linux sux

OK, I exaggerate. Linux as a server is an awesome tool. Linux on the desktop sucks like a Hoover.

I decided to try Ubuntu 8.04 on a desktop machine. My primary goal was to have a MythTV client, so I could watch recorded TV when the kids had taken over the main television (for the Wii, of course! :). I’ve been a casual Linux user since kernel version 0.91, and a regular user since RedHat 5.0 shipped. I used Sun and SGI desktops, NCD X-Terminals, and even early Desktop Linux for 10 years before I started using Windows. Desktop Linux has come a long way since then, so I figured it was worth a try; I was experienced enough to work around any problems that came up.

Browsing and email are OK, because Firefox and Thunderbird are available. The official mailer, Evolution, is utter dreck, of course, and everything suffers the standard open-source problem; crappy UI, and feature-incomplete. It seems that when a developer encounters a program that doesn’t work in their ideal way, the reaction is not to improve the program, as open-source supporters would have you believe. Instead, the reaction is to think “Wow, that sucks! I can do better from scratch!”. And so we have, for example, well over a dozen MP3 players that all suck in different ways! (Although, thanks to the underlying crappy audio support, they all suffer the problem that changing the volume lags by 2-3 seconds… *sigh).

I tried a compromise position for a while; I installed VirtualBox, a “free” VM solution from Sun Microsystems that allows one to integrate the host and guest desktops almost seamlessly, so that I could run my favourite Windows apps alongside the Linux stuff. But even that doesn’t work as well, and so I think I’m going to surrender and go back to Windows on the desktop.

I could go on, but instead I’ll link to a couple of sites and essays that cemented it all for me. There are many themes, but most boil down to the same problem: Linux developers act like they’re smarter than Linux users. If there’s one thing that 13 years of commercial software development has taught me, it’s that you ignore your customers/users at your own peril. I don’t think the open-source community is ever going to learn that lesson.

posted at 9:13 am on Wednesday, October 01, 2008 in Personal, Programming, Rants | Comments (4)

4 Comments

  1. Richard Chapman says:

    You know, during the American Revolutionary War, columns of British infantry were often harassed by Colonial Militia using tactics that would be later known as Guerrilla warfare. It pissed the Brits off to no end. Battles were supposed to be neat and tidy. Everybody lined up and traded volleys until enough people were dead. We all know what battle tactics are not in use today.

    Ok, so what does this have to do with Linux development? You say you’ve had 10 years in commercial development but you didn’t say if it was Open Source development or not. A community effort will not come up with anything that looks and works like Vista. That’s not a bad thing. Think of the proprietary development model like the battle field tactics used during the Revolutionary War. Yeah, Open Source is messy as hell. I’m not a developer but I can think of at least two reasons why that is. It’s relatively new, compared to proprietary methods (I know a basic Open Source model was in place before the proprietary influences took over. Software was developed and traded freely before it was discovered to be a “gold mine” by the corporations.) Second, the Open Source model reignited, established itself and has begun to flourish in a proprietary “pond”. Imagine that, born and bred in a completely hostile environment. The Open Source model you see today is not the one you would see if it was as prominent as the proprietary one.

    What I don’t understand is that you should know this. Having as much experience as you do with Linux, you would have canned it a long time ago if you had issues with a little GUI quirkiness. There weren’t “well over a dozen MP3” players when you first started using Linux. They accumulated while you using it. Did it just hit you one day that there were “too many”? I say, if someone wants to create their own MP3 player or even a distro for that matter, go ahead, let Darwin sort them out. For me, a quirky GUI is just a nice little reminder that I’m not using a Microsoft product.

  2. chk says:

    I think you completely missed all of my points, but that’s ok; the other blogs I linked to are full of similar behaviour.

    I’ve been running Linux as a server for over a decade. I gave up on Linux on the desktop nine years ago. I decided to try it again, and discovered that other than a few new bells and whistles, nothing has changed. Developers can’t even get basic functionality right, never mind the interesting stuff that really makes a program useful.

    My example about MP3 players was not that there were so many, but that they all suck. Nobody seems to want to collaborate to make one or two better. It’s not just the MP3 players.

    A quirky GUI just gets in my way when I have real work to do. I don’t want to be fighting with my computers all the time (And yes, for the record, both Apple and MSFT have problems in this area too).

    I’ll continue to run linux on my servers (5 personal, dozens at the office), but I’ll not be using it on a desktop. More importantly, I won’t be recommending it to my family and friends, either.

  3. Richard Chapman says:

    No, after reading your comment I believe I didn’t miss your point. I’m not saying there is something wrong with you for not liking desktop Linux. It just seems a little odd. If you’ve been working with Linux servers for the past 9 years you must be quite at home with the command line. Don’t use the desktop, it’s optional. I think it’s nuts but some people do it. I don’t know what distro you tried but desktop Linux has improved a lot in just the 3.5 years I’ve been using it. My needs aren’t great but it does everything I need and more without getting in my face. The maintenance is nonexistent compared to XP. Vista? From what little I’ve seen of it my computer would be smashed to pieces in a matter of hours if I had to use it. That friggin’ OS has an attitude and I don’t like it at all.

    I use PCLinuxOS and there isn’t any piece of codec crap it can’t handle. If you are happy with XP or Vista or whatever you use then there is no reason to switch. If you’re just investigating the “hype” then that’s fine too. Just understand that there isn’t any Linux hype machine, it’s just people’s experiences. Nobody said Linux was the Second Coming. They are just happy to finally get their work done without being pestered by their computer.

  4. Reid says:

    Yep it does.

    Now why would you go to Windows? There’s always Mac.

    Games?

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