Thursday, December 21, 2006

Linux.com has published a review by Joe "Zonker" Brockmeier of Xandros DesktopOS 4.1 Professional.

Xandros is one of those distributions that is targeted towards the "end user". Though I consider myself an "end-user", what that sentence really means is that "Xandros positions itself as an easy-to-use alternative for the beginning, inexperienced or uninterested Windows user" - the kind who "doesn't want to know" how a computer works in order to use it (I'll save a rant on that subject for another time).

I'm long past the stage when I objected to Linux being made suitable for the "end user". If I ever did, it was only because I believed that this would result in the loss of the advantages which those of us who have known and loved Linux since before 99% of the computing population ever heard the word, value so highly. But it turns out that even in the world of MacOS X, where I'm sure the majority of users aren't the slightest bit interested in tools like uptime(1) or top(1) or packages like Fink, the "underpinnings" of the BSD-based OS can now be used happily by those who want to. This of course, is totally unlike the situation pre-Mac OS X, and I think Apple should be praised for it; maybe Steve Jobs learned a few lessons in his time at NeXT (though he still hasn't given us more than one mouse button, the stingy blighter ;-) ).

One thing about Xandros, and about Joe's review, however, does worry me:

The need for desktop AV under Linux today is minimal at best. But vendors like Xandros are trying to woo users and organizations away from Windows, and Windows users have been trained to look for anti-virus applications on their desktop. Without the anti-virus app giving the thumbs-up, many users are going to feel nervous about a system, and wonder what sort of nasty malware may be lurking on it.

That's all very well, but what happens when the user doesn't find any viruses? After all, if there is such a need for virus checkers, even on Windows, then there can't be all that many Windows users like the ones I know, who are careful about what exactly they put on their machines. And the ones who are, probably don't get many viruses at all.

But what about the incautious Windows user? Are they going to be happy that their brand, spanking new Linux desktop is free of viruses? Or are they going to worry that the reason why their Linux "anti-virus" program has not found any viruses is because it's no good?

Surely it's better to educate these people on why anti-virus programs are not necessary on Linux, rather than making them believe that they are?

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