The results of my annual desktop Linux survey are in: It still sucks!

Note: If you are a member of the Orthodox Church of Linux and you suffer from high blood pressure, you might want to consult a physician before reading this. In fact, you may just want to skip to my follow up article, which presents my criticisms of Linux in a much more explanatory form.

I’m a sucker for a good story and that Linux certainly is: millions of programmers working out of the sheer goodness of their hearts on a project to benefit humanity by providing a free operating system. Never mind that they only cost about $100 anyway, and represent less than 10% of the cost of a new computer. Microsoft just makes us all so angry that if we have to spend billions of person hours so that we can all save $100 every few years, so be it. Time well spent.

So, it’s with heady optimism and hope for the future that once a year I anxiously download and install the latest consumer desktop incarnation of Linux, my eyes watering with the promise of life without Microsoft. For the past six years, I have installed Linux at some point during the year with the hope of never having to go back. And for the past six years I have used Linux for a week or so, only to inevitably capitulate after tiring of all the little things that go wrong and which require hours searching on the web for the right incantation to type in /etc/screwme.conf. While every year it gets a little bit more reliable, I am always guiltily relieved to finally get back to Windows, where there are no xorg.conf files to get corrupted or fstab files to edit.

This year, I decided to try Ubuntu 7.10. Given the hype, I had very high hopes. It installed without a hitch, and came up working fine for the most part. Just a small problem with the screen resolution being off and my second monitor not being recognized. I thought, “That should be easy to take care of. This could be the year!”

The problem with Linux is that for all the pretty shine put on it with mods to X11 and desktop frameworks like GNOME, nobody has the resources to really blank slate what needs to be scrapped. Thus, even though it’s 2008, we’re still stuck with X windows, which was designed in the 1980s, well before anybody had any idea we’d be doing desktop compositing with GPUs, let alone on multiple monitors. Despite the pretty GUIs to configure it, the screen settings are set by having the GUI parse and then edit a text file that was meant to be written by humans, essentially the same format that was used twenty years ago when X11 was written. Not surprisingly, it tends to get corrupted, and that’s exactly what happened to me this year. After using the GUI to turn on my second monitor and correct the resolution, things went to hell when I restarted and just kept going downhill. The second monitor would not work, and I could not get direct display to turn on, leaving me with sluggish graphics performance. Worse, when the graphics card driver was upgraded automatically, things finally got so bad that all Ubuntu could do was operate in VGA mode. Looking online, this happens to a lot of people, and everybody has a different opinion on what to do about it. Mine is to simply say the hell with this shit.

Now, if you ever dare complain about this kind of thing happening, inevitably some pasty-faced ponytail wearing druid wearing an O’Reilly t-shirt will crawl out of his mother’s basement and patronizingly scold you by saying “It works for me! You just have to edit the X11 mod section of /etc/X11/xorg.conf and install the xgl package if you’re going to be using this on an ATI card with the proprietary drivers.” What Linux supporters (I among them*) often fail to grasp, however, is that most people see computers as a means, not an end. Just because a system problem has a solution doesn’t mean that the obscurity of that solution should not be counted againsts the merits of that system. In general, people do not enjoy computers as objects of inherent interest, and that even goes for many scientists and engineers, most of whom have better things to learn than obscure unix configuration file formats and work-arounds.

So, this year’s experiment ended in disappointment even quicker than usual. Maybe I’ll move to a biennial schedule. I’m sure many people will say that I was too impatient. And I was impatient, but certainly not too much so if I am to consider my time worth even $25 an hour. I hope that those that develop desktop Linux enjoy the process, because it is hard to justify otherwise. The amount of time that has been spent developing something that offers negligable operational advantage over existing options (Mac OS X or Windows) cannot possibly represent a good investment for society. Linux will always have a place for hobbyists and as a unix replacement, but it will never be good enough as a desktop. The economies of scale are just too great for Microsoft and Apple. Since the volumes are so high, their operating systems are actually incredibly affordable given the impact they potentially have on a person’s productivity. Ironically, nobody should have a better grasp of the tremendous efficiencies of proprietary operating system development better than those that labor pointlessly to provide a free alternative to it. In other words, anything that can be done for free probably isn’t worth doing for free because somebody else can do it for cheap. The world already has two mediocre consumer operating systems that cause people no end of grief. Do we really need to spend the time making a third?

