OK, I'm bound to annoy a few Linux fans with this, but hey, I need to vent. After having numerous frustrations with Windows Vista (perhaps exacerbated by a failing hard disk, admittedly) and a frustrating lack of speed, I borrowed an Apple MacBook for a while. Very pretty, fabulous hardware and terrific for most ordinary people. Except that I'm not ordinary, wanting to manage lots of files in lots of projects, use FTP and advanced image editing and much more. I found ways to do everything on the MacBook but it wasn't all plain sailing. And Apple's hardware costs a fortune.
So I turned, out of curiosity, to the Asus Eee PC, picking a 701 up from eBay. Great little toy, I thought. Except that with Firefox, Skype and OpenOffice pre-installed, it was quite a bit more than a toy. Maybe Linux really can start to get more into people's homes, I thought....
The trouble is that as soon as something goes wrong, in my case a 'broken' pre-installed game and needing to install a FTP client, neither of which seemed too outrageous to need to get working, you're required to leave the cosy 'Easy desktop' and get down and dirty with the most obtuse and terse command lines I've ever used.
Bear in mind that I've used DOS, VAX/VMS, HP1000 and more computers that you've had hot dinners. So I don't mind the odd vaguely intuitive command line. But being told, on an obscure forum post that you need to type:
# dd if=all.img of=/dev/sdx
(modify sdx to suit)
# sudo apt-get -jvdg tel.deb
is just plain silly. At least DOS and VAX/VMS had proper English commands - you could abbreviate them if you wanted, but when explaining something you usually put in the full version, e.g. $print job1/exclude=contents/route_printer=LN04 - that sort of thing. You could see (and remember) what you were doing.
So Linux requiring users to occasionally dip into a command line interface (terminal) is not in itself a showstopper - but the sheer inaccessibility of the language/commands used certainly is.
I consider myself a bit of a geek and can muddle through on almost any computer. But the Eee game still doesn't run and I still haven't got FTP working on the Eee 701.
If I can't do it, the man in the High Street doesn't stand a chance. The Eee has sold well and my daughter loves it, for example. But there's no way in hell that a Linux-based device like this can replace a Windows PC or Mac for most households.