7 Complaints About Linux (Reprinted)

Inspired by this Blogspot article.

There is always room for improvement. Even for Linux. Although many Linux fanatics hate it whenever someone complains about Linux, nothing will change until the developers listen to the needs of the end users.

Unlike Microsoft, Linux was created expressly for the user and not for profit. When you take financial gain out of the equation what you are left with is a drive to produce a high quality operating system.

Some complaints are legitimate, some are not. But all of the complaints come from the perspective of a Windows user who has little or no experience with Linux operating systems.

1. I put a DVD in my player and it won’t play.

Correct, but not for all distributions. The software (codecs) required to play a DVD are proprietary and usually require a fee to be paid before distribution.

However, most Linux distributions offer the correct codecs and library files free of charge to be downloaded from a repository. The file needed is a library file called libdvdcss2. Not only does this allow you to watch a DVD, it decrypts the disk allowing users to copy the DVD.

PCLinuxOS comes with all the codecs necessary to play a DVD, even from the Live CD. Ubuntu, for example, does not. So yes, to some extent this is a legitimate complaint.

2. Some piece of my hardware doesn’t work.

True. This is probably the most frustrating aspect of Linux for any user.

I’ve run into this very problem myself recently. My wife purchased a new HP printer. It works fine on my laptop, it works fine in her installation of Linux Mint 7 and Windows XP, but we cannot get it to print on her computer using PCLinuxOS 2007.

It recognizes the printer. But any attempt to send a print command fails.

When I first tried Linux, I loaded Ubuntu 7. Everything worked fine, but no sound. So I tried Mandriva. It was marginal. Then I switched to PCLinuxOS and everything fell perfectly into place. All my hardware worked. And on my desktop computer all is well. But it took me several attempts to find the right operating system for my hardware and needs.

Many Linux users have complained that their wireless connection hardware never works properly. The built-in wi-fi on my Toshiba laptop running PCLinuxOS 2009, however, connects to any wireless signal with no additional configuration.

Hardware drivers are strictly hit-and-miss. For example, my flat bed scanner works well in Linux using the Sane Linux drivers and software. But I have never managed to get it to work on my wife’s installation of Windows XP, even using the current manufacturer’s downloaded drivers.

This complaint, while legitimate, is not limited to Linux users.

3. Installing software is too hard.

False. Installing software in Linux is not harder than installing software in Windows, it’s just a different process. Once you learn how to do it, it can be easier.

Many Linux distributions have their own repositories of available free software packages. These repositories are accessed through a package manager like Synaptic.

Synaptic allows users to select the software they want to install. You click on the box next to the name of software and select “Mark for installation.” Click on the Apply button at the top of the screen. Synaptic then downloads and installs the software all in one move.

Synaptic also allows you to delete previously installed software packages. You can think of it as equivalent to Add Remove Programs in Windows.

Downloaded software from a Web site is also easy to install. Which software you download is dependent upon which operating system you are running. Files ending in .deb are installed on Debian based systems like Ubuntu and Linux Mint 7. Files ending in .rpm are installed on Red Hat based systems like PCLinuxOS and Mandriva.

Installing a .deb in Ubuntu, for example, is achieved by right clicking on the file and selecting Open with “Gdebi Package Installer,” which is built in to Ubuntu by default and following the on-screen instructions.

Installing a .rpm file in PCLinuxOS, for example, requires the additional installation of a program called KPackage, which is available in the repository mentioned above using Synaptic. Once installed, all you need to do is right click on the .rpm file and select Open with KPackage from the menu and follow the on-screen instructions.

Installing new software in Linux is not hard, it’s just different. So this complaint is not legitimate.

4. Linux is not good for gaming.

False and true.

Linux is a superior platform for gaming. Unlike Windows, the Linux operating system runs much lighter. It eats up less RAM and is not dependent on “system resources” to execute programs. This means that the system dedicates less of itself to maintaining the operating system and focuses more on running the game.

Linux also does not require an anti-virus, anti-malware or anti-spyware program running in the background eating up RAM and CPU cycles just to protect the system.