*I’m referring to linux as UNIX (i.e. for servers and engineering workstations) not desktop linux aimed at the general public.

43 thoughts on “The results of my annual desktop Linux survey are in: It still sucks!

  1. Surveyor

    The results of my annual Troll survey are in: you still suck!
    I normally don’t feed trolls, and I wasn’t going to, until I read that last period:

    “[…] those that labor pointlessly to provide a free alternative to it. In other words, anything that can be done for free probably isn’t worth doing for free because somebody else can do it for cheap.”

    This means you are writing about stuff you don’t know, don’t understand anything about, and probably never will. Please respect the people who do a job you don’t even deserve to write about.

    Reply
  2. David Field

    This year i though would e the year, you knw, after the product has been around in its same state for 6 years, this year might have been the year my PC would load that enebitable XP software without any glitches. I’ve tried on Dells, I’ve tried on Compaqs, but this year i was going to try on an HP..

    So i’ve installed the software, and, stumbled at the first block, the Display is in VGA mode, and the Network card won’t load. Strange, so i use my Linux PC, to find out why, but end up finding a myriad of sites which want me to pay to join them for Windows Support, Experts Exchange? Not really, i can’t find anything to help me, finally i find that i need to download the drivers from Intel, which thankfully i have another Pc to do, or i’d be in a bit of a pickle. Having downloaded the two 30Mb Plus files, (of which i only need 2Mb worth, but Intel decided i need a whole batch of other stuff to “Enhance” my experience, i get my Video Card and Network card working, then i find i can’t print to my HP Deskjet 360 as it doesn’t come with any drivers, which is strange as my Ubuntu Distro did out of the box. However i download the 68Mb file for the HP Printer drivers as directed by HP (the CD it came with was lost many house moves ago), only to find it needs to install a whole separate subsystem in order to get my Printer printing, apparently i also need software to manage my photos, not sure why, i only wish to print…

    Finally i got to printing, 3 reboots later, Next was my Logitech webcam, a Quickcam, Driver CD was probably in the Same box as HP Driver CD, however I can download it, 20Mb, downloaded, installed, reboot, blue screen? Er ok, so i manage to restore to a system restore point.. and finally found out that i need some older drivers. Good think i know how to system restore..

    I was then propted to reboot for Updates, on 4 occasions, i thought i was using SP2?

    Not to worry, I’m now ready to go, so i put in my USB stick, and try and open the DOC file, but i can’t, there is no software to read a Microsoft Word file included with Windows..I either have to pay more money (a lot more money) for MS Office, or Download Open Office, Shame that, its inclued with Ubuntu, as were the HP drivers, and the Logitech Quick Cam Drivers, as were both the Video and Network card drivers… so to get to the point in Ubuntu took 25 Minutes, 1 reboot, and in XP 3 hours and 15 reboots.

    I had to do it all again however, because i forgot to put AntiVirus software and Anti Spyware software on the PC, and within a 48hr period the whole thing had died..

    Maybe i’ll give Vista 64bit a go? I mean, Ubuntu 64bit does all of the above, so Vista 64bit will to right? Wrong? HP Driver Nightmare, Video Card won’t go above 1024×768, slower than a snail on glue, and i’ve been recommeded a memory upgrade, but i didn’t need that on Ubuntu..

    My Point?

    Perspective…

    Reply
  3. Darrell W

    How come so many millions of users pirate Windows if it comes with PCs and is so affordable?

    I’d rather choose a free stable and secure operating system (then I can spend more on hardware), particularly if it comes with a full office suite by default.

    I think a greater proportion of Linux users than Windows users have trouble-free graphics setups without resorting to installing additional drivers. I don’t think X Windows is as bad or unstable as you suggest.

    The GPL is much more liberating than the Vista EULA.

