Sunday, May 18, 2008

Desktop Linux should address these little annoyances

linux annoyances
Users are right when they say linux is not ready for desktop. And they are right when they point to some rough edges of linux for it, such as: lack of device drivers, lack of good application software, problem to sync many portable devices, problem in wireless configuration, slow startup and shutdown, problem in installation/uninstallation of software, vast number of distributions and lack of uniformity among them, lack of a better desktop environment, etc...

I would like to add a small point that many others have missed out, and that is non-critical user annoyances. These annoyances actually don’t hamper computing in Linux but they do drive users away from Linux. I would request readers here that I am no way making a rant here. This blog only tries to make aware linux developers to take care of these things before pushing one release after another...

1. Windows XP is almost 7 years old but it still installs on any pc or notebook. The installation is almost smooth. After installation the users start hunting for device drivers and they always get them on the web and the job is done. Desktop Linux Distros despite improving rapidly after every release, sometimes don’t install on some PCs and Notebooks. It dies with a black screen! Of course, there are many way to land on a text terminal or change the boot options and resume installation, but why should a user care about it?

2. If you are a power user of Windows XP, you are probably aware of its event logs. After every session it dumps something to the event log, but very few general users are aware of it. Whereas in Linux most probably you will see a nautilus-debug-log.txt or xyz.core file in the /home/user directory. Some users really get scared about this. May be even after so many years linux lacks a good desktop environment or even if there are KDE and Gnome (and dozen others) they are never better integrated.

3. In Windows the situation is "either it works or it doesn’t". It’s straight forward. But Linux is full of workarounds. A user after facing some problem googles it and most probably lands on a forum. There if he/she is lucky gets a perfect solution, else a workaround. For example, if a user searches for a solution to get his/her xyz driver he gets some suggestions – do this and that and the driver will work, but it won’t deliver certain features, and so on... Who will love a workaround?

4. Desktop Linux comes with many unnecessary blots. Install Fedora 8 or 9 and you will know the situation. Make a default installation and you will see you are no way related to many those default applications. Sometimes many are just duplicates of others. But if you try to remove them you will know that you are loosing some applications that you really need. What an annoyance! Some of you know that it is because of modularity of linux packagement, but again why should a lay user care?

5. The worst annoyance of all in Linux is "rapid change". Before a component is stabilized another release comes up with another unstable version.


Mike said...

I don't know where you get your information, but Linux starts up faster then Windows by a large margin. Linux also shuts down just as fast a Vista does.

Anonymous said...

Let us be correct here...
1.The XP install sux, it takes most of an hour, even on new dual core systems loaded with memory. As for drivers most are not included in Xp, as you said you must download them, that works well if you dont need a nic driver. Linux does a much better job of installing the needed drivers from boot. So in this case its not the fault of Linux but the hardware manufactures that dont supply drivers for their devices.
2.XP has the same thing in the Error Reporting. Where it ask if you wish to send error data to MS with each error or program crash. We all know how often that is.
3."either it works or it doesn’t"?
I have seen apps work now and then refuse to. You imply that no one uses the MS knowledge base. Just look at the google searches for windows problems or "workarounds". If this is a beginner then why don't they stick with the working apps that are installed with the distro of choice?
4.Desktop Windows comes with many unnecessary blots. Install XP or Vista and you will know the situation. Make a default installation and you will see you are no way related to many those default applications. Sometimes many are just duplicates of others or usless. But if you try to remove them you will know that you are loosing some applications that you really need. What an annoyance!
5.Rapid change is a bad thing? Tell that to the computer hardware manufactures. A system is antiquated in just 12 months.
Oh and have you tried Vista or MS office 2007, loads of changes there. My users dont seem to like either.

If these are your complaints with Desktop Linux maybe you should stick with Windows. As you state Windows doesnt have any problems.

manmath sahu said...

thanks for your comment.
the fact is i did not get that information, actually that's my own observation. i've used almost 100 distros in last 5 years and i have to use windows in office. i measured the boot up speed in feature to feature comparison between windows and linux.

deech said...

funny, i have a different experience. With me, Linux either works or does not work. I may have to edit a file, but since of lately, most of the stuff for me works out of the box.

Often in Windows XP something does not work and I have no clue why not... I did what I was supposed to do but, according to manuals and such but for some reason some device wont work. After reinstalling i may or may not work, after rebooting it may or may not work...

manmath sahu said...

hi deech,
my point was xp though almost seven years old it still works with the most modern system and installs flawlessly on them, could you expect mandy 2, redhat 7 run on a dualcore system, or conversely could you run opensuse 11 on a pIII machine?
anyway thanks for your comments.

Anonymous said...

Your argument about perfect hardware support in Windows is fatally flawed. Windows cannot take credit for most if not all of the supported hardware that you speak of. Device manufacturers are responsible for that. Throw that nice shiny XP-exclusive driver CD that came with your PC (the one provided by Dell, HP, Toshiba, etc.) away, then try a bare-bones XP install and see how far you get. I'd be very surprised if you managed to get your internet connections working and obtained better than 640x480 resolution at low color depth.

By comparison, drivers in Linux are baked into the kernel itself whenever possible. That means that most of the drivers for your hardware in Linux are part of the core OS itself and not external bits that must be searched for and loaded in later. The only time when this isn't true is when the manufacturer responsible for that part has chosen to keep their drivers proprietary and closed off. This prevents the Linux community from being able to freely maintain and improve the drivers and ensure proper hardware support and performance. In this case, if the hardware does not work with Linux, it is not Linux's fault. The blame properly rests with Nvidia, Broadcom, or whoever made that device. It is their responsibility to properly support their products. Too many people seem to have had their logic brainwashed away on that point.

