Linux Ready for Prime Time?

ME dugan at
Tue Jun 20 19:48:18 PDT 2000

Hello members,

How do you define "prime time" ?

If you are going to use this is a metaphor, then I'll try to answer
within that frame and use appropriate symbolism. :-)

Yes, Linux is ready for prime time...

In our western civilization, we have the ability to have hundreds of TV
channels, and each of these channels may show different things are
different times. Many "shows" are broadcast in the time slot known as
prime time.

Perhaps, 2 years ago, I would have said that Linux was ready for prime
time too. It might have been on par with the "weather channel", but was
far beyond the "All clotheslines, All the time" channel. (Thanks Conan)

Now, it is still prime time, but is more like PBS with Nova, or maybe
another show like Mystery with a large, but sophisticated and intelligent
audience that is willing to learn new things and think.

What people often use the phrase "ready for prime time" without the
original context. There are shows that are "good" and shows that are
"bad". There are shows that educate, and shows that ... uh well, "seem to
lack coherence." What I see in Linux is an interactive show for the
intelligent, sophisticated, and cerebral - much like what many PBS shows
that also offer URLs to find out more information on items in the show.

No, I do not think that there are any Linux dists that are "ready for the
masses", but have you ever looked to see what kind of trash "the masses"
watch on TV? An operating system would have to be pretty intelligent to
make "the masses" look proficient in desktop computing!

(BTW, I don't think Windows/MacOS is ready for the masses either.)

Give someone a 4 year old Pentium 60, and ask them to install Windows 2000
Professional, and you get?

Give someone a 4 year old Pentium 60, and ask them to install Red Hat
Linux, and you get?

How many of "the masses" have actually re-installed their operating system
with the MS Windows CD? (I am not talking about the CDs they often ship
from the computer vendor that rebuild your system back to factory

Now... there is a piece of harware/software ready for "the masses". No
worry to re-install, no options to cloud their smallish brains, simple
enough to use, it can even capture that market of people who own VCRs that
continue to flash 12:00!

(Don't laugh)

It is Web TV.

That is one example of a "mainstream" system that "even grandma" could
use. That has few enough bells and whistles to not be challanging to a
member of the "mainstream". They can curl up in a chair, and sit in front
of the TV pointing and clicking. If the machine has a problem, just
restart or replace it.

We have seen Linux ported to many kinds of hardware. (A quote comes to
mind, "if it beeps, port linux to it.") Perhaps a market exists for Linux
in embeded firmware system like Web TV to capture that market of the
"mainstream" the media is so interested in querying. If, or when this
happens, then there would be a Linux kernel targeting the "mainstream"
audience at "prime time."

How do you make an OS that uses a keyboard and a mouse for user-interface
easy enough to spoon-feed the "masses" to their content?
(If I knew this, I would build it and sell it - under open source of


On Tue, 20 Jun 2000, Eric Skagerberg wrote:
> Subject: Linux Ready for Prime Time?
> I got this call from a reporter at the Press Democrat, and he's doing a
> story about Linux.  He's going to call me back tomorrow (Wednesday), and he
> wants to know if I consider Linux ready for the average computer user.
> What do you think?
> He got my number because I teach Unix using Linux at SRJC.  We've used
> Linux from the beginning, although always in command-line mode via telnet
> to a single host.
> The Linux GUI has improved enormously.  But fellow instructor Sean
> Kirkpatrick has always asked:  Would you turn Linux loose on your typical
> white-haired grandma?  Could she use it as easily as a Windows or Mac
> machine?  Or are we still a year or two away (or more)?
> (Now, Nancy, I know you qualify as a grandma, but I would hardly call you
> typical!)
> Key usability issues for me:
> - Installing the OS
> - Installing software
> - UNinstalling software
> - Hardware compatibility (modems, for example)
> Any other issues?  Comments?  Act now!  That guy is calling me back
> tomorrow morning, Wednesday, June 21.
> Thanks!
> Eric S.

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