Thought that title might get your attention…
Yep, Linux is really best suited to those who have been shut out of purchasing commercial operating systems and applications. As I thought more about the trials and tribulations of installing Linux on my NEW laptop that came fully loaded with a valid OS license and lots of applications (MS Works, etc.) for only $749 I realized that I am of the fortunate set.
While others who are as fortunate financially may love to use Linux systems, they are still at the “tinkering” stage. Sure, you can make the OS and applications work, but there is almost always a compromise.
The things I couldn’t compromise were sound and music. While I’m no huge audiophile, my computer needs to be able to play, record and edit sound/video without too much tinkering. Sure there are Linux applications that allow you to do these things but they really didn’t work all that well on my system without a bunch of kernel tinkering. Not worth it.
Others without the financial means to have a valid Microsoft/Apple OS will undoubtedly be happy with these systems. As far as I can tell, there is no huge difference between Microsoft Office and OpenOffice. For my usage, OpenOffice is much nicer in many ways.
Does Linux offer an advantage outside the cubicles of “tinkering” technocrats? Sure – in certified systems for those who can’t afford a licensed OS and applications. I just checked an online PC configuration tool and without knowing the compatibility of all the components a fairly powerful “bare-bones” AMD/Intel machine can be assembled for under $400. I’m sure with volume pricing that could be much less.
So where would this free OS machine work best? Underfunded school districts, community centers, job training sites, etc. Would it be bleeding edge, no. Would it do 95% of what Macintosh/Microsoft systems can do – I believe so. As mentioned above, open source applications are awesome and I believe that certified systems would allow them to work without kernel tinkering which would put them on par with the big OS manufacturers.
For a radical experiment in open source computing and cheap systems see the One Laptop Per Child project.
So for now I’ll stick with my statement that “Linux is for Losers.” But those who have been left behind by the sheer economics of entering the information age will soon catch up as open source systems become more available.