Shared publicly  - 
 
I love a good rant just as much as the next person, and here's a nice one.

A bit misguided in places, but worth reading.  A lot of conclusions might be incorrect, but there's a grain of truth in here.

To quote David Winer, "We make shitty software" (http://scripting.com/davenet/1995/09/03/wemakeshittysoftware.html).  My corollary: "Just like everyone else, we just fix ours faster."

Oh, and the solution to the perceived "problem" of Linux on the desktop is simple, companies need to ship Linux on their hardware, that will solve the problem almost instantly as the resources will suddenly become available to solve a lot of these issues.  I say this as someone who was part of a group that successfully shipped Linux pre-installed on laptops, and we made money.  It can be done, it's not that hard, you just have to have a hardware company that wants to do it.
In this document we only discuss main Linux problems and deficiencies while everyone should keep in mind that there are areas where Linux has excelled other OSes (excellent package management, usually...
32
8
Wolfgang Walter's profile photoFilippo Zonta's profile photoAnika Kehrer's profile photoStefan Leitner's profile photo
48 comments
 
I +1'd the solution - cannot read any more "Why Linux is not ready..." articles in my life - I created an allergy against those, my doctor said.
 
Linux is ready for the desktop and has been for years. Why I have it running on my desktop here, my netbook, my desktop at home and my phone. It also runs on my (technical) Dad's desktop and my (non-technical) Uncle-in-law's laptop and they can do what they want on it.
 
Its easy to rag on software that is transparent about the issues. Thanks for the read. For me this article provoked two thoughts. The first is that without open-source the net would be a lot smaller and arguably in disarray. The second is to que +Linus Torvalds .
 
+Alex Trpkovic, it's ready on a fairly small set of common hardware. If you go to anything outside that set, good luck.
 
+Scott Rosenberg odd you say that, given that Linux supports more hardware devices than any other operating system ever has, or does today (a claim verified by Microsoft.) I don't know of a modern hardware platform that Linux isn't running on, do you?
 
+Greg Kroah-Hartman 

It's not about hardware platforms, its about individual components.

Yes, linux will run on every CPU under the sun... but on x86_64 platform, will it work on every audio chip, every network adapter (wifi or ethernet), every GPU sold in the last 5 years? Absolutely not. Windows can make that claim, because the drivers are designed by the manufacturer to run on windows.

I can tell you, any distro that has pulse audio, won't allow my laptop webcam microphone to work no matter how much configuration I do. I remove pulse audio, through a series of terminal commands, and reinitialize alsa... works fine. I shouldn't have to use the terminal, ever, as a generic desktop user. Sure, it should be available for techies, but until people never, ever, ever have the need to use the terminal, it won't be ready for desktop.
 
To take that a step further, I've seen a lot of really rough around the edges issues, like chromium not having the close, maximize, and minimize buttons. 

I tried upgrading my kernel before, to get some new drivers, and Bam 3rd party wifi module that is still installed won't function. If I want to upgrade drivers on windows, I install compartmentalized packages. Windows doesn't handle it perfectly, but I can upgrade one driver without breaking an unrelated component, and without recompiling everything.

Personally, on linux, I'd like to see all drivers relegated to modules. 
 
I just install Fedora 17 on a laptop.  Everything worked; pulseaudio, radeon video, hardware buttons, wifi, ethernet.  I didn't have to configure a thing, and I never needed to "open a terminal".  Read the reviews at Newegg - they'll tell you if there's problematic hardware.
 
Unfortunantely, my desktop motherboard that I currently am using, when I bought it, didn't have any reviews at newegg, and only a few on amazon.

I have up to date hardware, with an architecture that didn't exist before april on the market. It was too new to have reviews.


Oh, another nasty issue. My desktop monitor constantly overscans on HDMI, and on windows, my nvidia control panel gives me the option to create resizing to fix that! I can't do that easily on linux!

I like linux, I really do, I'm just pointing out some things I want fixed!
 
