Why Linux isn’t popular

This guy seems to think the reason Linux isn’t popular is because it is free. Since people can get Linux for free, they don’t value it as much as Windows (or Mac OS X).

I have a different reason.

Linux doesn’t work.

Yes, I’ve heard some geeks have been able to install it on their home machines, and they claim it works fine. I think even the very web site you’re reading now (installed by geeks) runs on Linux.

I had a Linux geek tell me about this wonderful, easy to use version of Linux called Ubuntu. You can go to their site, download it and burn it onto a CD, and it will run on your computer. You don’t even have to install anything, he assured me, it just works.

Easy to use? I figured I’d give it a shot. I went to the web site, followed the instructions as best I could (they were a little confusing — I wasn’t quite sure which type of computer to say I have; there’s no choice for “iMac Core Duo”). I downloaded the file and burned a CD. There were no instructions on what type of CD to burn. I picked the default option, figuring if there were no instructions, I should stick with the default. I put the CD in the computer. I rebooted. Was I transported to Linux bliss? No. I got the normal Mac bootup screen.

I searched their forums. It was still unclear, but best I could tell, it sounded like I might need to install an additional bit of software to get Ubuntu to work. This was no longer seeming so easy, but I downloaded the software and installed it. I put my CD in the computer and rebooted. Still nothing.

I consulted with my geek friend. He suggested that I download the software that I had just downloaded.

I gave up. Linux was not easy to use, and it was taking my whole day just to get the thing running. There was very little indication it was EVER going to get running. I’ve had problems with my Macs before, but there was always SOME hope, and the instructions on the forums were much clearer.

Maybe some geek could get Ubuntu to work on my computer, but I couldn’t — not without spending untold hours searching forums for an answer. These untold hours are not free, they’re EXPENSIVE. That’s why I gave up on installing Linux on my computer.

Until normal people can easily install and use Linux, normal people will not use Linux. Not for free, not for money, not for any price.

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21 Responses to Why Linux isn’t popular

  1. If you need linux, you should try to install it on a standard PC. What you are doing is like trying to install Mac OS on an HP workstation. You won’t find documentation for something that hasn’t been documented.

  2. dave says:

    If that’s the case, then the Ubuntu web site shouldn’t act like you can install it on a Mac.

  3. Freiddie says:

    Linux works, but it’s just really hard to understand until you actually PAY for it using the time taken to actually figure out what’s going on. Put in a simple way, documentation for Linux, at least to me, seems really messy and disorganized (this is merely my own opinion).

  4. Jason says:

    When I tried Linux for the first time a few years back, I did get it to work after a
    few days of trying. Getting it installed and working was a very exciting and
    a huge achievement I thought. However I couldn’t find anything productive to do
    with it after it was installed. I believe it is customary for anyone who
    successfully gotten to this point is to start writing software that you are missing
    from your previous OS or actively search the Linux code for security holes so the
    bad guys don’t break in. Who really has the time or skills for that?

    Also programs that I used on Windows like Firefox took much more memory
    and took twice as long to load. Are all the claims that these geeks
    make a little off center?

    I couldn’t find any interesting software to run on it that I didn’t already
    have in windows. The game CD that came in the kids cereal box did not run on Linux,
    so to end the suffering and keep the peace. I had to ditch the whole Linux thing.
    What is Linux supposed to be good for and why do geeks insist on pushing it on
    everyone like bad drugs?

  5. Royden says:

    I think the reason that it would not boot into the Ubuntu splash screen was because you did not burn the cd as an exact image of the file on the hard drive.

    I have used many different distributions of linux in the past, and some work better than others, but Ubuntu had the best overall ease-of-use quality.

    If you want to give it another try(which I think you should), Ubuntu will ship pre-made cd’s to your house completely free of charge. Just type in your adress and click submit, and the cd’s will be at your doorstep in 6-10 weeks.

  6. xaaaaa says:

    Simple, you are n00b.

  7. dave says:


    You have demonstrated my point perfectly.

  8. Djoko says:

    Linux isn’t popular because it is not as convenience as windows.
    Try to install linux but it is difficult to follow.
    Try to connect linux to windows domain, and you will feel desperate because the linux server is ‘text based’.
    If you want linux to be popular, think about your customer. Make them comfortable. An argument which said “server doesn’t need GUI” doesn’t know how to make Linux more widespread

  9. Joe says:

    Ok, I’m no Linux fanboy but I do have to use it for work so I do know a thing or two. Linux is a very good server……………considering it’s free. Unlike what you’ll hear from the Linux crowd, it’s not a modern operating system and neither is OSX. The biggest difference between OSX and Linux is that OSX is a commercially developed closed source Unix clone who’s makers find it in their best financial interest to make it work with as few headaches as possible. By locking out all those wonderful ways to mess it up, they produce a somewhat less functional version of any other Unix clone. Both OSX and Linux are Unix (so is MS-DOS for those of you who weren’t around when dinosaurs roamed the Earth) clones and are prone to the same GUI problems as pre-NT Windows. Pretty dated stuff.