So why isn’t Linux the choice of gamers?

Two reasons. First and foremost, the software companies that produce games have not ported their games over to the Linux platform. This means the Linux users either have to run the games in emulation, like WINE, or create a dual-boot system (half the hard drive dedicated to Windows, the other half to Linux). Emulation is usually slow and clunky at best, rendering games unplayable.

The second reason is a driver issue. Graphics card manufacturer’s Linux drivers are often worthless. Creating drivers for one platform like Windows is fairly easy compared to writing a broad enough set of drivers that will work perfectly on more than 100 different Linux distributions all containing their own unique set of variables. There is only one Windows, but there’s multiple Linux operating systems.

While Linux is an excellent platform for gaming, companies are not exactly scrambling to develop their products to accommodate Linux users. It’s just not fiscally feasible at this time. So this is a legitimate complaint.

5. I have this program that runs fine in Windows, but it doesn’t run at all in Linux.

True. But then again I have a Linux program that won’t run in Windows. And I have an iPhone application that won’t run on anything other than an iPhone. Big fat hairy deal!

VirtualBox can solve your Windows/Linux problems, but not your iPhone issues. VirtualBox is a virtual machine program that allows you to load Windows on Linux and Linux on Windows. Instead of running applications in emulation, like WINE, you run the application in a full operating system environment.

To run Windows on Linux you still have to have a legitimate copy of a fully installable Windows disk (XP, Vista, 7, etc.). To run Linux on Windows all you need to do is download your choice of any free Linux distribution.

VirtualBox is free for everyone!

This is not a legitimate complaint.

6. I asked how to do something, and they told me to type commands. That’s not intuitive!

True and not so true.

Yes, there are some Linux distributions that do indeed require you to type in commands in a terminal window in order to complete a certain task.

Nothing you do on a computer is intuitive. Everything is learned. Most people just think that an action is intuitive because that’s the way they have always performed similar tasks. Public and private school systems, as well as colleges, have collectively shoved Microsoft’s Windows software down the publics’ throat for over a decade. And to a lesser extent, Apple’s Mac software.

If these are the only systems you have ever been exposed to, of course you will believe that the graphical user interface (GUI) is intuitive. The command line interface (CLI) would look like a foreign language to you.

But all this is unimportant.

We have created a point-and-click technical society. For those who wish to promote Linux as the future of computers, you must create a Linux GUI system that the general public can adapt to readily or be prepared to languish in obscurity.

I didn’t make up these rules. Social norms exist in every society. Technology today plays a major role in our collective culture. So if you want your particular choice of operating system to become an integral part of the modern popular culture, then you have to conform to the expectations set by society.

I’m not saying you have to like it. That’s just the way it is and there’s nothing you can do about it.

This, more than any other complaint, is legitimate.

7. Linux is not ready for the desktop.

That’s not a complaint, that’s a statement. Also a stupid statement since Linux currently runs on millions of desktops around the world.

Perhaps if the statement were reworded it would make more sense: The general public is not ready to accept Linux as a desktop replacement for Windows. This statement is true.

Apple computers has been battling Microsoft for dominance in the desktop market since 1976. With all of it’s resources and financial power, Apple remains a distant second. If a mega multi-billion dollar corporation cannot unseat Microsoft, what chance does a free open source operating system with no financial budget for advertising have?

Part of the blame also lies with the computer manufacturers. The “big box” PC manufacturers, for various reasons, are unwilling to market their complete systems with Linux pre-installed. With little or no exposure, Linux remains relatively unknown in the minds of PC consumers.

Some manufacturers, like Dell, do offer complete systems pre-loaded with Ubuntu. However, these systems are not currently marketed in national stores such as Best Buy. Linux therefore must rely on word-of-mouth for its advertising. The Internet has been playing a huge role in promoting individual distributions.

According to those who keep statistical records, Linux has been slowly increasing its hold on the desktop market. Linux currently has 4.2 percent of all desktop/laptop computers that connect to the Internet. Mac has about 6.0 percent and Microsoft holds the remaining 89 percent total with five different versions of its operating systems.