+Scott Rosenberg do you realize you are confirming what Greg said? "companies need to ship Linux on their hardware" - if the company that sold your laptop did that it would have already been configured and then you wouldn't need to try it yourself.

Installing an OS shouldn't be a task for the end user.
 
+Michael Groh, windows has problems too, people are just more critical of linux problems, because when you do have them, they typically are harder to fix (not always)

Linux works brilliantly when it works... and stumbles awkwardly when it doesn't.

+Lucas De Marchi, my custom built desktop computer didn't come with any OS... also what if someone changes their hardware? Adds something? When I buy new hardware, I buy new hardware, that hasn't been tested on linux yet.

I recently plugged in my external hard drive, and found out that it couldn't mount!
It mounts flawlessly on windows!

I'm not a windows fanboy, I just want certain things on linux to be fixed! 
 
Yes, this article has a grain of truth in it, but really just a grain. So far I have only encountered a hand full of hardware that wasn't supported under Linux, and not because Linux didn't have any support at all for the hardware but because the hardware manufacturer did a poor job.
Frank M
+
2
3
2
 
My biggest issue with the "it's not ready for the desktop" argument, is I think people fail to make a distinction. That is Linux has been usable as a desktop system for quite some time. Does that include your average Joe and 80 year old grandpa? I would say yes absolutely. Here's why: speaking from the perspective of someone who's paid his dues in a help desk role, the users most articles target as "average" users that Linux must capture to be considered "desktop ready" are just as ignorant on ANY platform they use. Not even the almighty OS X or Windows are immune to sheer lack of interest that the majority of desktop users have. Are there distro's that have made great strides to package and polish everything? Yes! Could they use a bit more work to make things even more friendly? Sure. However users who have no desire to learn will have that same desire on any platform. So to me saying it fails because the most ignorant of users cannot point and click, simply fails as a metric when measuring the validity of using Linux as a desktop operating system. I've used it for years as a main desktop system without issue, even now while i'm in school. While I am a developer I focus on web development right now and I'm far from the average 'settings tinkerer' so I expect there to be a fairly high level of "it just works out of the box;" for which I have yet to be disappointed.
 
I would also like to add that I actually find it a positive thing when cheap and poorly built/designed hardware isn't supported by the kernel. This is simply because I believe that a specific standard should be adhered to. On Windows I'd have some serious tummy ache if I had to install a driver that was shipped with a USB hard drive. It's a USB hard drive for crying out loud, what warrants the need to install an extra driver?
 
I personally struggled with getting hardware to work in multiple instances. If I plug my flash drive in, it works, then I plug in my western digital external and it can't mount, there are problems.

One of the weirder ones... I can't similar the screen on my laptop nearly as low as I can on windows.

Quite honestly, linux needs professional desktop development funding to track down and fix the stupid shit that only doesn't work sometimes
 
Sorry, Autocorrect changed dim to similar and I can't edit for some reason
 
What USB hard drive needs a driver?

I know they offer one for wd drives, but that's only to help with their optional backup tool.
 
+Scott Rosenberg To be fair, I exclusively use WD external hard drives, and the only reason I found that they didn't mount was because of the filesystem left dirty.

EDIT: To answer your question: It was a cheap Chinese manufacturer (I think) that produced the external hard drive.
 
It is usually the weir but really important things that does not work, like the backlight control on iMacs.
 
I agree that "companies need to ship Linux on their hardware", but it's clear that the existing PC vendors aren't going to, so the obvious solution IMO is for Canonical and Red Hat to becomes PC vendors.
 
+Wes Felter I was told today that HP ships something they call FreeLnx on there systems. It is a Debian Squeeze with some weird packages installed.
 
+Bastian Blank HP ships Linux preinstalled on their business laptops today.  You can also purchase their servers with Linux preinstalled on them.  They all work just fine, which shows that it can be done if the company wants to.