    Reply
  4. Lokuhetty

    Obviously You have a very wrong Idea about the Linux Thing. Accordingly to me, most of the critics have gone wrong in there path trying to establish a unnecessary logic to the community. everybody wanted to compare windows to the Linux. y cant u people just accept that Linux is a Different O/S and it has it’s own way. u cant compare windows Xp/ Vista to Linux. coz it’s a totally different O/S. Do u people ever compare Wii and PSP ? u don’t ! the actual; reason is that they are totally different products and they cannot be compared coz they are TWO different products.
    And Again, even if u compared, u have done a great mistake by choosing a totally unacceptable distro. Ubuntu is NOT the best distro .(But one of most popular- mostly due to the free shipping by the conical). If u want a fight, please choose Mint. To the stability fedora. To the Best home use, Open suse. They are the most respected and easy to use distro. And Again, the reason for your trouble was that the Proper drivers are still not developed to the Linux . The reason is as most of us know, Microsoft. They dominate the market and the hardware developers. If they have released sources to there products, it’s a matter of days. Therefore Accept it. Even with this much of domination, Linux Is ready for desktop. It has been for the past several years. But it’s still not Windos XP or Windows Vista.Thank god ! It’s not ever going to be..
    And about me , I’m a heavy windows user and I’m only using Linux as a secondary,(Coz some compatibility issues with my team). But that doesn’t restrict me to praise for windows. I accept, Windows Xp is a good product. But Do u really think that vista can run with Ubuntu? (Even with the problem u have).
    I want a Honest opinion. And I recommend u to repost by trying one of above distros. Or else some one may think that u r a biased Microsoft praiser..

    and at the End : Ubuntu is not Linux it’s a Derivative Only. There is a world out there. Look outside from your tank.

    Reply
  5. jon

    So, I guess you don’t know how to install an OS. Most people don’t. Perhaps a sys-admin course at mit would help? Better still why not buy a PC from Dell with Linux pre-installed – that’s what my grandmother did.

    Reply
  6. eric

    I’ve had the same opinion in the past – it just wasn’t quite there. However, Ubuntu 7.10 is working perfectly on my wife’s Dell Inspiron 1501. We haven’t tried to hook up an external monitor, so can’t say if that will work. But 7.10 works amazing well. And compared to Vista – well it’s clearly the superior operating system. My wife uses it as her full time PC and is definitely not a fan of anything OS – she just wants it to work. Guess what, Vista didn’t – I spent more time on tech support than I wanted to. But 7.10 – no problems – it works, it keeps working, and lets both of us spend more time being productive and virtually no time managing software.

    Not that in other circumstances I wouldn’t agree with you. For my work PC I couldn’t live without XP. And I haven”t tried to work with external or dual monitors. But Ubuntu 7.10 sees the NAS at home, the XP desktop, let’s Picasa see and manipulate photos across the network on all devices, let’s me play music hosted on the NAS and XP desktop thru Ubuntu out to my stereo, etc., etc.

    End results – its pretty much there. My wife can use it and does so easily and with far fewer complaints vs. Vista. She might not say the same vs. XP, but that wasn’t an option as I wasn’t going to pay for another copy of XP.

    Doesn’t mean that issues don’t remain but, again, for basic setups I believe it’s there.

    Reply
  7. Heikki Naski

    Just because X11 was designed decades ago doesn’t make it bad. On the contrary, a long lifespan makes software tested and usually more reliable. And the fact that it uses a text file for configuration is a good thing since power users tend to prefer to use them because looking up a word in a text file or in a directory of text files is convenient as opposed to browsing dozens of tabs on a GUI tool. But I also think that GUI tools should exist and that they are more intuitive.

    Finally text files are actually harder to corrupt than binary files since even one bad character in a binary file makes it not work and quite hard to debug. The reason xorg.conf might go bonkers would be the automatic tools modifying it or changing the hardware which just as well ‘corrupt’ a binary file. The problem is the lack of automatic tools to monitor changes in hardware or the quality of the tools.

    X server is also very feature-rich, allowing several X sessions, remote sessions and lots of nifty things. And it is being developed all the time just.
    But I agree that it shouldn’t be necessary to restart X after editing it’s settings.

