No flamewars intended but...

Do you think Linux can ever become a mainstream workstation OS? Yeah, yeah, I know you are all devs and dorks using w3wm and whatnot :D but I mean, like, for regular people that cannot tell bash from bush. I mean, a workstation that can compete with the You-Know-Who and get into 2-digit market share percentages rater than sitting at the very edge of the Gauss's Bell.

@xpil It has done well on the raspberry pi we just need to ensure that having skills in Linux actually leads to something like employment in a world where everyone seems to expect you to have used Windows.

@xpil With red hat in charge it will become mainstream for sure. They will destroy everything that make Linux different but they are doing a great effort to make it.

@xpil I hope not. We already have enough wannabe Linux Administrators who actually have absolutely no knowledge, but yelling around that they managed to follow a manual with copy & paste 🙄 Linux on the mainstream desktop would only increase the problem.

@kromonos @xpil
I get your point, but this is a problem not limited to Linux. That is: There are also "enough wannabe [Windows] administrators" acting like script kiddies.

Maybe across Linux users there are more people like this, relatively speaking, but in absolute numbers I think I've heard enough half-knowledge regarding Windows.

Personally I think the situation for Linux is better though, because vast learning resources exist and improving imperfect Linux knowledge seems easier to me.

@floppy I have this experience mainly among "gamers". Many of those who actually mainly play their games on the PC like to feel as if they're the ultimate Windows experts. 🤷


@xpil Feel like this is a very heavy question, one that I'm not qualified to answer. There's a multitude of factors that lead to something like mainstream adoptance.

Do I want this to happen? You betcha.

An alternate perspective is that for the snowball effect to be able to take place - one of the two marketplace leader OSs have to fuck up, big time, in some way or the other. Most alternate product get traction when media picks up something. Just my 2 cents.

@xpil I think your distinction between "regular" and more technical minded people is fair in this case.

But I also think that we "techies" might fall into the thinking that it is imperative to "tell bash from bush". It certainly is for us, but it is necessarily not for them.

Different values are important for "regulars", like (excuse the over-simplification) that it just works.

I think Linux has reached that point from a technical point of view and in terms of reliability.

Trust me, nothing would give me more satisfaction that seeing Linux go mainstream. It would make the likes of MS have to up their game.
However, I don't think it will. Its too good to go mainstream. The people who use, develop and care about it won't want to see it torn apart by the capitalist money machine.

@xpil it's already there and it's called ChromeOS. It's the ultimate "you don't need the CLI to use Linux" Linux - people don't even realize it IS Linux underneath all the shinyness.

@fedops @xpil not to mention... Windows. Microsoft has been working very hard for the past few years to make Windows a viable Linux workstation, as dumb as it may sound.

With the lock-in MS has on corporate stuff, I can easily see it becoming the "approved platform" for nix devs (with access to intranet, office and the other corporate crap).

@xpil I think Canonical is a driving force for this market. Sure I don't like snap. And yeah, I'm not fond of GNOME. But does it work and is it reliable? Yeah it does. And I'm thankful to have at least this distro I can point to and be sure they won't have to use the shell for some time.

@xpil Yes it will and soon(although switching to it might take longer). Now, why do I think so? I think the real pain points of using desktop Linux are mainly: graphics, audio, games & some professional apps (MS-office, Adobe & Autodesk).
Now we can't do anything about last one, but let's see other 3:

1. Graphics issues: Wayland really does fix most of the issues. Been using Sway for past 6 months and happy to say it's solid. Nvidia is soon releasing much needed GBM support in its drivers. There are a few minor features still missing, but they're just that - missing for now.

2. Audio: Well. Just search pipewire and let me know what people are saying about it. It seems to me that audio mess is fixed for good.
For eg: [here](

3. Games: Not sure if it's luck or all goodies were to be visible in 2021 but Valve with anit-cheat in proton showing that it's not too far to play almost every game on Linux.

At least, I am very happy from all this progress as I have to maintain all PC for friends and family.

@xpil great question - I think it definitely can from an OS level, but would struggle from an application perspective. If it were to be rolled out to non-technical folk, I think it would quickly fall down when people start asking where their applications are.

@xpil the fact that devs within the Linux ecosystem have a perpetual desire to give their applications ridiculous names doesn’t help.

@kev @xpil Not to mention the various different app packaging methods.

Choice is great, until you need to have grandma choose between AppImage, Snap and Flatpak (or deb, rpm, apk, etc)

@kev to add to this and my point above, the avg linux user cannot imagine a world outside of CLI, there're entire subcultures around it. For the general users, it's the other way around.

With some DEs, linux is on a right path by prettifying the UI and adopting the set-it-up and forget philosophies of PC+Macs that most people have come to internalize. As much as some evangelists 'hate' that trend, you gotta play the same game to make it an even fight. And that's good, cause linux can be moulded

@xpil my wifi and kids already use it for they're day-to-day usage. All of them play games, and make school work (and can't understand you-know-who)

@xpil I think it can but it'll take some organization to drive it. If it were going to happen organically, I think it would have already happened. I think I could just be trapped in my own echo chamber but I do feel more people are becoming privacy aware. Maybe that's an avenue.

