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Why no Desktop Linux

02/05/2012
Over on Slashdot today there is a discussion about why Desktop Linux hasn’t really taken off.  In that context they’re talking about Linux on the office Desktop. 
In the past month or so I’ve gained a bit of insight into this that I hop you don’t mind me sharing.
I work for a government organisation,  in a local setting. We have 450 staff members who mostly log onto to our very aged network infrastructure with Think Clients Running Citrix. It’s all very very primitive and quite crude.  But some of us, like us Admins have PCs and administer an Active Directory Network or three.
I’ve built used and configured Active Directory servers and domains, and going back a bit, before AD, old style NT4 Domain Controllers and clients. Whilst no expert, I’ve taught myself how to do it all, and built up my experience along the way. At home, I have a somewhat  sad and geeky set up, just me, but 5.. occasionally 6 computers connecting inside one of my two internal networks. 
I haven’t really had a chance to “play” with Active directory setups and I have been wanting to “fiddle” with some home networking these past couple of months. I could  greab an MSDN copy of Windows 2008 server, but it seems a bit of an overkill for my home network, besides I’m mostly running Linux at home. I could go for Windows Home Server, but I don’t have a copy and not keen on buying one just to “play” and explore the possibilities. So I’ve been looking for a different, … probably Linux server solution.
In the last month I’ve download over 90Gb of client and server distros and tested  A LOT.
What I want is: Something reasonably simple and straightforward that will act as “domain” server that i can authenticate against for my linux clients and .. perhaps, if it’s possible even my windows 7 machine (which is Windows 7 home and strictly speaking can’t authenticate with windows Domains).
i’ve like something that sat on top of a reasonable distro.. and had some form of Gui Interface. yes it could be a console Based gui, but I’m not wasting hours trudging through .conf files and Man pages. A gui setup I can “muddle” through and learn as I go.. 
So.. I’ve tried Clear Os 5
Clear OS 6.1, 6.2beta, 6.2 Final
None of those ever managed to get installed. They all DEMAND to be installed from DVD, No live setup, and no usb install. When I finally got a disc to burn (I only have 1 cd burner) every single disc failed to install.  Bear in mind this is 4 different versions of the same software – and not just 1 copy of each disc either! I was singularly unimpressed.
Zentyal
Buidls on top of an Ubuntu base, and sounded ideal. Web based config, nice and straightforward to set up each module, and looked pretty much what I wanted.
Again, no USB install
No Live DVD version
Problem – doesn’t work over WIFI.. it only works with ethernet connections.
Resara: 
again, builds on Ubuntu to provide simple and what looks to be ideal Acitive Directory like features. 
ISO disc can run from usb, 
can run from LIVE 
Brilliant.
Runs on top Ubuntu 10.04… 
problem.. Ubuntu 10.04 will not recognise either my wifi cards nor my ethernet adapters on either of the machines I wanted to try it on.
It does come as a packages in later distros, including the latest 12.04.. I tried installing it in 
Ubuntu 11.10, Kubuntu 11.10, ubuntu and Kubuntu 12.04.. 
Don’t bother trying, it foobars the machine.. No idea what it does but you go from a working Ubuntu install without Resara to a non functional build without network or (in one case without X) 
Iincidentally Zentyal comes as a packages in later Ubuntu distros  – it too barfs the system to buggery when you install it.
Now there may be other packages in Linux that will provide client users and groups,  and packages to share folders and files and the like. But they don’t exactly leap out at you.
Linux hasn’t taken off on the work desktop because Linux networking is absolutely shit! It’s akin to the old days of Novel Netware and headache that it used to be to set up a Novel network. Along came Windows 3.11 and then NT4 and made networking a relative piece of piss and Novel vanished overnight.
I have 4 computers that I used regularly at home. When i ran windows on more than 1 machine, networking was an absolute piece of cake. almost no set up to see another machine share files and folders and add users from one machien to another for permissions on folders and files. It’s virtually effortless.
My linux machines at present.. well there is not q machine that can actually see another one. They should all be set up to be on the same workgroup, they’re all sharing a very narrow band of DHCP addresses. and yet.. trying to do even the simplest of things like get them to all be part of my workgroup called “home.local” instead of “workgroup” is a challenge a fiddle and a faff. Working between samba.conf fiels, Gadmin gui, SMB4k, Nautilus file manager, Dolphin file manager and the so on, is an effort. When you do get them to talk to each other, you find annoyances like..
I can browse a samba folder containing music, I can play the music, I can edit the music tags and filenames, I can work with that folder as if it were on my machine.. but only in the file manager. Music players and managers refuse to acknowledge it’s existence.. i have to permanently mount it the share.
Linux networking, is crude, problematic, inconsistent, fiddly, overly complicated and more trouble than it’s worth.
If, by some miracle I do manage to get my “domain” server up and running I have no idea how well Linux will handle the notion of “logging in” and authentication against it. I suspect the answer will be.. Poorly, if at all.
Ok.. I only really wanted to fiddle and explore the whole “server” at home thing, i don’t NEED it.. but it’s fiddling and exploring and learning how to do things at home that I might discover a really cool technique or technology that I would use in the future or suggest to use right now.  I like Linux.. I’ve got more Linux computers than windows and use it more than the vast majority of the time at home. But at work… well, it just wouldn’t work at work. 
Linux at my work will (sadly) be confined to its sole place.. running our web and intranet server. and it will never venture to to the workplace desktop until networking is simple, very very simple and at least as easy as Windows and indeed as easy as it for Macs to network.
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