The fact is that Linux has far better intrinsic driver support than XP, not to mention the driver nightmare that Vista continues to be. Your arguments about poor driver support and hacks and workarounds in Linux are correct, but misplaced. These are complaints that should be lodged with the proprietary hardware manufacturers (and have been by Dell, HP, Lenovo, and others--see link: ). Feel free to direct your annoyances about driver support to the ones responsible, the manufacturers, either with your words or your wallet.

Anonymous said...

It is not so much that Winwoes "works" with hardware, but that hardware has been specifically designed to "work" with Winwoes. Many years of monopoly power at work.

manmath sahu said...

if one throws away the driver cd that comes with a branded windows pc the user will suffer only very little, because those drivers can be found easily on the web. but why anyone will throw that cd away?

coming to the core issue... i am linux user of almost 6 years and i know that linux comes with much more drivers than windows does, but when a particular driver is not there then it becomes sheer annoyance and the non-techie users fall in to mess. it is not the case with windows.

finally, i am not blaming linux for this, but i am blaming the forking nature of linux distributions. tell me which manufacturer will write drivers in n number of different types to meet n types of distributions, who together don't count even 2% of their userbase.

anyways, thank you all for your comments.

ps: please mention your names while posting comments so that i can reply to particular comments.

Anonymous said...

"if one throws away the driver cd that comes with a branded windows pc the user will suffer only very little, because those drivers can be found easily on the web."

As indicated by the first Anonymous poster in point #1, that works IF your network interface card is correctly detected and initialized by the Windows install. It has been my experience that this only works in about half of the cases, especially with wireless.

I find it hard to believe you are a PCLinuxOS user, as I am.

manmath sahu said...

i am ardent pclinuxos fan, in fact i distribute pclinuxos disk to whosoever interested in it in my friends circle. even i do install it on their desktops and notebooks. and this blog is not a rant of any sort, it's just an attempt to improve pclinuxos and other desktop linux distros.

and all the experiences posted here are very much real that i draw while installing or configuring linux on my friends desktops.

best regards.

Anonymous said...

wow, how very Old-World of you to compare a *nix champ like PCLinux to a faded OS from M$. In this IPod and IPhone gadgeted world, you compared a young philly to a tired nag.

Heck, even in the ads Windo$e is portrayed as a middle-aged darling to Apples Young Thang. The Post-911 Generation Gap is widening every day, and I've noticed that young folks have ZERO loyalty to M$.

Every app that you know by name is being ported to the [OS independent] Web, with vendors having learned a harsh lesson for tying their product exclusively to Windo$e. HP, NVidia, ATI, GoogleDocs,,, and now even QuickBooks have started to make real money from 'early-adopters' by either abandoning win-only drivers or just running their apps from the web.

I know this because I sent the Hate-Mail to LexMark for not having drivers in my PCLOS Synaptic, and informing them that my new HP 3-n-1 did.

Now, I see LexMark trying to catch up w/ what HP and the video card people already know: Apple/Linux fans tend to have MORE toys, NEWER toys, and toys w/ a higher price-point than the older Windo$e audience. The *nix camp is also so much more tech savvy that they make FAR fewer cust support calls and angry returns than the older set. This is the Bottom Line, folks.

My 60+ mom and most of my family use PCLinux [KDE] and love it to the point of sending in their donations within a month of me installing it for them. Me? you prob can tell that I'm in the PCLOS Baghira mold, having found the Metal4KDE style and tricked it out... I mix in some Compiz/Fusion for total madness.

My Win friends have never seen anything like it and my Apple cousins are a little jealous of the low amount that I paid for 'their' OS.

Don't bother comparing this Son of Big Daddy to the Old-Peoples OS, tell your Apple/Mac friends that they may have paid too much for too little.

manmath sahu said...

Thanks a lot for such a thought provoking comment!

Independent gadget/device makers should definitely make drivers for linux. In fact Intel is proactively doing this. But many others, because it will require lot of money and time to make software for so many distributions such as debian, redhat, slackware.... Had there been a single distro, the situation would have been quite easier.

Pooch said...

I think the blogger has some valid points, albeit for the wrong reasons. Most of you have put it all together, and if I may, you are all right, in a way. MS has been a monopoly for so long now, and they have strong-armed all of the major software companies to the point that the public hasn't even entertained the thought of having another choice besides the more expensive Mac. But the times are changing, and with this new generation, hopefully we are seeing an age of enlightenment. I personally would love to see Linux on every desktop in the world, but first, it will have to become more user-friendly in terms of the general population. Some people just want to be able to turn on their computer and use it. They don't want any hassle. I mean, when you buy a new cell phone, do you have to install the OS on it, tweak it in any way?
So all in all what I think the blogger is saying is that Linux developers should target the general users out there, and the best way to do that is to make it more like what they are already used to. Also, software companies will have to join in at some point, but since this is open source, do you really think Adobe, etc are really wanting to develop software for free? We still ahve a ways to go, but it is coming- be patient folks!

manmath sahu said...

Hi pooch,
There is no wrong reasons behind. I have no doubt that linux is versatile as a server, but I still think developers are loosing that focus in desktop.

How about this