+Wes Felter heh, yeah right, why would those smart companies want to go and do something as foolish as getting into the hardware business, that way lies madness, and a lack of profit :)
 
Depressing reading, until you remind yourself that this level of honesty will always find a very long list of problems. My real unease is that some of these seem to have no obvious owner of the solution.
 
Man, maybe I have been lucky, but on all the random hardware I find myself dealing with for people, I have not had a significant hardware support issue in at least 5 years. So kudos to +Greg Kroah-Hartman for making life easy. I will say I do use Gentoo, and thus have no fear. Also, not using a binary distro built for a broad audience makes things a lot easier to get working and stable in my experience.
 
Configuring Gentoo In the first place could use some work.
 
+Scott Rosenberg what part of Gentoo are you referring to? Seems to me that if you follow the handbook it is pretty clear.

That said, I started my Linux adventure many years ago with Gentoo, so it seems fine to me. We always appreciate constructive critisism and good feedback. Patches are welcome too!
 
Every other Distro, you don't need a handbook. I can just pop a live ISO
and follow on screen instructions

The fact that you even reference a handbook is my point
 
Having an easy to use graphical installer that builds your system on the fly, by selection options from a menu would be a huge step forward for gentoo
 
perhaps even having a tool to scan your hardware and give recommended options, plus extras
 
No other major distro is source-based or comes close to offering the configuration options of Gentoo. We did have a graphical installer in the past, but most people found it to be annoying. So it was discontinued. There are several automation utilities for Gentoo available. Perhaps asking people to read documentation is too much these days, instant gratification being the order of the day and all. 

Do people need a graphical utility to configure a kernel beyond menuconfig?

In terms of a tool to scan HW, that tool is your eyes and brain, and the various core utils like lspci, lsusb, and lsmod which can print what kernel module is in use. It is doubtful anything scripted would come close to the power available to the knowledgeable individual.

It is my guess that most Gentoo users like using the CLI to install and manage their systems, else we would hear about it. 

Of course, there is always Sabayon, which is Gentoo with some graphical tools for installation and package management. It's not too terribly difficult to move to and from Sabayon to Gentoo.

Sorry for going OT Greg.
 
+Greg Kroah-Hartman, I have to disagree. It's not off topic, but wasn't properly connected to the topic with enough explanation :P

+Matthew Summers  and +Greg Kroah-Hartman 
Gentoo, unlike many other distros, has the capacity to be built to run on just about any hardware ever made. However, it's community tends to be geared towards thinking that it should only be for highly knowledgable individuals. Anyone who wants to make it more usable for common folk get shut down, immediately.

Then comes the nasty issue of what to do with closed software that only has .rpm or .deb versions(not my main point).

It can fix issues that interfere with linux being ready for the desktop, in ways no other distro can, but it brings in place a whole slew of other technical skill requirements .

Sabayon, from what I understand... I haven't used it first hand, attempts to bridge between gentoo and generic users, but does a very bad job at it, and doesn't have a massive software hub backing it.

I thought this was a thread about how linux isn't ready for the desktop, and how currently only high technical users can make it have work arounds for specific issues? I guess if my comment was considered off topic, then I obviously have no idea what the topic is (and I read the whole article)
 
Oh, as to the "use your eyes" for hardware scan... not many of us have the exact model number of our audio, ethernet, wifi, or microphone chipsets memorized. When I started linux, I found GTKjockey immensely useful for getting my system operational! It's not for advanced users, but it helps the generic desktop users.
 
This is not a thread to discuss Linux distros, sorry.  All future comments about that will be deleted.
 
Well then... I'll post something a bit more generic that may still relate to a distro...

"Too many layers of abstraction lead to the situation when the user cannot determine why his audio doesn't work (ALSA kernel drivers -> ALSA library ( -> dmix ) -> PulseAudio server -> Application)."

Many distros have that issue, I wish this was fixed! Drives me freaking nuts.