@xpil Open Source development, on the desktop side at least, is too fragmented - and, I hate to say this, the standard is far below commercial offerings in the software that matters for most people.

@trhr DevonThink, Bear, Office, Ulysses, Scrivener, Day One, 1Password, Craft, Affinity Designer, Affinity Photo, Plex

I could add more..

@trhr I do use a lot of open source software, just not on the desktop (anymore).

@jamie i've never used most of those programs, but I'm fairly sure the standard set by plex and 1password is more than met by emby and bitwarden.

@trhr I reckon I could replace almost all of them with open source. I’d just have to be prepared to make some compromises.

@xpil I don't think it can, but if it did, and that brought everything with it that makes operating systems successful (commercialisation, proprietary software), then the people that currently like Linux would look elsewhere.

This may be true of a couple of paid programs (e.g Photoshop), but I think most people don't use those. MS office is still better than Libreoffice, but many people are fine with google docs. And as a daily Linux user, I'm often surprised at the horrible state of some windows freeware.

@xpil It depends mostly on one aspect: Money thrown at the problem (or development magically getting independent of money issues).
As someone who works against licensing of the big tech, I see that many major customers are wasting huge amounts of money, which is flowing to those big tech companies. Sure THEY can use it to improve their product, but you know about their interests.

@xpil IMHO the hurdle to take is getting some of the Linux desktop environments (so not Linux as an OS, but the software running on desktop Linux) ready for the enterprise market. This also includes different levels of config management (user settings, user defaults, system wide managed settings, etc.) and toolchains for easily supporting large environments of machines running Linux on users' desks.

Yesterday I installed kubuntu on a PC, and it just works. 15 min from nothing to working system. Sure, there may be issues, but Windows has those also.

I think if Linux had the installed user base Windows has, and you asked the reverse, most people would say Windows isn't ready for normal users.

I help with IT jobs at work, and about once a month I find myself cursing and wondering why anyone would pay for windows.

@xpil System 76 + PopOS is definitely mainstream consumer ready.

@funnylookinhat @xpil Every time I get on my Lemur Pro it's like a breath of fresh air. And the Elementary App Store with Flatpaks is icing on the cupcake!

@MrDers @xpil I really wish my current employer would let me use a System76 - but not in the cards currently.

Whenever I need to get a personal machine again it'll likely be either a Lemur or a Thelio Minor.

@funnylookinhat @xpil i was able to get System76 machines for our developers and it’s been… mostly good. We’ve had two hardware issues with Gazelles. One that is “workable” but annoying (required a special kernel for a bit) and another DoA and had to ship out and replace. The rest have been great. I have a Darter Pro (darp5) and it’s been rock solid for two years now.

@xpil I think if computers started being shipped with a more user friendly distro like Pop! OS or Zorin OS, there would be a chance. I don't think most people really care (or sometimes even know) what OS they run as long as it does what they want, so if a company like Samsung or Lenovo started selling Linux PCs the same way they sell Chromebooks, more people would get them. Idk about 2-digit market share, but it would most likely still see an uptick.

@xpil No, because people don't use PCs (and laptops) anymore.
They use "smart" devices instead.

So, we as a community have to consider this, if we want people to use Free/Libre Software.


Simply put, Yes it is possible

Now my thoughts as to why

Despite having minimal exposure to computers, my late father used (mostly Arch) Linux for the last 14 years of his life, mostly using the KDE desktop environment with Firefox and later Chrome web browser, thunderbird for email and libre office for wordprocessing needs, and if course a selection of solitaire games but never the terminal.

To begin with I would need to carry out system admin tasks weekly (and did the initial installation), but as time went on updating became an easy process for him to do himself through KDE's discover.

Its not ease of use thats the issue, its the perception that Linux is how you describe it for Devs, nerds n geeks

This is probably why Google obsficate the Linux connection to Android and ChromeOS in all marketing and documentation

An easy to use Linux Distro would probably do much, much better by doing the same. Look at how canonical push Ubuntu, I even remember talk a few years back of canonical forking the kernel to effectively remove Linux from documentation

So yes Linux could become a major desktop player, if only we actually let it become one.

@xpil Well, since Android and iOS both have Unix as a core OS, there should be no question that it *could* be made user-friendly, and it would probably suck.

@xpil the os needs to be minimal, so that everyone can use it and want to use it and still needs ton of features. Windows and macOS just do the job better here. Most of the time I was using a minimal Linux version it still felt shitty while I could easily start working with macOS even though I never used it before.

@xpil Well, "linux" is just the kernel ;) Linux is used as the core of Android, but it's frankly the least important part of Android.

My view: Could a mainstream workstation OS be built using Linux as the kernel? Sure. But, if it happened, the fact that it uses Linux internally wouldn't be something any of its users would know or care about, and it probably wouldn't be relevant to the project.

Sign in to participate in the conversation

Fosstodon is an English speaking Mastodon instance that is open to anyone who is interested in technology; particularly free & open source software.