BFF Skorch on what he (she?) hates about Linux

Over on BFF, Skorch has posted a fairly well thought out rant on a few things he really hates about Linux. What’s great is that it’s not just “Linux sux! lolz!” flamebait, but actual good reasons that Linux isn’t all that and a bag of soggy Oreos. I personally feel that Linux is like Volkswagens: They’re OK for some people, but not for me.

Take it away, Skorch. And if you feel you must comment, there’s already a pretty good thread on the original post.

A few months ago I was completely bored with XP. It wasn’t that I hated XP or anything – I think it’s a solid OS. It just didn’t excite me. I used to have that spark which would enable me to play around with an OS all day. I loved to see what I could make it do. I used to run a LAN at home with a BSD web/email server, BSD software router and Win2k3 Raid-5 server. Since I moved abroad, I’ve been stuck with a boring laptop running boring XP. I started finding myself just moving the mouse around, not really sure what to do or why I bothered even booting the thing up.

A friend of mine kept going on about how amazing Ubuntu was. I had played around with Linux before (I used to run Debian as my router) but was always extremely unimpressed with the X interface. He showed me some YouTube videos of the Beryl/Compiz interfaces and I got really excited. He assured me that it was possible to run it on my laptop. That night I installed it (it took a week to get everything working) and I haven’t used Windows since.

I’m now on my second laptop (my old one didn’t have a good enough graphics card) and have since installed Ubuntu 7.10 (fresh install). I don’t hate Ubuntu (or Linux for that matter), I just have a long list of things that I hate about it. I assure you, my list of things I hate about windows is much longer. I love how pretty Compiz Fusion is. I love the package management (light-years beyond anything else). I love how configurable it is. Some of the apps are fantastic. I could go on and on, but that’s not the topic this post.

Development by committee

The root of all of my hate stems from this central point. There is no direction. No singular standards. No cohesion between applications. No interoperability. The entire OS is built upon several groups of people working in their own little world on their own little projects. Then, an organization like Gnome or Ubuntu comes along and puts them all together to create a distro. There are several layers of this madness, from the core, system level apps to the desktop environment, to the high-level distro. The problem is, there’s no one working to fill the gaps between the apps. There’s quasi standards, but why are there multiple standards? You’ve got Gnome vs KDE, APT vs RPM, ALSA vs OSS, and so on. Competition is good, but not at a core system level. It’s good that we have a choice of browser, but when you have DHTML/Javascript compatibilities between browsers, that’s just plain annoying. Imagine if Microsoft had competing 3D graphic libraries? Even with the latest version of Gnome, I still cannot drag & drop files from File Roller (archive app) into a Nautilus window (folder browser). I can drag & drop onto the desktop, but not into a folder in Nautilus. There’s no one working on these issues because they’re mundane and uninteresting. There’s no overlord (Steve Jobs) to whip the developers into doing things, that they may not want to do, but need to be done. Why do I still need to edit a config file to change video settings?

In OSX/Windows, things just work

Vista excluded, things just work in other operating systems – but for different reasons. Things just work with XP because 90% of the world uses that OS and device manufacturers go to great lengths to make sure their drivers work properly. Things just work with OSX because Apple only uses a small hand-full of hardware configurations and so they don’t have to work as hard to be compatible. Linux has the worst of both worlds. While Ubuntu is light-years ahead of my last Linux experience, and 7.10 is vastly better than 7.03, there’s still at least a week of trolling through forums looking for fixes and workarounds for my laptop hardware (Dell Vostro 1700). Suspend doesn’t work out of the box. My sound card still pumps sound through the internal speakers when my headphones are plugged in. I can’t plug my laptop into a VGA port and have it auto-detect the new display device (VGA in on my TV). I can’t connect to my WPA-enabled wireless router. My fancy NVidia graphics card doesn’t work out of the box. My not very fancy 4-button mouse doesn’t work (other than the basic buttons).

All of this has to do with the fact that the manufacturers typically don’t write Linux drivers – or very poor ones. You’re supposed to release open source drivers when you write something for Linux. While I applaud the devotion to the cause, I personally don’t care if my sound drivers are open source – just as long as they work properly. I like open source. I like being able to fix bugs on my Drupal website. I just want my damn laptop to work properly when I plug my TV into it.

Laptops seem to be an afterthought

Power management, suspend/hibernate, headphone jacks, VGA out, screen shutoff… None of these things work properly. They’ve gotten better with Ubuntu 7.10. I’ve managed to get suspend working – though my sound doesn’t work at all afterwords. Power management is better than in 7.03, but XP still beats it in terms of battery life. I can’t connect my machine to an external display device without hacking around in a config file. My headphones don’t disable the internal speaker. These things are extremely annoying and just work in other OSes.

I still love it

I’ll continue to use Linux despite the fact that my wife always suggests to me that we watch videos on XP since the sound works properly, I don’t lose my network connectivity while streaming the file from my network drive, and I’m not having to constantly reboot before we do anything to get it back into a working state. I like to tinker and I overlook the glaring inadequacies. With each version it gets better and better. My new laptop came with Vista and it was a traumatic experience. I just hope they take some time and address the little things that have been lacking in their OS for the last 10 years. I eagerly await Hardy Heron. Keep up the fantastic work.