"X.org feels slow. It's difficult to measure it, but UI in Windows/Mac OS is a lot faster and feels snappier."

I've been saying this for years. People usually attack me for, blabbering on about the low ram usage (I have 4 gigs), therefore faster blah blah blah (that's not how it works). The worst offenders of the "ram" wars people are browser obsessed people...

"No unified installer/package manager/universal package format across all distros. Consider RPM, deb, portage, tar.gz, sources, etc. It adds to cost of software development."
This is particularly an issue for people who want to use unusual or rare distros. Good luck getting actual google chrome (not the stripped down chromium) to run on slackware!

"Few software titles, inability to run familiar Windows software (some applications which don't work in Wine have zero Linux equivalents)."

I always thought it'd be nice if when you installed something with wine, it would integrate with your system, so when you go into whatever menu system you have, and click on it, it automatically runs in wine, without intervention.

"! A very bad backwards and forward compatibility."

This particular bit, I find interesting, because many people actually bash windows for being so huge, while the main reason that it actually is such a large install, is because it keeps a copy of every version of every library used, to maintain compatability issues.
 
+Greg Kroah-Hartman, you nailed it on the head. Does Linux have problems? YES, just like everything else made by people.

Is doing an install of a popular Linux distro on random hardware a better experience than Windows?  Usually, yes. Even Windows 7 will require dozens of reboots and hours of updates post-install. Hence the reference to Live ISOs... show me a Windows Live ISO.  And don't even get me started on Mac OS.  Or BSD. Or Haiku.  Or Android.

If the hardware manufacturer puts the same care & effort into a preinstall that they do with another OS, will Linux be competitive? HELL YES.
 
I did a windows install with software, updates and drivers in 25 minutes a week ago. 
 
Yeah and I want a pony.

He complains that distros move too fast and update too often, and then complains that bugs don't get fixed fast enough, and LTS releases move too slowly. Which is it?!

And as far as "unwarranted & excessive variety" - if that bothers you there's a great OS  beginning with "W" you can use.
 
If you don't like a certain OS or you don't like a distro, don't use it. If you like it but if fails you now and then, help to make it better. (Or wait till someone else does if you are non-technical). And above all, be thankfull that there is choice in OS and distro world out there, so you can use the one you feel ok with.
 
Holy flying stupidity.
> Linux/open source developers are usually not interested in fixing bugs if they cannot reproduce them
… this assertion is based on a sample size of 0.5 (i.e. one developer with half a brain)?
… as opposed to commercial software? "It's not a bug, it's a feature!"
… how the censored should I go about fixing a bug if I have no clue whatsoever where it comes from and how to ascertain that my change fixes it?
 
+Matthias Urlichs, the issue there, is often that, being unpaid for their work, opensource devs can only test on limited hardware, due to limited resources.

What they develop and make work, may work flawlessly on their own hardware, but can cause a regression on somebody elses
 
+Scott Rosenberg that's the case for ANY developer, even if they are paid or not. Regressions are a fact of life, there is never any such thing as "regression free" software, unless you don't change anything, that's impossible.  To think otherwise is to not understand how software that interacts with hardware like the kernel has to, is developed.
 
Well... regression free software can exist, but not in the kernel space, and not of anything overly complex.

I've improved software without having regressions, but it was relatively simple software.

I wasn't blaming developers, I'm just saying that if a group has more commercial funding, they have the opprotunity to test on more platforms.

Many android development companies test on 50 devices.

Many linux developers test on 1.
 
+Scott Rosenberg: I think you're mixing up things? E.g. Linux developers means open source, unpaid and no commercial funding, while Android means commercial funding?

Your comments/arguments seem a bit incoherent.

Going back to regressions, I know examples of one are bad, but giving that anyways: I know of one company with proprietary in house software which tests every release before bringing it into production. I think every release has had regressions and bugs.
 
Linux has a mixture of commercial and non commercial developers. Android is
developed by Google with a few sourced components.
Add a comment...