    Before you can install Linux on any PC (yes Macs are indeed Personal Computers and Apple was calling their Machines PCs long before a usable version of Windows even existed) you need to set the BIOS to boot from the CD/DVD drive, or from a USB drive if you don’t have an optical drive. I’m willing to bet you were not presented with that crucial bit of info. It’s the number one reason most attempts fail yet it’s hidden away like a state secret somewhere in the Linux forums. It’s a quick and easy thing to do but without that crucial 1st step, no-one will be installing jack. That being said, I discovered long ago that in general, Macs use superior hardware though it’s the same stuff as you’ll find in upper end non-Mac PCs. Linux runs as well as it possibly can on a Mac! If you’re a geek and have time to screw with it, it even makes an acceptable desktop. I’m a geek and am paid very well to play with Linux but my free (as in priceless) time is much more valuable and I’d rather be paddling my kayak than fixing the issue of the day or re-inventing the wheel every other day. OS X is more reliable but for my uses, OS X is pretty useless. So, what’s the solution? I run Windows 7 (just replaced XP after many years of reliable service) on my Mac hardware. It screams, it doesn’t break, and I don’t need to search through endless Linux and Mac fanboy diatribes to find solutions to the myriad of issues common to both.
    At this point you are probably guessing I’m a Windows disciple but in truth, my favorite OS of all for day-to-day productivity is Solaris but for a truly solid Solaris installation, you need Sun hardware. That stuff ain’t cheap and though my income is above average, I just can’t see spending so much for a home machine that I only use for checking email, surfing, and home finance. Windows is the next best thing and though Mac hardware is a bit pricey, it’s solid and a lot cheaper than a Spark. No, I don’t build my own machines. I did years ago but now that computers are so cheap, it’s just not worth it. The Mac Mini is more machine than I need and at least for a Mac it’s cheap.
    The Bottom line is that for the average user, the Linux desktop just isn’t ready. Windows and Mac dominate the market for a reason. Linux is free after all! As a wise old dude once told me many years ago, “The most expensive motorcycle you can ever buy is a free one.” After spending lot’s of money and countless unpaid hours screwing with it, Linux can be made into a fine and robust operating system that is virtually bulletproof (at least until the unpaid folks who write this stuff update the kernel that breaks half your machine) or you can buy one that works out of the box and get on with your life.

    Linux if good if you want a functional machine in today’s resource hungry software world and have dated hardware. Both Windows and OS X do have minimum hardware requirements so if you’re machine barely cuts it, Linux may be the better choice………BUT…………. since you have a fairly modern and very capable machine and probably aren’t writing code for a living, or even as a hobby, or running a server farm in your basement, I can’t think of a single reason beyond free to install Linux.
    I’m gonna catch fire for that one but that’s the way I see it.

  10. Penguin says:

    Heh, why didn’t you do what everyone other who don’t know computers do, buy your computer preinstalled with your OS of choice? Zareason for example have pretty good computers…

    If you want to install some Linux distro yourself, I’m pretty sure Canonical still sends ready burned cd-roms for free. Also, any geek you are in good terms with prolly would do it for free. Also, if you can’t get it for free, there are plenty of services that sell them for like 2€ or so.

    And fyi, Mac is pretty much normal PC nowadays, so i386 or amd64 images should work pretty fine as long as you know how to use your burning software.

    Also. If your time is so expensive you can’t afford to learn anything new, do not even try. You probably are some kind of CEO and can afford your own geek to support your Linux. Or paid support from Canonical or any other provider, which might be a lot cheaper.

    But thanks for the article and the lulz anyway.

    Joe: Who told you that MS-DOS is UNIX? :D
    You do know that every system which has black screen and white text is not UNIX? MS-DOS is definitely not unix, even though Microsoft did develop UNIX once, it’s name is XENIX. It’s still around, if I remember correctly, as something SCO is monetizing.

  11. Meh says:

    As someone who practically saw the evolution of the operating systems, Linux is and always will be just plain hype. I remember a time when Linux was nothing more than stripped empty husk before X window was even a label, if you compared the command structure of DOS to Bash it was a whole other ball game. What it essentially came down to was which OS could do the things you wanted the fastest, DOS won in the area, its structure was simple and faster to getting to the core OS without feeling the pinch. However what DOS lacked were services or software packages that made Bash things beyond what DOS could do, however given the nature of open source vs closed source its an impartial way to judge an operating system since at the end of the day they are just designed to allow you to run software. Linux evolved out of an age where development piques were the height of human interest, the fact that you could easily access Linux core source and practically play god turned it into a distro nightmare because every (Tom, Dick and Andy) wanted a slice of it, non of them actually contributing squat. Suffice to say both operating systems have come far from what they were, the Linux we know today wouldn’t exist without (Novell, IBM, SUN, Red Hat etc.) these companies did for Linux what Unix was originally intended for. Microsoft in this day and age could give a rats ass about Linux, given however that it has competition its main advocate is Apple. OSX is more a threat to Linux than Microsoft something allot of people don’t seem to get, they just want to turn everything in the world into an NDA control structure.

