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My First Linux Desktop

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Erik Huggers Erik Huggers | 13:02 UK time, Wednesday, 18 June 2008

Over the last two decades, I have used every flavour of Windows and Mac OS, but 'til now had never used a Linux desktop.

My only encounter with Linux has been flashing my wifi access point with dd-wrt firmware (which is great, btw) - but that is obviously not the same thing!

George Wright recently convinced me to take home a laptop with Fedora9 installed.


Would it be possible to easily connect to wpa2-protected wifi? Will it recognize my digital camera - and if so, how easy will it be to manage my pictures? How good will the web browsing experience be given the various plugins one needs to make today's websites work? Lots of questions; time to find out for myself...

To my surprise, I found the experience pretty good. Connecting to my home network was easy and web browsing worked fine using Firefox. I tried BBC iPlayer streaming using Flash and that worked fine too.

Getting pictures of the kids transferred was not a problem. I did have some issues with connecting to my network-attached storage, but that is probably my lack of knowledge. While I think the user experience has some way to go in order to catch up with commercial operating systems, the basic functionality is there.

The one thing I was surprised about was the performance, or lack thereof. I would have expected the operating system to squeeze everything out of the dual processor laptop. Perhaps the issue would be addressed by new updates which were available, but I could not get it to install properly.

Another more fundamental thing I wondered about is the mainstream business applications most people use every day. While good progress is being made with efforts like OpenOffice, I think that future evolutions of Google Docs and the like have a better change of moving the needle.

I am glad that I got a chance to test drive Fedora and as a result have come to believe in the potential of Linux as a mainstream operating system.

As Ashley said in this post last year, the BBC does a lot of work with open standards already - but in the future we plan to do more.

We want to make iPlayer work on all operating systems including open source ones like Fedora and I am confident we'll make good progress on this before the end of the year.

And we also encourage communities to play with our stuff for example at events like Mashed where several hundred developers gather in Alexandra Palace to bring the best technologies together with cool content. Mashed happens this weekend and Matthew Cashmore has more details.

Erik Huggers is Group Controller, BBC Future Media & Technology


  • Comment number 1.

    After a very carefully considered decision I finally took my ageing laptop from a just as old XP install to Ubuntu 7.10 a few months ago, and I have never looked back.

    My girlfriend (after some persuasion) found it easy to use and loved how customisable Gnome was.

    I moved because my XP started behaving strangely and I didn't want to upgrade, or be tied in to an operating system I had little control over, and need a mainframe to run.

    It was definitely worth it, and I think the only things that I have missed are a few Windows Media Player only radio stations.

    My Xbox streams fine with it on the right apps. I've done video editing (something I've never tried before) and installing stuff is even easier than on Windows. And the best bit is that if something goes wrong there is a very supportive community only a few clicks away, for free.

    Long gone are the days of Linux for the stuffy, long haired, and social awkward types. Linux is fresh faced and in my opinion, completely ready for the general population. Even the Apple crowd should be impressed.

    Welcome to the other side Erik.

  • Comment number 2.

    Welcome to the OTHERSIDE! Erik

  • Comment number 3.

    Great review, so whats the BBC going to do about it ?

    Being of that BBC Micro generation, I have always wondered why the BBC with its mandate to educate/inform the masses has never had a 'This is Linux' programme thang.

    A free bootable Linux CD with this weeks Radio Times ? Why *should* that be considered radical ?

    I'd almost argue that the first national newspaper that gives away a copy of Linux ( suitably branded ) will steal the show and the customer loyalty.

    Remember The "Mirror" dinghy, still around, still called The "Mirror" - and initially introduced by...

  • Comment number 4.

    very nice everyone using linux around here lately :)

  • Comment number 5.

    Well, Fedora is nice but... There are some flavors of Linux that are supposed to squeeze every bit of power form your Dual Core 2 Duo or so of your laptop.
    Just give Ubuntu a try or even better: www.slackware.com

    Have fun!

    PS. In the meantime try out a bootable DSL Linux aka Damn Small Linux.

  • Comment number 6.

    "As Ashley said in this post last year, the BBC does a lot of work with open standards already - but in the future we plan to do more.

    We want to make iPlayer work on all operating systems including open source ones like Fedora”

    The whole point about open standards is that you don't have to care about operating systems and vendors, and I'm sorry to have to say so but I have always found the BBC's (chronic lack of) effort in this area extremely disappointing, its excuses (rights clearance, market share etc.) wholly unconvincing, and its promises (until very recently... maybe) mostly empty.

    Where once I was an avid R3/4/5 listener, I have for many years now relied on the public service broadcasters of the US, Norway, the Czech republic etc. for equivalent quality programmes and easy to access and use high quality streams in open formats. Over time I have moved more or less completely away from the BBC audio-wise because it was so slow to adopt 'new' technologies such as podcasting and because it has always eschewed using open standards.


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