Linux is ready for the world, but the world may not yet be ready for Linux.

Q and A on Dependencies

Q: I downloaded a Linux program from the Internet, but when I try to install it the package manager says I’m missing dependencies. Now what?

A: Welcome to Dependency Hell! This is a particularly nasty level in Hell that Dante seemed to have missed when he wrote Inferno.

Lasciate Ogni Speranza Voi Ch’Entrate.
All hope abandon, ye who enter in.

Q: Wait just a gosh darn minute! Are you trying to tell me that Linux has the equivalency of the Windows DLL Hell?

A: Yes. But this one is worse. Linux will stop in the middle of an install and tell you that you are missing X (where X is a dependent file). So you hunt down X and install it. But when you retry the install, Linux stops again and tells you that you need Y (where Y is a dependent file). And then you need Z, Q and W. And so on and so on, until you finally give up in disgust.

Q: So what can be done about it?

A: Well, they could include all of the necessary dependencies in the installation file. But this may not be feasible since the installation may spread itself over a large number of folders and configuration files.

Linux, unlike Windows, does not have a single Registry. Instead, it’s comprised of numerous config files that collectively add up to a Registry.

Q: So what’s the point in that?

A: If, by chance, a Linux config file gets messed up, it only affects whatever that config file operates. It does not bring down the entire system, the way that the Windows Registry can prevent Windows from even loading.

Think of it as a trade-off. For example, if Windows fails to load, most users are sent scrambling for their installation disk to re-install Windows. If Linux fails to load, in most cases you will receive a text-only interface that allows you to manually correct the problem without the need to re-install the entire system.

Q: Okay, you lost me. What does this have to do with Dependency Hell?

A: Basically it leaves you with three options. Keep hunting until you find all the necessary dependencies (if possible), give up, or search your distribution’s repositories for an alternative program.

Q: So you’re saying that Linux isn’t that much better than Windows after all?

A: Yeah.

Updating vs Upgrading

The ninth complaint: You cannot upgrade a Linux distribution from one version to the next without wiping the existing installation and performing a clean install.

This is definitely one area that Windows does better than Linux.

Oh yeah, you heard me. Windows has handled upgrades better than Linux.

You could leave your installation of Windows 98 for example, and upgrade to Windows XP without losing any of your XP compatible programs in the process. This saves you the hassle of having to re-install all of your favorite programs. (This may not be the case with Windows 7.)

Not so in Linux. When you upgrade from Ubuntu 8.10 to Ubuntu 9.04, you have to reformat your root directory before loading. And never attempt to update all of your files from one version to the next. Your system will be rendered useless. We’ve had several members of our forum (myself included) find this out the hard way.

I spent four days rebuilding my system after I attempted to update my computer from PCLinuxOS 2007 to PCLinuxOS 2009.

So what can be done to correct this problem? Nothing. It’s just the nature of the beast.

At least with Linux you do not have to go through the horrid process of having to re-register and re-activate your operating system. And most Linux distributions install many software programs, like OpenOffice, along with the operating system during the upgrade.

So get over it now and learn to live with it. Again, I didn’t say you had to like it.

Permission to Annoy

Permissions. What sadistic bastard decided that I have to have the proper permissions to access my own files?

Linux (and Unix) sets read, write, and execute access for the owner of the file, the group that the own belongs to, and other users. If it’s my computer, am I not the owner of every file? Apparently not. Because when I try to access my backup files on a separate partition I get a pop-up message telling me that I don’t have permission to simply copy the file from one partition to another.

I have to log out and then log back in as Root in order to move the files, log out and then log back in under my account. That’s just plain stupid.

The curious thing is if I were to take those same files, burn them to a disk and then try to copy them, I would get no permission message at all. I can do whatever the hell I want with those files.

I understand why they set up permissions in that way. It’s for security. There’s security and then there’s freaking paranoid. They need to allow users to set access permissions during the initial installation. Most home users don’t need a “Fort Knox” level of file security. All data files should be accessible to the computer’s owner.

It’s these kinds of annoyances that stops users from switching from Windows to Linux. And with good reason!

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