Linux is an open-source operating system designed to compete with Microsoft Windows for a share of the ever-growing computer market. Because Linux is an open-source OS it has been developed by many different groups into several different incarnations. Some flavors are free, others are not. Some are designed for UNIX geeks while others are geared towards the average user. So which Linux distribution (“distro”) is the most user friendly? Online opinion polls and reviews as of mid 2007 narrow it down to two clear and very popular choices.
First up for friendliest Linux distribution is Ubuntu. This OS comes with a built-in suite of applications including a word processor, spreadsheet program, graphics editor, email client, FireFox™ Web browser, games and more. Ubuntu is 100% free and the website promises free updates every six months to keep your system current. This Linux distribution has a built-in catalog of software applications that are also free and available with the click of a button. To make Ubuntu even more attractive users can exchange, open and edit many common Window file formats with friends, such as Word documents and Windows music or graphics files.
Neck-and-neck with Ubuntu is the Linux distribution PCLinuxOS. Aside from matching Ubuntu in areas previously mentioned, a nice feature of this OS is that it is available as a Live CD, bootable without installation on to the system. When used as a Live CD, user configuration files can be saved to a memory stick. Alternately, PCLinuxOS can be installed to the hard drive. Both Ubuntu and PCLinuxOS have familiar point-and-click interfaces with solid reputations for recognizing and installing drivers for most common hardware. Users with advanced graphics cards might find themselves doing a bit of Googling for support.
Despite progress towards friendlier versions of Linux, one complaint common among inexperienced users of Linux is difficulty with installing new software. While Linux distributions come with programs pre-installed, ability to load new software is of course, key. Users might find this more challenging than what they’re used to.
Another Linux distribution, Linspire, aims to address this issue by providing a special plugin that should allow a user to visit a specific website, click on the desired Linux software package and sit back while the site performs the installation process for the user. This Linux distribution OS is not free, however, priced at just under $50 US Dollars (USD). Linspire is based on a different business model than free flavors of Linux, offering what it hopes to be a hassle-free OS at a lesser price than Windows operating systems. Whether the plugin will be successful and serve as a persuasive selling feature for Linspire remains to be seen, as the feature was still upcoming as of mid-August 2007.
There are many sources for support if you are curious to try a Linux distribution package. Ubuntu and PCLinuxOS are both free to download. If you would like to try a Live CD there is typically a minimum charge for materials and shipping. If you have a dial up connection you might want to request a CD be mailed to you, as distribution files are quite large.