    There is also the problem of x86-architecture that there are enormous amounts of different hardware and each one requires it’s own drivers and it is very hard to make everything work together, especially with some drivers being only proprietary.

    Reply
  8. Rambo Tribble

    You must be a talk radio host in real life. You and they are the only ones, (besides religious demagogues such as Osama Bin Laden), who seem to feel ignorance is an art form. The term I use for your ilk is, “Indignoramus”.

    Reply
  9. DarkSOl

    When you try your Linux experiment again, don’t try Ubuntu. Try PCLinuxOS. I use it on my laptop, and it detected EVERY bit of hardware I had, including wireless and graphics. I think you’d be much better off with that. I have never been a fan of Ubuntu, but that’s the inherent beauty of Linux: There are several distros to choose from, so if one doesn’t work, there are several others to try.

    Reply
  10. Bill

    Jonathan,

    Having recently gone through the whole “try Linux thing,” I agree completely. Linux is not ready for prime time. Despite the religion-like devotion of the Linux crowd, the market has spoken.

    Reply
  11. itsgregman

    You really dont sound like you have a clue. And if your experiance with linux is limited to ubuntu youre a fool to make sweeping negative statements about Linux. Ubuntu is really not representative of linux in general as there are many superior distros available. Ubuntu was the first distro I tried myself and I can honestly say if ubuntu had been the only Linux Id still be running windows. Try some other distros and stay away from ubuntu . Its over hyped and substandard in my opinion.

    Reply
  12. sjinsjca

    I concur with DarkSOI, PCLinuxOS is a nicer, more broadly-compatible distro than Ubuntu/Kubuntu, and a more satisfying experience. http://www.PCLinuxOS.com …Go for the 2007 edition, not the recent Gnome variant or the bake-your-own-pie MiniMe version; the 2007 release has everything you could want in a distro and is rather pretty too.

    “Free” isn’t the only benefit to Linux. Security, stability, robustness and a small hardware footprint are big draws (or were for me, at least). And then there’s portability: the ability to put a fully-featured machine on a USB hard disk or even a flash stick, carry it around, and use it wherever I happen to be is much easier to implement with Linux than Windows. For example, I can use a company laptop for personal emails and browsing without any personal content or software residing on the laptop; when I travel that means I don’t have to carry two laptops. In fact, I’m writing this on a PCLinuxOS virtual machine on a $129 250GB Western Digital USB hard disk from Costco on a company computer during a travel week.

    Besides, the notion that the OS constitutes 10% of the machine cost is now obsolete with the advent of rather good but nosebleed-cheap computers like the Eee and gPC. Linux is an enabler for that whole new class of PC, as it is for $49 WiFi routers and $200 handheld GPS systems and so many other things today. About a million Eees have been sold since the Fall. Though most users wouldn’t care about the technical details, the Eee runs a version of Xandros Linux with a KDE-based user interface and are lauded for their ease of use. If you’re too challenged to install and successfully use PCLinuxOS, try one of those.

    I’m not a Linux fanboi or Microsoft-basher. (I’m actually more of a Mac evangelist.) In fact, I concur with your “to hell with this shit” attitude when any machine or software starts getting in the way of what I want to do. I do continue to use Windows; like Linux, it’s a tool, a means to an end. I’ve used Linux where appropriate since 1997. And I’m here to tell you that as a desktop OS, it has reached critical mass and now represents a rapidly-blossoming new chapter in personal computer history.

    Reply
  13. Richard Chapman

    I read just enough (about 3 sentences) of your post to see that you really just want some attention. It looks like you’re getting it. It could also be that your post is really part of an assignment in a Sociology class and we’re the test subjects. Either way you’ll get the same results. They’re a lot of people who stand to lose something, a job, a business or way of life, if Linux takes hold. They get worried and try to scare people away from it like you are. They post the same nonsense you do. And they all look suspiciously like they were written from the same outline. These words that you write may be on your blog, but they will become part of the web archive. That means, essentially, that your nonsense about Linux will be read by history students 30 years from now. Want to guess what kind of operating system they’ll be using? I’ll give you a little hint, it won’t be Windows 15.

