On Linux for Ordinary Users

27 December, 2021

When I wrote this post, Linux was well into its 32nd year. It’s evolved, changed, and improved considerably over time. The Linux of today is a far cry from the Linux I first took a look at in the mid 1990s.

Compared to their early counterparts, the Linux distributions of today are (for the most part) easy to install, easy to set up, and easy to use. You don’t have to compile your own software or kernel. You don’t need to edit and tweak a raft of configuration files to get a system working. Unless you want to, that is.

Today, you can use just about Linux distribution out of the box. Or when you start up a computer that comes with one pre-installed. How times have changed.

Yet, in some circles, Linux still has reputation of being difficult. To install. To set up. To use. To understand. Especially for folks with few, if any, technical skills. There is, in certain corners online, a 1998 rather than a 2021 mindset around Linux. In those corners, the myth that Linux isn’t ready for the ordinary computer user continues to survive.

And there’s a feeling among some Linux devotees that making things too easy for users is antithetical to what Linux is about. That was brought home to me, again, in a recent discussion I had online with a few folks.

When mentioned that I use, and really enjoy using, elementary OS, one person in that conversation was more than a little shocked. Almost on cue, they trotted out the stock arguments against elementary and distros like it. That, among other things, elementary is too dumbed down (their words, not mine).

I was forced to reminded that person that I’m not, have never consider myself to be, and never will be a so-called power user. And while I agree that elementary OS isn’t for everyone, it does have its audience.

What has always attracted me to it is the ethos behind elementary — even more so than that of Ubuntu and its variants. elementary is aimed at the ordinary computer user. It caters to their needs, to what they want and need to do. elementary OS isn’t designed to be heavily tweaked or fiddled with. The collection of software is curated, but it focuses on what are (for most people) everyday tasks.

In the minds of some, by embracing elementary OS I’m trading away quite a bit in the way of customization for ease of use. I’m trading away what makes Linux special. That may be true, but a lot of those customization of which folks like that speak aren’t really my thing. They’re not of much interest to me. And, I’m sure, they’re not of much interest to elementary’s audience either.

As I keep pointing out, and probably will until the day I leave this life, is that not everyone uses a computer in the same way. Everyone’s needs are different. There’s no reason why there can’t be Linux distributions for all users, regardless of their needs.

Scott Nesbitt