As an operating system, Linux is ready to use. The main problems for Linux continue to be the lack of applications and driver support. In this article and the ones that follow, I will be looking into some solutions to the first problem, the current lack of applications; however, the driver issue deserves a brief comment.
If you are thinking of trying Linux, you should be aware that Linux does not support all PC hardware. Although some companies recognize Linux and provide driver support, others do not. The level of support depends on your hardware vendor. As demonstrated here , Nvidia is already producing high quality drivers for Linux, but if you have specialty hardware, you may find that it is not supported. Thanks to the efforts of the Linux community, much of the popular PC hardware is now supported. However, it is probably a good idea to check the hardware compatibility list for your distribution. For example, Red Hat has a database of supported hardware for their latest distribution at hardware.redhat.com . If you are thinking of buying a computer to run Linux, you might want to go with one of the several PC vendors who sell computers with Linux pre-installed. On the other hand, if you want to find out if Linux will run on your current hardware, I suggest you just download the free ISO images for your distribution of choice and give it a try.
While anyone should be able to get Linux running on a PC, the lack of popular office productivity software continues to keep Linux from reaching the desktop. Until there is a perceived market for Linux, software companies will not port their popular applications, but until popular applications are available, the average user cannot run Linux. In order to solve this chicken-and-egg problem, there is an ongoing effort in the Linux community to create these applications. Open source projects such as OpenOffice.org and KOffice have come a long way toward usability, but these projects and other like them are still "beta." Currently, no office suites for Linux are as stable and full-featured as their Windows counterparts.
One way you can run the most popular applications under Linux is by using a migration tool. With a migration tool, you could, for instance, create a graphic in The Gimp and import it into a PowerPoint presentation, all at acceptable levels of performance and without ever having to reboot. In this article, I will describe an emulator called Win4Lin that allows you to run Windows applications under Linux, but first, I would like to take a slight detour and look at early attempts at Windows-to-Linux migration.