    Reply
  14. FastGame

    I wonder what would happen if the thousand upon thousands of those who had problems with graphics drivers in Windows “simply say the hell with this shit” and moved on to Linux ?

    And what words do they utter after virus-trojans-spyware-BSOD-WGA-DRM ?

    Linux isn’t for everyone, IMO thats a good thing.

    Reply
  15. Richard Hunn

    I agree totally that Linux (any distribution) is not ready for use by the average
    masses, that fact cannot be argued. Without that mass support we’ll be just
    what we are now, a hobby. “Linux isn’t for everyone, IMO that’s a good thing”,
    is it? For those of us who are stuck with myriad industrial OEM apps that
    run everything from sizing programs to simulations we’re a long way from the
    point of having a useful distribution. Case in point VMWare which chokes
    every time you run a kernel update, it shouldn’t be that difficult to do simple
    updates without rebuilding a system and yah I can do it but my time is much
    more valuable trying to make a living.

    Reply
  16. Dan Sherburn

    I’m relatively new to the Linux experience. I recently built a small mini-itx computer for a nav system for my sailboat. I had to pay Microsoft $100 for the XP license that was way overkill for the app I wanted to run. I started to look at Linux distros as an alternative.

    Whereas it’s not yet perfect, I’m impressed with the deliverables and the commitment of the folks who work on the philosophy of a “free” environment. I have nothing against Windows; I just like having an alternative and “hats off” to those who provide that option.

    Dan

    Reply
  17. sjinsjca

    Richard Hunn stated: “I agree totally that Linux (any distribution) is not ready for use by the average masses, that fact cannot be argued…”

    Tell that to the grannies who are buying Eees and Wal-Mart gPCs, or the third-world kids using the XO PC. Your view is out of date. Linux has come a long way since Red Hat circa 1997.

    Plus, your comment about VMWare is not terribly illustrative. I use VMWare (am writing this on a PCLinuxOS virtual machine running under it in Windows, as a matter of fact) and can assure you from painful experience that Windows Updates can break VMWare too, necessitating a reinstall. In Linux, if a big update breaks something, you just run a reconfigure thingie which takes perhaps 20 seconds to complete, then you’re good to go. But, I update kernels frequently (why not take advantage of the latest and greatest?) and the worst VMWare breakage I’ve endured was that VMWare Tools would not track the mouse as perfectly as it did before. Otherwise it worked fine. Maybe the situation was different in your distro? That’s entirely possible, unfortunately, given the fractious nature of the Linux market and the spotty quality of some distros.

    Reply
  18. Jonathan Post author

    Well, the next time I post before I go out of town, I think I’ll stick with a less contentious topic! I appreciate all the comments (except maybe those which were just grenades with no note attached). And given the work people put into the desktop distros, I suppose I deserved much of the venom. I regret being as flippant as I was, especially with the final sentence. Having said that, I stand by my assertions, though I agree they were poorly argued here. I will write a followup post which explains my position with more reason and less snark, and offers suggestions and not just criticism. I hope those of you that disagreed with me will read the upcoming post. Since I am away from a good net connection now, I’m going to have to apologize for not responding individually to the valid comments left here.

    But to respond briefly to some of the general threads of criticism: First, I wasn’t trying to fire shots on behalf of MS in the OS wars, as many assumed. Do a tag seach for Vista on this blog and you’ll see I’m no MS fan. I base absolutely none of my identity on the OS I use; I dualboot Windows/RHEL4 at work and use a Mac at home. I have equally profound ambivalence for them all. Despite breathless media commentary to the contrary, we are just at the very very beginning of the information revolution, and our tools are understandably crude. What we use in 2040 will bear no resemblence to what we have now and we’ll (a) wonder how we dealt with the inconveniences of 2008 OSes and (b) laugh at ourselves for bothering to fight over which one was better. I follow Linux to the extent I do because I really do like the idea in most respects. Having said that, I’m starting to think there are fundamental problems with Linux as a desktop environment meant to replace Windows or OS X. (And to the person that pointed out the OLPC, I agree that it’s great. But it’s not trying to replicate Windows or OS X, is it?)

