Wall Street Journal’s Mossberg Gives Ubuntu a Look

Yes, The Wall Street Journal’s Walt Mossberg is an influential guy. He can make-or-break products with his columns and product reviews. And he has taken a look at Ubuntu. Before you slam Walt for pointing out Ubuntu’s potential weak points, I think the Ubuntu community has to take a deep breath and admit the Walt has some valid points.

Predictably, Walt mentions some compatibility issues with Apple and consumer devices. The open source community may find work-arounds for those issues, but let’s be real folks: Everyday consumers don’t have the time, expertise or interest to get under the hood of an operating system.

But look at the bright side: Walt reviewed Ubuntu because mainstream interest in Linux — particularly desktop Linux — is rising swiftly. Walt wouldn’t have given Ubuntu a look if Wall Street Journal readers weren’t curious and seeking alternatives to Windows. We’re making progress as a community. But we have to be careful as we all set user expectations.

A prime example: My father in law is a PC novice, and he’s tired of bad Windows systems. I cannot, in good conscience, recommend a Windows Vista system to him … not even when Service Pack 1 arrives.

If Ubuntu was a little bit further along, I would certainly recommend a Dell/Ubuntu system to him (or a System76 or ZaReason… you get the idea). But he lives in Florida and I’m in New York, which means I can’t run over to his place if he has questions as he gets up to speed with Ubuntu. So in this case, I’d recommend an iMac because plenty of folks in his community are familiar with Apple’s hardware and Mac OS.

The upshot? I agree with Mossberg on many points. It’s still a little early for true novices to get started with Ubuntu. But for more experienced — and frustrated — Windows users who don’t mind navigating their way through PC settings, it’s safe to make the Ubuntu move.


8 thoughts on “Wall Street Journal’s Mossberg Gives Ubuntu a Look

  1. The real problem is the “mainstream” can’t be bothered about the ethical and environmental problems – or even security, as he says quite clearly in the video – of using non-free, non-open technologies.

    In that sense no, Ubuntu or any free Linux will never be ready for the masses. It is quite disturbing all you learn about once you understand why MP3, DVD, Ipods, etc. don’t play nice with free software.

    There seems to be quite a good community in Florida, BTW:
    https://wiki.ubuntu.com/FloridaTeam .

  2. Well Joe,

    the answer is obvious: even for remote help, everything is built in already. Get your father in law a DynDNS account and a router which supports these (most modern ones will do, but I would recommend you set up some OpenWrt-capable one with a VPN from your place to his), and you are ready to go. In the long run I think, your father in law will thank you for doing so.

    kind regards,

  3. Pingback: the debian user » Blog Archive » Walt Mossberg on Ubuntu

  4. Mr. Mossberg’s review left me with mixed feelings. You are writing: “Before you slam Walt for pointing out Ubuntu’s potential weak points…” – but in his review it may appear that it’s not Ubunut that has those weak points but GNU/Linux as a whole.

    Suppose I’m a Mr. Joe Windowsuser, I heard the word ‘Ubuntu’, I heard that it’s something like ‘numero uno’ in the Linux world, and now Mr. Mossberg tells me that this ‘numero uno’ is far from being perfect. It would be logical to conclude that other distros are even worse, right? Thank you for warning, Mr. Mossberg, I guess I’ll have to reach for my wallet again…

  5. I would look at whether Dell or anyone else building *nix systems are actually using compatible hardware. Lets face it you can build a box that isn’t Vista compatible if you don’t pay attention. That is made harder because hardware manufacturers write windows drivers more than they do *nix drivers.

    I would be likely to point any of my relatives at Ubuntu but I usually point folks to the LTS live CD to test hardware compatibility first. If they are looking for a prebuilt, I’d have to do more work to say for sure.

    There are certifications for systems that can run Vista. These tell the customer that the system has been tested on Vista and will work. Something like this on Ubuntu would be helpful.

  6. Pingback: Walt Mossberg Speaks on Ubuntu Linux « Steve’s Blog Spot

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