Since at least 1997, I’ve annually installed desktop Linux (recently Ubuntu) either on a VM or a partition to see if it’s finally ready for serious use. Some years are better than others, but the answer is always “no”. This year is no different. I tried Ubuntu 23.10. and here are my experiences on the FIRST DAY:
- Color scheme not syncing uniformly across apps
- Apps taking nearly a minute to appear after clicking on them
- Ubuntu insists on showing my encrypted volume as an option on the dock
- MATLAB install won’t respond to mouse clicks and is unreadably tiny
- WiFi randomly disappearing and only coming back after restart
- Several different ways presented as options to install a major software package: flatpak, apt, snap, direct download. This is an impressive number of options for a desktop OS with nearly zero market share. It takes some real zealotry to take something with no market share and divide it further!
- Inability to update 1Password using snap.
- Networking broken under Docker due to complex networking configuration using local cache on loopback interface. Fixing required manual editing of firewall to allow Docker’s backup workaround to work.
What’s especially disappointing is that this year Ubuntu feels slower than Windows. One of the things that has always attracted me to linux is the resource efficiency and all-around “quickness” of it. At this point, however, Windows actually feels faster and more responsive than linux, at least Ubuntu’s version.
How can desktop Linux be going this long and still suck so goddam badly? How can it remain such a complex mess of brittle configuration files and ever changing standards? How can it be so fractionated across so many distributions and software stores when nobody uses it?
If desktop Linux were a dog (and figuratively it is) it would be put down long ago. I love unix so I so want linux to be good, but it just isn’t. On the server it’s amazing. On the desktop it’s embarassing. And it makes me angry, because before linux destroyed the desktop unix market without offering a viable replacement, we had options. HPUX was good. Solaris was good. They all worked reasonably well. They were built by serious people. The people that build desktop linux can only be described as indecisive but talented engineers with vastly undermedicated ADHD and perhaps indiagnosed borderline personality disorder.
Like the definition of insanity, however, they keep doing the same things year after year and expecting a different outcome. Market share for desktop linux continues to bounce along the bottom and yet they keep introducing more distributions, fighting over software packaging formats like academics squabbling over something, well, academic. And like academics, the competition is so cutthroat perhaps because the stakes are so low. But really, who cares about which distribution wins a war nobody is bothering to show up for anymore?
Let’s just call time of death, ok? Linux is a server OS, not a desktop one. I don’t know why it’s possible for one to be effective as an open source project and the other to be an unmitigated disaster, but I suspect it partly has to do with the fact that taking unix out of the server world and into end-user computing was always a stretch even in the best scenarios. The only way to make a bad idea work is usually lots of talent and money, and you don’t get either for free. Whatever the reason, I’m officially done. And I mean it this time. This is the last time I uninstall a desktop linux distro in disgust, and the last time I install one in naive hope.