    To the critique that Ubuntu is not representative of the best of the Linux community: My understanding is that the problems I encountered would’ve happened under GNOME on any distro, but I have to admit I didn’t pursue the problem enough to prove whether it was GNOME or something special to Ubuntu that was to blame. So the point is well taken that I should try others, and I will.

    Finally, I should’ve done a better job making it clear I’m only talking about desktop Linux as a replacement for Windows or OS X, especially for the general public. I wasn’t trying to criticize the entire movement, and especially not opensource in general. I use GNU/Linux in my work all the time; I run all my simulation and design optimization code for my optics research on RHEL4 using the GNU toolchain. I just don’t think Linux and opensource are a good match for a general use desktop OS, especially one which is attempting to largely replicate existing commercial ones. I think I can make a strong case for this, and will do so in my next post.

    -Jonathan

    Reply
  19. Chris Lees

    Let me summarise:

    Every year, the blogger downloads the latest distribution, installs it, tries to get the second monitor working, doesn’t know what he’s doing and ruins the Xorg configuration file. Then he proclaims that “Linux sucks” and gets rid of it for another year.

    How is the blogger going to learn enough about Linux this way? He gives up at the first thing that is different.

    Here’s a tip for you. Don’t worry about the second monitor. Use Ubuntu, or PCLinuxOS or whatever until you actually have enough knowledge of the operating system as a desktop OS, to do things correctly.

    I’m a Windows amateur – never really used Windows, and I don’t even have a copy of it now. Because I’m quite knowledgable about browngoods and (now) about Linux, people keep asking me to fix their Windows problems. You’d probably laugh at my attempts to get a Windows computer to connect to a wireless network, or to figure out what graphics card driver it needs and install it. Before I try fiddling around with these computers I should really get to learn the Windows operating system, but whenever I get a call for help there’s no time.

    You have the luxury of time to learn desktop Linux. Just don’t go too deeply into the system until you know what you’re doing. And if you do that, then I’ll try to remember to refer all Windows problems onto Windows experts.

    Reply
  20. Jonathan Post author

    Chris:

    The point of my experiment is to compare desktop linux to Windows and the Mac in terms of usability out of the box. I am actually fairly knowledgeable about unix in general, and run RHEL4 on my work box, and have edited my X11 config by hand to work fine with my two monitors. My point is that the idea of desktop linux is to be usable to somebody who doesn’t do unix, and I think it currently fails at that, or at least Ubuntu does. I’m sure I could’ve fixed my problem with Ubuntu if I’d wanted to spent time on it. But that’s not the point. I’d rather spend $100 to not have to. And I’d certainly rather just reboot into my Windows, which (perhaps to my luck) has worked surprisingly well with multiple monitors.

    Reply
  21. Jonathan Post author

    Darrell:

    I’m not sure why you thought that would change my mind much. The post was about somebody who had the experience of Linspire autoloading a driver, and then incorrectly stating Windows would not have done the same thing.

    Reply
  22. Darrell W

    Yet your post was about your experience of Ubuntu not loading the correct screen resolution and second monitor and then generalising about whether Windows and Linux would have picked up the screen resolution and second monitor.

    Reply
  23. Jonathan Post author

    Hi Darrell:

    Except in my case I wasn’t generalizing. I know Windows can and does. Second, Linux, being the underdog, is in the unfortunate position of having the burden of proof on it, not Windows or OS X. If you’re going to undergo the labor of switching operating systems, you will only do so if the new one offers significant advantages over the one you already use and know. Thus, if there is a tie between Windows and Linux, Linux still loses. And despite the protests otherwise, I don’t see how anybody can argue with a straight face that Windows, as bad as it is, is really that much less reliable than the popular Linux distros. A very unscientific survey made by googling “Linux graphics driver problem” and “Vista graphics driver problem” comes up with a similar number of hits. I know the million reasons why this is a bad way to quantitatively gauge users’ experience, but my point is that there’s not a huge difference: people have lots of problems on both. Linux needs to be better, not just as bad.

    Reply
  24. sjinsjca

    Jonathan notes: “Linux needs to be better, not just as bad.”

