the Linux world, everyone has their own idea of what makes a good package manager (and what Windows user will associate that with installing or removing software without having someone explain it to them?). There are articles explaining which are best, but no Linux developer ever stopped to think that Windows users have been spoon-fed for so long that they just don't know what a real OS looks or acts like (and just so you don't think I'm insulting Windows users, I now include myself in this group because I gave up on this war a long time ago).

    PC-BSD is another way to go, but with both PC-BSD and any Linux distribution, you'll be facing one hard fact: neither will have 100% compatibility with hardware you've come to rely on under Windows (scanners, printers, pro audio equipment, cameras, video cameras, etc.). And even when drivers do exist, the user often has to dig for weeks before finding them or finding the one that works with the distribution they're using or figures out how the hell to install them without starting over again from scratch.

    Of course, another way to go is to start with the Linux OS of your choice and then only buy peripheral hardware you know will be compatible. But that's a whole other can of worms. I have yet to find a definitive source of information about which distributions support drivers for which specific peripherals.

    Couple that with having to dump all the software you've spent time learning how to use on either Mac or Windows and you're left with frustration and a learning curve that most aren't willing to climb. And no, WINE (the Windows emulator whose name is ironically: Wine Is Not an Emulator) can't be counted on to run all the Windows software the user may have left over after making the jump. Each version of WINE will have its strength in running particular Windows software, but will be crap at running others. It turns into a dance that will leave one exhausted and wondering who's keeping the beat, Linus Torvalds or Bill Gates.

    Also, any Linux software for anything other than web surfing will either be quite foreign (OpenOffice, for instance) or severely limited (pro audio to name one).

    Yup, and the time has been ripe for over twenty years. Unfortunately, the alternatives are myriad, multifarious and motley. And very few—if any—are ready for prime time.

    And BTW, Linux is fine if all you want to do is write or surf the Internet. Anything beyond that will bring headaches.

    Bottom line: I understand the itch, but the conclusion I've come to after more than 20 years of searching is that if it ain't broke, don't fix it. :)
     
    Last edited: Sep 2, 2016
  16. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    @Sack-a-Doo! your Linux information is way out of date. The popular Linux distributions have a software center where you just click a button to install or uninstall software. And there is a lot of good software outside of writing and surfing the web. What you're saying is true of Linux circa 2004 or so.
     
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  17. Sack-a-Doo!
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    Sack-a-Doo! Contributing Member Contributor

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    Yeah, I keep hearing this, but last time I took a look in (somewhere between 2012 and 2014) it was still true.

    I suppose I should qualify that by adding that there were still no working drivers for my EMU pro audio card, no pro audio software that came even close to Cakewalk Sonar feature-wise and I didn't relish the idea of learning to use GIMP after exercising Photoshop muscles for so many years. On top of that, OpenOffice and its derivatives offer a non-standard interface compared to Word which I've been using since 1994.

    On top of that, learning new batches of keyboard shortcuts for all the types of software I use isn't something I'm really interested in doing.

    As well, I'd have to abandon my Samsung color laser printer, Adobe Master Suite, Kindle ebook reader, and a lot of other utilities I've come to rely on. Even Scrivener (which I haven't given up on completely) offers only a relatively-crippled version for Linux. Even the base Windows OS has features I use daily that aren't offered in Linux or any other OS.

    In short, it would be far too costly both in money and time for me to switch at this point.

    But, still, I'd be interested in hearing about some of the things you do with Linux outside of surfing and writing. I mean, just because it's constantly falling short of my expectations doesn't mean it's not useful to others.
     
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  18. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    @Sack-a-Doo! If you were having trouble with installing software by 2012 you had a distro not intended for general users.

    Specialty drivers can be a problem, though in some cases you can use the Windows driver. I haven't had to do that in over a decade, but I don't use specialty hardware. Linux finds my audio and video card fine.
     
  19. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    I don't think Apple is leaving the computer market. I do think that a relatively small percentage of people care about hardware upgrades, and therefore the extra cost, thickness, weight, and reliability issues, plus things I'm probably not thinking of, that come from upgradeability, don't pay off for that many people.

    I can't upgrade my blender either, and that worries me about as much. :)
     
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  20. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    The advantage of upgrades is not having to buy a new machine as often. I built my desktop gaming computer 7 years ago. I've upgraded it a couple of times, and I can still play all of the new games that come out, almost always on highest settings. If I buy a non-upgradeable computer for games I'll probably need a new one every two or three years at least.

    I do like that the MacBook Pro I'm going to play with is upgradeable. That's the first thing I'm going to do with it. But I don't think the vast majority of computer users bother with hardware upgrades.
     
  21. Sack-a-Doo!
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    Sack-a-Doo! Contributing Member Contributor

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    Yeah, I know what you mean. We couldn't upgrade our sandwich maker and had to buy a new one to get the features we wanted (interchangeable plates for sandwiches, waffles and burgers). But then we went completely off starch and we're stuck with two useless hunks of technology. (sigh)
     
  22. Sack-a-Doo!
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    Sack-a-Doo! Contributing Member Contributor

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    This was my reasoning when I bought the MSI GT72 laptop. The CPU is pretty future-proof (an i7) and GPU is upgradeable. Also, it's got room for two 2.5" hard drives and two M.2 SSDs. When the money comes available (and SSDs come down a bit more in price) I'm gonna set up a striped/mirrored RAID to make it the fastest laptop on the planet, maybe the in the entire universe! (pant, pant)
     
  23. Sack-a-Doo!
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    Sack-a-Doo! Contributing Member Contributor

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    It was some flavour of Ubuntu, although I don't remember which. One of my criteria at the time was that, because it had been years since I'd checked it out, I went looking for the easiest one. It may have been Mint which, unless I miss my guess, was designed for complete nubes.

    But also, keep in mind I'm not talking about installing the software that came with the distro.
     
  24. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    Mint, Ubuntu, etc have all had software centers for some time. Those aren't programs that came with the distro, they're separate applications. It's like the app store in Android or iOS. You just click a button to install. Stuff that isn't in the app store will install easily if you have a .deb file but otherwise is tricky. You may not have realized there was a software center.
     
  25. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    And there was a time when I would have told you that I'm one of those users, that what I love about Macs is what others detest about them, that there is no need to "get under the hood", that they serve me, and that I'm not a servant to their maintenance.

    But, in the end, I turned out to be a shade-tree mechanic after all. :)
     
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