There was a time when you could query nearly any Linux user and learn about all sorts of things that couldn’t be done under Linux. Whether it was the latest digital camera, a quirky scanner driver, a proprietary video card or a problematic printer, it seemed using Linux-based operating systems was an uphill battle and nothing “just worked”.
These days – at least if my experience this past week is any indication – the times seem to be a-changin’. My family and I had the good fortune and blessing to spend the recent Thanksgiving holiday with my Aunt and Cousin in Southern California, and a patently wonderful time was had by all. We Northerners all got to have some grand new experiences – sailing a 35-foot Hunter Legend around San Diego Bay, enjoying wine and appetizers on an 80° Thanksgiving afternoon, and seeing a Tesla Roadster up-close-and-personal were just a few. But as a Linux user, I got to have an unusual new experience that my Windows- and Mac-OS-piloting kin couldn’t share: I finally got to enjoy being the only one who could enjoy a completely-obvious and should-just-work feature of my computer that everyone else couldn’t.
Between my family and myself, we have all the major OSs covered. Present at the Thanksgiving feast this year were two Windows XP laptops, three Mac OS-X notebooks, and my trusty HP 6710b running Ubuntu Linux 9.04. In the next room, there was an HP
DeskJet LaserJet 1020, which – it turns out – became an unwitting participant in our Thanksgiving week adventures. The 1020, you see, isn’t supported by HP under Mac OS X. No drivers, no instructions, no work-arounds … nada. But under Linux? Three clicks – two of them on “Next” buttons – and my Ubuntu test page was sliding out of the heretofore-recalcitrant printer. Not even the Windows users present could claim that sort of ease – they still had to download and install drivers from HP’s website.
Maybe it’s just me – and I’m admittedly biased – but I thought Macs were supposed to be easy to use, and just work! And I thought Linux was “supposed” to be for power-users only, difficult and cryptic, and fraught with ventures into the scary world of the command-line! I didn’t win any Linux converts during our week on the West coast, but I did get to enjoy a new and unusual experience, one that I’m sure will be replicated many times over as Linux shines as a truly ready-for-mainstream operating system.