    But it is, in key respects. Go back to my first post: security, stability, robustness, footprint, portability. And, now it’s enabling a whole new class of low-end computer. You can spend more on a toaster than on a gPC or Eee. Granted, it’s a fancy toaster at Williams-Sonoma vs. an entry-level computer at Wal-Mart, but there’s a point there.

    Incidentally, if you want to try an Eee without buying one, go to http://www.moka5.com and try out their virtualization thingie. They have lots of virtual machines (“LivePCs”) to try, Eee and gPC among them. I’d be interested in your impression.

    Reply
  25. Jonathan Post author

    Richard wrote “They’re a lot of people who stand to lose something, a job, a business or way of life, if Linux takes hold. They get worried and try to scare people away from it like you are. They post the same nonsense you do. And they all look suspiciously like they were written from the same outline. These words that you write may be on your blog, but they will become part of the web archive. That means, essentially, that your nonsense about Linux will be read by history students 30 years from now. Want to guess what kind of operating system they’ll be using? I’ll give you a little hint, it won’t be Windows 15.”

    Like you, I’ll be surprised if Microsoft lasts 30 years, but let me ask you this: If Windows and Mac OS X disappear, where will the desktop Linux community get all of its ideas?

    Why is it that some people can’t fathom the idea that one can dislike desktop Linux without being part of some commercial conspiracy against it? I’d LOVE to be wrong about desktop Linux. It’s just that I call them as I see them, and I see Linux constantly behind the curve and falling even further. Heaven forbid MS gets its act together or Apple gains critical market share. Should one of the two happen, Linux will be dead on the desktop. It is only through the sheer incompetence of MS that Linux is even where it is.

    Reply
  26. Alain DeWitt

    J –

    Let me get this out of the way right at the beginning:

    I AM A WINDOWS GUY.

    That being said, let me qualify that statement in a couple of important ways. I am a Windows user because I am a PC gamer. As a PC gamer, I really have no choice but to use Windows. So, I am not some Microsoft cheerleader. I would love to see someone make another good OS that can run Direct X 10. I’d be willing to give them a chance. I also like to build my own systems.

    Now, having said all that, I think that Microsoft makes a pretty decent product. Let’s face it, fanboys, Windows is more than adequate for what 80% of users do with a computer (Internet browsing, word processing, spreadsheets, games, music and movies). Many in the cult of Apple like to pooh-pooh Windows and love to sing paeans to the innate superiority of OS X. I will concede that OS X is a better, more stable OS than Vista. However, Apples’ job of making an OS compatible with the various types of hardware found in Apples is geometrically easier than Microsoft’s.

    For me it boils down to choice. As a gamer, I like to build my own PCs and upgrade and tweak them. That is not an option with an Apple. And if I want to game on the machines I build, I have to run Windows.

    And I’m fine with that.

    Reply
  27. Jonathan Post author

    sjinsjca:

    Sorry I missed responding to your comment until now. Your point is well taken, that at the extremely low price points the free nature of Linux does have a significant effect. However, my point about the cost of an OS being negligable compared to the potential benefit to one’s productivity still applies. I would just then add to that: there’s not point in skimping on the computer, either, if it will in any way slow you down.

    Now, if somebody can’t afford to spend more than $300 on a computer, then productivity is probably not a big issue. In that case, I must admit I am wrong and my argument doesn’t apply to that demographic.

    Having said that, I’m still not convinced, though I will try the Live PC link you suggested. Unless it bears no resemblance to any Linux desktop distro I’ve ever seen, I can’t imagine the $300 Linux computer will be a hit. The idea of the Walmart-shopping NASCAR crowd running Unix at home strikes me as a candidate for the most humorous business model of the year. “Edna, the Indian man on the phone says we got a corrupted package database and that you gonna need to sue doe are em var slash cache slash… Screw it. I’m just gonna shoot it, alright?”

    Reply
  28. Pingback: Jonathan Birge » Blog Archive » RIP American Broadcast Television, 1939–2009

  29. Farhan

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    Thanks for the great post!!

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  34. Pingback: Zen and the Art of Linux Maintenance | Jonathan Birge

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