    Google is the current threat of everything, it has already destroyed IT as we know it. :)

  12. Meh says:


    This use to be true about Macs having superior hardware over PC, this isn’t true anymore however. Apple uses common PC hardware now a days with Intel as their backbone, just rip off the Apple branding and your practically using a PC that is running a modified BSD operating system. That of course is getting critically technical a point I will not go further into, your original argument was about Windows. Windows has never been a PC nor should be mistaken for that, Apple seems to claim this stake as a competitive thing. Basically that is the only edge they have, Windows is like Linux as far as what kind of hardware you can install it on.

    Don’t be shy we all know how many Mac users secretly run Vista :P

  13. --- says:

    umm… simply sounds like your boot order was hard drive before the cd drive.

    If that was the problem, stick to mac, mac is made for people like you.

  14. zubo says:

    How can you say it doesn’t work if you clearly know so little about computers, and how they work. Why linux isn’t popular? Because most people, like you, won’t know how to use it. There is nothing wrong with not knowing such things, but people like you shouldn’t make articles about anything from computer world.

  15. dave says:

    Zubo, that’s the point. Ubuntu was billed as an easy-to-install option so anyone could try Linux. It still didn’t work for me, primarily because it was poorly documented. Until people like me can use Linux, it won’t ever become a mainstream product.

  16. Ubuntu is ready for the average user. No one should have any problems installing Ubuntu unless they are dual-booting or advanced options. The software center is loaded
    with applications and you don’t have to worry about tarballs anymore. It has no oddities like Windows and don’t require as much maintenance like cleaners, antivirus, registry cleaners, and defrag. Also. no tricky Windows installers (Ask Toolbar). Ubuntu is ready for primetime!

  17. Long Hoang Ngoc says:

    From your post, it seems that Dave is missing something. You try to boot Ubuntu from a CD, but did you know how to make that CD to be bootable. You don’t know what type of CPU you have (32- or 64-bit), just only an iMac Core Duo. Do you know how to set your Mac to boot from CD before HDD? I don’t think you can install any OS (even Windows or OS X) if you do not know these basic knowledge. Installing an operating system is not as easy as browsing the web.

  18. Shahnewaz Maqbul Ahmed says:

    iMac Core Duo? LOL!

    Long Hoang Ngoc is right. I think you have no knowledge of computer hardware or software whatsoever. “I picked the default option, figuring if there were no instructions, I should stick with the default.” – What default option? Make an audio CD? Make a movie disk? If you really wanted to change from Mac OS to Ubuntu, then you should have known at least some instructions to do it.

    To create a live CD from a Mac – http://www.ubuntu.com/download/help/burn-a-dvd-on-mac-osx

    You just think everyone with knowledge about Linux is a geek.
    “Until normal people can easily install and use Linux, normal people will not use Linux. Not for free, not for money, not for any price.” – I am a normal person and I am using Linux. You are not normal. And if you could google search for help……….

  19. Shahnewaz Maqbul Ahmed says:

    I wonder what forums you went through…..
    And do you know how to access the boot menu on a Mac? (or any boot options?) If you don’t, then you definitely don’t know anything anout what you are doing; or trying to do.

    I mean AT LEAST; HAVE SOME KNOWLEDGE ABOUT WHAT YOU ARE TRYING TO DO. There are thousands of sites on the web which will tell you about bootable CDs, Boot menus, Mac Os boot options and making a Live Linux Disk. And please, know what you are doing.

    And zubo is right: “There is nothing wrong with not knowing such things, but people like you shouldn’t make articles about anything from computer world.”

  20. me says:

    I found the real final reason.

    You are lame.

  21. Jesse R. says:

    Wow! Still, the comments coming in on this 5 year old article. Many of them are too harsh, and indicate no effort toward understanding. This comment may be as slow as FOSS software is toward improvements in user-friendliness, but your article was insightful, and is appreciated.

    Discovering that Microsoft, Apple, Google, Facebook, et al. are betraying users’ trust seems to deliver FOSS software a prime time to shine. I wonder if the Linux-on-the-desktop situation has improved at all since 2008? Hopefully the quality of FOSS software will continue to improve, however gradually.

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